Thursday 20 July, 1860
“Father,” Amarachi called unto her dad, “It’s been three days now since we saw the strange man who called himself the seer.”
The whole family was sitting in front of their large hut and having a late lunch. The food was a well prepared roasted yam with curry leave, fresh pepper and red oil. Nduka had traded meat for yam and oil earlier in the day.
Amarachi had not been able to get the seer out of her mind. She didn’t think it would be of any harm to them to go and hear what he had to say, but she wasn’t sure her father was giving it a second thought, likewise Olamma her mother. She had heard the story and didn’t think the drama was worth looking into. They were new here and didn’t need such unnecessary distractions.
Her younger brothers were separated from them and were playing while they ate.
“I told you to forget about that stranger.” After a second thought, “I hope you are not planning on going there on your own?”
“No father, I just…”
“Let it go child,” her father cut in. he knew the only way to stop Amarachi was by being stern. Amarachi was capable of sneaking out and doing her will.
Olamma observed attentively, hoping her husband’s warning would really stop her daughter from trying anything stupid. She was as beautiful as her daughter but was not capable of doing masculine activities like her daughter.
Amarachi gave it up. If her parents thought seeing the so called seer wasn’t necessary then she was going to let it go.
After eating and washing up the clay dishes, Amarachi felt bored at home. She decided to take a stroll into the village and perhaps make some friends.
“Father, I want to talk a walk around the neighborhood.” She told her father who was almost dozing off on the long seat where he had had his lunch.
“I will not tell you not to go out but you must be very careful. I wouldn’t want you to be unnecessarily adventurous and try going into the bush on your own.”
Amarachi knew he was only interested in stopping her from going to see the seer. She didn’t intend to either.
“I will be careful father.” She answered and quickly walked towards the track road that led to their house.
Her mother quickly came out of the room and called her back.
“Go and cover your breast before going out.”
Amarachi casually obeyed her and left the house.
The whole village was just boring. She had no friends and the citizens were simply lazy. The young boys she had met in the stream in the past two days behaved like women. They had a good king who had a strong army that was protecting them and because of that, they didn’t act like people who could be attacked by rebels any moment from now.
Soon she found herself on the familiar track road that led do the palace. She decided to view the palace and guards; perhaps she might see something interesting around there.
She saw something interesting.
Just outside the palace the prince was training some new recruits. Few people watched them from the trees and fallen tree trunks that surrounded the small field where the training took place.
Amarachi walked closer to enjoy the view. What more was more interesting than watching strong men fight each other?
She spotted the Prince and the way he handled and trained the men caught her interest.
She had never realized he had this much energy in him. She had heard stories of the great warrior king who could kill twenty men all by himself, but she had never thought the prince was also like his father.
He must be the strongest man in the village, Amarachi thought, judging from the way he took down all the men that attacked him with ease.
Amarachi had always liked strong men. She had always imagined that her husband must be a very strong man who would go hunting with her and together they would have a strong family and if possible rule a community. But she didn’t know why she didn’t like the Prince despite his impressive fighting skills. All the same, she relaxed and enjoyed the view.
Prince Andaka saw her immediately she entered the scene. He couldn’t miss the distinct lady figure. Her presence seemed to give him more strength and he also suddenly felt the need to impress her, so he asked his trainees to attack him.
He took them all down and was glad she saw it all.
The guard he had asked to find out about her had done a great job. Right now he knew where she lived and how many siblings she had. He even knew where and when she bathed at the stream. He had discreetly watched her take her bath yesterday and the image of her whole naked body had been the only thought in his head competing with the thought of ensuring he became the next king.
He was beginning to grow strong feelings for her, a feeling no lady in Oboagha had been able to elicit from him.
He asked the guards to rest while he walked up to her.
Amarachi didn’t expect this. Why would the prince be walking towards her direction?
He got to her and she continued to observe him, wondering what he wanted to do.
“Amarachi, you came to watch me fight?” the Prince said with a sense of pride.
Amarachi nodded her head, not understanding what he meant by the statement. Why would he think she came here to watch him? She was also surprised that he called her name with such familiarity.
“I hope I didn’t disappoint you?” there was a smile of confidence on his mean face, yet it wasn’t a kind smile.
There was nothing benevolent in the way the prince talked or acted. But nothing about him intimidated her. Mean men didn’t scare her.
“Everybody knows you are a good fighter.” She casually replied.
“Oh, you have heard about my fighting skills too.”
She didn’t think this statement was a question. She also didn’t understand why he thought his fighting skills were of any interest to her.
Prince Andaka didn’t think he was getting the admiration and respect he desired from her. Her body language didn’t make him feel good. Didn’t she think he was a good fighter? Perhaps she had seen more skillful men in her community before coming here.
