Changa's Safari Origins: Panya
Oya's Daughter by Milton Davis. From Before the Safari. Published by MVmedia.
The waning sun settled behind the cluttered horizon as two figures stole from the royal compound of Oyo. The duo scaled the bleached mud walls encasing the royal palace and descended into the thorn bushes. They knew the paths through the protective plants by heart, crossing the distance between the martial foliage and the dry moat as agile as antelopes. They halted, waiting for darkness to exert itself over the barren market before climbing from the ditch and sprinting for the narrow alleys of the lineage compounds. The rest of their journey was easy; iif they were recognized no one would stop them for not only were they royal siblings, they were twins.
They left Oyo, heading for the Sacred Grove dividing the city from the farmlands. They found their favorite spot despite the darkness and set about gathering wood. In minutes a small fire blazed between them, illuminating their faces. Panya brushed back her braids and smiled at her brother, happy to see him after his long journey. Oyewole grinned back at his sister.
“I missed you, Wole,” Panya whispered.
“I missed you, too,” Oyewole replied. “I didn’t think we would be gone so long.”
Panya’s face became serious. “Did you kill anyone?”
Oyewole looked away, darkness hiding his expression. “Yes.”
Panya clapped her hands. “I wish I was there to see it! Wole is a warrior!”
Oyewole’s face reappeared in the flame light. “It is not like the warriors say. A man does not always die with honor. Most of the times he dies with fear.”
Panya frowned. “You sound weak, Wole.”
“Talk to me when you’ve killed a man!” he barked.
They fell silent and Panya scolded herself for angering Wole. They stole away to enjoy each other’s company as they did when they were younger and she had started an argument.
“What else did you do?” she asked.
“After the battle we went to Yubaland,” her brother answered.
“What?” Surprise rang in Panya’s voice. “There was another battle?”
“No. It was a council meeting. That’s why I wanted to come to the grove. There is something I must tell you, something you should know.”
Panya tensed. A voice warned what was about to be spoken but she wished it away. It was too soon.
“Baba and Ladipo of Yubaland have come to an agreement. They have decided to unite as allies in order to exert control over all of Yorubaland. Yubaland has more wealth than Oyo but we possess more warriors. Still, it was baba’s obligation to offer an agreement.”
Panya closed her eyes. “What did he offer?”
Oyewole drew his face away from the firelight. “You.”
Panya stifled a cry. She waited to make sure her voice would not tremble when she answered. Oye was now a warrior; she would be a princess.
“So I am to marry one of the oba’s sons.”
Oyewole’s quiet after her question sent fear racing through her. The moan she fought to prevent seeped through her lips.
“I’m to marry the oba?”
Oyewole’s face reappeared heavy with sympathy. “Yes.”
Panya jumped to her feet and paced, shock and disgust fueling her slim legs. “He’s an old man, as old as Baba! I can’t marry him. I’m to marry Adeniji.”
Oyewole looked away. “Not anymore.”
Panya pounded her feet against the ground, raising a small dust cloud. “He can’t do this to me. I won’t let him!”
“Why are you being so stupid?” Oyewole snapped. “You knew this would happen one day. You are a princess and I am a prince. Neither of us chooses who we marry.”
“You won’t have to marry an old woman,” Panya spat back. “You won’t have to leave home to be a beast for elder wives.”
Oyewole scowled. “I knew I shouldn’t have told you. You’ll go back and start an argument with Baba and he’ll punish me.”
“All you think about is you!” Panya swung at his head with her fist and Oyewole ducked.
“How can you say that? I told you Baba’s intentions. Now you can prepare yourself.”
Panya stood still. “Yes, I will prepare myself. I will tell mama. She will stop this madness.”
She marched out of the grove and back to the city walls.
“Panya, wait!” Oyewole tried to stop her but she ignored his calls. She loved her brother like no other but he could not help her now. The only person who could stop her father from committing her to the Yuba was her mother.
The gatekeepers looked puzzled when she appeared but they opened the gate without a word. Panya strode across the courtyard and brushed past the grim guards before the door to her mother’s home. Adenike slumbered in her large bed under a kente draped window, her head resting on a jeweled ivory headrest. Panya went to her, shaking her vigorously.
