That night, while Eriri slept, an eerie tune played outside. Ómalichanwa listened until she heard a voice within the music.
“I have been on a long journey. Can a wanderer find rest in your hands? Can you hear my plea? If you can’t I’ll sing louder. Can a wanderer find solace in the kindness of your heart? I have wandered from dusk until dawn, and I have roamed from sunrise to sunset, from Moons to Sunshines for cycles of seasons, in search of one such as yourself. So I pray, can I find solace in your bosom? I beseech you, hear the plea of a forlorn one.”
Ómalichanwa craned her neck and whispered, “Who are you?”
“It is I, the Sceptre.”
“Sceptre? What sceptre?”
“The Sceptre of Wealth and Duty.”
She paused for a while. “What is your name?”
There was no answer. The night was still again. A few minutes later, the eerie tune began again, and then the voice spoke; she asked the same questions, but there was no answer. While she was waiting, she dozed off, and then the music started once more. This time it was loud and the foundation of her uncle’s hut shook. She looked at her father, but he was sleeping, unperturbed by the tremors.
Then the voice spoke. “O daughter of Eriri. I have crossed miles to reach you. Words cannot describe your wisdom nor silence your power. A desperate one beseeches, will you not hear its plea? You hold fast to your ideals, but you are gentle and generous. Lend your heart, that I may find solace. Lend your sight, that I may concede to the beauty I once beheld. Lend a hand, that I indeed may find my kindred.”
“Who are you?”
“I’m the Sceptre of Wealth and Duty.”
“What is your name?”
“I’m the one enmity cannot wash away. To whom a baby’s first bauble is sublime and the grave dares not hinder in due season. To whom seasons laid their ploy for an arbitrary decision. To whom love settles on gravity that snares the moon and the sun and enslaves the stars. To whom a secret of many moons is disclosed.”
“What is your name?”
“I am your past, your present, and your future.”
“What is your name?”
“I am The Watchman, the Antiquity of Age.”
Ómalichanwa stepped out of the hut. As soon as she came outside, she saw a fog and walked through it. Inside, was daylight. She frowned and looked to her side. The sceptre was on the ground in pieces. She knew what to do, but not how to start.
“Follow your heart.” the voice urged.
She nodded her thanks, unsure whether it was appropriate to say anything.
She stretched her hand out to pick up the biggest piece of the Sceptre, and memories of every past bearer flooded through her. While the memories of each bearer washed over her, her hands stitched the pieces together. She spent a few more hours recalling the essences and then saying the rites of each essence as she sent them to their rightful heirs, most of which she created a portal for. Two of the essences never returned, something prevented them so she sent a message to Ene’e. It cost her hours and a splitting headache, but she was done and unlike her predecessors, she didn’t have long to live.
Finally finished, she stumbled out of the bubble of fog and into the hut with the sceptre in hand. Just as she was about to lay her head down, she heard the music again and frowned. She had just answered the call of the Sceptre a few minutes ago. She was tired and very drowsy. She had completed the rites of transition of essences, but she could still tap into any of the essence on the Sceptre before the transition was complete. So she tapped it into the essence of hindsight and foresight. She saw her death; it was to be by Okpararebisi in a few hours with the help of Nwaneri. Knowing that they would succeed, she decided to transfer her powers over to someone else before they could.
Nwaneri, the messenger, came to Evóvuotu in the form of an owl. “Greetings” he slurred.
She stepped out of the hut but still feeling drowsy, she leaned on the door frame. “What do you want?” she asked with no hint of malice.
“I need the sceptre.”
She gave him a mirthless laugh.
“You shouldn’t slight a god, you insolent child,” he said pointedly, offended that a mortal would speak to him with such irreverence.
Ómalichanwa nodded. She needed to stall him, as she still hadn’t located the essence of Harvest, or War and Servitude. She hadn’t done the three rites of transition for them. She needed to tread carefully, because Nwaneri’s twin was the god of mirth and festivity, associated with birth, good death, weddings, and festivals.
Nwaneri blinked twice. He couldn’t read her. The sceptre was definitely protecting her, and he couldn’t understand why. It was just a stick infused with powers. He would need his brother’s help for this. It was his brother’s fault that he was in this predicament. Sometime soon, Awele would be awake, and that would spell doom for his promotion and diminish his chances of taking the Omanma as his bride.
She turned sideways to take a look at him, only to see black, round eyes staring at her. It was hard to know if he was angry with her. There was no expression on his face. She had never tried to read an animal’s face before.
