Awele stood in her hut watching her newborn baby twiddle on the mat. “I knew I conceived that night…” she paused and stepped back toward the door. Parting her raffia curtain she made sure her husband and his increasing guests were still together. Returning to her baby, she lay next to it on the mat. “I violated no law by the means through which I brought you into this world. If I lived in olden days, I would be congratulated for my actions. However, something troubles me about you Edozien,” she said to her baby. “Your eyes…the light in your eyes bothers me a lot. The beauty in your eyes…I have heard of it. It comes from old times. I worry a lot about those who might figure it out. Well, I have you now and that’s all that matters. I gave you the name Edozien because you have made all things perfect.”
The baby smiled at her and punched its fists in the air. A bundle of joy dropped in Awele’s heart. She brought her mouth very close to the baby’s ear and whispered, “I don’t care how you came; what matters to me now is that you are here. I knew it that I was never a barren woman. Whatever made me wait this long has to do with my husband Osadebe. He may not want to admit it to me, but I have always known it that I am not a barren woman.” The baby giggled and made a happy sound. “I see you agree with me. That’s good. We are going to make a perfect team,” she said, playing with the baby’s hands. It kicked happily in the air and smiled.
While she played with her baby, her thoughts strayed toward Chiedu. She had not seen him since the night he got her pregnant. She had had to battle the temptation of going to visit him a few more times for the unique experience she had that night. To her credit, she did well to battle off the invading thoughts which almost pushed her into visiting Chiedu for his sexual touches. “Let me see how you will react to this, Edozien. I owe a man a lot of thanks. I haven’t seen him since the night he did me a great favour. Seeing him is no small matter, but in my heart, I know that he deserves a big thank you. Should I send him a message to say thanks?” she asked her newborn baby. Much to her dismay, the baby smiled and brought its hands together as though it was making an attempt to clap. Its beautiful eyes also twinkled.
Awele shrank back from the baby, looking a bit concerned. “The gods of Asaba, please tell me, is it possible that this baby understands me?” she asked in bewilderment. She had begun to talk to her baby playfully, but the baby’s responses to her words were too apt to be mere coincidence. “I have heard that babies like the sound of their mothers’ voices, this must be it.” The baby reacted much the same way once more. She drew closer and whispered to it, “I will take your happy responses for a yes. Tonight I will send a thank you message to your father.” At the mention of the word ‘father’, Edozien’s eyes twinkled once more, almost giving off a spark.
“This is not normal,” Awele said to herself. This time she sounded really worried. Almost immediately Osadebe walked into the hut. “My love, people are asking to see you and the baby. I think it will be nice to have you come out with him just for a few minutes,” Osadebe said. “Okay my love.” As Awele picked up the baby from the mat, her thoughts were racing. The glow which had been in her eyes since her pregnancy seemed to be replaced with anxiety. Osadebe noticed it and asked, “My love, is everything okay? You look worried.” “I am fine. Maybe I haven’t had enough rest since I put to bed,” she lied. “You are right my love. I promise this will be the last time you will parade with our baby for today,” Osadebe said tenderly.
What possibly could be wrong with what I have done? Kings of old did it gladly. The gods permit what I have done. It was the fourth Asagba, an evil, jealous king who slaughtered Odogwu Ozala and his kind. I must reach Chiedu to know what he might tell me. I need someone who knows more than I do to help me raise this child, Ada Asaba, princess Awele thought as she bore her child out of her hut. Osadebe on his part did not take too seriously the change in his wife’s mood. He reasoned that she would return to her happy mood at the sound of praises from their numerous guests.
By late night, Awele sent one of her personal guards to Chiedu’s house. Sadly for her, the guard returned with the news that Chiedu had not been seen in Asaba for many months. “When exactly was he seen last in Asaba?” Awele asked angrily. “No one knows for sure, princess,” replied the guard. “This is rubbish! How can a son of the soil go missing for this length of time and no one has reported his disappearance?! I want him found! Do whatever you can to find him! I want to know whether he is alive or dead!” “I will do so princess. I promise to get you word about his whereabouts in seven days.” “Seven days is too long for me. There are special concoctions I need him to prepare for me. Find him in three days.” “I will do my best princess.” “Good!” Awele said and stormed away.
