They sat in the Obi or reception hall overlooking the main courtyard of their homestead. The moon was waning. Crickets shirred. Agwubuo leaned back in his recliner while his Lolo perched on a stool close by poking at the local pears she was roasting for her husband in the dying embers of the hearth. It was late and most people were asleep.
The reception hall was a broad thatched roof on trunk pillars near the gate of his very large walled compound. Agwubuo was a rich man. His household supported many people. Many wives, many children, many slaves and servants; he needed many hands to farm his many lands. There were a great many huts behind his Obi and personal quarters.
Lolo, his first wife was his lieutenant, his trusted right hand in the never ending battle to protect what they had from those that would take it away from them in their jungle. Together they managed his vast holdings, and positioned their children to manage them successfully in the future.
Lolo scooped the pears out of the embers, dusted them off and passed them to her husband. He liked pears very much and he loved Lolo because she knew and pleased him. Agwubuo was a titled lord of the land. The ritual requirements of his status meant he could only eat food specifically prepared for him by a wife.
This requirement was supposed to reduce the risk of poisoning, a very high risk indeed in Agwubuo’s kingdom where title to land could only be inherited. Big land owners became lords and everyone wanted to be a big land owner. These lords were called Ozo, and members paid a hefty price to join. Only the rich could afford too. The council ruled the kingdom nominally led by the eldest member in an otherwise participatory parliament.
This ritual requirement had presented a challenge when the lords travelled abroad but it was quickly solved and whenever they travelled away from home their hosts would give them a wife for the period of their stay to cook for them. Quite a few of these temporary wives became pregnant. They were quite happy that a lord of the land had sown his seed in them too. They boasted what superior blood their children would have.
None of this worried Lolo of course. She was his first wife. Her position was inviolate. She was the real head of the household, her husband’s roles were farmer, community leader and spiritual healer, the only thing he controlled was the planting of the yams. It was Lolo that ensured the homestead of over 300 people, co-wives, children, refugees, orphans and young male workers indentured to her husband ran harmoniously and everybody knew what they had to do.
Besides because Agwubuo paid no dowry for his temporary wives the children that he may have sired for them did not belong to him but to her father or to whoever had paid her dowry. So there was little chance that they would come and confuse the succession or claim a right to inherit land. Lolo had given birth to both the first son, Okpara and the first daughter, Ada further consolidating her position.
They were both young adults now, long past the danger of death faced by the little children.