The Moon of Xxene

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic


[Oga (“Uh-gah”) – “Sir.” Title used for eighth and seventh rank court officials/officers]* [Oghene (“Uh-geh-neh”) – God]* [Onughe (“Oh-noo-gay”) – A court official of the eighth and lowest rank]*
[Orodje (“Oh-roh-jeh”) – “King”]* [Onorogu – Noble caste]* [Ehwoéki (“Eh-hwoh-ay-kee”) – Third highest caste]

Chapter 14 (v.1) - Fourteenth Phase.1

Submitted: July 31, 2019

Reads: 16

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Submitted: July 31, 2019

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She could not make out the face covered by the headcloth, but apprehension bubbled within her as the pair of hazel eyes looked down on her. The man reached over to touch her head and she flinched.

“Do not fear,” he said. “You are safe here. This is your home.”

Emeravwe lurched up in bed, her chest heaving rapid breaths and skin damp with cold sweat. Her head pounded with a headache and she moaned, laying back on her sheets and closing her eyes as she held her head for several minutes until the pain lessened. When she opened her eyes again, she saw the room she shared with Akpokene was still shrouded in darkness, Akpokene soundly asleep on her bedding on the other side of the room.

She sat up, taking deep calming breaths. For several weeks now, she had been having the same dream, and it was always accompanied by a resounding headache and a sense of apprehension. She did not know why the dream recurred or who the man in it could possibly be. Those hazel eyes… They reminded her of Aslan’s attendant, Eunuch Iroro, whom she met two months ago. But why should he appear in my dreams? …What home?

She reached for the small container of medicine and cup of water she kept beside her bedding. She acquired the prescription for her headaches from the Royal Pharmacy and prepared it each night before going to sleep. As she opened the bottle, she remembered how strangely she felt when she met Eunuch Iroro. It was since that encounter that her dreams began. Perhaps I am having these dreams because of my strange impression of him? She could not think of another explanation and would have to report to the Bureau of Court Affairs in another few hours, so she took the medicine and tucked herself in again under the sheets.

When she reported to the Bureau of Court Affairs later that morning, Emeravwe saw Eunuch Otase’s beady brown eyes looked more troubled than usual, and Aye Chioma wore the same look of concern. They called her, Mudiaga, and Agaenaye Fatima to their desk, and Eunuch Otase surly informed them, “Our office has received a new case from the director of the bureau. Consider it your bad luck to be assigned something so unsavory.”

Seeing the group’s skeptical looks, Aye Chioma assured them, “There is nothing to worry about. It is very unlikely that the Bureau of Investigations will leave this case in our hands for very long.”

“What sort of case is it?” Mudiaga asked.

Aye Chioma said, “It concerns the disappearances that have been occurring in the capital.”

Mudiaga frowned. “Oh.”

Agaenaye Fatima turned to him. “Oga Mudiaga, you know of the matter?”

He crossed his arms, shrugging. “Everyone outside the palace knows about it, Fatima. Though no one’s been up in arms—not even the Onorogu.”

Aye Chioma continued, “Only Lesser Onorogu have disappeared so far, but recently some palace personnel were also reported missing.”

Mudiaga scoffed, “Typical. No one gives a damn unless really important people start disappearing.”

Eunuch Otase narrowed his eyes. “That is enough out of you. The Capital Police and Bureau of Investigations put considerable thought into these cases. It is not something an Ehwoéki is expected to understand.”

Emeravwe shifted uncomfortably. This would be her first assignment outside the palace, and the tension around Eunuch Otase and Aye Chioma was making her restless.

“It is precisely because this is such a sensitive case that I do not think it will remain in our hands for too long. The circumstances involved are complicated and precarious.” Aye Chioma lifted the related documents from the desk and walked over to the long table in the office. “Come, let us sit.” She and Eunuch Otase settled on one side of the table, Emeravwe, Mudiaga, and Agaenaye Fatima on the other. Apart from the five of them, the office was empty.

Aye Chioma briefed them, “As I was saying, this case involves the disappearances of Onorogu in the capital. Hitherto only Lesser Onorogu have been reported missing, but among them are palace personnel. The Bureau of Investigations, with reasonable doubt, has surmised that a group known as Okémeh is behind the disappearances.”

“Okémeh?” Emeravwe asked.

“It is a group which appeared in the capital about a year ago,” Eunuch Otase explained. “They were initially involved in small protests in the marketplaces, giving speeches and passing out handbills. They empowered many of the lower castes, and soon more groups like them began cropping up.”

“What were they protesting?” Agaenaye Fatima inquired.

