By Mayowa Koleosho
The all-powerful father, Olorun, was to be honored by the gods. The great creator had just finished his most impressive creation yet and the world had finally come into existence. Following this, Olorun had decided it was time to go and join his fellow elder gods and leave the running of the world to his subordinates. To mark the occasion a massive feast was planned in Ode Agba, the magical city of the gods, and every deity and supernatural being within and outside time would come to pay homage to the great god. It was customary that everyone attending would bring some type of gift. If pleased with the present, Olorun would, in turn, bless the gifter with some ability.
Now amongst the gods were two brothers, Ara and Monamona; you never saw one without the other. However, they made for quite an unlikely pair. Monamona, the younger, was slight of frame and pale of skin. He was cunning and quick footed, always dashing from one endeavor to another. He was also easily bored and often used his cleverness to pester his elder brother. Ara, on the other hand, was a behemoth and no one rivaled him in strength. When he spoke, he could be heard for miles around and he could cause tremors in the ground if he willed it. Yet, he could not match his younger brother in wit, nor could he keep up with his antics. It infuriated him, but he loved his brother dearly.
As Olorun’s farewell celebrations drew closer, gods and deities tried to outdo each other with their gifts. However, Monamona left all the gift planning ideas to his brother; he could not be bothered. Three days before the event, Monamona realized his elder brother had been missing for a while. It was unlike Ara to leave without telling anyone, and he searched high and low but couldn’t find him anywhere.
By the time the large god showed up, Monamona was beyond impatient. He badgered and pestered his brother but couldn’t get him to open up about where he had gone. Even more frustrating was the satisfied look on Ara’s face. Monamona was sure his brother was hiding something from him and he longed to know what it could be.
The night before the great event, Monamona invited his brother for a great meal. Ara, who knew how cunning his brother was, remained on guard just in case his brother was up to his usual tricks. The meal was amazing, more sumptuous than he had expected and Ara ate his fill. Afterwards, Ara was so full that he grew sleepy, and before he could utter his thanks to his brother, he keeled over fast asleep.
Smiling mischievously, Monamona disguised himself as the great god Olorun and entered into his brother’s dreams. In the dream world, He found Ara languishing under a great Iroko tree, enjoying the tranquility of the setting around him.
Seeing Olorun, Ara hurriedly got up and invited the king of the gods to sit with him under the shade. Monamona accepted his offer and sat with his brother; together they stared into the landscape of Ara’s dream world.
Monamona was pleasantly surprised at how vivid his brother’s imagination was. It was a lush, green world dominated by scale. Air whales and four winged dragons flew side by side whilst the white seascape in the distance would occasionally be interrupted by magnificent sea beings that even Monamona knew nothing of. Yet the grandness of everything felt harmonious. He could see himself spending a lot of time here; so much to see and do.
“What brings you to my humble abode your greatness?” Ara asked and Monamona had to remind himself visiting this landscape would only be possible when his brother was asleep. He was here for a reason and he needed to stay on course.
“Nothing in particular,” Monamona said, imitating Olorun’s voice. “As the time draws close, I often catch myself wondering if I am doing the right thing.”
“You doubt yourself, o great father?”
“Even beings like me, who have lived for millennia, second-guess our decisions from time to time. We are not above mistake.”
“I do that a lot as well. Especially when I am with my brother.”
“Why is that?”
Ara paused, as if noticing something for the first time. Sitting upright, he whirled a stone out of nothing and tossed it so far, one could make out the splash on the horizon.
“My brother is much smarter than me. He is swift whereas I am cumbersome. I am the oaf; he is the fleet-footed gazelle. Even when I tell myself not to fall for his tricks, he still manages to outsmart me. I love him dearly, but everytime I am around him, I am always second-guessing myself.”
Monamona was stunned by his brother’s words. He had never viewed their relationship that way. He thought of some way to reassure Ara.
“You do not have to feel that way about yourself. Amongst us, there is none more courageous. Your character is never in doubt, even your brother would attest to how important you are to the proper functioning of this realm. I can leave knowing there are those like you, who will make sure that we continue to excel.”
Ara beamed from ear to ear at the words. “Thank you your highness … Thank you.”
“Before I leave you to your dream, I couldn’t help but notice you’ve been missing a few times recently. Is there anything I should know about that?”
Ara turned towards his king and bowed his head. “I had been searching for something truly worthy of a going away present to give you and I have finally found something. I had to venture over the golden wall, but in the end it was all worth it. I think you will be quite pleased.”
So that was it, thought Monamona. Ara had ventured over the boundary between their realm and the unknown. He was saddened that his brother had left him out of something so pivotal.
“Thank you for risking so much for me,” said Monamona. I look forward to seeing what you found. Does your brother know about your forays?”
Ara, turned his gaze away.
“No he does not.”
“For once, I wanted to do something for myself, to be able to present this gift to you without the aid of my brother. I know what the other gods say: ‘he is the brain and I am the heft,’ they think me too stupid to think for myself. I fought many beasts for this gift, but I also had to outsmart others. When I give it to you in front of everyone, including my brother, they will realize I am no idiot.”
