The Moon of Xxene

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


[Akpokene (“Ahk-po-keh-neh”)]* [Edidjana (“Eh-dee-jah-nah”) – Religious day of rest and worship]* [Orhorho (“Oh-ro-ro”) - A person of mixed blood, both of the Four Tribes of Xxene and Wuhwuh]*
[Wuhwuh – an ostracized people not belonging to the Four Tribes of Xxene]

Chapter 5 (v.2) - Fifth Phase.2 (Continuation)

Submitted: July 07, 2019

Reads: 36

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Submitted: July 07, 2019

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Emeravwe went through the next day much as she had the previous, almost delirious with joy, and did not let the Omote’s teasing despoil her mood. When they smelled the scent of the oil on her and rudely questioned her, she answered prudently that Aye Omojewe had acquired it for her. Even when Omote Oluchi and Ngozi, who were among the Omote she worked with that day, began to harass her with the topic that hurt her most, of her origins, Emeravwe found the courage to confront them.

“I cannot believe we are stuck outside on such a hot day!” Omote Oluchi groused as they cleaned one of the large stages behind the Bureau of Music and Royal Performers. “And working beside a worthless valued child at that! I get enough of you in our chambers!” she said, flinging her wet rag so it smacked Emeravwe in the eye as she walked by.

Emeravwe wiped her face, blinking against the tears of pain till they disappeared; this was nothing, she was used to such treatment.

“How did a nameless child end up in the palace anyway?” an Omote they worked with questioned. “Only children from known noble families can serve in the palace.”

“How else?” Omote Ngozi said. “Her parents must have seen how worthless she is even with a gem and decided to throw her away here. They were so ashamed they even asked the Aye to keep their clan name a secret!”

The Omote laughed, and though Emeravwe was used to such taunts they hurt, nonetheless. It was then that she remembered what Eunuch Aslan had said, and her pulse quickened nervously. She sat breathing deeply on the stage, then clenched her fists and got shakily to her feet.

“Th-the palace is no place for parents to abandon children,” she began meekly, her voice rising as she continued. “That is an insult to the Orodje and if you say it again I will report you to the Bureau of Corrections!”

Her retaliation took them all by surprise, including herself, for she had never confronted the Omote in such a manner. Omote Oluchi and Ngozi scoffed at her, but they returned to their work and did not harass her again. She felt so exhilarated by her new-found strength that she went about the rest of that day with her head held just a little higher, her insides a riot of giddiness. She had her new friend to thank for it all!

That night, Eunuch Aslan did come to the garden, and Emeravwe told him all about the wondrous day she had had and how she stood up to Omote Oluchi and Ngozi. He said little as he sat rigidly on the bench but listened pleasantly.

Emeravwe was aware of his formal carriage—his yellow headcloth reminded her of his superior status—yet felt strangely at ease with him. Because of his headcloth, she suspected he was a Eunuch of the Royal Secretariat, for only those who worked in the Royal Secretariat or the Inner Palace wore yellow. (But since Eunuchs of the Inner Palace did not frequent the Outer Palace, Emeravwe was sure he was the previous.) Despite their difference in rank and his stiff bearing, she found she was not as meek around him as she was with the Maidens, and she spoke without reserve until he saw it was getting late and advised her to return to the Maidens’ Quarters. He bid her good night and watched her go.

It was thus that Emeravwe spent her time in her new friend’s company. She went to the garden each night to await his arrival though on some nights he did not come, and she returned to her chambers thoroughly disappointed. But on nights on which he did, she spoke to him tirelessly; about her education to become an Omote, her maltreatment by the other Maidens because she was a valued child, and the strenuous work of the Bureau of Halls and Chambers. She thought she felt so relaxed with Eunuch Aslan because though he bore formal airs, he encouraged her to speak without restriction, giving her freedom to express herself however and as much as she pleased. This was something she could do nowhere else in the palace, so Emeravwe readily welcomed his company.

There were a few occasions when she caught him watching her with an awfully sorrowful look, and she worried that she may be burdening him, but he always set her mind at ease again with his warm amber eyes and gentle smile. Thanks to him, Emeravwe now had something to look forward to each day, and time in the palace no longer seemed to drag on. Before she knew it, a month had passed and then three.

