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Later that evening Ikonne paid visit to Anadu. His intention was to inquire if his son, Obum, had since his recovery had any suspicious dreams or by chance repeated words or names in his sleep. Anadu told him no such thing had been observed about Obum; if anything, Obum was fine and couldn’t wait to put the attack at Iyi Afor and his death experience behind him. Ikonne wanted to establish if what Korie told him about his son was an experience common to Dike and Obum after their encounter with spirits at Iyi Afor. Having established it wasn’t so, he concluded that Dike must have been chosen by Ulari for a reason. Meanwhile by night fall, Ulari was in Dike’s dream to inform him that she would take the risk to make appearance amongst men just to be with him. They would meet each other at Iyi Afor when most villagers had gone to their farms. By this time of the day, the river was found deserted; people having become much more afraid of Iyi Afor, had second thoughts about visiting the river at such a time because a strong sinister feeling hung over the river after the attack on Obum and Dike.

The next day before the first cock-crow, Ikonne left for Odenkwume to make further enquiries about who Ulari was and why she chose to make herself known to Dike after his experience with the gods at Iyi Afor. Ikonne chose to make the enquiry at the shrine of Mmiri, the god of Odenkwume. His friend, Alika, the mouthpiece of the gods, was the chief priest there. Upon his arrival at Mmiri’s shrine, Ikonne met his friend, Alika, standing at the entrance to the shrine, shaking his head in defiance. Ikonne stood momentarily and examined his friend, and then asked, “What meaning is this?” “The gods, who would not speak to you in Alaoma, will not speak to you here,” Alika answered him. “If the gods would not speak to me, then welcome me as a friend. You know how far I have journeyed to get here,” responded Ikonne. “I wouldn’t deny a good friend a warm welcome, but know that the gods forbid the answers you seek.” Both of them embraced and entered the shrine.

Alika brought out a keg and offered him water to drink. After gulping down two cups of water, Ikonne sighed and said, “The gods won’t speak to me even here, but I fear that if they do not speak soon, the land which was put in my care shall be ruined,” “No!” Alika interjected, “You speak lies. On the contrary Alaoma shall be saved from ruins,” he stated authoritatively. “What ruins do you speak of Alika? Alaoma is not in ruins. We have not seen war or famine since before my father joined his ancestors. We have year after year seen great farm produce. Our women are the most fertile around these climes. My friend what ruins do you speak of?” “You know what ruins I speak of. Here in Odenkwume, we have a chief priest who does not meddle with the affairs of the state, until the laws of the gods are violated. In your land, where you have journeyed from, why are you both the chief priest and the Eze (king)? Yet you say your land lies not in ruins.”

With a voice made weary by age and stress, Ikonne responded, “The madness, the greed, the purge; call it what you may, it took our royalty with it and left us with only the priestly family. At the wake of the madness, the priestly family was put in charge of both the affairs of the gods and the state. Alika you know this. It is a great burden I bear.” “I wish to unburden the weight you bear, my friend, but the same emissary that appeared to you eight days ago was here last night and warned me not to answer your questions. Even if I want to defy the gods and give you the answers you seek, I still won’t be able to help you. This morning, the gods took my vision away. Ikonne, I can’t see anything beyond this our conversation,” Alika responded compassionately. Surprised by what he had just heard, Ikonne asked, “The same emissary was here?” Alika answered, “Yes, she was here.”

The two of them sat silently for a few seconds, and thought deeply about the games the gods might be up to. “There is more you have not told me. I can sense it. Why did you refer to Alaoma as being in ruins?” Ikonne asked, breaking the momentary silence. “Early this morning I heard a cry, a female voice was wailing bitterly, that a land without its eze lies in ruins. Maybe the gods do not want your journey to be in vain.” Immediately, Ikonne stood up, and announced to his friend, “I must be on my way back to Alaoma. The gods may not have granted me that which I seek, but they have told me that which they seek.” “No. Not so early my friend, wait for my servants to bring us the early morning fresh palm wine,” Alika protested. “No Ikonne. I must set out now. This is not the time for wine. I will return for wine when Alaoma finds peace with the gods.” Seeing his friend would not be persuaded to stay a little longer, Alika allowed him to leave.

The next day, Ikonne visited Korie by the early hours of the morning and asked to speak with Dike privately. Dike wondered what the matter might be. He thought that perhaps Ikonne had discovered his affair with Ulari, a goddess of the river. His heart beat and raced very fast. He knew he would not be able to lie to Ikonne, the man could see all things even the thoughts of men’s heart. If only he knew that Ikonne at that moment did not see as much as people claimed, he wouldn’t have bothered much. Seeing how jittery Dike was, Ikonne told him to calm down and assured him that he had done no wrong. Dike’s parents who sat outside wondered what might be so wrong with their son that even Ikonne won’t let them know about it. Having made sure they were at a distance Dike’s parents wouldn’t hear them, Ikonne said to him, “What I am about to tell you should not be heard by any other ears, including those of your parents, at least for now. There is only one person you might tell, your friend who visits you in your dreams.”

Dike was startled when he heard that. Gasping for breath he asked, “Nna anyi, you know about her, ha… how?” Ikonne answered, “Your father was worried about you so he came to me. He told me you have been calling your sister Ulari and you have often mentioned the name in your sleep. Now hear this, you must not speak of that name amongst men ever again. Do not use it lightly even when you are at home. The name comes from the long lost royal family of Alaoma.” Ikonne continued, “The spirit has come to you at this time for a reason. I do not know why, but I feel the gods favour you.” Ikonne rummaged a bit in his bag and brought out some medicine, seven in all, made with nzu (native white chalk) and gave them to him saying, “You must take these, one each morning for the next seven days. They will protect you from those who might want to destroy you.”

The ancestors of the Ogbede clan, who came to settle among the Aboh people sought to steal the throne from the Aboh clan. They almost succeeded. The Aboh clan was the true owners of Alaoma, so the royal family was chosen from among them by the gods of the land. After having dwelt many years among the Aboh people, the Ogbede clan wanted more. They set their eyes on the throne. Alaoma was a rich land and the head village among the fourteen villages that surrounded it. Its people were nice, welcoming and generous. It was said of them by their neighbours, that Alaoma people could share even their very lives with strangers. Perhaps it was this nature of theirs that encouraged the Ogbede clan to seek the royal throne of Alaoma. In the times before the Ogbede people settled in Alaoma, there was a ritual greatly forbidden by the gods of the land.

The royal family had done its best to keep the knowledge of it from the public. It was so despised by the gods and carried severe consequences that the royal family thought it wise to keep it secret. The gods forbade, and made their words clear that the corpses of dead old witches should never be brought to Iyi Abadaba, washed in the river nor for any reason buried by the river. For this reason Iyi Abadaba was revered and hallowed by the people of Alaoma that in time, it became their most sacred river and was left to the royal family. Only the royal family could bathe in it or use it for domestic purpose. Nda Ikodiya, in her many stories, claimed that actually the royal family took the river to themselves to protect the river from desecration which could have dire consequences for both the village and the royal family.      STORY CONTINUES...

Written by:
Uzoma Ujor

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