“Mama, mama, wake up!”
Adenike snorted and pushed her hand away. Panya shook her harder.
“Mama! Wake up!”
Mama sat up suddenly and shoved Panya away. Panya fell, her butt smacking the floor. Momma rubbed her eyes then look in her direction.
“Panya? What are you doing here so late? Why did you wake me?”
“You have to stop Baba from marrying me to the oba of Yubaland.”
Mama’s eyes cleared and a sympathetic smile came to her face.
“Oyewole told you.”
Mama patted the bed beside her and Panya came and sat. She hugged momma’s waist and leaned her head on her narrow shoulders.
“I told your baba this would happen. I told him to let me talk to you first.”
“Tell him I won’t do it,” Panya said.
Panya gaped. Her mother had never refused her anything, ever. The fear that entered her mind with Oyewole resurfaced.
“Listen to me very carefully, Panya,” her mother began. “We are a family of great privilege. The ancestors and our people chose us to lead them. We have done well by them and in return they have blessed us with abundance. But we have an obligation to do what is necessary so our people remain strong. That time came for me many years ago when I married your father. It was not my choice. It was my obligation. Now your time has come.”
Panya stared at her mother. This was not happening. He mother was not asking her to go through with this.
“No,” she blurted. “I will not do it.”
Panya’s mother’s face became stern. “I have raised a selfish daughter. You choose your own convenience over the lives of your people? If this marriage does not take place there will be war between Oyo and Yubaland. Many will die because of your selfishness. Your brother may die because of it. Is this what you want?”
“You talk to her as if she has a choice,” her father said. Oba Jumoke ducked as he entered into the room and folded his long arms across his chest. He had never been a big part of their lives with his constant travels between his wives’ homes. Adenike was the only wife allowed to live in the main palace, but the privilege didn’t give her any more time that the other wives. Panya never liked the way he looked at them; his eyes seemed to access their worth. She realized that was exactly what he was doing.
“A marriage agreement has been struck between our houses and it will not be broken,” he said. “The wedding ceremony will take place at the beginning of the rainy season.”
His eyes shifted to her mother. “You will use that time to make sure she is prepared.”
Her mother looked away. “Of course.”
“Panya, come to me.”
Panya stood before her father. Though her face was complacent her hands shook with anger.
“It’s time you come to terms with your place. What you do will mean much to our people. Yobuland’s oba asked for you specifically because of your special birth. He will value you highly, which means nothing you ask will be denied. You will be his First Wife; you will control his household. I could not think of a better union for my daughter.”
I could, she thought.
“Now go and let your mother sleep. I suggest you do the same. The next few weeks will be very busy for you.”
Panya trudged out of her mother’s room and across the compound to her bedchamber. She lay down and propped her head on her headrest. So she was to marry Ladipo and no one thought wrong of it except her. It was her duty as her father’s daughter, her obligation to her people. It was the price to pay for a life of privilege.
Panya sat up, spurred by a wave of desperation. A wall had been erected around her, a barrier of tradition and duty. She was trapped like cattle and expected to behave like them, never testing the obstacle separating them from freedom. Panya would not give up so easily. If no one in her world would help her, then maybe someone of another world would.
The next morning Panya said nothing about the previous day’s turmoil. She went to her mother as always as was attentive to her studies. Later that day she sneaked off with Oyewole and they practiced hand combat. Women were forbidden from learning the secret fight style of Oyo’s warriors but no secrets existed between Panya and Oyewole. She was more aggressive than usual but Oyewole didn’t seem to notice. After their practice she returned to the compound, bathed then went to the market. She purchased a bolt of purple fabric, sandalwood incense and three red garnets. She also bought chickweed and three copper bracelets. As she walked back to the compound a hand reached from the crowd and gripped her wrist. A short woman appeared covered in an orange shawl, her face plain yet compelling.
“Back, beggar,” her guard barked. “You block the princess’s way.”
