The afternoon sun was past it zenith and sinking. The champions danced proudly with the masquerades. They knew they would receive many honors for winning. They had secured the kingdoms bragging rights for next wrestling season. They would be given lands, titles and invitations to join any one the kingdoms influential socio-political orders. They would have first choice of brides during the débutante’s parade.
Lolo Nkwocha was very proud. Her first son, Unamma was one of the wrestlers. He was also the overall champion. She had made sure she apprenticed him early to her kinsman Obinwa, who was a renowned wrestler of her father’s clan. Agwubuo had tried to insist that he train with his cousin, Agumezie but Lolo refused reminding him her kinsmen were ritually bound not to harm the boy.
Agwubuo understood her fear. As a young boy his kinsmen had plotted to sell him into slavery when his father died so they could inherit his father’s vast land holdings. He was his father’s only son. His mother saved him by running to her kinsmen for refuge.
It was her kinsmen that took Agwubuo, then still called his birth name Achinike to the school where he learnt his magic and paid for his tuition. It is said he was there for seven years in the forest across the river at Owo, attended by his mother and learning the secrets of the cult of Eze Nwanyi.
So when Lolo said she rather their son trained with her kinsmen he understood and let her have her way. Their clan was still a part of his kingdom. His kinsmen grumbled disdainfully that a woman controlled his homestead but only when he was well out of earshot. They feared his anger and his bolts of lightning.
Agwubuo watched his son dance with concealed pride. Unamma was a fine young man, strong and bold. The people of the kingdom liked bold men, men that had audacity. The wrestlers danced, the masquerades’ sang, gourds of palm wine were brought in. The lords brought drinking cups out of their raffia pouches, which also usually contained kola nuts, snuff and a charm or two.
The masquerades finished singing the praises of the gathered men, accepted a goat from the chief priest of the shrine and walked off towards their changing area deep in the forest where they would rest and eat their goat till it was time to make their home visits. Adolescent boys distributed the gourds of wine to the lords careful to follow the order of seniority; to miss the protocol meant a swift painful knuckle to the back of the head and banishment from the next event.
The shrine priest and his assistants mumbled incantations as they slit the throats of two goats and two chickens, drizzled the blood over the kingdoms symbols of authority, the two ofo’s and at the feet of the market deity, Iziukwo and his female consort Lolo Ocha. Then the assistants started to clean them right in front of the shrine. A bon fire had already been started.