The uproar that would have followed that discovery was firmly suppressed by the family’s determination to avoid the entire village finding out what was happening. But covering up the disappearance of a child especially one in the public eye like Omoboja was just not possible especially when she had still not been found three days later despite the extensive search by her fathers and brothers both for her and her mystery lover. Ige soon had to confess the situation of things to the constantly visiting royal guards and he was brought before King Erinmade to explain what had happened which he did without revealing the small issue of a still missing and never to be found hymen.
Many things can be said to be responsible for the king’s reaction. The still yet to be assuaged fire burning in his loins; the royal rage that a little twit could dare go against him; the blow to his male ego and regal pride that Omoboja could prefer a common trader to HIM; the fury worse than that of hell and limited not only to women spurned but affecting also men; self recriminations over his decision to woo for a wife rather than just take her as was his right; the shock that he had actually been rejected like an ordinary man; his still rock solid determination to have her at any and all cost; the desire for revenge. All these and more led to an extensive search for the two missing lovers. The afore named Ihielele’s friends and co-traders were herded and questioned at length till everything possible to know about him had been unearthed.
A twenty armed man delegation led by the Balogun of Ajilenko was sent to Ihielele’s village, the kingdom of Ogirriala across the river where their mission was explained to the king through one of the traders acting as a translator. The King welcomed the emissaries and gave them every assistance needed. He did this because as a king he understood the gravity of the insult Ihielele had visited on the throne of Ajilenko and also because he wished to avoid conflict with his across the river neighbors and maintain the peace and integrity of his own kingdom.
All turned out for naught. Ihielele had not returned home with Omoboja. No clue could be found of their whereabouts or destination. Ihielele had grown up as an orphan in Ogirriala after his parents died. His parents were migrants in the land and nothing was known about where they had migrated from.
The Balogun of Ajilenko and his soldiers had to return home to deliver the news of their failure to their king albeit bearing gifts and good tidings and offer of friendship from the king of Ogirriala. Understandably, this did nothing to improve King Erinmade’s ill humor. His Omoboja had chosen to go with a homeless, no family background trader! It was not to be borne. He had been made a laughing stock and someone had to pay for that.
The truth, though, was that nobody was laughing at the king. The whole village of Ajilenko and environs shared his horror and outrage. Mothers were now glad that they didn’t have Omoboja for a daughter and even gladder that their sons had not married such a shameful girl. Ige and his family were pitied and got many sympathetic visits from curious friends and neighbors eager for the tinniest bit of new information to use as fodder for more gossip. As everyone knew, it was better to remain childless or lose a child to death than to have one bring disgrace on the family like Omoboja had done. So coming to commiserate with the parents was a ready excuse they shamelessly used.
Adunni wailed and carried on and milked the ‘condolences’ for all it was worth. She wondered aloud what she had done to deserve Omoboja treat her like this while her husband, Ige laid the blame for Omoboja’s action squarely at her feet.
But as with all things, the intensity of the scandal soon dwindled and faded as the days went by. Life returned to its old routine after some time except for life in the Ige household and life in the palace.
Ige was very bitter about the loss of his goldmine and took out his ire on all members of his family.
Adunni cursed the fates that had tantalized her with visions of wealth and grandeur of royalty then snatched it out of her reach. She blamed her ‘enemies’ for this. The children simply missed the sister who brought sunshine and laughter to their lives.
As for the king, like a man obsessed, Erinmade could not give up his search for the young woman who had so captured his heart. Or should I say his loins? Yet despite repeated efforts and search, Omoboja and her Ihielele evaded capture for seven years! In fact, the truth is that they were never actually captured.
Omoboja came back.
In those seven years before her return, where were they? I’ll have you know that the tale of their whereabouts and life during these years is hearsay. I was not there and neither were any of the villagers, but this is what we all heard:-
Omoboja and Ihielele had that night they left the village, gone not across the river but into the mountains. This was why they were not immediately apprehended. It never occurred to anyone to search the mountains for the simple reason no one ever went into the mountains. They were steep, densely forested mountainous areas full of wild animals and poisonous plants. They were a place of fear and mystery. Yet that was where the two lovers headed. Apparently, Ihielele’s skills extended to more than haggling because they not only survived the forests and mountains, they successfully passed through and continued their journey over many days and weeks till they came to a land full of strange people where their men wore flowing robes and tied head ties like women. And their women covered their faces and stayed indoors throughout. Who can comprehend such a thing?!
It was said that Omoboja and Ihielele settled in that land and soon adopted their ways of life and learnt the language. And so they lived as man and wife going on to have two children and would probably have had more if not that Ihielele was struck down by a strange illness that slowly drained his strength before finally taking his life. The people of Ajilenko later called that the justice of the gods.
Left alone with two young children in a strange land not particularly kind to women on their own, Omoboja sought the help of one of the friends her husband had made there to return to her own homeland. The kind man readily agreed to help her. And so the return journey started. With no one at their heels and no need for subterfuge, they took a less perilous route and open roads. This eventually led them to Ogirriala. As they moved closer home, Omoboja discarded the full body covering she had worn for years and donned the single wrapper worn by married women of her own village. Needless to say, her co-traveler was astounded at the sinful display of so much flesh by the women of these strange (to him) lands.
The years had not detracted from Omoboja’s beauty. If anything the maturity had only enhanced it. She had left as a young bud on the edge of womanhood and had returned sprouted into full bloom. It wasn’t long before news of the beautiful stranger spread across the villages. The news soon got to the king of Ogirriala and he remembered the thrice a year sojourn of the royal guards from Ajilenko to his domain in search of information about a woman as beautiful as the goddesses from heaven. He had Omoboja and her children – a little boy and girl and her accompanying traveler brought before him.
Looking upon the famed beauty, the king realized the reports had not been exaggerated. In fact the various descriptions he had heard did her no justice. He was tempted to keep her for himself but the knowledge that such a woman could not be kept hidden forever and if discovered, his deceit would almost certainly result in a war dissuaded him from such an action.
He welcomed Omoboja and her company into his palace and made her feel at home. While treated with all courtesy accorded a guest, she had no freedom to leave the palace. She was in effect, a prisoner. The king sent messengers to Oba Erinmade to announce the find of a jewel matching the description of his long lost flower.
The banked embers in Erinmade’s loins sprang into a raging inferno at the thought that the elusive prize might be at last within his grasp. He could not wait another moment. He summoned his guards and against all protests joined them in the journey across the river.
At last the two kings met in person after seven years of communicating through emissaries. The meeting though was understandably brief. It was obvious Oba Erinmade’s mind was on more pressing matters. The years of waiting and searching had finally been rewarded. Erinmade had got his Omoboja back!
Omoboja’s kind friend was handsomely rewarded and firmly placed on the road leading back to his own land with armed escorts. His own part in this story thus comes to an end.
Omoboja and Erinmade’s part on the other hand was just starting.
In the shortest time courteously possible, Oba Erinmade made his apologies and started back with Omoboja beside him full of anxiety, hope and trepidation. Halfway on the river, the king gave an order that revealed his not so forgiving spirit and showed Omoboja that she had made a serious error in returning home. Oba Erinmade ordered that Omoboja’s two children, a boy of six and a little girl of almost five years to be drowned.
The screaming mother was forcibly held down and she watched in pain wracked horror as her two precious off springs from her beloved Ihielele were held struggling under water till they drowned and their bodies then released for the fishes of the river to feast on. As the two little bodies drifted slowly into the river, Omoboja suddenly lapsed into a trance like stupor from which she would not emerge for a whole year.