Facing The Elders
Nalira was taken into a large room where four elderly men sat. The room was like a mini auditorium, it had lots of chairs arranged in semi-circle. The curtains were pulled aside and the windows were opened. The rays of the morning sun flooded in, making it possible for Naliria to see their facial expression. The men sat at a long table in front of the auditorium and watched with grim faces, as the guard carried Naliria into the auditorium. They all had grey hairs and wore long, brown robes.
The guard put her down at the door entrance and then marched her to the front of the room. There, she stood before the elders.
"You can leave us, David." The first elder said to the guard. In response, the guard bowed and walked out, leaving Naliria and the elders alone.
"So who are you child?" The elder asked Naliria. "Where did you come from?"
"I'm a simple traveller sir, from Oruwe vilage." She replied.
"And what is a native of Orugwe doing in our city?" The elder asked.
"I came to learn a trade from my friend, Freda." She replied. "Instead of letting me go to her, your men arrested me, kept me in a dark cell all night and then fed me crap this morning."
"You should be happy that was all they did." The third elder said. "Traitors like you are not supposed to be left standing."
"But I did not do anything." Naliria grumbled. "I am innocent and I'm sure my Freda is too. There can't be only one Freda in this big city, there are several. I'm sure my Freda is not the one being accused."
"And what is the last name of this Freda you came to visit?" The first elder asked. "That will help us decide if you are guilty or not."
"Agul, Freda Agul is her complete name."
Without a word, the fourth elder got up from his seat, walked past Naliria to a door behind and pulled it open. "Come with me child." He said from where he stood by the door. "I want to show you why you are a suspect."
Reluctantly, Naliria followed him through the open door, into a small room. There was a brown rug laid on the ground of the room. The curtains were milk mixed with brown colours and the room had only one chair, nothing more. The window was open and there was a young woman standing in front of it. She had her back to them so Naliria could not see her face. She was dressed in a rich purple gown. The designs on it were beautiful and Naliria recognised them. She knew she had once admired the dress the lady was wearing.
"Freda, you have a visitor." The elder announced."
"I don't want to see anyone." She said, still with her back to them.
"She is a friend of yours." The elder persuaded.
"At this moment I have no friend." She said, with no remorse in her voice. Fortunately, Naliria recognised the voice.
"Freya?" She asked. Freya was a pet name she gave her friend and since she was the only one who called her that, she hoped that the person by the window will turn around to look at her and truly, she did.
"Naliria!" Freda said with so much excitement as she looked at her best friend. "Oh Naliria!" She moved away from the window and the two women locked themselves in a tight embrace.
"I will give you some time to talk alone." The elder said. "In ten minutes, I will be back and then, we will continue our interrogation."
Freda pulled back and looked at her friend. "Interogation?" she asked as soon as they were alone. Why are they interrogating you?"
"I told them I came to the city to see you and so, I automatically became a suspect. I spent the whole night in prison." I
"Oh my friend." Freda said with so much remorse. "I'm so sorry I dragged you into this. You have suffered because of me."
"What are they accusing you of Freya?" Naliria asked. "What happened?"
Freda sighed. "I'm innocent Nali, I am. But my father is not innocent."
"What are you talking about?" Naliria asked as she moved closer to console her friend.
"It turned out that my father has been selling out information to outsiders. Being the city's treasurer, he has access to the accounts, he knows the figures coming in on a daily bases. Two nights ago, he and some men stole into the treasury. Oh Naliria, they stole a huge sum of money. Not all of them escaped. Some were caught but my father was not among them. Now everyone thinks I have been my father's accomplice, especially since we are so wealthy. They think I'm part of it. Our house was seized by the elders along with our ranch and every other property. I am penniless and homess but still, I am accused of being my father's accomplice. They think I know where he's hiding but choose to keep quiet."
"Oh my friend." Naliria said. She hugged Freda again and this time, it was a long embrace.
"So what did you come to the city to do?" Freda asked after they pulled away from the long embrace. "Actually, I lied to my mum that I was coming to learn the trade you promised to teach me, but I'm here because of John." She went on to explain everything about what happened at the festival between John and Sarah, as well as how she followed Harrison and his concubine, thinking they were who she thought they were.
"Oh John, John Gabu right?" Freda asked.
"Yes." Naliria replied. "You know him, at least you saw him when you came over during the last holiday."
"Yes I did. He hasn't still found his parents?" She asked.
"No." Naliria replied. "Its killing him that he hasn't been able to find them. Maybe they are dead."
"But Nali, they are alive."
"John's parents are alive?" Naliria asked with wide eyes. "How do you know that? You don't even know what they look like."
"I don't, ture. But I heard my father talking about them once. Gabu right? Mr and Mrs Gabu."
"They are alive Nali, but...."
They were interrupted as the door opened. The elder walked in, slowly. "I'm happy to announce that your time is up." he said.
"But sir," Freda said, as she moved to stand in front of the elderly man. "My friend is innocent. She doesn't have to be here."
"The elders will decide about that." He said as he ushered Naliria out of the room. Naliria looked at her friend one last time before the door closed behind her. Once again, she faced the elders.
"So, do you have anything else to say?" The second elder asked. "As long as we are concerned, and as long as you are such a good friend to Freda, we refuse to accept that you are innocent."
"But I am innocent and so is Freda." Naliria stressed.
"But my instincts tell me otherwise," The first elder said, "And I believe it."
"Look, her father is the real criminal here."
"And so is she. The fourth elder said. She is the daughter of her father, isn't she?"
"But if you have her father, will you let her go?" Naliria asked.
"Yes we will."
"Okay, so set her free."
"What are you talking child?" The third elder who had been quiet asked.
"Let her go, let her go back home, with me of course. If she is guilty, she will run off to see her father but if she is not, her father will come to her. Once he hears that his daughter has been released, he would want to make things up to her, to please her and earn her forgiveness. I know because its the same thing my father will do."
"And what use is that to us?"
"Simple, I will be your spy. But if you don't trust me, you can have your own spies follow us."
The first and fourth elder frowned while the other two looked thoughtful. "What did younsay yoir name is again?" The fourth elder asked.
"I'm Naliria, Naliria Ladeal."
"Which of the Ladeals?" He asked, still looking thoughtful.
"Lucas Ladeal." She replied.
The man's eyes widened in surprise. "I know your father and I used to know you. You were only a little girl the last time I saw you."
"Oh!" Naliria said with wide eyes. She was confused about what to say.
"Where is your father now?" The elder asked.
"He may be coming this way to look for me, but please, don't tell him you've seen me."
"I'm not a liar child. I will tell your father exactly where you are." Naliria sighed as she resigned to her fate.