Archive | January 2013

Yobe Kopa

In exactly one week from now, the debut episode of Broken Mirrors will hit you. Enjoy this short in the meantime. TL

nysc-2013-batch-A-time-table

I’m Nigerian and one of the things that being Nigerian has taught me is an attitude of thanksgiving. I am thankful when there is power. I am thankful when I go through one semester of school without any strikes or school being shutdown due to some rancor or hullabaloo. I am thankful when I drive through the streets of Lagos and I get home without any encounters with the police, LASTMA, VIO and many other acronymic organizations with bright colored uniforms in tow. Hence, when I graduated from the University of Lagos, (do not say MAULAG or a cat will get your tongue) with a second class upper degree from the Department of Computer Science, we had a massive thanksgiving party in my compound. Nothing shows the Nigerian gratitude like an owambe.

After my graduation party, I looked forward to service year with all the anticipation of a bird ready to fly. Because I had grown up in Lagos and had all my schooling, up to university level within fifteen minutes of my house, I was excitedly looking forward to leaving and living outside Lagos for the first time. So I knowingly sabotaged all of my parents’ efforts at organizing my NYSC posting. Five months later, after I had nearly died of boredom at home, my friend Tekena finally called me that our postings were out. I dashed off my bed and raced to the bathroom to freshen up. Within thirty minutes, I was in school and after hooking up with Tekena in Science Complex, we took the stroll to the Senate Building to get our call up letters. Luckily, it seemed the news hadn’t gotten out much; there were not many people there. Tekena got his letter first. He had been posted to Ekiti State. Not bad, I thought. Maybe I would get such a posting too or somewhere like Calabar. I had heard plenty gist about the prowess of their girls in the haystack and I wouldn’t mind verifying this news during my service year. So when I got my letter, my eyes raced to the alphanumeric identification on the letter. The first two digits would tell me where I was posted to. YB. I showed Tekena and his reaction was the first inkling I had that wahala dey.

“Na Yobe you get,” he said, with exaggerated whistles punctuating his speech.

“Where be that?” I asked, my mind racing to all I knew about Yobe. Nothing beyond reciting it in states and capitals and hence knowing its capital was Damaturu. Damaturu. That rang a bell, but I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around it. I would find out shortly.

Tekena had gone to get a diary and opened it to the page containing the map of Nigeria. He pointed to where Yobe was. It was the second farthest state from Lagos, in the extreme North East. Only Borno was farther. “Yepa!” I exclaimed, putting my hands on my head. A wave of regret rushed over me in that moment. In my quest for Calabar escapades, I had unwittingly sent myself to Yobe.

“Never!” my mum hollered when I showed her my call-up letter. “My only son will not go to Yobe. What happened to the man we paid thirty thousand to in order to obtain a Lagos posting for you?” Of course I could not tell her I had chop-lated the money. It didn’t get to the man because I hadn’t wanted to be in Lagos. Regret. Sigh.

When my dad came back, and I showed him the letter, he was much calmer. He considered it for some time and said gravely but with a finality even my mum knew better than to question

“He will go for the camp at least. There is not much we can do about that now. We are at least sure the camp itself is secure. While he is there, I will work to ensure he is redeployed back to Lagos or somewhere in the south west if Lagos is too hard to get.”

Le sigh! It wasn’t as bad after all. All would be well. Once the decision had been made, we all devoted ourselves to the extensive preparation for the adventure that going to Yobe would be. My mum bought everything under the Nigerian sun for me to carry. And then she declared a three day fasting and prayer session to fortify me spiritually. Of course I got myself the famous corper pouch.

Since there was no flight into Yobe, I had to find out how to get there by road. The NYSC camp was in Potiskum. Unfortunately, there were no buses going to Yobe, only those going to Maiduguri which would pass through Potiskum and Damaturu and make a quick  stop. Thankfully, the student union came to our rescue and organized an ABC air conditioned bus for all students going to Yobe.

Two weeks after I got my call-up letter, with kit and supplies that would make a camel envious, I departed the concrete jungle of Lagos to the sands of Yobe.

