He gently carried her off the ground, and placed her on his shoulder; he walked some distance and arrived a safely at a spot with a shelter. He carefully brought her down, and laid her on the wooden bench there. The make-shift shelter was conspicuously placed in the middle of nowhere with dense expanse of land around, where no sane man dared venture in the Akaziza forest. This area of the forest had been associated with a lot of fables over the passing years, and people had been avoiding it, and with time the name EVIL FOREST began to be associated with it.
“You see how you scared me.” The maiden spoke, and rose. She playfully hit her assailant, who soon proved to be not just her friend but her lover because they shared a kiss soon after the chastising. The entire scenario had been an exaggerated, re-enacted performance of the many people they had kidnapped together; a long list which includes Obele’s woman, Adaku.
“Why are you here now?” The male-figure asked her with playful concern.
“Because I had to see you… and warn you about something,” She said. Her lover wore a straight face now.
“Nnamani my love.” She addressed her lover by his first name. “The village is getting more serious about finding you… and Nebuchadnezzar is nowhere to be found anymore, to naturally take the blame for everything.” Her voice shrank, concern clouded her ability to speak well.
Nnamani stood up, he made her stand to join him. He enveloped her in his embrace as he assured her of the continued success of their work. “See… we’re almost done… Papa would be proud of us!” He chuckled and moved to embrace her. After a little while she broke the embrace and pointed to the moon. Nnamani chukled again. He held her hand and started to talk about the moon, he used it to remind her the reason they were doing this, should she have forgotten.
Ten years ago, Nnamani was a much different person than he was today; carefree and minutely cordinated. Yet, he reigned dear in the heart of those he called his loved ones, save for his father. He resented his father very much for many things, primarily because he disapproved of his friendship with Nebuchadnezzar and Okpunobi. His father always claimed that they all had great futures that don’t align together, but he never listened to him. All three kept hanging out together, until Okpunobi became King through a surprising turn of events where he easily took out the previous king, Igwe Onoja in a trial by combat. This put the first strain between his family and his friend, the new Igwe, Igwe Okpunobi, because Onoja was his uncle. He kept on his friendship with Igwe Okpunobi through conscious efforts, even as his father kept on warning him to desist from further contact with new The King. Even when Nebuchadnezzar was arrested by the white men for a shocking crime he refused to admit or refute committing, he, Nnamani Oputa still remained true to his friend and King, Igwe Okpunobi. It wasn’t until the day his father was arrested by the white-men for allegedly conspiring against The King, when truly he simply resisted the advent and acceptance of their foreign language in place of their traditional Ibo. Swiftly, his father was killed by the white men, without a trial of any sort, as a deterrent to others talking ill and conspiring in the shadows; and Igwe Okpunobi covered up their crime because he wanted more of the wonder-toys the white men kept bringing from their foreign land.
The death of his father signaled the end of their friendship; that was when he recognized he had to do something about the white-men, just as his father tried to. He ran into solitude, disappearing from the village to settle into the evil forest; he sought guidance and fortifications from the gods until the time apportioned to start the amendment rights arrived. The time was near, hence the missing persons and the recent killings; they were all for one big coming sacrifice, to set the people of Umuchue free from the hold of the evil foreign Queen and her tyrannical disciples.
“I have heard this story a thousand times,” the maiden said to him.
“And I’ll continue to tell it a thousand more,” Nnamani said. “I use it to console myself, as I await the revenge and wrath of the gods on the white man who has desecrated our land.” He added.
They embraced again, this time, she took the lead. They lay in the warmth and comforting embrace of the each other, in the bright, open gaze of the moon.
Sir Thomas met up with Sir Bradley half the way of the aisle of the magnificent structure they had raised in Umuchue, on the parcel of land close to the sea, where The King had gifted them in good faith to begin their mining activities when they first arrived. The brick walls of this structure, which was very different from the clay that Umuchue houses and even the palace were known for, served more as an enticement of the many things Igwe Okpunobi was yet to enjoy from them.
“Any news on Nebuchadnezzar’s whereabouts?” Sir Bradley asked; he posed before the mirror on the wall of the hall way. He tried adjusting his moustache subtlety, but the reply he got interrupted the act.
“No we haven’t. He has proved extremely difficult to track, making me think he learnt too well from us,” Sir Thomas reported.
Sir Bradley turned towards him; he spat before he spoke. “No one in this godforsaken village can be wiser than the force of the British army… goddamit!” The full extent of his accent surfaced in his anger. He wore another look; one far different from the cheerful persona he always had on whenever he was before Igwe Okpunobi; a face of terror. He collected Nebuchadnezzar’s case file from Sir Thomas and said, “Our Queen wants result. Get them.” Then he sent him away.
He flipped the case file open, and was greeted with the black and white picture of a lifeless 15-year-old boy – Mazi Okolo’s son. He looked up to the mirror, before he sank into his own world of thoughts.
When he and the rest of his team arrived this village years ago, in the face of momentary weakness he wondered how The Queen’s general who sent him to lead this mission expected him to survive here in this crude exploration journey. As an envoy of The Queen, he was personally briefed by Her Royal Majesty on the importance of having control of an African community without enslaving it; he had no choice but to find a way, a method to see that this mission proved successful, and that he did his Queen and country proud. He was on his way to quickly achieving that through enticement schemes and plans, when reports of Nebuchadnezzar first reached his table. He didn’t understand the matter to the fullest, and couldn’t resolve it as quickly as he did that of the Chief priest, because Igwe Okpunobi forbade him from ever resorting to that kind of approach. He had to institute the prison holding cells, and kept Nebuchadnezzar imprisoned for years, till they felt it was the right time to let him go. And the moment they released him, kidnappings and killings came with him to plague the lands. Certainly, Nebuchadnezzar was the suspect, and almost certainly the perpetrator; and must be found at all cost, if he was to have any chance of completing his work here and returning to his country to marry his fiancé of 12-years.
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