32nd December, for sure.
As I sat uneasily atop my hound-horse, a large and fast animal as much greyhound as horse, I slipped my left hand into my jacket pocket and felt the cold steel of my trusty old lighter. Grasping tightly securing it in my sweating palm I carefully removed it from my suit pocket exposing the shiny metal to the bright rays of sunlight. My eyes, looking down onto my now open hand, squinted as the reflected rays tore away in several distinct directions, and my fingers clutched its familiar presence ever tighter. It was only a common and ever so ordinary cigarette lighter, but I felt an affinity with it; like that of an old friend. I ran my fingers along it, like petting an dog, then suddenly an almighty crack of thunder exploding directly overhead, in a tempestuous fury, brought my attention back to the task in hand the outcome of which promised life or death to each and everyone of us. So, without further ado, I cleared my mind and began speaking. I began reciting words, words which had only seconds earlier entered my tired brain, I said…”
“I hold this item in this my hand
To act as a bridge in these our plans
We need a distraction, a disturbance right now
To help Kakuri and the HU BA HOU.”
“No sooner had I finished speaking, and the last word left my lips, the sky began to darken. The dark clouds, appearing from nowhere, grew larger and larger and blacker and blacker until they had joined together in one congealed mass of undiluted anger. In a few short minutes the sky had changed from a deep summer blue to a black so dark day had turned into night.
Some of the assembled hound-horses sidestepped nervously, their handlers struggling to calm them. The wind began to blow, soft at first, but increasingly stronger. Then the heavens, opening in a deluge of rain, spewed thunder and lightning the likes of which I had never before seen; a storm, a full-blown storm was upon us.”
“And a storm was exactly what Kakuri needed. Through the driving rain, speaking directly to the HU BA HOU, she said, ‘Now my friend, it’s up to you – do your best.’ And with those words still lingering in its cavernous ears the huge animal took off at full-gallop heading straight for the Timeless Gates guarding the walled city of Onisha. The animal, sensing this was the final offensive, kept its large heavyset and armour-plated head well down. The storm now so intense Kakuri had, after only a few seconds, lost all sense of direction. She had no way of knowing if she was still on course, all she could do was trust the HU BA HOU, and hold on for dear life.”
“As if that were not enough for me to be worried about Kiliki had, meanwhile, given the order to the impatient, assembled Onishians to attack. And who could blame their impatience? It was their land, and they wanted revenge! The entire rag-tag collection of Onishians and their assorted animals plus the Orlu (a separate race of small ever obliging speedy people) were now hot on Kakuri’s heels with no intention of being left behind in the middle of nowhere, and in such a terrible storm. Soaked to the skin they all rushed headlong into the unknown. Some shouted, others roared and still others screamed with the delight they felt rising up against the man who had promised so much, who had given so little and who taken everything.”
“I could see the huge beast’s armour-plated defences, which had, only hours earlier, been carefully crafted by the ingenious Orlu, sparkling brilliantly in the reflected lightning flashes. The plates, of every conceivable shape and size, colliding with one another clanged loudly in a surreal musical tempo, and if there was anybody, within the walled city, still capable of seeing through the blinding, driving rain they would have been filled with the fear of God.
Suddenly, just short of the still-defiant gates, the HU BA HOU stopped. We all stopped dead in our tracks, wondering just what could be the problem. Then the tank, the ugly humpy-tank of an animal, clawing at the ground (like a bull), rising on its hind legs (like a horse) while roaring its own unique ear-shattering cry lifted its large, ugly head one last time before hurling itself forward with the gates set firmly in its sights, nothing could stop it now…”
“Watching, from the relative safety of a short distance behind, my mind wandered trying to remember how this had all come about. Why, only a few days earlier I had been all set for Christmas. I remembered sitting comfortably in front on the TV, looking forward to a well-earned rest. And now, here I was in an alien land about to follow a fair maiden atop an abomination of a creature called a HU BA HOU in an assault on a walled city, searching for a man called Miafra – for a man who would be a god. Searching for a man who had stopped time, stolen the chi (the free will) of the people and drained the powers of the most revered Mystic in the entire land. My thoughts, racing, drifted back to Christmas Eve those few short days ago…”