The year was 1847. On the edge of River Niger, Asaba lay peacefully. The land had found peace after its warriors had battled hard to break the siege which almost ended its existence. However, beneath the new found peace which the land had known for years, an ancient practice capable of unleashing mayhem in the proportion unknown to the land, stirred. By the hand of a woman, Ada Asaba, the princess of Asagba himself, would this power be awakened.
Awele, the stunningly beautiful daughter of Asagba (the king of Asaba land) had been married for a few years to the love of her life. However, there was a problem; the princess, Ada Asaba, had been unable to conceive a seed for her husband. Rumours were rife as to why she was barren. The simple way to explain her bareness in accordance with tradition was that perhaps she had allowed a man to uncover her nakedness before she got married. Though this assumption was muted in secret places, no one had the guts to come open with it.
The reason was that her husband, Osadebe, a mighty war lord, did not report to the king or to the elders that the night he consummated his marriage, he found Awele, his wife, to have lost her virginity before their marriage.
“If Osadebe found Awele to have lost her virginity when he touched her the first time, don’t you think he would have made it known than suffer the scathing ridicule of being childless?” one of the village women who discussed the matter of Awele being barren asked her fellow women.
“Perhaps he failed to do so because he was the one who took Awele’s virginity in the first place,” suggested another lady. They all hushed themselves in utter surprise; their hands over their mouths and their eyes wide open. It was as if light just got turned on in their heads. “You see, tradition is tradition. It does not matter that Osadebe ate the forbidden fruit and later acquired the tree. Tradition says on no account should any man or the princess herself, allow any man to enter her bosom before marriage. We have solved the riddle! This must be the reason Awele is childless!” “Lower your voice Nwanyinma, people might hear you!” cautioned her friend. Nwanyinma looked around with both hands still on her mouth. The women huddled up together in excitement.
“Osadebe ate the forbidden fruit long before he had the chance to acquire the tree. Now he is cursed. He shall never have a seed from Awele.” “Nwanyinma slow yourself down! We don’t know that yet.” “This has to be the reason Ada Asaba is barren! Who would blame Osadebe? Have you not seen Awele’s buxom waist? It can make any man sin,” Nwanyinma said, giggling naughtily. “If I had such a shape, I would have been in the palace of Asagba himself…” Nwanyinma paused and drew much closer to her friends. “I have heard the Asagba himself takes three women at a go. He is as strong as the lion in the wild.” They all began to laugh at Nwanyinma’s ridiculous claim.
1:00 AM, August 13th 1847
Awele turned around on her mat and listened for her husband’s heavy breathing – an indication he was fast asleep. She had fed him a large dosage of sleeping portion to make sure he would not wake up until her business for the night was done. Rising from her mat, she made her way out of their hut. Outside the hut, she removed a powder from the edge of her wrapper and blew it in the direction of the royal guards who watched her and her husband by night. A few minutes later, the guards hit the ground in heaps and dozed off. Lifting her eyes to the bright moon in the sky, she mumbled, “Onwa uchichi chebe m (watch over me moonlight of the night).” With only a small dagger in her hand, she made a swift move toward Chiedu’s hut.
On any other day, it would have taken her just fifteen minutes to reach Chiedu’s hut, but on this very night, she was careful not to get caught, so she had to make her move carefully and stealthily. When she reached his hut, she waited a few seconds outside, watching the door to the hut. Chiedu was fond of bringing ladies from Ubulu Okiti for his midnight games. Awele did not want to been seen by any of them. If she were to be seen by any of them, then such a one would surely die.
Satisfied that no one was lurking around Chiedu’s hut, Awele made a dash for the door of the hut. At the door she waited a few seconds as she listened for a sound. There was none and she was happy for that. She worked her fingers on the raffia door and opened it. Inside, Chiedu was sound asleep and alone. Awele sat next to his mat and tapped him on the chest. Chiedu did not wake up. She tapped him harder and he woke up. At the sight of the princess in his hut, he let out a cry. Awele covered his mouth with both hands and pleaded for him to shut up. Chiedu nodded. Slowly Awele removed her hands from his mouth. Chiedu rose from the mat and bowed before her asking, “What are you doing here Ada Asaba? Surely you have come to take my life for a dire need of yours.”
“Get off your knees Chiedu. I am not here to take your life for any reason… Do you think anyone heard your cry?” “I am not sure anyone did. However, even if they did, I will explain it away.” “Are you sure you can do that? I would not want to be seen with you Chiedu.” “Do not worry about that, my house is often visited by ladies from neighbouring towns and in the night we make all sorts of noise. I am certain I can explain my earlier cry, princess.”
