#AmReading Prologue from ORISABUNMI by Yusuf Zay #Fantasy #Africa @iamyusufzay



PROLOGUE
AUGUST 1996

MAINTENANCE, they'd called it.

The reason why the Third Mainland Bridge would be closed for three days. Well, it was what they were led to believe.

But Abike knew better. She was a Witch. The daughter of the Gods.

Were humans, Lagosians especially, this gullible? Could they not see the truth that was so obvious?

They called it maintenance. But she knew better. It was the Dance of the Gods.

Three days to honour the old gods.

She, a descendant of a fiery and powerful Goddess herself was honoured and scared to witness this. It was a rite that occurred once in 300 years.

There would be consequences. Because, she knew, with all the terror she could muster, that celebrating the gods, meant summoning the gods. And come they will, with rain, fire, brimstone, hail and chaos.

By the time the three days were done, Lagos will reek of havoc and power. The kind that came from the other side. The realm of Orishas.

She walked alone on the bridge, it was wide and empty. The wind caressed her and carried with it voices of the unseen. They were calling her.

She stopped and turned around, looking back into the distance that was the mainland. She had to stop them.

The presence of the Gods always carried a price, and the price, she knew were lives. Why should so many innocent, unaware mortals die just because a few old crones were passing by?

Couldn't they just be content in the ethereal confinement of their realm? Do they have to come through the veil?

"No my child. It is tradition," a voice said and a woman in a white robe appeared. It was Ireti, her great grandmother. Her dead great grandmother.
"Mama, no." It was not the first time she was speaking to the dead. She possessed the gift of sight, amongst many other gifts.

"That was then Mama. This is now! It's not right."
"And what do you plan to do about it?"
She gazed at the ghost of her grandmother with steel in her eyes.

"I am going to stop it!"

Ireti laughed, a high pitched tone of sarcasm. "Foolish child. Do you think you would be the first to try? Many have! And they failed."

"Then they didn't try hard enough!"

"They did. They did what they could. And that is why one stands with you now, from the confinement of a prison world, cursed to be trapped and never pass into the light."

Abike gasped. This whole time. How could she have missed it?

The sorrow, the darkness that seemed to envelop Mama whenever she saw her. Shock turned to anger in an instant.

"They would pay!"
"Abike, listen to me. I know it’s wrong. But it is the way of things. You cannot stop this. Try it and you will meet a horrible fate. Please, go home. Go home to your husband and children."

"They're exactly the reason why I must do this! They could die! You know this. Lives will be sacrificed at the whim of the Gods. Countless lives! For what? No mama. Its time tradition changed."

"My dear child, you are not strong enough. You cannot defeat the Orishas."

"Watch me."

She raised her hand to the skies and power, smooth as silk enveloped every fibre of her being. The skies screamed and bled a ghastly torrent of rain as the wind spun in circles, weaving itself into a massive cyclone. Fog, thick and true rose, higher and higher till it submerged the entire bridge in it.
A circle of power. A Battleground.

From afar, if one looked, they wouldn't be able to see through the thick fog and the piercing rain. They wouldn't be compelled to. Secrecy was one of the most important lessons she had learned as a Witch because people feared what they could not understand. And more importantly, they hated what and whom they could not control.

She heard them now. A cacophony of angry wails that merged into one solid, terrifying voice. The voice of the gods.

"You dare!"

Although she stood still as a statue, every cell in her body quaked with fear.

"Yes. I dare." She shifted her cloak to the side and dug out a golden dagger from her back.

She had come prepared. The rite was not complete. They couldn't manifest themselves yet, but just in case, a little insurance from a blessed dagger that served as a lock would go a long way.

SAVUM. It was called. An ancient dagger of foreign origins that had the power to trap a soul, deity or other-worldly being.

It had been a gift from her husband Bode, an enthusiastic Archeologist. If he knew he had been arming her with a weapon to fight against the gods, perhaps he wouldn't have given it to her on her 26th birthday, four years ago.

"I am Abike! Daughter of the skies and seas. The High Priestess. I have the strength and power of all those who have come before me. And I say to you, you shall not come through!"

She threw the dagger into the sea and waves of lightning and thunder danced in the atmosphere. She had locked the veil.

She heard them, screaming. Cursing. And waited. How long the dagger could hold them for, she had no idea. But she knew the fight had only just begun.

Out of the fog, they came. Their acolytes. All adorned in white. Men and women, brandishing staff and sword and charms. The gods' servants.
Their faces were marked with magic. An ordinary person will call them tribal marks, but these were no ordinary tribal marks. They were strange and unique. Each identifying the god the squires had pledged their allegiance to.

"You dare defy the gods," One said.

"You delay the ritual," another said, a woman.

"You protect the humans," two said in unison.

"And you will die for it!" They screamed as one.

She raised her hands to the sky and a sword, silver of steel, with an ivory hilt embraced it.

She had come for war. And by the gods, she would give them war.

Abike screamed, a war cry, a call, a declaration.

She charged them, leapt into the air and raised her sword high above her head, as lightning kissed its tip.

The battle had begun.

He gazed out the window, eyes drawn to the sky as it hurled down rain with such ferocity that the house trembled. Something was wrong. He could feel it.

There was something absolutely terrifying and familiar about the storm. And Abike still wasn't home.

He would be lying to himself if he said he wasn’t worried.

Her brother Deji just left the house half an hour ago. He’d dropped in to pay his nieces a visit and Bode had confirmed that she hadn’t been to their family house to see him or their parents.
She wasn't at the supermarket she said she was heading to before leaving six hours ago either. He’d made a quick trip there with the girls at the back seat a while ago.

Normally he wouldn't worry so much, in spite of the fact that he loved her. His wife was a badass. Magic made flesh. A descendant of the gods with the potential of being a god herself, though she preferred to see herself as just a gifted woman or a high priestess, he knew she was more.
"Abike where are you," Bode muttered.

He was uneasy. He was impatient. And he was scared. That was what got him piqued.

He was not a man who feared easily, and when he felt fear, he knew he had a good reason to. His instincts never betrayed him. And now his instincts told him to find his wife via a unique yet unconventional means.

Bode sighed and walked back into the living room where the children were. Modupe and Bunmi. Two beautiful six years old's. Their children.

Their blessed, gifted children. If anyone could find their mother, they could.

He and Abike had made certain that they had normal lives, and they weren't ignorant about their gifts. They wanted their girls to be as happy and normal for as long as they could be.

"Daddy I want Scooby-Doo!" Modupe wailed.
"No. I want Voltron," Bunmi protested.

He smiled, "Alright girls. You'll watch your shows. But first Daddy needs you to do something for him."

"What's that?" Bunmi asked.

"Find Mommy. Mommy and Daddy are playing hide and seek and Daddy needs to find her. Will you help Daddy?"

They giggled. And nodded.

He chuckled and gave them an earring that belonged to Abike. One he knew they'd seen her wear before.

"Just like Mommy taught you," he urged. "Just picture mommy wearing her beautiful earring and think to yourself "where is mommy? I wonder where she is. I want to find mummy."

They nodded and held the earring together. "I want to find mommy," they said in unison.

Bode noticed how the ambience of the room changed. The air became thicker. The lights dimmed, and somewhere in the house, he could hear electricity cackling.
The room was heavy. Heavy with power. And suddenly it was gone. Back to normal.

"Mommy isn't playing hide and seek," Bunmi said.
"No. Mommy's fighting," Modupe giggled.

Bode stood ramrod straight. Shocked. "Fighting? Where? With whom?"

"I don't know. I didn't see. But Mommy is fighting like Power Rangers," Bunmi observed.

"Yes. Yes. Yes." Modupe chanted. "Mommy is the Pink Ranger. She's fighting outside."

"On the road," Bunmi said.

"In the rain," Modupe added.

"With a really big sharp knife," Bunmi said with relish. "Is she going to win?"

Bode was shocked. Shaken. "Yes, girls. Yes. She'll win."

He turned the TV on for them, called a neighbour to babysit and drove out like a madman, after packing a few items from his lab as he liked to call it.

This was no ordinary storm. This was his wife.

Abike had a limited ability to manipulate nature, especially when she was angry or scared.

The girls said she was fighting. On the road. In the storm.

There was no road in all of Lagos deserted enough for a Witch to play sword practice. Besides, she had to be supremely pissed or terrified to have conjured a storm of this nature. Or both.

He slammed the brakes in shock as it hit him. She was on Third Mainland Bridge.

The empty closed Third Mainland Bridge.

Almost immediately another wave of realization threatened to drown him.

The DANCE OF THE GODS.

Once in 300 years.

Held below the sky and above the sea, with lands in between.

He drove like a madman.

She whirled to the side and slashed at an acolyte with her sword. He screamed as the blade cleaved out a generous portion of the skin on his right leg. Good.

Abike took him on, matching every blow of his charmed staff with the gracious dance of her sword. She mustered her strength and drove the sword through the staff. It cut through and the force had her flung ten paces behind.

She was bleeding. Her head felt heavy and her body screamed in pain. Yet she didn't stop.

When they had attacked her, they were nine. Now there were just four left. Two were dead. One was badly injured. And the other two she had hurled into the sea with her magic.

Her head throbbed as she struggled to get up. The fog was waning. Yet it grew thicker.

