As the days went by, the chief’s conditions worsened. He lay tossing and turning from one side of his bamboo bed to the other.
Then the cough came. It was a terrible cough3 and very dry. The chief’s ribs threatened to come out of his chest with each cough.
A new disease had come upon the land, one for which there was no cure. It looked like that disease had come upon the House of Ndaka.4
After the palace magicians had tried to save the chief in vain, the elders went and summoned Meiwuta, the most powerful medicine man in all of Ndaka.
Meiwuta came, dressed in his traditional attire of chimpanzee skin. He had his powerful staff in one hand and all the amulets5 of his medicine in the other hand. The charms stretched from his wrist to the end of his arm. His black medicine bag hung from his neck.
A very extraordinary person was Meiwuta the witch doctor. He was thin, very tall and straight as a tree. His head, shaped like the tip of an arrow, rose steeply from middle of his tiny chest. The top of the head then flattened out briefly before rising again to end in steep hill.
What frightened many about Meiwuta were his cross-eyes.6 It was as if his left eye looked this way while his right eye looked the other way. Those crafty eyes of his, stuck out his head like fires shinning out of the evil forests7 in the night.
Another thing about Meiwuta was that the man always smelt like a bag of bad medicine. The villagers said that the smell of Meiwuta could go over the distant hills and reach Abafum8 in the flat land.
Meiwuta thus came and stood by Aruna’s bed. The witch doctor immediately perceived the gravity of the malady that had come upon the chief.
“Go and bring more logs of wood,” Meiwuta ordered Mata Mero,9 the chief’s first wife, the one who was the mother of Omar.
Meiwuta had a voice like the clap of thunder. His voice rose in the hut like the thump of the calabash upon the waters. Its report hit the wall on the far side and then came back again with a solid clap.
Mero was now slow of hearing. Meiwuta had spoken like the voice of the thunder yet Mero still failed to hear him. The age was now telling on the woman.
“What—!” Mata Mero asked in that gentle lisping voice of hers.
“Woman…I told you to bring more firewood for this fire! Do it this minute and stop standing there opening your mouth like a sick hen!”
Mero glared at him.
Chief Aruna, who lay quietly in the bed, raised an eyebrow as Meiwuta scolded his first wife. Leaning on one elbow, the chief tried to get up and failed.
Shatu, the chief’s youngest wife, did not wait for Meiwuta to thunder again. She left the chamber immediately. She returned some moments later with several of the Chief Aruna’s warriors.10 Each of them bore a huge log of wood on the shoulder.
Danladi, the one who led the warriors, bore two of the largest logs. The logs banged upon each other as Danladi came through the main portal of the hut. The boy dropped the logs effortlessly on the near side close to where Meiwuta stood. Then he brushed the dirt from his big chest and made for the door of the hut.
Meiwuta’s voice was now gentle. The witch doctor now looked at the boy with kindness. Danladi was his first son. The villagers said that Danladi’s superhuman strength came from his father. The boy was only two months old when Meiwuta took him into the forest and boiled him in pot of special charm. The medicine did not touch Danladi’s head.
Danladi, however, came out of that pot as strong as a wild boar and twice as vicious. The boy was now so strong that not even the arrows from the largest bow could piece his body. His head, which was not touched by the medicine, remained vulnerable11 to danger.
As Danladi came closer, Meiwuta indicated the logs pointing with his mouth. Danladi understood immediately. The boy lifted two of the logs, as if they were twigs, and dropped them into the fireplace. His father now reached into his handbag, pulled out a pouch containing some brown powder. He sprayed the powder upon the logs. A blue flame rose from the fireplace. Moments later a stinging smoke filled the chamber.
Everyone in the room started coughing.