The Moon of Xxene

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


[Agaenaye ("Ah-gay-nah-yeh") – third rank of palace Maidens]* [Oga (“Uh-gah”) – “Sir.” Title used for eighth and seventh rank court officials/officers]* [Ogheneme (“Uh-geh-neh-meh”) – My God]*
[Onori (“Oh-noh-ree”) – “Master.” Title used for fifth and sixth rank officials/officers]* [Orodje (“Oh-roh-jeh”) – “King”]* [Ovyeraye (“Ohv-yeh-rah-yeh”) – “Queen”]* [Ivyogbere
(“Eve-yohg-beh-reh”) – Fifth lowest caste]* [Onorogu – Noble caste]

Chapter 19 (v.2) - Nineteenth Phase.2 (Continuation)

Submitted: September 17, 2019

Reads: 32

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Submitted: September 17, 2019

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Radiant sunbeams penetrated the foliage above, falling lightly on the pansy-covered ground to form a kaleidoscope of dancing lights in the shade of the trees. The little girl dashed through the sunny patchwork and field of dainty wild pansies, her laughter ringing. In her pursuit was a teenage boy who made a show of stumbling over himself as he ran after her, causing the girl to burst even more with laughter. She shrieked with frantic anticipation as he reached for her, but before he could grab her a man leaned over and swept her off her feet in a swooping motion. He threw her on his shoulder and took off, the boy protesting as he chased after them. A woman sitting a distance away beneath the trees, with a picnic arrayed before her, called for them to be careful but waved her handkerchief in the air, cheering on the girl and the man who raced her through the fields.

Emeravwe laid silently in her bed, tears trickling from the corners of her eyes. Her head throbbed with a headache, but she did not rise to medicate the pain. She stared into the darkness of her chamber knowing she would get no more sleep that night. Since her visit with Mudiaga’s family she had been having such dreams; a family of four playing in fields, having lunch on a veranda, walking through a garden. At first, she thought her yearning for a family conjured them, so she dismissed the visions as she had her previous. But the same individuals appeared repeatedly; a woman and her husband, a little girl and teenage boy. She could never remember their appearances once she woke up, but a feeling of warmth entwined with heartache always engulfed her.

Emeravwe rolled on her side, sobbing into her pillow. I am sick of this. The dreams and constant headache were taking their toll. She had decided long ago that she would not let the mystery of her past become a burden to her—she would not cry because of a family she never knew, who perhaps had abandoned her. It was for this reason that she focused on bettering herself and her station. Yet, since the dreams began, it was harder to concentrate on anything else. They were becoming too consistent for her to simply dismiss them as empty illusions; and it was too much of a coincidence that they occurred only after she had had a relevant experience, like triggered memories.

But if they truly are recollections of my past… She buried her face in the pillow, driving away the frightening image of orange-clad soldiers and the woman sitting in a pool of blood. Her entire body tightened with trepidation, the headache pounding. Did she dare to remember? And if she did not, how much longer would she have to go on in her current state?

For almost two weeks, since the night he kissed her, Emeravwe did not return to the garden to see Aslan. Her heart fluttered whenever she thought of him and she was too ashamed to face him. Yet she could not avoid him forever, and the distress caused by her dreams led her to seek his comfort. When she meekly entered the garden again, he greeted her cheerfully, and though she was cautious around him and sat with more distance between them on the bench than usual, he made no mention of it. He behaved as always, and this put Emeravwe somewhat at ease.

She accepted that he meant a lot more to her than she had been willing to admit, but she had lived nearly her whole life with him continuously showering her with affection—it would have been strange if she did not feel something for him. Even so, she was not willing to resign to these sentiments. In truth, she was no longer certain what she wanted. Nothing seemed within her grasp; not the king or her emotions, or the meaning behind her dreams. It was this last point, though, that troubled her the most and seemed the least resolvable. The only things that distracted her from these worries were the year-end events that began in the palace and work in the Bureau of Court Affairs.