“No,” Panya said. “She is fine.” Panya smiled at the woman but her expression was not returned. Panya was insulted by the woman’s rudeness.
“What do you want?”
“I should be asking you,” the woman replied. She nodded her head towards Panya’s items.
“You plan to summon her tonight?” she asked.
Panya’s eyes narrowed. “That’s none of your business.”
“Just because you are daughter of the oba does not put you higher than all,” the woman snapped. “Calling on her is no small matter, especially if you are not one of her chosen. You should consult with a babalawo before making such decisions.”
“You’ve said enough,” Panya decided. “Release me.”
“Be careful, daughter,” the woman advised. “Do not put yourself in a situation where you have no control.”
Panya mouth sagged. “It would be no different than now.”
She snatched her hand away and her guard shoved the old woman into the crowd.
The crone’s words followed her into the compound and back to her room, fluttering in her mind like night flies. She didn’t know what she was doing. She was desperate. For her entire life her status as the oba’s daughter and a twin had protected her from any adversity. She saw no need to call on the babalawo’s advice or the orishas power. But with no one to turn to she had no choice. Panya had no altar so she set the candles on both sides of her bed. She placed the purple fabric about her shoulders then placed garnets, chickweed and bracelets before her on the bed. Panya lifted her trembling hands as nervous sweat emerged on her forehead. This was foolish. Why should an orisha come to her aid when she had never called on her before, especially one as powerful as Oya? The market woman’s words returned, jumbling in her head like an acrobat.
She was about to douse the candles when a breeze swept through the room. The flames bounced about and flared in its presence.
“Oya?” Panya looked about her room as if searching for an intruder. The breeze swirled around her, lifting the colored fabric from her arms. Oya was present, she thought. She had to go through with it. Panya closed her eyes and lifted her hands high.
Oya, Lady of Storms,
Bringer of Change,
Orisha that summons the winds and protects the dead
Ruler of tempest and thunder
Please hear me this night
Help me, Oya
The breeze graduated into wind. It swirled about her tightly, pinning her arms to her sides. Panya’s heart hammered her chest and her eyes grew wide. She wanted to run but the spinning winds held her still. Nothing else moved in her room; the candles licked lazily at the darkness, the sheets on her bed lay still. The wind spun faster and she rose into the air. Then it eased, a cocoon of calm surrounding her. Inches from her face the air moved. She was in Oya’s hands.
When she first tried to speak her voiced cracked in her dry throat. She swallowed before speaking again.
“Oya, I wish your help. I am to be married to a man that I have not chosen. I am told that our union will bring peace to our people. I do not wish to marry him. I beg you to stop this marriage. If you do so, I will honor you with libations and praise. I will be your daughter.”
Panya did not know what to expect. Would Oya speak to her? Would she plant a vision in her head? When the answer came it was as clear as it was vague. Warm air gently pressed against her skin, reminding her of her mother’s hands. Panya smiled as she drifted down. When her feet touched the floor the wind burst from her room, blowing out the flames and toppling the candles. Panya smiled and collapsed exhausted onto her bed. Oya had come. Oya would help her.
Panya’s behavior over the passing weeks was typical of a young woman preparing for marriage. She became her mother’s shadow, listening intensely as she shared the wisdom and duties of a royal wife. Panya spent long days with the seamstresses as they created her wedding dress and head wrap from the finest fabric in the kingdom. Her mood was at times solemn and at other times joyful. Though she had moments of dread they quickly passed. Oya had come to her. Oya would not allow the wedding to occur.
Panya stood on a low stool surrounded by a gaggle of seamstresses. They talked excitedly as they arranged bolts of fabric around her, each one trying to exert her design vision over the other. Panya smiled pleasantly at all of them. It didn’t matter what they chose; it would all be in vain. Just as she was about to make a selection the door swung open and Oyewole entered. Panya recognized his expression immediately and the smile melted. The seamstresses prostrated before him, their strips of cloth dangling from Panya’s shoulders.
“Leave us,” he commanded.
The women scrambled to their feet and hurried from the room. Oyewole strode up to her, oblivious to her near nakedness. Panya clutched the fabric around her, anger growing as her brother confronted her.
