BRAVE HEART: Blood & Fire - Episode 33

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Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - gods and kings, river, blood, rivers, war, kings, medicine men, spirit, headhunters.

Ikechi, Nwandu and his head hunters had to go to Azi River first, Ikechi was minded to appeal to the river to help bring back Obioma. “Azi, in the battles I have fought so far, I have come to see that you are not an evil river as we were all made to believe. Obioma Udeagu, who you sent me to protect has met with death in a manner we mortals cannot understand. She should not die like this. If you do not help bring her back, the blood of the men who fought to free our lands from the oppression of wicked gods and kings, would be in vain. Help great river. Rise in your power and give Obioma back to us. Stir yourself in anger and rise to destroy them who seek to make us their slaves. Udeagu has gone to war. His heart is broken. There is very little chance he will survive the army Ezeugo and his fellow kings have assembled. Great river please stop him. River of justice! This day I ask you to show to all that you had nothing to do with the blood of men and women which were offered here in your name. Show all that you are a good river. Let all know that Urionu, Imo, Abadaba and Nwa ogba are not more merciful than you are. Yes, they are not better rivers than you are. I go to meet Udeagu, that we may properly plan on how to destroy our enemies, but without Obioma on our side, who amongst us would our enemies fear?” Ikechi asked. With his arms spread wide.

The river was calm as though it had not heard one word of all Ikechi said until he began to mention other rivers famous for helping the weak and forsaken. His speech was aimed at stirring Azi River by comparing it to other rivers. The surface of the river glowed as if the sun was under it. The bones of the dead in it were swept out with amazing force. It seemed as though the river had grown tired of being seen as a bloodthirsty river. It possibly had thought about its battered image and the bones of men, women and children which lay by its banks and shoreline to testify to its cruelty. It possibly wanted to make up for the horrifying acts committed in its name. While Ikechi and his colleagues watched, the river swept itself clean, and for once in centuries, began to glow. There was no man alive or dead who could recall having seen the bed of the river. The reason for that was for ages, humans had been burnt and buried in the river. Their remains discoloured the river, and over many years its once bright water changed to black colour as more human remains were dumped into it month after month.

Nwandu and his men were obviously pleased with Ikechi’s speech. They could see that the young hunter hand much more than killing skills. He was a good orator; with his words he had whipped the river into action to redeem its name. Convinced that he had persuaded Azi to help them, Ikechi took off with Nwandu and his headhunters to reach Udeagu before he would lead the men with him to death. In Nsu, word had reached Ikechi’s fighters that they were needed, and so they left for Aja Ala, hoping to catch up with Udeagu. Ikechi did not want full scale war, until he was certain Obioma was gone and would not come back. In Ugegbe rumours were rife. Some claimed, that Udeagu went to war because Nnamdi had been kidnapped by some kings. Others claimed Udeagu needed to present the heads of kings to his daughter as trophy on her wedding day. Thankfully none of the rumours circulating in and outside Ugegbe claimed that Obioma was dead.

To keep the people of Ugegbe from finding out what actually was going on, Nwako had his warriors hurriedly built a reed fence around Udeagu’s compound. Using palm tree fronds, the warriors raised a bushy wall around Udeagu’s compound. All his neighbours who had heard Udeagu crying that morning were rounded up and locked away. Nwako did not want them to tell anyone what they might know. Inside the compound, Okiti and Utaka, dug deep into their charms and magical powers to reach Obioma’s long gone soul. After hours of labouring, Okiti, who happened to be a much more seasoned medicine man realized that a spirit was with them in the room. When he told Utaka what he had seen, the two medicine men decided to confront the spirit to find out what its mission was. Alas, the spirit was Obioma’s departed soul. It was in tears as it watched its dead body lying cold on the mat. “Every dead soul, knows what killed it. Okiti, ask her what or who killed her,” Utaka suggested. “Obioma Udeagu, we want to know, who killed you?” Okiti inquired of her. The spirit shook its head and said nothing. Utaka hurried to lit some powerful leaves, whose smoke was believed to unbind chained souls of the dead. “If her mouth has been gaged in the spirit not to reveal who killed her, the smoke from these leaves will open her mouth. Okiti ask her again who killed her!” Utaka ordered, almost beside himself.