As they neared the end of the year the palace livened not only with festivities, but with gossip of the king and Queen Dowager’s continual dispute. Each year Onorogu from all eight provinces came to the capital to celebrate the holy day, The Day of Birth, and welcome the New Year. Many esteemed individuals were invited to the palace to accompany the royal family during this time, but this year was a bit different, for among the guests were provincial scholars, Lesser Onorogu, who the king personally invited to the palace. Their arrival caused a stir because not only was it felt that Lesser Onorogu were unworthy of such an honor, but the king also took to spending long hours in private sessions with the scholars, neglecting his meetings with his Council of Advisors. The Council was affronted by the slight and the Queen Dowager denounced the king at court for scorning tradition. In protest she began boycotting the ceremonies and rites held in the weeks leading up to The Day of Birth, and criticisms of the king ensued, accusing him of failing his filial duties and responsibilities to the court. 

Despite such commotion and the increased number of persons that roamed the palace, work in the Bureau of Court Affairs proceeded as usual, and Emeravwe completed routine tasks as well as minor cases outside the palace. Then, in the third week of December, Eunuch Otase called her and Agaenaye Fatima to his desk, giving them an update on the Okémeh case.

He said as he leaned back in his chair, “A task force of the Bureau of Investigations was sent to the Efekodo Province to gain intelligence on Okémeh, and it seems their efforts were successful,”

“Why the Efekodo Province?” Agaenaye Fatima questioned, “Is Okémeh also active there?”

“It seems that is where the group originated. But more to the point; the task force learned that the leader of the group is a man who goes by the name Achojah, and the Bureau of Investigations has requested our office’s assistance in gathering information on him while they continue their inquiries in the province.”

“How are we to do that without knowing who this man is?” Emeravwe asked.

“Let me finish,” Eunuch Otase scowled. “The Bureau of Investigations believes that Achojah is the man’s clan name, and from the descriptions they were provided in the province, it appears that he is an Onorogu. Thus, Onori Ejerute petitioned the Department of Records of Xxene’s House of Nobles to grant you access to the archives.”

“Oh, I see,” said Agaenaye Fatima. “If he is an Onorogu and we know his clan name, we can easily find information on him by looking through the records.”

“It may not be so easy as we do not know his tribal name, but yes, it is better than nothing. Take these,” Eunuch Otase handed them a couple of brass tags. “They have been issued to you by the Department of Records of Xxene’s House of Nobles for the duration of this assignment and will grant you access to the records.”

“Yes, Oga.” Agaenaye Fatima received the tags, handing one to Emeravwe. “Let us go, Agaenaye Emeravwe.” 

Emeravwe absently reached for the tag and it slid from her grasp, clattering to the floor. She stared vacantly ahead, heedless of the slip.

“Agaenaye Emeravwe!” Eunuch Otase called sharply, startling her to her senses. “What is the matter—and do not tell me you are falling ill again. Must I assign someone else to this task?” He looked to the long table in the room where only Eunuch Akpome sat working on reports.

Emeravwe immediately snatched the tag from the floor, gripping it anxiously. “No, Oga, I am well! I shall take the assignment!”

Eunuch Otase narrowed his eyes but said only, “Then be on your way.”

“Yes, Oga,” she and Agaenaye Fatima answered and exited the office.

Emeravwe’s heart quickened as they left the Bureau of Court Affairs. The Department of Records of Xxene’s House of Nobles kept records of all the noble families of Xxene and of their descendants. Though she was aware of this, Emeravwe had never put it into consideration because access to the records were strictly controlled. But now… She looked at the tag in her hand, her heart swelling with apprehension and hope. Her eyes prickled, and she blinked furiously, breathing deeply to calm her nerves. The experiences she had had the past few months, the visions and headaches, had all unhinged her, opening a floodgate of questions she barely kept at bay. But now… This may be my only chance. Her only chance to get answers to her questions, to understand her visions—to discover who she was.

****

The Department of Records of Xxene’s House of Nobles was an extensive gray-stone building in the Compound of the Royal Secretariat. It consisted of several offices and assiduous, stoic-faced Eunuchs and officials who performed their tasks with singular attention. When they arrived at the department, a Eunuch led Emeravwe and Agaenaye Fatima to the rear of the building where they entered a series of vaulted chambers lined with columns of great mahogany shelves containing large bound volumes. The rooms were moderately permeated by sunlight and much cooler than the front offices.

