(Continued from last Sunday)
“Let there be no doubt whatsoever, the Insibika are really invincible”. And after these words, my husband breathed his last.”
For a long moment the old woman was silent, her head down. Then she seemed to wake up as if from a deep sleep, and said earnestly.
“But if you really are committed, I shall help you, in memory of my husband. Before he died, he told me that he had learnt quite a lot about the Insibika.
They had a weakness. This weakness consisted in the fact that they, just like humans, did their hunting during the day and rested at night. But, unlike humans, they never lay down to sleep.
They just slept on their feet, with their tails rigid, pointing vertically upwards. When they are quiet, they are wide-awake, but when they start shouting at each other and quarreling among them, it was a sure sign that they are deep asleep. So now you know,” the old woman continued.
“If you get there, take note of that fact. Should you succeed in your quest, my poor husband will have been amply avenged. Go, and God bless you!” Maguru thanked the old woman, and he was gone.
When Maguru reached the village of the Insibika, he found the whole place desolate, like the old woman had predicted. For all of them had gone hunting.
There were only two old Insibika, the parents no doubt, visibly weak and they had no tails.As they saw Maguru, they all exclaimed in unison:
“A human! Where did he come from? Let’s us kill him! Let’s eat him! ”However, one of them objected to the idea.
“It is getting late,” he reasoned.
“If we kill him now, we cannot eat and finish him. Then our greedy sons will come and eat and finish him for us. No, let’s hide him. We shall start on him tomorrow morning, when they leave for hunting.”
So, under a very huge pot, which no doubt had once belonged to the humans, the two Insibika hid Maguru, after warning him not to make the slightest noise whatsoever happened.
But, there was another detail about the Insibika of which the old woman had not told Maguru.
The Insibika had a very good sense of smell, even if they themselves did not smell so nicely. Not very long after Maguru went into hiding, they arrived quietly, their arrival betrayed only by their evil smell.
One by one, they went into their respective corners making no sound at all.
Suddenly, one of them grunted!
“Mmpfh…I smell something human!”
“Mmpfh…I smell something human!” said a second one.
“Mmpfh…I smell something human!” said a third. They were thirteen of them.
“You hopeless, good for nothing children!” This was one of the two old Insibika, probably the mother. “Is it because you have come back empty handed, with no food at all, that you are accusing us of sheltering a human?
Which human is foolish enough to venture in our domain, let alone in our house? If you are hungry enough to eat us, then do eat us! But stop your stupid excuse of smelling something human.”
The Insibika went quiet. They had nothing to say. They were ashamed by the fact that they had failed to find and catch any prey, and bring food to their parents.
They were quiet for a long time, but soon enough, they started shouting and quarreling among themselves. After a while, Maguru noticed that even the two old Insibika had joined in the shouting and quarreling.
Without fear, for he knew that they were fast asleep, Maguru came out of his hiding, his sharp knife out of its sheath.
One foot already outside the house, he took the nearest Insibika by the tail, measured the length he wanted to take, sliced it off and then he was gone like the wind, all the Insibika at his heels, the tailless leading them.
The chase was fierce and relentless. At one time, the tailless Insibika almost got him by the heel, but Maguru redoubled his speed and when he got by the river, he went over it as if it were but a small stream.
Two of the most determined Insibika tried to jump after him, but fell into the river and drowned, for, alas, the Insibika could not swim. But again, neither could they have ventured beyond their domain, the river being the boundary.
On the far side across the river, Maguru stood, waving the tail over his head, jeering at the Insibika this side of the riverbank.
They were seething with rage at their helplessness. In pain and bitterness, the Insibika that had lost its tail could not stand still, wishing it could fly and sink its fangs in Maguru. Finally, in a very pitiful, but ominous voice, it called over to him across the water:
“Maguru, have you taken my tail?” It queried. Maguru, still jeering and waving the tail over his head, replied:
“Yeah! I have taken it, for my country needs it more than you do.”
“Okay! Your country needs it, and it will benefit from it. But you, Maguru, will not, so long as I live.
The curse of my tail will be with you, all of life, as long as I am alive. From now on, anything you may wish to acquire, any friend you may make will turn into an Insibika, and it will destroy you. You shall never have peace on earth, as long I live.”
On this, the two antagonists parted their ways.
Meanwhile, in a tree nearby, as Maguru and the Insibika were having their shouting match, was an Inyamanza (wagtail), a beautiful little bird, which in those days was gifted with the power of speech, and which was listening in, with keen interest.