The journey was quite uneventful (save for my mum calling me like every thirty minutes), for one so long. Yobe is twenty two hours from Lagos, and after the energy of the first four hours gives way to the restlessness of the next two, you settle into a half sleepy state to numb the stiffness creeping from your bottom up your back.

An advantage of our transport arrangement was that we got to camp early. We were in fact amongst the first set of would be corpers to trickle into the secondary school temporarily commandeered by the all powerful government institution that the NYSC was for the next three weeks we would be in camp.

As I stepped out of the bus, I was greeted by a harsh cold breeze right under the early morning sun. It would seem the harmattan was still strong here even in mid January when it was long gone from Lagos.

A soldier approached our company and shouted “Banga Baggers!”

Most of the other corpers stiffened, but I didn’t. I had a friend in Lagos whose dad was a colonel and I had learnt to read the ranks of soldiers. This guy was a bloody recruit, lowest on the rung of soldiering. He would not address me like that jor #yimu.

It seemed the soldier had caught my demeanor. He approached me languidly and I stood my ground, seemingly unfazed. Then suddenly, the dude switched pace and was upon me before I could react. He “raked” me, and I was on the floor before I knew it. He the sauntered away. Thus, I was welcomed to NYSC camp.

It would seem the NYSC officials deliberately made it circuitous and difficult to get registration done. It was almost sundown before I got issued the final item in the registration process – my mattress. I dragged it wearily and selected one of the better rooms along with three other guys whose names are yet to stick. One of the perks of getting here early enough. When I hit the mattress, I was asleep in moments out of exhaustion.

The loud boom sound woke me up. In an instant, the sleep cleared from my eyes as I came to properly. I was not in my bed in Lagos, but in a flat six by two mattress in a dark room in Yobe. There were multiple explosions of the type that had woke me up. I realized now that they were gunshots. And they were very close. Suddenly, the soldier that had dealt with me earlier in the day ran into my room. He was initially shouting something in Hausa but then realized I didn’t understand the language and switched to pidgin English.

“Quick, run enter bush! They coming!”

“Who are they?” I asked, not moving from my bed, wondering if this was one of the famous drills I had heard about where they tested to see if you would come out into the field.

Then I noticed he was carrying a rifle. And then as his face came into better light from my rechargeable lamp, I saw something splattered across his white singlet. Blood. I was so numb I couldn’t stand up. “Killers. Dem come kill corpers,” he said, with a arm slicing throat gesture for emphasis. He looked sinister.

By now all the guys in the room were roused and everyone was trying to get into whatever clothes the could in order to run out. “No wear white! Dem go see you quick quick” he screamed at the Igbo boy who was getting into his NYSC issued t-shirt.

Suddenly, we heard footsteps in the hallway. And then the clash of metals. And then blood curdling screams. And then heavy thuds as doors got kicked down. And more screams. Gunshots. Metal. Screams. Our soldier scanned the room, spat and said “Banger Bagger!”, and raced out of the door.

The sounds from outside kept getting louder and louder. In no time, we heard a cacophony of screams in Hausa at our door and then the inevitable thud that meant our door had been kicked down. And then they rushed in.

*************************************************************

On the online news blogs and social media from that night into the next day, #YobeKopaKillings trended. The vivid account given by a Unilag Graduate who blogged through the assault and was somehow able to post the story along with an image of a killer matcheting his roommates before he himself was killed was carried by all the news media.

The President himself paid a condolence visit to the site of the NYSC camp massacre immediately.

A new Islamic fundamentalist group has claimed responsibility for the attack and said it had announced itself to the world by the act and pledged to carry out more killings.

Five hundred corpers died in the attack.

Contextualization of Fiction

I have made a grave error.

