BRAVE HEART: Blood & Fire - Episode 12

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Nigeria's leading story blog. Epic Story, Scourge, Pox, Market Days, Huts, Lizards, Machete, Battle.

“Are there still men who can run left in this forest?!” Obioma asked looking around. There was a momentary wait. The people were not sure how to respond to her. “If there are no men left here who can move their feet, are there young women left in this forest who can run?!” A girl, possibly thirteen years, stepped out of the crowd and stood before her. The old woman she lifted high, moments earlier made her way out of her hut and stood in front of her. “Mama what do you want? You are not a young girl.” “You inspire hope. I have not heard a woman speak the way you do. What will you have me do, so Kitipka can leave this forest?” Seeing the old woman’s courage, a good number of young men stepped out of the crowd and made their way toward her. Obioma smiled and said, “I want you all to run through the length and breadth of this forest to fetch me Nchicha, Akwukwo Okorokara and Okicha (male lizard). With them, I will remove Kitipka from your bodies. The old woman was the first to leave the ground in search of the leaves. The thirteen year old girl did not know those leaves, so she went to boys of her age and encouraged them to follow her to go catch male lizards. The boys were more than happy to do that, if that would be their contribution to the down fall of Kitipka. The day was young and they had enough time to catch a truck load of lizards. The young men ran toward river Ntiti, around it was an abundance of Nchicha and Akwukwo Okorokara.

Even the thirteen head hunters were inspired to help. However Obioma did not allow them to participate, she said to them, “Look around this forest; it was once a happy place, a prosperous place. I want it rebuilt. Shall we not start today? My hands are ready for work, who will join me?” The men were already eager to do something, so they scaled trees and began to cut down branches for work. Some young men went hunting to provide food for all. Women who sat down all day, waiting for Kitipka to finish them off stood up to weed the overgrown portions around their huts. Elderly men went to work bringing down dilapidated huts whose owners had died in the scourge. Everyone did something; and they were all inspired by the hope that Obioma would remove pox from amongst them. As people went through the land, they spread the news that help had come to them by the hand of a woman whose name they could not even remember. They were sure she mentioned her name, but not many could remember what it was. What they all remembered was that she said she would remove Kitipka from Ugegbe in seven market days.

The news went through Ugegbe like wild fire. All the people went down with their sick ones to the part of Ugegbe where they heard Obioma was. By sundown Ugegbe had come alive. Loud voices were heard and laughter rang out from many corners, yet there were many who did not let their emotions get the better of them. They wanted to see Obioma cure one sick person and then they would believe. Before the crowd who gathered that evening, Obioma demonstrated how to make the portion which would cure them of pox. She had many of the lizards roasted. After washing the leaves of Nchicha and Okorokara, she had one of her thirteen men pound them in a big mortar along with the roasted lizards. The resultant paste from the mix was the portion with which she began to treat their pox. She did not have to make it for them again. After exhausting the one she made that evening, she sent them home to make the portion for themselves. Boastfully she told them that by morning, the itching which came with the pox would stop and days after, the boils and rashes on their skin would dry and will never be seen again.

The next morning was going to be a big test for her claims. The people went home and could not wait for the new day to dawn. Some tried to stay up all night looking at their skin to see if they could observe changes until they dozed off. Before the first light of dawn Obioma was startled from sleep by many cries. She reached for her machete and round out to meet the cause of the cry. Her thirteen men followed behind her ready for battle. Obioma was wrong in her claim that the itching would stop by morning. Much more than she claimed had happened through the night. The pox on the skin of the people of Ugegbe had begun to dry. Her portion was much more potent than she had them believing. The cry was not for sorrow, pain or war. It was the cry of joy. Forgotten Drums were rolled out. Both the weak and the strong sang and danced till they spent their strength. Obioma stood and watched them celebrate with tears in her eyes.

While Ugegbe celebrated, a large group of men and women with loads on their heads and machetes in their hands entered Ugegbe and approached the dancers and singers. Some of the people were stained with blood. Their presence quenched the celebration. Obioma rallied her thirteen men and went to meet them. “I see you coming into my land with blood over you and machetes in your hands. Who are you?” She didn’t have to wait for a reply; she dropped her machete and ran forward to grab a little boy. She had seen his shoulder was carved wide open with a machete. The group before her was coming out of a fresh battle.  While she patched up the boy, she heard a familiar voice. The man was covered in blood and the day was still dark, so Obioma could not tell who he was. When he drew nearer he bowed and said, “My lady I have brought these men and their families to serve you and to fight on your side. Nsu knows you are coming. We had to fight through them to make it here. We lost some men, but Nsu lost more.”

Passionately, Obioma hugged him; it was Nwako, the warrior who helped her in Nsu. She was brought to tears to see the sacrifice they made to come help her. “You should not have come. I told you to run from Nsu. I don’t remember telling you to come here.” “I have made my escape from Nsu and this is now my home. I need some of your fighting men, we want to go back and rescue some of our children Nsu warriors took when they withstood us on our way here.” “Your people need food, water and rest. You and your people should follow me.” Obioma led them to some empty quarters and gave instruction for them to be cared for. While Nwako and his people received care, the elders of Ugegbe came to Obioma and asked, “We heard them men from Nsu speak of war, where is it and when should we leave?” “Elders, Ugegbe is not ready to go to war. Sit back and nurse yourselves, many of you are weak. After seven market days, I will lead the strong amongst you to battle with the gods in Nsu and down to Umueze. When we will have slaughtered them, the kings and the priests, we will return here to build a great city for ourselves.” “If we cannot go to battle now, at least we can sharpen our blades and make our poisons ready. We hate the gods, kings and priests as much as you do,” the elders replied her. “Go do so, elders. For tonight I and my warriors and some fighters from Nsu will go down to Nsu to rescue the women and children who are being held captive there.”

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item An African Literary Blog: BRAVE HEART: Blood & Fire - Episode 12
BRAVE HEART: Blood & Fire - Episode 12
Nigeria's leading story blog. Epic Story, Scourge, Pox, Market Days, Huts, Lizards, Machete, Battle. An African Literary Blog
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