Inkwell Prompt - Strange Companions

Nkiru loved playing outside the palace, on several occasions it had been the duty of her guards to search for her like the search for snails in the rainy season which was the highlight of Nkem’s night.

Scouring every plantain leaf in search of the brown-shelled slimy creature was more fun than playing outside in the moonlight.

Image by Beatzjoody on Pixabay

“Where is It!, where is it! “Chidubem screamed forgetting that it was the second hour of the night as his voice echoed through the thick and now black silhouette of the bush.

“It is here” Nkem replied as he moved through the bush with the aid of his lamp. Chidubem was their neighbor and a regular company in the night adventure as Nkem called it.

“It looked smaller than they talk about,” Chidubem said as he saw the creature in Nkem’s hand.
“It is only a babe” Nkem replied, as he handed the creature over to Chidubem who was now examining it closely.

“Why isn’t it bringing out his head,” Chidubem asked raising the lamp to the black hole created by the absence of the head.

“A tortoise will slide his head back when it is scared, papa told me this” Chiamaka interrupted, she hurdled a green leave crowded with scores of snails.

Ï think we should go home now” Nkem said as he retrieved the tortoise from Chidubem.
“Oh, so you can be tired ehh” Chidubem answered,
“Or is it because the gods have granted you a gift for the night?” he added.

Nkem didn’t reply to him he only adjusted his wrapper as he led the way through the bushes to the narrow path that led to their compound.

Meanwhile, back at the Palace something has gone wrong or gone missing. This time it was someone, the usual suspect, Nkiru. Even as a Princess she didn’t mind getting soiled and doing activities meant for boys.

She would often tell her father, the king how she would become a warrior just like him sending the man laughing and jerking with his thick bears, almost breaking the wooden throne made of wood and leopard skin for covering.

“I will lead the search myself,” The King said, his Queen who had been silent, hiding the rolls after rolls of tears began to sob now, even Ifeoma the eldest of the two Princesses also joined in, she was regarded as the perfect one with her love for jewelry and makeup often adorning herself with camwood.

“Your highness it’s night already, and we don’t want to wake the whole village” The chief of guards spoke up.
“Let me lead with 5 men of the guard, we will find her be rest assured” he added, and the King nodded his approval.

The road was long and narrow bending like a roasted giant eel, the type that Chiamaka loved to eat. She joined in the conversation now which had been going on since they started for the village.

“I have heard tortoises taste better with palm wine and black pepper” she added, Nkem looked at her with a wide eye glowing yellow in the reflection of the lamp, and Chidubem supported her with a heavy “Ahem”

“Must you eat everything?” Nkem asked, but it was not a question as he continued.
“Women don’t eat strange food or you may give birth to strange children” he added.

Chiamaka thought about it for a while then concluded that the fish they had the night before was strange, his eyes barging out with tiny fins and wide mouth-like lips. It tasted pretty good for her she thought.

“Strange food tastes good, you know,” she said finally.
“I had once eaten a snail in a white shell it was the sweetest till date,” Chidubem said,
“Both of you would make a strange couple, with strange children eating strange things,” Nkem said,

“Hush” he added after,
“Did you hear that?” he said,
Chiamaka clutched tightly to her snail wrap.

“Arrrghhh” someone made a growl from the nearby bush.
Chidubem screamed like a girl, along with the actual girl, they sounded like two girls screaming in the forest. Nkem only went closer seeing the person now with his lamp he bent his knees.

“My Princess,” he said, the others thought he was mad so they came closer and also bent their knees upon beholding the girl almost the same age as Chiamaka yet taller.

“Hey! who are you? “a voice came from behind soon torches raised shadows above them from behind. They all stood still, then Nkiru turned and barged through Nkem and Chidubem. They heard her tell the man, “They are my escort”.

Chidubem was happy when Nkem announced that they were going home after he found a tortoise now they had spent more time escorting Princess Nkiru to the palace, and they weren’t chattering like before save for the low giggles and voices from Nkiru and Nkem.

“Let me see it,” Nkiru said, and the black creature was laid in her hands, she rubbed her hand across the hard shell and the rough feet. Two guards were behind them, a little bit behind while two were ahead far enough not to hear what they spoke or what Nkiru giggled for.

Chidubem often reminded Nkem of how he found two things that night a tortoise and a Princess. As 4 years later Nkiru would name him as her husband among all the hunters that had come for her hand.

That night however he slept silently watching the eat the ripe pawpaw he had placed in front of him since they came back from the Palace, the King thanking them for escorting Nkiru and offering them royal passage for life.

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