“Papa, are you sure you are not making a mistake?” Iwunze asked his father. “Think of how ...
“Papa, are you sure you are not making a mistake?” Iwunze asked his father. “Think of how Ezeigwe died. Ichitee has declared that Iyimmuo killed him. What if he comes after us?” “No child of mine shall be a coward, and the way you are going Iwunze, I am worried you have my late brother’s genes. Fear must not exist amongst us. We are only protecting our own. I was told by my father that my late brother Okafor may not be his son after all. At the time he was conceived, our mother was too close for comfort to Adighiche, the clown of Umule. Anybody who knew my late brother well knew that he resembled Adighiche. Okafor was not one of us, so his son Okrima cannot share in the family’s inheritance equally with me – with us.” “But papa, Okrima looks very much like you and I am told his father looked very much like you and your father too. Are you sure your father was not wrong?” “If that was untrue, what was Iyimmuo waiting for all this while. Do not doubt your father Iwunze.” “We trust you papa,” echoed Ezenkume, Ejebe, Nwedo and Agunze, his other sons. They were blindly loyal to their father. To them, their father was always right.” “Iyimmuo will not touch any of you. That I can guarantee you all my children,” Ikiri declared. Before he could continue his sermon, a lightning went through the compound. Ezenkume went to ground choking. His belly grew bigger by the seconds. “Eze what is the problem?” They asked him. He held his neck, barely uttering a word.
“Fetch him some water!” Ikiri shouted. He raced to his shrine and returned with an Ikporoto root from the shrine of Igurube. He bit off a small chunk and forced it into Ezenkume’s mouth. “Swallow it!” He instructed him. His voice was filled with desperation. “Spirits! Spirits! They are in my stomach,” Ezenkume shouted. Loudly, his stomach burst open and an ugly wavy figure with a python in its mouth and fire in its hands crawled out of Ezenkume’s stomach. It came out with a loud shout. “Onye si na mu a nwuola? (Who said I was dead?)” The voice echoed. Ikiri and his other sons were taken aback in fear. Another figure jumped out of Ezenkume’s eyes, with blood gushing out like a broken dam. Then, his other eye popped open and maggots began to jump out of his eyes. Within minutes, he was lying lifeless in a pool of blood and maggot. Chills went through the household. Ikiri’s wives and daughters cried uncontrollably as well as his grandchildren. His sons held back their tears. Ezenkume was Ikiri’s favorite son, and now he was gone.
As they stared at the gory sight before them, Ichitee walked into their compound. “I heard the cries of a soul crossing from life to death. It cried for help, but under the tight grip of Iyimmuo, he had no chance of survival. Iyimmuo says that almost your entire household will be wiped if you fail to do the right thing.” He turned and left. Then he returned and said, “You cannot bury him on our soil. He must be dumped into Idikoro gully tonight.” Like a spirit, Ichitee turned and walked briskly away. Anger zipped through Ikiri. He gnashed his teeth as he pondered his next line of action. “If Iyimmuo wants war, that is what I will give him,” he declared angrily. “We cannot fight the gods papa. Share everything with Okrima and let this be done with,” Iwunze warned. “Coward! Get behind me. Sometimes I wonder if you are actually my son.” Ikiri went to his shrine and returned with a goat skin bag. He took an old kolanut, chewed off a piece, ground it between his teeth and spit the debris over Ezenkume’s body. “We don’t take orders from Iyimmuo. Our ancestors are from Odenkume. Dig a grave so we can bury the body of my first son Ezenkume right here in my compound,” he ordered.
No one moved. Neighbors were trickling in to find out what the uproar was all about. As soon as they stepped in and saw the state of Ezenkume’s corpse, they left immediately. “Iyimmuo is prowling with rage. Tufiakwa! (This is an abomination!)” They said as they made a U-turn out of the compound. “Ejebe! I ordered you to start digging so we can bury your brother and you are there moping at me.” “Don’t you think we should consider what Ichitee said? Look at how Eze died papa,” Ejebe protested. “Do as I said!” Ikiri shouted. His voice was quickly silenced by a roar out of nowhere. A ball of fire raced into the compound and turned into a python. The python gripped Ejebe by the neck and squeezed him hard. Ikiri ran into the house and returned with a machete. He tried to kill the python, but each time he struck it, blood spewed out of Ejebe’s ears. Then the python suddenly let go and vanished. Ejebe clutched his neck and bloodied ears in pain. Before they could offer him any help, his body began to levitate. It rose to a height of about ten feet and then dropped forcefully to ground, smashing his bones. A bone stuck out of his neck and another pierced his chest. Blood oozed out like rain. He wriggled for a few minutes and then died.
