BRAVE HEART: Blood & Fire - Episode 29

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Nigeria's leading fictional story blog. celebration, king, warriors, family members, village square, pregnant, money, kola nut and palm wine, family.

“Where is Ugochi? Will she not come out to join the celebration? I just don’t understand her, any woman in Ezele would kill to have you after what you achieved in the battles at Umueze,” Anya quizzed, wondering why Ugochi had chosen to shun the celebration. “I wish I knew why she has not shown up yet. Last night I went to see her but was told she had gone to supply red oil to buyers at her maternal home. I was hoping she would come to see me early in the morning. Well, she likes to be chased, she will get exactly that when we are done here,” Ikechi said. The celebration of the warriors who helped in the decimation of king Agadagu was done with much pomp and pageantry. Masquerades and dance groups jostled to outdo each other. Maidens swung their waists in dance with the intention to nail down suitors after the celebration. There were rivers of palm wine to drink, baskets of fufu and tons of bushmeat to devour. Ezele had so much reasons to be happy and celebrate. Their lands in the hands of king Agadagu had been recovered. The heroics of Ikechi and their other warriors had spread wide. Everyone knew Ezele was no longer the sort of land to intimidate and take what was theirs.

Ikechi was unsettled, almost everyone in Ezele was at the village square except for Ugochi and her family members. He had left Umueze with her on his mind. To be ignored by her since he came back made him sad. He could not leave the square to go look for her; he was the center of the celebration. However, his mind was filled with the thought of her. All the other warriors had their girlfriends or fiancĂ©es around except him. When he could no longer bear it, he called a boy and sent him to Ugochi’s father’s house to find out if all was well with her. Unknown to Ikechi, Ichie Nkwocha and his son Ejike were in a meeting at that point in time with Ugochi’s father. They had seized the moment when everyone was at the square to sneak into Echegiri house to tell him that Ugochi was pregnant for Ejike, and that they were willing to take her for a wife. Ugochi’s father, Echegiri, went berserk when he heard that. He had been looking forward to give his daughter to Ikechi. The news of Ugochi’s pregnancy ripped holes in his dreams about becoming father in-law to Ikechi.

Echegiri, was so heartbroken that he drew his machete and almost lumped off Ejike’s head. However, Ejike and his father had come prepared; they knew Echegiri would be disappointed to hear of his daughter being pregnant for Ejike. While Echegiri’s younger brother restrained him from shedding blood, Nkwocha quickly laid out small bags of money on the floor and announced, “Echegiri, this is the money price for what my son denied you and your daughter. Please do not mistake this as bride price. We are truly sorry for what happened and we want to take responsibility for it. Who would not want his daughter to marry Ikechi? Please let us cover this up and make sure Ikechi never hears of it. He has tasted blood in battle and has many men loyal to him, he might kill Ejike or even Ugochi if he finds out.” Echegiri did not know when he dropped the machete in his hand and his younger brother removed it from the scene.

He had known that the Nkwocha family was wealthy, but had not at any time seen them flaunt their wealth for any purpose. He inched closer, touched the money bags and the sad look on his face gave way to glee. His wife who was equally disappointed at the news of Ugochi’s pregnancy for Ejike, was overwhelmed by the amount of money Nkwocha laid out on the floor. She looked at the money and then at her husband. Echegiri touched the money bags and brushed his hands over the currency they contained. Just then the young man Ikechi sent to Echegiri’s house arrived. From some distance away he greeted Echegiri and his guests; before he could make known the message he bore, Echegiri ran out of his Obiri (lounging hut) and led the boy straight out of his compound. He did not want him to see the money on the floor. “Uche, I am afraid I cannot let you stay at this time. I happen to be handling an important business with my guests. I would suggest you go have fun at the village square and come back tomorrow,” Echegiri said.

“Nna anyi, I have not come to eat in your house. Ikechi sent me to find out why Ugochi has not joined him at the village square,” the boy said. “Sorry about that. I thought you had come for your favourite delicacy…” “Why would I at this time, there is so much to eat at the village square. Nna anyi, what do I tell Ikechi?” the boy interjected. “Ugochi is not yet back from her maternal home. As soon as she returns, she would come to see Ikechi,” Echegiri replied. The boy had no time to wait for further pleasantries; there was so much food beckoning at him at the village square, and so bolted off immediately. Echegiri’s head had been turned by the money. Without delay he sent Ugochi back to her maternal home and asked her to remain there until he sorted things out with Ikechi. At the village square, Ikechi relaxed a bit when he heard what Echegiri told the boy. With his mind off Ugochi for the time being, he turned his attention to the dance and wrestling matches at the square, enjoying the entertainment they offered. By the time the celebration was over, Ikechi was half drunk and over fed. When he rose to stagger home, many young girls were happy to accompany him to his house.

