At this point, thunder clapped and the clouds began to race. When the oracle turned around, her heart skipped as she realized that Chinedum’s wife had come to consult the forbidden goddess.
“You come to me when all hope is lost. When there was hope and you were eating and growing fat, where did you keep me?” Amumma scorned. She remembered Obiajulu vividly. Before her marriage into the royal family, her mother had brought her to the river for a bath. Seven rituals had been carried out so she could give birth to sons and daughters; the rituals had also been to capture her husband’s heart completely. But Obiajulu had failed to keep to her promise.

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Many hours had passed and Adaora remained totally speechless. She couldn’t believe a word that Anosike’s wife had spoken. It was unbelievable that Obiajulu could be that wicked.
“It seems you do not believe me…” Oriaku sobbed.
Adaora pulled in a deep breath, “I know she is a cruel woman but I didn’t know she was cheating on her husband. I didn’t know she had tried to kill you.”
Oriaku shrugged, she couldn’t blame the moon virgin for not believing her.
“I had known for a long time that my husband’s heart wasn’t with me anymore. I felt it deep within. Anosike’s love had been bought by another woman. It was Okeke that revealed the identity of the woman. At first, I found it difficult to believe just as you. But I once saw them in the farm. Obiajulu is a very wicked woman and she has blinded my husband. I must return and tell Ikemba about them.”
At the mention of the King’s name, Adaora’s heart fluttered. She realized that she hadn’t seen his face in her dreams for a while. She had also not thought about him. All her attention had been on how to retrieve the sacred dagger from Amabara. Her heart softened as she thought of the man the gods had destined her to be with.
“What is that smile?” Oriaku noticed the glow of affection in Adaora’s eyes.
“Nothing,” Adaora blushed.
If not for the wound that was very slow in healing, Oriaku would’ve laughed at Adaora.
“From the first night I saw you, I knew there was something special about you. I am happy that I didn’t maltreat you. Soon, you will be the Queen of Ezeudo and I shall be the Queen’s friend.” She managed a weak smile.
Adaora couldn’t help but laugh. She rested her head on the shoulder of the wounded woman.
“All our dreams shall come to pass.”
Oriaku agreed with her.
“Obiajulu was very certain that she’d killed me. I found myself by the river bank at midnight. One of the fishermen had seen me. At first, he had thought me an evil spirit trying to lure him into a trap, but the gods blessed his heart and he took me into his canoe. My mind was blank after that. I woke up beside the river of Amabara, I don’t know how I got here. Perhaps, the gods brought me here for a reason.”
Adaora sighed, “What on earth did she want to achieve by killing you? Surely the gods of Ezeudo aren’t dead. She has committed a grievous offence and she would pay for it.”
Oriaku smiled knowing that Obiajulu would be severely punished for her crime.
“Obiajulu is a very selfish and wicked woman. When she first got married to Chinedum, there were rumors that she trapped him inside a calabash. She has her husband’s heart in her palms, and I know she must have bewitched Anosike as well.”
Adaora cringed as she remembered her first night at Oriaku’s house. Adaora had lost respect for the farmer for beating his wife like an animal. She felt angrier as she realized that Oriaku hadn’t wronged him. Her only crime was speaking against his illicit affair with Obiajulu.
“The gods would vindicate you.” Adaora warmed the woman’s heart with her words.
“Thank you for your words.”
Adaora knew the next information she was about to share would shock Oriaku, but it would guide her decision concerning Obiajulu’s matter.
“There’s something I want to tell you,” Adaora rose to her feet and walked towards the entrance of the hut.
“What is that?” The woman searched Adaora’s eyes.
“I am the moon virgin…” Adaora began but Oriaku cut her short.
“I know who you are, Adaora. You are blessed by the gods. You are destined for a great King. I know that you have powers and you can see the future and read minds.”
Adaora nodded, though that wasn’t what she had wanted to say.
“When I was kidnapped, I spent a lot of time questioning the gods until I realized that they had brought me to retrieve the sacred dagger of Ituri. I cannot do that on my own, so the King sent my master to assist me.” She paused to let the words sink in.
It took Oriaku a while to understand the implication of Adaora’s explanation.
“Chinedum is here?” Her lips shivered.
“Yes, he is.” Adaora nodded.
Oriaku gritted her teeth as she thought of Chinedum’s wife and all the atrocities she had committed towards her.
“I will not tell him about his evil wife until our mission is done here. I will expose Obiajulu once we reach Ezeudo.”
Adaora released the breath she held. She had been worried that Oriaku would make a scene which could distract Chinedum from retrieving the dagger.
“Thank you, nneoma.” Adaora bowed.
“Let me leave you to rest. You need all the strength because we may be leaving for Ezeudo sooner than we expected.”
Oriaku thanked the moon virgin for spending time with her before lying on the bamboo bed which was provided for her. She felt relieved knowing that someone else had shared her burden. As she closed her eyes, the only face she saw was Obiajulu’s. She couldn’t wait to return to Ezeudo.
