Seeing her again brought back the familiar fluttering of butterflies in my stomach. I smiled broadly, completely mesmerised by her presence. She was still as beautiful as I remembered: Long dark flowing hair, light skin, full black eyes, silky perfect brows, spiky lashes and an hour glass figure. She was wearing the blue and grey check dress uniform again. I licked my lips in anticipation of food because I had a feeling she had come of her own volition. I was ready to eat whatever she offered me, even sewage for she was like a goddess. I cast my gaze down at the floor beside her to see what she had brought us but there was no tray. I looked up quickly and opened my mouth to ask her why she was here and how she was doing but she hushed me with a finger to her pink lips. I nodded in understanding. Then I shook Maazi Ndubisi vigorously and pointed in her direction. He raised his face up and turned towards her. And he beamed. I was glad that he had recognized her because I feared that the agony and pain he had been through would make it difficult to recall the events of the day before. I faced her again, her slender hands were trying some keys on the cell lock. She was doing it carefully and quickly so that she won’t arouse suspicion. Puzzled, Maazi Ndubisi whispered, ‘What are you doing?’ She didn’t say a word but kept fiddling with the keys. A few seconds later, we heard a click and the prison gate swung open. I ran with the tip of toes and caught the door so that it wouldn’t bang and make a sound. She motioned for us to follow her out. Our jaws dropped. What was going on? Where was she taking us to? Was our salvation finally here?
Back in our village, my parents and maazi Ndubisi’s wife were still waiting for the king. They had grown weary of standing and were sitting down now. Their faces were dripping sweat as thick as blood because they were worried. A few minutes later, a man announced that the king was about to meet with them. So they rose in anticipation. When they were graced with his royal presence, they were a little surprised that he was dressed in plain trousers and a shirt. They knelt down and greeted him when he came closer to them – as is our custom. He acknowledged their greeting by asking them to rise. He offered them seats but my father declined on their behalf. The king then sat on a tiger fur coated seat just directly in front of them and asked them. ‘What was so urgent that you had to come this early to the palace? You know I don’t attend to state affairs till 2’O clock.’ My dad nodded and said, ‘I’m really sorry your highness but my grandfather used to say that the tadpole does not leave water on its own accord except there is an alien invasion or it is no longer a tadpole. ‘I’ve never heard that adage before’, answered the king. Then he smiled and said, ‘What alien brings this tadpole out of the water?’ ‘My son and Maazi Ndubisi have been gone for days now. We consulted the oracle and the gods think he’s in the land of Umuogere.’ ‘The gods cannot allow this!’, the king exclaimed. ‘The gods have already allowed it, my king’, papa replied. ‘This is why I need help. The major problem is: I don’t know if my son is alive now or not. I don’t even know if he was alive as at the time of his abduction.’ My father started to narrate my entire story but the king cut him short with a wave of his hand and hit his staff thrice on the ground. Three messengers and one soldier appeared. ‘Go to my chief guard and captain of the army, tell them to summon the soldiers. We are going on a rescue mission to Umuogere,’ he instructed the soldier. He asked the messengers to ensure that supplies be made available for the journey and the people they were going to rescue. Then he turned to my father, ‘You were saying?’
Like metal to a magnet, we let down our guard and let ourselves be drawn to her. She led us into the passage. Fear gripped me for it was the same path that led to the king’s auditorium. She turned and smiled at me reassuring me with her eyes and willing me to trust her. After a few steps into the dark passage, she stopped abruptly and began feeling the walls. She moved a little further and then it was as though her hand latched onto something for she nodded. And when she faced to me, she was wearing a smirk with her brows raised – It was so cute. She began to push the wall, slightly at first but then she added more pressure and to my utter amazement the wall shifted. It moved inwards at first then it slid to the right revealing a secret passage. My eyes nearly dropped out of their sockets. This was super cool! I looked back and noticed the twinkle in Maazi’s eyes too. He was as excited as I was. The lady just shook her head and asked us to step in. Then she gave us a candle and a match box and bid us farewell. She put her hand on the wall like before and the wall started closing again. I held Maazi Ndubisi’s hand and stared at our saviour as darkness crept in upon us. It came in slowly extinguishing all the light the tunnel had taken in before. After a while, it was as dark as night and we were invisible. Then, I heard her run. She was screaming, ‘They’re gone. They’re not here, anymore.’ That was our cue. Maazi Ndubisi gave me the candle and struck a match. After lighting the candle, we started making our way through the passage. We ran as fast as we could with our hearts in our mouth because we could hear soldiers scampering all over and dispatching search parties. (To be continued…)
Earlier parts in the series: