restricted access Chapter Two: We Blew the Horn

From: Dying Voice

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CHAPTER TWO We Blew the Horn 1 I mmediately after we had met with the elders, we left early in the morning, on our dangerous spying mission to the Kapkwambisi and Kamoriongo regions. On the eve of our departure, we had been showered with blessings by the elders who briefed us on what was expected of us during the course of our mission. Like everything else, war also has its own rules and regulations. “My sons,” Telenges our tribal patriarch had said, “we send you on this mission with our blessings. The land awaits you anxiously to bring good news. You should be guarded by the norms governing such ventures, that you have already been taught. Watch carefully whatever comes before you. Some things mean bad omens while others portray abundant blessings.” He paused to tap his Kipraut1 in preparation of shoving a pinch of tobacco into his mouth. He chewed it briefly with a bit of soda ashes before shooting out a stream of dark saliva. He continued, “As we observed this morning, the entrails of the sacrificed animal revealed good omens, and that means that the venture is going to be a blessing.” Sure enough, they had done it early in the morning. This is how it was done. An animal, usually a __________________________________________ 1 A small pouch used by elders to keep their tobacco and snuff Dying Voice sheep without blemish, was strangled. It was slaughtered without disturbing its digestive system. Then the entrails were carefully examined. If the veins on the stomach walls and the intestines were full of blood, it was a good omen. Also if the stomach was full of digested food, it was good news as it would be a sign of abundance. If these signs were not present in the entrails, it meant bad omens and so the intended activities would be postponed for some time. Telenges went on, “Also our Maotik2 including Arap Sirtoet have brought us good news from our Orkoiyot3 that all is well. The Chief Elder has proposed that you leave through the upper route through Uasin Gishu. This is because on the lower route there are heavy rains around Sieye.4 The rivers down there are usually overflooded and are dangerous to cross. Again at this time of the year wild animals including elephants, buffaloes, rhinos, and lions are many. Another reason is that it would be necessary to survey the route for the next raiding mission. As I told you, watch carefully for unusual things. We have heard of the Tugen warriors who were waylaid and eaten by monsters appearing as human beings. You should be able to interpret the movements of animals and birds. For example, an antelope crossing before you or a woodpecker chirping at your left hand, or a raven in front of you showing its back, are all bad omens. It means that you either delay the journey or choose a different route. But if a woodpecker chirps at your right, or a raven faces you, it means a good omen. Go in peace.” He concluded. “Our father has said many valuable things and I would like to add something,” contributed another elder as he stood to speak. “Unknown women bring bad omen, my children.Abeautiful woman may come before you showing all her beauty while actually she is a witch or a spy. She may want to devour you, if she is a witch, or ________________________________________ 2 Seers 3 Chief Elder 4 Kakamega 92 would like to know of your mission, if she is a spy. Such things have happened before. You should be careful of wild animals. Be alert at all times. Share the little you have equally. Follow your leaders without complaining. “Also never grumble on the way because such things may cause disunity. Do everything in unity and agreement as you have learnt from us. Your unity is of great importance. You know the story of three bulls, how their unity gave them protection and how they got separated by lions and later they were all killed one by one. May you be blessed!” An elder was asked to bless us. He rose and led us in a song, and we cheerfully repeated in chorus the last word of every line: Emoni bo Nandi, baibai ole baibai Baibai Komi boisiek, baibai ole baibai Baibai Komi chebiosok, baibai ole baibai Baibai Komi lagok, baibai ole baibai Baibai Ye bendi murenju, ribogis ole ribogis Ribogis Ngo tuiyo ak bunyo, imenit...


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