THE nation’s excitement to the strange sacrifice alternative was a huge shock to the chief priest himself.
Jakan had only expected his explanation to justify the new sacred decree.
What he didn’t anticipate was the super high spirits his announcement brought to the people of Jaiye.
True, the white horses could no longer count as the ritual offering for the yearly sacrifice.
And the people’s happiness over the fact that their precious horses would be spared from being slaughtered at the altar, was only something.
But then, the fact that the people exuded some pure joy and exhilaration when they knew the slaves at the outpost would be the equal replacement… that was quite something else.
Jakan wondered for a bit if the joyful noise was for the horses that would be spared at all. Or if it was for the sacrificial offering that would be sourced from the kingdom’s outpost at Koje.
But Jakan didn’t need to wander long in the winding paths of concern. For the answer was right there in the recesses of his heart.
His wondering was only a sincere hope. A lone, feeble hope that the rejoicings weren’t simply over the Koje people.
Yet the old man soon admitted that the outpost community of slaves were of no economic worth to the Jaiye nation.
And so went the adage among the Jaiye people: ‘No man goes to Koje to spend a cowry.’
For the Koje people had been slaves of Jaiye people as far back as the ancient days when the now great Jaiye nation had mushroomed from a small cluster of kith and kin.
And no Jaiye would even spend money to lend or buy a Koje home, when a Jaiye man wished to get a slave to serve him.
That itself had been the case since hundreds and hundreds of seasons before.
The chief priest ordered his cart bearer to ride home while he chose to take a walk.
He was convinced no one would attack him on his way home. Not when his announcement had put the entire kingdom in the present gleeful mood.
Jakan’s pace was neither too fast nor too slow. But it was with the grace of a noble that the elderly priest strode along the winding roads.
The old man walked on across the open streets of the olden city. He could feel the freshness in the morning air. And every once in a while, he slowed down a bit to savour the feel of cool, gentle winds over his ageing skin.
The last time Jakan had the luxury of taking a leisure walk through the city’s broad streets was when he was a young man.
And that evening was only days away from when he took over his father’s mantle of priesthood. As his ill father, Dago, would afterwards bid the world goodbye.
The last walk he took with his departing father was one to be treasured. It was one to keep at heart.
And now, both the moments of the walk as well as the talk of that last moments floated back into Jakan’s memory…
As he walked down the road he’d walked up with his father as a young, agile thing.
It was a leisure walk father and son had that quiet evening. And the case was the same with their talk.
Dago decided to keep things light and fun between his son Jakan and him. Even though death was knocking at the older man’s sickly heart.
He decided to liven his growing son’s heart with ancient folktales told in Jaiye culture.
And the amusing tales worked to lighten the two men’s mood. But only at the beginning of talk.
While the characters in Jaiye’s folklore were the great wild cats of all kinds, the conventional trickster character was an imaginative pocket-sized caricature of a male human.
And it was only that trickster in all of Jaiye’s folktales that bore a name which a wild animal wasn’t called by.
In all of the folk stories also, the trickster’s outrageous identity remained the very same.
And his notable name through generations of folklore was… Koje.
Jakan stopped his father amid one of the tales. He interrupted the older man to ask a question.
Young Jakan had always wondered if Koje in the several folktales meant the very same Koje people at the kingdom’s outpost.
He’d wondered if the outrageous folktales about the trickster were really true stories about the very same Koje community.
He’d always wondered; so he asked his father Dago.
Dago understood Jakan’s wonder and smiled. He decided to leave telling the imaginary tales and to narrate the true account of the people of Koje.
It was the legend of how Koje came to become the legal slaves of the Jaiye nation… inhabiting the outskirts of Jaiye’s sovereign territory.
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