All friends walked out in silence. The King had put a knife in the high spirit and sweet optimism with which they had arrived the palace earlier on.
“Obele put this on himself… Who goes to the palace and tries and argues with the Igwe?” Nnanna asked rhetorically. He continued, “To me, he got the exact return of what he sowed.”
“Must you always talk?” Nanka interrupted him.
“I have to defend my…” Nnanna restored.
“You see… I was not even expecting a reply from you.” Nanka cut him again. He let out a mocking sigh and continued “You need to get that hand checked.” Nanka commented on Nnanna’s still bleeding wrist.
Nnanna remained silent.
Nanka took his silence to mean his words were finally sinking in, he took the opportunity to poke fun at him. “You won’t talk now.” He said.
“Okwa… You are the one that said he should not talk again,” Chukwudi interrupted, to put an end to the growing feud.
They walked the remaining distance in silence, and by the time they arrived the living-space of the village everyone began to disperse into their various huts; one after the other, until Nnanna was left standing alone, he arrived his hut at the end of the hamlet a little while later.
“Mama!” He called his mother as he approached the entrance of their living-hut.
“Nwa’m… Are you back?” His mother’s voice could be heard with joy.
His silence greeted her question.
“Nnanna’m!” The old woman called out again, her voice louder this time should in case he didn’t hear her the first time. Still no response. She pushed herself up the stool she sat by the fire in the fire-place; she was rested with support from her walking stick, making inaudible sentences as she moved.
“Chi’m!” She called for the god of her faith. Her son was lying down with his face up to the half-moon.
“Help me… Umu nnem! Help me!” She yelled for neighbours and familiar-helpers to gather.
Their sirens blasted through the shabby streets of Umuchue village. In triplicate did the strange carriags ferry the white men on land at an alarming speed. The children thought them strange and scary; but for the adults, this strange carriages bearing the banner of The Foreign Queen as they had been taught by the foreign men were now a normal sight. Amongst the many things they were taught in the evening classes at the village square, reverence to the strange and never seen Queen was paramount; they had their fears, but the benefit of learning to speak the white man’s language made their worry of an all-powerful Queen taking over their land lose its sway with each passing days.
The blast of the sirens died in front of The King’s palace. From the strange carriages came men as golden as the sun in which they stood; these beautiful men could be spotted a million miles away in the midst of people of Umuchue. Strange looking protective covers were carried over their heads to protect them from the hits of the sun rays as they briskly walked into the palace; each cover held by a child of the soil.
“O! King… May you live forever.” One slightly bowed his head as he spoke; he seemed to be the leader and spokesman of the lot, as they all followed in his guidance.
“You are welcome my good friends,” The King, Igwe Okpunobi, welcomed them with parted lips that revealed a set of sparkling white teeth. He stretched out his hands to Sir Bradley – the spokesman.
Sir Bradley walked up to the throne, shook the hand of The King; and soon returned to take a seat.
“What brings you back to my palace so soon?” The King asked, still wearing his joyful look.
“Worries from the throne of our Queen, your eminence,” Sir Thomas quickly chirped in.
“Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth 1 of England is highly worried that the now rampant reports of missing persons will disrupt our many scheduled and ongoing activities in the land,” Sir Bradley buttressed his compatriot’s statement.
The King had a vague look, before he spoke. “We are trying hard to locate the person doing these bad things. Soon we will find him,” he said.
“I wonder why you’re so sure it is a man,” Sir Thomas remarked. “I for one think it could be a woman for a change,” he laughed, and suddenly paused. “Or Nebuchadnezzar again… that’ll be poetic… Or don’t you think?” He turned the question to his cohorts.
“Thomas! That’s enough,” Sir Bradley called him to order. He turned to The King, and continued with a softer countenance, “Great King, we have heard you, and we’ll report back to the Queen as you have said.” He added another bow of reverence to the umpteenth he’d already given.
“I will like that. Do that for me,” The King responded in vague terms.
“I do not need to remind you how important it is that our existing understanding remains what it is… an understanding.” Sir Bradley added.
“I understand… Help me apologize to the Queen. Beg her that she should not be annoyed o!” The King pleaded. His roughly constructed sentences caused some of the English men to giggle; yet, his lips remained parted for his teeth to shine, as they were when the white men arrived.
They all stood in unison, took a bow, and walked out in an orderly fashion, into the waiting sun-cover held by the man-servants apportioned them by The King.
“Ogede!” The King beckoned his chief guard.
“Igwe!!!” He responded on his knees, head down.
He was asked to bring in Obele – The youth arrested two days ago. Soon, Obele was before The King, on his knees, head down, with a sulky face on.
“I know your secret.” The King started without smiles.
Obele looked up in silence.
The King continued, “You’re in love with Adaku.”
Obele squeezed his face tighter.