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“You will do no such thing! The force I felt had nothing to do with Igu nmuo . You are transferring your hatred for Igu nmuo on an...

“You will do no such thing! The force I felt had nothing to do with Igu nmuo. You are transferring your hatred for Igu nmuo on an innocent man,” responded Ulari. Nkelu asked, “Since when did mortals who look upon us become innocent? She continued, “I demand in the name of Iyi Afor that you tell us the truth. What happened at the river after we left?” Ulari, with the sound of confusion and pain in her voice, replied, “It was like nothing I have felt before. It was as though I was struck by the power of his looks as a mere mortal would be struck by the full strength of a thunderbolt. I still do not understand how that managed to happen. I will visit with Ogugu about this.” “I did not hear you right. Did I? You mean you spared his life because he was handsome?” Nkelu said, staring at her younger sister in disbelief. “No that’s not what I meant,” replied Ulari. “In all my life as a goddess, I have slaughtered more men and women than any of you two. I have killed with pleasure mortals who dared despise the gods, and you know it. I have killed handsomer men. Why would I spare a common blacksmith? Believe me! I couldn’t do it, something seized my heart. It was as though my own heart would be pulled out the moment I pull his out,” Ulari explained further.

In a more relaxed voice and with a thoughtful mien, Nduri said, “Your claim brings to mind the legend of Ejenma, the woman reborn as a god to avenge the death of her people. Your inability to kill him might suggest that in your previous life you were mortal and may have been his mother, wife or sister. The same thing happened to Ejenma, She could not kill Ogadi, the blood-thirsty king, because she was his mother in her previous life; Keke had to do the killing.” “But I have had no life for once amongst mortals. And by the way, are you requesting to be given the responsibility to kill him? No harm must come upon him!” Ulari warned. “That was not my meaning!” Nduri replied. “I have never seen you this potty over a man, all my life,” She added.

“Alright sisters, I propose that we do him no harm until we find out what stopped Ulari from taking his heart,” Nkelu suggested. “Shall we then spare the man who was with the blacksmith?” Nduri asked her sisters. In a rather pained voice, Ulari said, “He is already a dead man. I will make it quick for him tonight.” “I don’t understand you,” Nkelu remarked. “When I charged at Dike, the blacksmith, I dropped a flock of my hair upon his friend. He shall die a gruesome death in seven market days. I shall finish him off tonight. I will not bear to see him suffer that much,” Ulari responded. “Why should Obum die and the blacksmith gets to live?” Nduri asked. “I move that we spare both of them. Have you not seen also that Obum was at the river because Dike asked to be accompanied to the river? We are goddesses, and daughters of a noble goddess, Iyi Afor. We should do what is right. Don’t forget we were at the river before the time tradition allows for us to be there. Those young men have done no wrong except speaking to the gods without being given permission, spare them sisters.” Nduri pleaded.  “Nkelu, Nduri is right, we should spare them,” Ulari said thoughtfully. “No, we have already spared a life. Ulari you will finish Obum tonight. He already has the mark of death. We must offer blood to the river,” Nkelu insisted. “Fine sister, if it is blood you want, you shall have blood tonight,” Nduri said.  

When Dike got home that evening there was no small stir in the village. His frantic run had drawn the attention of the villagers, within minutes people had gathered to know what was after him. The villagers pressed for answers but none came forth. Dike remained dazed and speechless for hours. As the villagers wondered what might have happened to him, Chichi, Dike’s younger sister volunteered the little information she had. She informed them that Dike had gone to Iyi Afor in the company of his friend Obum, to wash his clothes and fetch some water. When the villagers heard that they sent some young men to Anadu’s house to invite his son, Obum, to answer a few questions. When the young men got to Anadu’s house, they were told that Obum and his friend, Dike, were at Iyi Afor washing their clothes. The young men had to inform Anadu that Dike had ran back from Iyi Afor shocked and speechless.