Nwaneri cocked his head left and right and blinked twice as he communicated with his brother in the skies. “Enjoy. I’ll be back in the morning for the sceptre.”
She squinted as a bright, silvery smoke cloud enveloped him and he disappeared. She sighed with relief. She looked back at the Sceptre. In a few minutes, Okpararebisi would realise he was no longer in possession of the real sceptre. She stalked back to the bed. She wanted to sleep, but the tapping sound kept interrupting her sleep. She roused herself, suddenly missing Isekó. She closed her eyes in concentration. It was a heartbeat. She listened again for where it was coming from, tapping into another essence. It was the baby in her aunt’s womb, her aunt’s labour would start any minutes now.
The morning draught was coming in. She covered her father and slipped out of her uncle’s hut into her aunt’s. Ónu was fast asleep beside his moaning wife. She raised her hand to cast a spell on him so he wouldn’t wake up, then remembered he was supposed to go with the chief priest to get her. She cloaked herself in invisibility and whispered into his ear. He quickly dressed up and left, oblivious to his moaning wife. As soon as he left, she prepared her aunt for birthing.
A few hours later, her aunt gave birth to a boy. Ónu had chosen a name before the baby was born, so he was named Akwu. As she carried the baby to wrap him up, her mind sailed to Ónu; he was approaching Oche-eze’s hut. He didn’t hear the carnage because he was whistling. By the time he realised, it was too late, and an arrow was protruding from his belly. The king’s guard searched his bag, but they didn’t know what they were supposed to be searching for, so they tugged his bag off of him and ran back to the palace with what they had looted from the Chief Priest’s hut.
Ómalichanwa touched her aunt’s hand gently. “It is time. You must leave immediately.” She whirled her free hand, and her aunt’s things were in a bag in a few seconds. She turned away from her aunt to let her get dressed. Ómalichanwa’s tears trickled down on the baby’s cheek, and she quickly wiped it off. While her aunt got dressed she transferred her powers to the baby. His sister Jeoma was already a Paramount Ruler of Healing and Protection and wise beyond her years. Ómalichanwa handed her cousin to his mother and guided them outside. She touched her aunt to heal her, then hugged her.
Her aunt gave her a questioning look, to which she nodded. Her aunt went to the adjoining hut to get her daughters. She was exiting when she saw her co-wife coming out of her hut. She froze and sighed with relief when the co-wife’s baby cried out and the woman went back into her hut.
“Nwo’bim, my senior is awake early today,” She whispered, because the children and the maids were with her.
Ómalichanwa nodded. “I noticed. The baby will keep her busy for some time. Do you trust your maids?”
She called her maids in one at a time to ask them. and watched Ómalichanwa’s reaction to each of them. Out of the five, Ómalichanwa approved of one. Her aunt paid her other maids and told them to leave immediately. They cried because their boss had refused to tell them what they had done wrong. Meanwhile, Ómalichanwa called her father with her mind. He came to her aunt’s hut and nodded his greetings to his wife’s twin sister.
Afterwards, Ómalichanwa went into the bush at the back of the house and called for help while she plucked herbs. A few minutes later, a leopard, two hares, a rabbit, a squirrel, four hyenas, and four foxes as white as clouds on a sunny day came forth; all the animals entered the hut except the foxes and two of the hyenas.
She opened a portal that would take them out of Eli’ikenueze, but unsure of a destination, she called to a memory of one the past bearers of the sceptre. She imagined Odonha just before the portal was complete. She made the sceptre smaller, disguised it, and wrapped it in the satchel, which she gave Jeoma to hold. Jeoma nodded as they silently communicated.
Ómalichanwa practically shoved everyone into the portal to hurry them up. When everyone got in, she pretended to be doing an incantation and told her father, “Mpa, go on. I need to finish this.”
Eriri frowned and nodded. “Okay, but hurry.”
As soon as her father went through, she moved to seal the portal. She took a long look at her father as she tried to fight back tears; she blew comfort into his heart and sealed the portal. She crumbled to the floor and started crying. One of the foxes came into the hut, she leaned on it and cried until she was exhausted.
The hyenas laughed and foxes growled. The fox with her walked beside her as she stepped out of the hut. Okpararebisi was standing there, Ónu’s first wife was adjacent to her with arms akimbo and her lips twisted. Some other people also gathered around them. Everyone was on their knees except for the warriors.
To be continued.