One night, Aslan asked her how she had been faring with the other Omote. Emeravwe was dancing gaily about the garden, weaving in and out of the plants around the pond as she hummed a song they had sung at the Palace Chapel that past Edidjana. Since her last confrontation with the Omote they had, for the most part, left her alone. The Aye of the Bureau of Halls and Chambers somehow discovered that some of the Omote shirked their duties and doled out punishment by cutting their wages. Many of them suspected that Emeravwe reported them, so now they scorned her but silently.

“And what of Omote Oluchi and Omote Ngozi?” Aslan asked when she told him about the Omote. “Do they still trouble you?”

“Mm, sometimes,” she answered, jumping from stone to stone around the pond. “But they have found someone else to trouble. And I am glad because I get my fill of them in our chambers!”

“Oh? Is that so?”

“Yes!” she exclaimed, hiking up her skirts and jumping from one of the stones to land squarely before Aslan. As she rose from her landing squat, she lost her balance and tumbled head-long into his waiting arms. She burst in giggles as he helped her upright. Inexplicably, she had known he would catch her, and that he did just so filled her with such ticklish warmth.

Miguo, Aslan,” she thanked him with a broad grin, addressing him by his name alone, for he had given her permission.

Vrendo,” he answered, his own smile soft. “Tell me, Emeravwe, who is this Omote who Omote Oluchi and Omote Ngozi have been troubling? Do you know her?”

She shook her head, climbing on the bench to settle beside him. “Uh-uh. I have worked with her in the bureau, but I have never spoken to her. She is very short and tiny, and the other Omote tease her because of this. They also call her a name. Hmm, what was it…” she placed a finger on her chin in thought.

Aslan watched her with a slight tilt of his head. “And this makes you glad?”

Emeravwe turned to him, her heart sinking as she remembered what she said. “N-no! No, I just—I…” She lowered her head shamefully, tears welling in her eyes as a familiar lump began rising in her throat. That was not what she had meant. She did not want Aslan to think badly of her. He was the only one she could freely speak with in the whole palace, and if she lost him, she did not know what she would do.

She felt Aslan’s hand rest lightly on her head and apprehensively lifted her teary gaze to his.

Petting her head reassuringly, he said, “You are simply glad that the Omote no longer harass you, correct?”

She gave a timid nod, the tears falling.

“That is quite all right,” he assured her. “It is only natural that you should be happy in such a case. However, you have suffered much because of the Omote’s harassments, have you not?” She nodded. “I am sure this Omote is also suffering. Perhaps you could try to help her.”

Drying her tears, she looked up at him questioningly. “How?”

Aslan said, “Perhaps she is like you, and simply needs a friend.”

****

It was several days after her conversation with Aslan that Emeravwe again came across the small Omote. She and the Maidens she worked with that day had finished their assignment and were returning to the Bureau of Halls and Chambers when they encountered another group in the wide cobbled passageway between the Compound of the Ministry of Rites and that of the Royal Pharmacy. The Omote were gathered in a cluster, jeering and snickering. Wondering what the matter was, Emeravwe pushed her way through the group to get a better look. There, in the middle of the circle of girls, the small Omote sat on the ground as though she had been shoved there, and Omote Oluchi and Ngozi stood over her, hurling words.

“You do not belong here!” Omote Ngozi hurled.

“I cannot stand to see you prancing about as though you are one of us!” Omote Oluchi flung. “Only girls from noble families are supposed to be Maidens! How dare someone with tainted blood enter the palace!”

Seeing the looks of disgust with which the girls in the circle eyed the small Omote, Emeravwe asked one nearby, “What is the matter?”

The Omote was too fixated on the three girls in the center to turn to her, but answered, pointing her chin at the small Omote, “We knew she was the daughter of a mistress, but Omote Oluchi says she heard the Aye talking this morning, and they said she is an Orhorho—her mother is a Wuhwuh!”

“What is a Wuhwuh?” Emeravwe asked.

“Cultureless people who do not belong to any of Xxene’s Four Tribes. They are ungodly and walk around with bare foreheads like the Yaroy!”

