In all these, the change of mood that had come over their king did not lift. The only one capable of bringing happiness to his face was his Omoboja and now he hardly left her side except to attend to village matters and even then she could usually be seen by his side. The other wives might as well have ceased to exist on the face of the earth for all the interest he took in them. His devotion to Omoboja took on an almost obsessive quality.
People noticed but excused it as the behavior of a powerful man who sought comfort from the wife dearest to him. Many prayed to the gods to bless him with another son from his beloved wife.
Their prayers were soon answered; Omoboja began to ripen with child.
But if anything, the king grew even more morose. He sent for the Ori Awo who soon became a permanent fixture in the palace, often closeted with the king in his private quarters.
People also excused that as the behavior of an over-protective expectant father. No one pointed out that he wasn’t the only father who had lost a son. They were indulgent of their besotted king.
Omoboja’s lying in soon approached and the villagers discovered their gods had only half answered their prayers; she was delivered of a daughter, not a son. Still the joy was no less muted.
Preparations began once more for the naming.
At this time, the king’s behavior started eliciting whispers. Not once did he exhibit the joy of a new father like in the birth of the late son. He was pensive, worried and watchful and could often be seen pacing the palace grounds in the night. Many wondered if it was because the baby was a girl child. Many women could relate to that.
Adunni saw all these and redoubled her visits to the village wise men to avert the plan of the wicked who wanted to drive a wedge between her daughter and the king by giving her daughter only female children. She followed these with advice to her daughter to recover quickly and make a concerted effort to get pregnant with the coveted male child as soon as possible. Womb purges and male herbs were swallowed and immersed by the hapless new mother.
Adunni and Ige were gratified to see that no matter his supposed disappointment in the sex of the child, Oba Erinmade remained devoted to his wife. They were determined that come what may; Omoboja must bear a male child for the king.
How foolish and vain and simple their little minds were. If only they could have foreseen the future they would have sealed Omoboja’s womb forever.
The day of the naming dawned much like the other tragic one and ended much like it also. It started with joy and fanfare and ended with wailings for the death of all female children below the age of five. Like before, visitors who had again come to rejoice with the king and his family fled the village of Ajilenko in horror and panic. And as before, female animals and livestock also joined the number of the dead. Who ever said lightning does not strike twice in the same place?
No one needed a soothsayer to announce that whatever was happening was directly tied in to Omoboja and her children.
Then the whispers started and soon like a raging wildfire everyone in the village knew that Omoboja had returned from her elopement with Ihielele, with two children who had been brutally murdered on the orders of the king. It was no surprise that the ages of those poor murdered children coincided with the age of death of their own children.
This time when they stormed the palace, it was not to ask for answers but to demand for a solution. They could have called for the head of the king but the bounds of tradition was inbred and not easily crossed.
While many were horrified and disappointed with the king, none dared speak out against him. He was still their king! Chosen by the gods.
There was no need to send for the necromancers this time around. What was to be done had been told the king after the first tragedy by them and he had rejected the idea, opting instead for the futility of a sacrifice and cleansing he had been warned would have no effect.
The Ori Awo addressed the people and informed them the only solution was in the banishment of Omoboja from the land. For as long as she gave birth within the village, the deaths would continue. Many felt sorry for the young woman who had suffered so much and was now to suffer even more for a crime not of her own making. But faced with a choice of protecting Omoboja or protecting their own children, the villagers were quick to offer her up. After all she was to blame, they reasoned. If she had stayed behind and married the king instead of running off with that Ihielele character none of these would have happened.
Hardly had the judgment been pronounced than Omoboja was ushered out of the palace by the armed royal guards. The frightened young woman stared at the sea of faces around her and sought the one who had loved her and who she was now told had murdered her children. But how could she mourn a loss she didn’t remember? The only loss she felt now was the thought of being torn from those loving arms. When she didn’t see her king’s beloved face in the crowd, she turned back to face the palace and called out in a trembling voice, “My lord. My lord”.
Oba Erinmade who had closeted himself in the palace to avoid the sight of Omoboja being led out of the village could not hold back from the frightened pleading in that voice. He came out of the palace and seeing the tears coursing down that face so blessed of the gods, he reached out to hold her. Instantly, the Ori Awo moved between the two of them to prevent the touch and he ordered the guards to proceed with the devastated woman.
To the heartrending cries of “My lord”, Omoboja was forcibly ushered away from the village.
All the villagers followed behind the guards. Their fickle minds which had so easily condemned her were now railing at the injustice done her. But they could not even find it in their hearts to blame the king anymore. The agony in his face had touched their hearts so, instead they blamed the fates that had so treated these two unfairly and silently prayed in their hearts not to choose such a destiny in any of the lives the gods gift them with.
Ige and Adunni were not part of the escorting throng. They stayed back home and bemoaned the victory of the enemy who had beguiled their daughter with Ihielele and set in motion the wheels of her destruction. Their lamentations were not so much because of the banishment of their daughter but because of the downturn in their own fortune. They asked Edumare why he had allowed their enemies to triumph over them. They would have done better to ask Edumare why he had allowed Omoboja the misfortune of having them as parents. But as with all of us, our own failings are never so obvious to us.
No neighboring village wanted Omoboja within its grounds. No one dared risk having the fate of Ajilenko befall them. The only place left for her was the dangerous mountains that had been the escape route for her and Ihielele all those years ago. Poetic justice, you might say.
The villagers turned back at the foot of the mountains while the guards proceeded with the now silent woman into the forest. They returned to the village late that evening and reported to Ori Awo the success of their mission. Despite the pity in many hearts, the villagers were relieved that the cause of the tragedy had finally been dealt with and rejoiced that there would be no reoccurrence of such disaster. How premature of them!