“How many of us are you going to kill before you stop? Do you love lands and trees more than your children?” Iwunze charged angrily at his father. “I will no longer have this. I am leaving this place.” Iwunze ran into his hut to pick up his things. “Run coward; that is what you are.” “Oke oshimmiri anaghi eri onye onye ukwu ya abataghi n’ime ya (The ocean never swallows a person whose legs do not make contact with the ocean). Onye buru chi ya uzo, o gbagbue onwe ya n'oso (He who runs ahead of his god will run himself to death). I am having none of this papa. Your intransigence no longer makes sense to me. How many sons will you lose before you give in,” Nwedo warned his father. He too walked into his hut and packed up a goat skin bag ready to flee to his maternal home. “Cowards! Can’t you see that Okrima has consulted a dibia (a traditional medicine man), whose voodoo is after us and they are making it look like Iyimmuo. Stay, let’s show him what Igurube can do. I will make sure his only son dies tonight,” Ikiri declared vehemently.
“Come with me Agunze.” Agunze followed him to the shrine where he picked a few earthen pots. He and Agunze left the compound and walked towards Okrima’s house. They walked fast. Neither of them uttered a word as they headed for Okrima’s house. It was pitch black but they knew every grain of sand on this path. They had walked it a million times at night. Iwunze and Nwedo ran as fast as they could to their maternal home in Umuelemai. They were both sons of Ikiri’s late second wife Njideka. Ikiri’s surviving wives; Uriola, Egumma and Onyeaso packed their things and headed out of the compound with their many daughters and grandchildren. Ezenkume and Ejebe’s wives went on the run too. They had seen enough to know that there was no safe place for them in Ekwele.
Okrima could hear the rumbling around Ikiri’s house. He held his Ofor staff close to his chest and sat under an Ukwa tree in his small compound. He had a white powder and a black one in separate earthen pots. He took some of the black powder and blew it in the air at every corner of his compound. He had a machete on hand in case Ikiri opted to fight him physically. In front of Okrima’s compound, Ikiri took one of the earthen pots and placed in on the ground beside Okrima’s Nkwuru (thatched fence). Then, he took some black powder from another pot and blew it into the air. “Igurube! You are the god that traverses boundaries. Your children are under attack. Your sons have been killed by Okrima. Come and avenge their death. Kill Ajanga, Okrima’s son and then his wife, Urediya before smiting Okrima himself to a slow, painful death. Okrima is my nephew but, O buru na I taa m aru n'ike, ma i soghi nshi; mu taa gi aru n'isi, agaghi m aso uvuru (If you bite me on the buttocks without fearing the danger of sinking your teeth into fecal matter, then when I bite you on the head, I will disregard the danger of sinking my teeth into cerebral matter.)”
All of a sudden a whirlwind erupted smashing against Okrima’s Nkwuru. Ikiri and Agunze were spared the force that ripped through Okrima’s compound. “I know you are there Okrima. I am afraid by the time Igurube is through with you, you’d be a dead man…starting with your family,” Ikiri shouted gloatingly. Okrima was felled by the wind, but he held onto his Ofor. A dense gush of sand rose into the air obscuring his vision momentarily. Then, a giant figure descended out of the sky and held the winds from crushing Okrima. It stood between him and the force of the wind. Secure behind the wind, he raised his Ofor and shouted, “Iyimmuo! Fight like never before. Crush your enemies and drink their blood. This is your land. No other god shall come on our soil and stand before you without being crushed!” The giant moved like a twisting wave towards Ikiri and Agunze. They ran toward their house afraid of being crushed. The rest of the night was relatively quiet. Okrima stayed up to keep watch. Ikiri and Agunze buried Ezenkume and Ejebe in shallow graves. Frazzled, they drifted into a slumber. By noon, they were both woken up by word from Umuelemai that Nwedo was found dead in the morning. He seemed to have passed away peacefully in his sleep. He was as frigid as ice when he was found. “Chei! I have lost nearly all my sons,” Ikiri lamented.
“Agunze, I want you to go to Odenkume and talk to the chief priest of Igurube. We need him here. I have to destroy Iyimmuo and Okrima!” Agunze got up to pack a few things before setting out on the journey. As he stood up, an old woman with long, piercing nails appeared. She dug her nails into Agunze’s stomach and ripped his intestines out. She placed his blood-covered intestines in her mouth and they all vanished. Agunze fell to the ground. Out of nowhere, vultures appeared and began to feast on him. Fearlessly, they gorged flesh after flesh out of his corpse. Ikiri sat motionless on a wooden platform. He lost his speech all of a sudden. The stench of Agunze’ fast rotting body filled the air. Ikiri could neither raise his hands nor walk. Helplessly, he looked on, seething with rage. Day after day, words came to him on the passing of his wives, daughters and grandchildren. At the end of the week, Iwunze was his only surviving offspring. His wives were all dead too. Starved and dumb, he stared as vultures ripped Agunze to shreds. He wanted to walk to Okrima’s compound and hand over all that their family owned to him, but he could not walk.
