Udoka was stunned; she looked at the medicine man with her mouth open and her eyeballs almost bursting out of their sockets.
Udoka: “Medicine man, I am probably down with that bad malaria that kills within days. I am definitely not pregnant” she replied.
Medicine man: “But you are, wait until I prove it to you” he said and brought out a very dark leaf leaf, he put it under her nose and she began to sneeze. It was believed in Igbundu that only pregnant women sneezed when in close contact with that leaf.
Udoka: “Please medicine man, please don’t tell the king, he must not find out. Please I beg you. When the seven days expire, I shall leave this village with my daughter and this new child” she begged. Just at that moment, before the medicine man could reply, big sores began to spurt out of Udoka’s skin. As they spurted out, they broke and pus oozed out.
Medicine: “This is the hand of Idemili, you cursed woman, and you killed your stepson!” he exclaimed and ran out of the dungeon shouting. Within minutes, people had gathered, they pulled Udoka out, and her daughter. The king looked at her, he was disappointed, he had suspected her, and then doubted her guilt, and now that Idemili had manifested, he didn’t know what he should do.
Ego Oyibo: “I knew it, she was just jealous of me. Oh no, you killed my poor boy, he was so little. What did he ever do to you, tell me now” she said coming close to Udoka, but making sure she did not touch her.
Emelu: “Take her to the village square, she shall die” he said in a thunderous voice. The people began to pull Udoka by her clothe to the village square. Adaku cried and followed them, in the whole debacle, people had forgotten about her.
At the village square, the king commanded a pit to be dug to six feet. While they dug the pit, Ezemmuo came and tried to dissuade the king from what he was about to do.
Ezemmuo: “My king, this thing you are about to do, I feel bad about it. The chief priest had declared this woman innocent, whatsoever is happening now, is a manipulation” he said.
Emelu: “Why does it seem like you connived with this woman, did you also want my son dead so that you can push me out of the throne? Are you working with my brother, Azagba?”
Azagba: “Emelu, you might be king, but you still have to watch your mouth. Why would I work against you now, you stole the throne from me when father died, if I wanted to hurt you, I would have done that. You know I have many supporters” he replied and walked away. Emelu looked at his retreating figure and wondered why he never tried to get rid of him. He knew why, it was because Azagba had the support of most top people in the village, if he tried, there would be anarchy, and he would lose the throne.
Udoka: “Please my husband, have mercy on me. My only sin is not giving you a male child; please do not punish me for a crime I have not committed. Please remember how much you loved me before” she cried and pleaded for her life. In her heart, she wondered if the gods had gone mad, why would they accuse her of killing the prince, when she was innocent. Weren’t they all seeing, how then could they be this blind?
Ego Oyibo looked on with satisfaction, as the pit got deeper. Finally, she would be rid of Udoka for good. She looked around and saw Adaku, she was crying, her face contorted in fury.
Ego Oyibo: “You will not die, Adaku. I will make life very miserable for you, you will wish you had gone with your mother”
After the pit was dug, Udoka was grabbed and thrown inside, but she kept jumping out. By this time, all her body was rotten, even her face. The men were loathe to touch her, they kept pushing her into the pit with the shovels they had dug with.
Udoka: “Please spare my life” she cried looking at her husband.
Emelu grabbed one of the shovels and raised it up above his head, and then he brought it down, with all his might, on Udoka’s head. Udoka fell down into the pit, but before she took her last breath, she said;
Udoka: “Emelu, the man who loved me and killed me. I tell you that I shall come back to your house, this time, not as a wife, but as a daughter.” She took in one last strong breath and then closed her eyes in death.
Silence fell on all, people were shocked by her words, and they stared at their king, unsure what to do next. Then the silence was broken, by the sound of bells clanging. Everyone turned to see the chief priest approaching with his errand boy walking beside him. When he came close and saw Udoka lying in the pit dead, he cried out with a loud voice.
Chief priest: “Igbundu, you have committed a sacrilege, killed a woman with an unborn child. What did the child do, he has not even been in the world” he said hitting his walking stick on the floor, and making marks on the sand.
Emelu: “What are you saying, Udoka is not with child, and in fact she cannot give birth”
Chief Priest: “Igbundu, you killed your prince, that child she carried was the son that was destined by the gods to rule Igbundu. I weep for my people, because calamity is lurking” he said and began to walk away. Ego Oyibo was happy that Udoka had been killed, but she didn’t want anyone thinking that she was carrying a son.
Ego Oyibo: “That is a lie, Udoka was not pregnant” she yelled. The chief priest turned around abruptly, like he had been stung.
Chief Priest: “You architect of evil, you led your husband to the pit, with this your mouth. As long as I live you shall not speak!” he said and pointed his walking stick towards Ego Oyibo. She opened her mouth to protest, but no word came out, she had gone dumb.
Chief Priest: “As for you Emelu, ignorance is not an excuse for doing evil. Why did you have to fight for the gods? You took the matter to Idemili and yet you didn’t allow Idemili finish what he started. I told you she was innocent, but you refused to heed me.” He said and finally walked away.
People began to disperse, even the diggers, they believed the chief priest now, and they didn’t want to be part of the evil that had been committed. But it was too late. Emelu commanded the palace guards to carry Ego Oyibo away, back to the palace.
Adaku had watched everything with detachment, it was if what was happening didn’t concern her, she had closed her mind to the pain. She was wandering about the village square when one of the palace guards saw her and bundled her away. Emelu ran to the shrine of Idemili to inquire why the god had misled him.
Emelu: “Ezidemili, why did Idemili deceive me?” the king asked
Ezidemili: “Idemili deceives no one, if she was guilty, it would have manifested on the first day, but what you saw was the evil manipulations of an evil person” he replied.
Emelu ran back to his palace, with his guards running after him, trying to keep up with him. As he entered the palace, he saw Adaku and Ego Oyibo by the door, the latter was twisting the former’s ears. Ego Oyibo’s face was contorted in fury, from her expressions, one could tell she wanted Adaku out of the palace, but because she couldn’t talk, she was grunting and twisting the poor girl’s ears.
Emelu: “Adaku, I don’t want to see your face. If you had come as a boy child, I wouldn’t be in this mess. Go to the servants’ quarter, which is where you will be from now onwards. As for you, Ego Oyibo, come to my hut, we have to start making a son!”
Life continued in Igbundu, but not as it was before. Fishing was the major occupation of the villagers, but the fishes in the water began to die, so much that the rivers began to smell. Their side of the river which used to bustle with fish traders was now like a ghost town, there was no more fish to sell. Rain also refused to fall, so those who farmed lost their crops to drought. There was poverty in the land.
In all this time, Ego Oyibo became pregnant; she was cherished and taken care of. While people outside the palace died of hunger, the palace had plenty and they never thought to give to the subjects. This was the basis for Azagba’s coup, he called on his loyal friends to send out a dispatch, by word of mouth, to convey a meeting at 12 midnight.
Question: Will Azagba succeed in overthrowing his brother?
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