“The sunshine of Umueze, how did you meet death? Tell us! Who killed you?” The spirit opened its mouth and spoke words but the medicine men could not hear her. Utaka threw himself on the floor and began to wail, “Obioma is gone! Anyanwu ututu (morning sun of) Umueze is gone! We cannot hear her voice even with these burning leaves!” Okiti had to shut up his colleague before people could hear him crying. When he had done that he turned his attention to reading the lips of Obioma’s spirit. Since it began to speak, it had not stopped. It seemed it had so much to tell them, but the problem was that they could not hear its voice. By sundown, the two medicine men were still trying to communicate with Obioma’s spirit. At Aja Ala, Ikechi finally caught up with Udeagu and his own fighters, making ready to cross into Ezeugo’s land. Already word had reached the kings that Udeagu was coming for them. They were surprised when their scouts confirmed what they heard. “Why is he coming to fight us? Our plan to kill his daughter has not even left this palace. Why is he here with his warriors?’ Ezeoha of Ogbe, wondered aloud.

When the kings finally heard that the warrior known as ‘ghost’ (Ikechi) was with Udeagu, they knew they had to rally their fighters and meet Udeagu. They all had heard how Ikechi and the men of Ezele moved through their enemies like wild fire by night. While they prepared to go to war, Nnamdi was secretly sent to Ugegbe to poison Obioma. The kings were not aware that she was already dead.  They had only heard the rumour that Udeagu came to take their heads to present to her as trophies on her wedding day. While the plans to wage war near the borders of Aja Ala took shape on both sides, Nnamdi and some ten warriors, raced down to Ugegbe, hoping to reach there by morning of the next day. They did not look like men on a mission to kill. They had loads of gifts and dressed elaborately. They gave the impression that Nnamdi was going down to Ugegbe, to present Udeagu items with which to prepare for his imminent wedding to Obioma.

The news that Udeagu had matched out to kill the kings had hardened Nnamdi to go ahead with the assignment to kill Obioma. His fears were that, Udeagu might have been informed about what the kings wanted him to do. He had taken his time to rehearse lies which he would tell Obioma to debunk the claims that he was conferring with kings to kill her. He knew it would be a hard sell, but he counted on the fact that Obioma was hopelessly in love with him and would find it hard to harm him. He was determined to cry, invoke curses on himself and even take oaths, to persuade Obioma that he knew nothing about some kings planning to use him to kill her. While Nnamdi journeyed down to Ugegbe with his heart racing fast. Ikechi was on his knees pleading with Udeagu not to engage the kings yet. He seemed like the only man in their camp who wanted the war put on hold. It was unlike him. The other warriors could not wait to stain their blades with the blood of kings. They did not know why Udeagu had come to wage war against the kings who stationed themselves in Ezeugo’s palace. But whatever it was, it made Udeagu sad and the warriors were willing to kill for it.

It took Ikechi recounting what happened at Azi River before Udeagu could be persuaded to wait till morning before engaging the kings. The story gave Udeagu hope that perhaps, his daughter would come back as she did at Umueze, during the battle with Agadagu. To forestall being attacked in the night, Ikechi pushed warriors into Ezeugo’s territory. What he did not lack was fighters. Nsu was glad to send warriors, Umueze send warriors, the young king in Obolo, sent countless medicine men and warriors. Ugegbe sent almost every man who could bear a machete or shoot an arrow. Aja Ala, who had once again become wary of their evil neighbor, Ezeugo, sent out their sons and also their daughters. Nwandu had to send back the girls of Aja Ala who came to fight. “The sight of a man dying or taking a life in battle is not for women. Go back home and nurse your grandmothers. Allow the men to do the fighting. Every daughter of Aja Ala who I find in this camp by morning will die by man hands,” Nwandu warned the girls sternly. However, they would not listen. Their leader stood and asked, “Is Obioma Udeagu not a woman? She fought and freed our lands. Why can’t we fight to stop Ezeugo from making us his slaves?!” Udeagu had to plead with the young ladies before they could return home.

