The men watched as the Diviner circled another series of dance steps. The beads, and cowries that clothed her, oscillated, and swerved in rhythm to the wooden gong that vibrated the serenity of the cold night, whose handler was a ghost in the scene. Sulugede, the dance was so-called. It was, it is and will always be the dance of the spirit.
Drunk and possessed by the spirit of the ancestors, the diviner paused and started making gestures with her two hands. The numerous beads lining her wrist jingled with the cowries and both followed their wearer without complaint.
The musical beat of the wooden gong has ceased and the diviner had also paused, listening to the air, trying to pay heed to their advice.
Nobody spoke, nobody dared to speak, for this was one of those moments when the diviner and the spirit of the dead interact.
“Let the child that wrestle with the father be put to shame” she began the incantation, with a voice which cracked alongside the ember glows of the naked yellow fire.
“Let the man that humiliates his household be put to misery. He that doesn’t want the good of others, let no good come his way. Egbe belu, Ugo belu. Nke sina ibeya ama mbe, nku kwa ya (For the hawk and the eagle must perch, if any of them object the perching the other, let it break its wings and die). Our ancestor say, never will light or darkness prevail, for one must balance the other”
The diviner danced again with the flow of an imaginary tone, but this time, she was carried to and fro as if intoxicated by a strong wine.
Uncertainty was prevalent on the faces of her audience, which constitute every chief in Alaocha. The King was there too, standing in the front of his company. His eyes hung weakly on his tanned skin, with the patch of sleepless night, smearing the crease on his chin.
“A na-m anu (I can hear)”
The diviner held her ear lobe, paying attention to the instructions of the spirits. This act by the diviner was familiar to the people. Some said it was at this moment that the diviner receives commands from the gods. While others say it was a time when the diviner gives orders to the gods. Nobody knows; the diviner was believed to be a god that became flesh. People feared and respected her religions power more than the King.
“Igwe” the diviner called, with respect lurking its head in her voice. With all her powers she still respects the monarch.
“Awo adighi agba oso ehihie n’nkiti (It is not vain for a toad to run in the afternoon). Either it’s after its prey or its predator is after it. I know why you have come. The land is bare and unclean. The people have deflected from the ways of our ancestors,”
“Wise one,” the King spoke, clearing his dry throat. “An adage says that, if you wake up and finds a fowl running towards you, that it’s better to start running for dear life, for you never can tell if the fowl has suddenly grown teeth overnight. The impossible has happened. Please, what shall we do? Why has this calamity befallen I and my kinsmen? Why has such taboo surfaced in this peaceful generation?”
“The gods are angry with your household,” the Diviner spoke sadly.
“What have we done wrong, great one? Haven’t we sacrificed the fattest lamb? Haven’t we paid homage to Ala, the god of the soil? We gave Idemili—the river goddess—the ten damsels she asked, where then is our loophole?”
“You and your people ended up making a sacrifice of fools. Listen, this is my message to you from the gods. They said I should tell you, oji ihe nwata welie aka elu. You have something that belongs to a child; give it back to the child, or else—”
“…Or else what?” a rich deep voice behind the king shouted.
Surprised eyes turned to the direction of the one who dares interrupt the greatest dibia (herbalist) of Alaocha.
Three men walked their way to the front, not paying mind to the choirs of surprised eyes that studied them. They were bare chest and the pelt that rounded their waist was that of a leopard. They appeared to be warriors at first—from the sword resting in the scabbard of their waist and the shield they carry—but the white tattoo circling their left eye gave them away. They too were diviners.
“What will you do?” the voice that had spoken earlier asked. The owner appeared to be the leader of the three. Muscular frame; with long dreadlock and unshaved mustache and beard that had two white cowries on it.
“What sacrilege, Mbakwe. How dare you and your disciples walk into my shrine unannounced?” The female diviner asked. Those bright eyes of hers glaring dangerously as the light of the touch danced in them.
“The crown is powerless without the Ofor,” the Man called Mbakwe said, “our land is bare. The protection of the gods has been stolen. The throne has come to you seeking for redemption, and all you could do is to threaten it? What diviner are you? Whose doom’s day do you preach?”
“You did not break the first rule of the sacred shrine to ask me that question, do you?” The female diviner asked. She was still trying to contain her anger despite Mbakwe’s arrogance.
“No, I came here for the King. I haven’t come to watch your lunatic drama.”
