We Are Not Cursed #15

PART FIFTEEN

 Edited by: Darlene Jones

 

 

A human head? Umeh stared at his wife with unblinking eyes.

The unexpectedness of the news left him as stunned as he was on the day when one of his servants came running to alert him of Nnanna’s murder.

Hastily, Oluchi adjusted the wrapper tied round her chest, the loosely knotted ends fitting under her armpit. She drew close to Umeh’s side, her face visibly twitching. “Nnaanyi, please what is going on?” Lowering her voice, which was almost breaking, “Eloka has refused to tell me whose head is that.”

“Where is he?” Umeh asked, thudding the ground with the dull point of his walking stick.

“Just by your hut. Given that you already have visitors, he asked to—”

Umeh immediately departed from his wife and his fellow nobleman, Amaefuna. Heading north toward his hut, unmindful of the guests who were still waiting for him at his obi, he couldn’t help but reflect on the words of the juju priest. Had his decision to send Eloka to Isiochie, despite the priest’s warning, now backfired? Or was he about to come to terms with the possibility that Eloka may have encountered his son’s killer?

He walked past three female servants preparing lunch for his guests; the one pounding freshly cooked yam pieces in a mortar was covered with sweat, her bare breasts flapping against her body, dried grass patterns strung round her waist; the others, squatting, sweaty and bare-breasted too, were pressing oil from ripe palm fruits. Behind them, the slow and steady ascension of thick white smoke from the sides of kitchen hut signalled that cooking was still in progress. When they saw him, they were quick to curtsey.

Eloka and his men were standing by the entrance of Umeh’s large hut when he arrived. After a brief exchange of greetings, the two brothers walked into the hut.

“What news do you bring home?” Umeh asked, taking his position by the rectangular window that framed a once pleasantly green landscape now dried by the harmattan.

“That our enemy now lies in Isiochie.”

Umeh wasn’t sure if he should be excited by the news. He looked over his shoulder. “What proof have you?”

Eloka called out to one his men who came in with bag a made of goat skin. The terrible stench emanating from it assaulted Umeh’s nostrils.  Turning, a hand placed over his nose, he blurted, “What is that smell?”

“The beginning of revenge!” Eloka, undeterred by the rottenness, dug both hands into the bag and slowly retrieved the head of an adolescent male. Oval shaped. Eyes shut. Lips crusted with blood. Top side of the head, though smashed, still showed signs of a decently shaved pattern. “This is the head of your enemy’s first son.”

Umeh was aghast. He lifted a hand as if he was about to make a supplication. “Gods of our ancestors! How certain are you—you should have…”

Eloka chuckled, a self-gratifying smile omnipresent on his face. He gave orders for the head to be taken away. “The moment we told Ichie Ugonna and his household the reason behind our visit, they took back the plate of kola nuts and gourds of palm wine they had earlier offered us; these items, by tradition, were not meant to withdrawn once presented. They said I was no different from a child deprived of sufficient breast milk. Me—Eloka, Onye dike cheta obi efepu!” he beat his chest proudly. “And because of this undernourishment, my reasoning was low. I was negligent of following due protocol. Their village protocol. Tell me, if they were really innocent, what was there to hide? Why insist on some senseless protocol?”

Silence ghosted through the hut.

“We persisted,” Eloka continued, “they asked us to leave.” He paused and knitted his brows as if he was trying to recall. “Aha! One of the men present at the meeting made mention of the various forms of death and their different meanings.”

“Yes,” the other man, who had earlier carried out Eloka’s orders, added, “Judging by way your son left this world, they were of the view that his case was a divine warning handed down to them by the gods. Their gods. We were destined to reveal to this truth to them.”

“And you know the worst part?” Eloka said. “They were bold enough to say that we were already cursed! That this was just the beginning of the end of our bloodline. And they wouldn’t be sucked into such myriad of calamities by allowing their son to marry your daughter, Okuoba.”

Umeh stepped closer. Shame, dreadful confusion, and disappointment came crashing down on him. Despite all this, he willed himself to be resolute. For the last time he had to be sure of what he had just heard. “So that is the head of Ichie Ugonna’s son?”