“What are you up to, Panya?”
Panya stepped down from the stood and stood before her brother, their noses almost touching.
“What does it look like? I’m preparing for my wedding.”
“Don’t play with me. A few weeks ago you were sick about this marriage now you float about as if it’s a dream come true.”
“Turn around!” Panya hissed. Oyewole’s eyes widened then closed as he looked away.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
Panya discarded the scraps of fabric and dressed. “How should I behave? I am to be married whether I agree or not. I might as well enjoy the process. It only happens once.”
“You could run away,” Oyewole suggested.
His words hit her like a whipping stick. “Run away? Run away?”
Panya searched her brother’s face for any sign of sarcasm but found none. He was serious, which made her angry.
“You speak like I’m a child! Run away? Where would I go? What would I do when I got where ever I ran off to? How long would it take for Baba to find me?”
Oyewole didn’t reply. His face seemed sad, no, remorseful. Panya’s anger subsided. Worry wrinkled her brow despite her confidence in Oya’s promise.
“What is wrong, Wole?”
Oyewole opened his mouth then suddenly closed it. He rushed up to her and held her tight. Panya felt a warm tear on her shoulder. She tried to pull away but Oyewole held her tight.
“Remember everything I taught you,” he whispered.
He let her go and turned away before she could see his face. Panya watched him leave the room, confusion holding her in place. When she regained her movement Oyewole had disappeared.
* * *
The day had come. Oyo was dressed in full splendor, its towers freshly whitewashed, and golden banners waving with the early season breeze. The royal courtyard teemed with elders, dignitaries and spectators, all present to witness the marriage of Panya and the union of two powerful kingdoms. Panya’s mother and father sat side by side in their thrones, both draped in matching green robes and headdress. The wedding party could be heard approaching, their songs rising above the city walls and settling among the wedding party. They had been outside the walls for an hour, her father exercising his right to make them wait as long as he felt necessary. This was no normal wedding; it was the unification of two equals that deserved patience.
Panya peeked at the events from her window. Her attendants laughed and sang as they adjusted her gown. Her anxious eyes focused on the grey clouds gathering in the sky. Clouds were common for the coming rainy season, but for Panya they were a sign of her salvation. Oya would come, of this she was certain. There would be no wedding. Once the rain began she would announce her contact with the orisha and relay her
disapproval. If her father did not listen, then Oya would strike him or her groom dead. It didn’t make Panya any difference which her patron chose.
Oba Jumoke finally gave the order to open the gates. The wedding party danced in followed by the groom and his entourage. In a normal wedding the groom would be accompanied by his lifelong friends. Instead the Oba of Yubaland, Ladipo Ajose, came accompanied by his court. The nobles entered first, one hundred stern faced men draped in rich blue fabric and gold studded capes. They streamed into Oyo before the enormous train of bride wealth. Six wagons lead them, each filled with the traditional offerings; kola nuts, bitter kola, yams, alligator pepper, honey, pink snapper fish and kente cloth. A herd of goats followed. Behind the goats trailed offerings designed to display Oba Ajose’s power. Fifty horses pranced, laden with jeweled harnesses and gilded saddles. Behind them filed one hundred servants holding thick staffs of pure gold crowned with leopard figurines. Ladipo and his attendants followed were the last to enter. The oba of the Yuba rode a white stallion swathed in red fabric and golden plates. His personal guard marched on either side, their dress similar to the mounts. The procession split as it approached Panya’s parents, making way for Ladipo.
Panya was oblivious to the ceremony. Her eyes were locked on the gathering clouds.
“Oya, where are you?” she whispered. She was answered by her friend Ebun.
“Come Panya,” she said excitedly. “It’s time.”
Wedding drums echoed throughout the compound as Panya’s attendants danced into the courtyard. Panya sauntered in behind them, her face covered. He looked at Ladipo and for the first time felt uncertainty seep into her mind. The oba was not as old as he expected; in fact he was quite handsome. His smile seemed genuine as she approached, but it did not change the fact that she did not know this man. She sat on her father’s lap and the wedding party prayed for the well-being of the marriage. Panya kissed her mother and father then approached Ladipo’s family. She knelt before them and they prayed. Panya sauntered to Ladipo and sat beside him. Her eyes lifted upward but the sky had not changed.
