The thunder knight

(Short Story)

Part I

The sky was covered with a dark cloud. A heavy rain was coming. I was sitting under a big tree in a vast field of lash grass with big old trees scattered here and there. An old man in a white Habesha dress and with a sword approached me sitting on the back of a big black horse.

The graceful man with a huge gait had a sword dangling on the right side of his belt. “Hey kid!” he said to me. His voice was also thick and frightening like a sound of thunder. “Yes sir” I replied. “What are you doing here in this cold weather?” “I am herding my sheep” “Don’t you realize that a heavy rain is about to come?” “I do. I will take cover under the tree plus I will be wearing my ‘gasa’ (gasa is a traditional raincoat like cloth shepherds make from long flat grass that grows in wetlands.

It protects herdsmen from rainfall). “Your gasa won’t protect you from a lightning that falls on a tree” said the man still seating on the back of his horse that was standing still. “What do you mean by that sir?” I asked him.

I was already up from my seat to show obeisance to the man when he approached me. Ordering me with his hand to resume my seat he said “take a look at those parched trees without leaves…..” There were about five dead trees without leaves scattered on the vast field. “Why do you think they are dead?” said the man. I just lifted my shoulders up and said “I don’t know!” “They were struck by lightning that is why most of the time lightning strikes big trees.

There is a myth that was passed down to generations by word of mouth It is about why lightning strikes big trees…….” He jumped from his horse’s back and drew close to sit on the flat stone next to me. “The devil always contemplates on how to insult God. He never takes a break. So when rain comes he would hide under big trees and stick his tongue out looking up to the sky. His foolish mind would think as if God is not watching, for he took cover under the leaves of a big tree. But God would strike him with lightning.

The lightning which is sent to hit the devil will also strike the trees. That’s how many people see it. They believe in this myth,” said the man. “Do you believe in it too?” asked the man. “No I don’t believe in it because I know that God is merciful to avenge.” “So why did you tell me the myth sir?” “In order you could remember when you grow up that God is not avenger and is your truly forgiving father.” I remained quiet. The old man continued “the heavy rain will come soon. And this place could be struck by lightning.

You have to leave this place with your flock of sheep, son.” He stood up to leave me. “But I am not supposed to go sir!” “Why is that?” “My parents ordered me not take the flock of sheep back home even if it rained.” “Why” “Because they sell Tella (Ethiopian traditional beer), it is their source of income to run the

family. By now the house is thronged by customers. There is no room for the sheep. I have to stay in the field with my sheep’s until darkness fall and customers are gone.” He remained silent for a long moment while I looked at him. Keeping his fingers busy he was playing with his long grey beard.

He seemed like he was set for a long journey. “Could you tell me in the family tree from which parental line you hail?” He was returning back to his seat. “Nearer! He is my grandfather” “Nearer the Bahta?” “Yes sir!” “I know him.

He was my friend. He is a good man. And wise too. Let me tell you what your grandfather did when we were in elementary school. One day we were sitting for our mathematics final exam.

Our Indian teacher had jotted down some twenty questions under the instruction row. When we started struggling with the questions full of algebra, your grandfather said he was done in thirty seconds and handed the teacher his paper with words written only on one line.

We were thinking that he was out of his mind. That’s because he wrote a one line answer for thirty questions of algebra. But when our results came up it was your grandfather who scored thirty out of thirty.

We were all surprised. Finally we realized that it was only him who understood the instruction. The instruction said “simply write your name!” your grandfather became the top scorer of the class because he wrote his name alone.

The teacher was positive that he made a compromise for our efforts and marked our answers based on the thirty questions. But none of us got thirty out of thirty except your grandfather. So I wonder why wise people like nearer would let his young grandson stay outdoor in such harsh weather with flock of sheep.” I couldn’t find a wise answer for the question.

I wanted to say “why don’t you ask him yourself?” but I wouldn’t because I was raised constantly told to give such response for grown ups people was an insult in our culture. The man sitting next to me with a sword was scary.

I couldn’t find the gut to give such response too. I just said “my grandfather knows what’s best for the sheep and I!” “What about the danger you could face staying out here in such a hard weather?” “I will be fine. Lightning doesn’t strike all the time.” “But this one is heavy. You have to go home son!” “No I am not allowed until my families are done selling the beer.” “Well” he said this and remained quiet thinking of something for a while.

I wonder what he was thinking of. “I did march to the north……” he continued “I was supposed to support the army, that’s fighting against the fascists with few machine guns and light weapons including swords and spears.” They say that enemy force had even some strange banned chemicals dousing our soldiers from airplanes. But I don’t fear them.

My only fear is that if bandits find me before I join the Patriots. They may ask me for money. But I don’t have money.

All I have is my sword, my horse and my heart.” “But the chieftains are on our side. I heard they are rallying behind the cause of Ethiopia alongside other Patriots” I said. “Yes you are, but there are also traitors who are careless about their people, nations and nationalities their religion or history. These types of bandits are dangerous. They don’t care about dignity because they don’t have one. They don’t care about loyalty because they never trust anyone even if they get obedience without question from others.

They don’t forgive and forget even if they are forgiven for the evil things they did on others. They always act like they had been betrayed in the past because their clans didn’t rule.

They entertain grudge that their evil regimes were taken down by people’s revolution.” “So what are you going to do now sir?” “I was on my way to fight these traitors who allied with the fascists.” “But a little young man is on my way now. It is you. I have to protect you from this thunder and lightning on our way.” “But it is already here. It has come.

I cannot go anywhere without my sheep.” The rains started accompanied by a scary thunder and lightning, though it didn’t fall up on us or the sheep that were gathered under a big tree not afar from where we were. “I have one thing to tell you” he said. I am a knight I have fought in different battles in the past. So I don’t fear death. I don’t want you to fear death.

Death could change its appearance based on the way you see him. He could be scary or he could be nothing. “Death being scary is good. He could teach you to learn from your mistakes if you find him before he finds you. I couldn’t understand what he meant by “if you find him before he finds you. “How could one find death” I didn’t ask him.

I just kept on listening. “It is rude to interrupt when grownups are talking,” my grandmother warned me so. “It could give you a chance if you are ready to learn and improve,” said the old knight. “When you are too late with the time you are given, death won’t forgive or forget. You better know him now. He is very critical about time.

He cannot let go of whoever he came to take, unless you show him some good purpose that you have to accomplish. “You are a little boy now.

I am telling you this because I don’t need you to waste your time over some bad choices of purpose…… these reckless traitor bandits will meet painful deaths and even without knowing their true purposes,” said the knight.

I haven’t even noticed or asked myself why is it that not a little drop of the rain falling on us or the sheep? The ground surrounded by the leaves of both trees was still dry. When downpours occurred on the other days I and my sheep’s would take cover under the big trees in the vast land of grass.

I would also sit wearing my gasa and some drop of the rain from the leaves of the tree would fall on it and the ground would get wet. But now it’s not wet. There comes the scary sound of thunder and we could see lightning in the cloud from a distance. I was started and the knight would see my body shiver for a second.


The Ethiopian   26 February  2022

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