As Maguru crossed the third river on his way home, he met a very large crowd of people and animals of all kind. It was an Igikomera, a big market in which all sorts of commodities and livestock were being sold.
As Maguru strolled along, he saw a very beautiful hunting bow and arrows in their quiver. As he was pulling out money to pay for them, the Inyamanza up in a tree shouted:
“Maguru, don’t you remember what the Insibika told you?” Maguru looked up, only to see the bird flying away. Maguru checked himself and put the money back in his pocket.
All the way along on his journey home, Maguru met various items he would have wished to acquire, but at each occasion he was dissuaded by the Inyamanza. And so it went until Maguru reached the last river, the boundary to his country.
As soon as he came out of the boat and set foot on the soil of his motherland, long before he reached the capital where lived the King, the sky suddenly turned to gray, black clouds gathered in the air, thunder and lightening struck, and rain fell in heavy showers everywhere in the country, like it never did before. People everywhere, children, men, women, and even older people started shouting: “Maguru is back! Maguru is back! He has brought the rain. Long live the rain!”
Among the people who gathered and cheered all around him, was a stunningly beautiful lady.
She was tall and slender, her skin was as black as ebony, her teeth were snow-white, and her eyes shone with delight as she cheered merrily. When Maguru caught her eyes, she smiled back at him, and Maguru was swept off his feet with feeling.
Love? Maguru swore there and then, that he would marry the girl. He would request the King to allow the girl to be his wife. After all he had done for the country; he would not refuse him the small favour.
And so, when Maguru had left the crowd and was on his way towards home and the King’s palace, he was mildly surprised to see that the lady had followed him. Maybe the girl had also fallen for him.
After all, he was a hero. Maguru waited for her to catch up, and then asked her:
“Beautiful lady, where do you come from?”
‘I am from the village yonder you have just left. But if you pick for me the flower I show you on that tree, I will marry you.” Maguru could not believe his fortune. Just a flower and the lady would be his.
“Which flower do you mean?” He asked her.
“Just climb the tree, and I’ll show you the one.
The higher it is, the better the flower.” The lady replied. She asked to stay with the bag and the tail in it, but Maguru would not let her.
The tail was of utmost importance to be entrusted to a stranger. He climbed on, and in no time at all was halfway up the tree, just under a cluster of red and yellow flowers.
“Should I pick this one?” Maguru called to her.
“No! Go higher!” The girl replied.
Three times he called to her with a request to pick the flower, and three times she told him to go even higher. And this is when the Inyamanza came in again to the rescue.
“Maguru, have you forgotten what the Insibika told you? See what is happening down below!”
For the first time since he started climbing, Maguru looked down and behold! What he saw was beyond description. The once beautiful lady was vigorously shaking herself, and suddenly turned into an Insibika twice the size of the ones he had already seen, and twice as terrifying.
Maguru did not waste time. His immediate reaction was to cut a leaf from the tree, smear it with his blood and send it flying to her mother.
Meanwhile, the beast down below was frantically and violently shaking the tree to bring Maguru down while he firmly held on to a stout branch, for his dear life. And for what seemed an eternity, he was clinging on to that tree when he heard a very faint sound of a barking dog.
The Insibika must have heard it too, for the shaking of the tree had stopped.
Swiftly, but cautiously Maguru climbed down, and this time he could clearly hear the barking dogs approaching fast and see the raving Insibika darting left and right, clearly confused about what next to be done.
Then all of a sudden, all hell broke loose. From all corners of the surrounding bushes, Maguru’s dogs erupted, their fangs all out, the corners of their mouths oozing white froth as they encircled the animal threateningly.
Quickly, the Insibika transformed itself again into a beautiful woman, but it was too late.
As she shouted and called to Maguru for help, he came slowly down the tree, and when he reached the ground he gave only one sharp order: “Destroy her!”
The ravenous canine brothers pounced, and made mince meat of her.
Soon afterwards, accompanied by his dogs, Maguru, continued his journey and made it straight to the King’s palace, where a banquet was organized in his honnour.
At the occasion, as a special reward for the service he rendered the country, the King gave him his beautiful daughter as a wife, thus making him a member of the royal family.
As for the ‘Inyamanza’, because of its having watched over Maguru’s life, it was declared ‘sacred’ by the King and he decreed that nobody in his kingdom should ever kill it.
That’s why today, Inyamanza (wagtail) walks nonchalantly in front of you, knowing very well you would not harm it, because of the special privileges it knows it enjoys.
And thus ends the story of Maguru ya Sarwaya.