"You again? The stalking lumberjack!" The young maiden with the Kaba growled, standing on top of the logger who was lying on the ground.
"Suzie, what's going on over there?" A voice from inside the house asked.
"Big momma, it's the lumberjack who terrified me, last time in the forest, when I went to fetch mushrooms for dinner soup." She described loudly to the old lady.
"What? Did he come onto our property? No way! I'm getting outside to whoop his bottom." Grandma said in fury and fire. Then she rose off the rattan chair and met her granddaughter and the lumberjack outdoors.
At the same time, a man rushed out from the other twin house where Babida had first tried to sneak in.
"Suzie, what is the matter darling?" He enquired while running toward her.
"Uncle Bibi, look at the man over here. He is a lumberjack. He has been tracking me down. The first time I caught him red-handed in his dirty activities, was in the forest. And today he came onto our property. He was peeping through the window using the now broken brick." She explained to her late mother's senior brother.
"Wait a minute! I must be dreaming. Someone wake me up, please!" Uncle Bibi, his glasses off, reacted to the discovery he was about to reveal.
"This is Babida, the Lumberjack Killer of the Monster of the forbidden mountain. He was awarded the medal of the highest honor and merit by the reigning Emperor's deceased father, the Great Batang IV, for his bravery and heroic actions during the attack of the empire about fifteen years ago by the Terror of the cursed hill." Suzie's maternal uncle disclosed the past to her.
"Oh my goodness! That's him Bibi." Grandmother confirmed, her eyes wide open in amazement.
"Yes, mom! There is no doubt about it." Uncle Bibi stated.
It didn't take long before neighbors grasped the news and hurried to raise Babida and hug him while hailing his name.
"Babida the lumberjack, the savior of the Batang's people, the slayer of the Monster of the forbidden mountain." They chanted.
Surprised by the revelation her uncle just made to her, Suzie was piqued by curiosity and amid the crowd which had surrounded the lumberjack in admiration, she began, confused, a set of questions to her late's mother's sibling.
"But uncle Bibi, I don't understand. Where is the forbidden mountain? I have never heard of it, though I have been in this land for eighteen years." She interrogated her uncle who was all ears.
She went on: "You said the Monster's aggression took place fifteen years ago, meaning I was a three-year-old toddler back then. So I must have witnessed the sad event but as I am speaking now, there is no souvenir emerging from my mind. Why is it that?"
Her uncle was still mouth shut as she elaborated, even more, her observations: "Why is it that I had no idea who this man, Babida the lumberjack, was? Are the empire's heroes forbidden to show up in public? Which of course makes no sense if that was the case."
Done with her litany. Suzie's uncle cleared his throat and replied: "Well, listen to me very carefully my little darling!"
And suddenly, a powerful storm erupted. It was all over dark. Drops of rain began to fall. The crowd that orbited the lumberjack was dispersed. He was left standing straight in the middle of the yard. Big momma went back inside the house, inviting Suzie and uncle Bibi to do the same. But they ignored her. The rain got stronger.
Then Uncle Bibi had a flash memory.
"Anna, Anna! Wake up, wake up!" Bibi told his junior sister.
"Take Suzie with you and hide in the cave!" He ordered her.
"The Monster of the forbidden mountain is attacking the empire. He is right now in Okunde. He will soon arrive in Ekule." He reported to her.
Anna bounced off the bed in panic and rushed to Suzie's bedroom who was still sleeping.
Gently but with hastiness, she instructed the little girl to get up.
"Sweetheart, get off the bed! We have to go to the cave. Do you remember? I told you we will have to hide there each time a villain comes around to harm us." Anna murmured to her ears.
"Ok, mommy!" Three-year-old Suzie answered without opposing resistance, then followed her mother.
"Ok, very good! Now that things are in order, I can leave you with my conscience in peace. I have now to head to Okunde and join the imperial forces which are on the brink of collapsing before the incredible might of the Monster." Uncle Bibi said while wearing his armor constituted of two steel bracelets -one on the right arm and another one on the left hand-, silk trousers, and a long curved sword. His muscular chest was proudly exposed. Ready, he walked out barefoot.
In Okunde, the imperial army had already sustained a significant loss of valiant soldiers. More than a hundred men of honor had perished under the claws and beak of the Monster of the forbidden mountain.
It was a massive bird that weighed about twenty thousand kilograms and measured almost ten meters long and five meters large. It could not then fly for a lengthy moment nor hover enough high in the sky to not hit trees.
So its preferred way of moving was on its legs. It dwelt in the mountain situated in the north of Okunde. The hill was proclaimed forbidden by the late Great Batang IV. No inhabitant in the empire was permitted to hike there after the fifteen-year-old Emperor's son, Dida the first, was killed by the Monster during a promenade.
Okunde had almost capitulated. The Monster was near its west gate. Shortly it would penetrate Ekule through its east gate and subject the village to unbearable pain and ugliness. The Great Batang IV was in danger too. The imperial palace located on the west side, on Baba street was no longer a sanctuary.
Alerted, the Emperor commanded that all men -soldiers and civilians-, of the village, progress in the direction of the east gate and pledged to distinguish and elevate to the highest either military or non-military position whoever would slay the monster's head and bring it to him on a silver platter.
