NB: A monthly ‘Tell me a Story’ is going to be told over three days, starting 10/08/2016 and I shall continue to write each month’s instalment in groups of three posts, to create a better flow of the story, rather than separate them. It’s a trial run, let me know how you find this method.
THE CRESTED GOLDEN EAGLE OF THE THREE KINGDOMS
Copyright 2016 Susanna Dziworshie
From high, high above the clouds The Crested Golden Eagle rides the air currents on its way to the warmer climate of the western lands of Africa. Soaring with a seven-foot wing span, its probe -like eyes took in the whole of the Three Kingdoms with the Volta River running through, in its north to south journey to the sea. The mysterious bird knew the land well, the north with The King’s Palace built on and into the solitary hill set between its two water sources. These joined together to form a mighty river running through lands of savanna grass, shrubs and isolated clumps of trees. The river’s journey met forests, rapids and waterfalls in the central part. Then the south was a water playground and source of fresh fish and food. This place where its ancestors made a yearly visit to, where the genial birds had been accused of stealing children, now it felt like it was the only one of its kind left. In this vastness, its only friend was one of the human kind but where would he be right now?
Susu-Le was a lad when he found the young eagle with a broken wing in the North Rivers Kingdom. He was on his first trip with his merchant father Dugi, travelling from the South River Kingdom through the Central one to the North Rivers Kingdom with its dual sources. He tended to the bird and nursed it back to health, then trained it with the aid of music from his drums to fly until it was free to come and go with the seasons. Susu-Le was now in the North River Kingdom because it’s was presently the time between the rainy and dry seasons; activity in the three lands was always at its highest and busiest because everyone would be trading, harvesting or just travelling.
Part Two (11/08/2016 at 22.20)
The Market Square was quiet for siesta, men in their smocks of blue, brown or black stripes with a white background matched with a baggy cotton trousers. Their hats, quite modest in comparison to the women’s. In separate groups they sat and the women in colourful and cool flowing dashikis in pastel colours or prints and headgear sat drinking coffee and tea with fruits and sweets. Next to his bales of silk, Kente and other hand-loomed cloths as well as Gold and Cowrie jewellery and other wares like Desert Salt, Susu-Le sat playing a soft gentle tune on his drums. This filtered to Princess Ayaya and it also reached the sensitive ears of The Crested Golden Eagle high up in the sky. The latter swooped down frightening a few people along the way and landed on Susu-Le’s shoulder. Susu-Le was so happy to see this old friend that he was laughing, dancing and his drumming grew louder. Soon others joined in and the Princess got curious too.
As she leaned over the balcony to see better, Susu-Le saw her and was captivated by her beauty, except there was one problem. After many years of waging wars against each other, the Kingdoms now had a happy relationship but one rule was still set in stone. The lawmakers would nor budge about marriage. This could only be between people of the North Rivers Kingdom because break-ups were discouraged. The punishment for disobeying was banishment or time in the dungeon prison. Susu-Le just could not bring himself to think there was no chance of marrying someone he had heard so much good things about and she was beautiful too. She had also seen him and wondered who this handsome young man was.
On an impulse he wrote a note and waved it in the air and pointed to the Princess, it was a cue for the bird and it took the note in its beak, flew over to the Princess and did what everyone thought was a mid -air bow. This amused Princess Ayaya and she giggled and took the note lying by her feet. It read, “It would be an honour to meet you at the Harvest Drumming and Dancing Festival today.” The Event was attended by many tribes including the elusive Nomads. A time of feasting, sports, reacquainting with family and friends and entertainment had arrived. A climax to the hard work of many months. However, the eyes of Elder Xe, the evil meddling Chief Treasurer had watched all the interaction between these two young people. For years he had been looking for any opportunity to kick the King off the throne. His mind was made up, “This is the right time.” he said to himself. He reported the Susu-Le and Princess Ayaya to the King and extra guards were posted around the Princess. It was a surprise to the people that poor Ajaxo, the Gatekeeper, became a scapegoat in this matter for talking and being friendly with Susu-Le. He would prove to be well suited to be an ally in the future.
Part Three (12/08/2016)
Elder Xe had made some trumped up charges that Ajaxo had been plotting with Susu-Le, for the latter to get acquainted with the Princess. However, this could not keep Susu-Le away from the Drumming Competition because he won last year and he has to defend his title. Preparations were in full swing for the Festival, the inhabitants and their guests were making their way across the Bridge to the Palace Arena. It was so noticeable that Ajaxo was not at the Gatehouse, instead The Guardsmen lined each side of the Bridge. There was an air of easiness which was so usual in this Kingdom. When the King, the Queen and their daughter Princess Ayaya entered the Arena there were loud shouts of joy and cheering of support. The Announcer of Events called out the Drummers and they came out each with his choice of Talking Drum. They were truly skilled and the audience couldn’t help but dance. The judges had a very difficult job but in the end, their choice as well as that of the audience was Susu-Le. His price was a dance with the Princess, there would have been an uproar if the King had changed this age old prize. While Susu-Le and Princess Ayaya danced they made a plan to meet secretly.
This was a very dangerous step with risks of severe punishment of loss of all status, all property and banishment too. Months passed and having had several of these meetings they agreed to elope and made a meticulous plan of their escape route. Ajaxo became their go-between taking messages and getting their supplies ready. Whenever other merchants wondered why Susu-Le was still around, he told them he was waiting to be paid. The Chief Treasurer would not pay him the 2000 gold cowries he was owed for the goods he supplied the Palace, including the best rock salt crystals to be found anywhere.