“Good,” said the princess. “Your door is open, would you mind locking it once more?” she added. Chiedu looked at her warily. “Princess Awele, would you mind putting me out of my misery and tell me why someone like you has visited someone like me at this wee hour of the night. My eyes have seen the dagger in your hand and my soul is troubled. Is this my last night on earth?” “Chiedu, first lock your door and then hear me out.” Edu as he was fondly called quickly locked the door and returned to his mat. “The door I have locked my princess. So what brings you here?”
Princess Awele went on her knees as tears began to pool from her eyes. Chiedu sprang to his feet and tried to raise her to her feet. “What are you doing princess Awele? I am to bow to you and not you to me! Get up on your feet!” Edu whispered. “Edu, please hear me out. I am a woman of many sorrows. My name is shame, and ridicule is the welcome I receive from both women and men. The pride of women has been denied me and I fear I will never know it unless I do something about it.”
“Speak freely Ada Asaba, your secrets are safe with me,” Chiedu encouraged her. “Edu there is no secret I have which is not in the open. The only secret men will never know about me is the one which will happen tonight if you grant my wish.” “You are still speaking in riddles Ada Asaba.” “Chiedu stop pretending! How many years has it been since I got married and yet has had no seed to show for it?” “The gods will give you a seed my princess.” “But that is not what you believe Chiedu. You think I gave away my virginity before I got married to Osadebe. That is a lie! I have known no man except Osadebe! And if you must know, when he uncovered my nakedness after our marriage, he found me a true and worthy damsel. I had my virginity intact that night. So what you must have heard is a lie! I am innocent of the rumours making rounds about me!”
“I am sorry princess. Truly I have heard rumours. Forgive me about that. I did not go seeking the rumours, the rumours came seeking me in my house.” “You are forgiven Chiedu… Edu, I have a request to make of you.” “And what request is that?”
Awele paused a few seconds and pondered how to proceed. “Give me a seed to wipe away my tears,” she finally said. Chiedu looked at her as if she was mad. “Did you hear yourself princess Awele?” “I absolutely did.” “Why would you make such a request of me? Am I God? Do I have the power to give seeds to women? Have you forgotten that you are a princess and married to a war lord?”
“Chiedu, you absolutely have the power to give me a seed. Sit back for a moment and allow me to tell you who you really are.” Chiedu looked around his hut, fixing his gaze on nothing in particular. He was wishing there was someone else present to witness with him what he considered sheer madness put on display by the princess. “Are you sure you are still sound in your mind Ada Asaba?” “I am Chiedu. Now hear who you are… You are a great grandson of Odogwu Ozala, keeper of the ancient royal concubines and queens. In times of old, when a queen, a princess or a royal concubine was barren or their husbands could not impregnate them, it was the business of Odogwu Ozala and his sons to impregnate them for their husbands and for the king. They had an ability from the gods to do so.”
Chiedu shook his head incredulously and barked, “I am no great grandson of Odogwu Ozala. Odogwu Ozala and his seeds were wiped out by the fourth Asagba for their sins against the throne, and you know this princess.” “You are dead wrong Chiedu! Not all were killed in the purge. In my search for solutions to my barrenness; I have found out that a pregnant woman amongst the family members of Odogwu Ozala escaped.”
“What makes you think the woman who escaped during the night of that purge was my great grandmother?” “Don’t play games with me Chiedu! The seers I have consulted so far say you are a great grandson of Odogwu Ozala. They have proven it to me beyond any shadow of doubt. Let me ask you; how many barren women have conceived when you bedded them? How many young ladies have taken in after just a night on your mat? You still have the blessing of the gods in-between your legs…” she paused.
Chiedu looked white in the face with worry. He was clearly unsettled by being linked to Odogwu Ozala. Though he knew very little about his lineage to the legendary keeper of ancient royal concubines and queens, his dreams had been a source of worry to him. While he pondered his many dreams which he understood better at the moment, princess Awele began to remove her wrapper, stripping herself stark naked.
“Please don’t do this princess Awele. You are married and tied to the throne of Asaba. You are Ada Asaba. If indeed you are right about my ancestral descendancy, getting pregnant for me might awaken forbidden evil. Please don’t Awele,” Chiedu pleaded. “If you refuse to bed me and give me a seed, then I will be left with no choice than to reveal your true identity to the Asagba of our land. I need a seed and will bear the shame of my barrenness no more,” Awele said, pressing her naked, luscious, seductive body against his.
With his heart pounding in fear, Chiedu, grabbed her body and held it against the mat. Drawing heavy gulps of air, he began the act of having an intercourse with a princess of Asaba, an act last performed by his forebears hundreds of years ago.
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