Monamona was once again at a loss for words. He and many others had indeed taunted his brother, but he had done it out of love. Existence was meant to be merry not valiant. Perhaps he had gone overboard with it.
Politely, he bade Ara farewell, promising to see him at the celebration.
As soon as he got back to the real world, he shrugged off Olorun’s guise. He knew where his brother had been and now he was curious to discover what he had found. He would search his brother’s house and find whatever he had discovered, just to see what it was. His brother need not know. He had very little time, though. He was the quickest of the gods, but all of his speed might not be able to find his brother’s gift before he woke up; he was going to have to move fast.
Monamona was gone at the speed of a thought. He arrived at Ara’s house and snuck in. His brother was a collector and had all sorts of interesting objects and gadgets scattered all over his home. Monamona searched through everything, yet could not find the gift. His time was running out and it looked like his brother had gotten the upper hand.
That was when from the corner of his eye he saw a painting of a lush glade. He remembered when they were younger; Ara would run off to a glade similar to it to hide from him. Could it be he had done the same with his finding?
As he moved closer, he realized the painting was alive. Birds flew about in the background whilst a gentle breeze blew through the grass which subtly changed color every few moments.
It had to be here. Where else could Ara have put something so precious? Stretching his hand forward, Monamona realized he could move into the world on the other side.
Once in the painting, he could see the allure of this place for his brother. Serene and peaceful, it was quite similar to the dreamscape he had just returned from. Perhaps once this was done, he could convince his brother to bring him back here and they could experiment with creating some new life forms for the living painting.
He sped all over the landscape looking for anything that would clue him to what he was looking for. He found it accidentally when he tripped on a branch and went sprawling into nearby shrubbery. Except it wasn’t a piece of vegetation, but rather a mirage that revealed a path that led to a hidden cave.
Walking carefully up the path, Monamona noticed there was an odd glow coming from the recesses of the cave. As he approached it, he felt its power and pull reaching out to all his senses. When he finally saw it, he couldn’t take his eyes off it.
It was the most beautiful orb he had ever seen. Full of swirling energies beyond his wildest imagination. It was a kindling world, still in the conceptual stage and waiting for someone to mold it into a planet. This was indeed the greatest of gifts and he regretted that Ara had not taken him on the adventure to find it. He knew he couldn’t leave it here; it was simply too precious. He had to learn more about it, and then he would give it back to his brother. With that, he picked up the orb and silently left the canvas world.
Shortly afterwards, Ara awoke and returned to his home, unsuspecting of what had just transpired. For the rest of the day his thoughts were all over the place coming up with ideas of what he would do after he got his favor from the god king.
He went to sleep in great spirits. If anyone had walked by his house that night, they probably would have heard loud laughter emanating from within it. That was how merry he was, even his dreams couldn’t contain his joy.
The next day, Ara woke up in an even better mood. He strode out of his house in time to catch Orun, the god of light, pulling back the drapes of night across the sky to let the sun shine over the land.
Ara, in his loudest voice, saluted him, “Good morning! How are you today?”
“I am well,” Orun answered genially. “You seemed to be in such great spirits yesterday evening. Your voice was probably heard in all the seven planes”
Ara burst out laughing. “Should I not be? It is a lovely day after all.”
“Yes, quite a lovely day indeed. Will I be seeing you at the event later on?”
“I wouldn’t miss it for anything.”
“Very well, I look forward to seeing you, then. I must rush as I have to light up quite a few places before heading back. Rumor has it you have been doing some sneaking around yourself. I am excited as to what you might have in store for us.”
“Trust me, it is going to be glorious,” said Ara, as he bade the sun god farewell, watching him speed along as he lit up the rest of the realm with his blazing chariot.
Ara then proceeded to go and see the weaver for his ceremonial garb. It was a shimmering garment that changed colors every few moments, never repeating the same pattern. Normally, Ara was not one for fancy adornments, but today he wanted his splendor to match the joyous occasion.
At about mid-day, a beautiful sound rippled through Ode Agba. It sounded like voices singing together or various instruments working in unison. It was the signal that the ceremony was about to start.
Watching from his abode, Ara saw emissaries from every kingdom in creation converging in the arena in the middle of Ode Agba, where the celebrations would be taking place. He saw winged creatures as large as cities, beasts unlike any he had ever seen, and beings of such magnificence that it hurt to look at them, walk past his house. He saw creations long forgotten coming back one last time to pay their respects to the great god. Ara took it all in, thinking to himself that he must not disappoint.
But when he went into the painting to retrieve the orb, it was missing. He searched the whole canvas, combing the landscape to no avail. Slowly it began to dawn on him: someone had been there. He stormed out of the painting, unsure of what had transpired and who could have taken it. He thought back to the earlier conversation he had with Orun, and was convinced whoever had stolen his orb was probably going to present it to the high father. He ran out of the house, making his way to the gathering of deities to see if he could apprehend the culprit before it was too late.
