BRAVE HEART: Blood & Fire - Episode 21

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Nigeria's leading story blog. Epic Love Story, War, Battle, Vultures, Warriors, Shrine, Kings, King.

“I will be glad to go down to Umueze with you. The gods have permitted your campaign and I like to be on the side of the gods. When the tales of your heroics are told, I will be glad to have my name in the midst of them,” assured Okiti. “Very well then, tonight we leave for Umueze,” said Obioma. One who saw the fanfare at the shrine of Ogugu would not have believed it that just a day earlier Nsu and the warriors of Ugegbe were in a battle which claimed the lives of many men. Even though so many who died in that war were still to be buried, yet many in Nsu chanted Obioma’s name all because their highly revered priest spoke eloquently about the gods sanctioning her war campaigns. Such was the grip the gods had on the minds of men and women in that time. However such grip began to wane with time and was perhaps a fallout of Obioma’s campaigns against tyrant gods and kings. Her campaigns are believed to be connected to the subsequent trait of the Igbos to depose gods who outlive their relevance and embrace new ones who serve their needs well. Today not many know that at one time in Igboland, Kitikpa was so much held in high regard that the use of its name loosely, sent fear even into the hearts of mighty men and was considered an abomination.

There was no time to waste; Obioma had a lot on her mind. One of which was destroying Agadagu and his gods. The revelation of Okiti that Amadioha, the god of thunder, shall rise after her reign had given her a new reason to completely rebuild Ugegbe and make it a land where no god would have a say, a land where men and women would live freely from the tyranny of gods and kings. “The warriors of Ugegbe, I give you the kings of Okele and Umuchu to do as you wish!” Obioma announced. There was no wasting time with that. The two kings were dragged to the same tree where Eze Nsu was stoned to death and had them tied to it. The two kings tried their best to plead for mercy, but the crowd would have none of it. Before their fall, they had fun burning men and women, now it was the turn of the common man to have fun watching them burn in fire. While the two kings pleaded for mercy, the warriors of Ugegbe piled dry wood into the shrine of Ogugu, they would burn it too like they did to other shrines in Okele and Umuchu.

Men and women of Nsu who had suffered much under Eze Nsu and Ogugu, supplied the warriors of Ugegbe with palm kernel shell to make the fire burn fast. Dry branches of palm tree and raffia tree known as Opra, okpotoro and ogugu (from which the name of the god Ogugu was derived), were piled into the shrine. When the shrine and the kings in it were set on fire, it was a mighty fire. That day all who were present witnessed what became the end of Ogugu as a god in Igbo tradition.  The god which followed after the downfall of Ogugu was Kitikp; already Obioma had laid the foundation of the beginning of its end by curing the nation of people in Ugegbe of its deadly affliction, pox. Kitikpa was finally laid to rest centuries later with the advent of orthodox medicine in sub-Saharan Africa.  After her warriors had eaten and drank to their fill, they ventured out by night to Umueze. As they moved their number swelled. Obioma’s fame was growing. She had cured people of kitipka’s affliction, destroyed four kings already and burnt down Ogugu’s shrine in Nsu. Most man who had suffered injustice in the name of the gods, who heard about her matching down to destroy king Agadagu, took arms and joined her army. The people were done with living under the cruelty of the gods, kings and priests. In all Igbo land, there was perhaps no land in which the cruelty of its gods and king was pronounced like in Umueze.

By day and night Obioma and her army matched, covering the long stretch between Nsu and Umueze. Before they could get close to Umueze word had reached Agadagu that the woman whose fame he had heard was Obioma Udeagu. She was coming with an army as large as the sand by their rivers to destroy him, his gods and his warriors. When the news broke in Umueze that the woman warrior whose tales they had heard in bits was their own daughter, the sunshine of Umueze, Obioma Udeagu; there were wild celebrations. From the celebrations, Agadagu knew that his people would turn against him in battle. Resorting to cruel measures which had served him well over the years, king Agadagu began to conscript men for battle and forcefully had them swear in their ancestral shrine that they would fight for him during battle. Those who could no longer stand the tyranny of their king braved the odds and escaped from Umueze by night.