They told him that they had actually come to invite Obum to Korie’s house so he could tell them what happened at the river. When Anadu heard that, he yelled, “Obum o! Obumnaeke o!” and took off in the direction of Iyi Afor. As he ran and yelled along the way, those who met him joined him to Iyi Afor. The young men who were sent to his house followed behind Anadu and the entourage he had attracted through his yelling. When they reached the sloppy path to the river, many were afraid to descend for fear that the gods might have come out to play, but Anudu would have none of that. He descended to the river, running like a twenty-five year old man. Some young men took courage and went with him. At the base of the river they found Obum lying lifeless. At the sight of his son’s seeming lifeless posture on the ground, Anadu, let out a bloodcurdling cry which sent more people descending to the river. About three young men made a quick dash into the surrounding bush and came out with some opete and ede onye ara leaves. They squeezed the opete leaves and put the liquid substance from them into Obum’s mouth and tied the ede onye ara leaves around his ankles and lifted him back to the village. Upon reaching Anadu’s house, Obum twitched the fingers on his right hand. The villagers saw this as a sign of hope; the potent opete and ede onye ara leaves had begun to work their magic on him, their son hopefully was on his way to full recovery.

That night people moved back and forth from Korie’s house to Anadu’s house. Those who had gone to see Obum said he had woken up, but was vomiting profusely and hadn’t said a word. Ikonne, the village chief priest who was quickly sent for, was not in the village at that time. Dike on his part had said nothing as well, but was motioning at every direction, suggesting that some figures were lurking in the shadows, but no one around saw anything. Anadu was hysterical, his son’s rate of vomiting had the whole village afraid for the worst – Obum might not live through the night. When Ikonne arrived, he had to pay attention to Obum first. After he had stabilized him, he lit dry Otitengele leaves. It was believed that the smoke from dry Otitengele leaves could break the hold of evil spirits over a man. Otitengele was so effective that it was used in various ways by the villagers. Having brought Obum’s condition under control, Ikonne quickly left to attend to Dike. When he got to him, Dike was already acting like a madman. It took about five men to hold him down so Ikonne could administer some portions to him.

A combination of Opete and Nnamiriukwa, did the magic. Dike dozed off in a couple of minutes after he was given the concoction. With the two young men in good condition for the time being, the villagers who gathered that night to support Korie, Dike’s father and Anadu, began to speculate as to what might have caused the boys’ infirmities. Odinakachi, Dike’s mother, who had fainted twice that evening, was convinced her enemies were responsible for her son’s sickness. A week earlier she had been bitten by Echieteka, a poisonous snake, while in her farm at Mbara, the village’s farmland. It took the deft skill of Udele, the medicine man, to save her life. Udele was certain that something, perhaps a person projected the snake into her farm to kill her. With all that had happened to her, she couldn’t stand the ordeal her son was going through that evening. She fainted twice and had to be revived. Before Ikonne came to their aid, some were wondering who would die first, Odinakachi or her son Dike. While the speculations were going on, Udele arrived at Korie’s house and quickly conferred with Ikonne. They talked in hushed tones; no one was able to hear them. Udele was a powerful diabia (native doctor), no medicine man in the village could rival him, except Ikonne.

Ikonne was believed to be the eyes and hands of the gods; but tonight he had to work together with Udele. From the look of their faces, something was clearly bothering the two dibias (native doctors). Ikonne with the motioning of his hands quieted the people and said, “The spirits that attacked Dike and Obum may not be rouge spirits as we had assumed.” His words unsettled those who were present and they echoed in fear, “Ele ehe o!” Ikonne continued, “I sent Udele to Umuagwo to corroborate what we saw, and we know Udele is like the smoke, he always delivers the message to the gods. Dike and Obum were attacked before the evening sun had reached Amakaohia. We have an understanding with the gods that no god would come out to play at Iyi Afor before the evening sun is hanging over Amakaohia, and that no man or woman should be found at Iyi Afor when the evening sun has reached Amakaohia. If any man or woman is found at the river at such a time, we all know that their hearts shall be taken by the gods. The hearts of Dike and Obum were not taken by whatever met them at the river. What happened today is ushi (an evil omen). We should all stay away from Iyi Afor until the gods have been appeased. I foresee trying times for Alaoma. I see blood. Let the town-crier send out the word; going to Iyi Afor is forbidden until we know why the gods have done this.”

Written by:
Uzoma Ujor

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VENGEANCE OF THE RIVERS - Episode 2 An African Literary Blog
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