|My image of Ebube. Illustration by Jenny Dolfen|
The story so far: Ugo is a young woman who has been ostracised by her community. She is an outcast living with her paternal grandmother on the edge of society. She is also gifted with healing powers. One day she finds a strange injured warrior, Ebube, in the dark forest. She patches him up temporarily and takes him home. That night she dreams a demon is going to attack Ebube. She wakes from her dream and tells her grandmother and Ebube. They both urge her not to worry, so she returns to sleep only to be woken later by her grandmother.
“Ugo, wake up.”
Nne’s calm voice filtered into her sleepy brain. Ugo opened her eyes. Turning her head in the direction of the voice, she saw Nne stooping over Ebube. He lay asleep on the mat, a damp piece of cloth on his forehead. Though it was a cool night because of the rain, his skin was covered in sweat. Terrified that he’d come to harm, Ugo sat up abruptly.
“What’s the matter?” she asked scrambling off the pallet. Her feet hit the cool clay floor with a thud, jarring her bones. She ignored the pain and knelt beside Ebube.
“Ebube has a fever. He’s been like this for a while,” Nne replied. She dipped the cloth in the bowl of water, squeezed it and wiped his body.
Ugo touched his skin. Sure enough, it was blazing hot to the touch. This was no ordinary fever.
“Nne, you should’ve woken me,” Ugo said, her heart picking up speed in panic. How could this happen now? He had been well when she’d drifted off to sleep earlier.
“I wanted you to rest, my child. You used your powers for the first time yesterday after a long time. I knew you’d be worn out.” Nne carried on wetting the cloth and wiping Ebube’s body with it. “I put some fresh herbs on his wound and have been trying to cool his body with the water. However he doesn’t seem to be getting better. The rain has stopped. Otherwise I would have suggested taking him outside.”
“Nne, you don’t think the mmuo ojo have come back to claim him, do you?” Ugo asked suddenly frightened at the thought. The demon she’d sensed in her dream was malevolent. She’d warned Ebube, yet he’d dismissed her fears.
“My daughter, it seems the demon is back. Ebube is fighting for his life. His body is very weak in this state. For him to have a chance, you have to help him, my child.”
Nne was right. She couldn’t allow the demon to claim the man who had come to mean so much to her in such a short time. The only man who had treated her with respect since her parents’ death.
“But why isn’t his amulet working to protect him?” She checked around his body but couldn’t find the bronze amulet Ebube usually wore on his neck. “Where is it?”
Nne looked at her, pointing at her chest. Ugo looked down. The amulet hung around her neck.
Confused, she frowned. “How did it get there? I didn’t take it from him.”
“He saw your fear last night and put it around your neck when you fell asleep.” Nne spoke as she worked on Ebube’s body. “Without the amulet, the mmuo ojo found a weakness to exploit in his body. His injuries.”
Baffled, Ugo stared at Ebube’s prone unmoving body.
Why would he do that? Why would he give up his amulet when he was the one in danger? Why would he risk his life for her? Was it possible he cared for her as deeply as she did him? But it wasn’t possible. She was an outcast. A nobody. If she died, nobody would miss her.
Your grandmother would, the voice in her head whispered.
Nne took her hands drawing Ugo’s attention back to the old woman. “I have done all I can for him. You have to use your gift. You need to focus on making him whole again and removing the weakness.”
Stiffening with apprehension, Ugo nodded. She knew what she had to do. Yet, she was frightened. It was uncharted territory for her. She could take away pain temporarily but she’d never actually healed anyone fully. Taking a deep breath, she moved forward. She had to put aside her fear. Ebube’s life was in danger. He had put his life in danger for her. She would do whatever was required to save him.
“Come over here let me fortify you so that you don’t get dragged down with him,” Nne beckoned to her.
Ugo knelt before her grandmother. Nne chanted, invoking the spirits of their ancestors for guidance. She marked Ugo’s body with white chalk, still chanting for a few more moments. When she was done, Nne gave Ugo the chalk.
“Mark a circle around his mat and leave no gaps. Make sure it’s a full circle. Stay on the inside of the circle as you draw it.”
Ugo proceeded to do as she was told, drawing an outline on the floor and staying within the sphere. It was awkward getting the right shape as she had to walk around Ebube’s body.
“Now you can start. No matter what you feel or see, stay within the circle and don’t break contact with his body until you are done. Make sure you stay connected to the floor. Ala the earth goddess will protect you.”
Ugo nodded in agreement. She remembered her previous disastrous attempt at healing. Then, she had ignored Nne’s warning. This time, she wasn’t going to disobey her grandmother no matter how scared she became. She had to be strong. She couldn’t afford to lose Ebube too.
Placing her hands on his hot chest, she felt it twitch beneath her touch. She hoped Ebube could feel her. It would make the process easier if he knew he was not alone in the fight for survival.
I hope you enjoyed this excerpt. To continue reading the story go to Part Two or click on The Healer's Warrior WIP excerpt part 2 for the RFW challenge themed Haunting.
Your thoughts and feedback are welcome as always. Have a fantastic day.