Cheta manage to sneak into her hut without her step mother knowledge. Her father and his elders were still doing their meeting when she entered the palace.
Once she was inside the hut, she made sure the door of her hut was locked before proceeding to her bamboo bed to rest her tired bones.
Her step mother had once entered her hut when she was resting one night and pour her cold water that sent her flying from bed immediately and collected the beatings of her life from her. She had gone to bed earlier enough after doing her house chores and had forgotten to lock the door.
Queen Amara: (Holding and pinching Cheta’s ear very hard ignoring the cries from the young girl) Next time you have the guts to sleep before I or the Royal household, you will have yourself to blame. In fact you will regret why you never left with your witch of a mother. Do I make myself clear?
Cheta: (Still crying) Yes my Queen.
Queen Amara left Cheta ears and gave her a hard knock on her head before leaving the hut.
That incident has never left her mind ever since that day. So she doesn’t want to take chances with her step mother.
Cheta slept off and she has a terrible dream.
She saw herself drowning in an unknown river and saw her step mother on her right side laughing at her. Queen Amara was standing on the river without drowning.
Cheta: (Trying to swim but the heavy current of the water didn’t help matters instead she was going down) Help me mother, please.
Queen Amara: (Laughed for two minutes then stop) I told you I will end your life, didn’t I? I warned you but you wouldn’t listen now you will die and leave this world you came out to stay. No one will save you.
Cheta: Mother, please I don’t want to die now, help me, save me. (Turning to her left she saw Adapuruche walking on top of the river towards her) Ada please help me, I am drowning.
Adapuruche: (Stretching forth her hands to her) Quickly grab hold of my hands let me pull you out of the river. (Cheta did as told and grab hold of Adapuruche hands. Adapuruche started pulling Cheta out of the river with all her strength and when Cheta was almost out of the river, Adapuruche jerk off her hands from Cheta’s grip and she fell back right inside the river.) And who do you think wants
to help you? Me? You must be dreaming. This is just a payback for taking what’s not yours. (She went to stand beside her mother and they both stared at Cheta scornfully as she started to sink.)
Cheta woke up at that moment staring around her in fear and when she realised where she was, she breathed a sigh of relief and her mind came back to that dream.
Cheta: (Talking aloud to herself) What kind of strange dream is that? Why will mama and Adapuruche wants to kill me? What did I do to Adapuruche and what does she mean I took what was hers, what did I take from her? ChukwuOkike I don’t understand this strange fearful dream. Tufiakwa may the gods forbid I drown.
Cheta stayed indoors all through the day until the day has darkened and only came out to wash the used plates and ate the leftovers.
The Strange man left the forest and came out in the opening and started walking without knowing a destination in his mind. Everywhere looks strange to him.
So engrossed he was that he didn’t notice the old hunter on time before he ran smack into the old man.
Quickly getting up to his feet and helping the old man up to his feet. Picking the dead grasshopper which has fallen and gave it to the Hunter.
Strange Man: I’m sorry old man, I wasn’t watching where I was going. Hope you are not offended?
Old Hunter: (Staring at the man from his head to toes, he looks were different and his clothes seem ancient) Offended? I am not offended my son. I too wasn’t paying attention to my surroundings. Where are you headed?
Strange Man: (Smiling with ease now that he knows he didn’t offend the old man) Nowhere in particular. I am just looking for a maiden whose voice set me free.
Old Hunter: A maiden you say? What’s the name of the maiden, I can help you to trace her.
Strange Man: I don’t even know the name of the maiden, but if I can hear her voice, I will know her.
Old Hunter: It will be hard for you my son. But I wish you all the best in finding your maiden.
Strange Man: Thank you. Ehm, please where is this place? The name of this village?
Old Hunter: You are in the biggest and strongest village called Ogidi by the way, who are your parents? I will love to meet them to sing praises to them for having a son as handsome as you.