He remembered she also hunted with her father; he had never seen a girl hunter before. Could this girl be skillful too? He decided he was going to find out. “You look like a lady warrior… perhaps you have some fighting skills.”
“I and my father are great hunters. Sometimes some fighting skills are needed to overcome unforeseen circumstances. You never know what or who you might meet out there in the forest.” She boldly replied.
The Prince liked her the more. “Perhaps you can challenge one of my men.” He suggested.
She looked into his eyes for a moment and her beauty caused his heart beat to stop for a moment. “Alright, let’s do it.”
Andaka, who didn’t expect she would give in to this suggesting without any pressure from him, led her to the middle of the field.
He pointed at one of the guards and signaled to him to come forward.
“This pretty lady wants to show me what fighting skills she’s got. Face it off with her.” He instructed and pulled back.
The guard thought this was the most stupid idea the Prince had ever suggested. How could he ask him to face it off with a lady? He had never seen a lady fight before and the people of Oboagha believed that women were meant to cook and go to streams. The guard thought Prince had gone way beyond his limits; how does he expect him to hit a woman?
Amarachi and the guard were handed a fighting stick and they were left to face each other.
Looking at the way the guard positioned himself; Amarachi knew he was going to be a very easy take, so she dropped her weapon.
This aroused the prince’s interest and the guards were piqued at this action, especially because it was coming from a woman.
The guard allowed her to attack because he meant to go soft on her. But the girl’s movement was fast and very skillful and even though he was quick to dodge her right arm, he had to buckle up for a real fight.
Amarachi’s next strike with her right hand got him on the left rib cage. His weapon was almost useless to her swift skills and before he could react, her right arm was around his neck and with her left arm she lifted him up and threw him on the floor. She stepped back and waited for him to stand up.
Everybody watching was surprised and Prince Andaka felt rage. The stupid guard had disgraced him by allowing a girl to beat him.
The guard looked up at him before standing up and instantly knew he was in trouble with his trainer. So he quickly rushed Amarachi once he got to his feet expecting to take her by surprise.
Amarachi was expecting him and was able to tactfully get the stick out of his hand and hit him with it.
“Stop!” Andaka’s voice shot out. He was angry; his guard had disgraced him.
There was a wry smile on her face when it was finally over; she liked the look of embarrassment on the prince’s face.
The prince couldn’t say a word; he just looked at the defeated guard and motioned to Amarachi to walk with him.
Even though Andaka was furious, he couldn’t help but admire Amarachi the more. He wanted to be with her for now; he would deal with the disgraceful guard later.
“You fight pretty well,” he tried to sound amused despite the embarrassment he felt. “I must confess, I am simply amazed.”
“Thank you.” Amarachi replied.
The prince led her to a quiet and lonely track.
Why was the prince interested in leaving his task and chatting with her? What does he want? Amarachi’s head was filled with questions.
“So where did you learn those skills from?” Andaka asked. He intended to woo her at this moment. Of course she would gladly accept him. Can anybody dare reject the advances of Prince Andaka the son of the great king of Oboagha?
“I grew up hanging around my uncles who were warriors in my community before we were raided. Besides I have always been interested in being as strong as tough warriors. I always involve myself in masculine activities.” She replied. She hoped she wasn’t sounding disrespectful.
Andaka continued to maintain a confident smile, “Are you speaking of the men who couldn’t protect their people when the invaders came?”
Amarachi was a little hurt by this statement but she maintained her composure. “Our warriors did the best they could. Our enemies took us by surprise.”
From the way she talked, Andaka could assume that she must have fought along with them. “You are a very special girl, one who is different from her counterparts yet so pretty, strong and desirable.”
“Thank you.” Was all she could reply.
“I like you. Who knows, I might consider taking you as my wife.” He was very confident of himself.
Amarachi had never given getting married a thought even though her parents were always mentioning it. This was the first time someone was proposing to her and she thought it was weird. Andaka sure wouldn’t be a choice even if she decided to give marriage a thought. She hoped he was joking for his own sake.
Prince wasn’t expecting this awkward silence. Was this girl making him make a fool of himself? Wasn’t she glad he said something like that to her? “Why are you silent? The prince just asked you to be his wife, or do you think I am not serious?” he believed this must be what she was thinking. “I know you will be surprised that I am asking you to be my wife despite the fact that your family is a refugee with a strange blood. Don’t worry; I will change your status.”
What has all these got to do with him marrying her? Why does he think he was doing her a favour? How could she make him understand that she had greater plans for her future rather being married to an arrogant prince? She was going to be a warrior lady that would avenge the death of her relations. “Well, I have not yet given marriage a thought. There are more important things in my mind.”