The emperor was an ailing sixty-year-old man. He had been ruling over the empire for twenty years since his father's abdication. He had won battles but they were not as challenging as the war against the Monster of the forbidden mountain. His army was already down by two hundred brave fighters. Only three hundred were remaining to protect the fifty thousand inhabitants of the overall land. Half of the population was concentrated in Ekule.
Men of courage obeyed the order of their Majesty and moved toward the east gate of the village. One of them was the then seventeen-year-old boy Babida who was already endowed with unbelievable mensuration. He was a woods cutter apprentice. He learned the skills of the profession from his uncle Doda who had passed away a year ago suffering from lingering diabetes.
Contrary to most of the men in the troop who were equipped with a sword, Babida held in his right-hand a Herculean steel axe weighing twice the average weight, about five kilograms. Its length went up to a hundred centimeters.
However, as was customary for most warriors, he wore silk trousers on, a steel bracelet on each hand, and a tusk necklace that hung on his naked chest.
He walked proudly amid the men of courage. They chanted in unison war songs to give themselves courage. They defied the Monster of the forbidden mountain to set a leg on Ekule's soil. They were telling how merciless they would be when the time to lay the sharp blade of their weapons on its neck would come. They were singing so many things.
And suddenly, they were rocked by an earthquake. Their enthusiasm was shattered and the east fence crumbled. In the background, the shadow of something yet unidentified became bigger and bigger.
"It's the Monster of the forbidden mountain!" A warrior in the battalion shouted, his finger pointing in the direction of the Beast.
.ting in the direction of the Beast.
The troop went wild and began to scatter in all ways. The seventeen-year-old Babida unbelievably stood in his position and did not move even for an inch. He extended his right arm into the air, holding tight his axe in the palm of his hand.
"Come here, you little monster. Your end is near." He said, challenging the Beast which swung uncontrollably.
Teased, the Monster screamed angrily while opening his wings, which it used to blow, with brutal power, a sandy wind.
Babida and his war comrades were sent into the air spinning, then they landed painfully on the surface of the ground. Some of them died on the spot. Their weapons were spread all over the combat zone.
Lain and hurt, Babida was looking up at the sky. His axe was a hundred meters away from him. He felt like his days were numbered. He expressed his last wishes.
"I wished our ancestors, gods of the Batang people would lend me their superpowers so I can defeat the Monster and in return, I promise to let them harness my plot of land for the next ten years as I will leave," Babida vowed.
As he was done mentioning the name of the ancestors, a voice that he only could hear, enjoined him loudly: "Babida, Babida! Rise and go pick up your weapon! Your wishes have been accepted."
A shooting star fell from the sky, rolled around Babida to cure his wounds, and then evaporated.
In the greatest shape of his lifetime, the seventeen-year-old boy stood back on his feet. The Monster was still yelling but he wasn't intimidated. He sprinted to grab his axe and threw it with incredible strength and accuracy on the leg of the giant bird.
Bingo! The Beast was hit and blood burst out diffusely. The animal went wild, swirling like a tornado in the direction of the inner village. It lost its balance, destroying everything on its path, and crashed into a home.
"Annaaaa, Suzieeee!" A man shouted while running toward the location where the Monster had fallen. It was Bibi, Suzie's uncle. He raced as fast as he could but tripped over a stone and sprained his left ankle. He stayed on the ground, sobbing.
Babida began to run as well, as voices emerged beneath the enormous injured bird.
"Help! Help! Bibi, we are stuck in the cave." Anna cried out while three-year-old Suzie burst into tears.
The Monster was moaning. Then Babida came up to its level, stood over it, and with an air of superiority declared: "Die, you, bird of ill omen!".
Then he snatched his axe from the Beast's leg and extended his two hands in the air.
Lastly, he directed with unprecedented brutality the blade of his axe on the animal's long neck and the Monster pushed his last breath.
"Hurra! Hurra! We are safe. The Monster of the forbidden mountain is no more. It has succumbed to the sharp blade of our valiant defender." Uncle Bibi intoned despite the pain from his bruises. And the crowd which flocked to the place repeated the slogan after him.
Babida had just killed the villain and people were euphorically celebrating his prowess. But he urged them to first help him pull away the Beast. There were two persons enclosed in the cave whose exit was blocked by the fallen Monster.
Anna got out holding in her hands a sleeping three-year-old Suzie. She thanked Babida and the rest of her rescuers, then walked to the position of her wounded brother Bibi and tried to bring him moral support while he was being auscultated by a native doctor.
As the Emperor had ordained, Babida took to him on a silver platter the head of the dead Monster and he was decorated with the medal of the highest honor and merit.
And a few days later, he left Ekule village for an unknown place to fulfill the pact he had concluded with the ancestors.
All this while eighteen-year-old Suzie stayed under the heavy falling rain to listen to her Uncle Bibi recounting to her a fifteen-year-old story that starred the today old, the yesterday young, Babida the lumberjack. She was now in admiration of who she thought was a man without manners, a stalker. She looked around and….
"Where is he, uncle Bibi?" She asked angrily.
"Where is who?" The uncle reacted.
"The lumberjack!" She shouted.
They circled their eyes around but he had vanished away...Too late, Suzie!
TO BE CONTINUED…