BRAVE HEART: Blood & Fire - Episode 4

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Nigeria's leading story blog. Love, Village Square, African Culture/Beliefs, gods, Fire, Emissaries,

“Let us run away! I have heard of a land called Ugegbe where gods are not recognized nor worshiped. People say it lies towards east, far beyond Egbeaku. I say we gather what we can and leave tonight!” “You are right Ugonwanyi. Tonight we leave!” “No papa and mama! Please don’t let emotions becloud your reasoning. You know how it goes, once a woman has been chosen by the gods to serve as a shrine maid, guards and warriors watch her and her family round the clock. To try to run would amount to foolishness. We have seen others try it and died for it. If they catch us, they will burn the two of you and will still force me to serve as a shrine maid.” “No Obioma! We are one family they won’t catch. With my machete, I will lead the way and cut through any man that dares to stop us!” “Papa how many will you kill?” “Obioma what is your own suggestion? Why don’t you allow us to try? I will be glad to die trying than do nothing and watch them destroy you.”

“Mama I want you and papa to stop talking and think along with me for a moment. Just yesterday the king sent for papa and informed him that he would like to have me as his wife. This morning the emissaries sent by Ekweke came and announced their cursed message from their cursed gods. Can any of you see that the king and Ekweke are not in this together? The king wants me and Ekweke wants me. I say we play them against each other. Let us use the king to destroy Ekweke and when we have achieved that; then we can find a way to deal with the king and run away. At least let us eliminate the deadlier option.” The words of Obioma turned on the light in Udeagu’s head and he sprang to his feet saying, “We have to inform the king about Ekweke’s plan. I have to go see the king now.” Udeagu sprinted off, still holding his machete; Ugonwanyi shouted after him, “Drop your machete! Drop your machete Nna anyi!” Still running Udeagu let his machete fall to the ground. “He should have at least cleaned his mouth with his chewing stick and changed his clothes. Imagine him standing before the king looking like that?” “Mama it is okay, when the king sees him like that he will know that he is serious.”

About forty-five minutes later Udeagu returned brimming with a smile. “How did it go with the king?” Ugonwanyi asked. “He went into a fit of rage when he heard of Ekweke’s plan and assured me that Obioma can only be made a shrine maid over his dead body. In fact he sent me back to go continue with my sleep.”  “E heh! Let them slug it out with each other. Now Obioma what are your plans to get us out of Umueze?” Ugonwanyi asked. “There is a guard I will approach to help us…” “Guards! No don’t involve them, they are all fools,” protested Ugonwanyi . “No mama there is one I have seen, he has some sense in his head and he looks upon me we desire. I will promise him what he cannot get to help us get out of Umueze.” “Obioma please be careful, don’t let him take advantage of you.” “Papa don’t worry I can handle him. But I will need the two of you to act as though we were not planning to run away. Please try to pretend that all is well.”

That night king Agadagu invited all the shrine guards to his palace and made them a feast. After the feast he gave each one of them five hundred pieces if Ejenma and announced to them that he had a problem which he would like them to fix for him. The guards, who had never been treated to a royal banquet or given that much money in one piece at any time in their lives, were eager to hear what his problem was. King Agadagu in a low voice announced, “My problem is Ekweke the high priest. He has grown wings and now thinks he can drink from the same cup as the king. I want him killed to night.” The shrine guards were all terrified by the words of the king. One of them mustered courage and said, “But my king, he cannot be killed, he has potent charms protecting him.” “No, you are wrong. He can be killed if you know his weakness.” The king pushed a covered calabash toward the guards and said, “This is the menstrual blood of a virgin. Take it into the shrine and Ekweke will become weak; and if he still proves hard to deal with, pour the blood on him and he will be yours to do as you wish. Guards, now that I have told you this much, if by morning I do not hear that Ekweke is dead, I will send warriors to bring to me every one of your heads.” King Agadagu rose from his seat and left the guards.

