Fiction

Marycynthia Chinwe Okafor: Uwa

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Image: Syaibatul Hamdi/_Marion Pixabay remix

Long ago, Enu, Ana and Mmiri, three of the first great deities created by the creator Chukwu Okike lived together in Anaoma as the best of friends. But because they quarreled more often than they didn’t, usually shaking the tranquility of Anaoma, Amadioha, the god of Justice banished them to Uwa cursing them to return home only when they outgrew their adversity and learnt to accept each other’s differences. Until then, they were confined to Uwa except during important festivals when they would be allowed into Anaoma for only a day and a night.

In Uwa, they were charged with tending a vast universe that had laid barren for millennia. As they nurtured Uwa and it grew abundantly, they themselves also grew. In wisdom and power. And love.

Love, not the philia they had shared since childhood, began to bloom between them. Mmiri’s love for Enu shifted, but it was for Ana, Enu’s own love shifted. And as that love grew, whatever feelings Mmiri still had for both Enu and Ana shifted to hate. The hatred grew until Mmiri burst open and separated herself from Enu and Ana vowing never to reconcile with Enu or Ana in the infinity they would exist for, binding all three of them to Uwa.

As quickly as Mmiri had separated herself from Enu and Ana, she began taking parts of herself from all over Ana. Soon, there was not to be found a single drop of water on Ana and when Ana could no longer boast of water, Enu could only boast of an angry sun in the day and a dry moon at night.

And so a drought began. Two-thirds of Uwa, the parts tended and loved by Enu and Ana began dying. All pleas with Mmiri proved futile as she was already drowned in her emotion.

Enu and Ana sought help from their creator. Though Chukwu Okike couldn’t just command Mmiri to give a part of herself when she didn’t want to, he gave them a way.

“What is hate’s biggest enemy?” He asked.

“Love,” Enu replied.

“Use it.”

“We have been using it. We show her we love her but she no longer wants our love,” Ana said.

“I advise you keep showing her. But that’s not what I meant. Some parts of her want to rebel but wouldn’t because of loyalty. Use that love you share and it would trample loyalty.

“Father?” They both asked still unsure of what he meant.

Chukwu Okike said simply, “Profess your love to each other.”

And they did, and Uwa saw five millennia of bountiful rainfall.

 

An unannounced airship landed in Ana’s largest airstrip on a day when the sun and the moon fought and the moon won dropping a cheerful day into total darkness just as the sun was almost at its zenith. Wide-eyed, people watched and marveled at how Enu had chosen to display his powers that morning. Confused out of their minds, flying birds fell in tens from the sky, fowls developed meningitis as they twisted their necks trying to get a hang on what was happening and domestic goats ran into walls and each other.

In the disarray, very little attention was paid to the man who alighted from the airship carrying a single suitcase almost as drab as the airship itself. The man—with the bearing of a veteran soldier—moved quietly to the mouth of the airship where he was met. Two other soldiers who had watched for the airship all morning and the night before escorted him to the secret portal that led directly to the Council room.

Inside the Council room, half a dozen elders sat in large chairs arranged in threes on both sides of the room. The man bowed low the moment he stood before the elders and said “Greetings, wise ones.”

Nnoo, he who has journeyed far from Enu,” the eldest of the elders in the room replied.

The man set the suitcase down gently in sight of all in the room, unzipped it, then stepped back and waited.

A frail hand pushed the top of the suitcase open and a head sparse of hair appeared, and lifted until a whole body became visible. A woman stepped out of the case. A dozen other people followed her out, the last to emerge, a young boy no more than sixteen wearing a braid of protective omu around his neck.

“Is that him?” The elder who had spoken before asked staring at the young boy. The elder thought he looked younger than he expected until he met his eyes. “What is your name, Chosen One?”

The Chosen One watched him in turn. The elder from Ana felt the boy could see through him. He had old eyes which seemed to see beyond what was known to only a few. “I have many and you know them all as you know the back of your hand,” he said in a voice as old as his eyes.

Nde ewo to you who have welcomed us in your home,” the woman who had first stepped out of the suitcase greeted. “But the matter for which we have come here is a delicate one and cannot be discussed in front of just anybody or in a room not eavesdrop-proof. The walls have ears, you know?” She concluded as she took a study of the room.

“The room is perfectly eavesdrop-proof.” It wasn’t, the elder from Ana knew. But it wasn’t a crime against the laws of Enu or Ana to test a fellow elder.

“Is it? And where is the one born to Ana.”

“We’ll bring our chosen once we determine you’re who you say you are.”

“You have determined that. We wouldn’t be in this room if you aren’t sure.”

“Really?” The elder from Ana smiled. “I’m Ogonna. What shall I call you?”

“Odogwu,” the elder from Enu said.

Ogonna snapped to his feet at an attention. No one who had served in the military during his time or after his time could claim truthfully to never have heard of Odogwu, the Great Defeater of Njaba. It was a title—rather than a name—duly earned in one of the battles of the long-lasting war of Ndi Ana and Ndi Enu together against Ndi Mmiri. In the battle before the last, Odogwu had ridden the waves of Njaba River and stolen Njaba—the most loyal of Mmiri’s children—from her place in the heart of the river and locked her in a cage causing the river to stop taking ndi Ana and Enu, changing the tides of battle in favour of ndi Ana and ndi Enu.

