Chinedum scratched his chin, “That is strange. Obiajulu hates farm work. I just hope that everything is well with my wife.” He dropped the bush animal inside the tray and moved towards his chamber. He needed to take a bath and prepare to visit his cousin whom he had not seen for a long time.
He had a feeling that Obiajulu was avoiding him after their last wrangle, but he didn’t care. His mind was made up. He couldn’t betray the King for any reason. The gods had placed Ikemba on that position of authority and nobody could overthrow him.
“What are you doing?” Adaeze placed a tiny hand on Adaora’s lap.
“Plucking Oha leaves obviously. I will make a very delicious soup with these leaves. You are going to enjoy it.” Adaora smiled at the little girl.
“Can I join you in plucking the leaves?” Little Ikenna asked.
Adaora smiled and fetched him a branch.
While they all plucked in silence, a visitor came. They knew this because of the voice and the sound of a clap.
“Is anyone home?”
It was a female voice, strong and bold. It was unafraid.
“Get into your room. Have some rest. When I am done with the soup, I will call you to eat.” Adaora rose to her feet and moved towards the entrance of the compound. The truth was that she cared about the children, and she didn’t want a stranger to see them.
She was already too late, as Chinedum had gone to receive the visitor. Adaora noticed that the fat woman shared a facial resemblance with her mistress. They had the same brows, the same eyes and skin color. Adaora was certain that Obiajulu’s mother had come.
She was about leaving, when she heard Chinedum’s angry outburst. From the look on the woman’s face, Adaora spotted worry and surprise. She had told the master something that greatly upset him. Adaora peeled herself from the wall and returned to the kitchen.
Once she was done plucking the leaves, she decided to wash them. It was only then that she discovered that there was no drop of water inside the pot.
“I must rush to the stream,” she muttered under her breath. Hurriedly, Adaora fetched a water pot and took the bush path behind the compound. It was a shorter route to the stream. In no time she was going to return.
Chinedum’s face contorted into a deep frown as he stared at Oriaku’s aunt who’d come visiting. Obiajulu had claimed that Ifeyinwa was terribly down with fever and she had gone to rescue her.
“May the gods forbid fever. I am very healthy my in-law. I haven’t set eyes on my niece for a very long time. I had a terrible dream about her and that is the reason that I have come to Ezeudo. I plan to spend three days before heading home.”
Chinedum felt like a fool.
“I can’t believe that Obiajulu will deceive me like a little child. She must pay for her lies and she has a lot of explaining to do.”
The older woman placed a hand on his shoulder, “Do not worry yourself. Obiajulu is a good woman and she will tell you where she went. Look at how angry this news has made you. You haven’t even offered me a seat or kola.”
She said these words with intent, and they immediately worked on Chinedum.
“I apologize for my rudeness. Please have a sit. Let me call on my slave to prepare you something.”
“So many things are happening. I can’t believe that you of all people will have a slave,” Ifeyinwa chuckled.
Chinedum shrugged, “I didn’t buy her. She is a gift and she has turned out to be very nice. You must excuse me, I will be right back.”
“Take all the time that you need,” Obiajulu’s aunt nodded.
When Chinedum reached the kitchen, he noticed that Adaora wasn’t there. He called her name thrice, but there wasn’t any reply. He had a feeling that she had gone to the bush to ease herself or to the stream to fetch water. He had been the last person to drink from the water pot.
He couldn’t wait for her return. He needed to ask Adaora a second time about Obiajulu’s location.
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When Oriaku had arrived at the palace, she noticed that the Queen mother and the King were at the meeting room. She ran a tongue over her lips and moved towards the throne room. Oriaku was pleased that the King had taken her advice to be with the slave girl. Adaora was humble and deserved to be Queen. This would equally spite Obiajulu. It wasn’t a hidden thing that she had always dreamt of being Queen. When they were young girls, Obiajulu had never been modest about it.
“Long Live the King, I greet you Queen Mother,” Oriaku bowed before royals.
The Queen mother was pleased to see her. Her wrinkly face split into two. She had heard about Obiajulu’s suggestion, and it seemed that her son had taken to the idea.
“You are welcome to the throne room wife of Anosike.” The woman greeted in return.
“How have you been Oriaku?” The King smiled.
“I am very fine my King,” she responded.
Ikemba wasn’t a man of many words. He had invited Oriaku for just one purpose. It was time for him to meet the girl. He knew that the steps he was taking weren’t proper. But he needed to see her first before telling the oracle all about her. His blood rushed. He hoped that the gods would pass through this woman to give him a son.
“I believe you know why I have sent for you,” he began.
Oriaku nodded, “Yes my King.”
“I want to see her face. Take some guards with you and tell my cousin that I sent you. Bring the morning sun to me. And if the word of the oracle comes to pass through you, you shall be blessed among all women.”
She didn’t waste time. Oriaku swirled round and stepped out of the palace. Three guards trailed behind her. By now, Obiajulu must have returned to her husband. She couldn’t wait to see the look on her face when Adaora would be announced as the next queen.
“Walk faster, we have a lot of distance to cover…”Oriaku bellowed to the guards.
Oriaku hadn’t walked too far from the palace when the oracle appeared in the middle of the throne room. The presence of the priestess startled the King and his mother, because they hadn’t expected her.
“Wise one, what brings you in such a hurry?” The King rose to his feet. He didn’t like the look in her eyes, they were fiery. The golden locks on her hair were rough and scattered. And she had black rings underneath her eyes. The oracle hadn’t slept very much.
She inhaled deeply and stared directly at the King.
“Days ago, I saw a vision of the woman that you are to marry. Though I didn’t tell you, I told all the Chiefs about it. But I made them swear an oath not to tell you or anyone else…” she started.
Ikemba scoffed and almost lost his stance. He couldn’t believe that the Chiefs would keep such a secret from him. It means that the priestess could conspire against him with the Kingmakers. He felt unsafe.
“I know you feel betrayed, but I didn’t mean to betray you. I was only working in accordance to the voice of the gods. They wanted me to name the next Queen for a reason.”
Only then was he relaxed, “What have the gods shown you today?” The Queen mother chipped in, she also noticed that the priestess was worried.
The oracle sighed, “You have many enemies. You must trust no one. A war is coming but you must withstand. You must fight with your whole heart for the woman that is truly yours. Without her you will fail for she is your moon and you her sun.”
The oracle began to spin, in readiness to vanish, but the King touched her shoulder.
“I do not understand your words. Speak to me in clear language. Tell me the prophecy in a way that I can understand.”
The oracle shook her head, “I speak what the gods ask me to. Be prepared for what is ahead.”
When he let go of her shoulder, she vanished right before his eyes. At first, Ikemba had felt confident that the gods had answered his prayers. He had been very certain that he would find the right woman that would bear him a son.
“It seems the gods are about to abandon me…”
He had a feeling that something terrible was about to happen in the Kingdom, but he couldn’t place a finger around it.
“Everything will be alright my King. We will continue to offer sacrifices to Ala and Amadioha. They will be pleased. They will grant you your heart desire.”
“I hope so,” he muttered weakly.
To be continued…

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