I ran out of insecticide in the midst of fleeting my apartment. So there’s not enough concentration of the insecticide to kill the mosquitoes, but enough to drive them all out of hiding. And they are mad, attacking me with vigour. I’ve tried every room in the house, but they have followed me everywhere I go like MTN. And I am a good neighbour, so cannot turn my gen on at this time (mental note to buy that  rechargeable fan I’ve been postponing.) Anyway, decided to post some thoughts while  I wait till 3 to turn my gen on. My friend Bolanle Jogz would actually roll her eyes when she sees this post and say “Tunde couldn’t but post on a Monday” lol. February is closer than it was last week and we’ll commence Broken Mirrors. Oh, and try to lay hands on The News magazine today. There’s a review of my work in it. Thanks

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I have just concluded reading Robert Ludlum’s brilliant book, The Janson Directive. One of the plot devices used to resolve the book was where the title character, Paul Janson moves funds into the President of the United States’ personal account from the billionaire antagonist Peter Novak’s Swiss account. He then proceeds to use that as leverage to blackmail the president into doing the right thing by cancelling a U.S foreign policy initiative that Janson had just saved the U.S from imploding from. And the president succumbed to the blackmail. He genuinely feared the backlash from his party and the American public when they discovered that he had received almost Two Million Dollars from a foreigner who had business interests in the U.S

When I read that, I could not help but think about if Ludlum had been writing about a Nigerian president, would that plot device have worked? Would a Nigerian president be so fearful of the discovery of Two Million Dollars, the equivalent of about Three Hundred Million Naira that he would cancel a foreign policy initiative supported by his cabinet (even if it was a wrong one)? The answer I know is no.

This brings me to two things – first is what we should learn from this as fiction writers. We must contextualize our plot devices properly, so that they are believable and real within the cultures we are situating our stories. An American president revealed to be having an affair with a member of his household staff could be impeached; a Nigerian president impregnating his cousin would not suffer a political scratch. We must therefore as fiction writers take the pain to study the contexts within which we write and utilize the appropriate plot devices to make our work real and believable. And yes; it is part of contextualization  of my own writing experience that I’m posting this on a night where there is no power by PHCN, and my thoughts are driven by a plethora of mosquito induced hand slapping sounds. Doubt if any of my friends in other parts of the world would have such an “interesting” context within which to write 😀

The second issue which it brings me to (which I will not duel on, as this is about writing) is the lack of consequences within our politics. The reason the plot device Ludlum used successfully within his novel would not work if Tunde Leye used it in a story situated in Nigeria is because the reality of Nigeria is such that politicians can and actually do such things with impunity; and nothing would happen to them.

As a writer, and even more importantly as a Nigerian, I look forward to a time when I will be able to use such a plot device successfully in a Nigerian story. And when I won’t have depend on my rechargeable fan to sleep peacefully at night.

Reader’s Corner – Happy Never After

Interesting stuff sent in by Oreofeoluwa who runs a blog you should read here http://preciousinhiseyes.wordpress.com/

glass slipper

Prince Charming was shocked speechless as was everyone else in the room. Surely there was a mistake. He looked up into her grinning face and he swallowed then smiled nervously. So this was to be the love of his life eventually, Anastasia. He didn’t remember it being Anastasia though. He remembered very clearly seeing her at the ball and pitying the unlucky soul who got stuck with her; alas it was to be him.  Well, he gave his word didn’t he? Whoever the glass slipper fit would be his bride, he couldn’t go back on his word now. It’s not as though he had anyone in mind he would rather have it be but in all honesty, the only woman that could be worse than Anastasia was her sister, Drizella.

He left their home in a hurry as it was not difficult to assure the family that he was eager to start preparations for the upcoming nuptials but that was far from his mind. He needed to escape it all. He couldn’t believe that Anastasia was the one for him. Anastasia was not the one with the hair so soft and silky; Anastasia wasn’t the one who smelled like a thousand roses in full bloom; Anastasia didn’t whisper into his ears and have her voice float over his heart; Anastasia’s heart didn’t beat in sync with his because the music carried a tune only they were familiar with. No, it wasn’t Anastasia. How unfortunate he believed himself to be that the woman of his dreams was right there in his arms, and then he lost her. Now, he would be forced to marry the certified village man-hungry loon and live with her for the rest of his life.