Princess Uli had left the moon virgin with the strange woman; she had observed they needed privacy. Uli had nothing to keep her preoccupied while waiting for Adaora, so she had decided to indulge in one of her habits. Her servants had been hesitant to provide her with a knife and pieces of wood knowing how angry the Queen would be. Uli had always stood out from the other princesses. While the others loved to adorn their skin with the latest herbs to make it glow and spend their days looking at the mirror, Uli had no time for that. She was already bestowed with a natural beauty that was difficult to compete with.
She loved to stroll through the village to know how the people were faring. Perhaps, this was the reason that some Kingdom dwellers were drawn to her than her cruel brother. If she wasn’t strolling, she was sacrificing and worshipping at the royal shrine. When she wasn’t doing that, Princess Uli loved to carve some figures using wood; a habit that her mother condemned.
“Why do you behave like a man when you aren’t one? You are a princess in the name of the gods! Why would you carve?” Her mother always disapproved of her hobby which she considered a talent.
Uli usually ignored the woman, until the Queen grew weary of nagging.
As her fingers worked the knife, pieces of the bark she was peeling fell to the ground. She hummed a song as she carved. Unknown to her, the stranger from Ezeudo had just finished with her brother; he paused in his steps and watched as she carved.
After swearing an oath to King Chiemelie, Chinedum had stepped out of the palace. He had searched everywhere for Adaora and the Princess to tell them the latest development. There was no better time to steal the dagger than within the seven days that had been declared for the cleansing of the kingdom. He was fully prepared to do whatever it would cost to take the dagger. He had promised to lay down his life for Ezeudo, and he was willing to die if it came to that.
“Ouch!” Uli winced as the knife dug into her skin. Blood gushed out from the wounded finger. She bit her lip and quickly rose to her feet. She couldn’t let the Queen see her.
“Why am I having so many wounds?” She exclaimed angrily.
Chinedum rushed forward as he noticed that she had cut herself.
“Princess!” He covered the distance between them.
She licked her lips and smiled as she stared into his eyes. They were darker than she had noticed, even broodier. It seems he carried all the burden of the world in those eyes.
As he stared at her, something within him stirred. Chinedum quickly looked away. There was a growing attraction to Uli but he had to fight it. He reminded himself that he had a wife at home who was waiting patiently for him with his children. He loved Obiajulu with all of his heart and he wasn’t willing to share his heart with another woman. As he took the Princess’ finger, he made a mental note to stay away from her.
“I never knew a woman could carve,” he observed the level of the cut.
Uli scoffed, “Why do men think women are that uninterested in some crafts
He adored her more after her question. Chinedum observed that Uli didn’t have the attitude of a typical princess. She wasn’t lazy or soft. She was full of determination and courage.
“I have some potions that would alleviate your pain.” He was about taking off his bag when Adaora found them. Adaora noticed the pain in the eyes of Uli.
“I am so sorry about your wound but we must find a place and talk. We don’t have much time left.”
While Chinedum cleaned the wound with some leaves he fetched from the forest while hunting, Adaora made some suggestions that would help them retrieve the dagger.
“I think we should strike tomorrow night. While the palace is quiet, we would go into the throne room and take the dagger. When we are through, we’ll scurry through the bush paths until we reach home.” She suggested.
“That is a good plan but the King made me swear allegiance to him,” Chinedum announced.
“That wouldn’t be a problem. You will eat of the Ikele leaves. It would protect you from the repercussions of the oath.” Uli advised.
The Princess liked Adaora’s plan, but she knew it wouldn’t work.
“My brother is no fool. Don’t think for one minute that he trusts you completely,” She turned to Chinedum.
“Chiemelie isn’t only evil, he takes after my mother’s crafty nature. For every plan that he comes up with, he has seven other plans to back it up. Retrieving the dagger of Ituri would be more tasking than what you have described. We cannot do it on our own. We will need extra help. This is a matter of life and death, so we must be totally prepared for what is to come.”
Adaora and Chinedum realized that they had to rely completely on Princess Uli.
“We will strike on the third night. But before then, I will put some things in place…” She pulled her hands away from Chinedum as the touch of his hands was beginning to send sparks into her fragile body.
“What can we do to help?” Chinedum asked.
Uli shrugged, “We have to call the gods for help.”
When the princess was gone, Adaora turned to Chinedum and informed him of Oriaku’s presence.
“What is she doing here?” It sounded very odd.
Adaora clicked her tongue. She’d wanted to answer, “Why not ask your friend and your wife?” But she decided to hold her tongue for the right time.
“She is the woman that was found by the water. We must leave Amabara as fast we can else they may sacrifice her on the seventh day.”

To be continued…

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