Eunuch Otase and Aye Chioma exchanged wary glances. Aye Chioma pulled out a slip of paper from among the documents. “Mainly, the Insurrection of Nobles which occurred ten years ago. This is one of the handbills they used to distribute.” She placed the slip of paper on the table for them to see. It read:

CRY OUT FOR JUSTICE!

Hear the cries of your fallen brethren and demand the

TRUTH!

Do not be fooled by the

LIES of history!

Demand rectification

for the tarnished names of our fallen clans and

pray that Oghene forgives the sins of our blessed kingdom.

Emeravwe looked up from the bill. “What was the Insurrection of Nobles?”

Again, Aye Chioma and Eunuch Otase looked disconcertedly to one another.

Eunuch Otase replied gruffly, “It is just as it sounds. A group of nobles contrived treason and were quickly suppressed before any harm was done.”

Mudiaga tapped the bill. “But it seems harm was done.”

“That is not for you to speculate!” Eunuch Otase rebuffed. “If you value your miserable life you will do well to heed me!”

Oga Mudiaga, you should know that that topic is a delicate one. Moreover, this case should not be taken lightly,” Aye Chioma warned. “It is the Bureau of Investigations’ intent to determine Okémeh’s motives. Your task is to interview the families of Okémeh’s victims. With the information you gather, we might be able to learn something more about the group and predict their next moves.”

“You have been issued these passes permitting you to leave and enter the palace for the duration of this assignment.” Eunuch Otase tossed three round, palm-sized bronze plaques with red tassels onto the table. Emeravwe, Mudiaga, and Agaenaye Fatima each took one.

Aye Chioma held out a piece of paper. “Here is the list of homes you are to visit.”

Mudiaga reached for the paper but Eunuch Otase snatched it from Aye Chioma’s grip. They looked to him with surprise and he narrowed his eyes, looking from Emeravwe to Agaenaye Fatima. He handed the sheet to Agaenaye Fatima. “Since you have more sense than these two put together, I am placing you in charge. Act with prudence.”

“Yes, Oga,” Agaenaye Fatima answered.

Aye Chioma patted the documents on the table. “We shall leave you to look through the related files and decide your course of action.”

She and Eunuch Otase returned to their desk and Emeravwe, Mudiaga and Agaenaye Fatima perused the files, familiarizing themselves with the cases. There had been a total of five victims, two of whom were palace personnel. None of the victims were from particularly prominent families, but all were Onorogu who lived in proximity to the main square of Joyovwi Market. As they left the palace equipped with scrolls, quill pens and inkwells, they decided to visit the homes farthest from the palace first.

Emeravwe felt a rush of exhilaration as they exited the main palace gates and walked the wide paved road from the palace toward the heart of the capital city. The last time she left the palace was more than two years ago, when she was still an Omote in the Bureau of Halls and Chambers. She had forgotten how much bigger the world outside the palace was; how much freer it felt! She could not express her relief to be able to look around for miles without being impeded by soaring imperial gold granite walls. The sky was wider, clearer, the neat fields and hills around the palace a glorious green. She joined the Bureau of Court Affairs to get even a little closer to the king, but she had also been overjoyed when she learned she would be able to leave the palace every so often on cases like this one.

“Damn the Bureau of Court Affairs,” Mudiaga cursed, enjoying the scenery much less than Emeravwe was, “making us trek all over the city! They could’ve at least let us borrow a horse and carriage from the palace stables.”

“You are a seventh rank officer of the Palace Guard, and Agaenaye Emeravwe and I are only Onughe. Our positions hardly warrant such luxury.” Agaenaye Fatima said cheerily, “At least we do not have to walk to the Outer City. All the homes we have to visit are in the District of Onorogu in the Inner City, and all are close to the main square of Joyovwi Market.”

“Fatima, I admire your optimism as much as your beautiful smile, but it’s still a good distance to cover.” He flashed a dimpled grin. “At least I have two beauties to keep me company.”

 Emeravwe ignored the comment. “Is it not interesting that all the victims are Lesser Onorogu who live near the main square of Joyovwi Market?”

“Not really,” Mudiaga remarked, resting a hand on the hilt of the sword at his belt. “Buying a home in the District of Onorogu is a considerable investment for a lesser noble—it can help them gain prestige and connections. But affording property in that ritzy district can also bankrupt a Lesser Onorogu, especially in the neighborhoods closest to the palace. So they tend to purchase property furthest from the palace, and those are the ones closest to Joyovwi Market and the Outer City.”

