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They got to a river and Atika asked her to go and wash off herself inside the river.
Olamma went to the river to wash herself, as she bent down over the water she saw a strange reflection.
Olamma looked round but did not see anybody close to her, She was the only one there. Atika was at another side collecting leaves from a tree branch and waiting for her to finish up.
Olamma bent over again and saw the same reflection, a strange older face filled with wrinkles.
She blinked her eyes and the reflection also blink. She try to ascertain if that was really her or some spirit playing tricks on her.
She raised a hand and touched her face, the reflection did exactly everything she was doing.
“This can’t be me. No…no…where is all my beauty? What happened to my face? Oh, by the gods, this can’t be me…No….
She ran out of the river. When Atika saw her running towards him, he pause from what he was doing and asked.
“The fleas are still on your skin…you did not wash as I instructed you to. Time is running, if you don’t wash off on time your skin will be eaten by the fleas until your death. You will look abnormal from very other person…
Olamma felt like crying out. She touch her face again before saying.
“I don’t know if it is my mind that is playing tricks on me or this is real. I was at the river to wash just as you instructed but I saw another person there who does exactly everything I try to do. That person can’t be me. She is ugly and has a wrinkled face…. I am the most beautiful maiden in my village and I don’t understand why I saw a strange reflection…it can’t me. I don’t believe it….
Atika smiled and came closer to her.
“That was your reflection Nne. Your facial beauty is gone. You have live and dine with the other world, they over fed you with the venom to make you grow bigger in time just for them to feast on you. You vomited the venom and transform to a normal human shape. You can’t be the same again. Your beauty is gone and you will have to live with yourself this way. The most important things is that you are alive. Now, rush down to the river and wash off immediately for your own good. You still have a deadly open wound on your arm which I need to quickly examine once we arrive at my shrine. Hurry up Nne and clean up…
Olamma turned and went back to the river. She washed up herself. Tears filled her eyes as she took her bath in the river.
How will she go back to her village like this, she was the most beautiful and now even her voice is not recognizable, she sound different from her old self. Everything has changed. She was angry at many things and wonder how she will face her people in her present condition.
The shame to face her people clouded her heart, how will she cope with living with herself. Her father and mother will still love her but she was no more the beautiful Olamma that makes men’s head to turn whenever she walk pass them.
The fleas that were stuck to her skin were gone. She felt a little free and also wish her real beauty will be restored back but it seems she has to live with her new self.
The journey with Atika continued. When they arrived at a place Atika stopped and began to whisper some incantations. She stood at a distance and watch.
Atika danced as he kept on with his chant and after sometime he went on one knee and stretch out his hand to Olamma who understood the signal and quickly grabbed his hand.
And they both disappeared and arrived at a shrine.
Atika released Olamma’s hand and asked her to stand far from the shrine, she quickly did.
He began to turn, demonstrating and chanting continuously. After sometime he stopped.
Olamma yawned hungrily as her stomach made a noise. She was hungry and started looking around for any fruit or nut to eat.
Atika came to her, he examine the hand that has the open wound for sometimes before using a hot balm to massage olamma’s arm. Her whole hand burn like fire but she endured the pain as the balm took effect on the wound.
Atika ordered Olamma to follow him. She did and they walked down a small road and came to stop at a hut. They sat down and he began to talk.
“I live here alone…sometimes my young son comes to stay with me. This is where I stay before I take off every night for my hunt. My village is not far from here. My wife and children stay back in the village. My father was a strong dibia (native doctor) before he passed it down to me and he also trained me so well before his death. I don’t hurt people with my power, I help them and villagers knows me for that. I live most of my life alone and only go to my wife during the full moon or whenever I miss home. But after our last child, she is six years old now, I stopped mating and focused on my work. I can be anywhere at any time. I have three children. A boy and two girls. I’m training my son towards becoming a great dibia, just like my grandfather who trained my father and he trained me. so when my son gets to the age of fortification I will do exactly what is needed to be done. I still wonder how you got yourself into the giant vulture’s trap, who is also a trick star and can change to different thing, they call him Onrah the trick star. Is either you wanted more than the humans can give or you were prideful. The sky is open and the walls has ears. Your wishes must have gotten to the ears of Onrah the wicked trick star and he decided to gather his friends and come for you. There are three giant hawk who flies around taking different information to him. They must have heard you or someone say something about your desires. The hawks’ travels as far as their wings can carry them. They can be over a roof or a tree listening gathering information and taking back to the underwood. I have been trying to track them but they are smart and not easily caught. Few days ago, I was hunting in the night and heard them on top of a tree talking about the great feast. They said the human has grown big enough and Onrah is hosting all his friends for the feast. They talked about how your pride and running mouth was your doom. A lot of things were said and I was by the tree listening without them knowing. I fired out my poisonous arrows and two were brought down immediately, one was injured but escaped with a heavy cry. I’m not sure it will survive. In no time I snuffed life out of one of the hawks that fell and the remaining one alive I made it to say all that is needed and how I will get to Onrah. The cave he lives with other animals and many other things. After that I killed the hawk and took them to my shrine. I fortified myself and left and that was how I was able to get to you in time. Thank your chi I came just in time before the feast began. After you disappeared from the cave, Onrah tries to get to me but he couldn’t get hold because I operate far smarter than he can imagine. I poured the dangerous liquid which will weaken them before I set them up on fire. i stopped by the swamp, one of Onrah’s friend lives there. He is very dangerous and his name is Zakiza the crocodile. The hawk gave me that information too. I poured a dangerous liquid into the soiled water and watch them struggle with their lives. After my mission was accomplished I joined you. Don’t you know Ozulu is a land of no return, the land of the unknown? An ordinary human can’t go there. The food you started eating from the journey to Ozulu kingdom was fortifying you. You can hear the animals which was uncommon. But now you can’t because the substance I gave you to drink nullifies it all and you are back to being human with less ability. Onrah maybe a wicked beast but he doesn’t just go for anybody. He is very intelligent and goes for his target. The hawk must have feed him with enough information and your news of wanting a bigger suitor must have been the reasons behind his visit. Once you are due for feasting, they will all feed on you and wait for another two years before searching for their next victim. Is either your father or mother were praying to the gods for your protection and the gods heard them or it was not yet your time to die. Maybe somebody needs to learn from your sorrowful tale. You will stay here for some time until all your wound heals up before returning to your village. Which of the kingdoms did you say you came from?
