BRAVE HEART: Blood & Fire - Episode 7

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Nigeria's leading story blog. Epic Love, Fire, gods, Machete, Blood, Disease, Death, Spirits

Picking her steps like a cat about to spring on a prey, Obioma searched around the hut for the guard. After a few minutes of fruitless search, against her beliefs, she called out the guard’s name, “Udoka! Udoka!! Udoka!!!” There was no response, instead the echo of her voice made it seem as though the forest mocked her by repeating Udoka’s name several times. That made her much more afraid and she ran back into the shack. She was stiff with fear. Having called out the name of the living in a forest obviously inhabited by evil spirits, she expected an attack from them. She took Udoka’s machete, wielding it with the flair of a seasoned head-cutter and took the spear Udoka had made for her and kept it beside her just in case anything was to barge into the shack to attack her. Squatting on the floor she keenly strained her eyes on the door. Like an old locomotive engine, her heart pounded away, threatening to barge through her chest. Her wait was tortuous and long; yet there was no sign of Udoka.

By the first gleam of dawn, she stepped out of the shack to look for Udoka. Being the only child her father had; she had, against her father’s insistence, followed him on several occasions to check his animal traps and had by that learnt how to track. Squatting on the ground, she looked for footprints that were not her own. When she found one, she followed it to some part of the forest. As the footprint became clearer on the ground, her pace quickened; she ran through the forest following the footprints. Suddenly she stopped, on the ground beside a stream, Udoka lay dead. With hot tears streaming from her eyes, Obioma studied him to know if he was killed by a man or a spirit; a beast would have fed on him. In Udoka’s hand was a blood stained sharp peg, and in his neck was a gaping hole. Then Obioma understood what happened; Udoka had taken his own life like he promised he would.

The fact that she found him dead by a stream explained it much more to her. It was their belief that if a man committed grave sins and later made amendment for those sins and died beside moving water, it increased the chance of having his sins washed away; and offered him great opportunity of living honourably in his next life. With a loud cry Obioma mourned his demise. Though he was to a large part responsible for what happened to her and her family, he was also responsible for her escape from Umueze. Had he not taken the risk to break her out that night, king Agadagu would have burnt her to the gods. Instead of anger, Obioma had deep regard for the man who lay dead on the ground. To her, he was a dependable man. He may not have been a good man, but he was dependable. When he served his king, he did it so faithfully that he told the king of her plans to escape from Umueze with her parents. And when he chose to turn against the king, he took the heads of his fellow guards to help her escape. He was so dependable that he took his own life as he promised Obioma he would. Still crying, Obioma swore not to let the animals in the forest feast on his flesh. With the machete in her hand, she undertook the task of digging a grave beside the stream to bury him.

When she was done with the task of burying Udoka, she went back to the shack, packed her stuffs and left for Ugegbe. She could not eat anything. The death of Udoka had made her lose her appetite. Having had to search for Udoka and also having to dig his grave made her leave late for Ugegbe by some hours. The best decision for her would have been to spend another night in the shack and then continue her journey by early morning the next day, but she was sad, broken and afraid to spend another night in that shack all by herself. So she chose to journey to Ugegbe by that time of the day knowing she will run into the warriors of Nsu. To make up for the hours she lost, she covered some distance by running and some by walking hastily. After some hours she became very hungry, but to sit down and eat was to her a waste of time, so she ate while she walked. On the way she met hunters and palm wine tappers who stared at her inquisitively, wondering what a woman as beautiful as she was could be doing in a forest as dangerous as Utupka. The fact that she devoured some roasted meat while she walked, added to the intrigue of sighting a woman as beautiful as her in Utupka all alone by that hour of the day. To solve the riddle around Obioma, some of the hunters and palm wine tappers concluded that she must have been a spirit who missed her timing to return to the land of the spirits or a woman who just lost her sanity recently.

While they stared at her curiously, she held the machete in her hand firmly, giving the impression that she could take on a troop of warriors by herself. In some cases, the hunters and palm wine tappers had to step away from the narrow paths in the forest for her to pass. She walked hastily, looked mean and greeted no one. Long after she had passed a hunter or palm wine tapper, they would each stand and stared long and hard at her. She turned to look at no one, she just kept walking. Some hunters and palm wine tappers who were convinced they had met a spirit that morning plucked Efe Nwoko leaves and stuck them at the back of their ears to make sure she would not come back to haunt them for having seen a spirit face to face. In those climes, Efe Nwoko was believed to ward off evil spirits. By sun down, Obioma reached Nsu and stopped her Journey. With the last rays of daylight she sought to find a place she could lay her head for the night. She was careful not to let the warriors of Nsu lay their hands on her. She knew with her beauty, they would either rape her to death or take her to their raving mad king. However, Obioma had a challenge in keeping her presence around the borders of Nsu a secret. As soon as she was spotted, tongues began to wag and rumours spread through the village that a young lady as beautiful as nmuo mmiri (water spirit) had been sighted.

While Obioma wandered on the fringes of the village that late evening men and women came out to sneak a peek at her from behind bushes without her knowledge. Eventually Obioma found a cluster of plantain trees and made it her abode for the night. She ate some of the fruits she had, drank her water and lay her head down to rest. By early morning she was startled from sleep by the sound of breaking twigs. Standing around her and staring at her ravishing beauty was a band of Nsu warriors. She had overslept. At no time in her life had she had to cover the distance she walked on foot at one swoop without stopping to rest. In a sudden move, she reached for her machete to fight her way through the warriors, but they had removed both it and her spear. In an unexpected move, she scooped up sand with her hand and threw it into their faces and bolted away. The warriors took a few seconds to recover, giving her some time to run. As Obioma ran, she felt weak and gasped terribly. She slowed down to regain her strength and that was the last thing she remembered doing. Like a log of wood she slumped to the ground. When the warriors came by, they studied her momentarily, lifted her on their shoulders and went into the village with her.

By evening Obioma woke up from her brief coma and her eyes darted about to figure out where she was. She was locked in a cage made with wood and ropes from raffia tree. She tried to stand to her feet to rattle the cage, but she couldn’t. She was too weak, she felt a liquid running down from her eyes and she wiped them off with the back of her hand only to see her hand stained with blood. She was alarmed. ‘What could they have done to me?’ she thought. From her eyes, she bled. She felt a liquid substance running down from her nose; slowly brought her hand to her nose and held it up to her face. Her hand was covered in blood. Outside the cage the warriors who stood watch over her, stepped back as if they could contract whatever she was sick with by standing close enough to her. By now Obioma’s heart was racing. She could not figure out how she came to be sick with that sort of strange sickness. The bleeding didn’t seem to let up. While she pondered what she might have touched in the forest which caused the sickness, the notoriously wicked Eze Nsu (king of Nsu) arrived at the scene and all the warriors prostrated on the ground in deference to him.

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BRAVE HEART: Blood & Fire - Episode 7
Nigeria's leading story blog. Epic Love, Fire, gods, Machete, Blood, Disease, Death, Spirits An African Literary Blog
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