Though Oriaku was still hurt by the words of her husband, she made up her mind to forget all about him. Her duty was to the King and his mother. She needed to deliver Adaora into his hands for marriage. A sad smile danced across her lips as she remembered the first night she had set eyes on Adaora. The slave girl had a good spirit and she would make a good wife for the king. Once she was done helping the King with a new wife, she would pack her things and leave Anosike for good. He was a terrible and inconsiderate man, the greatest mistake she had ever made in life. At least, she still had a hut in her father’s home and no one would chase her away.
“Are we there yet?” One of the guards asked gruffly.
“Very soon we shall get there,” Oriaku responded with zeal. As they neared Chinedum’s hut, she began to hum a song. It was a happy song, one that she hadn’t rendered in a long while. Just in time, Chinedum surfaced and it made everything perfect.
Adaora had been gone for too long and her master had become worried. He had tried to mask his anxiety by making small talk with Obiajulu’s aunt, but the woman had fallen asleep. He couldn’t blame her. She had come from a far place and her bones were sore from too much trekking. His slave was missing, so was his wife. What sane man wouldn’t be worried? He had found a bowl of delicious yam pottage that Adaora had prepared for the children in the afternoon. He had fed them with it, now that they had fallen asleep with their aunt; Chinedum had decided to look for the two women.
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The sight of Oriaku’s blossoming face in the company of Ikemba’s guards didn’t sit well with him. It was rare before the King’s men visited anyone. He hoped everything was fine.
“Oriaku, wife of the great farmer!” He got rid of the anxiety and welcomed a happy laugh.
Oriaku bowed her head, “May the gods bless you as you have truly recognized my position in Anosike’s life.” Her only wish was that Chinedum discovered the kind of wife that he married. As usual, she was roaming the village with Anosike committing outrageous acts instead of tending to her domestic calling.
Chinedum was a wise man. He read deep meaning into her words as she intended.
“I do not understand your words Oriaku; does anyone contend your position? Does Anosike plot for a new wife?”
The state of Oriaku’s marriage to Anosike was an open secret. The people of Ezeudo knew the farmer to be a hotheaded wife beater and this rubbed him of respect in some quarters. Chinedum knew that Anosike was embittered because he had no sons and daughters. But he had managed to convince his friend to stick to Oriaku for she was a good woman. Chinedum had encouraged him to sacrifice to the gods and keep hope alive. If he must marry a second wife, it should be on Oriaku’s terms.
Oriaku shrugged, “I come entirely for another matter. I am afraid that there may not be enough time for proper explanation. Where is Adaora?” She waited patiently for an answer.
Chinedum was even more curious than before. Was she in some kind of trouble? Had she broken any law? Why did the Oriaku and Ikemba’s guards want to see Adaora?
“Why do you seek for her?” He searched Oriaku’s eyes.
Oriaku sighed and stole a glance at the frowning guards. It was obvious they were getting impatient but it would be wrong of her to demand Adaora’s presence without first informing Chinedum of the reason she was needed at the palace.
“The oracle has spoken a message about her. She comes from the land of Anyanwa…”
“That’s not possible. The land exists only in stories. The inhabitants are said to be cursed and full of dark magic which can only be fuelled by blood. Are you sure of what you are saying?” Chinedum stepped away from her. He found it difficult to believe her allegations against Adaora.
“At first, I reasoned like you. But a closer look to the rareness of her beauty would tell you that she isn’t just any beautiful woman. She combines the powers of the sun and moon deities. All the elemental spirits will be subject to her, once her union with the king comes to reality. It is only she that would bear the king children. Do you not want this for him?”
Chinedum was still lost. So many things had happened behind his back.
“May the gods forbid that I deny my own brother a chance at happiness. There is only one problem.” The master was about to tell Oriaku that Adaora had not yet returned to the stream, when a wailing Okeke rushed towards them with fresh cocoyam leaves. The leaves were meant to hide something and they all wondered what the wailing man had inside the leaves.
Oriaku adjusted her wrapper and hoped that Okeke’s drunkenness wouldn’t delay them further. What was this drama all about? She clenched her fists as if to punch the intoxication out of his brain. But as he drew nearer, they all realized that she wasn’t reeking of fermented palm wine or tobacco. He wasn’t drunk. He had come to deliver important information.
Like Oriaku, he had also found interest in Adaora, after discovering that she would soon become the king’s wife. He had hoped to get his slave back so he could demand for a large bride price. Okeke had gone to check on his palm trees when he had spotted Adaora following a lonely bush path to the stream. He had decided to approach her and convince her to return to him, only to find six hefty warriors who had surrounded her. Okeke had quickly hidden himself in the bush for fear of being killed. The warriors had attacked Adaora and taken her away with them. Once he was certain they were gone, he had jumped out of the bush and gathered the remnants of her water pot.
To be continued…