The mist she had conjured was vanishing, and another taking its place. Even the Acolytes understood the need for discretion.

BOOM. BOOM. BOOM.

It sounded like the gods were slamming a hammer at a door, trying to tear it down. Damn it. They were throwing everything they had at the veil. They intended to tear it apart and force their way through.

She gazed at the four Acolytes. Three men and one woman. Two of the men looked seasoned. The woman reeked of power. Ruthless power.

She could take them. But that would require a lot of finagling. She had to defeat them and get to the shrine they had erected farther down the road.

Through the mist she could see that one stood there now, carrying on with the ritual. The further he chanted, the louder the noise grew, the harder the bridge quaked.

If she got through this, the Lagos State government would really have to do a maintenance check on the bridge. For real this time.
"Traitor," the female Acolyte hissed.

"Better a traitor than a slave," Abike countered.

She took a fighting stance, poised for battle.

"You would die screaming," one of the men said.

Abike smiled at her. She knew she would enjoy defeating her.

"Why don’t you come a little closer and get something ugly?" She taunted.

They screamed, a fierce battle cry and charged her.

She ducked, missing the wicked sweep of a sword above her head and punched her assailant in the gut with her fist. He reared back and she lurched up, driving her knee into his groin.

He groaned and bent his head low. It was all she needed.
She whisked off the bead around his neck.

It burned her palm, still, she held on. She was not done.

The woman came at her with the force of a bull. Abike stepped to the side in a whirl, missing the sting of a scythe by a hair's breadth.

She was panting. The charm was burning her.

The woman growled and turned to face her again. Walking towards her with ire. Abike focused her magic on the scythe. Gazed at it hypnotically.

Just as the woman punched the scythe through the air, towards Abike's gut, the blade turned to ash and Abike wrapped the burning charm around the woman's neck. She slammed her head against the screaming woman's and kicked her aside.

She watched as the power of the charm devoured her and melted her before her eyes.

Acolytes, she knew were a little extra. Their charms were woven in such a way that they were lethal to anyone but the charm bearers.

She wiped a bead of sweat off her forehead and struggled with her vision. She was dizzy, drained and running out of time.
Two down. Two to go.

"You're weak," one of them spat.

"I'm sure you think so."

He grinned. Wickedly. And aimed his staff at her.

Abike nearly jumped in glee. She was the descendant of an Orisha. A Witch. And every Witch had a single potent gift that was stronger than any other abilities they possessed.

Did this fool not know that her single most potent power was her shield? She could deflect anything. Power was powerless where she stood.

She braced herself, ready for the onslaught of power and brief pain that would wash over her once his charm hit her and bounced back at him. She was almost giddy with pleasure at the thought of it.

Then he took a step back, turned to his left and aimed at an open space. She watched as a ball of energy flew out of the staff and hit the air. Then a figure materialized. A man. He fell to his knees as the charm hit him.

It was Bode. Her husband.
Abike ran to him screaming, dripping panic, fear and tears. He lay on the ground, panting, choking, dying.

"Bode. Bode. No. No. No. What are you doing here-why-please!"

"You can't save him," the Acolyte declared.

She waved her hands over him. Nothing. Not an ounce of magic. She tried again.

"What did you do?" She screamed. Her eyes flashed fire.

"Consequences," the Acolyte muttered.

"Reverse the charm. Now!"

He laughed. "I think you know that there's no reversing this particular charm. People must die. Sacrifices for our Orishas. It is only fitting that the first be the man of the foolish woman who dared disobey them. It is justice."

She stared at him. Into him. Through him.

A wave of strength washed over her, a flood of rage. An embrace of power.

BOOM. BOOM.

The gods were coming through. The veil was weakening. In the distance, she could hear the last Acolyte. His chant picked up speed, matched the ferocity of the wind. The ritual was nearly complete.

She turned and looked at Bode. His eyes open, his body moving yet still. He was writhing in pain.

The words came, as though they'd always been there. She had always heard tales of her ancestor Arinola. How the first mortal woman became an Orisha by facing two wicked gods who wanted her dead.

How an ordinary village girl had been transformed into a goddess due to her courage, compassion and determination.

She was the daughter of that particular Orisha. A descendant of the first mortal made a god. She had the power. She knew the way. She had only to reach deep and yank it out.

Her heart was heavy and her head spun with light and knowledge. It filled her entire being like a song. It was defiance. It was the truth. It was a purpose.

She raised her sword to the sky and looked straight at the two Acolytes standing before her.

Light, faint and true, a single benevolent ray lit her from above.

"Protector of the innocent. Guardian of the living, warrior of the skies, keeper of the seas. By the power of air and fire, wind and water. Daughter and Mother, a true Orisha!"