He closed his eyes and his future flashed before his eyes. He imagined his soon to be mother-in-law shrieking up and down the palace as the servants hid from her in fear and trembling; he saw his beloved spouse whining all day long, wanting this, wanting that, only doing the bidding of her mother; he saw his children spoiled and rotten, always demanding and never having a kind word to say to anyone; he saw the Kingdom in ruins and he wept. He wept for what he saw and what he didn’t see; that she was never far away in all of this. In every vision of his, she was in the background, scrubbing the floors, doing dishes, tending to his kids; she would always keep watch over him secretly harboring the truth for she could not bear to leave her heart’s most desperate desire to suffer alone.

As the days passed, he resigned himself to fate. This was the life that was set before him, it was his responsibility to stand up to duty and perform to the best of his ability, and the people deserved nothing less from their future king. On the other side of town, Anastasia, Drizella and their mother, celebrated like the lunatics that they were; they had all gotten a free pass into royalty, which is all mother had ever wanted for them. All her scheming had finally paid off and nothing could go wrong now. They could hardly wait for the day of the ceremony to come. Much to the detriment of the handsome prince, that day did come. At the altar, he stared into the face of his future and his soul was destroyed.

I guess that’s what happens when you leave your future up to a glass slipper and some random lady’s foot.

 

Library What?

While I’m on Fiction Series break till February, thought I’ll share a series of thoughts I’ve had. Here goes the first one. If you find any of them interesting, please share in all the avenues you can.

TL

bookshop

I had just rounded off a telephone conversation with my friend, Dipo a few years ago while he was studying for his Masters degree on that evening, when the sun had become a distant red and hazy object in the horizon. It was an hour earlier in The U.K. where he was and this was how the call ended “I’m going into the library, we go yarn (talk) later”. Now, Dipo studied for his first degree in Olabisi Onabanjo University (then Ogun State University) and as strange as things strike you, it struck me out of the blues that my friend had never made reference to going into the library all the while he was in OOU.

Once you notice these things, you are sort of tuned in and you notice more things about them. I realized that when I had conversations with friends in foreign schools, the library formed an important and in fact crucial resource in their academic endeavors. In stark contrast, even at Masters level, the library played no such role for those of us here. I recall what my library card was for in Unilag – a part of my course registration process, that was all. Once we had finished course registration, the library pass was stowed away somewhere my eyes never fell on, in obscura. The few people that went to the library after that did so for the quiet, and not to use its resources for study. I studied computer science, so excuses could be made for me that I should have been spending more time at the computer center (that one is another story) than the library. It is noteworthy that Unilag is one of the prime institutions of learning in Nigeria, yet its library was not in any position to be a resource to the students. When one takes this in context, we realize what must obtain in the other institutions spread across the nation. I had conversations with friends that graduated from universities around the country and the story was the same from Lagos to Abuja to Port-Harcourt and all the places in between – the libraries were comatose and the only real research tool available to students was the internet.

Fast-forward if you will to a couple of years after I graduated and the writer in me had emerged. I’m a fan of the Epic Fantasy genre of fiction, and I read that genre across cultures. One of the sub-genres of Epic Fantasy is the Quest/Adventure fiction and I struck on the odd idea of comparing two fiction works in this sub-genre across cultures and time spans. The Odyssey is a classic Greek work of this genre, written millennia ago in Greek and has been translated to English. D. O. Fagunwa’s Ogboju Ode Ninu Igbo Irumole was also published in 1938 in Yoruba (the first book to be published in an African language) and translated to English by the Nobel Laureate himself, Wole Soyinka. I wanted to see points of congruence, and points of divergence based on the cultural contexts and the times in which these works were written. The task then was to lay my hands on these books. I had assumed I would easily find them in any of the public libraries in Lagos. I could not be more wrong. Try as I may, these books were not found in university libraries, the National Library and so on. I had to go on extensive searches with private individuals to get the books. I’m having a similar ongoing experience gathering research material for the Kiriji War. The same gathering material on the history of Lagos. Thankfully today, unlike back then, there is twitter. I have been able to get some wonderful material by simply asking on twitter.

