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We stood on the high mountain ranges watching the horizon as the sun set.
It was not a good time for us. We had come so far, fought so hard, but this was not the outcome we desired.
Looking around, we used to be a lot more than were gathered this evening.
Not a word was said. There was no need to. Every face was grim. Eyes looking into the distance, lost in deep contemplation, but somehow, all thinking the same things.
The scars were rather evident. More than our fair share. More than any of us should have ever borne.
Yes, your curiosity is aroused now. You are are probably asking who we were. Let me help you there.
Hitherto, we were the greatest band of unknown warriors ever to walk the land. The very few who knew of our existence, called us Guardians.
We walked among men like ordinary people but there was nothing ordinary about the things we did and accomplished.
Ora was our pride and joy. Verdant and rich in every sense, and we kept careful guard over it. Nothing happened anywhere that we did not know of, and quite frequently, even before it happened.
Ours was a perpetual struggle against the enemies of life. Ours was a centuries long injunction to keep the peace and stability of the land.
Let me step back a bit to tell you about these men and women.
The slowest among us could outrun a stampeding herd of wild horses. The weakest had faced down giants three times their size and vanquished them.
We were all gifted with the sight and could see farther than any eagle. We heard things that normal ears could not. Where ordinary humans feared to tread, were our regular haunts.
By dint of extensive training and use, our senses and abilities far outweighed that of any human. Yet, you would walk past us on the streets and have not the faintest clue.
Most of our battles were fought when men slept. Every incursion, swiftly repelled. If you had ever faced us, you knew never to try it again. We were much more famous amongst our enemies than the people we protected, and were feared greatly.
How did we come about?
Some of us were born into it and carried on a treasured legacy. Some were chosen, and some, simply found us and joined up. It did not matter how you came about; none was considered less than the other. One fundamental stood though: you needed to earn the right to remain.
We were artisans, writers, healers, teachers, singers, musicians, fathers, mothers, and the like. We were in every sphere, in the shadows and hidden in plain sight, keeping watch.
We had One Leader, Olisa, and took our instructions from Him alone. There was no doubt who was in charge and in the many years of our existence, we had been conditioned to do His bidding.
We never went out alone. In every skirmish, every back was covered. We were taught that the rear was as important as the front, and so every battle plan took adequate care of that. To break ranks was to die and death was victory for our enemies.
For centuries we lived. Ages and generations passed us by. We saw kingdoms established, dynasties begin, and end; and our enemies grow even more cunning, desperate, and intense. Those who would do the land well, we stood by till their dying breath. Those who would not, were swiftly dispatched.
Okay, enough of my telling of what an awesome group we were. Why were we gathered in this somber assembly on a fateful evening like this?
Somewhere, somehow, something changed.
Looking back, it appeared we were too focused on guarding the land in which we dwelt and forgot to be guardians to ourselves.
As the centuries passed, our ranks began to swell. Not all who received the gifts and endowments we were bestowed with saw the need to use it for the purpose they were meant for. Not all of them saw the need to maintain the focus and discipline that had been our stay across the eons, and had separated us from being as ordinary as every other.
To them it was foolish to have such endowments without the accompanying fame and notoriety. And so the struggle started. And the lure was rather strong, and spread.
Assignments were dropped or not accomplished. Posts were abandoned. Sensitive tasks were handled with levity. Warriors hitherto unknown, were now the toast of parties and all manner of revelry. What we had for centuries kept as sacred, was now on open display. Men revered them as demigods and the adulation and worship was their greatest undoing.
Meanwhile, our enemy grew stronger and unchecked. The enemy that once dared not stand up to us, capitalized on our weakness and started making incursions.
Olisa’s anger was kindled and his rage was like a fiery volcano burning through the mountain ranges.
Foolishly, some of them, thinking that they still had it together, and with the praise of men ringing in their ears, started taking on the enemy alone. The paid dearly for it.
We started to die. That was the surprising part. Men and women who had not known the fear of death for hundreds of years, all of a sudden, were succumbing to an enemy they had vanquished severally in the past. It was terrible to behold. Those who did not die, were wounded like they had never been in the past.
We were gradually becoming too weakened to carry out battle strategies, and we failed miserably over and over again. With each failure, our grip over the land weakened, the enemy grew stronger, took over more and more territory, and men gave themselves up to all manner of foolishness. We were hit on every side and pummeled endlessly.
The ridicule of men was even more painful. Right before their eyes, much touted invincibility was shattered to smithereens. Gods were bleeding, and bleeding badly, and men scorned them. Songs were sung of their falling, but rather than honor, they jested. Men told stories around campfires with acerbic wit of how their dismembered bodies were brought back from the battlefront, never minding that it had all been a sacrifice in their defense.
Not one of those who had dallied with men had been spared. They were either dead or so badly wounded, they would never bear arms again. Olisa made sure of that.
What a shame!
There were those of us, especially of the old guard, who remained. Much fewer than we would have liked. We had kept ourselves from being drawn into the foolishness that had beset our fellows, as sore as the temptations had been, and had watched it all play out like some fable written by a drunken oracle with a toothache.
It was a big and bitter lesson. One we hoped that we had all learned. Many of us bore the scars of trying to fight battles with weakened warriors as companions. Some of us, would never stand to defend Ora again.
As we stood there that solemn evening, the only words that had been said were grunts of acknowledgment as each one of us arrived. There was a lot that needed to be said but could not be said. No doubt though, the looks on the faces, and the stooped shoulders, said more than any words ever could. At a point, we could not stand anymore. So burdened in mind and spirit, we clasped our hands and knelt together as waves of sorrow and remorse washed over us for the things we had done, and had been done to us.
There was one other thing though that was strongly prevalent in that meeting; anger, and loads of it. Unspoken, yet I could feel it rise like a river about to overflow its banks and flood an entire village. There was hell to pay!
Gradually, thinking as one, we each started to raise our heads to look up, and square previously stooped shoulders, and we stood. Hands gripped weapons tighter, as determination was etched on each face. Indignation was like fire coursing through our veins. Almost without knowing, we began to tap spears and other weapons on the ground to some frenetic tempo and rhythm. It swelled and swelled until it covered the whole mountainside. We had been decimated but we were not completely defeated. Those who had dared stand up to us, would once again feel wrath like never before.
We shouted! One huge sound that reverberated across the valleys and rolled down the hills. Let all who thought we were finished, hear, and know, that we were coming for them.
And as our shout rolled around the mountains, a string of fire traced its way across the sky above us, and lightnings flashed with great peals of thunder. A horn sounded in the distance, and immediately, every sound ceased, except the fading timbres of the horn.
As one, we turned towards its sound. It was a sound like no other. A sound that only we could hear. It was the Guardian’s call.
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May your eyes be opened as you read this