In the first chamber they stopped in, the Eunuch led them to a podium which stood at the head of the room. Atop it sat a massive leather-bound text, the words printed across the front in glittering gold leaf reading, Guide to the Chronicles of Xxene’s House of Nobles.

The Eunuch, a slight official with a round face and paper-thin voice, explained, “The records are organized alphabetically by clan and according to the Four Tribes. There are several rooms dedicated to the records of each tribe, and you will know which tribe’s records you are working with by looking at the plaque hung above each room’s entrance,” he pointed to the archway through which they entered the room. The wooden plaque above it read O-Jiban, the pseudo name answered by descendants of the Mik-Jiban tribe who were not of the Royal House. “You can use the Guide to aid you in your search. It details in which room, what shelves, and which rows each clan’s records are located. The records in these rooms contain only the recent fifty or so years of the clans’ histories. It should not be necessary, but if you need to go back further return to the front office and I shall assist you. Keep in mind that you can only be in these rooms for a restricted period, so do be attentive to the time.”

“Yes, Oga,” Emeravwe and Agaenaye Fatima answered, and the Eunuch turned to leave.

Agaenaye Fatima moved to the center of the podium, exclaiming, “Ogheneme!” Her eyes were wide as she brushed her fingers across the golden letters of the Guide. “The Royal Secretariat is amazing. To think that all the clans’ histories are recorded and stored here. Hm, where shall we begin?” She flipped the Guide open, leafing through the pages.

As she looked through the massive volume, Emeravwe strayed a few steps forward, her own eyes wide, taking in the tall shelves laden with hefty leather-bound texts, the endless rows lining those shelves, the columns of shelves that lined the cavernous room, and the series of archways leading further within. Her stomach clenched. Somewhere among these many histories was her own, yet there were so many, and she had no idea where to begin.

“We do not know which tribe Achojah belongs to,” Agaenaye Fatima was saying, “but there must be at least a couple Achojah clans in each tribe. I suppose we have no choice but to look through each.”

I do not even know what clan I belong to. Where can I start? Cold anxiety penetrating her, Emeravwe froze before the shelves, as overwhelmed as a fish released into the ocean, with no stripes and nowhere to go. They were only allotted a period of one hour a day in the record rooms and were given access for only ten days. If she could not find her answers by then…

“How will we know which Achojah is the right one?” she wondered quietly. How will I know which is my clan?

Agaenaye Fatima was silent a moment, then chuckled. “Let us hope the Royal Secretariat took diligent notes over the years, instead of scribbling nonsense while pocketing our taxes. Else we might misconstrue blatant lies and hidden truths. I believe Oga Mudiaga would say something along those lines in this situation.”

Emeravwe did not like the sound of it, but it did sound like something Mudiaga would say, though not so pleasantly. Mudiaga would also charge ahead regardless of any limitations. That is the kind of person he is. The thought brought a smile to her, and she turned, charging for the podium. “We shall find out how diligent the Royal Secretariat has been!” 

The Guide revealed a total of seven noble clans which answered the name Achojah—two of the O-Jiban tribe, one of the Imodu, three of the Iwaka, and one of the Beliko tribe—and specified how many families were in each. Emeravwe and Agaenaye Fatima jotted the details onto notes then went through the room, perusing the records for any clues that might indicate the Achojah they sought. As they scanned the records, Emeravwe also scraped for any cue that might lead her to her own family’s history. She flipped desperately through the pages, hoping something would catch her eye or jog a vision. Her tension mounted as she searched, till she forgot the purpose of her search and indiscriminately selected records from the shelves, frantically riffling through them though she had no idea what to look for.

“What are you doing?” Agaenaye Fatima called and Emeravwe started, dropping a book to the floor. “Those are not the records of the O-Jiban Achojah clans. We were instructed not to touch anything unrelated to the assignment.”

Emeravwe’s heart drummed as she bent to pick the book, dismay gripping her. “Yes, I was mistaken.” She replaced it on the shelf and returned to the row of records marked “Achojah.”

