Things started falling apart for the people of Amechi just six short months after Igodo was crowned the Igwe of the land. If the villagers had been more vigilant during Igodo’s coronation they would have seen that Amadioha was very angry with the crowning of Igodo as the new Igwe as demonstrated by the intermittent thunder strikes and heavy downpours that graced the occasion. Dibia Omenuko had enjoined them to relax and enjoy the coronation. He lied to them saying that it was Amadioha, the gods of Amechi and the god of thunder that was gracing Igodo’s reign as the Igwe of Amechi land. To make the people believe him he asked Igodo to rise up and dance in the rain and they gullibly believed him. They danced joyfully, made merry with eating and drinking wine on that day.
Now, just six months after their merriment, they have started dancing to the real music Dibia Omenuko had played for them. Their farm crops were wilting away, their domestic animals were dying, and the children of Amechi were falling sick without cure. The calamity was blooming like wildfire because even the Dibia who is supposed to entreat the gods on their behalf is lying sick in Amechi’s shrine.
“The end is finally here,” Aniagboso was saying to himself soberly as he stared at the rain drops that were cascading the louvers of his rear window. He shifted his gaze away from the window to the huge old clock that had just made a tinkling sound.
It was 5pm on the dot- thirty minutes until the time that Ichie Ngodo who is considered the oldest man in Amechi had summoned all the men in the village to gather in the village square so that they can deliberate on the issues ravaging their community. Amechi, a village that used to be very wealthy, peaceful and healthy had suddenly gone sore within the twinkling of an eye. The great Amechi was in chaos and on the verge of collapsing.
“Amadioha, what is our offense? Please forgive us,” Aniagboso said as he continued with his lamentations. The thunderous noise emanating from the mixed sounds of the raging wind and the pouring rain hitting hard upon the zinc had made him to scream at the top of his lungs without him realizing it. He was still lamenting, screaming and repeating the same statement when his wife who was making their dinner approached him. She was wondering why her husband was shouting. He was surprised when his wife patted him on his back and consoled him with her words.
“Amadioha will surely come to our aid,” she said confidently with a broad smile. Aniagboso could sense the confidence in Ezine’s voice but he could not tell where it was coming from. He believed her and it elated his mind as he started preparing for the meeting of the men of Amechi in the village square.
“Amechi is doomed,” Ichie Ngodo was saying to the large crowd of men that had gathered at the square.
They were surprised at the tears in his eyes but didn’t waste their time thinking over it. They all felt he was crying for the land until he broke to them another tragedy that shocked them to their bone marrow.
“Amadioha struck down Ichie Chimieze on his way to this meeting,” Ngodo announced to them.
The sound of “Ewoo” rocked the air as the people were wailing in pain. Ichie Chimieze was one of the most devoted elders in Amechi. He was also a close friend of Ichie Ngodo. They now understood the reason for the tears that he was shedding as he was talking to them.
“We are in serious trouble,” another Elder announced. The atmosphere in the village square immediately changed. It was now filled with a particular rhetorical question: “Amadioha Ogini?”
They were all now weeping, wailing and asking Amadioha what the problem was but they were without an answer. They couldn’t even begin discussing anything tangible because of the shock that had encircled them.
Ichie Ngodo cleared his throat to quell the long silence that had ensued after the last person had spoken. He was about to make another statement when suddenly on the spur of the moment a lightning bolt flashed across the sky to disrupt the dark clouds that were already gathering to usher in the night.
They had not even finished looking up at the lightning flash when there was another huge rolling thunderclap accompanied a second lightning strike. The lightning bolt struck Ichie Ngodo tearing him into pieces with his body parts scattering all over the place. The sound of ewoo took over the atmosphere once again as the men scampered helter-skelter trying to flee from the village square.
It became clear to them that Amadioha, the god of Amechi and the god of thunder is angrier than they had thought.
Who will come and save Amechi was the question that was now in the mind of every grown up in Amechi.
The story of the sudden and tragic deaths of Ichie Chimieze and Ichie Ngodo spread rapidly across the entirety of Amechi and into the neighbouring villages like an uncontrollable wildfire. Although the villagers were in deep mourning and grieving at the same time, it didn’t stop them from pondering on finding a way to solve their problem. Now it is even more difficult to discuss a solution because whenever a meeting at the market square is called for, the people are afraid of going there. They believe it is the striking place of their gods. They are scared for their lives and some are incredulously saying that it is better for Amadioha to strike them in their house so that their people will see all their parts to bury.
Oriaku is not as gullible as the other villagers who preferred to see the sickness that befell Dibia Omenuko and the deaths of Ichie Ngodo and Ichie Chimieze as coincidence. The two Ichie’s were close allies of the sick Dibia. The crowning of Igodo another of their allies as the king Of Amechi land is another convincing factor that Oriaku refused to turn a blind eye to like the other villagers had. She knew something was seriously amiss because of the sudden tragedy that had befallen the great Amechi. She didn’t have any factual evidence to prove her suspicions correct so she made up her mind that she would keep mute until Amadioha decided to act. With renewed vigour in her heart, her mind-set changed immediately after an apt remembrance of what her late father had once told her.
Obumneme had once said to her that evil would always prevail when good men fail to act. She mustered courage from these words and made up her mind that she was going to play an important role in finding a long-lasting solution to the calamities that have stricken Amechi land, a land that once flowed with abundance and prosperity like milk and honey.
“The evil in Amechi will continue to prevail if good women like me who know the truth fail to act,” Oriaku confidently said in her heart. Oriaku knew that she needed to start from somewhere for indeed the journey of a thousand miles begins with just a step.
