The Ancient City of Me (Chapter One)

Note: This story doesn't represent any country or individual. Everything about it is fiction.

The Festival

Orugwe was a small village inhabited by peaceful people whose main occupation was farming. The villagers loved each other; they shared a lot together and lived in harmony. The land was very fertile and good for farming as produce was lush. After each harvest, a festival was held to thank the gods for a fruitful year. It was a tradition then, that different families host the festival each year. In that year, the Ladeal family were hosting. It was their duty as well as that of their extended family to prepare the venue, lead the festive prayer, and provide refreshment, but every member of Orugwe village, was to contribute part of their farm produce for the festival.

The venue was the open field behind Victor Ladeal’s family house. Victor was the head of the Ladeal family and his brother, Lucas, supported him all the way. In the bush near Victor’s house, Naliria Ladeal, a twenty years old girl, dark haired, a little plump and not so light in complexion, was gathering sticks with John Gabu, a young man in his mid twenties and a little darker in complexion than Naliria. The morning sky was very clear, the weather was fair, and the sun was already almost high up. Inspite of the sun, the cool breeze and the surrounding trees helped to keep the weather friendly.

“So what do you think about the festival?” John asked, as he cut down some branches from a tree.

“Well, so far it has been exciting,” Naliria replied, “No hiccups, no fighting, everything has been fun.”

“Yes!” John agreed, “The last festival hosted by the Okris was chaotic; I felt so ashamed for the family.” John added as he put down some of the branches he had just cut; Naliria picked them up and put them aside with the others.

“So what exactly happened that made everything chaotic?” she asked.

“Well,” John started, “Mr. Okri was sick, so he placed his son, Harrison in charge.”

Naliria gasped in surprise, “Harrison? The same Harrison who gets into trouble with everyone?”

“Yes, same old Harrison." He replied. John went back to cutting the branches.

“Wow,” said Naliria, “I can’t understand why he always gets into so much trouble. Just yesterday, he was punished and humiliated for stealing Mrs. Anna’s hen.”

“Really?” asked John, laughing,

“Really!” replied Naliria. “Funny enough, his father has lots of hens, I wonder why he chose to steal.”

“A bad egg is always a bad egg Nali.” said John. “He won’t change his ways unless he really wants to.”

“So what exactly did he do that ruined the festival?” She asked.

John stopped and leaned against the tree whose branch he had been trying to chop off for the last three minutes, before he spoke, “The idiot didn’t have the courtesy to include the elders in the festive prayer, and when it was time for refreshment, he served his friends the best food, meat and drinks. For the rest of us, we ate whatever we saw.”

“Oh my,” said Naliria. “You poor dears. And I bet you all worked hard for the festival, only to be treated like trash.”

“Well, it was worse than that,” said John. “But we all learnt a lesson. No youth or irresponsible man will ever again host the festival, and if a man is ill, the rite to host will be given to another family who is capable.“

Naliria’s mouth twitched in curiosity and amusement at the same time. “Does that mean your house will never host the festival until you’re like thirty five or forty?” She asked. “You know, being that your papa is… no…. more?” She completed reluctantly.

“I’m afraid that’s what it means.” John said. A brief silence followed and John was lost in thought. He had lost his parents over four years ago, but no one understood the cause of their disappearance. His parents had gone on a journey to the next village to see his mum’s sister, Aunty Omo, and they were to stay for 2 days. Of course John wanted to go with them, but his parents charged him with the task of caring for his little brother, Rio. After a week passed and his parents hadn’t returned, John made his fears known to the village elders. A search team was assembled and they all went out to look for his parents. John left his brother with Aleta, Naliria’s mum. She was really helpful to him and his brother, and she stood strong for them through it all.

When the search party got to the next village, Aunty Omo was surprised at her niece’s story. She hadn’t seen her sister or the husband for almost a year, only to hear that they were missing. She appealed to her village elders and they too sent some of their men to join the search party. After a month of searching, it was agreed that John’s parents could not be found and were presumed dead somewhere in a far away land or were captured by slave traders. The men gave up the search and went back home to their families. John went back home to his brother. Since then, he became the head of his father’s house hold. He learnt to be a man and so, he knew that being one, was not a child’s play.

Naliria spoke up first to break the silence, “I’m sorry." She said. "I shouldn’t be reminding you of such things; that was thoughtless of me.”

“It’s okay.” Said John, “Even if you don’t remind me, I always remember them. I think about my parents every night before I sleep. It has almost become a night ritual."

“You’re doing just fine for yourself John,” she replied. “You will get over your loss and I believe you will be a very great man someday.”

John smiled as he said his thanks to her for the kind and encouraging words. Naliria and her parents had been his backbone since his parents disappeared. They gave every support and advice he needed. Even Rio had resorted to calling Naliria's parents, mum and dad. As for himself, even if his parents did return, Naliria and her parents were always going be his family. Snapping out of his thoughts, he then suggested that they hurry up with chopping the woods, so as to return to the house in good time .

Copyright © 2015 Karo Oforofuo. All rights reserved.