“But at least the Yaroy are part of the Four Tribes!” another Omote bit. “These people are worse than the Yaroy! They are disgusting!”

Emeravwe knew about the Yaroy. According to the Maidens, they were beggars who wandered the alleyways and marketplaces of Xxene. Most of them had bare foreheads like palace Maidens and Eunuchs, only theirs was due to poverty, not prohibition. Like the Yaroy, a bare forehead was a shameful symbol of failure and lack of class and place. This was why it was so disgraceful for palace Maidens and Eunuchs to be sent home from the palace (their bare foreheads would reveal their failure), and why those in the palace always covered their foreheads with headscarves.

“The position of a palace Maiden is supposed to be one of honor!” an older Omote shouted. “What will people say when they find out we have a Wuhwuh among us?”

More Omote joined in, shouting and jeering, picking up loose pebbles and flinging them at the small Omote.

“You have hidden the truth very well until now,” Omote Oluchi said, grabbing onto the small Omote’s green headscarf. “But now everyone knows you do not deserve to wear this!” She tore off the Omote’s headscarf and flung it to the ground, accusing, “Your father may be of the Imodu tribe, but you cannot hide your filthy Wuhwuh blood!”

Emeravwe stood horrified as the Omote’s shouts and stone throws intensified. She searched frantically up and down the passage, but there were no guards in sight. She looked back to the center of the girls where the small Omote laid in a fetal position, her hands covering her head as the Omote assailed her. I should…I should help her. Emeravwe knew she should. But the sight of the angry girls frightened her, and she thought she could not possibly face them all. Her legs began backing away of their own accord, and she closed her eyes against the sting of tears. For once the Omote’s angry glares were not trained on her—they were not attacking her for reasons she did not understand and things she could not help. But now someone else was the victim. Yet how could she possibly go against all the Omote? She could not!

You have suffered much because of the Omote’s harassments, have you not? I am sure this Omote is also suffering. Aslan’s words rang in her ears, and with them came a flood of sadness. She knew better than anyone how it felt to be the Omote’s victim, and until she met Aslan, no one ever came to her rescue no matter how much she cried out. She looked again to the small Omote. She did not cry out, but silently bore the assaults. As Emeravwe watched her, compassion and anger swelled within her, and she swallowed her tears, marching forward.

“That is enough!” she burst, pushing past the Omote. “Let her go right now!” she ordered Omote Oluchi and Ngozi who had two thick chunks of the small Omote’s hair in their hands.

The Omote surrounding them grew silent, but Omote Oluchi sneered, “And if I do not?” She pulled the small Omote’s hair, yanking so forcefully that she finally cried out.

Emeravwe glared hate at Omote Oluchi and Ngozi. “I will report you to the Bureau of Corrections and tell them all the wicked things you have done, so they will be sure to beat you till your bones are broken!”

At the mention of the Bureau of Corrections the Omote quickly scattered, each going nervously on their way. Omote Oluchi and Ngozi shoved the girl’s head before releasing her hair, then threw icy glares over their shoulders as they stalked away. 

Emeravwe turned to the small Omote who remained painfully on the cobbled ground. She retrieved the Omote’s transparent green headscarf and presented it to her. The girl began to reach for it but stopped, tears finally pooling in her eyes. Emeravwe understood; she did not want it. The light green headscarf that all palace Omote wore, the scarf which accompanied the matching garments revealing her to be a palace Maiden; she wanted none of it. Emeravwe knelt before the Omote, holding the headscarf out to her. As she took the scarf, the Omote looked up. She had large dark brown eyes and deep olive skin that was a shade darker than Emeravwe’s. Emeravwe thought her rather pretty and smiled.

“My name is Emeravwe. What is yours?”

The Omote remained silent a moment, then wiped her tears and answered, “I am Akpokene Imodu Ofasa.”

Emeravwe stood, offering her hand to the Omote. “Shall we go, Omote Akpokene?”

Omote Akpokene stared so long at the offered hand that Emeravwe feared she would reject it. But, finally, she bashfully took Emeravwe’s hand.

“Thank you,” she smiled as they walked down the cobbled passageway.

“You are welcome,” Emeravwe smiled back.


© Copyright 2019 OE. All rights reserved.

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