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Two days later Dike was fortified by some amulets brought to him by an emissary of Iyi Afor. By nightfall he took on the arduous task of going alone to Iyi Abadaba to request the return of the royal crown. Dike’s biggest challenge was not the river, but the foul spirits who lurked on the way to it. Since the time of Ezeugo, the last eze (king), mortals were forbidden from going to the river. Only some elders from among the Ogbede clan had come close enough to offer their famed abominable offerings, and that with the help of Igu nmou. Another person to have visited the river since then was Iyanga. But Iyanga was not entirely a mortal man; when Urenma drowned him at Nwangele and adopted him into her court, he became much more than a mortal man.

Deep into the bush on his way to the river, Dike was accosted several times by violent spirits who sought to rip him apart. Each time they tried to kill him he would raise the ofor (stick of justice) given to him by the emissary from Iyi Afor. Raising the ofor he would demand they grant him passage. Dike’s voice echoed in the night as he trudged through the overgrown bush charging the spirits to grant him passage to the river. By the time he reached the river, some gods had begun to retire to their world. Raising his voice he announced, “I am Dike Korie, the grandson of Ezeugo, the last eze of Alaoma. I bleed pure royal blood!” When he said this, Iyi Abadaba exploded with the kind of force Dike had never seen all his life. The river towered high above him like the Iroko tree, and the bush around the river lit up like daylight.

Spirits were showing up from every corner of the bush and the river. In a moment of time an innumerable company of spirits had assembled at the river. Among the spirits were Iyi Afor, the goddess of the river kingdom; Ogugu and many elder gods, the entire Elile family spirits, Nkelu and Nduri. Far behind them were numerous flaming pair of eyes. The eyes were those of Igu nmou. They looked on from afar in rage; they could not believe their eyes. A true royal blood had come to claim the throne of Alaoma. From the midst of the spirits assembled at Iyi Abadaba, a thunderous voice spoke, “If you indeed be of royal blood, then let us taste your blood.” At that invitation, Dike plunged into the troubled river and began to swim towards the gods. When the gods saw that he could swim in the river, they descended upon him and began to tear his flesh. As fast as the flash of a light, Dike’s flesh was torn to shreds. For what seemed like an endless wait to the gods, though it was only minutes, Dike floated lifeless upon the blood stained river.

There was silence as the gods waited with bathed breath to see if the breath of life would return to him. When Dike finally stirred and stood to his feet in the river, the gods roared with a mighty shout. Their shout was like the sound of thunder magnified a thousand times. Their voices were heard in all the fourteen villages around Alaoma and as far as Amakaohia and Odenkwume. Dike addressed the gods and said, “If truly I have found favour in your eyes, now let the royal crown of Alaoma be returned to Ogbotoukwu, (the ancestral village square of Alaoma), that all in Alaoma may know that the time has come for a man of true royal blood to rule!” Immediately he said that the gods varnished from his sight along with the light in the bush and the river grew quiet. Dike took off with quite a sprint and ran through the bush back to the village. As he ran, there were moments he felt he went right through spirits; at other moments he felt a few of them wanted to grab him, but he kept running.

By morning Alaoma was filled with the sound of joy and sorrow. There was the sound of joy because the royal crown was found at Ogbotoukwu and the sound of sorrow because Ikonne, the humble servant of the gods, was found in his shrine without his head. Among the Ogbede clan, a strange plague had broken out which made men, women and children to bleed from their eyes. Also many wives among them had woken up that morning to find their husbands dead and their heads missing. Among the gods there was no little confusion; Ulari had gone missing without a trace.  Also in Alaoma, Iyanga had gone missing with half his huts burnt to the ground. That morning there were found at Iyi Afor, many wraps of a very strong charm – snail wrapped with opete and ichite leaves. Udele who could have come in handy at such a time had gone into ura onwu (death sleep). Ura onwu was a cruel attack of the spirits, usually done by rouge spirits like Igu nmuo. Once the spell has been cast on a man, such a man would sleep until the day he dies.

In the midst of all the chaos, an unlikely character stepped forward to bring a glimmer of hope. Nda Ikodiya sent warriors to Odenkwume to bring Alika, the great seer, to install a new chief priest for Alaoma. Without a chief priest Dike would not be crowned eze and neither would he be joined to his bride. Nda Ikodiya also sent some elders to Mgbedeala to go find the Ekpe dancers; she claimed their songs and dance could break ura onwu and awake the sleeper.

The night Dike went to Iyi Abadaba to present himself before the gods, Igu nmuo had struck with venom upon the discovery that the royal blood still lived. Their intention was to frustrate the coronation of the new king. Once an eze has been installed on the royal throne of Alaoma, Igu nmuo, shall be sacked from Alaoma and the villages around it. To prevent this they attacked wisely. First a band of Igu nmuo spirits attacked Ikonne; though he fought bravely, the spirits had come prepared. They eventually overpowered him and left with his head. They also cast ura onwu (death sleep) spell upon Udele and left him to sleep to death. At Iyi Afor another group of Igu nmuo spirits sprang a surprise on Ulari who was being made ready by her maids for a transition to mortal life. She was weakened with a potent charm, snail wrapped with opete and ichite leaves.

This charm was believed to transfer the sluggish nature of the snail on its target, making the target weak for hours and sometimes days. The spirits bound Ulari and left with her for Nwangele River where they hoped to chain her for a long time. Luckily for Ulari, Iyanga who was outside making incantations late that night had picked up her faint heart cry. Iyanga, a man who had tasted war with the spirits, wasted no time to come to her rescue. He ran into one of his huts to fetch Urenma’s udu ocha (white earthen pot). When he came out, some Igu nmuo spirits were already waiting for him. The battle that ensued decimated half his huts, yet they could not stop him. Iyanga pursued them till he caught up with the band who was taking Ulari to Nwangele River. Urenma’s udu ocha was not just a place where she trapped the souls she had deceived, it was also a powerful pot of charms and spells. Iyanga who since his escape from Urenma’s court had mastered the use of it, staged a gallant battle against Igu nmou. Using the spells inside the udu ocha, Iyanga denied Igu nmuo entry into Nwangele River, thereby giving Ulari some time to recover. It would be a battled to be remembered for all time, if Ulari could recover quickly and team up with Iyanga against Igu nmuo. Ulari’s vicious heart in battle was legendary in all the lands of the spirits.

Early that morning when the river kingdom found out the sudden attacks upon Ulari and Alaoma, by Igu nmuo, Nkelu was sent to demolish Ogbede clan and bring back the heads of all their elders. Every male amongst them was to be killed or made impotent. When the elders of Ogbede clan heard the cry of the gods in the night, they knew a royal blood had been found. They quickly distributed protective charms and prepared for attack from Elile and Iyi Afor. The attack did not come as soon as they expected it, so some of them dozed off. However it came a little before the first gleam of dawn. Their charms were no match for Nkelu who for decades had been calling for blood. She slaughtered the Ogbede elders, took their heads, and struck the clan with a plague.     STORY CONTINUES...

Written by:
Uzoma Ujor

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