Lightning and thunder became one and hurtled toward her from above. They struck. They danced. She glowed, with power. With justice.

Every Orisha had an oath when they come into being. A motto, a promise. She spoke hers now and knew she would keep it no matter the cost.

"I'll give courage against fear," The seas churned.
"I'll mete out justice with mercy," The gods screamed impatiently.
"And foster love without boundaries," flames rose and weaved a circle around her.

Light bathed her, pure and bright. A blinding white.

"Mother. Witch. Daughter. The sacred three. Behold, I am an Orisha set free."

Around her, within her, chaos, beautiful and orderly chaos. A rhythm of power. A dance of a god.

She moved without moving. The light within her took form and brandished a sword. It sped onward, and in a flash, the two Acolytes were beheaded. Their bodies incinerated instantly.

She had come into her own. She had taken her primordial form. She was a goddess made flesh.

She turned back to Bode. Surely all this power could be of use. She could heal him.

She knelt before him just as a loud roar erupted from the sea and a giant wave rose and parted.

Abike turned towards the Acolyte in the shrine and shot out an arrow of light from her hand. He exploded.

"No," she whispered.

She was too late. She watched as the giant wave parted like a curtain and the gods stood before her.

The gods of the Orisha pantheon.

The Savum appeared on the ground. The dagger was broken.

They stood, giants of power and light, glaring at her.

Obatala, Ori, Sango, Kokou, Aganju and Orunmila.

Those were the ones she could see. She had no doubt that many more stood behind them as well.

They had power. And they had fury.

Even now, her power of insight made her see how Bode had ended up there. Driving in the rain, fearing for her life. Parking on a deserted street and using one of the soul crystals he had whisked from their library to travel here to her.
She saw, clear as day, the rampage that will soon follow. She saw and smelled the blood. The horror. Death.

No. It would not be for nothing. Her husband was nearly gone. The world stood on a brink. The gods were without mercy.

Water surged from the sea and became a man beside her. She recognized him for who he was. Olokun, the Orisha that slept at the bottom of the Ocean. Acolytes and Oracles called him a friend, but she knew better. Gods could not be trusted.

As though he read her thoughts he nodded at her. "Yes dear, we are not trustworthy. Not by mortal standards."

"What are you doing here?"

Olokun raised his hands to his brothers. The water rose up from the sea and became a solid wall where the veil had parted.

"Buying you time," He answered.

"Why?" Abike asked.

"They cannot come through. And you're the only one that can stop them, for a time at least. Now do what you must! They're stronger than I remember."

She gazed at Bode. Even in his catatonic state, she reached him. She saw the love in his eyes. She mirrored it. Embraced it.

While she knelt before her beloved, Three gods stepped forward and through. Olokun smiled. Fate had made the first move. There were some things that could not be stopped. That should not. They vanished unnoticed by Abike.

“Pelu ife. Tori ife. Mo di. Pelu ife. Tori ife. Mo di.”
With love. For love. I become. With love. For love. I become.
Tears rolled down her cheeks as she kissed him, an onslaught of memories assaulting her. Memories of her childhood. Her friends. Her daughters. Her husband. Her world.

She was doing the only thing she knew to do. Love. And with love, came sacrifice.

She would save the world. Keep the Orishas at bay. For as long as she could.

"Take care of them," she whispered. "I love you. You stay strong," and transformed into a wave of light.

The light shone, rose and hurtled towards the veil. Olokun dropped the wall of water and vanished.

The gods realized her intent too late. The waves closed in on themselves, slowly, the giant light in between.

The light washed over the bridge, the sea, the battleground. Where blood and bodies lay, nothing remained.

Circles and shrines vanished. The mists bowed. The storm ceased.

The light bathed Bode and slowly he stirred. He gazed around and turned to see the gods, struggling, trying to get through what was now a very small hole in the air.

And he saw his wife. Abike. The light took form one last time and she turned to gaze at him. She smiled.

The waves fell back to the sea as Abike whirled back into the light and closed in on the gods.

Her words rang like a bell.

"Take care of them. I love you. You stay strong."

And now there was nothing but silence.

Bode stood alone on the bridge, without rain or waves, fire or brimstone.

Nothing.

Nothing but tears.



ABOUT THE BOOK
This summer, the gods are coming to town!

Against them, two must set aside their differences and fears and stand as one. It is one thing to defy a god but it’s something else entirely to go up against an Orisha. For all Orishas are gods, but not all gods are Orishas.

Can two fearless women with an axe to grind, a pain that has never healed, a shared legacy of magic, destruction and differences that set them apart like fire and water unite to save humanity from a dangerous Orisha? From itself? And more importantly, can they save themselves?

Find out in Orisabunmi, Book 1 of the Made of Magic trilogy.


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