The stars suddenly disappeared from the sky, and the moonlight games came to an abrupt halt. This was disappointing for the children who had put in relentless efforts rehearsing their dances all day to be presented to their parents during the moonlight.
Moonlight seasons are the most remarkable seasons in Igwekala. They are nights of dancing, folklore, and hide and seek games. The nights also provide ample opportunities for children who are into mischief and adults who indulge in illicit affairs such as Agbonma and Obianyim. Teenagers jostling to be initiated into the adult world hope to capitalise on the opportunities provided by the season and perfect their escapades.
Agbonma’s affair with Obianyim, the leper, was an open secret. In markets and village squares, women were seen discussing the issue in hushed tones. The story making the rounds was that most nights when Nwaobike, Agbonma’s husband, went on his night watch duties, Agbonma was spotted sneaking into Obianyim’s hut and was also spotted by early risers sneaking out of the hut on the outskirts of the town in the wee hours of the morning where the leper was quarantined.
Soon, the clouds became so thick that it became difficult for anyone to see beyond the end of their nose. The thunder clapped uncontrollably like chariots deployed for war. The rain pounded in torrents. It was on the same scale of rainfall that characterised the battle between Igwekala and Mbaiso in which both parties lost over 50 of their warriors. The fierce battle consumed Igwekala warriors such as the great Nsiegbe, Igwilo, and Obidiano.
It was a greater loss for the people of Mbaiso. Warriors such as Amansugbe, Akina, and Okiki were not spared. Even worse, Amansugbe, a warrior of high repute who saw Mbaiso to a chain of victories, was beheaded and his head was not recovered. Efforts by the Mbaiso people to recover Amansugbe’s proved abortive and even escalated the casualty rate among the Mbaiso.
“The night was terrible,” Okiriko, the great storyteller and one of the survivors of the war, told the children who gathered in his Obi because of the rain. “The issue in contention,” Okiriko continued, “was the Igwegalama pond. The pond is rich in fish. Fish is the mainstay of the Igwekala economy, and their neighbour’s.”
Suddenly, the rain, just as it began, ceased and the moon reappeared illuminating the earth once more. But all activities were put on hold as the night was far gone. Just as the children were gearing to return to their homes, a distress cry was heard. The cry began to fade and finally ceased.
Everybody rushed in the direction of the cry—children, youths, and adults. Spontaneously, as if the parties were regulated by some instinct, they halted next to a pond near Obianyim’s hut. Everyone was bewildered by the spectacle as Agbonma’s lifeless body floated on top of the pond. The women cried in unison, “Chai Agbonma, your sins have exposed you.”
Written by Okechukwu Keshi
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