By morning, mournful wails rent the air. The gong of the spirits was sounded, all knew what it meant, the high priest was dead. All the men of Umueze poured ashes on their heads and the women stayed indoors. At the village square, the men gathered to hear how the high priest died. Before king Agadagu appeared before the men, he sent for the shrine guards; when they arrived at his palace, they were full of expectations, thinking much more reward would be given to them for their service to the king. When the king appeared before them he shouted, “These are the men who killed the high priest behead them!” Immediately all the shrine guards were wrestled to the ground and beheaded in the presence of the king in his palace. The heads of the shrine guards were loaded into baskets and warriors carried them on their heads down to the village square. Behind the warriors who bore the baskets of heads, king Agadagu followed. At the village square the warriors who had been covered in fresh blood dripping from the severed heads, set the baskets on the ground in full view of the men of Umueze.

The gory sight of the heads made the men of Umueze to cringe; the severed heads were those of their sons who served as shrine guards. They were afraid to even wail the demise of their sons lest they offend king Agadagu. The king raised his right arm and addressed the men gathered at the square, “Our laws are clear, the men whose heads are in these baskets killed our high priest, Ekweke. Their heads shall be buried with him in line with our custom.” The men of Umueze wished they could ask king Agadagu how he found out that those men killed Ekweke but were too afraid to do so. The king on his part did not offer any explanations as to how he came to find out that the shrine guards killed Ekweke. King Agadagu announced further, “In line with our custom, Azunna, who is next in authority to Ekweke in the priestly cult, shall step into the office of the high priest and oversee the burial of Ekweke and these heads.” The king turned and walked away from the village and his entourage followed him.

That night king Agadagu sent for Udeagu and informed him that with Ekweke out of the way, he and his royal court shall come to ask Obioma’s hand in marriage seven days after the burial of Ekweke. He offered Udeagu one thousand pieces of Ejenma to go make preparations for his imminent betrothal to his daughter. Udeagu rejected the money and informed the king that there was still a little snag he would need to take care of before accepting the money. King Agadagu was not happy; he demanded to know what the problem was. Udeagu had to lie to him, “There is a young man at Ezele, Obioma’s maternal home, whose wine I have accepted and promised to give Obioma to. I have to inform him and his parents that there has been a change of plan. Do not worry my king; this is only a minor hiccup. In a day or two, I will settle with them and then I will come for your bounty; I intend to get more from you.” The king smiled and said, “You will certainly get more; but make sure that the young man doesn’t prove to be a problem. If he does, then let me know. I will send warriors to wipe him and his family out.” “Don’t worry your majesty, it won’t come to that.”

When Udeagu returned home and informed Ugonwanyi and Obioma what transpired between him and the king, they knew they had only a few days to disappear from Umueze. “Obioma have you spoken to the warrior whom you said would help us escape?” Udeagu asked his daughter. “I have papa, but I wish I didn’t speak to him about it…?”  “What did he say?” asked Ugonwanyi. “He asked if I would be back in time for my wedding to the king.” “Did he ask you that?” demanded Udeagu. “Yes papa. I pressed him and found out that he is one of the warriors whom the king asked to keep an eye on me. I regret talking to him. I could tell he thought I was lying to him.” “What actually did you ask him to do? Did you tell him we intend to run away?” “No.” “Obioma talk! What did you tell the young man?” asked Ugonwanyi. “I asked him to help us get to Obolo. He was alarmed when I mentioned Obolo. He said it was too far from here and wanted to know what we would be going there to do. I told him we want to get some medicine to appease my grandfathers before my wedding to king Agadagu.” “Did he agree to help then?” asked Udeagu. “He said he would give me an answer by tomorrow.”

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BRAVE HEART: Blood & Fire - Episode 4
Nigeria's leading story blog. Love, Village Square, African Culture/Beliefs, gods, Fire, Emissaries, An African Literary Blog
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