On the front porch of her hut she sat waiting to welcome back her husband who had left earlier in the day. The joy in her heart had left her in an ecstatic mood all day. “I shall soon bear a seed,” she said to herself. “My sorrow shall soon be no more,” she added. Impatiently she waited for Osadebe to return home to her.
When Osadebe finally made it home, he cut a forlorn look. He seemed spent and hopeless. That fire in his eyes which made her choose him above all others had smoldered. “You are worried my love. You think too much about that which we do not have,” Awele said as she hugged him. “How did your visit to Mkpitime go?” she asked. “My friend would not help me. He fears that I might take advantage of what he knows against him,” he lied. He did not want Awele to know about his deal with Orimili and that it was responsible for their childlessness. “If your friend will not help us, then don’t smart over it. I have been praying and I believe that the gods have heard my prayers. I believe that soon, by the help of the gods, the cry of a newborn baby shall be heard in our home. Come with me, I made a mushroom soup for you.”
Though Osadebe knew how impossible it was for his wife to conceive a child without Orimili unlocking his loins, yet he almost believed her words. He could not help but wonder where her new found faith came from. “I am glad you made a mushroom soup for me. I bu ogoli mara obi di ya (you are a wife who knows her husband’s heartbeat). Before I descend on the mushroom soup, I would like to have my bath.” “I have already taken water to the bathroom for you. If you don’t mind, I would like to join you in the bath and help scrub your back,” Awele volunteered. Osadebe was surprised by that. He had never heard her say that. What has taken over my wife? Her spirit is highly lifted up. This is certainly not the Awele who would cry me a river at every chance she would get for being childless, he thought.
“It will certainly be nice to have you join me in the bathroom, my love,” Osadebe said, sounding encouraged. “Let us not waste time about it then,” said Awele, flashing her killer smile. The night was one of the most romantic the two of them had in a very long time. Their situation of being childless had eaten holes into their marriage and love. However tonight was different.
“I will give everything to have such evenings with you for the rest of my life, Awele. Tell me, what is responsible for your happy mood?” Osadebed asked Awele who was lying next to him on a mat in front of their hut. Above head, the moon shone brightly and the trees and grass nearby rustled to the gentle sway of evening wind. “I can’t explain it, but deep inside me I know our wait for a child is over. Two nights ago when you made love to me, I was certain a child would come from it. I felt your seed burning its way deep into my womb. It was as if the gods lent you some help that night,” Awele said, carefully preparing his mind for the baby she knew was going to come very soon.
The sound of gods lending help to him was just what he needed to hear. Awele had deliberately dropped it in to stir his hope. Over the years, Osadebe had been offering multiple sacrifices to as many gods as he could find in Asaba and beyond. “You have raised my hopes, my sweet love. If you will truly conceive and bear me a child, I will give each god in Asaba a cow and make a great feast to our people. It will be like the day Asaba was freed from the siege of her enemy by my hand. All the music groups and masquerades in our land and beyond will perform that day,” Osadebe said, sounding enthused.
“My love, I am convinced that one of the gods has looked upon your sacrifice with favour. I am the ground in which you plant your seed almost every night, two nights ago was different. One of the gods was with us. I felt it within me. You know how downcast I have been all these years; my present mood should tell you that indeed I felt something we have never had when you made love to me two nights ago. I may even have conceived your seed as I speak,” Awele explained.
“This is the best news I have heard in over ten years. So at a time when I thought all hope was gone, help came. I want to believe you Awele, but I am afraid of being disappointed. However if this your conviction turns out to be true, I will return to each of the gods I sacrificed to with so much to thank them for the gift of a child to us.” “Yes my love you should. You will know the gods have visited us when you see my stomach begin to rise.”
That night they played, laughed and made love without end. It was like one of the days after their wedding. Awele’s complete change from gloom and despair to faith and belief affected Osadebe so much that even his speech changed. That same night, Osadebe had a visit. Orimili, the half-human, half-spirit, messenger of the gods, brought him a message. “On your behalf an advocate has spoken and deposited a great price. From henceforth, you shall be able to impregnate your wife and bear seeds by her. Your loins I unlock this night. You are now free. You no longer owe me anything,” Orimili announced to Osadebe.
Osadebe could say nothing. The vision was overwhelming for him. All he could do was let tears run from his eyes. Several times he tried to say a word but nothing came out of his mouth. Orimili read his shock well and so reassured him, “I am Orimili, the great priest who stands in the barrier between gods and humans. I speak no lie to you Osadebe. That which I took from your body, I have returned this night. You can impregnate your wife now and have as many children as you want.”
Realizing it was indeed true, Osadebe managed to ask, “Who is the advocate who spoke on my behalf? Who is the man or spirit who paid the price for me?” “Osadebe, there are some things you will never know. This is one of them. I will speak no further to you on this matter,” Orimili said and vanished. Osadebe snapped out of his sleep panting heavily. “So I am now a free man?” he asked himself.
With the knowledge that his loins had been unlocked, Osadebe relentlessly made love to his wife and believed she would conceive even if she had not already. He also made sure to keep what he knew about his loins being locked for years from Awele. He did not want her to know about the great price he paid for the power with which he won the battle for Asaba.
With bathed breath they waited for Awele’s stomach to give them the sign they desperately desired. By the middle of November 1847, Asaba shook with joy. The long barren princess of their land was finally pregnant. From the palace of Asagba to the homes of all his chiefs, there was celebration. Amid the fanfare which greeted her pregnancy, Awele paused several times to ponder what would happen if it was to come to light that Osadebe her husband was not responsible for her widely celebrated pregnancy. “Chiedu will not betray me; he has more to lose than I do,” Awele would say to herself to douse her worries.
On account of the warnings he had received by means of night visions, from his ancestor, Odogwu Ozala, Chiedu left Asaba by night and journeyed as far as Sapele. There he hid and waited to hear from his fallen ancestor. Though everything seemed alright to the mere eyes of humans, yet in the spirit world, a storm was gathering. Just as the seed in Awele’s womb grew, so did the storm gather pace. Something was off. The old Asaba had returned and the new was shifting ground to accommodate it. Only two people could sense it; and Awele was one of them. At first she did not know what it was. However it began slowly to dawn on her that the terrifying visions she saw might have something to do with the baby in her womb.
On the other side of things, Osadebe having received his male strength back from Orimili, and eager to see just how well it was working, began to sneaked out to Onitsha Ugbo to test his brand new libido on a young slave girl. He didn’t have to try so much. Just a month after his first round of tests, the slave girl sent word to him that the seed he planted on her soil had germinated. By the result he got, Osadebe was convinced beyond every shadow of doubt that indeed the seed growing in Awele’s womb was his.
Fearing what his father in-law, the Asagba of Asaba, would do if he found out that a slave girl was also pregnant for him, Osadebe sent warriors under him to strangle the slave girl by night. By morning, the owner and master of the slave girl woke up to find his slave girl’s hut covered with fresh blood and bits of torn human flesh. The body of the slave girl was not found and neither were there footsteps outside her hut. To solve the riddle, native doctors in Onitsha Ugbo explained the matter as an act of the gods. Back at Asaba, Osadebe received word that the slave girl was dead and buried.
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