Her father stood and the courtyard fell silent. He looked upon Panya and Ladipo and a victorious smile ruled his face. His expression triggered a spark of anger in Panya and her face warmed. As he turned to face Ladipo’s parents, reality dragged down Panya’s hope. Oya had abandoned her.
“This is a special day, a special day, indeed,” her father began. “The bride and groom sitting before you today represent a host of unions. They are a union of man and woman, a union of families, of spirits, and of kingdoms. When Oba Ladipo first asked for my daughter’s hand, I was skeptical to say the least. Oyo and Yubaland are at some times enemies, at other times adversaries, but at no time friends. But the world changes and so must men. So I agreed to Ladipo’s proposal, for only a fool can hate his family. By this union Oyo and Yubaland become not only united kingdoms, but family. This is a day that the ancestors witness and praise.”
Drummers flailed, bells rang, singers sang and dancers danced to punctuate her father’s words. Panya glared at her father, heat coursing from her cheeks to her arms. The clouds darkened as they clustered over the wedding party.
It was Ladipo’s father time to speak. Malomo Ajose leaned hard on his staff as he stood. The elderly man took his time, tipping to the neutral ground between both families. His face was set hard in a frown; he moved his head slowly from side to side, his wrinkled brow twitching. Panya could sense he was not happy with this marriage but she knew he would not protest. His time as Oba was long past. He could do nothing but acquiesce. Malomo cleared his throat and the courtyard fell silent again.
“I speak for my son, Oba Ladipo. This marriage carries a heavy weight. We all know the history between our people, though no one knows it better than I. The blood of Oyo had stained my sword many times. The women of Yubaland have cried into the night because their men would not return from Oyo’s forests. Both kingdoms have homes with bodies underneath because of our wars. But today such times come to an end. Today my son has been granted a gift more precious than gold. Today my son receives not only a beautiful and worthy wife; he also receives peace.”
Panya’s mother stood as Malomo walked away, her destination the bride wealth.
“Come, Panya,” she urged. “Show us what among these gifts is most valuable to you.”
Panya rose to her feet and walked absently to her mother’s side. She found the Oracle among the gifts, a thick golden ring crowned with amber resting atop it. Every step back to her seat beside Ladipo seemed an eternity. She cursed him silently; she cursed her father, her mother and even Oyewole. Most of all she cursed Oya.
She stood before Ladipo. He took the ring with his thick fingers and placed in on her trembling finger. It was done. She was Ladipo’s wife. Her father arranged it and her mother condoned it. Worst of all, Oya permitted it. She was led to Ladipo’s mother and they danced. Her mother danced with Ladipo, both of them smiling as if this was a happy day. They danced close to Panya and Ladipo suddenly lifted her off her feet.
“What have you done?” the wedding party shouted.
“I carried the bride!” Ladipo shouted back.
Drums erupted into a celebration rhythm, masking the thunder rumbling overhead. Panya barely noticed the raucous reception. She smiled when she thought she should and spoke kind words to those who spoke to her. Her father mingled proudly among the guests and her mother sat demurely at the table, receiving blessings and gifts. She looked to the other side of the courtyard and saw Oyewole staring back at her. Only he seemed to know how she felt. His face was as grim as she felt inside, his eyes sparkling with tears. One of his friends placed a friendly hand on his shoulder and he shoved him away. Their other friends grabbed both men and hustled them away, the revelers looking on the commotion curiously. Oyewole looked at her one last time, his expression sympathetic.
Rain splattered on the table before her. The revelers continued to dance, a few looking up nervously at the darkening clouds. Lightning flashed and thunder pounded down on them. The clouds finally unleashed its contents on Oyo. Servants hurried to gather the gifts and food while the other mounted their horses and wagons. Panya did not move; she welcomed the downpour that hid her tears. Oya did not save her but she cried for her.
