BRAVE HEART: Blood & Fire - Episode 3

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Obioma did not know how to explain to her parents what she had begun to experience since the time she took notice of Chume’s strange behavior toward her. Every night since that period, a cloud of darkness would try to swallow her in her dream. She knew that was a message but she didn’t know how to interpret it. Even though her parents were with her, she still felt lonely. When the dream intensified, she had to let her parents know about it, “For some nights now, in my dreams I see a cloud of darkness trying to swallow me. I do not know what it means.” Obioma’s parents knew their daughter was blessed with the gift of vision. On numerous occasions they had seen her dreams come to pass in graphic details as she saw them. After a thoughtful pause, Udeagu asked his daughter, “Since when did you start having this dream?” “It began since the day Chume stopped talking to me.” Her reply made it harder for them to understand their daughter’s dream. “Could it be that Chume is planning to harm us?” “I do not think so. Rather I feel his life is in danger. He may know something about us which he may have been warned not to reveal. Tomorrow I intend to go to his house and put pressure on him to talk to me about what he knows, said Obioma. “If that would help, then do it.” “Thank you papa”, said Obioma.

The next morning, before the first cock crow, some royal guards of king Agadagu came to Udeagu’s compound and summoned him to the palace. Ugonwanyi and Obioma did not like the time of the day by which Udeagu was summoned to the palace. Obioma lost her cool and was determined to send the guards back to the king without her father ; however, Ugonwanyi,  did her best to calm her daughter. To insult royal guards was a considered a grave offence in Umueze. Obioma was so worried by the king’s invitation that she decided not to go have her bath at the village stream as was her custom. She wanted to be around when her father returned to hear the reason for which the king sent for him that early. The wait for her father to return seemed interminable, Obioma could not do her usual morning chores of sweeping the compound, lighting fire to warm their pot of soup. She hardly could even clean her mouth with chewing stick. All she did was pace around the compound restlessly; her mother had to do the chores by herself. When Udeagu finally returned, Obioma and her mother could not wait to hear the reason the king invited him to his palace that early. “Papa what does that old, fat son of the devil want from you?” asked Obioma. Udeagu waved at Obioma and his wife to join him in his hut. The look on Udeagu’s face gave the impression that whatever transpired between him and the king did not impress him. With the gloom on his face he announced, “King Agadagu wants Obioma to be his 27th wife.” “God forbid!” shouted Ugonwanyi. Surprisingly Obioma said nothing. She only had wry look on her face. “What have you to say about that?” Udeagu asked his daughter.

“Is not my answer clear enough papa? How can I marry a man who is thirty years older than I am? You need not worry about that. I will go have my birth now and go straight to his palace and tell him I will never marry him. Nobody should worry about this. I will never be part of bloodshed and wickedness against this land!” “Obioma he wants you and I to give him our answer in three days’ time. We must be tactful; you can’t just rush down to his palace now.” “I can sense he expects us to say yes and give him our daughter, right?” “Yes Ugo m, he wants us to hand Obioma to him without hesitation. This is not the dream I have for my daughter. Why can’t common people dream and see it come to pass in this cursed land?” I don’t care what the consequences might be; I will not give king Agadagu my daughter.” “What will become of us when we say no?” asked Ugonwanyi. “He will bring all sorts of accusations against us and press us to succumb to his wish with the threat of burning us alive,” said Obioma. “There was something else, when the king was talking to me; he asked if Chume had asked for your hand in marriage. He didn’t like the idea of Chume hanging around you. I saw jealousy in his eyes when he asked about him.” “Chume may have been pressurized to stay away from you Obioma,” said Ugonwanyi. “That is what I feel as well mama. I will see him today,” Obioma responded.