As they had planned, on the night of their escape Princess Ayaya went to the private pool to swim as she would normally with her Ladies-in Attendance. When everyone had settled in for the night, she got back to the pool and dived to the secret passage and out to one of the chambers behind the naturally neon coloured stalactites where Susu-Le and Ajaxo were waiting. These places were used to keep the women and children safe during the wars. To get a head start they booked the biggest and sturdiest canoe with competent sailors to transport them across the fast flowing river so they could reach the forest in the Central Kingdom and make their way south.
To be continued
Part Four 10-11/09/2016 23.00
By the time the dawn call of the Palace Cockerel was heard the Chief Lady -in- Attendance had noticed the Princess had disappeared. Never has such a commotion been heard in the North River kingdom. The King was facing a revolt led my no other than Elder Xe, he demanded the King step down at once and all his family line would suffer the same punishment. He made sure a Council of Elders was called to vote for dethronement of the King and war against the Central and South River Kingdoms but no one would get involved. Most of the inhabitants who had only known peace in their lifetime liked and supported the King but were also afraid of Elder Xe, they did not know what to do but did not want a turbulent future. Elder Xe did not only want the throne but to take over the Safari lands over across to the East. His greed was beyond belief because this was a place where a special relationship existed with animals, there was an understanding between man and beast.
The King sent his Guardsmen to stop Susu-Le, Ajaxo and his daughter the Princess and bring them back. He offered 2000 Gold Cowries to anyone who could give information on the runaways. Unknown to the King, his arch-rival posted spies among the Guardsmen and had released the crocodiles from their cages into the river to attack the couple. These crocodiles who naturally were unusually tame because of an ancient folklore have been trained to be fierce and defend the Palace against attackers by starving them. Princess Ayaya, however used to secretly feed the crocodiles. So when the crocodiles came upon their boat and tried to knock it and sink it, her voice calmed them down except for the biggest, scarred and evil-looking one belonging to Elder Xe. Surprisingly the rest of the crocodiles set upon it, sank their jagged teeth into its flesh and and killed it.
Meanwhile Susu-Le’s clever plans was working, his network of drummers were beating the Talking drums and sending false messages to confuse anyone trying to detect their whereabouts. The Crested Golden Eagle had been flying high in the clouds, keeping an eye on the Guardsmen who were giving chase. The great bird noticed something gleaming and by instinct picked it up, despite the thick canopy of the tall trees of the rain forest of the Central River Kingdom. The small clearing near the cocoa, banana and mango trees gave this opportunity and it swooped and picking it in its beak , carried it to the Princess. When she opened it, she exclaimed, “This is unbelievable, Our Great God is looking after us, see what he sent us.” The others looked into the pouch and were shocked and speechless. In the meantime the Guardsmen discovered the money gone, they frantically looked everywhere with no avail.
Having made it out of the canoe into the forest and with the help of the elephants they rode through the dense forest faster than their own legs would have carried them. As they went on, Susu-Le became mesmerised by the beauty of the Princess. He thought she had such an inner beauty of courage that he was willing to take any risks for her sake. The pouch of money had come at the right time even though it was not quite enough ,because he intended doing the right thing by the Princess and sending a Royal Dowry to her father, The King. Such worries, such apprehension filled his mind that he did not realise the elephants were treading water. Their roly-poly movements stopped as they lowered their body and trunks, and commenced swimming in what seemed to be a an island of water in a sea of trees. When they raised their trunks out of the water, out shot gold cowries with the water they had sucked up, the gold cowries landed on to the banks of lake. It was a spectacular and unbelievable sight. They had solved the Mystery of the Gold Cowrie Lake or the elephants had. Susu-Le, Princess Ayaya and Ajaxo laughed, jumped and danced around happily. This was the first time they had felt happy since leaving the North River Kingdom.
Suddenly out of the forest stepped Elder Xe and his henchmen with their swords and guns drawn. Princess Ayaya spoke first, “Where did this man appear from and what do you think he is up to?”
The evil man overheard and replied curtly, “You’ll soon find out.”
One of his men uncertain about what was impending said, “She is the Princess and we can’t do that to her.”
Elder Xe shouted, “Throw him down the cliff as well. Tie them up”
Susu-Le lurched forward at one of the men who grabbed the Princess but he was immediately overpowered by some of the men. He felt the butt of the gun to his head, he fell down and passed out.
Elder Xe was in for a surprise, they all turned together on hearing the drumming, it got louder and louder as more joined those who had first arrived. Elder Xe and his henchmen were now surrounded by warrior drummers who had been helping the couple and their friend. Ajaxo had heard about the ambush plan Elder Xe had made and that of destroying the Animal Lands, so he arranged a counter attack. Ajaxo managed to get drummers and strong men from the Three Kingdoms and they did not disappoint. The strongest of them were the regiment from the South River Kingdom of which Susu-Le was the Chief Clan Warrior. They freed the captives and used Elder Xe’s own chains to bind him and the henchmen. Together with the henchmen were taken back to the North River Kingdom where they were tried and banished never to be heard of again. His evil deeds were discovered as a result the rule stopping marriage between people the North River Kingdom and other Kingdoms was cancelled. The children Elder Xe said were taken by the birds were found beyond the Animal Lands and he had been the culprit, taking them there to work on his planned dam. The elephants, gorillas, wildebeests and all the other animals led by Mane Lion decided to leave to the lands named Safari, on their request the Crested Golden Eagle had found it for them.
The whole group of drummers and warriors followed Susu-Le, Princess Ayaya and Ajaxo to the North River Kingdom where he asked for the Princess’ hand in marriage. Celebrations were held in each of the Kingdoms to thank them for their help for in keeping a peaceful existence in the land. There was never again seen in the Three Kingdoms such pomp and happiness as on Susu-Le and Princess Ayaya’s wedding day.