With a nod, Eloka replied, “We ambushed, killed, and beheaded the young man, dropping off his headless body in fro—”

Umeh slapped his young brother hard across the face. Then stabbed a finger at him. “How could you? You do not replace a child sleeping on a mat with another.”

A totally stunned Eloka put a hand to the tender spot on his cheek.

“Just an inquiry. Nothing more. But look at what you have done…” Umeh could feel his body trembling. He tried to walk it off, but that didn’t work. So he sat on his bamboo bed.

“So you feel that my men and I did the wrong thing?” Eloka asked, hands opened wide.

“Get out.”

“What?”

“Leave—my—house!” Umeh barked.

***

Dusk came over Ngwo with a rare quietness. For the conservative villagers, they would wonder if something bad had just happened or was yet to unfold. For him, such a moment was perfect. Eloka’s blustering had amused him. He could listen to such foolish talk all day and not get bored of it. Indeed it was to his advantage that Umeh’s family had been looking in the wrong direction for the one who masterminded Nnanna’s death.

He could make things easier for himself by assassinating the troubled Umeh when next they met. Then kidnap Okuoba. Of course, everyone would suspect the Isiochie people. On a second thought, he chose not to. People must be aware that the noble old man freely gave his daughter to him. By doing so, he would be able to claim a considerable part of the man’s wealth too.

***

Umeh knew he couldn’t wait for the next market day when the village council would meet. By then, it may be too late to discuss the matter at hand, to seek help or the best solution to his family’s terrible situation.

He called out to Maduako, the servant he normally saddled with important responsibilities.

“Go into my hut, take ten cowries, and head for the house of the village crier. Once you arrive, let him have the cowries as a reward for spreading the message that I, Ichie Umeh Azugo, would like my fellow noblemen to gather at the village square tomorrow evening for an urgent discussion.”

Part 14||Part 15

_____________________________________________

Translation:

Onye dike cheta obi efepu — He who the strong man remembers but with dread

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39 thoughts on “We Are Not Cursed #15

    1. Well said, Lena. Eloka’s action now puts him and his brother’s family in an even more difficult situation. A horrible outcome is brewing already.

      Thanks for reading.

    1. I feel your disappointment, Funmi. I guess being mad or senseless doesn’t only mean when one walks around in rags. Eloka acted senselessly.

      Thanks a lot for reading.

  1. So, now it’s gathering pace. The cursed part is deliciously creepy. And I love the atmosphere you build up. I wonder where the story is leading upto.

    Uzoma, you have inherited the storytelling DNA from the great African tradition of oral storytelling. God bless you!

    1. Yes, MJ, a storm is surely gathering. This brings us to the second half of the story. Glad you have enjoyed the story so far. Your comments and that of the others spur me on.

  2. This is certainly gripping and in a way things are getting muddled up, but like the great story teller you are, you would shed light on it soon. Thanks for sparing the life of my… 😉 you know who I mean? Now Uzoma, who’s going to marry Okuoba? Can you tell me? He heeee!! I’m always an impatient reader, I always want to know the end before the beginning!! Great work!!
    🙂

    1. Hehee … your comments are always encouraging and engaging. I see you are as keen as I am about Dubem’s character. 🙂

      Okuoba will get a nice husband. Trust me. But I am not sure if the lucky guy will be Dubem 😀 Well, that is susceptible to change. At the moment, Dubem is not on the list 😀

      1. Well… as long as the poor guy is not killed off, and I must confess that your characters are believably real, you’re doing a great job on the story!! Have a great day Uzoma!
        Blessings. 🙂

  3. Each time I read a chapter I feel as if the tension cannot be any greater…but then you heighten the suspense even further, elaborate even more. The turn of a compelling screw, my friend. As always, I love how you detail African traditions, settings, sayings to make this edgy tale have its own inimitable style. Bravo, Uzoma!

    1. Oh I’m super happy you mentioned the heightening tension within the story. That’s my best chance of keeping the story alive. As always, it is a pleasure to share the culture of my people and peculiar things about the African people with you and the rest of my readers.

