As the two brothers entered the arena, they slowly spread apart, watching Koby all the time like big cats watch their prey- till he could no longer keep them both in the same line of sight. He sighed. That meant he would have to guess what one was up to even as he dealt with the other.
That was fine by him. He kept his eyes trained on the George twin before him, seemingly ignoring the other, whom he was sure was advancing towards him at that very moment- the nostrils of the brother before him flared, and like a whirlwind he twirled, slashing with his weapon. It bit deep into the other brother, injuring him terribly. His brother roared and ran towards him.
Quiet, tense, at the last moment he lashed out, but somehow the fellow dodged it and managed to land a terrible punch to his midriff. He inhaled sharply and stabbed the fallen brother in the foot, or rather he would have, but then just before it landed, he also dodged the blow.
The brothers were slippery. But one was injured. And from the look they gave him, they wouldn’t be underestimating him anymore. They knew what he was, and the uninjured one gave him a short, grim nod. There would be no more fun and games from here onward. Just two angry men trying to kill him.
He nodded back, accepting the silent challenge. And with a shout, the real fight began. It was a whirl of blades and fists, grunts and shoves as each man fought for his life.
Slowing from blood loss, considerably weakened by the previous fight, Koby held his own for a while but eventually fell to the brothers. They pummeled him mercilessly. He managed to get a few good ones in too, but for every blow he inflicted, he got two in return. Finally he was on the ground, beaten, done.
As he lay on the ground, eyes closed, awaiting the killing blow, he sent a prayer skyward to the supreme being *Eledumare to watch over Ewatomi and accept him to the great beyond. The cheer of the crowd faded from his ears. He felt every ache in his body and groaned. His only consolation was that it would all be over soon.
*Eledumare is one of the names used to refer to God in Yoruba land. Despite belonging to a basically polytheistic religion, adherents of Yoruba belief systems and worship, do acknowledge a supreme being who oversees the affairs of the entire universe.
A scream rang out, loud and clear, and in that moment he remembered the reason he was fighting in the first place- Ewatomi.
His eyes snapped open and he grasped his spear as it was being lowered to skewer him, and with the strength of the damned, he jammed it upward, ramming it through his skull with a sickening crunch and killing the other man.
As the life left it, the corpse fell on him but he kicked it away. He pulled his spear out and swiped at the other brother. He blocked with his blade and threw sand from the arena into Koby’s eyes.
Temporarily blinded, he spun, swinging the spear with one hand to create a fatal arc while he rubbed at his eyes with the other. With no time to spare he grasped his spear with both hands, and was able to parry a killing blow. He returned the favour. The remaining brother blocked it.
He attacked, again and again, driven mad with the desire to see Ewatomi safe and free, he was like a wildcat. Eventully the man brought his weapon up a fraction of a second too late and his spear sink into the meaty flesh of his neck.
Koby pulled it free and rammed it into his belly, ripping his innards free. He out paid to whatever vestige of life still clung to him by stabbing him in the heart.
As his opponent’s blood drained into the sands the crowd went mad with joy. They began to chant the name they had given him;
He slung his spear over his shoulder and walked out of the arena. Soaked with blood and sweat, he made his way to Ewatomi who shook visibly.
“We are free.”
“Yes Koby. We are free.”
And they were free indeed. Even though the freedom had come at such a steep price. Together they went to Mr Stone, where he was seated on a platform before the crowd.
“Set us free.”
The crowd went silent. This was an important moment. Feeling the eyes of the people heavy on him, he reluctantly produced a book and wrote them a bill of freedom. Then he took out the reciepts he had gotten during their purchase and tore it.
Hands intertwined, Koby and Ewatomi left the arena, stopping briefly at the slave dwellings to pick up their meagre belongings. Koby still held on to the ornately carved spear. No one asked of it of course, so he kept it.
Over the next few years, a series of misfortunes befell Mr Stone, until eventually he wound up dead in a ravine. The doctor took one look and declared it a natural death and no one thought anything of it.
Life happens, after all.
Meanwhile, Koby set up a little farm and earned himself a reputation for honesty and hardwork. He and his wife led very industrious lives, working on both their farms and the larger farms of the folk in that area.
As they got children, they trained them and when they were old enough, they also joined in bringing some form of income for the family.
He earned enough to buy a few black slaves, whom he promptly set free. But they often chose to remain with him, serving as labourers on his farm, members of his family. Gradually his farm expanded as did his family, and at the time of his death, he was considered wealthy.
“Did Koby kill Mr Stone?” I asked Grandpa. He smiled
“Well what do you think? Be a good boy and fetch me my walking stick, will you?” I hastened to comply, and when I returned, Grandpa got up. He asked me to follow him and together we made our way to the kitchen. I thought briefly of milk and cookies but stopped when we walked past the fridge. I followed him outside.
When we got outside, he stood, gazing at the house. Then he pulled out a brick. From the space within, he retrieved a long, thing parcel, tied at both ends with string.
Working quietly, he loosened the knots and upwrapped it, and sitting there in his hands was an ornately carved staff with blades on both ends, inlaid with iron and bound with iron rings.