Panya felt hands grip her wet shoulders and pull her to her feet. She pivoted and looked into her mother’s proud eyes.
“You symbolize our people among them,” she said. “Represent us well. Be a good wife and our people will always be allies. A wife who controls her husband controls his kingdom.”
She hugged Panya and kissed her cheek. Panya’s servants pulled her away, rushing her to a white horse cloaked in red kapok. She mounted, took a long look at her home then galloped away with her new family. The wedding party rode for a week through the persistent rain, the constant drenching quickly damping the significance of the ceremony. Ladipo and Panya were kept separate despite them being wed. Panya was kept company by her friends accompanying her to her new home. They would stay with her for one month as she acclimated to her new family. Panya spoke little during the entire journey as she vacillated between anger and fear.
They entered Yubaland under thin grey skies, the rains relenting long enough for Panya to get a good look at her new home. It was a sparse land compared to Oyo, the trees spread apart, shrubs and grasses covering the ground between them. The walls of Bose peeked through the scattered bush, the dark stone in stark contrast to Oyo’s white palisades. Warning drums echoed from the ramparts and were quickly answered by the rapid patter of the oba’s vanguard drummers. The Yuba sang, reviving the spirit of the wedding ceremony. They were answered by the citizens of the city crowding the rampart to see the arrival of their new queen. The massive iron gates swung wide to reveal a city in full celebration despite the constant drizzle. Bose’s magnificence stole Panya’s attention from her plight. The city was much larger than Oyo and obviously wealthier. Every house was a stone structure, the doors elaborately carved with images of various animals. A second wall loomed before them, a structure made of a simmering green stone she did not recognize. A pair of metal gates that gleamed like gold parted to a compound more extravagant. The residents were equally profligate. The women were bedecked with jewels and amber that hid the tops of their long bright dresses. The men posed beside their wives in matching pants and shirts, gilded scabbards holding ivory hilted swords dangling from their beaded belts. They bowed as she passed, lifting their heads slightly to see her. Minutes later the party approached another wall, the most extravagant and heavily guarded of the three. Behind it was the compound of the oba, the home of the Ladipo family. It would soon be her home, but to Panya the gilded gates before her may as well been the entrance to a prison.
Lightning cracked overhead and anger surged through her. Two female servants approached her mount, their attention divided between their duty and the threatening sky above. One of the servants grasped the horse’s bridle as the other approached her, a nervous smile on her face.
“Welcome to Bose, my queen,” she stammered. “I am Chinaza. This is Abiba. We have come to take you to your home and prepare you for the Oba.”
Panya did not answer. She was so distraught she’d forgotten that their marriage was to be consummated this night. She said nothing as the servants led her into the compound to a house larger than her father’s palace. Abiba knelt beside the horse, offering her back as a stepping stool. Panya avoided her, dismounting with the ease of a person experienced in riding.
“Never do that again,” she said. She tramped through the mud and into the house. Once inside she turned to find her friends. They were gone.
She glared at Chinaza. ”Where are my sisters?”
Chinaza cleared her throat. “Your sisters were taken to place suitable to their station. Abiba and I will prepare you.”
Panya refused to move. She was tired of being told what to do.
Chinaza held out her hand. “Please, my queen. We do what we were commanded to do. Oba Ladipo will punish us if we do not complete our task.”
The sky rumbled as Panya reluctantly took Chinaza’s hand and followed the servant to the rear of the home. There the women set about their work, delicately undressing Panya then bathing her with coarse soaps. They patted her dry with soft cotton towels then massaged her with Shea butter and soothing, aromatic oils. They covered her in a sheer cotton gown embroidered with gold thread. Panya did not protest. The servants were performing a task; there was no need to waste emotion on them. Abiba fetched a stool and placed it before her.
“Please sit, my queen. We must tend to your hair.”
They fussed over her hair as they did her body, washing away the road dust and braiding it into dazzling rows highlighted by gold thread and white beads. Chinaza draped a simple amber necklace on her shoulders then both women stepped away.
Chinaza stepped back and smiled. “We are finished. Is there anything else you require?”