Later that day Obioma paid Chume a visit, at the sight of Obioma walking into their compound, Chume sprang to his feet and shouted at her, demanding she leave immediately. Obioma was not the only one who was stunned by Chume’s action. His father’s wives were left speechless, wondering what could have come over Chume. One of Chume’s father’s wives, Ngbankwo, went to Obioma and spoke to her tenderly. While she walked Obioma out of their compound she hinted to her that since the night Chume was taken to the ancestral shrine by some warriors, he had been acting strangely. Obioma was alarmed by that bit of information and asked Ngbankwo, “What was he taken there for?” “According to him, they wanted to know if he could serve as a warrior, so they scared him to size up his bravery. But Obioma I fear that is not all. Chume is hiding something from everybody. The manner in which he was taken down to the ancestral shrine left us all wailing, thinking we had seen the last of him. Since that night, Chume hasn’t been himself. Make sure you don’t let him know I hinted this to you. The family wants it kept secret.” “Thank you mama for the information; I will keep my mouth shut.”

Obioma couldn’t wait to get home, with what Ngbankwo told her, she could hazard a guess as to why Chume was avoiding her. Someone must have threatened him to stay away from her. As she hurried home, she promised herself she would stay away from Chume so no one would hurt him. She cared a lot about Chume and would loathe to see him harmed because of her. At home Obioma narrated to her parents what Ngbankwo told her. Going by what they heard, they could tell that king Agadagu had been working underground long before he made his intentions known. Udeagu and his family agreed that the next day they would go and inform the king that Obioma would not accept him as her husband. They needed a good excuse for Obioma’s refusal. All that night they brainstormed to find a good one. Finally they decided that they would tell the king that Obioma had accepted to marry a man at her maternal home. With their plan in place, they waited for the day to dawn. Because they stayed up late scheming how to get the king off of Obioma’s back, they woke up a little late than usual. There was a knock on the door to Udeagu’s hut. Though he heard it, he thought it was a dream. But when the knock grew louder and a husky male voice barked his name, he was startled from his sleep. He sat up and listened. The voice roared his name a second time, he reached for his machete and busted out of his hut, ready for a duel. 

However the men who had come to see him and his household were not there for a fight. They were the emissaries of the gods sent by Ekweke the high priest of Umueze. They had brought Udeagu a message which he must promptly obey. Ugonwanyi and Obioma had heard voices outside and so came out of their hut. Amongst the emissaries was Azunna, the second in authority in the priestly cult of Umueze. Right before Udeagu and his family, he thundered, “Your household has found favour with the gods! Your daughter Obioma has been chosen by the gods to serve as a shrine maid. In three days’ time we shall come to take her to the shrine. In line with our custom, Ekweke the high priest of Umueze, shall taste her for the gods. If the gods find her pleasing, she shall then live in the shrine as his bride!” The emissaries did not give Udeagu and his family a chance to contend the message they had delivered. They all turned and hurried away. The world around Mazi Udeagu and his family collapsed that morning. When king Agadagu asked for Obioma’s hand in marriage, Udeagu and his family thought they had seen the worst, but that option paled in the light of the new proposition made to them by the emissaries of the gods.

A visitor to Udeagu’s house would have thought that Udeagu’s family was mourning the death of a loved one. Though they did not wail loud, they groaned under their breath in deep sorrow. Udeagu thought, “How could my daughter, Obioma, the most beautiful girl ever seen in Umueze, be chosen as a shrine maid and be given without even bride price paid, to a lecherous old man, who burnt people for fun and poached the finest girls in Umueze for sex games in the name of the gods? How could Obioma be wife to a man whose concubines and wives cannot be numbered?”  “I will gladly burn in flames than to let these evil men lay their fingers upon my daughter!” Ugonwanyi volunteered, “Instead Ekweke will have my daughter, let the king have her.” “No Ugonwanyi! None of them will have her! I had hoped that someday a promising young man will take my daughter for a wife and make a name for me seeing I have no male child. None of these men fit into that dream; they will not have my daughter!” “Papa and mama hear me; I will not marry the king, neither will I serve as a shrine maid and be defiled by a man in whose bosom dwells the devil. Fear not, no one is going to burn in flames. We have to find a way to stop this madness and now is the time!” declared Obioma.
STORY CONTINUES...

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Moofyme.com: An African Literary Blog: BRAVE HEART: Blood & Fire - Episode 3
BRAVE HEART: Blood & Fire - Episode 3
Nigeria's leading story blog. Love, Priestly, Cult, Emissaries, African Culture/Beliefs, gods, Fire, Dream, Mystery, African Village
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Moofyme.com: An African Literary Blog
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