“Sing me to sleep, Iya (Grandmother), I am so sad,” Temi sniffed back tears as she pleaded with her grandmother. Grandmother took the little girl’s hand in hers, and brushed the tears from her cheeks.
“Why are you so sad, darling?” she asked.
“Annabelle is gone!” Temi sobbed. “My very bestest friend in the whole world, and she’s moved away. She went all the way to the other side of the world. I’ll never see her again!” Once again Temi broke down, sobbing into her pillow.
“Ah, sweetheart, don’t cry. You can talk to her on your computer, and even see her. You both have webcams, don’t you?”
“Yes, but she’s on the other side of the world! How can we talk from that far? Or see each other?”
“Oh, my love, don’t you know what WWW means? It means World Wide Web – computers can be connected all over the world. Once they get settled down, and connected up to Yahoo, or Opera, or something like that, you can chat again. It will probably not be more than a couple of weeks before she contacts you.”
Temi stared at her grandmother for a second or two, then she gave a tremulous smile. “Oh, Iya, I forgot about that. Thank you for reminding me. But will you sing for me, anyway, and help me get to sleep? Please?”
“Honey child, there is no way you want to hear me sing!” grandmother laughed. “Will you be satisfied with a story? One about our history, in the land our people came from. It might make you cry a little again, but I promise, it will have a happy ending. And,” she got up and went out of the room, coming back in a couple of seconds. She was carrying a harp-like instrument. “I’ll tell it like the story tellers do, with musical background.”
“Oh, yes, Iya, please do. I love the way they tell stories, they almost seem to be chanting!” Temi settled down in her bed, sniffed, wiped her tears, and waited. Grandma strummed the instrument and soft music floated over the bed.
“Once, a long time ago in Yorubaland, there was a great Chief. His name was Kayoda, which means ‘he brought joy’. And all his people said that he was perfectly named. For he had brought joy to his people, along with prosperity, and good health. The tribe increased, their crops did, too, and the hunters never failed to bring home a good catch. They became the strongest, richest tribe in all of Yorubaland.” The music became joyous, the higher notes sounding like far away bells.
“Of course, this did not please the other tribes. They became jealous. Their crops were failing, their children dying from disease and hunger, and their chiefs were cruel and harsh. Only one tribe was close enough in size to be a threat. Its chief, Nika, meaning Ferocious, ranted over the success of Kayoda’s tribe, and finally declared that they would attack, and take what they needed. Then word came that Kayoda and his wife Monifa had been blessed with a beautiful princess. They named her Abini, which means ‘we asked for her, and behold, we got her.’ “ The bell tones became slightly louder, more joyful.
“Nika became even more enraged, and ordered all his warriors to prepare for war. Soon, they attacked Kayoda’s land, and a fierce battle ensued. Many died, many crops were destroyed, and Chief Kayoda was seriously injured. But he had four of his Royal Guards carry him ahead in the battle in a litter, and he continued to fight." The music turned martial, bass notes carrying a marching beat, while the higher notes sounded like swords clashing.
“While the battle raged, four of Nika’s closest friends snuck into Kayoda’s palace, killed several guards, and stole the baby with one of her nursemaids. Omolara was devoted to the princess, and made certain that she had a good supply of what was needed to care for her. She left a message for her father, who was to come for a visit the next day. She told Enitan, the other nursemaid, to tell him what had happened and asked for help. She had overheard the warriors talking, so she knew where they were to be taken and hidden. “ Now the music softened again, so soft that it was only just heard.
“The battle ended when Chief Kayoda and Chief Nika came face to face. Nika, seeing Kayoda in a litter, was so certain of success that he was careless in his attack. Kayoda ducked the blow, and holding his spear close to the head, stabbed upward, right through Nika’s heart. When the enemy warriors saw their chief slain, they dropped their weapons and ran. Kayoda called to his warriors to let them go. “There have been enough deaths – more than enough. Let them return to their families. We will offer aid, food and healing, and a chance to join with us.” With that, he collapsed, and they thought he was dead. The martial beat eased into a sad slow heartbeat rhythm.
“Meanwhile, the palace was in an uproar over the disappearance of the princess and Omolara. At first it was thought that Omolara had kidnapped the infant, but Enitan, gave the queen the message that had been left. When Opeymi, Omolara’s father, arrived he was told the news. They hadn’t yet heard of the King’s collapse, but the messenger arrived right after Opeymi.
"Suddenly, the palace was engulfed in silence as the news sank in. Both the Chief and the princess, gone? In a few moments, Queen Monifa rallied them, and in a short time a group was sent out, with Opeymi in charge, to go and find the maid and the infant. Just as they were leaving, another message came – ‘the Chief lives!’ he cried. ‘The battle is won, and they are bringing him home. But he is injured. Get the best healers ready.’ This news cheered them all, and the rescue group left with lighter hearts.” The sad, slow heartbeat increased, and turned joyful again, the bells tinkling over all, like fairy music.
“They were well on the way to the hiding place when they met two warriors from the other tribe, with Omolara and Abini, healthy and unharmed. ‘We have heard that Chief Nika is dead. We want no more enmity with you. We wish to accept Chief Kayoda’s offer to become part of your tribe; all of our warriors, and our families too. We are tired of the harsh rule of Nika, and know that his successor will be as bad. Will you take us to the palace?’ Now the music gains a hopeful, forgiving tone, and the beels fade.
“Joyfully, the group turned and went home, bringing the princess back to her mother. When they got there, Chief Kayoda’s group was just arriving, and he welcomed the warriors with joy. ‘You are welcome; bring your families and friends. We have plenty, even though many crops were destroyed in the battle.’ He sank back in the litter, and was carried quickly to the healers.
“Two months later, a huge celebration was held. They were celebrating the return of the princess, the end of the war, the Chief’s return to health and the many new members of the tribe. Almost the whole of Nika’s tribe had come, and those who didn’t, left the land and were never heard of again. This added to Kayoda’s holdings. One more thing they celebrated that day – Monifa was with child again. In due time, a prince was born. They named him Oluwasegar ‘God has been victorious’. That celebration lasted for a month!” The music swells, but softly still, to a joyous crescendo, and the bells sound out. Then it all fades to silence, as Iya places her hands over the strings.
Grandma put aside the instrument and smiling, gently settled the covers over the sleeping child. “Well, I didn’t sing her to sleep, but she’s asleep now. Perhaps I just bored her with a history lesson.” Chuckling, she turned off the light and, picking up her instrument, slipped quietly out of the room, with a whispered “sleep well, Temi mine, tomorrow will be a brighter day .