They were only able to look through the records of one of the O-Jiban Achojah clans before their allotted time ran out that day, and Emeravwe left the department crestfallen. It did not seem as if she would be able to get anywhere if she continued in her current manner. It was like trying to scrub the pillars in the main entrance hall of the Ministry of Domestic Affairs with no ladder or scrubber; she could get nowhere and would only skin her hands trying.

And was there any use trying? She had long since given up the idea of finding her family. After all, she had waited years for them, until she realized that if they wanted to find her, they simply had to return to the palace, where they had left her. She always wondered about them, but had also thought, what use would there be in finding a family who abandoned her? But what if I have been wrong all along? The image of the woman sitting in a pool of blood flickered at the back of her mind. What if they are dead?

The thought had never occurred to her before, and it chilled her to the core. If that was the case, then was she not setting herself up for failure? All her worries, her anxieties and effort, would be for naught. The thought made her even more anxious. She did not know which was worse, if her family had abandoned her or if they were dead. This second notion, though, made her stomach churn, and she became even more desperate to find the truth.

In the days that followed, she and Agaenaye Fatima pored over the annals of the Iwaka and Beliko Achojah clans. They found that the families of the clans were established in the provinces, some even active in government. Emeravwe continued to scour the records for anything that may give her a clue in her own search, looking through the other shelves when Agaenaye Fatima was engrossed in her work or in a separate room. She was doing just so on the eighth day they went to the department, when Agaenaye Fatima called to her from one of the rooms holding the records of the Imodu tribe.

Emeravwe replaced the record she was looking through and crossed into the other room. Agaenaye Fatima sat on the floor with a thick volume opened on her lap and others strewn around her.

“Look here,” she said, moving one of the books from one side of her to the other so Emeravwe could sit. “I think this is it.”

Emeravwe settled beside her. Of the two pages to which the text in her lap was opened, one had neat script a quarter of the way down the page, while the other stood empty. She turned questioningly to Agaenaye Fatima. The Agaenaye regarded her pointedly, then quickly flipped through the rest of the pages which were crisp with emptiness.

“There are no more entries.”

Agaenaye Fatima’s expression said that this was something to be marked, but Emeravwe looked puzzled. They had come across several records in which new entries had not been made for some time. She said, “I suppose no notable events have occurred in this family in the past few years.”

“But it is not just this family,” Agaenaye Fatima said, putting the text aside and lifting a couple more from the floor and flipping through them in turn to show Emeravwe their blankness. “And it has not only been for the past few years. It is understandable if a couple of the branches of the clan experienced no notable events for a few years, but that the entire clan experienced no marriages, births or deaths for a decade is extremely dubious.” Riffling back through the pages of the text in her hand, she arrived at the last entry and shifted the book eagerly onto Emeravwe’s lap. “Look. The final record of the events of all branches of the Imodu Achojah clan end in this way. Oh, and note the year it was recorded.”

Balancing the book on her lap, Emeravwe read, “Year sixteen of the reign of Orodje Otaroghene.” She paused, turning to Agaenaye Fatima who nodded. The sixteenth year of Orodje Otaroghene’s reign was also his final, and it was in that year, too, that the Insurrection of Nobles occurred. Emeravwe continued, “On the twentieth day of the eighth month of this year, it was revealed that the clan Achojah, of the Imodu tribe, was a strong proponent of the party accused of treason. As the Achojah were not directly involved in the treasonous act, their lives were spared by virtue of Her Royal Majesty Ovyeraye Ofere. However, as of this day, the third day of the ninth month of the reign of Orodje Otaroghene, all branches of the Imodu Achojah clan are hereby relieved of their nobility and relegated to the class of Ivyogbere. Their lands and properties will be seized, and their names stricken from the House of Nobles. So it is decreed.”

Emeravwe looked up with rounded eyes.

Agaenaye Fatima beamed. “Let us return to the bureau and report to Oga Otase!”

As she moved to arrange the texts back on the shelves, a shadow fell over Emeravwe. They had accomplished their assignment, but she still knew nothing about her family, and the doors to the records would close behind her.


© Copyright 2019 OE. All rights reserved.

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