The first step she took was to go visit an old friend of her father who is also a close friend of the Dibia of Umudike village.
Anene welcomed Oriaku with open arms into his home after she introduced herself as the daughter of Obumneme. He apologized to her for his inability to recognize her.
“It is not your fault that you did not recognize me, I was only ten years old when I came here with my father,” Oriaku said calmly to ease Anene’s mind from his feelings of guilt.
Anene was completely taken aback when she stated her mission to him. He was among those whom had suggested to Obumneme that he should take another wife who would bear him children rather than waste his entire life on caring for and raising another person’s child.
“My friend, don’t kill yourself by thinking that this girl is your child because she is not,” he remembered telling Obumneme. He jogged his memory and also remembered clearly the answer that Obumneme had given him.
“That little angel is my Virgin Saviour.”
He had wanted to ask him to elaborate on what he meant by a virgin saviour at that time but could not, and here he is today many years after Obumneme had said those words to him, face to face with the Virgin Saviour… A virgin girl with the heart of a man.
“You are indeed Obumneme’s blood and he will be very proud of you wherever that he is right now,” Anene said to commend Oriaku.
“I have heard all of what you have told me. I assure you of my maximum support for you. Go back to Amechi and I will be there in four days’ time with the Dibia of the great Agbala shrine,” Anene promised her.
Oriaku was very pleased and happy with his avowed support. Anene also told Oriaku not to discuss his intended visit with the Dibia of Agbala shrine to Amechi with anybody when she returned back home. Oriaku promised to keep her discussion with him as secret and to herself alone. As she was walking back to Amechi she was optimistic and certain that Anene’s visit was going to help her village.
Anene was not the least bit surprised when Dibia Nzegbu, priest of the great Agbala shrine of Umudike, confirmed to him that all of what Oriaku had said to him was true.
“That young woman is a messenger of the gods. She was placed into Amechi by the gods for this day. She is a child of destiny,” Dibia Nzegbu told Anene. He also told Anene the story of how Obumneme had found Oriaku on his farmland, the part of the story that even Obumneme who had found the child did not even know. Another thing he did that surprised Anene even more was bringing forward the schedule date of their visit to Amechi.
“The people of Amechi need to be saved from the doom that has beset their community,” he said on a final note.
Igwe Igodo was astounded and honoured to see the great Dibia of Agbala shrine in Amechi.
“To what do we owe this august visit great one?” he asked Dibia Nzegbu while removing his crown to greet him.
The priest of Agbala smiled broadly and returned the Igwe’s greeting by bowing his head. He told the Igwe to send his town crier out to announce to the people of Amechi to assemble at the market square because he is here to help them. The Igwe complied immediately because he was also ready to do anything that will save the village from the darkness that has overtaken it.
Oriaku was surprised and overcome with joy when she heard the announcement. She had not envisaged that Anene and the Dibia of Agbala shrine would be visiting today as it was only the day before that she had left Umudike. She hurried to the village square as did the other villagers. They were all in a haste to hear the solution to their problems. Another source of confidence that pushed them to the village square was because the great Dibia Nzegbu of Agbala shrine would be the one to entreat the gods on their behalf. They believed that he would be able to avert any form of anger from Amadioha. They had not forgotten the incident at the village square with Ichie Ngodo on the same day that Amadioha had also struck down Ichie Chimieze.
Dibia Nzegbu stared directly into the eyes of all the villagers, one after the other. The people stared back at him and into his eyes believing the answers to their questions would be found there.
“Before I will proffer any solution to you and your people Igwe Igodo, you must tell the people of this village all of what you know about the death of the late Igwe, the sickness that befell your Dibia, and the calamity looming in your community,” Dibia Nzegbu announced. The people were astounded.
The Igwe was filled with rage. He clenched one of his fists and pointed it at Dibia Nzegbu with vigour. He wanted to speak but he could not find his voice. After a few seconds he managed to ask the Dibia what he meant by what he had just said.
“Are you insinuating that I had something to do with all these calamities?” the Igwe asked in a muddled voice. There was great murmuring in the crowd.
Dibia Nzegbu’s hysteric laughter brought an abrupt stop to the crowd’s murmuring. He was pointing high to the sky with his two fists clenched and spoke immediately after his laughter.
“The homes of the gods are in the sky and their eyes are wide open to see all of our deeds. They can see what we do in the open and also in secret because they see directly into our hearts. Igwe Igodo, your heart is filled with darkness,” Dibia Nzegbu announced and the people’s bolt from the blue increased.
Oriaku was not surprised at the revelation. Although the priest was still speaking in parable, she knows in her heart that it is not far from what she has anticipated.
Igwe Igodo raised his staff and an absolute silence returned to the crowd again. “You are an agent of darkness. You are against my reign here as King as are some of my subordinates here in this crowd!” the Igwe screamed at the priest of Agbala shrine.
He ordered Dibia Nzegbu to leave Amechi at once and to never return.
“Hahahahahaha, I am only but a messenger of the gods. I go to wherever they send me to and if they should ask me to come back here to Amechi I see no reason why I will disobey them,” Dibia Nzegbu said confidently.
“I say go!” Igwe Igodo screamed again this time in a louder voice.
After Dibia Nzegbu left, Igwe Igodo assured the people that he was going to bring another Dibia who would proffer a solution to them without causing misunderstanding or causing more problems for them.
Oriaku has now seen another reason confirming that Igwe Igodo is indeed a part of a conspiracy against the land. “What exactly did they do?” She was asking herself. She knew that the answer would in short order clearly reveal itself.