In Umueze, Obioma and her father, Mazi Udeagu, were done with fixing their dilapidated huts and reed fence. The youth of Umueze had done much more that they offered to do earlier. With little left to do in Umueze, Obioma and her father decided to bury Obioma’s mother’s clothes and some of her other personal effects in a grave, just to have a grave to point to and say there lay Ugonwanyi, who was burnt to death by king Agadagu. Days later Obioma and her father left for Ugegbe to begin a new life. Her return to Ugegbe was a big celebration. After they had settled in, Obioma and her father unveiled their plan to make Ugegbe a great city. Back in Ezele, days passed and there was still no sign of Ugochi. Ikechi was no fool, he could tell something was going on; and so one early morning he stormed out of his hut to go pay Echegiri a visit. On his way, he ran into Echegiri coming to his house with some of his family members and with loads of gifts. “Nna anyi, ndewo (our father, I greet), I am on my way to your house,” Ikechi said, wondering where he was going to that early morning with so much gifts. “Great warrior, we are on our way to your house. You see, our hearts have become one. The morning I prepared to see you, is the same morning you decided to see me. Please lead the way let us go to your house,” Echegiri said.

Ikechi could not tell what was going on, he was the one meant to take gifts to Echegiri’s house to ask for Ugochi’s hand in marriage and not Echegiri coming to his house with gifts. He was certain that whatever reason Echegiri brought that much gifts to visit him, would not be outside his intention to marry Ugochi. At his house the gifts were set down. Though it was still too early for drinks and kola nuts, yet Ikechi insisted on offering his guests kola nut and palm wine. “We will never leave our traditions and follow alien practices. You are my guests, and according to our custom, I must offer you something,” Ikechi said, persuading his guests to accept the kola nut and palm wine. Echegiri and his relatives accepted them and in accordance with their tradition, prayed over them. After the prayers, Echegiri began, “Ikechi, I am here this morning to see you in the company of my brothers and kinsmen to offer you these gifts for your heroics during the war at Umueze. You and your men have raised our horns high and made us the envy of our neighbors. Today disputes between lands are brought to Ezele for mediation. You made it happen my son. I and my people want to say, thank you.”

Ikechi bowed his head and humbly received the expressed gratitude, adding, “We prevailed against Agadagu because the gods favoured us. I am only a man, if others had not done their part, we would have lost the war.” With proverbs Echegiri continued, “The toad does not run in the afternoon for no reason. When we offer sacrifices and do not see the vulture, then we know something bad has happened in the land of the spirits.” Echegiri paused and cleared his throat. Ikechi could guess he had not said that which brought him to his house. “Ike, you have been waiting for Ugochi to return from her maternal home for days… you are not happy, we know. Ehmm, that ripped palm fruit you saw in my house, is no longer there. While you were fighting in Umueze, another came and plucked it. I hate to tell you that Ugochi will not be getting married to you.” Days of wondering what might be really going on had prepared Ikechi’s heart for the sad news. He lowered his head and smiled wryly. “Who plucked the palm fruit I left behind?” he asked, still looking on the ground. Echegiri weighed his answers. He would not want to lie to him, after all, he would find out later. “Ejike Nkwocha is the man.” “Why would Ugochi wait all these years for me and suddenly follow Ejike? Nna anyi (our father), is there something you are not telling me?” “Ikechi, the ways of women are strange, I have been married for years and yet I have not understood the female folk. Her reasons for leaving you for Ejike are best known to her. When you two see, please ask her,” Echegiri replied diplomatically.

“Every night during the battles I dreamt of her; for her to have refused to even see me since I returned is too hard for me to accept. Other women have been with their men since we returned; I will take it that she no longer wants me. But I will ask you this one question, was Ugochi forced to follow Ejike because of how rich the Nkwocha family is or was it her decision?” “It was entirely her decision.” Ikechi pondered the answer for a while and then said, “If indeed it is her decision to follow Ejike, then I will take it that the gods have never wanted me to marry her. Nna anyi, I have heard you; let Ugochi follow the man she loves.” Echegiri did not expect the matter to be settled that easily. He had thought Ikechi would go into rage and make threats. Days passed and Ikechi wondered about Obioma Udeagu. She had confessed her love to him, and had it not been for Ugochi, he would have accepted. He was minded to go look for her wherever she may be and ask her if she still had a space in her heart for him. However, during night times when he pondered that option, he was put off by the prophecy which said she would be killed by the man she would love.     STORY CONTINUES...
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BRAVE HEART: Blood & Fire - Episode 29
Nigeria's leading fictional story blog. celebration, king, warriors, family members, village square, pregnant, money, kola nut and palm wine, family. An African Literary Blog
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