SILVER Part 8
Note the links to part 1-7 are below
It was almost sunrise ? , they had to go and get the animals for sacrifice. Suddenly, mama ??realised something. They hadn’t asked the priest if he would collect money ? in place of all he (or rather the gods) had demanded. She voiced out her opinion. Papa?? thought for a minute and said, ‘Eze mmuo likes to do things traditionally. I don’t think he will accept money unless it’s cowries; converting that takes a whole day. It will just be like taking a trip to the next village.’ So they decided to go to market to purchase the items the gods had demanded. They got to the market extra early, around 6:30 am. But of course no one comes to sell their wares that early. Papa found two huge stones and put them together then he and mama sat together and wrapped their arms around each other eagerly waiting for people to start coming. They were not as sad ? as before. They felt a little flicker of hope in their hearts ? .
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I, on the other side of the world, had lost faith. I believed the gods had answered my prayer for water? but there was no sign to show that we were getting out of here soon. Maazi Ndubisi?? was snoring quietly beside me. For the first time since we arrived here, he seemed peaceful. I smiled; the gods had fanned him with their soothing breath?. I had been taught that the gods could breathe fire ? , ice ❄ or any mild gentle breeze as they chose. A guard? came to the cell just before I slipped into the world of my imagination. We had been summoned by King ? Lucas but I was beyond tired of being here already. I tried to wake Maazi Ndubisi?? but he was in deep sleep. The guard looked at him, hissed and clapped?? twice. A maid?? appeared with water. ‘No!’ I screamed. ‘He’s injured!’ The guard?? gave me a back hand slap. Next thing I knew was that I was in a cage just beside the King’s throne. I blinked? twice to be sure I wasn’t seeing things. I was cramped?. It was a small cage and I was squatting inside it. I turned my head to see Maazi Ndubisi, King Lucas was addressing him. Maazi was dripping wet. His wounds looked soggy but they seemed to have improved nonetheless. I was really uncomfortable? in the cage. I tried adjusting my legs to be able to listen better and understand what they were saying. As I did that, the cage metal screeched sending a sharp deafening noise into the atmosphere. I closed my ears with two hands?. King Lucas hit his sceptre on my cage so loudly; it gave me a fright! ‘Shut up, you rodent?!’ he said, in a tone I had never heard him use before. I could tell he was still asking Maazi Ndubisi to raise that boy from the dead. Why couldn’t he just believe the healer and let us go? Why was he really mean?
It was much brighter now. The villagers were already coming to the market in two’s and three’s. Mama heaved a sign of relief when he saw Maazi Ogbuefi, the livestock dealer, approaching the marketplace. Shortly after, they followed him to his stall and bought a medium-sized ram? from him. It was much more expensive than three chickens? but they hoped the gods would see their desperation and pardon all my offences. They went with the ram to the shrine and waited for Maazi Ndubisi’s wife??♀. She came about ten minutes later with three chickens. (She could not afford a ram at the moment). They went together into the shrine. As they bent their heads and stepped into the shrine, the village priest halted them. ‘It’s too early’, he said (in our dialect). ‘The gods are still resting from yesterday’s hard work!’ ‘What?’ my father screamed ?, in fierce anger?, ‘What is that supposed to mean? Better do the sacrifice now! My son’s body is no where to be found! Isn’t it enough that we have lost our only child? Do the gods mock us also?’ The village priest was taken aback. It was all over his face ?; he never ‘experrerit’! Not from my dad! My mum was speechless ??; she didn’t want to add to the drama. She was as angry as my dad. Maazi Ndubisi’s wife??♀ spoke calmly, ‘I thought the gods were our refuge and shelter. How would they abandon us when we need them the most? Beg them to give us a little of their time, we are in despair?. Please.’ The priest chanted? some incantations and circled round the images on the ground. He drew some chalk marks here and there. He picked kola, chewed and spat it at the idols. Then he poured gin on the ground. As soon as the gin touched the ground, fire ? sparked in the shrine and there was lightning ⚡ at the same time. Everyone was surprised except the priest. ‘Maazi Mgbesorondinweanyi, otu isi gwa ndi chi anyi okwu adiro mma. Mana ha si na ha ghota ihe na-aganu. Chere nu m. Ka m gaa chuo aja n’osisi nso ahu. Ka m jee puta. (Maazi Mgbesorondinweanyi, the way you talked to the gods is wrong, but they understand. Wait here; let me go the sacred tree ? to perform the sacrifice. I’ll be back shortly)’, was what he said. They made way for him and he took the ram ? from my dad and went out of shrine, heading towards the sacred tree.
