BRAVE HEART: Blood & Fire - Episode 2

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Nigeria's leading story blog. Love, River, African Beliefs, gods, High Priest, Fire, Village Square, Feast



Umueze had not seen a wonder like Obioma at any time in their history. All sorts of rumours about her made rounds in the village, some said that the god of beauty slept with her mother and gave birth to her; while others claimed that she was from the river and for that dirt could not stain her skin. Even elderly men stood still when she passed by; and looked upon her ravishingly. The wisps of her hair were treasured like trophies by those who possessed them. It was common in Umueze for men to be heard boasting about having the lock of Obioma’s hair somewhere in their houses. Younger girls woke up early in the morning to make sure they had their bath at the very spot where Obioma had hers at the stream, in the hope that they might by that contract some of her beauty. As Obioma’s beauty swayed the land of Umueze, some men of calloused conscience began to craft dark and evil designs about how to make Obioma their own. About the time Obioma was seventeen years a few brave young men began to seek her hand in marriage. Tactfully she sent them back empty handed; however there was a young man she loved, a bosom friend of hers, his name was Chume. Though Chume did not know it, Obioma often prayed in the night for him to find the courage to ask her hand in marriage. Obioma would often tease Chume when they were out in the bush fetching firewood, “Chume all your mates are either married or have found someone to marry; when will you get married? What are you waiting for? Perhaps you are waiting for Ngele to spawn one of the legendary daughters of light for you to marry.”


Chume who always missed the meaning of her taunts would go into a tedious narrative of his plans before marriage, “You see Oma (short for Obioma), I have to first make a thousand Ejenma (Ejenma was their unit of currency) and then give a feast in the name of my dead father; that was his wish before death. In the feast I will give our people ten cows and also give the gods five cows to grant my father eternal rest. After the feast, I would build a hut for each of the three wives my father left behind…” “Don’t your father’s wives have huts now?” Obioma would ask. “They do, but the huts I want to build for them would have their floors overlaid with cowries. When I am done building the huts for my father’s wives, I would then move to Aja-ala and build for myself a magnificent hut. When I am done with all these, I would then find a woman who would make me happy and marry her.” Obioma would sneer and ask him, “How old do you think you would be by the time you are done with all these projects?” Chume would reply, “I have no idea, but I know I will successfully achieve them in good time.” “If you don’t know I will tell you; by the time you are done with all these your plans, you will have clocked ninety years, and no woman would want to marry you at that age, not even a mad woman.” “Oma why are you always angry when I tell you of my plans?” “Because they are moronic; you should go and find a woman to marry now that you still have your youthful vigour.” “But Oma, I have not given my father the feast that was his wish before he died.” “If you keep waiting till you give him that feast before getting married, you will die without being married and there will be no one to give you a feast?”
One night after Chume had returned from his farm, three warriors stormed into his father’s compound and hastily took him to Umueze’s ancestral shrine. Chume was certain he had not spoken against the gods nor had he broken any of their sacred laws. He was scared stiff, people don’t get hurled down to the ancestral shrine in that manner if they had not committed any crime against the gods or spoken against the king. His heart pounded heavily within him, he didn’t know what to expect. When they took him that night the warriors did not so much  as allow Chume’s father’s wives intercede on his behalf, or even follow them to the shrine. They were told not to and they could not flout the order, people had been burnt to the gods for less crime. The three women stayed back in their husband’s compound and prayed feverishly to the gods, who no one had ever testified that they answered their prayers, for Chume to be returned to them in one piece.

At the shrine Chume was quickly tied to a tree upon which hundreds of men and women had been burnt alive to the gods. As soon as he was tied to the tree, the warriors heaped a stack of dry wood around him in readiness to burn him. Out of the shrine emerged EKweke; Ekweke was Umueze’s high priest, his authority was above the authority of every other priest in Umueze. It was believed all the gods of Umueze spoke to him. The words or prophecies of the lower priests were not believed until he had corroborated them. He was in authority, next to the king. Once a man was to be burnt to the gods, he would come out of his shrine to announce the person’s crime and then give command for him to be burnt. When Chume saw him emerge from the shrine, he knew his days were over. Fear overwhelmed him, he lowered his head and with all his strength said a few words of prayer to no god in particular. He didn’t know which of the gods he had offended or the one which had demanded his blood. Ekweke stood before Chume and announced with his deep baritone voice, “Chume Nduako! Durugo has demanded your blood! You shall in this moment be condemned to flames of fire! Your crime is that Durugo has seen you shall in no distant time lead an army of warriors to attack Umueze! To forestall that, he wants you burnt alive!” Chume protested lamely, “No! No! I shall do no such thing! My father served Durugo in his life time and so have I served him. I shall never attack the land where he is god! Spare my life please!”

Ekweke drew closer to Chume and asked in a low tone, “Have you asked for Obioma’s hand in marriage?” “No!” he replied. “Have you had the carnal knowledge of her?” “No!” “Have you at any time seen her nakedness?” “No!” “Do you have any intentions of making her your wife?” “No, holy one!”  Ekweke stepped away from him and danced around the shrine, playing the part of a man in communion with the gods. He danced into the shrine and seconds later he emerged and announced, “Chume Nduako tonight is not that night your flesh shall be consumed by fire. Durugo has seen your repentant heart and wants to show you mercy. Untie him! Durugo wants him released.” After Chume was untied he went on his knees and bowed before Ekweke. Ekweke pulled him up to his feet and whispered, if you are seen again with Obioma, you shall be beheaded and then burnt with fire! She is for the gods and those who serve the gods shall have her.” Chume nodded willingly. “Now be on your way!” announced Ekweke. Chume shot himself into the night, flying like an arrow.

When he returned home that night, his father’s wives had already cried themselves to stupor. His brothers and sisters were already packing their luggage to leave Umueze later that night. Their joy knew no bounds when they saw Chume alive. They could not wait to hear why Chume was hurled down to the ancestral shrine in that manner. Chume knew better than to reveal what had transpired between him and the high priest. He lied to his family members, “At first I thought I was going to be burnt alive to the gods. But thanks to the gods of our fathers, all that harrowing experience was to know if I could serve as a warrior. There is nothing to fear, we are all safe. Please unpack your bags.” From that night Chume made up his mind to put a distance between him and Obioma.

Obioma was surprised by Chume’s awkward behavior and sudden hostility towards her.  Obioma had to bring up the matter in their evening family conversation, “I just don’t understand Chume anymore. He suddenly treats me in a manner that leaves me in shock. Something is wrong but I don’t know what it is. I don’t know how to get him to talk to me about what it is.” “You don’t have to bother about Obioma, you are the most beautiful girl men have seen in all the lands around us. You shouldn’t chase a man, men should chase you. If Chume doesn’t want to talk to you, it is his loss,” said Udeagu, Obioma’s father. “No papa, I feel it, something is wrong.” “Listen to your father. Whatever is wrong is not with you, it is with Chume. When he recovers from his sudden sickness in the head and you are still in our house, he will explain it to you. Just let him be, pretend you are not bothered by his attitude,” Obioma’s mother admonished.
LINK TO EPISODE 3: http://www.moofyme.com/2016/05/brave-heart-blood-fire-episode-3.html
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Written by:
Uzoma Ujor

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Moofyme.com: An African Literary Blog: BRAVE HEART: Blood & Fire - Episode 2
BRAVE HEART: Blood & Fire - Episode 2
Nigeria's leading story blog. Love, River, African Beliefs, gods, High Priest, Fire, Village Square, Feast
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Moofyme.com: An African Literary Blog
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