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FANTAH CHAPTER THREE - HAYAH'S JOURNEY

Updated: Dec 24, 2023

HAYAH'S JOURNEY 04/12/2023

Fulani warrior riding fast
 

WARNING!

“This series and the characters in it are fictitious. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and specific other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law." Copyright © 2023 by Hadiza Bagudu.

 

The village of Ndokula was slowly coming to life as Hayah rode out. It was a far cry from the town of Balda, where he currently resided, and even less developed than the city of Maroua. However, it had a peaceful atmosphere that he loved.


 
Bororo village

The morning light casts a calming gray shadow over the whole village. Young girls and boys led their herds of cattle toward the bush for grazing, disturbing the dust as they moved and making the atmosphere even grayer. Some of the younger girls, brightly dressed in red, black, and white wrappers with short tops, adorned themselves with many bangles and beads. They carried large round calabashes filled with cow milk as they walked towards the neighboring towns to sell their wares and buy what they needed.


A group of young men, dressed in black jumpers, turbans, and rubber shoes, headed westwards towards the forest to hunt. Some of the older men went toward their farms. In all, everyone was busy with one thing or another, and the town was a hustling and bubbling beehive by the time he left. Throughout the day, he rode through the tick and dense forest, passing a few other settlements on the way because he took a different route on his way back, which wasn’t strange. Being a warrior, he was very cautious. After all, it was trickery, bravery, and tactfulness that got him to the position of General in the Lamdo Maroua’s army, and he had since proven himself worthy of that position many times over.


 
Fulani boys rearing cattle


When he arrived at Maroua a few years ago, the Fulani, who were the ruling class, were at the height of their battle conflict with the original inhabitants, the Musgum, whom they referred to as the Habe, and the Musgum were winning.


Being a fellow Fulani and of blue blood, the Lamdo of Maroua welcomed him warmly, recognizing him as the prince he was. Due to his warm reception, he decided to enroll in the Lamdo’s army to use his extensive military training to support the Fulani in the war against the Habe. He was favored by Providence, and the Lamdo put him in a position of command. This allowed him to introduce his own tactics and military strategy on the battlefield, which proved to be a wise move and significantly contributed to their eventual victory. He also ensured that the soldiers carried out basic training exercises every day, maintaining their combat readiness even after the battle had been won, to avoid being taken by surprise. He completely transformed their military way of thinking.


The Lamdo was so impressed with him that he promoted him to the rank of general and gave him his own daughter, Talatu, as a wife, along with the small town of Balda to oversee. Because of his extensive knowledge of the Qur’an, he also served as the chief Imam of the town. He led prayers in the town’s central mosque and spent his free time in between battles, teaching Qur’anic knowledge to the citizens of Balda and any occasional visitors who showed interest.


He arrived at Maroua by sunset, finding it to be a large town in contrast to the tiny village he had just left. There were more people, more houses, and more activities, making it a more organized and bustling place. The roads were filled with horses, and the streets were lined with shops and merchants. As expected, there was an abundance of assorted goods and wares available for buying and selling at every turn. Traders constantly tried to attract the attention of prospective buyers, loudly describing the benefits of their wares, which were arranged in eye-catching styles. Sometimes, it could be annoying, but he didn’t mind, as he knew they generated the lion’s share of the city’s revenue.


The houses were closely knit together and built with well-burnt red mud bricks in cone and square shapes, in contrast to the domed-shaped huts of grass and straw of the Bororo. The people of Maroua were better dressed and more vibrant than most of the indigenous tribes neighboring them. Additionally, there were diverse kinds of people and the jobs they did to survive, making it a large pre-modern city.

Fulani Village

As the evening grew darker, the traders started closing their shops, preparing to retire for the day. Everyone seemed to be in a hurry to return to their homes. As he rode through the city, he could perceive the delicious smell of cooking from different houses, making him hungry. However, he only grimaced and rode on, as he had other pressing matters to discuss with the Lamdo of Maroua. He knew that a feast would be waiting for him at the palace as well.


Usually, he visited the Lamdo every day whenever he was around, and they always ate dinner together. Balda was not far from Maroua, so he made it a duty to pay homage to his Lamdo as often as possible. Coming from a royal family, he knew how important it was to be on Lamdo’s good side, especially after the disgrace he suffered back at home.


Hayah, though an aristocrat, was essentially a loner by nature who liked doing things on his own terms and in his own way, which explains why he loved hunting so much. It gave him the time and freedom to be alone with his own thoughts. He was also someone who loved to plan every action and did everything according to pre-set guidelines. Being alone helped him organize his thoughts to come up with the necessary strategies to achieve his goals. Unfortunately, being a royal, he was always surrounded by people, and that really bothered him. There were always meetings, functions, and events to attend, leaving him too little private time. To make matters worse, the people expected him to follow certain rules and traditions instituted by long-gone kings and statesmen, which he considered too rigid and archaic. His opinions and decisions, no matter how good they were, were disregarded as long as they did not conform to the pre-set norms. It was a big problem for him since he was a man of strong opinions, considered by many as strong-headed, and almost always at variance with many of his courtiers. In the end, he was forced by a faction in his court to abdicate the throne, and he left Sokoto in exile, feeling shamed and angry, leaving behind his wife and children without a whiff of regret.