In Ezele and as far as Obolo elders met by night and sent their hunters and warriors to join Obioma’s army. The coming war was their chance to break free from the yoke of Agadagu who treated them like his slaves even though they had their own kings; kings whom Agadagu referred to as lesser kings. Amongst the warriors who left Ezele to join Obioma’s army there was a young man, his name was Ikechi. Ikechi had fire in his belly and was a champion wrestler in his little village; besides being encouraged by the elders to go to war to break his land free from yoke of slavery, he had his personal reasons to fight in the war. Fortune would favour him in the battle and his name would make it into the folklore of his people.

In Obolo, there was much more going on than just sending men to war. Obolo had the practice of dark magic more than their neighbours. The men of Obolo perhaps prepared for the coming war more than any other land around them. From what they had heard about Obioma, they knew the battle in Umueze would be so fierce that Agadagu would resort to the use of dark magic to save his life. While their warriors converged and headed toward Umueze, Obolo released Udele (Vulture) in numbers toward Umueze.  Those vultures would serve Obolo well in battle.

Agadagu was bothered when Azunna, the chief priest told him that vultures were heading toward Umueze from Obolo. Without delay hunters were taken to the shrine of Durugo, the god in whose name Ugonwanyi, Obioma’s mother and Chume’s body were burnt, to receive charms which would help them shoot down the vultures. King Agadagu knew that with the vultures circling over his land, his chance of escaping from Umueze in the event the war turned against him was slim. Agadagu could see that for the people of Obolo, war had already begun. “I should have killed them all when I had the chance! If I win this war, there will not be a soul left in Obolo. I swear by Durugo, I will turn Obolo into a farmland,” an incensed Agadagu swore to his god. To prepare hunters to shoot down the vulture was one matter and to actually hit one vulture in flight over Umueze was a different matter entirely. The hunters of Umueze would try, but Obolo would show them what made them Obolo.

By the time Obioma and her large army had reached the boundary between Umueze and Ezele, there were hundreds of vultures flying over Umueze. When Obioma saw the vultures she asked, “What magic is this? Does Agadagu think I will run from vultures?” “Obioma what you see is not from Agadagu, this is from Obolo. You must have heard about their dark magic, they are at it again,” Okiti explained. “So Obolo has joined forces with Agadagu?” “You still don’t get, Obolo is on your side. These vultures are already at war for you. They will make sure that Agadagu does not escape from battle with his charms and that he wastes his arrows early before the battle. Even I Okiti, cannot shoot these vultures down. I have tried it once.” “I once shot two down in Nsu during the new yam festival,” Utaka said. “I am happy you are on our side Utaka, but who was behind the vultures, was it an Obolo man?” Okiti asked. “No, it was a boy from Okele.” “If that be the case, I will like to see you shoot any of these vultures down,” Okiti said and offered his bow along with an arrow to Utaka.

Obioma stepped aside to watch Utaka try to hit one of the vultures. What the two dibias (native doctors) spoke about was purely beyond her knowledge. In all her battles, she had not seen that sort of magic. Utaka made incantations over the arrow and aimed at one of the vultures, convinced he had a lock on the vulture he aimed to shoot down, he let the arrow fly. When the arrow flew close to the vulture it caught fire and vanished. There was laughter amongst Obioma’s warriors as Utaka ran around swearing and cursing the men of Obolo. Under her breath Obioma mumbled to herself, “I feel it, this battle will be different. I swear I have not seen this magic before. If Obolo has this, what will Agadagu bring out?” For once Obioma heard the sound of Azi Rive close to her ears. The river had been quiet since she invoked it to help her. She could tell the river was encouraging her in its own way and she was happy for that. “Obioma, try to hit one of the vultures, you just might succeed,” Nwandu encouraged her.

Obioma looked around and saw expectation and faith in the eyes of her warriors, men who had laid their lives down to follow her. Many of them will die in that war. She wouldn’t like them to see her fail in anything, especially before the battle ahead. It would dampen their faith in her. “Since Okiti said that one of the reasons the men of Obolo sent these vultures is to make the warriors of Umueze waste their arrows, let us not waste ours then. If these vultures decide to attack us in battle, I will then have no option than to shoot them down. There is war before us, let us not allow vultures to distract us.” Her warriors roared and praised her wise words. She was glad they bought that. The truth was she was afraid she might fail to shoot the vultures down.     STORY CONTINUES...

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BRAVE HEART: Blood & Fire - Episode 21
Nigeria's leading story blog. Epic Love Story, War, Battle, Vultures, Warriors, Shrine, Kings, King. An African Literary Blog
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