A year after the banishment, a wail the people of Ajilenko never thought they would again hear rent the early morning peace. Different homes echoed that same wail. Remember every son from the age of six downwards had died two years earlier and every daughter from five below had joined them the last year; the only children left were those above those years; male children who had been born within the past couple of years and female children within the last one year. In this early morning day, all the toddler boys and baby girls joined the number of the dead. Ajilenko was now totally bereft of every child, whether male or female below the ages of six and five.
Panic stricken feet flew to the shrine of the Ori Awo and the old man hastily consulted the gods. The response was immediate – Omoboja had delivered a set of twins, male and female, eight days earlier and as they both breathed their last that fateful morning, all the Ajilenko children answered their death call and joined them. Banishment was not enough to stop the tragedy. For as long as Omoboja lived and birthed, the unending infant deaths would not stop.
The royal guards were summoned and joined by skilled hunters and trackers. Omoboja was to be found and brought back to the village. They set out immediately. Their first port of call was the mountains and surrounding forest. But try as they could, no trace of her was found. They searched for three days then returned to the village to report to the Ori Awo who once again consulted the god and the response was Oba Erinmade should be asked for her whereabouts. This news astounded the villagers. Oba Erinmade?!
Ori Awo went to the palace and there the mystery was unraveled. Like a man under a spell, Erinmade had, a year ago, under the guise of retreating to his quarters given an order not to be disturbed and had sneaked out of the palace in disguise to go after Omoboja on the night of her banishment. There he had taken her to a well hidden cave and made it comfortable for her over the following days. That cave had become their love nest, a place the king regularly visited during all his ‘I’m not to be disturbed’ times. Those visits had resulted in the birth of the twins.
The whole village was aghast at this revelation.
What was it about Omoboja that had so enthralled the king? Granted, her beauty was beyond compare but she was still just a woman! What had she that made a king lose all sense of reason?
As usual, it was the woman who bore the brunt of the blame. She must be an enchantress from Esu, sent to bewitch the king, they decided. It was even said that Oba Erinmade had to be charmed by the Ori Awo to reveal what he had done. What other proof was needed of her duplicity?
The guards and hunters were once again dispatched to bring Omoboja, this time with clear directions to her hiding place. It wasn’t long before they returned dragging the hapless victim with them. The villagers hailed their success. Public opinion had been swayed away from the innocent woman. Now that her ‘real’ identity as an emissary of the devil had been revealed, no one pitied her.
It was to a tumultuous crowd that her sentence was pronounced and carried out. The fact that the king had to be forcibly restrained from coming to the venue was further proof to incriminate her.
Even her parents while mourning the impending loss of a child, silently acknowledged she could not rightly be called their daughter. She was in reality an impostor who had infiltrated their home to perpetrate her evil goal. She probably had killed their original daughter in the womb and taken her place. Didn’t they always say there was something unusual in her beauty and how she looked nothing like any family member? They recalled now how many times certain strangeness had been observed in her and how many times goose pimples had broken out over their bodies whenever she looked at them. Everything suddenly became clear to them in retrospect.
Omoboja’s young tragic life came to an end that sunny afternoon as she was beheaded in full view and just approval of the same villagers who had known and celebrated her most of her life. A lesson to us not to put much regard in the adulation of the world.
The harbinger of death in their midst having been summarily dealt with, the people of Ajilenko returned to their homes with a sense of well deserved vindication. In newly refreshed hope, they prepared to start rebuilding their shattered lives. But the unfolding drama in that village had not yet played out its last scene.
The quiet night was again rent with horror as people were jerked awake from their sleeping mats. They scampered out wondering what fresh disaster had happened. It was no disaster of the sort they were by now unconsciously expecting. It was an abomination of the worst sort. A sacrilege that boggled the mind.
Oba Erinmade had gone to the outskirts of the village where Omoboja had been buried and dug up her body. He was returning to the village with it cradled in his arms, the severed head placed on her chest, and attempting to carry it into the palace. His horrified guards had raised the alarm.
Ori Awo was summoned to witness this new sign of the devil’s unrelenting evil machinations. His eyes widened at the sight before him. But the resilient old man swung into action immediately. Uttering incantations in a timeless language, he ordered Erinmade to place the body on the ground.
Helpless against the power in those words, Erinmade did as he was bid. Ori Awo then ordered the guards to take the body and head to the outskirts of the village and burn it to cinders. At that Oba Erinmade burst into tears in full view of the villagers and had to be led by the hand into the palace.
Needless to say, there was no more sleep for the village that night as they discussed the new development in muted tones. It didn’t take long for smoke to be sighted in the distance, evidence of the obedience of the guards to the Ori Awo’s orders. The people wondered if the bewitchment on their king could be lifted and how it could be lifted. It then started to dawn on them that life might never be normal in their village again.
And how right they were. Not only would normal life never be found again within Ajilenko, all life itself would soon depart the village.