Heroine by Isaac Somto (a story of princess inikpi). An African short story. - The Isaac Somto Foundation

  • Heroine by Isaac Somto (a story of princess inikpi). An African short story.


    This is how she became the title of stories creatures whose heads brings forth silver hairs gather the youthful ones to tell under the peeping moon. This is the story of why thousands of generations sings her name even as her lips sings forever silence.
    Located in the eastern part of the river Niger and Benue confluence, reaching out across the Niger in Lokoja, Kogi state of Nigeria, lies the homeland of her people.
    Her land, the land of the Igalas was eclipsed in the past weeks, looking so quiet that not even the voice of children were heard in its neighbourhood except the murmuring of scared women clothed with a wrapper beautified with yellow and black colors. The Igalas were shaken and held hostage by a strange phenomenon called fear.
    The rivers that supplied them the liquid of life, water, was poisoned that anyone who drank from it kicked the sacred bucket of life.
    She was named after the beautiful goddess Ikpi. Her neck was adorned with expensive beads and ornaments of gold. Her hands were amazingly ornamented with the costliest of beads which glistened like a glowing velvet. Her face radiated a royal beauty that is rich in nobility and dependability. She hid her nakedness from men with a wrapper beautifully designed with yellow and black colors, her wrapper was tied above her spongy breasts which were pointed like nail.
    Princess Inikpi beauty was an eternal credit to the master porter. She was a master piece.

    She sat on a stool discussing the predicament that has befallen the land with her closest companion, Abenelu.
    “My princess, the great Attah, your father has refused to let food find its way into his mouth” Obaje the Attah personal guard said making his presence known
    “Again? Did you make it known to him that it was i, his jewel who made the food?" her voice rang like Vatican a bell as she stood looking confused
    “Yes my princess.” Obaje Replied
    “Abenelu, i want to see my father in his chambers” with this she dashed out of her hut.
    The impetus in which hurried towards her father's hut made her pendulous breasts resonate like a resonating tunning fork.
    Attah Ayegba Oma Idoko sat down on a bed made with piles of straws and animal dried skin, then covered with royal garments. On his neck hung a light weighted yellow wrapper which rested on his melanin skin alongside expensive beads. He tied a black wrapper around his waist leaving his protruding stomach for the world to see.
    Attah Ayegba has carved a niche for himself within a short spate of time an enviable niche that qualified him to the clan of great achievers. A man of honesty he was.
    He was lost in a land called thought before his jewel of inestimable value dashed in to his royal hut.
    “the great Attah Ayegba my father. I greet you!” She made her presence known
    Attah Ayegba still wandered in his thoughts as he paid no attention to her. Seeing this, she made a move and placed her hands on his shoulders, taking him away from the land he plunged himself into.
    “My father, why have you refused to let food find its way into your mouth. For good seven days you sit mute thinking. Here is Ijobu and Ogidigbo prepared by me” she said pointing to the clay plates on top of a stool before the Attah.
    “My daughter as you know, our entire people are on the brink of annihilation. The Bini warriors are coming to destroy us, They have poisoned our waters. It's known that the Bini warriors have the nose of the hyena, and the appetite of the vulture. Who can withstand the might of crazy Bini warriors?" Attah Ayegba said looking into empty space.
    “I am aware of all this, i thought you summoned the eyes of Ikpakachi to offer a solution. What was given?"
    “yeeeess, there is a solution.” Attah Ayegba stammered as he replied immediately.
    “A solution that seeks to destroy me. A solution in form of a problem. A solution with hands to take away my joy and happiness. a head for hundreds of heads.” He continued
    “you now speak in a manner i cannot comprehend." She had confusion written all over her face as she said
    “I know no mortal can fathom the depth of gods wisdom. They see what is hidden beyond mortal sight. They say a particular head is needed for hundreds of head." He paused cupping his jaw with his right hand.
    “Reveal the owner of the head the gods seek. Your entire people are on the brink of annihilation. Shall they perish while under your reign?” Inikpi asked like one ready to fulfil to will of Ikpakachi at any cost.
    “Even as my heart bleeds, i promise to conceal nothing, reserve nothing in exposing the solution... In exposing the head needed. You are the solution.” Attah Ayegba said, now staring at her.
    She shifted a bit from her father to welcome what just made its way into her ears. To be sure, she asked. “I am the solution? Does that mean my head is needed.?” her lips and body vibrated as it danced to the beat of fear, confusion and pain.
    “Yes my daughter, i am not going to force you it's your head, your choice. I will respect your choice.” The Attah replied. Looking at his face one could tell he was helpless. The great Attah of Igala land was helpless.
    On hearing this she dashed out of her father's hut wearing on her face the garment of frustration. She ran towards the entrance to the palace. The palace guards looked surprised and confused not knowing what had happened or was happening. As she got to the gate made with dried palm fronds. She heard a loud shout: “Prinncess! Where are you leaving with your royal entourage? ” it was Obaje's voice. As simple as the question sounded it was complex within her thoughts...
    “where am i leaving to? ” she asked to no one but herself... “should i run or dance to the beat fate plays.”
    She turned her back and rushed into the store room like a woman whose only child was about dying and the antidote to save her child lies in the hut. Few seconds later, Inikpi dashed out of the hut with a hoe in her hands. She continued her race towards the entrance of the palace, this time the palace guards made a move to stop her until a weak voice sounded, weak but posses authority.
    “Leave her... She has chosen her choice” it was her father, Attah Ayegba Idoko.
    It was already late, the trees were howling, the lullaby of the owls rend the sky in shreds. Inikpi found herself on the path leading to the river. Dead and dried leaves let out a small cry as her foot step on them.
    She finally got to the river bank.

    “Ikpakachi, I'm in your presence
    the great gods of the rivers
    Clean without stain
    The clean spirits that sees beyond the crevices of darkness
    I'm before you to fulfil my destiny
    Please accept this offering"
    With this she bent down and started digging a hole, she wanted to shed tears but this time around she didn't know how to cry. She heard the sounds of a being coming and stood up to see who it was. It was Akoji, the eyes of the gods. A man in his seventies, a man who has seen and heard stories that made even men shed tears like babies but what he witnessed today made goose pimples build around his already aging skin.

    Akoji walked towards where she dug a hole, he said : “My daughter, you are indeed brave.”
    Inikpi paid no attention knowing his words will be the last to pass into her ears. She finally finished digging, she fitted herself in the hole she dug and gave Akoji a sign to cover it up... Tears finally found its way out of her eyes and ran down her soft royal cheeks.... Akoji sealed her fate.

    It was morning, the caressing rustling breeze lavishly drummed for the gyrating leaves. The Bini warriors attacked the Igala land but saw nothing but an empty and already destroyed land, it was an illusion. Inikpi blood already paid the price.

    Hundreds of Igalas gathered at the village square to sing songs of praises to Inikpi, their savior, their heroine. Even till today her statue stands in the palace of the Attah of Igala.
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