Behind Her Smile
Chioma walked into the servants’ quarters, studying the maids as they cleaned the room.
“Ella, how did you find out that the Prince was coming back, and also that he was sick and a sacrifice would be used to cure him?” Chioma asked.
“I overheard the Queen’s discussion with the Chief Priest,” Ella replied nervously.
Chioma turned to Amara. “And you, how did you find out about a baby used for the foundation of this palace?”
“I…I…I,” Amara stammered. “I heard it from the villagers, and besides, it’s not allowed to be discussed in the palace. But why are you asking us these questions?”
“I just want to confirm something, that’s all,” Chioma said. “Where’s Miriam, by the way?”
“I think she is in the backyard,” Esther replied.
“Okay, girls. See you later.” She walked away, leaving the girls staring after her in confusion.
“She will still say that we are the only ones that gossip too much, while actually she is interested too,” Ella whined.
Esther chuckled. “But have you noticed that Miriam has been behaving strange lately? I mean, she seems more happier these days, and sometimes she’s all grumpy.”
Ella nodded. “Yes. I have noticed that too. But since she won’t tell us what is wrong with her, I think we should not bother ourselves. Maybe she is fine just like she said. And besides, she always smiles, so we don’t even know when she is sad.”
“Amara what do you think?” Esther asked Amara who seemed lost in thoughts.
“Amara!” Esther called, trying to win her attention.
“Sorry, girls,” Amara said. “What were you saying?”
“What are you thinking?” Ella asked suspiciously.
“Why do you think Chioma was asking us those things?” Amara asked.
Ella shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe she was only curious.”
“Do you think she is planning on reporting us to the Queen?” Amara asked.
“No, I don’t think so,” Esther said. “You know that Chioma cannot do something like that to us.”
“Just the same way she is not interested in gossip,” Amara said. “But how come she is curious now?”
“I don’t know,” Ella said. “But I don’t think she is planning on reporting us.”
“Stop thinking useless things,” Esther cautioned. “I’m sure she won’t do something like that.”
“Okay, if you girls say so.” Shrugging, Amara waved off the issue. She joined the others as they returned to their chore.
But she swore in her heart to find out Chioma’s intention before it was too late. She hadn’t forgotten the woman she’d seen in Chioma’s room the day Miriam had fainted.
She’d been trying to figure out how Chioma suddenly appeared by the door when she’d tried to run.
She knew time was slowly ebbing away. She had to act fast and unravel the mystery surrounding Chioma and the entire palace.
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Watching the sky, Ezinne shook her head. “The heaven is not looking bright, and I know that soon calamity will befall this land of ours.
I must pass on my gift to someone before I die. I know that Chioma is good, but she is just not the right person to inherit my powers. Her powers are far different from mine. So who will keep my powers alive?
I just know that there is someone out there who will take my place. But who could it be? I pray that Chioma soon finds out who this child is in the palace before she brings disaster upon us all.”
Suddenly, she felt a presence in her house. “And who are you?”
Hearing nothing but a deafening silence, she rose to her feet. “I said who is that? Show yourself if you’re not a coward.
“I am not a coward,” Obiageli said, coming out from where she’d been hiding. “I’m just making sure that I don’t scare you.”
“And who are you?” Ezinne asked, staring at the young girl in front of her. She noted that the girl was approximately Chioma’s age.
“I am Obiageli,” Obiageli replied.
“Those eyes tell power and that mouth speaks strength,” Ezinne said. “Are you her daughter?”
“Whose daughter?” Obiageli asked.
“The daughter of Obioma the bad witch,” Ezinne said.
“How dare you label my mother a bad witch?” Obiageli asked furiously.
“How did you know your mother?” Ezinne asked, puzzled. “She died the day you were born.”
“I always see her in my dreams,” Obiageli said. “She told me who I was and how to get help. She directed me to you.”
Obiageli had grown up with her adopted family. One day, after a tedious hunting session, her adopted father had been returning home when he heard a woman’s cry. He’d followed the voice, only to find Obioma the bad witch.
Everybody knew how bad she was, and how she’d helped the Queen to kill innocent people. Gripped with fear, the hunter had tried to run, but she’d called him back, pleading that he took the child she’d just birthed.
She’d narrated to him how the King had sentenced her and her unborn child to death, and how she’d used her magical powers to flee.
For fear that her child might share with her in her fate someday, she’d pleaded with the hunter to raise up the child as a normal human.
After Obioma’s death, the hunter had returned home with the child whom he’d named Obiageli. He’d taken care of her ever since, as though she were his biological daughter.
“And how may I be of help to you?” Ezinne asked, with a smile on her face. “The truth is, I have been waiting for you for so long and now that you have finally chosen to reveal who you are, I think I can rest in one piece, knowing that my power will be handed over to you.”
“But am I a witch?” Obiageli asked. “Am I going to be a bad witch like my mother?”
“My daughter, it was circumstances that made your mother that way so you shouldn’t even think of hating her,” Ezinne said. “I will introduce you to my daughter. The two of you will be working together when am gone.”
“I don’t understand any of this,” Obiageli said. “What is really going on? I see blood everywhere, corpses lying every where. Is this village going to be destroyed?”
“My daughter, we need to find a way to appease her spirit or else she will haunt us all to the very end,” Ezinne replied.
“How do we even start this battle with this spirit?” Obiageli asked.
“Have you seen her before?” Ezinne asked.
“I saw her in my dream,” Obiageli said. “And I always feel her presence around me, like she knows about my existence and is waiting for the perfect time to strike.”
“I will contact my daughter soon, so don’t worry,” Ezinne said.
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Behind Her Smile