This however does not take away from the fact that the library system in Nigeria is in dire straits, unable to live up to what it should do. In reading Dan Brown’s books as well as that of one of my recent favorites Elizabeth Kostova, one cannot but see the crucial role that libraries play in preserving history and creating the platform for the distillation of new knowledge. Some would argue that the digitization drive by companies like Google and free online wikis like Wikipedia are removing the need for physical libraries. This view would be deceptive to say the least. Digitization is limited, and handicapped by copyright issues, a constraint that libraries do not have. There are also texts that in their original form might not be able to go through the digitization process without damage. Only the protected environments afforded by libraries can preserve these documents. Wikis are great tools, but communal user generated information cannot be relied upon for accuracy and completeness. The copyright issues also limit what can be put on a wiki.

Having said these, one wonders why the libraries in Nigeria are in the state they are. Reading Professor Chinua Achebe’s There Was a Country, I saw that the libraries were fully functional and an integral part of the intellectual as well as not so intellectual space in their day. The decline and decay therefore were not inevitable. Below are my thoughts on why the Nigerian library system collapsed

  • First, schools became insistent on students buying all the books on their list of books, up to the point where students were punished for not being able to buy books. And once teachers and lecturers ventured into writing books, it became mandatory to have their books. This enforcement of list of books buying negated the need for libraries. As a student, if books are amongst those that are listed for a subject I am taking, and I am unable to afford these books, I should be able to access them in libraries. But schools have become more interested in selling books, than passing on the knowledge in the books.
  • The second point ties into the first, though it is not totally fallout of it. The nature of the assignments and tasks given to students by their teachers determine the types and extents of resources the students draw on to solve the problems. Where the teachers scope their work within the books they have written and/or sold, or in such a manner that the students can easily go online and lift things, they will. As is expected, once I can solve the problems from one source, it follows that I will not expand my search to other sources. It is the job of the teachers to design tasks in such a way that students will need to reference material that is unique, original, wide and varied, in order to break new frontiers. This did not happen to me in school, and many students, from primary to tertiary institutions had and are still having a similar experience. Our teachers simply did not task us in a way that would require the kind of research that would need the resources of a library.
  • The third is a lack of respect for referencing. A friend got this shocker when she was doing her MBA in UK. They were given an assignment and she did all the necessary work employing both the internet and library as resources and then submitted. Her lecturer told her she failed even though she answered correctly. She was confused and understandably indignant. How could she have been correct and yet failed? When she probed further to find out why, she was told that she failed because she did not reference the sources she quoted. I am unsure if this would happen here in Nigeria.

The above reasons do not require any monetary investment or governmental sanction to change. They are attitudinal and have grown into a culture – a culture that is leading to a decline in the depth of intellectual discourse and research and paving the way for the attempts to propagate ideas by being the loudest voice. This culture is imbibed right from nursery schools and continually reinforced in us as we progress through primary, secondary and tertiary institutions. And once a culture is all we’ve known all our lives, it take a rude shocker like my MBA friend had to break. But these can be changed if we are truly serious about reviving our library system. It is not impossible, neither is it out of our reach. It will take a concerted and coordinated effort from stakeholders within the educational system – teachers, lecturers, parents and students all working together.

However, it would be unrealistic to deny that there are things that are not dependent on individual attitudes, but that of those in authority.

