“What if we cross the river?” Namoke asked. From uphill where they stood, he tried to see the end of the river and squinted like one who ate sour oranges.
“You will be lost forever”
He nodded his little head because if he could not see the end of the river, it made sense that he would be lost. “Okay, how about if I stand at the shore and shout?”
“Then evil spirits will claim your voice”
He looked at his all-knowing mother; she had told him tales about how children voices were stolen because they cried at night, “What about if I rush over and…”
“Namoke… you shouldn’t near the river. It keeps us separate from everything bad and all things evil”
But how did she know everything? The young prince wondered. “How do you know that there are evil things across the river?”
“I know because the gods tell me everything. Whatever is surrounded is protected and the river surrounds us, the river protects us”
He darted his wide eyes around, causing the blue-black gravels to crunch below him. In reflex, he grabbed the hem of his mother’s woven wrapper, “So we are surrounded by evil?”
He let go of her wrapper and peered once more into the frothing river, “What if they cross the river one day?”
“May we never be alive to have the answer.”
The Queen gathered the young heir in her arms and turned her back to the frothing white waves of the Niger, the maids in three rows behind her turned inwards forming an aisle of two columns for her to pass through. Pressing Namoke into a tight embrace careful not to disturb the Ichi ritual scarification, she gracefully walked through the human aisle, taking her time with slow paced sure strides to inspect their formation.
Her eyes swept through her maids, a collection of the finest maidens who had ran away from their communities to seek refuge in Oraeze Nri. The bronze Igbo-Ukwu shell pendants hung from their necks as a sign of the nobility to which they now served under and settled jealously between their perky breasts which stood as jewels on the pillars of well-hewn ebony abdomen drawing alluring lines that ran down until it hid behind the skirts of animal skin.
She stepped past the final row and into the royal caravan decorated in indigo dyed woven materials and imported atampa. Bronze curvatures lined the curtain frames, the interior was carved out of strong scented Iroko and lined with golden embellishments fitting for even the god of fertility Agbala. The caravan jerked as the male servants lifted it and began their slow ascent to the palace with the maids walking at either side.
Through the curtain, she caught a glimpse of Uju, her personal maid and the King’s favorite plaything. The Queen was not in the dark of the fact that The King had a habit of rolling in the hay with her maids but that was where it stopped. The Kingdom of Nri was a land of pilgrimage and cleansing. Various people with different ailments from dwarfism to epilepsy came for cleansing and as much as the doors of the Kingdom were open, the pure bloods and indigenes were not allowed to intermarry or produce children with those who came to seek refuge.
The consistent march and now familiar scrunch of the men’s feet lulled her to sleep and she dreamt; she dreamt of white men with silky hair holding cunny devises that sounded louder than a gong and left corpses as they passed through white cotton fields.
She jerked to the noise about her. The white demons from her dream had come. The curtain opened slightly letting the sun rays from Anyawu into her caravan, Ebuka’s baritone filtered into her space, calming her nerves, “My Queen, we’ve arrived the Palace.”
She sighed and stepped out, taking in the hustle and bustle of the outdoor courts in preparation for the Igu Aru festival. She looked back into the caravan and beckoned on the ever curious Namoke. His delightful laughter caused the maids to giggle as he was transfixed by the huge tubers of Yam that were moved across the courtyard. Ebuka smiled, “We can find one as big as you are”
Namoke’s eyes widened, “Mama, can we?”
The Queen smiled, “Yes, but come back before dawn”
Namoke jumped excitedly, grabbing Ebuka’s hand as he dashed into the crowd following the farmers with baskets of large fresh unearthed yam.
The Queen giggled as she stepped into the royal courts and dismissed her maids. She closed her eyes in relief, breathing deeply; she took in the familiar scent of oil palm lanterns. She opened her eyes and let them adjust to the new scenario; the orange brown mud walls of the palace were lined and equally spaced with oil palm mud lanterns on each side. They casted eerie orange glows upon the passage but ended in an overwhelming flood of light at the center of the palace.
She placed her hands on the walls and walked. She let her mind wander to the dream she had of white men with silky hair, such strange demons she thought. She was abruptly stopped in her tracks. She darted her eyes around to orange walls to ensure she was not hallucinating. He spoke again,
“Something must be done, we cannot let white men with silky hair kill my people and make slaves of the remnants”
She immediately grew weak in the knee and fell to the wall for support as she gasped beneath her breathe so as not to alert the King from the meeting he was having with the elders.
The King’s words replayed in her head as she desperately crawled back to the outer courts. She had to look for Ebuka and her son Namoke. She was not dreaming, the gods had shown her the future and may she never be alive to have the answer.
About the Author:
Aged 22, Mirya Sabo is a graduate of Law from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
Born in Kaduna and raised by various circumstances, she took courses on Social Justice and Gender Equality at Purple Academy, conscious leadership and Personal transformation at Koinonia SOM and is also a volunteer at The Winning Mindset with Elisha Mamman.
She is also a member of FIDA nigeria, Bayelsa Chapter and and has accrued a certificate on Psycological First Aid from John Hopkins University.
She is an activist working with amnesty International and strongly believes that Human Rights accrue even to the least regarded of society and undertook, “An Appraisal of the Rights of Almajiri under the Nigerian Law” as her final year project.
She was part of the “National consultation on positive masculinities and Femininities with Adolescent and Young people on faith Communities” on 22-26th May 2018, where there was one on one discussions with youths on how they could better understand their rights as regards their sexes.
She was also a part of the Thursday in Black campaign that geared towards a world free of rape and violence.
During Major holidays she works with a team of people who visit the less privileged and provide succor.
A writer and an author she is fascinated by History, Culture and New discoveries and spends her holidays in Musuems, Art Galleries or in travel.
She still finds ways to encourage the less privileged around her world and write as often as she can.