By the first gleam of dawn, Nnamdi arrived Ugegbe. The look of Ugegbe made his heart quake. The land had swiftly shifted from preparations for his wedding with Obioma to war preparations. Battlements had been raised. Men who could not satisfactorily explain their mission in Ugegbe were rounded up. Able bodied men from beyond Aja Ala were seen as spies. Nwako was doing a good job keeping watch over the land. There were warriors everywhere giving the impression they would spill blood at the slightest provocation. Nwako had to go to that length to scare away assassins from Ezeugo. His plan worked just fine. He had men, women, boys and girls pointing out every man who was from Ezeugo’s kingdom or from the regions where the four kings ruled. Right before Nnamdi, people he knew were from Ogbe, who had arrived for the wedding were beaten silly and locked up. Nnamdi almost turned back and bolted away. He felt he had been caught. His legs could no longer move toward Udeagu’s house. His mind began to play trick on him. He saw in every man or woman who looked his way, the suspicion that he had betrayed them. His conscience judged him ruthlessly. “I think they know what I have come here to do. I want to go now,” Nnamdi whispered to the ten warriors who were with him.

“You cannot go back now. If you do, they will suspect you,” the leader of the ten warriors said. “I don’t want to do this anymore,” Nnamdi insisted. “You must do it. Do you think it would be easy to kill Obioma. When you were grinding Nsonma, you should have known this part would not be as pleasurable as her wide spread legs. You have taken her virginity, I mean the virginity of a princess, there is not going back. Be going,” the warrior demanded. Nnamdi headed toward Udeagu’s house with a heavy heart and heavy legs. When they reached Udeagu’s house, he was shocked to see a reed fence around it and a teeming number of warriors. The look on their faces was not friendly at all. “They know. They know what I am here to do,” Nnamdi said to the men with him. They ignored him. When they reached the reed fence, only Nnamdi was allowed in. He didn’t like that at all. He could tell something was wrong. His heart was beating very fast and everyone who looked at him seemed to accuse him of some wrong.

Inside the compound Nwako, Utaka and Okiti were seated, talking in whispers. When they saw Nnamdi, they acted as though they knew he was coming. Perhaps Okiti and Utaka had read the lips of Obioma’s ghost very well. “Our in-law! You have come well, Okiti stood up to greet Nnamdi. He smiled and greeted Okiti, “Great seer, I am honoured to see your face this early morning. How is my sunshine and Nna anyi Udeagu? I came with some men and plenty items, but the warriors would not allow me bring them in.” “Warriors! Allow the men and their gifts in!” Okiti shouted. The men who came with Nnamdi and the gifts were brought in. Namdi’s eyes darted in every direction. He was not comfortable at all. Nwako and Utaka joined Okiti and took Nnamdi aside, they were going to explain to him that he would not be able to see Obioma or her father when a loud, unusual sneeze was heard from Obioma’s hut. Everyone present shook, particularly those who had been around since the previous day. Okiti and Utaka exchanged looks and ran toward Obioma’s hut. Nnamdi and the men with him could see clearly that something was wrong. He tried to follow Okiti and Utaka to Obioma’s hut, but Nwako restrained him.  STORY CONTINUES...

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item An African Literary Blog: BRAVE HEART: Blood & Fire - Episode 33
BRAVE HEART: Blood & Fire - Episode 33
Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - gods and kings, river, blood, rivers, war, kings, medicine men, spirit, headhunters. An African Literary Blog
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