Walking around Agaenaye Fatima, he came abreast to Emeravwe. “Remember, Eunuch Otase said the group suspected for the disappearances used to hold protests that empowered the lower castes. It’s most likely, then, that Okémeh’s made up of members of the lower castes, and those of the lower castes can roam freely only to the limits of Joyovwi Market. That means the victims they have the easiest access to are Lesser Onorogu. So the type of questions we really should be asking ourselves are, ‘Why have only the Onorogu been targeted?’ ‘Why would a group of protestors turn to kidnapping?’ ‘Is there a connection between what they were protesting and those they allegedly kidnapped?’ ‘What are the similarities between those who have gone missing?’” He turned to Agaenaye Fatima. “What do you think?”

Agaenaye Fatima mused, “It is no secret that the lower castes are scorned by Onorogu, and that they have struggled against the caste system for many years. Perhaps this is also a form of rebellion?”

Mudiaga clicked his tongue. “The caste system has existed since the beginning of Xxene. Kidnapping a few Lesser Onorogu isn’t going to change anything. When criminals kidnap nobles you can usually assume they have a personal vendetta or money on their minds.”

“But none of the victims’ families were approached for a ransom,” Agaenaye Fatima said.

Emeravwe asserted, “So the group must hold some sort of grudge toward those they kidnapped.”

Mudiaga smirked, pointing a finger, “Exactly. And what we’ll have to find is what the victims had in common that could’ve made them targets of a group of activists. With this, the Bureau of Investigations can probably predict their next moves.” Emeravwe stared at him and he cocked his head. “Why do you look so surprised?” He jabbed a thumb at the gem in his forehead. “You should know by now that there’s actually a brain behind this yellow apatite. Eunuch Otase can try his damnedest to disregard me because of my caste, but I’ve worked in the Bureau of Court Affairs for three years now and know how these cases work.” He winked, “You see, Emeravwe, I’m not just handsome, but smart, too.” He spread his arms, grinning widely. “If you run into my arms now we could be a match made in Heaven and put together on Earth.”

Agaenaye Fatima giggled, “Yes, but you would immediately be split apart again in death, since Maidens belong to the Orodje, and coveting the Orodje’s belongings is a certain death sentence.”

Mudiaga shrugged, dimpled grin unperturbed. “It’d be worth it.”

Emeravwe studied him. Though he often boasted, she had come to see that none of his claims were unwarranted—regarding his looks or abilities. He was just as keen as anyone in their office, if not more so thanks to his additional experience as an officer, and he had a quick wit and honeyed tongue to match. This astonished Emeravwe not only because his conduct belied his abilities, but because he was an Ehwoéki.

She locked her hands behind her, nodding in acknowledgment. “You said you were an ignorant Ehwoéki when we first met, but I have seen that you are literate. Of course, you must be to join the Bureau of Court Affairs, but…”

Mudiaga gave a knowing look. “You’re wondering how an Ehwoéki can be literate?”

Emeravwe pressed her lips together. She nodded. “Did the Palace Guard teach you?”

He laughed, “The Palace Guard teaches how to hold swords, spears, bows, and horse reins, not how to hold pen to paper.” His expression waned wistful. “My father taught me.”

Surprised, Agaenaye Fatima piped, “Your father is also learned? Then, who taught him?”

There was a long pause before he said solemnly, “He had a benefactor...” Mudiaga hesitated, his eyes shifting from Emeravwe to Agaenaye Fatima. “An elder of the Omamerhi clan of the Imodu tribe.”

Agaenaye Fatima gasped. “You have connections to the Imodu Omamerhi clan? Truly! No wonder you are a palace guard though you are only an Ehwoéki!”

Emeravwe looked from Mudiaga to Agaenaye Fatima. She was sure she had heard the name before but could not quite place it. “Who are the Omamerhi?”

Agaenaye Fatima eyed her doubtfully. “Come now, Agaenaye Emeravwe! As a Maiden who has studied the Four Classics, you should know that it was the Omamerhi who created our current alphabet system during the third century, thereby nationalizing a common language used by all Four Tribes! Not to mention they were pioneers in many other fields!” She turned to Mudiaga with awe. “But how could mere Ehwoéki be acquainted with such a prestigious clan? The Imodu Omamerhi, among few, was one of the oldest and foremost clans of all Four Tribes!”

Mudiaga’s eyebrows pinched; his voice came out stern. “It was only a chance affiliation—we weren’t deeply connected.”

A look of consternation washed over Agaenaye Fatima and she lowered her eyes.

Emeravwe wondered at Mudiaga’s harsh tone. “It is rare for Ehwoéki and the lower castes to be accepted into the palace’s service except as laborers, so should you not be grateful to be connected to such a powerful clan?”

Both Mudiaga and Agaenaye Fatima remained silent, their looks grim. It was Mudiaga who answered, “The clan was put to death ten years ago, during a purge the lower castes call the Massacre of Nobles.” He faced her. “It’s what Aye Chioma referred to as the Insurrection of Nobles.”

“Oh.”


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