Olamma was quiet all through. She still wonder how she will face her people. She told Atika everything, including how she wanted to marry a handsome and a wealthy prince. She rejected and threw insult at many suitors that came for her hand in marriage, even her parents joined her in doing so. She was the most beautiful girl in her village and it got into her head. She gets anything she wanted and that was how she fell for Onrah and his friends who deceived her just to make a meal out of her. It was only her elder sister, Adaugo that warned her but she never listened.
Olamma was shock to know that she has spent over two years already ever since she left home.
She was indeed grateful for her live and knew that her parents will be pleased to receive her not minding that her beauty has been tampered with.
“The night is fast approaching, I can see that you are hungry. Over there is the kitchen. Go and make dinner. You can use the grass cutter meat that I recently caught to make either yam pottage or onugbu soup. (bitterleaf soup) go ahead Nne so that you can fill your hungry stomach with fresh food. I also have some new wrapper that my wife gave me. You can change into it and discard the one you had on.
Olamma thanked him. She collected the wrapper that she was given and changed into something new. She threw off her old wear. Atika gathered it up and set it on fire.
Olamma walked up to the kitchen but she doesn’t know where to start from. She knew that she can’t cook but was ashamed to tell Atika. She picked up the bush and animal and dropped it back. She looked at the yam and the onugbu leaf. She saw salt, pepper, red oil and few other cooking things but do not know how to start. She sat helplessly watching the whole kitchen not knowing what to do. Olamma has never cooked in her father’s house. Adaugo was always the cook until she got married and her mother took over before bringing Amaka who took over the whole chores. She has eaten different delicious meal back at home but never knew how it was prepared.
Olamma was confused, she was ashamed but after sometimes she swallowed her shame and came out to tell Atika that she can’t cook. But she did not see him anywhere around. She saw some fire wood and carried it to the kitchen. When she got there she saw Atika, who has already made fire and was roasting the grass cutter.
Olamma was startled and scared. She wondered if Atika knew that she can’t cook.
It was as if Atika read her thought and he said.
“There is no shame in admitting to a certain fault or disability. You can only be mocked for a while but at the end you will find help. I watch you sit here in the kitchen not knowing what to do. i know most maiden of your age are in their husbands house tending to their homes. It looks shameful that you are just starting the basic of life in a very hard way. I know what happened to you with Onrah was unfortunate but is a lesson and you have to sit up now and take back your life. Is never late to start all over. Only the dead do not have such opportunity. Most time the looks doesn’t really matter, is the heart that matters most. Now watch me and learn the little you can. In no time food will be ready…
Olamma had a delicious meal that night. She was alive again with good food in her stomach.
Atika showed her a room to sleep.
The first and second day, Olamma wakes up and sit not knowing where to start from. She was hoping Atika will make food and give her own share to her just like the way she was treated back in her parents’ house.
Atika was not offended with Olamma’s lazy attitude instead he began to teach her what to do every morning and the rest of the day. He made sure he kept her busy. He gives her time for her hand massage and medicine and also time to rest.
Olamma was beginning to learn, she wakes every morning and sweeps the compound, she makes fire and warn up the food. She goes to a nearby stream and fetch water. She was learning fast.
Atika was proud of her and encourage her more.
He went to his village one day, living her alone. He later returned same day with his wife and son and introduced Olamma to them.
Atika’s wife was very friendly, she took Olamma back to the village. She gave her some new wrapper and makes her hair for her. Olamma stayed indoor and hardly come out because of her face. But Atika’s wife asked her to feel at home. The children were nice to her too. After few months of Olamma living with Atika and his family it was time to go home.
She wish she can live with them and not go back home at all. Atika did a serious cleansing on her and even the open injury on her hand has closed up and formed a keloid scar. Which was swollen out. her skin was sapped and looked different from the injury. Her voice was better off than before.
Atika said that is the best he can do. And is a good thing that the wound finally closed up from where Onrah draws out Olamma’s blood to empower himself.
She has different scar but was happy that Atika was able to heal her life threatening injuries. She wish she can continue living with them but it was time to go.
She has already told Atika the village she came from and a day came and they decided to journey down.
Olamma thanked Atika and his wife for accommodating and taking care of her before she left with Atika who wanted to make sure she gets home safe.
Her fear and heart beat increased as they got near to her village which took them many days to arrive.
She was worried and afraid. Not knowing what to expect. This was not how she planned her life and definitely not the way her father and mother expect her to return.
She was no more beautiful. And her skin looks tamed but she hope that the love her parents have for her will not disappear when they set eyes on her. If she narrate her story to them they should be happy that she was alive and not dead in the animals’ belly.
Olamma swallowed hard as she walked down with Atika the kind dibia.
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