“Thank you for your services,” Ogonna said. “Please follow me,” he addressed Odogwu. Then the chief priest of Enu beside whom the young boy stood, “Ezenu, the great one.”

Odogwu and five other elders from Enu, the veteran soldier, Ezenu and two apprentices of his, the boy and his parents followed Ogonna out of the room. He led the six elders, Ezenu, his apprentices and the boy to an arena where a makeshift shrine had been set up. Ezeana, the chief priest of Ana sat on a mat with his aides standing behind his.

He didn’t stand but reached out his hand in welcome. “Nnoo nu. We can speak freely here. The air would carry our words and make them meaningless to listening ears.”

Ezenu accepted his hand. “Thank you. We can start now.” He turned to motion the boy forward, “Ife—” he started but Ife was occupied staring at the young girl standing off to the right side of Ezeana. “Is she the one?” Ezenu asked Ife.

When Ife remained quiet, Ezeana answered, “Yes. She’s Mmeri.”

Ife continued staring. Mmeri. Finally a name to the face he had become quite familiar with. For years since she began invading his dreams at night and even in the day, he finally could confirm that she was not merely a figment of her imagination. But he had known when he had watched the ten-year-old face sharpen with age and the thin body curve with puberty. In his dreams, the girl hadn’t remained a ten-year-old. She had grown—as he had—physically and in wisdom and strength. Now, she was at that subtle stage between girlhood and womanhood. Her eyes shifted to him—he realized they were the exact midnight black that had haunted him for years. They met his and she smiled at him with the same familiarity he felt.

“She’s a girl.” Odogwu blurted out.

“That she is.”

 

Every century, two children were born—or rather reborn, one to Enu and the other to Ana. Two gifts from the gods, they were warrior, and seer—the Chosen—and from adolescence, they were trained together to rise and lead an army of soldiers in defence of their home when the need arose.

When the Children of Mmiri most loyal to her had started to meet more than a year ago causing frequent fluctuations in the level of some bodies of water—often causing great floods—a new prophecy had appeared in the walls of the Halls of Prophecy—in both Enu and Ana—stating that: “The century for the millennia-long curse to end has come because Mmiri will be finally restored to her rightful place in the Neutral Grove.”

Ndi Enu had started preparing immediately to bring the seer to Ana for the first stage of fortification—where both warrior and seer would be buried from feet to neck in Ana for seven market weeks—but the keeper of the Hall of Prophecy had brought further words that a new prophecy had come after the “curse one.”

There was a third child—reborn like the two every century—and he watched and waited. A spawn of Ekwensu, the destroyer, it was he—not Mmiri—who provoked Ndi Mmiri to battle in Mmiri’s name so that Ekwensu could take over the rule of Uwa. Mmiri was tired of the feud and had long since renounced her vow. She wanted the idol she dwelt in to be restored to its rightful place in the Neutral Grove—where neither sky nor land nor water dominated.

They were to wait, the keeper told the elders, until it was the right time to go secretly to Ana. So, they waited more than a year and when Enu began to have more sun and little rain to give Ana and Ana had little water to give Enu, both elders of the two parts of Uwa knew it was time to come together.

The elders of Enu sent a man—not a link message—to Ana to inform their elders on what day they were coming and how. They didn’t take either of the portals that went directly to and from Ana. They took a vehicle that looked more like air pirates’ airship than an airship a half dozen reverend elders would have traveled in.

“A girl has never been the warrior,” Odogwu argued. “Perhaps you didn’t see well. Look again. We the people of Enno have provided the seer. Look again and give us the warrior.”

Ezeana dipped his hands into his raffia bag, brought out five pieces of bones and threw them before him. He reached into his raffia bag again, took out a stalk of oglisi plant, shook it over the bones and spoke a few incantations. When he lifted his head, his eyes shone with a new light and he fixed them on Ife.

“You’re rightly named, Ife. Tell us what you see.”

All eyes shifted to Ife but he fixed his gaze on Mmeri’s face, a face he had seen in his sleep ever since the night he turned twelve. A face he had come to know more than he knew his. “I see a girl, fair of face and strong of mind and body,” Ife said. “I see her,” he gestured to Mmeri. “I see her wielding a bloody sword in the last battle. And I see her restore the sacred statue of Mmiri to her rightful place between Enu and Ana.”

“Now that that is cleared, their fortification shall begin.”

—————-

Image: Syaibatul Hamdi/_Marion Pixabay remix

About the author

Marycynthia Chinwe Okafor

Marycynthia Chinwe Okafor is Igbo. She has her nest in Enugu where she tries—often futilely—to create on paper worlds that exist in her head. A Nommo Award nominee, she has pieces published or forthcoming in Brittle paper, Writefluence, Kalahari Review, Afreecan Read, Omenana and elsewhere. She can be reached via Twitter @Marycynthia600.

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