It was on the evening of the second day that Awele chose to strike. She wanted the job done perfectly that she chose to do it herself. To disguise intentions Awele had left home with lots of gifts and food items which she distributed to many widows on her way to visit the seer’s family. When she arrived, the seer was in his hut asleep as a result of the medicine given to him, while his wife and children were outside peeling tubers of cassava piled up in a corner of their compound. As a result of her nefarious intentions Awele had made sure only two of her maids and none of her personal security guards followed her to the seer’s house. In the hands of her maids were two baskets one contained food items while the other contained medicinal leaves. “Good evening Nneukwu,” Awele greeted. Nneukwu, the wife of the seer was surprised to see Ada Asaba in her house. “Ada oyoyo! Uso nwa! Anyanwu ututu! Nkpuru mmiri!” Nneukwu hailed Awele.
Awele smiled broadly, keeping up the pretense that she had come for good. “Who am I that you should visit me? Is everything okay?” Nneukwu asked as she drew closer and made to stoop in deference to the princess. “No mama, will an elder like you stoop for a child like me? Mba nu!” Awele protested and stooped before her instead. Nneukwu touched her back and joked, “You know it is said that if one serves the king, kingship will reach one. Allow me to serve you so that in my next life I will be a queen sitting next to the king.” “Eziokwu! However, do not forget, mama, that the child who does not honour the elders, the vultures will eat his or her eyes. Imagine Ada Asaba blind with all this my beauty. Tufiakwa!”
“You are right Ada Asaba, it would really be bad for a beauty such as yours to be blemished by blindness; but you see, no vulture would dare peck at your eyes. Are you Ada Asaba in vain? Even if all our elders bowed to you, it would not bring you a curse. Are you not part of royalty?” “Mama biko leave me alone. Even if the gods are comfortable with you bowing to me, I am not comfortable with it. I prefer to show honour and respect to my elders… How is nna anyi? I brought him some special medicinal leaves and some food for you.” “Awele you are different! So you went through the pain of bringing all these to us? Olisa bi na igwe (God in heaven) bless this child…” Nneukwu prayed as she took a closer look at the leaves. “Ewoo! These are urioma leaves! Where did you get them from?!” Nneukwu asked.
“Don’t forget that I am a princess, I have friends in many places,” Awele gloated. Nneukwu took one of the leaves and smelt it, her face beamed with a rapturous smile. “These Urioma leaves are not from towns around us…” Nneukwu observed. Awele was surprised by her observation and so asked, “How did you know mama?” “I am not the seer’s wife in vain. I have learnt quite a few things from him. The last of such Urioma leaves my eyes saw came from Owerri Nta. They have the best and most powerful of all Urioma plants.” “Now I know indeed that the spirit of the seer is also in you, mama. This Urioma is from Owerri Nta. I had it fetched and brought to Asaba within two nights.” “I knew a man from Owerri Nta who supplied my husband with such Urioma leaves many years ago. He told us he plucked those Urioma leaves from the river where gods bathe by night.” “The man who sent this to me is said to know the best. They call him Nwambia…”
Nneukwu felt her heart drop into her stomach in fear. She could not believe what the princess had just said. Nwambia had died over twelve earlier. The seer himself was one of the priests who moderated Nwambia’s burial. He had requested it before his death. Nneukwu cut the look of a person who had arrived as a guest at her own burial. “What is it mama?” Awele asked. She had seen the look of concern on the old woman’s face. “That name you mentioned provoked strong memories from the past for me. My daughter, you don’t know how much you have blessed me this day,” she lied. “You had me worried for a moment,” Awele pointed out.
“I am sorry my dear. I meant not to scare you. The first man I knew by the name Nwambia, was the first man who would have married me,” she told another lie. “Ewoo! I am sorry mama. From the look of your face, your relationship with him didn’t end well.” Mama made a face, playing the part of one who was in emotional turmoil. “I would rather we discuss something else…Can I take the leaves from you?” Nneukwu asked the maid holding the basket of Urioma leaves. The maid holding the basket released it to her. The other maid handed the basket of food to one of Nneukwu’s daughter’s. When Nneukwu re-emerged from her husband’s hut, she effusively thanked Awele and blessed her for the Urioma leaves she brought for her husband.
Two secrets were in play here. Awele had sent for the Urioma leaves and had it was quickly delivered to her from Owerri Nta. As soon as it arrived she took it to a river and had it enchanted. Urioma leaves could serve many good medicinal purposes, but when enchanted, its power could be lethal. She had assigned evil spirits to use the leaves to snuff the life out of the seer before her father, the Asaga could begin his intercession for him. On the other side, what Awele did not know was that the Urioma leaves were fetched and delivered to her by a dead man. Nwambia had long died, and in his lifetime, he was a bosom friend of the seer.
Nneukwu was shocked when Awele said the leaves were from the dead man. To Nneukwu, Nwambia’s reappearance from the dead meant something was strange about her husband’s sickness. It also meant it was not his time to cross over to the land of the dead. The gods would have finished him off when they covered him with a cloud of darkness. Awele did not know all this, and on the other hand, Nneukwu did not know the leaves were enchanted. Whether the seer would recover or not when the leaves would be used was entirely up to the gods and the man who fetched the leaves.
It was pitch dark in the night and out of his hut, he tiptoed. Osadebe had made up his mind. Stealthily, he made his way toward the river. Some distance away from his house, he changed course. Whoever saw him must have concluded he was on his way to the river to bathe or to supplicate to the gods. Well, that was wrong. The great warrior of Asaba had seen and heard enough. It was time to make yet another great decision. Earlier in the day, he had sent young boys to tie three young he-goats in his farm near the ancient shrine of Odogwu Ozala. This was one sacrifice that could destroy him and his generation. Sadly, it had been required of him to offer it so the evil headed his way would change course. All the kings from the fourth Asagba to the present Asagba would kill a nation of men just to stop that sacrifice from being offered. Too bad, the very sacrifice that would change Asaba as the people of old knew it was going to be offered by a son in-law to the reigning Asagba. By every stretch of imagination and reasoning, this was a frontal assault on the throne of the Asagba of Asaba land.
War of the old kings
Edozien was fast asleep when a voice he knew was his mother’s awoke him. Isioma was in pain and fighting with death. A faintly visible pair of hands was on her throat squeezing her to death. The young boy may have fought many dreamy battles, but at the moment he had no clue as to what to do. The sacrifice which had been offered by Osadebe in Asaba, had stirred the old kings. The lineage of Odogwu Ozala had finally woken up. The gods had a plan, a good plan for Asaba by restoring the broken lineage, but the kings of old could not see it. There was an oath for them to honour; the oath to keep out of the royal bloodline the seed of Odogwu Ozala.
At loss about what to do, Edozien grabbed the pair of partially invisible hands and yanked at them. There was no more hiding for the boy; the old kings had found him. The attack on Isioma was a ploy to draw him out and kill him before even his feet could set on Asaba. No mortal could have grabbed those hands except one who was half royal and half priestly – Edozien Ozala. That was his true name. His younger brother Amobi had tried to pull at the hands but could not touch them. In one corner of the hut, Amobi stood watching as Edozien set their mother free.
When Isioma got freed from those mighty hands, she sprang to her feet, grabbed Amobi and bolted out of the hut. From the roof, the hut exploded into flames. In the midst of the flames, a hundred machetes descended on Edozien. It has begun.
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