The sun shone lazily, bathing the treetops in a blanket of harsh light, setting the tone for the inhabitants of the forest below. In the distance, birds chirped slow songs, adding to the already present tranquility. On the forest floor, beyond the reach of the sunlight, crawling creatures lazed around as was the only sensible thing to do in the heat and humidity. Only one being did not share in this peace.
He ran, shuttling through the forest at speed, paying no mind to the twigs that he snapped or the pain of the thorns that scratched at him, etching out thin lines on his bare feet like scribes writing stories of the journey he was undertaking.
He was afraid, and with good reason, but more than that, he was excited. He could feel the adrenaline-laced blood pumping in his ears. On his face he wore a smile no sane man could wear, a smile forged not out of happiness but of the need to accomplish the impossible.
In his right hand, he clutched the bag he strapped to his waist, not wanting to let go in case it fell off. More importantly though, his left hand was wrapped around a staff. And not just any staff either, for he had just infact done the impossible and robbed the chief priest of Ifa.
The staff, it was said, was the reason why the priest had not felt the touch of death, even after four generations of walking amongst the living. It was a taboo for any other being to touch the staff, the penalty for doing so was forfeiture of one’s life, a steep price for many, but not for this man.
He knew he would be pursued, most likely by beings that only the gods were familiar with. That was why he had to put as much distance between him and the shrine before the priest would awaken.
WHERE DO YOU RUN TO?
He felt more than heard the voice as it echoed in his head. A voice harsh and unforgiving in equal measure. He felt a chill as it ran down his spine. Out of the corner of his eye, he thought he saw a shadow move, blending with the shadows cast by the trees all around him.
WHERE DO YOU THINK TO ESCAPE MY WRATH?
The voice echoed again, harsher and more unforgiving than the first time, but also genuinely inquisitive. Like a man would be towards a blinded mouse. The man, as he ran, chose to answer. With a question of his own.
“Why do you ask me questions?” He asked “Why do not just cut me down as I am?”
I am curious. What would drive a mere mortal to defy me?
He smiled as he ran, knowing that the path which he was running on led to only one destination. He knew that as he ran, he would eventually reach the cliff face and a sheer drop that no mortal man would survive. His left hand clenched tighter around the staff as he prepared to take the ultimate gamble. And as he reached the cliff and leapt off, he muttered a single word to answer the voice, “Immortality.”
The great-grandson of the first priest of Ifa walked slowly towards the corpse at the foot of the cliff. He had done this so many times that he knew that there was no need to hurry. The villagers would find the corpse and conclude that he had been struck down by Ifa and they would mourn while inwardly chastise his stupidity. Didn’t he know that Ifa would kill him? They would ask, Didn’t he know that the chief priest that had lived for four generations and more, was all powerful?
He smiled a rueful smile to himself. The immortality of the priest. People would rather believe what they are led to believe instead of what lay before their eyes. His father, the priest before him, had taught him how to use this fact to his advantage.
Carefully, he pried the staff from the hand of the dead man, avoiding contact with the shaft where he had rubbed a cream that induced severe bouts of hallucinations. He thought to himself how often it was that the best kept secrets were the simplest ones. He shook his head, and the Immortal Chief Priest of Ifa ran a hand through the first few strands of hair of a beard that had just begun to grow.