Chapter one


As the evening wind blows, the forest swayed its leaves and branches in gratitude for another day was reaching its end, the trees rejoiced for their freedom from the lashes of the days' scorching sun has arrived, the forest’s shadow grew longer and thicker as the sun retires into the heavens. Birds sang in their various avian melodies as they returned to their homes. The forest gradually building up a deafening peace that was constantly interrupted by the unrelenting rush of Magbon river that slashed through the vast vegetation. Occasionally, voices of the vast numbers of creatures that inhabit the endless woods of the Ijebu kingdoms broke the silence with their various melodies that sent chills through the bushes.

By the Magbon river sat Asabi and her lover whose face is coloured with that smile of contentment that fills one in the presence of one's beloved, in one of those moments that one never wishes to end. Her bosom was covered by a piece of Aso-oke wrapped across her chest and around to her back where it was fastened in a flower shaped-knot, and her lower body was concealed by a larger portion of the same material wrapped around her waist and stretching to her knees, leaving her stomach and legs bare naked.

‘I must return home now before iya mother begins to worry.’ Asabi said to the young man who’s been bounded under her spell. He looked away from her and threw a pebble into the river as if the flow was responsible for her comment. He returned his attention to her, and they looked into each other's eyes for a moment that lasted forever, the flame of passion burned in them, almost consuming them.

‘You should come with your people to see my parents, so we could stop hiding.’ He shifted his gaze away from her eyes to the ground like a wrestler that had just lost a match to an inferior fighter in a town square. ‘Awode.’ She called him softly, lifting up his head with her hand to his jaw, so that their faces meet again. The smile on his face returned after having lost it to the dry debris on the ground. He nodded his head in agreement to her suggestion.

They would be together, but he knew it will have to be in exile, or in their imagination: that plane where everything co-exists without friction, that world where all are birthed first before manifested into the physical world. How would he explain to his father that he wants to marry a maiden from the other side of the great Yemoja river? Despite the smile on Awode’s face, Asabi could see his fears, for his face had lost that shimmer that overflowed in the eyes when one is facing one’s beloved.

He held on tightly to her hands as she moved to stand and leave. ‘Asabi, ayan fe mi my beloved how can I live without you? Our people may forbid us from marrying, but my life without you is worth less than a grain of dust.’

‘You should discuss our affair with your father for I am running out of time, my parents may accept another suitor, especially Modede, the sculptor’s son. But most of all, I am being roasted by the flame of passion.’ Asabi said, looking away into the darkening distance.

The fear of breaking the news to Awoniyi his father, the abominable story of wanting to marry a poor farmer’s daughter from the village across the river weakened Awode’s bones. What would his father think of him knowing that he’s the heir to the position of his forefathers: a long lineage of Ifa priests, The mediators between the gods and the living. Even his mother Abeni will not lend him her ears for such a trivial discussion, A woman from a royal family she is herself. ‘You will not marry the daughter of a peasant!’ She would say.

All his father had done from his birth was grooming him to walk in the noble path of their forefathers: being able to intimately converse with the spirits.

Asabi giggled as Awode tickled her, touching her waist and her baby-neck simultaneously. ‘My beloved, I shall see you again in a short while with good news.’ He said to her.

‘By the grace of Aseda, the creator.’ She replied and giggled with her head tilted to the left while twirling a strand of braid from her hair. She walked away from him while he stood still with his face smudged with a smile, watching her diminished into the dark shadow of the woods.

Awode turned to cross the river and head home, but he saw a man standing opposite him at the other side of the water, the man seems to have been there all these while, watching him and his lover. As he took a step into the stream, the man did the same from the opposite side. Awode paused and the man pause as well. ‘Who are you?’ He asked the stranger, and the only voice he received back was the echo of his own voice accompanied by the songs of some unknown birds from unknown distances and the gushing of Magbon river.

Fear fell upon him, and he decided to take a flight away from the water, but he was held down by four hands, then he realised that two men were behind him. The man opposite him watched as Awode was held firmly and submerged below the surface of the water until his life was lost to the Yemoja river.

‘Abeni.’ Called the gentle voice of a man humbled by defeat, ‘I will be right out.’ She replied from inside her hut, she was busy putting Faluja to sleep, the youngest of her three children. The children barely left the shelter that day after the news of Awode’s demise arrived that morning from the mighty voice of Abeo, the town crier. It was the roar of Abeo’s gong that woke them up from their sleep, but the news that he delivered threw them into the tight grip of sadness and uncertainty.

The previous night, the whole of Awoniyi’s family was up until midnight, asking their neighbours if they know the whereabouts of Awode, the first son of the family. ‘No, I haven’t seen him.’ Some neighbours replied. ‘No, I don’t know.’ Others said. And ‘No, but you can check with the group of young men at Abe-Igi in the village square.’ A place where youths drink and eat and hang out with their sweethearts. ‘He may be there with his mates having the time of their youth. And please if you find my daughter with them, tell her to come home.’ A woman told Awoniyi and Abeni, who went to the square where the youths were consumed in their merrymaking. Awode was absent in the group, and no one in the group had seen him either. The news of his disappearance circulated the village that night. And Abeni spent the rest of the night crying for the return of her son.

As the day broke itself away from the dungeon of the night, the news of Awode’s fate broke out with it. The town crier cleared the air of misery that terrified them the previous night and replaced it with bitterness. The story had reached the king’s palace from a hunter who saw Awode’s body by the edge of the river. ‘I was returning from early morning inspection of my traps when I saw the body of the young man by the riverside.’ The hunter had said.

The corp was later burned by a group of fraters as it is believed that his soul had been consumed by Yemoja, the great goddess. No further enquiry was made into the incident that occurred by the river. And the news escalated into the talk of the day in the village and the neighbouring villages. ‘’The mysterious end of Awode, the son of a chief priest.’’

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