Mbakwe turned his attention to the King.
“The spirits of our ancestor has shown me the Ofor. My disciples and I shall embark to retrieve it at your command. But we have come to seek your blessing. We have come so your sanctification will enable us to wield its power and return it to you.”
The King furrow his brow and turned those golden eyes of his to the diviner. His stomach tightened when her laughter suddenly echoed. It was as though the woman has been tickled by an unseen force. He didn’t know if he should believe Mbakwe and his tale. He knew the man very well, but even though Mbakwe had been a trustworthy servant in the past. The reluctance to give him such power was still there. But what other choice does he have? He desperately needs his Ofor back. His kingship was but a wind on a cold rock without it.
Rumors are birds, it’s just a matter of time before the neighboring village learn about the missing Ofor and then, an impending attack would be inevitable.
“I think it’s our only option,” someone said from behind. The King needn’t turn to know who the voice belongs to. It was the voice of Ikenna, his prime minister.
“You have my blessing,” The King returned his attention to Mbakwe, “go and may the light of Amadioha touch your path.”
The King lifted his crown and circled it twice on Mbakwe’s head. This was an act, delegating the power to wield the Ofor to Mbakwe. Now, Mbakwe too could lift the Ofor and wield its power if he finds it.
“Go and return in peace,” The King finished.
“Thank you, your highness, we won’t let you down.”
Mbakwe turned to his disciples and murmured something. The other two hummed in unison and like a flash, they took off with a sprint, into the night which enveloped their shadows.
“You did the right thing,” Someone said from the behind the King. The voice was familiar, but the King could not place the face. He was deeply drowned by the ocean of uncertainty.
“Do you know your problem?” the voice of the diviner seemed to piece the King’s soul as he suddenly remembered her presence and why they had come here at first.
“You surround yourself with evil men,” the diviner was saying “Mark my words. If you do not give that child what is rightfully hers,’ you and your household would be a living ghost,”
“What child are you talking about?” the King asked. The lines on his forehead deepened. He came here to find answers, not to sit on the fence with the four cardinal point meeting on his head.
“Now you are playing ignorant as well,” The diviner said. She bit her lower lips and the cowries on her hair clattered when she shook her head. “The death that will kill a dog does not allow it to perceive the stench of danger. I warned you, beware.”
She finished and walked back into her hut, closing its door with the flap of the curtain made from a woven palm tree.
“It is a blessing in disguise. If Mbakwe hadn’t shown up here; this old woman would have wasted our time in a gibberish puzzle.” Ikenna, prime minister to the king said.
“Let’s hope they find the Ofor, if not, then our reign is over,” The king hissed and rested his crown back on his head.
Ada couldn’t help but smile. Her grip was steady on the broom but she was lost in her little world, to notice the rising dust and the cold harmattan wind.The pattern of her heartbeat had changed long before now. It always does whenever the thought of him pops into her memory.It’s been two days now, yet she still felt his hands strong on her waist, almost as if they were still there. She could feel that glorious tinkling on the back of her head and his words—which carries her world, to that rosy bed where the problems of the outside world could never be remembered—still echoes in her ears. His arms, ironed with battle scars, were unimaginably soft. The strength in them brought home that longing comfort that Ada couldn’t resist, but cling on to. How long has it been since she felt something similar for someone else?Never.Ada giggled when she remembered the first time they first met. It was at Ogba River. He had
The day’s chores had eaten deeply into the evening, and now what was left from the light of the sun, tubes in any directions through the trees’ leaf and grasses, into the river, reflecting bright warm lights and faint rainbow colors. The melodies of the arboreal initially clouding the air, were now retiring to their nests, but the cold harmattan wind seemed anew and prevalent.Ada sat on the cold sand and watched in wonder as her friend immersed herself into the water again. Her head which was the only thing afloat, suspended the dark hair, like fine trends of delicate motile tentacles. Until fifteen to sixteen feet above the surface, the river was bottomless, but Chinwe always maintains her upthrust, like the professional she is.Female swimmers are rare in Alaocha; most people believe that unless one was gifted by the goddess of the seas and rivers— Idemili—they could not go to places in the river where the depth was cupped.The s
