“Traitors are in our land! Men, and possibly women who have colluded with our enemies to destroy us are in our midst! How could those who killed my guards and Nwude Onyali, the young seer, have gone with the wind? Where now are those or the person who offered the sacrifice which restored the shrine of Odogwu Ozala? No doubt they are hiding somewhere out there and we must find them! Turn every stone and blade of grass in Asaba until they are found! Look into every water pot and soup pot to see if they are hiding there! Trust no one; not even me! Believe no story told by anyone to absolve themselves from these hideous crimes! Our land is under attack! Asaba is at war!!! We must make ourselves ready to die fighting! Now, go warriors of Asaba and bring me those who did these or their heads!” thundered the Asagba of Asaba land.
It was still early in the morning. The first gleam of dawn was still to appear in the sky. The land was silent and her silence felt like a foreboding of great evil. “What now shall we do? What was once a mere myth has become a reality in our time. The shrine of Odogwu Ozala is back alive. My husband, let us run away while we can. No one can fight with spirits and prevail. Biko (please) lets run away now,” Ofunwa pleaded with her husband, Chekwube. “No my wife, if we run away now we will take the blame for all that has happened this night…” Chekwube was saying. “But others are running away di m (my husband),” Ofunwa interjected. “Let them run; but mark my words, they will be the ones to take the blame for all that has happened this night. I know Asaba well enough to guess that this which has begun tonight goes way up to the high powers in this land. No poor man or woman, a commoner, can muster the means to do what we have heard and seen this night. The palace should search itself, for in so doing, they will find those responsible for all that has befallen Asaba this night.”
“Shhh! Di m, biko, don’t speak loosely. A bird might hear you and carry your words to the king. I have heard he is raving mad at the moment…” Ofunwa pleaded. “The birds are still asleep my love. Besides, the spirits which have been released from the shrine of Odogwu Ozala are good spirits. In the days of old, they made our land great and famous. It was the jealousy of the Asagbas that led them to wipe out the Ozalas…” Chekwube was still speaking when Ofunwa dived at him and covered his lips, her eyes darting about their hut. Through the crevice on the wall she had seen rays of light heading their way. She feared that someone may have heard her husband; maybe the warriors running rampage through the land.
Ofunwa almost fainted when a deafening knock was heard on their door. Outside Chekwube’s hut were five warriors branding razor-sharp machetes and wielding wooden torch lights. Chekwube feared for the worst. He wished he had listened to his wife and shut his trap. He had so much to be afraid of…a secret long forgotten was in his possession, and even his pretty wife, Ofunwa, was not aware he hid in his heart some truth about the long lost clan of the Ozalas.
“We know you are in there! Open this door now! Chekwube open your door now or else we bring it down and level charges of conspiracy against the king and Asaba against you!!” shouted one of the warriors outside.
Like a child caught red-handed stealing meat from his mother’s soup pot, Awele made her way toward the largest hut which she shared with Osadebe, her husband. On his part Osadebe was out of clues as to how he could convince Awele that he didn’t know she had been gone all through the night.
Since he saw Awele sneaking back into their compound, he had been thinking about what Agamevu, the legendary second son of Duduyoyo, said when he visited him. As though he was present in his hut, his words resonated in his head…
“…for years bareness ruled in your house and shame covered your head in the public place. At night you labored greatly only to plant your sterile seed in a fertile ground. Though the ground was good, yet it could bear you no fruit because your seed was dead. However, when your wife, the princess, helped the amazons of old reclaim their long lost stronghold, your debts at the shrine of Orimili were paid and your locked loin was set at liberty. I see three sons in your house. Two are far from you and one is yet to be born…
“…why have you turned the blessing of the gods to a curse against you? You and your wife are guilty of bloodshed! I see bloodshed by the hands of you and your wife in Onitsha Ugbo, I see bloodshed in Sapele. I see bloodshed in Asaba. I see bloodshed in Igbuzo. Chai! And all of the victims are innocent! By that which came from your house shall your downfall come. By that which came from your loin shall destruction seize your wife. Once, many were those who loved and cared for you in the land of the spirits, now many are they which seek your fall in the land of the spirits…”
“No! Too many things are definitely wrong here. Three sons and too many deaths in places I have killed anyone or sent for any to be killed on my behalf. Why has Awele been shedding innocent blood? What does Agamevu mean by her helping amazons of old reclaim their long lost stronghold? Have I married a she-devil without knowing it? What is she keeping from me? Wait…he said three sons… What does that mean? It can only mean Edozien is not dead…that is the only way, the numbers can add up. My two sons Agamevu mentioned must be my only son and the one which the slave girl gave birth to some time ago. The third one must be Edozien… Awele was roaming the night and shedding innocent blood when she was pregnant with our only son. Olisah (God), who knows what Awele gave birth to for me in the name of a son?” Osadebe’s muttering was interrupted by Awele’s entrance.
He lay still, hoping she would consider him asleep. “Di m, I saw that the bathroom had been used not long before I went to use it. The night must have been too hot for you,” Awele said, hoping to elicit a response from him. Osadebe was surprised by her thought line. She did not even try to find out if he was asleep or not. He could see how devious she was and so decided to play the same game with her. “How many times have I told you not to sleep in the other hut alone? What if evil strikes you by night… after what you suffered giving birth to our son you are not yet strong enough to withstand any attack, and against my words you still go to sleep in the other huts alone!” Osabede barked, painstakingly keeping up the pretense.
Oh my god! He thinks I have been in one of the other huts, Awele thought. Osadebe could sense her calming down. “I am sorry di m oma (my good husband). You know sometimes I see images from that attack in which Edozien was taken from us. It leaves me restless and angry,” she said pleadingly. “That is the same thing am saying. Stay by me so that I can protect you incase evil was to come your way,” Osadebe responded thinking he had completely fooled her. However unknown to him, there was something in his voice she picked up and so said, “Do you know that sometimes in the night, I wake up and wander around. Some nights I hear Edozien’s voice crying…”
Osadebe was caught off guard by that admission. He was left thinking, ‘could it be what I saw and concluded that she was up committing one evil or the other in the night?’ “Do you wake up and wonder in the night?” he asked, thinking he had judged her a bit too harshly. “I really do for many nights.” “I didn’t know about this. From now on whenever you wake up in the night, wake me to roam the night along with you. I will kill to keep you and our only son alive. We have lost Edozien, we cannot afford to lose this one too,” Osadebe said sincerely. Though he still had many things Agamevu said about her to ponder, he was beginning to think that perhaps, on this night, he was wrong about her.
Awele could see he was taking her lies to be true, and his sincerity also helped to deceive her. Before she lay next to him on the mat, there was still one more question to ask. “I was surprised you did not rush out with your machete and shield when you heard the sounds of the drums and the horn. The land looks up to you at such times. What might be your reason?” Almost immediately Osadebe drew his machete and raised it in the air. “I was going to rush out as soon as I heard the sound of the drums; but you see, when the meaning of the sound of the ancestral horn dawned on me, I realized it would be too risky to leave my wife and our only child behind to go and save a vast land like Asaba. What if I had gone out only for the evil to show up here and kill you, our maids and only son? Will Asaba restore you to life? What has Asaba done for me since I lost Edozien? I prefer to protect you and my son first before I rush out to defend Asaba. My love, Osadebe your husband has grown wiser.” His reply was apt. It destroyed any doubts Awele haboured in her heart.
However, sadly for Awele, her last question made Osadebe reconsider his earlier disposition toward what she said about roaming the night. “No, she is definitely hiding something,” he said in his heart.
Awele rested her head on his broad chest thinking, ‘there is no need to take his life. He knows nothing.’
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