  • A key reason our libraries are in disuse is the lack of relevance. I mentioned two books I was searching for earlier – one a Greek classic and the other a Yoruba classic. It is criminal that they could not be found in libraries here. We need to stock our libraries with relevant books, classics and on the cutting edge of modernity alike. This will cost money undoubtedly. Systems and funding must be put in place for the regular acquisition of new material for our libraries. It is said of the Library of Congress that they strive to have a copy of every book ever produced on earth! We might not be able to attain these lofty heights with our libraries, but we should at least try. Even where a book is out of print and no longer sold in the market, I should have the confidence that I can always find a copy of such a book to use in a library near me.
  • The state of the books in the libraries is appalling. We need to modernize the storage and preservation methods in our libraries. I should not pick a book from a library shelf and have a termite invasion of my person. I would then rather stay at home
  • A closer cooperation between authors, publishers and libraries should be fostered. This will enable the libraries get as much of the works produced within the Nigerian space as possible. Even if I do not know where to buy Teju Cole’s book, or do not have the funds to buy it, there should be copies in a library that I can at least read.
  • Schools must be mandated to have libraries that stock several copies of all the books on their list of books and more. The compulsion with students buying all the books on list of books must be dropped. It has to be mandated.
  • We must collect and put books that tell our unique history as a people in our libraries. There are documents, maps and books about Ottoman history I cannot see except I go to the libraries in Istanbul and in some cases other places in Turkey. That should be the case with our own history too – I should not be able to get more research information on Nigerian topics from foreign sources. I should find the best experts and resources in our libraries
  • Our library system must be redesigned to encourage book clubs and membership drives within the library’s location. Without people coming to use the resources, the library will go into decay. While the specific experts that man the library are important, it is equally important to understand and harness the collaborative nature of doing things today and engender a sense of true ownership of the library as resource for the people.
  • Digitization is key for the future relevance of our libraries. There is not much more that can be said of this

All the above will require a firm commitment from the authorities and all the stakeholders in the business of sharing and acquiring knowledge. Government, parents, schools, teachers, students, authors and publishers. Everyone has a role to play in the revival of the library culture in Nigeria. It is my hope that we will share this and it will ignite the fire in the hearts of those who read to start something where they are. Nigerians go abroad and use libraries to the fullest as shown in the story about Dipo my friend and countless other similar stories. I am absolutely certain, that if we can collectively revive our library system, it will serve us well, and the quality of education we acquire will be significantly improved.

Guardians of the Seals – Excerpt

I promised to post an excerpt from the draft I’m running 2nd writing iteration on today. Here it is. It’s the only piece of this novel that’ll be seen in public until it’s published. Enjoy Guardians of the Seals and drop a comment. TL

seal

Lucan was waiting for Imani to get ready. The days had flown by and before they knew it, the award ceremony day was here. All over the media, the buzz had been high. Regular Interfacer broadcasts had kept coming and voting had reached a fevered pitch towards the closing hours of the polls. Now, the moment they had been waiting for was here. The sound of the door opening brought him out of his thoughts and he looked in its direction. Standing in the doorway, looking like a painting, was his woman. All other thoughts flew out of his mind in that instant. He was transfixed by the vision of her beauty. She took each step with grace and elegance, seeming to float through the air towards him. He was not aware that his mouth was open until she reached him and laughingly closed it. “Was it worth the wait?” she asked. “Oh, I’d wait a thousand years if necessary to behold thy fair form, fairest of them all”, he replied, laughing and bowing. “Lucan, I’m nervous,” she said. He held her hand with one hand and put the other around her shoulder. “Don’t be honey. I’ll be by your side every step today, ok?” he planted a kiss on her cheek and then whispered into her ear in the same breath “You’ll be wonderful”.

Nimrod sat behind a huge mahogany desk as he ran through his checklist one more time. The result of the voting had been given to the announcer. He had done one final check to make sure the name in the envelope was the correct one. He could not afford anything to go wrong on this night. The award show had to be the greatest the world had ever seen. Three multiple award winning musicians had been contracted to perform. The hall had been decorated from the scratch to resemble an Olympian event. He clasped his hands together and muttered a phrase. Instantly, the wall behind him disappeared, revealing a huge room. The room was dark, with light supplied by actual torches arranged along the walls on both sides sparsely. The central item in the room was a huge marble altar, with sits arranged around it. The Seers were walking around the altar, burning incense and chanting in their hissing voices. He couldn’t interrupt their chanting so he spoke in spirit communication. “Is all set for the master?” he asked. “All is set, master”, replied their leader. Nimrod knew Lucifer liked order and the order he expected was that the sacrifice would be performed on the stroke of midnight of this February 29th, a day that occurred once every leap year. He was not usually a nervous one, but he found himself shaky today. It must be this human form he was in. He couldn’t wait for this to be over.

