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The Slave Prince Chapter 4
Agawe prepared for his journey that afternoon. When darkness fell, he said goodbye. He said goodbye to his Innà and to his Apô Ugay. He held his apô’s hand, “I am not sure if I can be back or if you will be here when I come back …” he paused, “goodbye, Apô.” His apô’s tear fell on his hand.
He looked at them one last time and was out the door. He ran towards the forest. He went straight to the stream where he and Egul used to bath. It was their own find. No one ever went there. He was safe there for the night. It was cold but he did not mind. His body could withstand the cold. He laid on a flat rock on the bank of the stream. He thought he could not sleep because of the events of the day but he slept soundly.
It was daylight when he woke up. He could see the streaks of the sun’s rays between the huge fern leaves covering the stream. He was hungry. He unwrapped the banana leaf his Apô Ugay prepared for him and found several pieces of boiled gabi and deer meat.
After breakfast, he drank from the stream and washed his face. Agawe often wondered where the water came from. From where he stood, all he could see were huge rocks, trees, fern leaves and flowing water. Once, he and Egul followed the stream upwards until they could no longer climb up the rocks which jutted out of the mountain side. Water seemed to come from the bowels of the earth flowing up the mountains and spewing out of the cracks in the large rocks and flowing downwards. At the bottom, a large rocky basin caught the flowing water from where it cascaded slowly to the more shallow part of the stream.
Before he left, he stood on a rock and whispered a prayer, “Manama, please protect and guide me in my journey. Protect my Innà and my Apô Ugay as I leave them.” He jumped off the rock and started walking. He decided to walk through the forest. It would take him faster to the other side of Mt. Sandawa.
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The Murder Plot
Agawe knew it was mid-day but the sun’s burning heat was blocked by the thick undergrowth of the forest. Agawe walked for sometime when he heard voices. He crept to where the voices came from.
Hidden from view, he saw two men deep in conversation.
These people are not al-langs, he thought.
His curiosity getting the best of him, Agawe crept nearer until he could hear them clearly.
“Why don’t you do it? Kill him yourself!” Fear filled Agawe’s heart. They were going to kill an al-lang. He had to go away before he witnessed another killing.
“He is our brother…” the same man told the other one.
“Half-brother …” the smaller man corrected the bigger one. “You can do it with one blow… you are bigger and stronger than me.”
“Masami, you know Ubo can wield his sword like a warrior.”
“That is why we have to take him by surprise. Anson, he does not treat us like his brothers. We work in the plantation…”
“He pays us well, adi,” Anson interrupted the man he called brother.
“Anson, are you not thinking? We are part owners of that plantation. He should hire al-langs and they should work for us. When he dies, I am going to be the eldest son...”
“There’s his mother and wife … ” Anson reminded.
“They are women… I could easily subdue them.”
“Are you forgetting what Ubo’s mother is? She has this strange power…”
Agawe listened with his heart pounding. The mother was like his Apô Ugay with those mysterious powers.
“Ahh… Anson, listen… Ubo is there waiting for us to bring water for his horse.” He spat on the ground. “We are not al-langs to run for water when his horse is thirsty!” Then he continued, “Go back quietly… and do as planned.”
“I am scared Masami…”
“Remember, the two of us will become rich. We are the only brothers in the second family. I will wait for you here.”
Agawe did not know why he followed the big man called Anson who cut through the thick bushes. Agawe decided to lag behind in case the burly man had acute hearing.
Suddenly, Anson stopped and Agawe heard a horse’s bray. From where he crouched, he saw the man whom Anson intended to kill. He was tall and dressed in a rich man’s clothing. He was tending his horse so Agawe couldn’t see his face.
Agawe Saves the Life of a Datu
Anson started to move surreptitiously. Agawe wanted to warn the man but he might endanger his own life. He looked around not knowing what he was looking for. He found a small dried up coconut, not heavy enough to knock a man out.
Anson was dangerously getting nearer without the man realizing the looming danger. Agawe had to act fast. He picked up the coconut and aimed.
It happened so fast. Agawe hit his mark and the horse brayed and lifted his front legs. The man quickly dodged the horse’s legs and that was when he saw Anson with a thick piece of wood ready to swing at him.
Agawe was amazed by the man’s agility. He ducked in time to avoid the blow. At this, Anson panicked and ran. Without thinking, Agawe tripped the big man as he ran past his hiding place.
Before Anson could get up, the man’s sword was at his neck. “You are going to kill me?” the unnerving voice said.
Agawe saw Anson cringe in fear in front of the towering man. “Masami… Masami told me to do it!”
The man noticed Agawe behind the tree. “You! Give me that wood,” he ordered as he pointed to Anson’s weapon lying near Agawe’s feet.
Agawe picked it up and handed it to the man nervously. The man sheathed his sword and held the piece of wood in both hands, and without warning hit Anson’s legs so hard Agawe swore he heard bones cracking.
Anson’s scream reminded Agawe of Egul’s scream before he died. Anson thrashed about in pain. Ubo tossed the wood angrily on the ground. “That will keep you from getting away.”
He looked around. “Now – where is my horse?” He turned to Agawe. “Did you hit my horse?”
Agawe swallowed and stammered. “I… I just want … to…”
“Thank you,” he said simply. “You saved my life.”
As Agawe turned to go, the man said, “You must be tired and hungry. I live beyond the knoll. It’s a long walk but if you have nowhere to go, you are welcome in my house.”
Then he started walking leaving the injured Anson crying for help.
Agawe hesitated but he was so hungry and he knew that all he could get from the forest were wild berries. He was sure this man could offer him real food so he followed him.
“What is your name?” the man asked when Agawe caught up with him.
“Why did you save my life?” he asked without even looking at Agawe.
“I thought it was the right thing to do, Tiyo…” He used the tribal term uncle to address the man with respect.
“Do you want to be paid for saving my life?” he asked.
“No…. no, Tiyo. I... ahh…honestly… I want food… then I would be on my way…”
Ubo stopped walking and turned to Agawe. His gaze was penetrating. “I want you to work for me.” It was more of a command than a request and Agawe recoiled but he was afraid this man would not take ‘no’ very well.
“And what work would you like me to do, Tiyo?”
“Innà will see you and she will decide if you can be trusted to work for me.” He continued to walk.
Agawe remembered what Ubo’s half-brothers said about his mother. She had unusual powers. That is why he depends on her advise, Agawe thought.
As he followed the man, Agawe had time to observe his clothing. His shorts was made from the expensive weaved cloth called tinalak and bordered by wide horizontal bands beaded with intricate designs. It was secured at the waist by a wide, buckled belt. A second belt held his sheathed sword. He wore a close-fitting undershirt and the tinalak coat he had on was beaded with complex designs around the neckline, the sleeves, and the borders.
This man could be a datu or a chieftain, Agawe thought.
It was the first time Agawe was even near a rich man. As both of them walked barefoot, he could not take his eyes off the layers of bells below the man’s knees. His hair was wrapped in a kerchief with edges bordered by colorful tassels and beads. He must have come from an important occasion because he had on huge earrings but instead of shell earrings, he wore a finer one. His Apô Ugay talked about those – they were ivory earrings.
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