His wife was a cousin forced on him by his father, and he married her even though he never liked her or her parents. Thus, when he sneaked out of Sokoto, he left her behind. His secret intention was to return someday to reclaim his birthright, the throne, but first he must learn patience. The how or when might be blurry, but the plan was crystal clear in his mind. He needed power and resources, both of which he didn’t have now. So, integrating himself with Lamdo was a strategy to get him all that. Fortunately, the Lamdo liked him.


He stopped at the royal mosque for Magrib prayers, and the Lamdo was there too. After leading the prayers, they exchanged pleasantries with the Lamdo, who was always very happy to see him. Then, they went into the palace together. Just as he expected, they were served a feast of royal delicacies. The cooks must have outdone themselves, he thought. There was rice and milk with honey, cooked lamb with vegetables (miyan taushe), roast chicken with hot yaji and bean soup, and a variety of fruits like oranges, bananas, and mangos arranged neatly in a beautifully carved calabash. At the end of the meal, they enjoyed sweet dates specially imported for the Lamdo from Arabia by the Arab merchants who did business with the city of Maroua. Everything was just so perfect, he almost forgot why he was there.


After dinner, the Lamdo informed him of the situation. They were able to discuss freely and unofficially because the Lamdo considered him his friend. He was not just the general of his army but also his son-in-law, privileges that qualified him, in the eyes of the Lamdo, to be taken into confidence on important matters. The Kingdom had been peaceful so far, but long silences in those parts and times could be equated to a calm before the storm.


“So, Hayah, how did the hunting go? Did you kill any game?” the Lamdo asked him.


“It was a wonderful outing, for sure,” he replied.


“Oh, how so?”


“I saw some interesting games but caught none, Your Majesty.” He didn’t want to tell the Lamdo about Fantah.


“Oh, better luck next time,” the Lamdo said before changing the subject. "I received a report that the Musgunawa had been launching secret guerilla attacks here and there into my territory lately.”


“I knew the truce was a joke! I knew the truce was a joke!” Hayah was angry.


“They have joined forces with the Massa and Sumeya and have been causing a lot of damage to some of the smaller villages around. They have been attacking the caravans on their way to the Diamaré market.


They are trying to block our trading route. That will seriously affect our economy.”


“Of course! Not to mention serious damage to relations between us and Yola and Tcheboa. I was informed that in the last attack, they killed over 12 people and stole their merchandise and horses.


“The more horses they have, the better their military will be,” Hayah said, knowing that the Fulani’s military superiority over the other tribes was mostly due to their possession of war horses. It gave them speed, cutting down fatigue, and a clear advantage over their opponents. Now it seemed like their enemies wanted to turn back the tide and even the playing field by acquiring their own horses too. That had been doing that a lot lately by sporadic but organized attacks on traders and stealing their horses. Hayah knew it could not continue; otherwise, they would be in big trouble.


“We cannot afford to let them continue.”


“We have to retaliate immediately.”


“Yes. When do you think it would be appropriate?” the Lamdo asked.


“The day after tomorrow, I will gather my men, and we will leave after dark.” One of Hayah’s biggest assets was his combat readiness at any given time, and that was why the Lamdo loved him so much.


“Ok,” the Lamdo said. “But I suggest we try and have a peace talk with the Musgum chief first before any reprisal attack. He may not be aware of what is going on. For all we know, those attacks were sporadic and revenge-driven.


“Yes, Allah rene,” Hayah said. “I will instruct the messengers immediately.”


“Ok, good,” the Lamdo replied, and then changed the subject again.


“Talatu has been worried sick about you.”


“I am fine," Hayah said.


“Of course, but she couldn’t understand why her groom of less than two weeks would just take off like that.”


“What are you saying, Allah Rene? Do you suggest that I stay at home with her and never go out?”


“No, of course not. How could I even begin to suggest that? You are a warrior who loves the outdoors. She will just have to understand.”


Allah rene, forgive me for being so direct…”


“Hayah,” the Lamdo cuts him off. “I am an old man. My days on this earth are few. I gave you my daughter’s hand in marriage because you are my friend and I trust you. I also believe you are capable of taking care of her even after my death. I was just speaking in my capacity as a father.”


“I promise not to let you down,” Hayah reassured him.


“I trust you wouldn’t.” The Lamdo agreed.


 
A palace in Nothern Nigeria.