Andaka couldn’t believe his ears. What rudeness? Did she just say she had more important things? The rage he felt knew no bound, but he tried to keep calm, “You will go home and think about what we just discussed, I will see you tomorrow.” With that, he turned around and headed towards the training ground.
Amarachi watched him walk away from her just like that. Was he angry? Somehow, she was glad he left her. Now what was she going to do about the ultimatum he had given her? She wasn’t afraid of him and wasn’t ready to be intimated by anyone.
She quickly hurried back home, it was getting late.
The Prince’s rage worsened as he got to the training ground and had to face the disgraceful guard.
“You can’t beat a girl? I expected you should have killed yourself before I got here. I can see how shameless you are.” His eyes were blood shot.
“The guard knelt down, “I am sorry my prince. I never expected her to be that skillful. I took her for granted and was taken by surprised. Please my prince…”
“Don’t call me your prince. I can never be a prince to such a disgraceful thing like you.” Andaka interrupted, “How can you call yourself a warrior of Oboagha yet you allow yourself to be taken by surprise by a woman?” then an idea came to his head, “Alright, you have to redeem yourself by challenging me. Just last up to 20seconds and I will let this pass. Now come forward.” He commanded.
The guard picked up his weapon and went up to the prince while he wondered what the prince meant by twenty seconds.
Andaka didn’t give him a chance to think of what next to do. He disarmed the already terrified guard and twisted his neck. All the guards observing heard the sound of the neck bone crack and they saw their colleague fall in death.
Quickly the few people watching began to disperse. It was obvious that the prince was in rage and whenever he was in this mood, anyone could be a victim.
How could the pretty Amarachi not be drooling for him?
She had been all that was in his mind since he saw her few days ago and had thought she would be more than glad that he indicated interest in her.
Was she feeling she was strong enough to challenge him? Did she know he was going to become the next king?
He walked out of the training ground and headed for the palace.
Speaking of becoming the next king, which was another issue that was bothering him; he must forget about Amarachi and focus on how to handle his father.
Her father was not at home when she got home.
“Thank God you are back home, I was about to ask your little brothers to go and search for you.” Her mother’s facial expression displayed the fact that she was relieved. “Come over here and help me peel these cassavas.”
Amarachi walked up to her mum.
Her little brothers were played at the other end of the compound. They seemed to have gotten a new friend and were having fun here.
Amarachi was glad her family was settled down. Few days ago had been like hell but looking at them all now, all she could see was peace except for the turmoil in her mind.
Why was the Prince trying to spoil this peace she was enjoying with her family here in Oboagha?
“Where did Papa go?” She asked as she sat close to her mum.
“Your father went to check some of the traps he set in the bush this morning; I believe he will soon be back.” Olamma studied her daughter as she spoke. She was sure that soon men would come asking for her hand in marriage. She was also confident that her pretty daughter would attract rich and good looking men in Oboagha. “You are getting pretty by the day my daughter.”
Amarachi looked up at her in surprise. Then she smiled, her mother obviously couldn’t wait to give her out in marriage. It was the pride of all mothers. Then she remembered her conversation with the prince. “The prince just declared his intension to marry me, but I am not ready, neither do I like him.” she tried to sound casual despite he worries.
Olamma had already heard so much about the ruthless prince. He wasn’t exactly the kind of man she would want to give her daughter out in marriage. She hoped he would take her refusal in good fate.
She was about to inquire from her daughter how she met the prince and what exactly transpired between them when she looked up and saw her husband walking towards home. She would definitely discuss this development with him.
As he drew closer home, Olamma noticed he was looking worried and his eyes were on their daughter.
He sat on a dry tree stem that was very close to them. “The prince angrily killed one of his guards today.” His eyes were on Amarachi even as he spoke. “He was said to have been defeated in a fight by a woman.”
“Amarachi! Why did you have to go and fight with the Prince’s guard?” her alarmed mother asked.
“I was just watching them train when Prince Andaka walked up to me and asked me to fight with one of his men.” Amarachi complained. She couldn’t believe the prince had actually killed him because she defeated him. Was he really that angry because she didn’t give him a positive answer on the marriage issue?
“You should have said no.” Nduka cried.
“I wanted to fight with them and show them all I got. Accepting the challenge was the choice that seemed right at that moment. How would I have known that the prince was going to kill whoever I won in the fight?” Even as she spoke, she felt very guilty for the life of the guard. His blood was in her hands, she thought.
“Did he ask to marry you before the fight or after the fight?” Olamma asked.
Nduka stared in shock. Why were they now talking about marriage?
“It was after the fight mother. I noticed he wasn’t happy I won his guard but he was much angrier when I told him that I wasn’t thinking of marriage yet.”
“The prince wants to marry you?” Nduka asked.