The sound of the ikoro (wooden gong), percolated the quiet, pale moon night, following the cheerful cries of the people and giving warmth to the cold harmattan air. The dancers filed themselves in a single column, dancing to the melody of the beat. The jidida on their frictionless waist were shaking vigorously with their body, creating a vibe in the air, and life on the face of the audience. Naked children were roaming playfully and joyfully amid the cold, with the full moon smiling at them; a day like this could not be spent on the lone arms of the bed.The monarchs sat at the far end, spreading their subject with happy smiles, especially those who rained longevity and presented gifts to them. A pat on the back from the King’s Ofor, left those of them who hadn’t come this close to the king, to shower endless praise and thanks to the gods of the land, as if they had just been granted access to see the maker.The King’s cabinet members sat on a b
A huge torch of yellow fire, as large as five average men placed on top of each other, lay resting now, on the center of the circle, to commemorate the blazing kindness of the gods of the land. The jamboree and songs of the people blast the night with melody. The drums, the Ogene (metal gong), the xylophone and every sweet talking instruments, played so well, that the burning woods joined the harmony as they gave out fairies of floating sparks. The festival had taken another turn as those who were not gyrating, were drinking or making bolus from the pounded yam, and swallowing the round ball, after covering it with the sauce of the egwusi soup. No running children to disturb the dancers, every one of them were busy gulping any edible delicacy they could lay hands on.Ada was tilting her head over the crowd, trying to find the loose black hair of her friend. There were oceans of black hair here, but she knew how to pick out Chinwe’s, from the crowd anytime. Just find the
“Who walk in the comfort of the night? Show yourself or I will strike you with my spear, the gods stake me if I miss the first blow,” The hardened voice of one of the night’s guard bellowed. There were five of them visible by the gloomy yellow torches, which lined the two hands of the narrow road, driving the shadows behind the palm trees which also stood as pavement. One would be a fool to think that the five guards were all there is. No one knows actually, but stories have it that the night’s guard are hundreds, most of whom were hiding in stations where the eyes cannot see. Other stories have it that some of the night guards are spirit born, who do not take titles or household names. That they are simply born out of the mercies of the night, to protect the Ofor, which was and still is the mantle of leadership in the kingdom. All these stories, told to children, most of them told by parent or village raconteur, who probably have never seen a night guard all
It was the dimples on those smooth cheeks and the way she speaks that he admired the most. Those whistling words that are always soothing to a grudging heart. No, that was not it; she had acted rudely last night when he presented his humble proposal. Okay, maybe it’s a far-cry from her smile, maybe it’s the mortar of kindness lurking in her actions, mixed with that fragile baby looks, which always flush with her eyelid. She had winked at him last night hadn’t she? Maybe or maybe not or maybe I am being a goat head for thinking she would want anything to do with me again. Not after all these passing moons and all that had happened.The Prince heaved and steered on his bed, the fur mattress from Umumba clan was the most expensive and finest in the whole Kingdom, but beneath that softness, he could feel some stinging hardness on his skin which had nothing to do with the wooden frame of the bed.Somewhere outside a cock crowed loudly, announcing the
Ada sat down on the cold morning shore of Ogba River, with her clay pot underneath her morning glowing skin. She wished she could be angry about how things had turned out, but she wasn’t; she had been angry long enough that being angry now was quite difficult. The sadness within her wasn’t even enough to pull tears from the well of the lachrymal, even if she wanted to, the pool of tears was suffering a heavy drought. This time she sat alone with her conscience dealing terribly with her thoughts. The ‘What ifs’ and the ‘What should have been’ kept floating everywhere in her head. She wished it was just a single thought; at least a solution might be lying in wait.Over the horizon of the east and piercing the leaves of the numerous trees; as if mocking her to smile with its ray, was the yellow glow of the sun. The birds still rested in their nest but their silent songs could still be heard, atoned with the cricket’s crisps which b
“Thank the gods you’re here. I have been searching the world for you.” The Prince panted haggardly like a swimmer who hadn’t seen the shoreline until now. Nothing about his posture was welcoming, the crease lining his young face, mirrored the worries that were obviously building inside of him. For the wealthiest and the most adorable young man in the entire kingdom, he was rather dressed like a commoner, with the girdle of his sword rounding the small pelt on his waist, and exposing strong muscular laps, almost like that of a yam tuber. The three birthmarks on both sides of his chest, were almost fading, a contrast to the identical ones on his left upper arm. His hair had grown long or maybe she hadn’t paid attention to notice them before. Their dark rich color, suggested that water might have imbued them one or two times, but they remained rough as if the only comb they knew were the grace of the five fingers.“What do you want?” Ada