      Cheers, my dear friend.

  4. The suspense is one thing, but the lessons we are subconsciously imbibing is another… the foolish choices that anger and haste compel us to make… Well done Uzoma. One week seems like a long time now…

  5. Eloka has acted as judge, jury and executioner – and mostly based on some slight in protocol. Did he act impetuously or is he a puppet on someone’s strings – I wonder.

    That second last paragraph about Ngwo is intriguing – gives a peek as to who the killer might be – or does it?

    And what is the prize? Okuoba or Umeh’s wealth? Both perhaps, but a twisted mind thinks differently. With Okuoba, he gets a warm bed but with Umeh’s wealth – he gets to change his bed every so often.

    The storyline rolls before our feet and confronts many possible forks.

    1. You gift me with a wonder feedback, Eric! Only time will tell the extent of of damage Eloka’s rash action will bring.

      About the second paragraph: Yes, the killer is field day. Now, that I’ve introduced all the key players in the story, I look forward to the predictions of the real identity of this “hood guy.”

      Thank you so much, Eric. I’m fortunate to have you follow this story. I shall be reading yours right after this.

  6. NOW it’s going to get messy, I can see. It’s going to get really bad before it can get better. That is IF it can get better. Umeh is in a dreadful fix – he will be blamed for the actions of his brother, he may be seen as ordering such a deed. This could lead to tribal war.

    I am most interested to see what happens next and how Umeh can put things right AND find his son’s murderer – all while someone (maybe more than one person), somewhere, is working behind his back and against him.

    This is great. The plot thickens.

    🙂

    1. Sorry I’m late to reply to this, Allyson:( Time has been the fugitive — always on the run.

      Umeh, no doubt, is in big trouble now. It’s a terrible thing trusting someone to discern wisely only for such a person to act foolishly.

      Surely, the murderer of Umeh’s son and his cohorts will at some point be revealed. It’s the most intricate part of this story and I intend to give it my best shot. An open secret: Umeh is oblivious that he knows this “hood guy” very well.

      As always, I am mightily encouraged by your response.

      1. Don’t worry about being late with any reply, ever. We all do what we can – I’ve been running late myself all this week.

        Yes, I think the villain is closer than we realize as readers – and now two young men are dead and two fathers in mourning. Their clash with each other will surely come and be bad for everybody. Meanwhile there is other danger all around.

        This is truly gripping stuff. I do love the depth that is happening here. So much going on, so much hidden. I’m looking at every character now, and wondering, “Is he the one?”

        I’m enjoying your work very much. 🙂

          1. Literally, my pleasure, Uzoma, I am really pleased I found you and your blog. 🙂

            Soooo, you are playing with the readers’ minds, huh. I like it, I can’t wait to find out how it goes.

            Cheers! 😀

  7. Great instalment!:) I think you gave some clue as to whom this unidentified killer might be. Now I have lots of questions and possibilities jumping in my head. I hope that after reading this I’ll do some writing, no matter how the outcome might be. You’re inspiring me with this story, Uzo. I need to write again.

    1. Ah, please do, my brother! I relish reading another exciting tale authored by you as I remember the last one had me on the edge at every turn.

      You sure say our killer don show himself? I love that this part had you thinking already! Perhaps you can inbox me his true identity so I can correlate it with what I know already. Honestly, I’d like you to try.

      Glad this one sits well with you.

  8. Wow, wow, wow! This elaborate story you are sewing together will make one heck of a masterpiece. Every time I stop by your blog I spend “too much time” trying to catch up! My master’s thesis has been in the way or writing and selfish-downtime reading. I hope to catch up with your plot sooner than later!

    1. Whitney, long time no see! 🙂 Missed you and posts about your tours. I suspect you must have been busy lately. And it is my solemn prayer that all works in your favour.

      1. Thanks Uzoma for your thoughts and prayer! Yes, you’re right…very busy indeed, especially with the holidays coming up. 🙂 Enjoy this cold-weathered season, I hope it inspires your writing!

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