“Chiedu is on the run because of me. He does not trust me to keep his secret. Who else can help me now?” Awele asked herself as she returned to her hut.
Rising Storm, September 1849
While the search for Chiedu dragged into months and eventually into a year and beyond, something Awele was not counting on happened. One morning she woke up to realize that she had taken in again. She was pregnant with another child. “How can this be? I thought only Chiedu can impregnate me. I am with child again and this time it is for Osadebe,” she wondered to herself. Leaving her baby with her nurses, she left to pay her seer a visit.
“Why was I not told that I shall be able to have a child by Osadebe? If you had told me that I will be able to conceive a seed by Osadebe and bear him a child, I would have waited. Why did you send me to Chiedu, a great grandson of Odogwu Ozala?” “There are many things which we are not told by the gods, princess Awele. Also there are many things which we are shown and warned not to reveal…” “Did the gods show you that I will have a child by Osadebe or not?!” Awele barked. “The gods revealed to me at that time some things you don’t want to know my princess.”
Awele was surprised to hear that. She took a sit in the grand shrine of the seer and asked, “What things are those? I want to know everything you know! Tell me everything right now!” The seer could sense danger. He could see death coming and so his hand was forced to reveal what he was not meant to just so he could save his life. “You should know that it was at a great price that Osadebe gained that much celebrated victory for Asaba. He sacrificed all his unborn children for the power with which he defeated our foes from Igala land…” he paused. Awele could not believe her ears. In shock she slipped off her seat and hit the floor with her hands over her mouth. The seer ran forward to help her to her feet.
“Don’t touch me! Just continue with what you were saying!” she barked, kicking and punching the seer. “That great power with which Osadebe crushed Igala warriors came from Orimili…” “What!!! Did you just say Orimili, the evil half-human, half-spirit priest of the gods?!” “Yes, his power came from Orimili and he still has that power. You must be careful what you reveal to him about your son Edozien.”
Awele lowered her head and thought hard about what she had just learnt. “Orimili is an unforgiving priest. If he took all my husband’s unborn children to give him that great power, how is it I am pregnant for him at the moment?” she asked. “His debt to Orimili has been paid in full. His masculine strength has been given back to him. Your husband has powerful friends in the land of the spirits. Right now he owes Orimili nothing. Amazingly, your husband does not know who paid his debt at Orimili’s shrine.”
“Who paid his debt?” “I don’t know,” the seer lied. “Don’t lie to me! I have been lied to for too long! Who paid his debt?!” “I think Odogwu Ozala did.” Awele fixed her gaze on the seer, looking utterly stunned. Her heart almost froze with shock. Stuttering, she asked, “How…how…how is this possible?” “It seems the gods wanted your son by Chiedu to be born in this time…” Amid her deep astonishment, Awele cried, “The gods played me! The gods played us all!” “Yes, the gods played us all. I realized it after you gave birth to your son Edozien. And there is more my princess…”
Wiping her tears hurriedly, Awele asked, “What is it? What do you mean?” “The great dead tree in Odogwu Ozala’s ancient shrine has begun to sprout fresh new stalks…” “Oh no! That can’t be happening now!” “Sadly it is happening. I fear that once the knowledge comes into the ears of the Asagba and his chiefs, they will trace it to you. You are the only princess who recently gave birth and more so, one who had never given birth until now. My princess, it will not too be hard to figure out that you have given your bosom to a descendant of Odogwu Ozala. I fear even for myself. I helped you track down Chiedu. The only advantage we have is that it will be difficult to believe that there is still a descendant of Odogwu Ozala amongst us. That is hard to believe.”
Awele stood to her feet, her face wrapped inan ominous frown. “Do not worry seer, I will stop the gods. I will play them just as thy played me. Where is Chiedu right now?” “He is hiding somewhere in Sapele. What are you planning, Awele?” “To stop the gods. I will kill both the child; Chiedu and everyone who has helped the gods to use me bring Edozien into this world.” “Do not do that! The gods will curse you!” “Let them try! I dare the gods!”
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