Photo credit: dave campbell outdoors
Meanwhile, things were not looking too good here. Maazi Ndubisi was speaking all the grammar he knew but Lucas wouldn’t bulge. His will must be done! He must have been a really spoilt brat! Of course! He was once a prince now, he’s king. I chuckled softly although there was really nothing to laugh about. The king hit his sceptre twice and asked the guards to take us away, he wanted to think. He instructed them to feed us well and give us plenty of clean water. I was very happy! What a turn of events! This time around, it wasn’t the fair maiden of last night that came to us but a fat mean old lady?? whose smile didn’t reach her eyes. It was the same woman that was always instructed to pour Maazi Ndubisi water. As soon as I saw her, my hopes fell ?. I knew instantly that we had been scammed ?. This was certainly going to be their usual kind of hospitality, or worse. She came bearing a dusty tray. I tried convincing myself more than three times that it was just brown in colour but I just couldn’t get myself to agree with that. So, I made up my mind that whatever was on the tray was not going be a part of my destiny. I would rather die honourably than be fed like a condemned criminal. She set the tray down at the entrance of the cell without a word and scurried away quickly probably because I scowled? at her. I could tell that it was stale bread and soapy milk water because it smelt just like our last dinner but there was something else on the tray that I couldn’t relate to. Out of curiosity, I went closer to the tray and saw that there was also a dead pigeon? on the tray. It was probably raw or grossly undercooked; it was messy as there was still blood all over. Okay, this was hilarious! ‘What in the world is wrong with these people?’ I exclaimed. ‘Keep your voice down, Ekene’, Maazi Ndubisi chided, ‘You want us to leave this place alive? Just shut up!’ I zipped my mouth instantly. Maazi Ndubisi was right; making noise? here would only put us in further trouble and we were already in a lot of it.
My parents and Maazi Ndubisi’s wife were getting inpatient. What was taking the village priest so long? They had been standing for over three hours now and they couldn’t take it anymore. ‘I wish there was another way’, Papa muttered under his breath. Mama smiled ?sadly as though to concur with him even though she didn’t really hear what he said. Maazi Ndubisi’s wife decided to go and look for him at the sacred tree. As soon as she started heading out, they heard someone whistling from afar. The sound grew more and more towards their direction. The whistler was revealed shortly. The priest was back. In many parts of the world, whistling is a sign of happiness or good tidings but in our place, it means there is bad news mixed with the good. My people were a little confused but not in total despair because good news (despite the bad news) means there is hope to hold on to. The village priest scanned their faces to read their expression and then cleared his throat to deliver the news. As always, he spoke in dialect, translated thus: ‘Your son (talking to my dad) and husband (now turning to Maazi Ndubisi’s wife) have been found. I don’t know if they are alive or dead but they are in Umundiogere, the neighbouring village. I don’t know why and how they got there and if they’ll be alive by the time you go to them just go as quickly as you can. The gods be with you.’ My dad had never been more disappointed? in his life. He thought the gods were a beacon of wisdom and knew everything. That piece of information, to him, wasn’t substantial enough! Maazi Ndubisi’s wife simply said, ‘Daalu, anyi ga-agakwuru eze anyi ka o nyere anyi aka chota ha (Thank you, we will go and meet our king to help us find them).’ The trio??????♀ left the shrine and proceeded to the palace quietly. A lot of questions were on my dad’s mind, most of them were regrets. Could he have prevented all his? What if he believed the healer then? Were the gods punishing him for not raising a devoted kid? The distance to the palace seemed like forever although it was just three stone throws away. And the burden in their hearts could sink the largest ferry ?. They (to be continued)
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