“No.” Panya’s anger was evident in her voice.
“Then we will leave you,” Chinaza announced. The women bowed then scurried away.
Panya was still sitting on the stool when Ladipo entered. His garments were barely wet; he apparently took time to change before coming to her. The smile on his face angered her.
“Chinaza and Abiba have done well. You look beautiful, although it did not take their efforts to make you so.”
He stepped toward her and she stepped away. Ladipo’s smile faded.
“I know this marriage was not your choice. It never is. We who are chosen must live our lives as we need to, not as we want to. If you wish more time then I will give it.”
“I’ll never change my mind,” Panya spat.
Ladipo’s smile returned with a different intent. “Then there is no need for me to wait.”
Lapido grabbed Panya’s wrist and snatched her up from the stool. She jerked back instinctively but Lapido’s grip was strong. A moment of panic was replaced by Oyewole’s words.
“Remember what I taught you.”
Ladipo jerked her again and Panya leaped toward him, smashing her elbow into his nose and driving her knee into his stomach. Ladipo yelped and staggered back holding his bloodied nose. He leered over his bloodied fingers.
“I see you’ve been taught to fight. I suspect this is your brother’s doing. Let’s see what you truly know.”
Ladipo sprang like a great cat. Panya jumped aside but not fast enough. His open hand smacked her jaw, spinning her to the floor. His hands gripped her neck as he lifted her to her feet.
“I don’t know what you were thinking,” he growled. “You are mine. You will do as I say!”
Lightning exploded around them. Thunder battered the roof like the hands of a giant. Panya’s body coursed with anxious energy and she smiled like a child. Oya had come. She gripped Ladipo’s wrists and twisted. Ladipo struggled to keep his grasp then suddenly let go.
“Witch!” he shouted. Panya answered with the kick into his stomach. Ladipo doubled over and she drove her elbow into his back. He fell on his face and Panya jumped onto his back. Oya sat on her head and Panya gave way to the angry goddess. She beat her fists into his head until her hands ran red with his blood and hers. Panya stood, a regal satisfaction burning inside. Who was he to think he could possess her? A feeble man with a weak kingdom, that’s what he was. His patch of land was nothing compared to what she owned. The sky was her realm. The wind answered to her command. The storm battering his city paled compared to her true might. She was a goddess. She was…Panya.
Oya left as swiftly as she had come. Panya tottered, her vision blurred. Her eyes cleared and she gazed at Ladipo’s body, blood pouring from the back of his head.
“No, no, no!” She looked at her red hands and her shoulders slumped in despair. She ran into the rain and looked into the black sky. Raindrops splattered on her face.
“I did not want this! I only wanted to be free. I only wanted to go home!”
Oya answered with a chorus of deafening thunder and continuous lightning.
“You chose me, and I have come. You are my daughter.”
Panya slumped into the mud. The rain soaked her gown, plastering it against her skin.
“I can’t go home, not after this.” She looked up into the sky again. “Where do I go? What do I do?”
The rain slackened about her then ceased.
“I will show you.”
Panya stood and the rain slackened. She slogged toward the gates through a gauntlet of rain and lightning forming a barrier between her and the curious Yubabu. A shout rose over the rumbling and Panya flinched. Ladipo’s body had apparently been discovered. The crowd outside Oya’s barrier bristled with angry warriors, the lightning illuminating their expressions. A group of them attempted to charge her and were immediately struck by lightning. Panya did not look at them. Oya would protect her, but would she protect Oyo? Would she embrace Oyewole, mamma and baba?
“YOU are my daughter.”
She followed the gauntlet out of Bose. She was free of the prison behind her but could not return to the prison before her. Her only way was that which Oya showed her. Panya looked into the drenching darkness before her, the path laid out by Oya. She was Oya’s daughter now. She had made her choice.
We hope you enjoyed Panya's story. Panya, Changa, Amir Zakee and The Tuareg are coming soon in the graphic novel version of Changa and the Jade Obelisk. The Kickstarter begins on January 8, 2020. We hope you'll support us and help us make it a reality.