Imani was grateful to have Lucan with her for this award event. She had been a corporate mogul and not an entertainment person. The paparazzi had been unbearable. But Lucan was used to them and he skillfully guided her through their madness while Lulu handled them once he had guided her to the red carpet. He had stayed by her side all through the red carpet moments too and had helped her maintain her smile and poise. “You’re doing great dear”, he kept saying with a huge smile. The hall was amazing. And she had fitted perfectly into the Olympian setting with her Greek gown. Now, as they sat through the final performance of the night, it was time for the grand finale. She crossed her fingers and waited for the announcers to name the winner.

Lucan was on hyper alert. This was a den of demons. He literarily felt choked by their presence. All around, he could see their hideous forms camouflaged in human skin. He felt something ominous about this gathering. There was something going on here. He made up his mind the he would never let Imani out of his sight that night. And once the award was over, he needed to get her out of here as fast as he could. The announcer was about to announce the winner. He hoped the name wouldn’t be Imani’s. He didn’t need this night to be any longer than necessary. They needed to get out of there. Fast.

“And the winner is…” the announcer paused for effect. A hush went over the whole arena. “Imani!” It took Imani moments to realize she was the one called. Again, Lucan came to her rescue, helping her to her feet and ushering her to the stage. By the time she got to the stage, she had composed herself and she went through her acceptance speech smoothly. As she got off the stage, her arm in Lucan’s, a flurry of cameras went off, capturing images that would be on every news medium in a few moments. As they got down from the stage, they were ushered away from the hall into an exclusive office with a huge mahogany desk as its centerpiece. There was a huge monitor on the wall where a live streaming of the award was ongoing. One of the artistes was giving the final performance of the night. A middle aged, bespectacled man sat behind the desk. Seated on either side of the man were three other men of varying ages and one very beautiful woman. They all work dark suits, except the woman who wore a short gown. They exuded power. “Congratulations, Imani”, the man behind the desk said in a rich voice.

Lucan was alarmed. No,  alarmed was an understatement. For they had just been ushered into a room full of the most powerful demons he had ever seen in his short career as a guardian. It was clear to him now that this whole award had been set up by these demons. Why they had set this up was unclear to him. But whatever the reason, he knew it wasn’t just to give back to the world or fuzzy things like that. He tuned in to see if they were saying anything in the spirit. Silence. What should he do? “And this is my fiancé, Lucan Belgore,” Imani was saying. “The same Belgore the bestselling author?” asked the woman. Lucan looked at her and saw her true form, a huge serpentine being. He nearly fell out of his chair. He made an attempt to compose himself “Pleasure to meet you ma’am.” Then they began to talk in the spirit. And what he heard was his greatest fear. They wanted to separate him from Imani tonight. The man behind the desk spoke to Imani “We will need to discuss some confidential business with you. Mr. Belgore will need to excuse us.” Imani turned to Lucan. He was trying to tell her something but she just couldn’t get it. Why couldn’t he just say it? She gave him a probing look, and he held her gaze. Something about the way he looked at her made her decide to ask that he stay with her through the discussion. She turned to the man. “Lucan will be staying with us through all the discussions we will have sir.” “I beg your pardon,” one of the other men who hadn’t spoken since they got in responded. The woman cut in “these discussions are very high level and confidential. We simply cannot have him there.” When Imani turned to Lucan, his heart sank to the ground. He knew she was about to ask him to allow them discuss the business privately. The door opened and a huge man came in to usher him to an adjoining room. Another demon. He quickly asked “How long is this going to take sir”, directing his question at the man behind the desk, really looking at him for the first time. He was a wiry demon, but he seemed to be the most powerful of the pack. The man looked at the clock on the wall. It was eleven thirty. “It will take only thirty minutes in the maximum,” he replied. Then the man turned to the aide “take care of Mr. Belgore while he waits”.

