BRAVE HEART: Blood & Fire - Episode 9

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Nigeria's leading story blog. Epic Story, Love, Fire, gods, Blood, Pregnant Women, King, River, Native Doctor

Okiti staggered around and let out a bloodcurdling cry, “Ihe meey!” The cry was a dirge. It was only used when evil had happened or was on the prowl. Eze Nsu was startled, the words and visions of Okiti were only handled with levity by fools. Those who did not heed his warnings were known to have suffered greatly for their stubbornness. “Okiti, what do you see?! Is this woman of the gods?! Should I quickly offer sacrifice to the gods to appease them?” asked Eze Nsu with his face blemished with the look of worry. “Great king, the things I see are hard to explain. You must leave now to see Utaka (another native doctor) from whose mouth you shall hear what is about to happen to Nsu and the lands nearby. The gods have forbidden me from revealing it to you.” Turning toward the direction of the ancestral shrine of Nsu community, Okiti yelled once again, “Ihe meey!” By now the warriors/guards who were present were so afraid that one could smell fear oozing from them. Eze Nsu hurried off from the bamboo cage with his guards at his tail. Okiti stood to his spot, visibly shaken by what he had seen. He was a smart seer. He had saved his neck by sending Eze Nsu to another native doctor. Had he told the king what was coming, he would have lost his neck for it. When Okiti got home that night, he asked his three wives and all his children to pack their loads. He was going to lead them out of Nsu by midnight; only a fool would remain in Nsu after what he had seen.

In the bush which led toward Azi River and from which a barren land stretched till it bordered Ugebge, the evil forest, Obioma and the guard stopped at the location where she heard the voices of the five herbs. “It is here! The herbs are here. The voices have grown louder. Find the herbs warrior!” Obioma demanded. “I do not have eyes and ears like yours. I cannot tell Utazi from Arigbe in such a pitch dark night, wise one!” Obioma was rapidly losing strength. To keep herself from collapsing, she sat on the ground and allowed her ears to lead her to the plants they were looking for. The warrior felt ticklish movement in his nostrils and wiped at them with the back of his hand; a thick bloody fluid glued to his hand. It was very dark in the bush, he could not tell what it was, but all his senses suggested it was blood. He had begun to bleed to death. He moved closer to Obioma, squatted beside her and whispered, “Wise one, I think I have begun to bleed as well. How long have I got to live?” “As long as I can manage to live.” Ignoring the terrified warrior, Obioma crawled on her knees toward a cluster of plants some distance away. When she got closer to them she followed her sense of hearing and picked the loudest plant in their midst. Pausing momentarily she crawled to another direction and picked another plant.

About quarter of an hour later, she found all the five plants. Picking leaves from each plant; she squeezed them to pulp in her palm and put the paste she made from them into her mouth. She gave the warrior some of the leafs and asked him to squeeze them to pulp and eat, and then laid herself on the ground. She could not tell how long she lay unconscious on the ground. But at some point in the night she snapped out of sleep when she heard the shrill voice of her mother laying curses on the gods of Umueze. Panting heavily, her eyes darted about the bush, focusing on nothing. The night was too dark to pick out anything and the sky was moonless. She could hear the loud snoring of the warrior by her side. The herbs had saved them both. She reached out and tapped the warrior on the head and he groggily woke and then realized he was still in the bush with Obioma. “We are in the bush,” he whispered. “We never left it,” Obioma replied sarcastically. “I want you to get up on your feet and head back to your village. It is time for me to continue my journey alone,” she continued. The warrior was shocked. He was not sure he had heard Obioma right, so he asked, “Did you just asked me to go back to my village at this time of the night?” “Yes I did. When you get back to your family, take them and run as far as you can from Nsu. I am coming back with both the dead and the living to lay it bare.”

“I see indeed you are a messenger of the gods. You were only pretending to be sick when actually you were testing me. Did I pass the test? Are the gods pleased with my service to you?” “I am not a messenger of the gods. My name is Obioma Udeagu, a descendant of lion slayers in Umueze. I am a woman on a mission to avenge my loved ones whom Agadagu and his gods burnt alive.” “If you were telling the truth, you would have known that Umueze is that way and not the way you are headed.” “I am going to Ugebge to raise an army…” The warrior began to laugh at her. “Now I find you amusing. There is no one left in Ugebge who can raise a machete in battle. Have you not heard?” “Heard what?” “I see, you are not a messenger of the gods, but the gods favour you.” “I have no favour from the gods. I am an enemy of the gods. What happened in Ugegbe? What have I not heard?” “Ugebge is no longer what it used to be. Some years ago…” The warrior lowered his voice in obvious deference to the name of the god he was about to mention, “…Kitipka paid Ugebge an ugly visit. By the time he was done with the land, all its glory was lost.”

Obioma stood to her feet, towering high above the warrior who sat on the ground, not minding the thick darkness around them and what or who might be in it, she said as loud as she could, “I am a woman far more dangerous than Kitipka. If the despicable god destroyed Ugegbe, I Obioma Udeagu will rebuild it. And when I am done, I will match this way with an army. Warrior, go home now, take what you can and run. When I come back this way, I will not be this merciful.” The warrior sprang to his feet and stood before Obioma as if to challenge her to a fight. “I have seen many people led to death by this sort of rage. Please don’t go to Ugebge, Kitipka is still there. It is not a place you would want to go to now. I know the sort of cruelty handed to the common man by the gods of our lands. It can make a man as mad as you are now. I have seen pregnant women sacrificed to Ogugu. In a few cases I was the one asked to torch the pregnant women. I believe my wife has failed to give me male children because of the curses from those pregnant women. However, as much as the act of burning pregnant women in fire is callous and evil, I will not  challenge the gods in a combat.”

It was dark, so the warrior could not see Obioma’s face. Tears were running down her face. The account of pregnant women burnt by fire to Ogugu tore her heart apart. She clasped her hands together in a bit not to attack the warrior for participating in the heinous crime against women. When she had calmed a bit, she asked, “By whose command were the pregnant women burnt alive? “Eze Nsu of course. In fact now it is our tradition to appease Ogugu with pregnant women whenever he goes on his killing rampage.” “When I come back, I will impale Eze Nsu on a tree in Ogugu’s shrine and have pregnant women stone him to pulp.” With that said, Obioma turned and headed toward Azi River. Her fear of the night had fled. Her intention was to reach Azi before the first light of dawn and address the souls of men and women who were burnt alive by the shore of the river. She would ask them to rise and join her in her crusade against the gods, the kings and priests who commit pogrom against humanity. As she hurried toward Azi River, she raised her voice and sung an ode to all the men and women who had been torched like her mother and Chume’s body.

Far behind her, the warrior ran toward his village. In his mouth was efe nwoko leaf to ward off evil spirits who might appear to attack him that night. As he ran, his feet pounded the earth and his broad chest pulsated in muscular fashion. All his life he had lived in fear of the gods, his king and the priests; but that night, a woman he had earlier mistaken for a messenger of the gods had helped him find a better purpose for living. He will join her in her crusade and not only that; he will persuade his colleagues who detested the cruelty of the gods, but were too afraid to speak up to join him. By sundown the next day he would lead his family and those men to Ugegbe to offer whatever help he could to Obioma.

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item An African Literary Blog: BRAVE HEART: Blood & Fire - Episode 9
BRAVE HEART: Blood & Fire - Episode 9
Nigeria's leading story blog. Epic Story, Love, Fire, gods, Blood, Pregnant Women, King, River, Native Doctor An African Literary Blog
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