What had happened to the impetuous Nguana? Where had that impulsive free spirit gone? What had they done to have Nguana go freely down on his knees? As good as kissing the chief’s feet.
Something had knocked the recklessness out of him. The chief had only had to nod. And Nguana had gone down. Korak had greeted him flippantly. Overcoming his own nerves to lighten the scene. But Nguana had remained submissive. A cringing dog cowering at his master’s feet. Dreading more of the punishment that was his daily fare.
Korak was torn. He was thrilled to see Nguana alive. But broken by the crushed will he had found. Not forgetting how he himself had been ambushed, slung under a pole and finished up strung upside-down off a tree. Whatever was going on …. These men did not shrink from violence.
Korak listened in as the chief loomed over Nguana. On his knees .. bent over on full submission .. forehead on the earth at the chief’s feet.
“This is a friend?”
The chief’s foot kicked at Nguana. Giving him permission to answer.
The chief paused a moment.
“He came to find you?”
Nguana hesitated. And the chief gave him a sharp kick of encouragement.
With the next question Korak saw Nguana’s predicament, he understood the hesitation.
“He knows this mountain is sacred?”
With his answers Nguana was betraying Korak. This time the hesitation was longer. Knowing what answering would mean. And this time the chief urged Nguana to reply with a springy cane. Bringing it down hard the length of Nguana’s bent back. Korak winced. The bare back convulsed at the stinging bite. But Nguana held his tongue.
Another punishing slash tore into the welts on Nguana’s submissive back. Pain tore his forehead up off the earth. As if punishing him for this lapse in total subjugation, the chief raised the cane high above his head. The whole of his muscular frame put punishing power behind the blow. Thrashing and thrashing away. All the chiewf’s muscular force behind every blow. Nguana howled out loud.
Korak answered for his friend. He bawled it out himself. To save Nguana from further punishment.
“Yes, his friend knows.”
Korak had got the message. And he couldn’t endure Nguana getting punished for Korak’s silence.
He confessed. He had come searching for his friend. He had come although he knew he was committing sacrilege.
Korak came clean. For Nguana’s sake.