BY UGOCHUKWU SMART
Udoka laid on the floor, shielding her daughter as mud slings were thrown at them. She felt pained, how could anyone think that she was responsible for the death of her step son. A boy she had loved with all her heart, and who loved her back.
Adaku: “Mother, what have we done to deserve this treatment? I am so tired, father doesn’t want us, we should leave. It seems I am less of a child because, I am a girl, so let’s leave” she whispered to her mother as tears clouded her eyes.
Udoka: “Ssssh my child, don’t talk so. You are a princess, this is your father’s house, and you cannot run away from it” she said in soft, low tones.
Ego Oyibo: “Kill her, she must not live, while my son is no more, let her die, she and her daughter” she cried, tugging the Abada wrapper her husband, King Emelu had on. But one of the council members, who held the office of the Ezemmuo,
objected to Ego Oyibo’s cries. He demanded that the chief priest be called, and incantations be made to ask the gods who killed the little prince.
The chief priest was called. The bells dangling from his red garment announced his presence. He was an old bent back, man, who walked, leaning on a walking stick. He had a little boy by his side that carried his bag, and learned at his feet.
Chief Priest: “Igbundu! Igbundu!” he cried out in a strong voice that belied his age. The whole place fell silent; no one talked when the chief priest was talking. Even the king was reverent to him.
Chief Priest: “Woman, queen of Igbundu, wife of Emelu Eweliku 1 of Igbundu, Udoka! Udoka! How many times have I called you?”
Udoka: “Eyes of the gods, you have called me just twice” she said raising her head a little upwards.
Chief Priest: “Did you kill the little prince?” he asked
Udoka: “I did not; he was like my own son. I took care of him most times” she said but Ego Oyibo jumped in;
Ego Oyibo: “Liar! You killed him” she yelled, but the chief priest silenced her with an evil look, his black eye ball went up and there was only the white of his eyes. Fear descended on her, she kept quiet but didn’t stop eyeing Udoka. The chief priest sat on the ground, and emptied the content of his goatskin bag on the ground. He took four cowries in his hand and began to roll them, while he muttered incantations. Then he threw the cowries on the ground, and looked up at the people.
Chief Priest: “The woman is innocent” the priest said and hit his walking stick on the ground, after which he began to walk away. But the people were not satisfied, how could a healthy child just die without cause. It must be the senior wife, Queen Udoka, she must have been so jealous, she had no son, and she couldn’t give birth again.
Emelu: “Eyes of the gods, you cannot be right this time” he shouted at the departing figure, the chief priest only turned and laughed loudly before continuing his journey. The Ezemmuo walked up to the king and advised him to allow the chief priest’s judgment to stand.
Ego Oyibo: “ Ezemmuo he is old and making mistakes, we should seek the chief priest of Idemili” she said hysterically.
Ezemmuo: “ mechi onu gi (shut up your mouth) woman, you have obviously gone mad. But I will excuse your petulance because you just lost your child” he said, then turned to the king and said;
Ezemmuo: “My king, I know you are in grief, you have gone through a lot to have a male child. But Ego Oyibo is fertile; she will bear you another son”
Emelu: “No way, we will consult Ezidemili,
he will tell me the truth” he said and went into the palace. The Ezemmuo shook his head in resignation and left for his heart. He had seen foolish kings who allowed their wives rule them, and they never ended well.
Meanwhile, in the house of Azagba, Emelu’s older brother rejoiced with his friend, over the death of his nephew the prince. Azagba had long eyed the throne, it was his right, he told all who cared to listen. The thing is, when his father was bout dying, he was away in the far north, making wealth. His father died, and his brother was coronated before he came back to Igbundu. No matter how he yelled and protested, Igbundu already had a king. He saw his brother as a supplanter, and has always schemed to push him off the throne. Therefore, the news of the prince demise was great news, and he told himself he would make sure Emelu didn’t have another child. Azagba looked at all the people sitting with him, they were his loyal friends, and he was going to make sure they were part of his cabinet, he would chase out Emelu’s cabinet when he became King. If Emelu died, he would inherit his wives, and he couldn’t wait to make Ego Oyibo his, as for Udoka, if she didn’t die at the hands of her husband, then she would be a servant in the palace.
The chief priest of Idemili was consulted by the king and some of his council members. The chief priest sat on a goat skin mat when the entourage came in. He looked at them with a smile on his face, for they had brought him plenty tubers of yams, pounds of bush meat, kegs of palm wine, and he was sure money would follow. He put his hand under his jaw thoughtfully, he wondered why the king would doubt the other chief priest’s words, it was like he desperately wanted the queen Udoka to pay for his son’s death.
Ezidemili: “Welcome my King” he said, as he stood up. The priest was a lean and tall man, when he stood up, he towered over the King.
Emelu: “Ezidemili, I need your help, I want the killer of my son to pay”
Ezidemili: “Wouldn’t you want to know your son’s killer; it is possible that the chief priest was right. If the one who is bigger than me says that Udoka is innocent, what do I have to say?”
Emelu: “She is not, I have seen her disposition since I married Ego Oyibo, she has been jealous, and she surely killed my son.” He said empathically. Ezidemili did not know what to believe, he only believed on the powers of Idemili to fish out the culprit.
Ezidemili: “Bring the woman to the shrine, he will swear before Idemili, no one can lie to the gods” he said, and the king left with his entourage to bring Udoka to the shrine.
While the king had gone to consult Idemili, Udoka and her daughter were kept in the dungeon where enemies of the crown were kept. Adaku kept crying to her mother that she was hungry, and the mosquitoes were biting hard. Udoka cried in her heart, here was a child who had never known hardship all her life, now at the mercy of hunger and mosquitoes.
Udoka: “My daughter, things have changed. Your brother is dead and I am being accused, so the life you once knew is gone, maybe forever. You have to be start learning to brave the odds, I see hard days ahead my daughter. Stay strong, and if I die, promise me this thing”
Adaku: “What mother?”
Udoka: “Promise me that you will not allow your gender keep you down, you are same with a man, and you can do anything you put your mind to do. You were made by your chi for things other than giving birth to male children. Promise me”
Adaku: “I promise, mother. But mother you will not die, what will I do without you in this world” she wailed.
Udoka: “Everything, you are Adaku, and you are strong” she said and began to wipe the tears from her daughter’s eyes.
The king returned and ordered that Udoka be bundled to Idemili shrine to swear to the gods. Most of the villagers who weren’t on their farmlands walked behind Udoka, singing mocking songs of the senior wife who was jealous of the junior wife because she didn’t have a son of her own. This time, Adaku was left in the dark dungeon; her fate would be determined by her mother’s fate.
Question: What will be the outcome of the trip to Idemili shrine, What fate awaits Adaku, the only child of Emelu?
click here for episode 2