“No one can stand the rage of Iyimmuo!” Ichitee said to Okrima. Go and possess your father’s rightful belongings. As far as I can see, Iyimmuo will slowly snuff life out of Ikiri. He pitched his tent with the wrong god. Besides, greed clouded his judgment. I feel sorry for his family. He has nearly wiped his entire lineage from the face of earth.” “Thank you Ichitee. I only asked for justice and Iyimmuo granted me just that. I am grateful to Iyimmuo. I will offer more sacrifices at its shrine.” “That is what you must do. Tomorrow, we gather as a community to mark a new beginning. We have to select a new king; one that will respect our values; the values and beliefs that our forefathers handed down to us. Iyimmuo will handpick the new king itself.” “I will be there,” Okrima promised.
Iwunze walked into his father’s desolate compound. The once flourishing compound was almost devoid of life. He could perceive the reek of death and blood in the air. Inside his father’s hut, he found him lying on an Nkpoko (wooden bed). A few women in the village came in to tend him every day. Young men had discarded Agunze’s body. They also exhumed the corpses of Ezenkume and Ejebe and had them cast into Idikoro gully. Ikiri stared at his son, but he could not speak. Even though he was alive, maggots jumped out of his nose and burrowed through his belly. His stench was nauseating. He wished for death every day, but Iyimmuo refused to grant his wish. If he could move, he would have hung himself; what was left of him.
Placing his hand over his nose, Iwunze peeked into the hut. Tears lined the edges of his eyes as he watched his father in a helpless, pitiable state. He looked at Iwunze and then averted his eyes. He could not face him. Iwunze was the only one that ever challenged him, and now he knew Iwunze had been right all along. “A coward dances on the grave of the brave, papa,” he said. “Look at how you ruined everything that the gods gave you out of greed. I am glad I was the coward among your children, but at least I live to see another day.” Ikiri could not raise his misty eyes. The Ikoro (village drum) sounded, summoning the entire village of Ekwele to the village square. They thronged to the square eager to find who Iyimmuo would select as the new king of the land. The square was dominated by gossip about Ikiri and how Iyimmuo nearly wiped his entire family.
Ashamed, Iwunze sat on a log at the back of the crowd, where very few people took notice of him. After a few protocols, Ichitee emerged from the small shrine in the square. In his hand was a fowl. He raised it to the sky and then cut of the neck. He let the blood drain over a smaller shrine at the center of the square. When the fowl kicked the bucket, he dropped it atop the shrine. He sat on the floor and cast his beads. He read the signs to decipher what Iyimmuo was communicating to the people through him. He did the same thing multiple times. The entire village watched raptly. After several incantations, he rose to his feet went back into the main shrine and reappeared with the crown of Ekwele.
“This is meant to be the crown of truth; the crown of service; the crown of our forefathers which have stayed with us for hundreds of years. Whoever wears it bears a massive responsibility. I need not remind you what happened to our last king. Today, Iyimmuo has spoken and we have a new king. He walked through the crowd, staring people in the eye as he walked by. Slowly, he headed towards him. The closer Ichitee came toward him the more worried he became. No, not me, he thought. When it became obvious Ichitee was coming directly at him, he rose to his feet and attempted to flee. “Iwunze!” Ichitee called to him. He stopped. “You do not run from the call of Iyimmuo.” “Hei!!!” The people echoed. Iwunze slowly walked backwards, unsure of himself. “Whatever you need to lead our people, Iyimmuo will provide for you if you continue to stay true to Iyimmuo and the values of our land. Otherwise, you know what will happen. I am only a messenger. Bend down please” Iwunze bent over and Ichitee placed the crown on his head.
The drumming restarted, filling the air with rambunctious beats. Iwunze took his new seat at the center of the square near the shrine and swore to protect the land. People came over and offered him gifts. Humbly, he pledged to represent them all especially with regards to taking their issues up with the white man who was rapidly annexing their lands to build a new road. “I knew you were the only honest one. The gods have chosen well.” Okrima said to him when it was his turn to offer gifts to the new king. “Here is a chicken and a fowl from me. If I had more I would gladly give it but your father made sure I never had enough.” “I apologize on behalf of my greedy, stubborn father Okrima. Such will no longer happen in our land.”
“I trust it will not happen again. I will make sure that the lands and trees your father has left behind are evenly split between you and I.” “You don’t have to worry Okrima. You had little or nothing all these years. I have a lot to live on as the king. You can keep all that for now. Go look after your family. I will see you when the ceremony is over. You are the only family I have now.” After the gifts had been presented to the new king, the village drummers began to play Igede, a royal tune. Iwunze rose and began to dance. At that point, a stabbing pain went through Ikiri. For the first time in weeks, he talked. “Chei!” He exclaimed in pain. Every part of his body hurt. The same old woman he had seen severally stood before him. She plucked out his eyes and tongue and he bled painfully to death. The drumming continued as the villagers jubilated all night long.
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