The king’s palace seemed like a graveyard after the oracle had walked away; each man to his own thought. Ikemba’s face no longer mirrored disappointment but great confusion and fear for he hadn’t known that Chiemelie’s hatred for him was this profound. The King tightened his fingers around the ofo, he paced the entrance of the large hut for some moments. He needed to proceed carefully. Already, Chiemelie had the woman he was to marry and her blood was precious. He wasn’t just bothered about Adaora’s safety because she was the moon virgin. No, he was reminded of the words of the old woman that he had seen in his dream.
Oriaku placed her hands on her head. This matter had spiraled out of control.
“The gods are truly wise. Adaora was brought to us for a purpose,” she whispered.
Okeke carefully gathered the pieces of the broken pot and walked away from the palace. He felt disappointed that Adaora wasn’t around. He had hoped to take back his slave for some cowries from the king. He was glad that she was alive and well. Whenever she was rescued from Amabara, he would find a way to get his slave back. For now, he would stop drinking and continue listening to the wind. Who knew what he would hear next?
“What do you plan to do?” Chinedum moved closer to his cousin. Though the two weren’t too close, Chinedum loved his cousin with his life and he had great respect for him. Ikemba’s childlessness had also been his problem. In fact, one of the women, the seventh wife had been Chinedum’s recommendation. When Ikemba looked up, Chinedum could spot worry in his eyes.
Ikemba relaxed when he heard his cousin’s voice.
“Brother, I don’t know…” He whispered.
Sensing that the King was about to discuss in details with the visitors, the Queen mother grabbed Oriaku’s hands and they walked away. The elders-in-council bowed their heads and dispersed. Chinedum and Ikemba were now alone. The King’s heart was troubled and he needed to share his burden.
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The men returned to the hut and took their seats. When Ikemba was fully settled, he turned towards Chinedum.
“Tell me about her, Adaora I mean.”
Chinedum was surprised. He had expected the King to come up with a strategy on how to get her back, instead of making enquiries.
“I know what you must think of me, but I will get her on my blood. I have not offended Chiemiele and Amabara, the gods are on our side. I will not sorrow for the moon virgin for she has been promised to me for a long time.”
Chinedum was confused, “I do not understand brother. Have you met her before she became my slave?”
Ikemba leaned against his chair and let out a roar of powerful laughter. Though he had never set eyes on Adaora physically, he had seen her many times in his dreams and visions. He was certain that she also saw him.
“In my dreams, the gods have revealed her to me. We are bound by destiny’s strong chord.”
Chinedum smiled. He knew that Ikemba was a good man and would become the perfect husband for Adaora. He cherished his slave and he loved her ways. Adaora’s heart was pure and her spirit was kind. He felt sad knowing that his children, Adaugo and Ikenna would ask him many questions about her. He needed to come up with the perfect lie to make them forget her.
“She is extremely beautiful. Her eyes are the herbs that swim under the stream. Her skin is yellow like the morning sun. Her body is supple yet full of strength. She has a humble spirit and an accommodating smile.”
Ikemba culd visualize this beauty as Chinedum described. He was truly lucky to have been chosen by the gods for this.
“I hope you treated her well…” Ikemba trusted his cousin, but he still needed to be sure. It wasn’t a secret that Chinedum loved Obiajulu greatly, so the King was certain that his cousin had no interest in Adaora.
Chinedum couldn’t answer that question immediately. He treated Adaora like a human being and he never saw her as a slave. It was his wife, Obiajulu that had treated her with disdain. He was ashamed of her actions towards the moon virgin. What if Adaora had decided to use her powers against his family? Who would have survived?
“I tried my best to make her feel at home. She warmed up to the children who saw her as a second mother. I just wished she never went to that stream…” he sighed.
Listening to Chinedum made Ikemba feel better. He could now talk of his plans.
“You shouldn’t be too hard on yourself. There are many things that would spiral out of control in this life, it is our attitude towards the problems the gods throw at our feet that matters. I am sure that wasn’t her first time of visiting the stream.”
Chinedum shrugged, “You are truly blessed with wisdom. It wasn’t her first time of visiting the stream. The gods just allowed it to happen.”
The duo fell silent for a moment. Ikemba’s greatest fear was Chiemelie defiling his wife to be. He wouldn’t forgive himself if anything bad happened to her. He needed to move fast.
“We have to send a spy to Amabara. Chiemelie is no fool. He knows how important Adaora is to me. Without her, I may never have a child. But the gods decided to bless me with one through her. He will be waiting for us. He would lay a snare for our feet, we must defeat him.”
Chinedum loved this idea. Ikemba was a strategist. If they sent their warriors to fight, it would complicate the situation. Sending an unknown person was the best.
“You must never speak of this plan to anyone, not even your wife!” Ikemba commanded.
Chinedum bowed his head in obedience.
“Now that I have come up with a plan, we need a trustworthy person to send to Amabara.” The King caressed his chin. He would’ve gone himself to rescue Adaora, but he knew the gods wouldn’t like it. His people wouldn’t sanction such a movement.
“Who will go for us? Whom shall we send?” He muttered in confusion. Spying was a horrible mission. Anyone discovered by Chiemiele would be put to death. He needed someone who would be willing to sacrifice his life.
Chinedum watched the features of the king. He knew Ikemba was worried knowing how dangerous this plan was. He couldn’t think of anyone in Ezeudo that would be willing to take such a sacrifice. Granted, the people loved their king, but he doubted their loved reached a level they could die for him. This plan was a secret and the royal guards couldn’t be let in.
“I will go for us. You must send me.” Chinedum blurted out.
Ikemba guffawed, “You’re joking right?” He stopped laughing when he noticed that Chinedum’s face was stern.
“No, no, no. I cannot send you. You are next in line to the throne if something should happen to me. This throne must never leave our name. I will not send you.”
Chinedum wasn’t deterred by Ikemba’s gruff voice. He had a plan that would lower the risk of being caught. If Ikemba accepted his offer, he would play his part well.
“You cannot deny me of this request. The woman that is being held against her will is my slave. I will be obeying one of the laws of the land which states thus:
‘It is the duty of a slave owner to take good care of his slaves, lest he incur the wrath of the gods.’ You are an honorable man and you will obey the laws of the land.”
When Ikemba heard this, he knew that he was hooked.
To be continued…