Nduka knew that her daughter would never accept to marry Prince Andaka. “Did he just walk away when you told him you weren’t ready for marriage? He must have said something before leaving you, a threat or something.” Nduka felt he had idea of how most warriors like the prince would behave in situations like that. The prince sure wouldn’t leave without a threat.
“He said he was giving me till tomorrow to think about it and that he will be coming here tomorrow before he angrily left me. It was more like a threat.”
“And then he went back to the training ground and killed the guard. He must have been mad.” Nduka said in a whisper tone. What will he do now? If the prince decides to take drastic measures on them as a result of their daughter’s refusal to marry him, they would be in real danger.
Still in confusion, he left his daughter and wife and entered the hut.
That night he thought of the so called seer’s warning for the first time. Should he allow his daughter to go and see the strange young man and hear what he has to say? Well, whatever happens tomorrow will tell, he decided.
When the king of Oboagha heard of the death of the guard, he had to quickly summon his son.
“Why did you have to kill him to prove your point?” King Agudi queried. “How could you be that ruthless?”
Andaka stood in front of his father with a stern face. He was not afraid despite knowing what his father was capable of. “I intend to come up with the best warriors in the history of our time. You must understand my fury when I saw a lady beat up a man I spent most of my time training. He was both dumb and lazy; killing him was the best way to punish him for wasting my time.”
The king was both angry and speechless at his son’s reply. There wasn’t any sign of remorse in the young man’s countenance. Not that this was the first time his son had murdered someone in cold blood; he had been able to defend himself and justify his actions in previous occasions. This time around his action was totally uncalled for.
He must take necessary action this time around. He will not have his son kill his citizens for no reason and destroy the community he had worked very hard to build with his greed and wickedness. “You just rendered that man’s wife a widow yet you claim you want to become their ruler in the nearest future.” He stopped and stared at the unrepentant face, “think hard my son. Do you think you have what it takes to rule this community?”
“I do father, I am strong and fearless. With me, the people can come under no threat come what may, just as long as they obey the rules of the community.”
“No, Andaka. You will be the only threat to your own people if you continue this way and I will be the most wicked king to hand over my community to somebody like you.” Now, he noticed this got the young man’s attention. “You must change and prove to me that you are different, or else you will never be the king as long as I live. You will start by going to that man’s wife and ask her for forgiveness then you will appease the spirit of her late husband.”
Andaka couldn’t believe his ears, “but father, I…”
“Shut your mouth and listen to me,” the great king was furious, “you must learn how to be kind to the people by starting to interact with them as your equals. And until I start hearing rumors that you have actually changed, not only rumors but I must feel it, I will not recognize you as the next king of Oboagha. The people might think you are the crown prince, but I have the final say. So the choice is yours to merit it.”
Andaka was filled with hatred for his father. He wished he could just strangle the old man and get it over with.
King Agudi stared back at his son with equal meanness, “Now leave my chamber,” he said through clenched teeth.
There was no telling that the king was a great man. Andaka could see it. He left the chamber without saying a word.
He walked straight into his room without giving a glance to or noticing anything in his environment. The anger and hatred he felt for his father almost choked him.
He continued to pace up and down, thinking of the possible solution to the issue between him and his father.
The evening had started badly after Amarachi had beaten up his guard. She had disgraced him and still went ahead to reject his proposal for marriage. She had made him look like a fool in both occasions and now his father had worsened it all by asking him to do these things that would dehumanize him.
Prince Andaka, the future king of Oboagha would never do those things his father had asked him to do. The widow of his late guard can cry blood for all he cared but he would never ask her for forgiveness. Her whole family didn’t deserve his pity!
Pretty Amarachi must be his wife or suffer for it but first he must deal with his father. He had been nursing some thought on how to handle his father since the old man threatened him some days ago, but had been slacking on actually going ahead with the plan. Now he had no choice but to take the next step.
“Who is there!” he called on the guard outside. The same guard who had helped him source out information about Amarachi ran into the room. He was one of Andaka’s trusted guards. Despite the prince’s meanness, this guard was among the few who benefited from him by being loyal.
“Get me two guards you can trust. I am giving you three days to seek out one of the rebel leaders among the numerous rebels out there. Ensure he is strong and daring. Tell him that Prince Andaka wants to meet with him in the next market day, that is a week from now.” He stopped and looked intensely at the guard, “if I hear this from any other person, I will kill you and all your family. Tell the rebel leader that Prince Andaka wants his favour and I will give him a very interesting gift in return.”
“I will do that right away my Prince.” The guard obediently replied and left the hut.
This decision seemed to calm the prince a bit. He was surprised that there was a smile on his face by the time the guard was out of his room. He felt excited for what he was about to do.
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