Musa carried a bleeding and badly injured Turayo through the shadow path as he left the other surviving members of the resistance far behind, in their disorganised retreat.
Musa, himself was not without wounds and was distraught at his present condition.
He had felt that his abilities as an external mage of the darkness element and a trained assasin would make him almost invincible but recalling the last confrontation of the many battles that they fought with the ever expanding Abasi Empire, had finally woken him up to reality.
The Abasi Empire was justifiably strong.
As he looked at the unconscious Turayo, while making haste for their back lines, he recalled the tumult of events in this their first war of retribution.
It had all began weeks ago, when they advanced in to the territory of the Abasi Empire, coordinating the attacks of the Knights and Warriors, with the regular armies. The initial battles were very successful and they seized back a lot of land but this should be attributed to the lack of proper preparation by the Abasi Empire as although there was resistance, there were too few internal mages to provide a proper defence.
However, the counterattack was swift and fierce.
It soon became apparent to the resistance that they were losing on all grounds: they had fewer and less experienced Knights and Warriors on their side, they had a smaller army that was losing the momentum of their earlier victories, and worst of all the leadership of both sides were miles apart in their understanding of the business of war. As such they were falling into ambushes and been scattered and outflanked continuously.
In Musa's desperation, overconfidence and lack of patience, he pushed for an all out offensive, sacrificing everything to strike at the head of the snake. And since he was the most effective force on the battlefield till date on their side, he had the support of the majority of internal mages and the respect of the common troops.
But, it was a disaster.
Not only was their Hail Mary attempt seen through but Musa realised that he was a novice as both an internal and external mage in his battle with the emperor. He could still clearly picture that day about a week ago:
The screams of the dying soldiers, the taunts of the enemy Knights, Ikemefuna ordering a hasty retreat and securing the back, Maduka surrendering, Seun escaping with Ubong in the distance as if he had already known the outcome and prepared accordingly and Turayo, his brave and selfless aunty, giving her all to provide a chance for his retreat, almost at the cost of her own life.
This was the price of his hubris.
That seemingly old man Abasi was so great a tactician and Mage that all of Musa's attempts at subterfuge and retaliation were seen through the water elements in the atmosphere and the old man's responses were awe-inspiring, creative and succinct. He was beaten down like a dog and it took great effort and assistance from Turayo for him to escape even when the horned serpent was not involved in their battle.
As soon as Musa arrived in their back line camp, he rushed Turayo to the medical tent and once she was being seen to he, himself, collapsed.
Nnenna noticed the awkward atmosphere as soon as she entered the throne room.
At first she thought the fear was due to her, but then she realised that the atmosphere was more intense. Every one of her friends could also feel the tension in the air. It was so self-evident and serious that even their instructor, Ibrahim was sober.
The group bowed to the king and greeted, "Your majesty."
King Fola tried to mask his fear with an emotionless look, as his minister of war began by saying, "We are yet to discover any news about your friend, who is supposedly the son of the King. However, we were able o discover claims of other people similar to you and the information about them, gives us concern. What do you know about the Abasi Empire? W- ..."
At this point, another official of the KIng's court who seemed more aggressive interjected forcefully, "Explain to us what you and the rest of your empire intend? You are obviously here with this your 'story' about the Kings heir to undermine the cohesiveness of our nature for your empire's nefarious purposes…"
"Bah, shut your mouth, this girl would be the most incompetent spy or diplomat. The child is too green between the ears. Now, general why don't you first tell us what 'you' know about the Abasi Empire as that is news even to me." Ibrahim said.
His response, threw the whole throne room into silence, as he was a decorated and reliable pillar of their nation, so his support for Nnenna, after just a few weeks, spoke well of her. The King seemed to relax a bit, an after a brief contemplation, indicated for his minister of war to respond.
With a slight bow to King Fola, the general began reporting, "We just received conclusive reports of highest importance, that there is a new nation in the south called the Abasi Empire, which has been expanding and amassing new territory uncontrollably. In addition, I most recent intelligence which has not yet been confirmed spoke of a epic battle against a collation of resistant forces that ended in the shocking and total victory of this Abasi Empire. This …"
The court attendants listened to the details from the general again which only served to renew their fear while Nnenna and her party were shocked but more confused what this had to do with them. The most traumatised person in the room, however, was Ibrahim, who gripped his hands fiercely, as he repeated in his mind 'it can't be'.
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