Strange Man: (Aghast by his words) You want to meet my parents?
Old Hunter: Yes my son.
Strange Man: (Look at the sky and down at the old man and said in a low voice) I’m not welcome yet, I still have my maiden to find before I go back.
Old Hunter: (Not understanding him) What was that son?
Strange Man: I mean to say, I don’t have any parents, I am an orphan. I don’t even have any place to go or where to lay my head on. The only person I have is my unknown maiden who talks to me.
Old Hunter: She might come back to look for you.
Strange Man: I don’t think so. (He couldn’t tell the man he was a statue that was set free by her.)
Old Hunter: You can stay with me then, my two daughters are married and live in their husbands villages, they do visit me once in a year, but do not worry about them. I will explain to them when next they come visiting.
Strange Man: Really? I should stay with you? Won’t I be a bundle to you in your own home?
Old Hunter: Not at all my son, you can never be a bundle to me and besides my hut is too big for me to stay alone.
Strange Man: Thank you, I hope you won’t feel offended if I call you papa?
Old Hunter: I won’t my son. But what’s your name?
Strange Man: (Smiled) My name? I am Ikenga papa.
Old Hunter: Ikenga, hmm you have the same name with the warrior god.
Ikenga: (The strange man now known as Ikenga nodded his head.) That’s because I am the on- (he started coughing all of a sudden and stopped after a while) sorry, my parents love the name so they named me Ikenga.
Old Hunter: Probably Ikenga blessed your parents and when your mother had you, they decided to give you one of the gods name.
Ikenga: Yes papa.
Old Hunter: (Smiling) No wonder you look different from the young men I have been seeing around.
Ikenga: Let me hold the grasshopper for you (Collecting the dead grasshopper from the hunter hands).
Old Hunter: Let’s go. My house isn’t that far from here.
With that the old Hunter lead the way to his hut and Ikenga followed observing everything around them.
They arrived at the old hunter home and he collected the grasshopper from Ikenga and went to keep it at his kitchen. He offered Ikenga to sit on a stool while he went to clean one of the huts in his compound. Soon he was through and went to sit with Ikenga bringing his own stool with him.
Old Hunter: Your hut is ready my son.
Ikenga: Thank you Papa, but why are you helping me, why are you kind to me, a stranger?
Old Hunter: I was helped by someone when I was much younger and ever since then I do help anyone who is stranded or who is in need of help with the little I have. You need somewhere to lay your head, and I have an empty hut, so why won’t I help you my son?
Ikenga: Thank you Papa, I am assuring you, you won’t regret bringing into your home. I will go to my hut now Papa.
He stood up and entered his hut, this is his new home for now and where he will stay to search for the maiden who had set him free.
Queen Amara was in her hut sleeping when she has a dream.
She saw herself in the forest where she had made her request to her mother for Queen Amaka child to be born Ugly.
The ground started shaking and the Giant Queen emerged from the forest and stopped once she reaches Amara.
The Giant Queen: Amara, for almost 30 years you have been living and dining with our enemy, it is time for you to do what you came there to do.
Queen Amara: Mother I know, you don’t have to remind me. I haven’t forgotten the reason why I came to live in the Palace.
The Giant Queen: Then what is delaying you?
Queen Amara: Cheta, I want her dead, I despise her with passion mother. I hate the very air she breathes, everyday I wish she is dead or gone just like her mother.
The Giant Queen: Then kill her, you have your powers use it on her but do what you had promised to do. We don’t have much time.
Queen Amara: We will always have time mother, no one dares to stand in our way.
The Giant Queen: That’s where you are wrong Amara. Like what the strange man had told you long ago, the gods are watching us and that’s why they had sent him.
Queen Amara: Send who?
The Giant Queen: The one who will ruin our plans.
Be fast Amara for he is coming.
Amara woke up from sleep.
To Be Continued.
C.H.E.T.A ( I Am Not Ugly)