The Slave Prince Chapter 12
Death Visits the Family Again
As they approached Manteben’s house they heard screaming and crying. Ubo bounded up the stairs. Agawe saw two men run from under the house and he gave chase with Ayong at his heels. Ayong fired at the fleeing figures and they heard a cry of pain but lost them in the dark. They went back to Manteben’s house.
Inside, Agawe saw Tiyo Ubo talking to the crying wife of the dead Manteben.
“Ubo, he looked bad when he came home from work. He thought he was just tired and he needed rest. Then suddenly, he became so sick. He said he might have been poisoned. When he calmed down, I thought he was alright,” she wailed, “that was when you came in…. I did not know he’s dead!”
“Did he say who might have poisoned him?” Ubo asked.
“No… All he said was they did not like the deal he made with you. He kept repeating that they accused him of betraying them.”
Ubo’s next order of battle was to get information from Nole but he was not in his house. His wife said that he did not come home from the plantation that afternoon.
Arrangements were made for Manteben’s burial. Agawe noticed that three relatives were missing from the burial ceremony. Tiyana, who was still recovering from his gunshot wound, Nole who was hiding, and Ubo’s cousin, Ibuk.
Agawe confided their suspicion to Ubo who agreed that it might be useful to talk to Ibuk so he ordered his men to bring Ibuk to him at once.
It did not take long for Ibuk to be brought to Ubo’s presence. His face ashen and he looked gaunt. His arm swollen and covered with all kinds of leaves.
“What happened to your arm,” Ubo asked.
“I cut myself accidentally…” he said weakly.
“That is a gunshot wound…” Ayong said, “I shot you that night you planned to kill Tiyo Manteben if he did not die from the poison.”
“Innà…” Ubo turned to Apô Abet who had a cup of steaming liquid.
“Here, make him drink this … if he is lying, he will die instantly but if he tells the truth, his wounds will heal…”
Ibuk squirmed as the men tried to make him drink the liquid. He shut his mouth firmly but the men forced it open and poured the liquid into his mouth. He spat it out and howled, “I did it! I poisoned the water….” He cried uncontrollably.
The Scheming Uncle
Tiyana opened the door and was shocked to see Ubo who entered his house unceremoniously. Agawe and Ayong pushed Ibuk into the house.
“What is this?” Tiyana asked, fear on his face. His wife ran to his side, totally confused.
Ayong poked Ibuk with the barrel of the gun and ordered, “Talk!”
The man, squirming in pain, started to talk, “Tiyo Tiyana planned everything. He convinced us that we can get rich if we follow his plan. We are all going to get a piece of this land…”
“How dare you accuse me!” Tiyana screamed at the man. “Clearly he is out of his mind…”
He charged at the man but Ubo stopped him with a sheathed sword on his chest. His wife screamed and pleaded not to hurt him but the old man pushed his wife away. “So, what is this? You are going to kill me? In front of my wife?”
“How do you propose I kill you? Poison? Just as you killed Manteben?” Ubo asked.
“Eeehhh…. Tiyana… what did you do?” Tiyana’s wife started wailing in the corner.
Ubo turned to the wife. “He ordered Ibuk and Nole to poison Manteben and to wait under his house to make sure he died…” then turned back to the old man, “Why Tiyana?”
“He sold us out! He is the shrewd one… just waiting for us to kill each other … but all the while working for his own benefit… he got his land but we had nothing..!” he spat out the words.
“You murderer…!” Ubo roared.
“I am murderer? How about you? Did you not murder Masami and Anson? You work us like your slaves in the land of my brother? I have a right to own this land!”
“This is my father’s land. If he promised you a piece of his land, he would have told me,” Ubo answered in a steely voice. You have no right in here, Tiyana!” He slapped him hard in the face and the old man reeled.
Tiyana’s eyes darted from Ubo to Agawe to Ayong who was holding the gun. “Why don’t you fight fairly? You can do what you want because you know you have a monster who will shoot me if you lose? You coward! You treat your al-lang better than you treat us your family…”
“What do you want from me, Tiyana?” Ubo hissed.
“I want my share of this land. I will not stop until you give me my share….!!!”
“No! Get out of my land, you traitor!” And to Agawe’s surprise, he turned and left Tiyana.
Ubo was still raging when they got home. Apô Abet gave him a hot drink which calmed him down.
“I should have known. I never trusted that old man…,” Ubo muttered.
“I can’t believe he persuaded Masami to kill you,” Maeng said.
“He promised Masami equal sharing of the land when I die… and it’s not only Masami… he has persuaded others, too.” Ubo turned to Apô Abet, “Ibuk said my three brothers-in-law and my other cousins are working with Tiyana. They could be with Nole right now and planning their next move. So they think they can frighten me?” Ubo thought for a moment.
“Agawe, tell all the workers to stand guard in the plantation now and not to allow any of these people to enter the plantation. Work will stop. Tell them not to worry. As long as they stand guard and no one gets inside, I will pay them just the same. Half of them will stand guard during the day and half during the night.”
“And I will need more people to stand guard here,” Ubo continued. “Let’s see if these people don’t leave when they starve….”
“Where is Ibuk now?” Apô Abet asked.
“We took him home, Apô,” Agawe replied. “But he looked bad. I’m not sure he will survive.”
“Ahh… so much death around us… not good…” Apô Abet muttered.
Agawe was again burdened. With everything that’s going on, he wondered if he brought bad luck to this family.
When Agawe came to the wooden house the next morning, he found more men roaming around the house. They knew him from the plantation so they let him get inside the kitchen.
He almost bumped into Ayong, “I was going to get you… there’s trouble at the plantation.” Ayong pulled him into the large room.
Agawe saw a breathless worker explaining to Ubo and Apô Abet, “The guards caught Nole and your other brothers-in-law cutting the abaca so the guards chased them away but did not catch up. When they came back, more abaca plants were felled down.”
“I need more men,” Ubo said to himself.
Agawe was immediately sent to Siawan with a gift of “agong” to request help from him. Siawan is known to have more or less a hundred al-langs working in his hectares and hectares of ricefield and coconut plantation. Agawe was worried about the request because it meant Ubo was asking help based on the fact that they were going to be family soon because of the marriage of Ayong and Siawan’s daughter. He saw that Ayong was worried, too.
Agawe did not understand how he felt in the presence of Siawan and his son. Only the presence of Madallay made him comfortable. She looked so motherly.
“Tell Ubo I will send him the men he needs before the sun sets today…” Siawan said. Agawe stood up and was about to leave when Madallay who was quietly sitting next to Siawan said, “Yaka pa…”
Agawe wondered nervously why Madallay wanted a moment. Madallay moved a step closer and stared at Agawe. Then she stepped back and moved away.
Agawe heard Siawan ask her sharply why, “Manan?”
Read Chapter 13
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