Lucan sat on the edge of his sit in the brightly lit room. There were two aides in the room with him, and it seemed more like they were keeping him under watch than attending to him. Fifteen minutes had passed since and there had been no word from the adjoining room. He kept looking at the wall clock, until it seemed the time was not moving fast enough. He decided to listen in on the aides to see if they were spirit communicating. They kept repeating one phrase, the Bringing. It was as if that was what this night was about, this Bringing. He wondered how Imani was linked to all this? He had never heard of any bringing before and Gabriel had certainly not told him anything about it. He kept listening to them. “I wish I was going to be at the sacrifice tonight. Lord Lucifer himself is making an appearance”, the one closer to him was saying. Sacrifice? Lucifer? Who was the… The aide continued talking, interrupting his thoughts “but when the sacrifice brings trash along, I have to dispose of the trash and miss out on the fun.” What! Lucan thought. Imani was the sacrifice and what they were bringing was Lucifer. He kicked himself for letting her out of his sight. What kind of man was he to leave his woman in the hands of demons in the name of being proper? Without warning, he shot out of his sit and took the one closer to him out with one hit to the windpipe. The other one was too startled by his sudden movement to make a move. By the time he had pulled out his gun, Lucan was upon him. There was a brief scuffle and Lucan forced him to drop the gun. He was about to call for backup when Lucan hit him in the kidneys. Seconds later, the scuffle was over. Lucan stole a glance at the wall clock. Eleven fifty five. He needed to find Imani before the thirty minutes was over.

He went over the body crumpled on the floor and into the room they had met the other five demons. What he saw startled him. The wall behind the big desk was totally gone. Behind the desk was a huge room. He quickly scaled the desk into the room. If the absence of the wall startled him, what he saw in the room nearly sent him reeling backwards. Imani was laid out on a large marble altar in the center of the room, bound and gagged. Huge hooded demons were burning incense and chanting as they circled the altar. The five that had met Imani and himself earlier surrounded the altar and the one that had been behind the desk stood at Imani’s head, a curved marble knife in his hands. “An extra dead body would hurt no one” he said in spirit. Out of the shadows, demons began to close in on Lucan. They were not in human form. They had released their Eni forms, so humans must have invoked them. It was then he noticed the bodies on the ground. These demons had slain their invokers. He looked at Imani and their eyes met. There was raw fear in her eyes. He had no choice in this. “Sorry guys”, he muttered as he closed his eyes. Then he hit his left chest and breathed “Euphrates”. Light engulfed his body and in an instant, he was transformed. The light he was emitting illuminated the room and the once dark room became as bright as the noonday. All around, the dark forms of demons huddled together to avoid his light. The five demon lords could have been stone where they stood. They looked in utter amazement. He swung his sword in one direction and white light shot in an arc in that direction. All the demons that fell under its light were consumed by it in an instant. Their screaming as they descended into Tartarus was blood curdling. Lucan ignored this as he sent white flames in every direction in the room. Through the screams of the banished demons, he heard the leader of the five calling for their own invokers. Lucan knew he needed to end the battle before they were invoked. He sensed he would be unable to handle the five demon lords simultaneously if they released their Eni forms. And if they were high ranking enough, they might have Eji forms. He closed his eyes and commanded “occupy, Euphrates”. As he did, the room began to fill up with flowing, liquid light. The demons struggled to escape it, but he was glad they were in a room. Within seconds, the room had filled up to the brim. He stood guard at the entrance, cutting down every demon that tried to escape. When the liquid light receded, only the bodies of the five demon lords and a wide eyed Imani remained in the room. He approached the altar and removed her gag. “Don’t touch me!” she screamed, once her gag was off. “Who are you? What are you? What were they?” she queried. “It’s okay dear, I’m the good guy,” he said, trying to go near her again. “Lucan Belgore, you will stay where you are and explain yourself before taking a single step towards me”. “We are not safe here yet. Let’s get you out of here first.” He picked her up and opened a portal. In the twinkling of an eye, they were in his room at home. Quickly, he returned to his normal state and tried to joke “Like me better this way?” he said, managing a smile. Imani did not even bat an eyelid. “You had better start explaining what just happened or I will leave here this moment”, she said, still visibly flustered, but calmer now. He sighed and looked into her eyes. “I am a Guardian of the Seal,” he began.

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Gabriel sensed the release of a seal and the release of demons in the distance. He lifted up his eyes. “It has finally begun,” he said.