After the discussion, he left straight for Balda. It took Hayah thirty minutes of riding through the cold night to reach the town. And on arrival, he went straight to his house. On the way to his wife’s apartment, he passed different concubines who knelt to greet him. There were about six of them, all of different sizes and shades. They were all beautiful, and he could have asked any of them to join him in his room for the night if he wanted. It was his right as a ruler to have his way with any of the concubines that he owned, but as tempting as that was, he would rather be with his wife. When he got to her quarters, he met with her uncle, the Waziri, at the door, who had a habit of visiting her at odd hours, and Hayah was not comfortable with it. But he couldn’t say anything since he was his in-law.”


Allah sabbine, Allah rene. Allah baru nganyo ma.” The Waziri greeted him in the customary royal way.


“My in-law. How are you tonight?” He returned the greetings, completely ignoring the praise that the Waziri was lavishing him with. For some reason, the man made him very nervous, and he didn’t like it.


“I am very well, Allah rene.


“You look well.”


“Thank you, Allah Rene. I just came to see my daughter. She was so worried.”


“Worried?” Hayah feigned surprise.


“She was just wondering if you were all right, that’s all; … but I assured her that she had nothing to worry about… you know she is only a child and doesn’t know the ways of life that much…”


“You have done well, my in-law. Thank you.” With that, he bade him goodnight and went inside before the conversation could be prolonged further. He didn’t particularly like the man, but there was nothing he could do about it since they were related by marriage. The Lamdo’s daughter, whom he married, was raised by the Waziri, who was the Lamdo’s older brother. For some reason, the kingmakers deemed him not worthy of the throne and gave it to his younger brother. As if that were not enough, he couldn’t bear any children, despite having four wives and numerous concubines. So, the Lamdo, out of pity and for the sake of peace, gave him his favorite daughter Talatu to raise as his own, and at the height of their victory against the Musgum, the Lamdo asked him to marry her off to Hayah. He did that as a way of giving him a powerful in-law and increasing his power. In fact, the Lamdo did his best to carry him along and to increase his potential influence, but often he came off as pathetic and creepy, at least to Hayah.


He said Salaamu Alaikum softly and walked into his wife’s luxurious room, fit for a princess. Everything about the room exuded royalty. The floor was covered with the softest of Persian rugs from Arabia, a gift from her father, Lamdo Gerai. The walls were lined with murals and calligraphy of mixed tones. The ceiling was high and domed, and it was also decorated with beautiful calligraphy. Small windows around the room were placed high to allow light in while maintaining privacy. There were different ceramic arrangements that gave the room an even more exquisite look. A very thick but sweet-smelling fragrance filled the air. It was coming from a small clay incense burner sitting on a small table. The charcoals were glowing hot, and he could see some of the wooden perfume that was sprinkled generously on it. The aroma was intoxicating. At the far corner of the room, his wife, the princess, was sitting on the best raffia bed that money could buy. Its mattress was filled with feathers, covered by beautiful white and brown sheets imported from Egypt, and surrounded by many soft feather pillows. She didn’t look happy, he surmised. But as soon as she looked up and saw him, she got up off the bed and knelt to greet him. He said Salaamu Alaikum again and walked over to the bed to sit beside her. Her head was bowed down. She was shy, so he cupped her face in his hands and lifted it up so that their eyes could meet. She smiled shyly and looked away. She was very beautiful—the most beautiful of all the Lamdo’s daughters. He caressed her face again. She had an oval face, a pointed nose, and soft, luscious lips. Her long, soft black hair was skillfully braided and covered with a transparent veil adorned with jewelry. He felt so lucky to have been blessed with such a beautiful wife. He didn’t love her, but he liked her and was grateful to Lamdo Gerai for giving her to him. He then lifted her up and sat her next to him on the bed.


That night, as his wife slept peacefully next to him, he was wide awake, and his mind wandered off to the little village north of Maroua and the beautiful shepherd girl he met there. Somehow, he couldn’t get her off his mind. He remembered her innocent smile and the sweet sound of her voice, and all he wanted at that time was to be with her.


The next morning, Hayah held a meeting with his lieutenants to brainstorm the best strategy to deal with the problem at hand. There were several suggestions, with some favoring a pre-emptive strike, while others suggested pursuing more negotiations and threats, as they were uncertain about the true culprits behind the attacks. After a day of deliberations, they reached a consensus to invite the Musgum chief and elders for a peace dialogue. Hayah conveyed his decision to Lamdo Gerai, who approved it.


The day after that, Hayah dispatched two messengers to invite the Sarking Musgum to Lamdo Gerai’s palace for a peaceful dialogue However, later that evening, one of the messengers returned, covered in blood and visibly beaten. He recounted how the other messenger was killed, but the Sarking Musgum speared him to deliver a message: “We will not surrender. We are ready for you.” From that moment on, it was agreed that a war would take place, and they decided to go on the offensive.


[End of Chapter Three]

 

Thank you for reading Chapter Three of Fantah. If you enjoy it, please leave me a like, comment below, and subscribe to my website. You can read Chapter Four below:

 
A pot of soup

 
A white plane flying in a blue sky
 
Silver and diamond wedding rings
 

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