Ojaadili stopped shooing away the shoal of heady fish and sat up on the deck to also regard the bold, long-necked, sharp-beaked visitor with concern. Something worried Ogwumagana about the snakebird’s gaze. The bird smacked her long beak aloud as she stared at him, and he felt a cold shiver down his spine. Was this sodden bird actually seeing him as a chameleon, a palatable meal, or was she after their Elements of Power? Then he startled the bird with his oars. Twice he had jabbed at her with the stick till she took off reluctantly with a protesting squawk.
Just when they were heaving sighs of relief that an attack had been repelled was when the demons were loosed upon them, for a huge shadow suddenly draped over them from above and before they knew it, the flutist was hit on his nape and shoulders by a thick weight that whizzed past. The impact thrust him forward and he landed on his knees. At the same instant, Ojaadili was hit on his chest by a sudden, strange force in the midst of a befuddling swooshing sound. What saved him from what would have been a nasty gash on his left breast was his shoulder strap of tough antelope hide, for the beast that attacked them had wanted to snatch either him or his flutist off and away. Ojaadili landed on his buttocks, to scramble up from the narrow deck like a cat startled from sleep. Looking up, they saw a big beast like an owl and some other animal flapping away in massive but silent wing beats. The winged demon beast was noticeably bigger than a man and, with the strength of his spanning wings, he would easily carry off a man. That was the first time ever that the hero ever saw such a beast.
With a sweep of his long, thick and tapering tail, the demon beast wheeled in the sky to head down once more towards them. Ogwumagana shrieked in fright and fell on his master’s bag, bow and quiver of arrows. Whether he had wanted to protect those, nobody could tell in this confused, frantic moment. However, Ojaadili pulled out the magic Sword of Eri and prepared for the worst. As the determined beast hurtled down towards them, they could see his outlines and sheer size in the glare of the midday sun. Even in this bright daylight, the large, unrelenting eyes of the winged wonder glowered horridly with the colour of a dying sun. Ojaadili crouched low and hid the sword under his belly as he pretended to look away. He wanted to surprise the beast such that once he was close enough to hoist him off, he would strike at him hard. He hoped the plan would work, even as he fought to steel his resolve. Before him, his really petrified flutist quaked in fear on top of his weapons.
As the ghoul descended, he let out a series of earsplitting screams. The entire basin reverberated with the horrible sounds as the trees and bush exploded with fleeing birds and the tranquil water rattled with choppy ripples. This was his tactic to confuse an apprehensive prey, and the flutist, apparently bereft of any hope or resolve, shut his eyes and closed both ears with his trembling hands. But Ojaadili held himself, very patiently trailing the plummeting monster with the corner of his eye. Then the menacing screams turned into a loud, frightened squawk when the calculating hero shot up and struck out with his sword, ‘Kluukraack!’ Ojaadili’s heart gladdened when he realized that he had hit something. The monster paused in his killing stoop and, crashing onto the far end of the canoe, started to struggle up hurriedly into the air, splattering his blood about. Ojaadili saw a sluff of skin tissue, some hair and some blood on the dazzling blade of his sword. Glancing around then, he saw a bleeding, horrible foot clawing blindly, wriggling or dancing on the deck. The flutist cursed in rapt horror.
[End of Excerpt]