“Please, I beg of you. There is a great fire that would soon consume my household. It is the fire of shame and destruction. I need you to help me. I am ready to do anything you want.” She rubbed her palms together.
The old woman scoffed, “You come to me because your husband’s heart is no longer with you. You come to me when Anosike has abandoned you. You are a shameless woman!”
Obiajulu began to cry at this point. She had come to the shrine for help and not for more rebuke.
“I know all these already! I know that I have erred. But how long would I plead for my sins? I know that I have sinned against you mother, but you must help me out. My mother’s soul would be glad that you did…” Obiajulu buried her head on the wrinkled feet of the woman.
The old woman grimaced.
“Don’t use your mother’s soul to pacify me, daughter of Anwulika. You abandoned me like the rest of Ezeudo. I bore the punishment of your rejection. How can I trust you another time?”
Obiajulu raised her head, “You must bring my husband’s heart to me. You must drop his heart in the middle of my palms. You must make Anosike run mad for the way he treated me. And you must kill my slave girl…” She said all these in a rush.
The woman laughed, “Do you know what you are asking for?”
Obiajulu didn’t reply.
“You can do anything. Please, you must help me out.” She begged.
The old woman stared at the river before saying another word. She communed with the river goddess in her mind.
“I cannot kill the slave girl. The goddess tells me that she is to be untouched. I cannot bring back your husband’s love because his heart is already beating for another. But I can make Anosike mad…” The woman began to laugh as she saw a vision of Obiajulu dragging Oriaku’s body to a river. The woman before her was a terrible being, but she would help her anyway.
Obiajulu gritted her teeth as she thought about Chinedum.
“Please…you have to give me his heart. Please…”
“You are a very greedy woman Obiajulu. You once bought his love but you trampled it. You cheated on Anosike and attempted to kill his wife. Mmiliulo could be an impulsive and mischievous goddess but she is not one to give injustice.”
Suddenly, the old woman’s eyes were charged with a golden flame as the spirit of the goddess had taken possession of her.
“Your husband would never love you again. You are a vile woman!” The woman sneered at her.
Obiajulu began to shiver as she realized that the odds were against her.
“Please…he must never find out that I cheated on him.”
“HAHAHA!” The woman laughed.
“Very well then, you have come to the place for your justice.”
Before Obiajulu could sense what was happening, the old woman stepped away from her serving girls and touched her forehead swiftly. A warm sensation ran through her and it felt like she had been kissed by fire. The warmness vanished and was quickly replaced by a burning sensation which spread through her entire body.
“What is happening to me?” Obiajulu ran her hands over her skin but that only made it worse.
The burning sensation travelled from her legs to her torso and stopped at her temple. Before she could lay another complained, she felt a sharp pain in her eyes. This was followed by blurred vision.
“Amumma! What have you done?” Obiajulu rose to her feet.
“What needs to be done to someone like you!” The woman shifted back.
Obiajulu was about to launch a slap at the old fool when everything turned black. She found it difficult to see because she had just lost her sight.
“No! I cannot see!!!” She screamed with everything in her.
“Lead her to the middle of the Kingdom. She would be found by a kind stranger until she reaches home. Her punishment shall remain forever. She would wish for death, but death would not find her.” The old priestess gave orders to her girls.
The oracle was too stunned to say anything as she realized that the poisonous tree at the entrance of Chinedum’s compound was Obiajulu.
“What a terrible woman!”
“I feel another presence here. Show yourself!” Amumma scooped some sand by the river bank and tossed it into the air.
The oracle couldn’t hide anymore. Slowly, the veil between the spirit world and the physical world was torn.
“What do you want in my territory?” The old woman staggered as she realized who had come. The father of the oracle in conglomeration with the elders of the village had banished her and burnt the old shrine.
“I come in peace. I was brought here by the gods. I shall leave now,” the oracle whispered.
The old woman nodded and bowed.
“Go in peace!”
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The King had been afraid that the spirit of the oracle was completely gone when her body had fallen on the ground. But she sneezed almost immediately the thought crossed his mind.
“I know the evil tree! The gods have brought her justice!”
“Who is the evil tree?” Ikemba leaned forward.
The oracle guffawed as she searched the faces of her cowries.
“You wouldn’t believe a word of what the gods have revealed.”
“Tell me!” Ikemba held his heart in his mouth, hoping that Chinedum wasn’t the evil tree.
The oracle sighed, “Obiajulu is the evil tree. She and Anosike have defiled the land with their atrocities. They have been sleeping with each other. When Oriaku discovered what her husband was doing behind her, she confronted him and got stabbed by Obiajulu. Together, they dragged her body to the river, hoping she was dead. But the gods aren’t unjust. She lives!”
Ikemba was stunned as he watched the oracle relate what she had seen.
“How is this possible? How can that vain woman cheat on my cousin? He has loved her all these years and has been faithful to her.”
“She stole his heart with some rituals. She still sacrifices to Mmiriulo, the forbidden goddess of Ezeudo.”
Ikemba rose at once.
“Enough! Obiajulu must pay for her crime.”
“The gods have already begun their justice,” the oracle tossed her cowries on the ground.
After his quarrel with Obiajulu, Anosike had headed towards the palace with some farmers who bore harvests for the King. He knew that his men had erred, but he knew that Ikemba was a merciful King. He was ready to plead on their behalf.
While Ikemba circled the throne room, he heard his guards barking orders. When he raised his head, his blood boiled as he realized that Anosike had come.
“Let him in!” Ikemba stepped out of the throne room and ordered the guards.
From the look of things, Anosike thought that he was welcomed. Eagerly, he marched towards the King with his farmers along many baskets.
“May you live long great Lion of Ezeudo!” He bowed his head.
Ikemba clenched his fists and stared at the foolish man. He didn’t deserve a good woman like Oriaku. A man that slept with his friend’s wife lacked honor for himself and for his friend. He was the lowest of all men.
“Anosike, the great farmer,” the King praised him as well.
Gladly, the farmer rose to his feet wearing a confident smile upon his face.
“We have come bearing gifts. These are the finest produce from my barns. I hope the King is pleased.” Anosike offered another bow.
Ikemba nodded and raised his staff.
“I will accept your gift but I’d like to see your wife. My mother has missed her.”
Anosike felt a sharp pain in his chest. The King’s desire to see Oriaku had unsettled him.
“Um, she…um, she travelled to see her people.” He replied.
Ikemba shrugged, “Surely, you can send some of your men to bring her back. I must see her before nightfall.” Ikemba’s eyes were on the man’s face the whole time. It was obvious that Anosike had a lot to hide for he could no longer hold the gaze of the King.
There was no need of wasting time. Ikemba snapped his fingers.
“Take this man to the dungeons. He shall be brought out when Chinedum returns.”
The basket Anosike carried fell from his hands.
“No, I don’t understand my offence. All I came here to do was make peace with my King.”
“I know. But sometimes what Kings truly desire is war.”
“What is my offence?” Anosike struggled with the guards.
Ikemba turned his back on the evil man. He hadn’t taken more than three steps when he heard loud screaming of female voices. He paused and swirled around. Just in time, Ifeoma, one of his servants rushed in.
“Why is there so much screaming?” The King barked at her.
In a rush of breath, Ifeoma’s knees sank to the ground.
“My King, you will not believe this.”
“Obiajulu, the daughter of Anwuli and the wife of your cousin Chinedum, has lost her sight.”
Anosike froze when he learned of this. He no longer resisted the guards who dragged him and his men towards the dungeon.