I looked back at the building in the distance, my face empty of all emotions. The journey to the building and everything that had happened in the corridors of the building weighed heavily on my heart.
After my brother’s death at my hands and my axe, Ogun had tapped his finger on his armrest once more, shaking the both of us. He was dead. I was not. But somehow, that made me worthy of god’s blessing.
“You have proven yourself,” the shaman had said, suddenly appearing out of nowhere. “And now, you will be a warrior like none other. A warrior like mighty Ogun himself.”
I had simply nodded then. I don’t think there was anything else I could have done. My eyes had remained on the lifeless body of my brother as his blood spread over the smooth metal floor of Ogun’s throne room.
“Now, you must return to face the Raga!” the shaman had said.
I had turned to face her, my hand tightening on the axe lodged in my brother’s head. Before I could react, she shouted a word and waved her hands towards me and I was suddenly thrown through a passage, out of Ogun’s room.
By the time I hit the ground, I was outside the building.
On my belt was my small name-day knife and the axe I had used to fight and win. Perhaps that was supposed to be god’s blessing. I wasn’t sure. It didn’t make sense. And for a while, I didn’t want it to make sense.
Perhaps if I could treat everything as a fever dream, I could fool myself to wake up eventually.
I tore my eyes away from the building and looked down the road that cut through the forest we had journeyed through to reach Ogun’s temple. The road looked long and windy but I knew somewhere in my heart that it was the way home. I glanced at the four other children that had been spat out from the veil across the temple entrance.
We locked eyes but didn’t speak. There was nothing to say that hadn’t been said on their faces. The sacrifice was steep enough.
I sighed and looked away from the haggard faces next to me and took a step onto the smooth road leading home. Perhaps it was all just a fever dream and I was returning to the waking lands.
The village was in flames when we exited the forest by the mahogany tree. Cries and shouts of help filled the air immediately. The buildings I had grown up with were burning down and before we could move from our spot, we watched as the village elder ran past us before collapsing on the floor.
One of the children with me moved forward to check the elder before stopping as blood began to gather underneath his unmoving body. We all understood what that meant. I broke away from the group and began running towards my house.
Perhaps I could find my parents and escape the burning village.
I ran, my legs propelling me forward faster than I had ever traveled in my life, through the burning village to my home. The cries and shouts of help were now mixed with the sound of steel and a strange sound that reminded me of thunder.
Just as I turned the corner leading to my house, I heard a man shout in a language unknown to me just as the strange sound filled the air once more and I stopped. Ahead of me, dressed in strange clothes was a monster of pale flesh and piss-colored hair. The Raga.
My hand felt for the axe on my belt and I yelled in rage as I ran towards the monster brandishing my axe. The monster turned slowly, suddenly aware I was behind it but before they could react, my axe removed their legs from underneath them and they screamed in pain as they fell to the ground.
I spun, knocking the weapon from their hand as I stood over them, my small frame contrasting against theirs. The monster locked eyes with me, blue gems sparkling with anger and pain and it began to crawl away from me but I denied it the escape.
My axe caught in the light of the sun and the monster flinched, bringing their arms out to shield themselves but it didn’t matter to me. I raised the axe up and brought it down as my mind flashed to the memory of Sogo’s death.
I split the monster’s head, blood and head matter splattering on me. The monster’s arms fell to its chest and, placing my leg on its chest, I freed the axe from their body.
I looked at the unmoving frame of the monster before turning and rushing to my home. The house wasn’t on fire but there was a sense of dread hanging in the air. I couldn’t see anyone at the entrance of the house and with the village burning and a few in battle against monsters, I couldn’t help but worry about my parent’s wellbeing.
As I moved to circle the house, I gasped as I saw two bodies embracing each other close to the side of the house. There was a monster standing above them, brandishing its strange weapon at them.
The monster snarled and said something in their strange language before the weapon cracked like lightning in the sky. Raga. I screamed as I began to run towards it. The monster turned to face me, recognition sparkling in its eye but it didn’t hesitate. The weapon in its hand spoke and I felt something hit me in the chest.
The force was enough to stop me for a few minutes as I looked down to find small metal pieces pushing against my dark skin. I looked up at the monster and back at my chest as the strange weapon spoke with thunder once more. My body jerked backward once more, another piece of metal pushing against me.
It was then that I understood what Ogun had done for me.
I heard the monster say something that sounded like a curse and it pulled my attention back to them. The monster lowered its weapon, pushing some metal pieces against the side of the long spear. Without waiting, I used all my strength to throw my axe towards the monster and they reacted far too slowly to stop it.
The axe head sunk into the space between their neck and shoulder, and after a cry of pain, the monster sank to its knees, meeting my gaze. I walked up to it, removing my axe from its neck as blood spluttered out. The monster was dead. I was alive.
I turned to face the bodies of my parents, unmoving as they embraced each other in death. Hot tears leaked from my eyes as I looked at the axe in my hand. Blood dripped from the axe-head as if it too shared in my sorrow.
That was the last time I cried.
I forcibly removed the axe from the body of the Raga resting on the rock he had died on. My father and the tribe had called them monsters. Perhaps they are. Perhaps not. It stopped mattering when I stopped counting the bodies that fell to my axe.
As far as they were concerned, the monsters of years past were nothing more than a different tribe. One with far more resources and power to wipe out the tribes it saw inferior to it.
Years of battle and hunting had shown me a lot but did nothing to dull the ache in my heart and the hunger of the axe on my belt. They were the enemy. The disease that had scoured the lands of my people, reducing them to nothing but forest dwellers even as they flourished in the lands of our fathers and forefathers.
Perhaps they didn’t all deserve death. Perhaps not. As far as my weapon and I are concerned, the Raga cannot exist while I do. Not while the rest of my clan sleep in the terror that they might not see the next day.
The children of Ogun call me a great warrior but I hate the title. It fills me with memories I would rather forget. After all, my father used to say a good death was the end of a great warrior.
I don’t want to be a great warrior. I am not searching for a good death. Until I end the Raga with my own hands and this cursed axe by my side, I don’t plan to die.
Not one bit.