With every stride, he could feel the ground beneath him quaking with his anger. Soon the spires of the arena came into view and he could hear the chatter of the various supernatural beings in attendance.
Every step forward sharpened the details of what lay ahead. He saw Ina, the fire god, engaged in an incredible display with Oshun, the water goddess. Their fire and water arsenals intermingled with each other in a beautiful game of pursuit which left the audience mesmerized. Little winged creatures buzzed around the arena carrying all manner of beverages and delicacies. Even deities who rarely got along were on their best behavior as they did not want to upset Olorun on his grand day. Ara wished he could join in the festivities, but he would not permit himself any type of reprieve until justice was served.
That was when he saw his brother stepping up to the dais where the great king sat. Monamona placed something in the hands of the king and bowed. Every eye in the place turned towards the spectacle, a murmur of wonder surging through the crowd.
Ara’s eyes widened in disbelief as he realized what had been given. Olorun held up the orb – his orb – and smiled, looking up proudly at Monamona.
“This is an incredible gift, one I did not expect but am greatly pleased to have received.”
“I am humbled that it is to your liking, my king,” said Monamona.
“I know it must have been difficult to obtain, and because of that I will gift you like no other. Come forward and receive my blessing.”
A flash of light emanated from the king, surging through Monamona and enveloping the arena. It only took the briefest of moments but it was so dazzling it blinded all present.
Ara gasped, watching the whole thing transpire. He rushed forward, shouting at the top of his lungs. He tumbled onto the dais, but he was too late. He looked from the king to his brother, who was now sheathed in a living skin of golden light that stretched and crackled, shining brighter than any creation.
“What is the meaning of this, Ara?” The old king bellowed.
“He … He stole my gift to you!” Ara shouted. “That blessing is meant to be mine.”
The old king turned from Ara and looked at Monamona, who averted his gaze.
“Is it true what Ara says?”
Sheepishly, Monamona nodded, which only infuriated his brother more.
“But why? What would make you do such a thing?”
Monamona, still bathed in dazzling light, could feel the power coursing through his veins changing him at the most minute of levels, elevating him to heights he never thought possible. He had always been fast, yet he had never felt this way before; this was more than he could ever imagine. It was almost as if he had undergone a rebirth. He looked from the great king to his enraged brother and past them to the crowd gathered. They all seemed so slow compared to him.
“I did it for this,” he said, pointing to the sheath of light covering him.
“At first I was angry at my brother for keeping his quest from me, but the truth is, he wouldn’t have stood a chance had I gone along. I would have found the orb and gotten the glory, but it doesn’t matter. In the end it’s still …”
Before he could finish his sentence, Ara lunged for him.
“GIVE ME BACK WHAT WAS MINE!” He roared, but it was as if he had tried to grasp the very air. Monamona evaded him easily and was at the back of the arena before anyone could fully perceive what had happened. Only his laughter alerted them to where he was.
“My apologies my dear brother, but I won’t be able to do that. I have never felt better and I cannot wait to test out my new powers. I truly am sorry, but maybe next time things will go your way.” And in a flash of dazzling light, Monamona was gone.
Ara stormed about the arena, bellowing at the top of his voice in frustration and shaking the structure to its core. It wasn’t until the old god walked up to him and touched his shoulder that he quieted down still trembling with rage.
“Ara, I am very sorry for what has transpired and I wish I could make this up to you.”
“O great king, simply take what you gave him and give it to me.”
The king regretfully shook his head. “What is done cannot be undone. I gave him the very best of my gifts believing he dealt with me in good faith.”
Olorun paused and closed his eyes as if deep in thought. Ara waited, staring at his great king expectantly. When the old king opened his eyes he seemed to have come to a decision.
“Kneel, Ara,” he said.
Ara did as he was told.
“I have given away much today. But none more precious than what I gave your brother. There was a time when I would have personally chased him down and stripped him of all he holds dear, but alas I am old and shortly I will go join the elders. Because of that, I have come up with a solution. It might not be ideal, but it is the best I can think of right now.”
The king placed his hands on Ara’s head. A white light sprung from the tip of his fingers and into the younger god’s body. With a spasm, Ara jerked forward, the power surging through him.
“Ara, I have given you what’s left of my powers. Catch Monamona and you will be able to reclaim what is yours.”
Head bowed, Ara thanked the king profusely, and then set off after his brother. His newly acquired powers announced his movement through the skies with a great din.
Monamona, who had thought himself free of his brother, was halfway between the heavens and earth, when he heard the great noise coming from Ode Agba. He turned around to see his brother coming, and though Ara was still leagues away, Monamona began to run. He was terrified of the fate that awaited him if his brother ever caught up to him.
This is why, to this very day, we always see the lightning flash across the sky before we hear the sound of thunder. Ara is still chasing Monamona, and when he does catch him, he’ll finally claim what is his.