Prologue

Taken from Idika and the Twin Prophecy

The kingdom of Enu is experiencing a night like never before, one marked by a haunting silence that will last till dawn. It feels as though the gods themselves are walking the land. No one in the kingdom can tell what this silence is about—except for five men. These men, armed with spears and machetes, are creeping through the Ofala Forest, a forest most people wouldn’t dare to set foot in, even in the clear light of day. There is a fallen nsala tree lying at the mouth of the forest, near the dried-up brook. No man is brave enough to walk beyond this tree into the forest’s bowels, unless he is a strong medicine man. The canopy of gigantic irokos—nearly touching the sky—ensures that even on the sunniest days, the forest remains in darkness.

Besides the occasional grunt from the leader to signal a quick stop, or the crackling of a twig underfoot, the men move in a noiseless file. The leader of the group is surefooted and seems to have travelled this path many times. The men move with determination, the moonless night their willing accomplice; even if anyone were watching, their silhouettes cannot be seen. The Ofala Forest is not their destination; the Sacred Hill in Enu, beyond the forest, is. It is technically enemy territory; if they are caught, they will be executed for espionage. For the past six weeks the five men have sharpened their combat skills, and walked through the path leading from the forest to Enu until they were satisfied that they had gotten the lay of the forest and its adjoining land.

Before long, they arrive at the Sacred Hill, and climb to its top. They scope the land adjacent to the Hill. Two of the men remain behind on the Hill while the other three begin the steep walk down its other side, towards Ulo Oku, the sacred hut that houses the Nkpa Olaedo of Enu—a gold scepter the shape of an elephant’s tusk. The pointed tip of the scepter has fangs embedded on either side, and these are connected to the tusk’s base by two strings. The scepter is the symbol of authority of Enu and has encrypted writings on it. It is guarded by a band of fierce warriors. But, on this night, the usually watchful warriors are asleep, snoring, and vulnerable. It is almost amusing the way the three men walk into Ulo Oku unchallenged, heading straight for the pedestal in the inner sanctum on which the Nkpa Olaedo rests. The leader of the group takes off his leopard-skin vest, wraps the scepter in it to hide its golden gleam, and hands the wrapped bundle to one of the men with him. They walk back to the Sacred Hill where the other two men are still waiting, and from there find their way out of the dark embrace of the forest.