In Nne’s room, where it was easier to bring everyone together, Erika told them all Lota had told her, and she narrated her dream, so Olisa and Binyelum would know.
“You’re sure she didn’t manipulate your dream?” Binyelum asked, a worried frown on her face.
While they all found a spot to sit on the bed, Nne sat on the cane armchair, the twin of the one she sat in the parlour.
“I believed her when she said she didn’t.”
“She lied about the sorcerer, so that could be a lie too.” Binyelum pointed out. “I mean, you’ve never had dreams about sorcerers and dark presences before now.”
“I know. But I could tell she was telling the truth in that. In all she told me.”
“But she could still be keeping something back.” Binyelum was still frowning, still worried.
“It’s possible, but I doubt it.”
“Ifechi said he sensed something more about her.” Olisa’s expression was pensive. “I guess this gift is that something more.”
“It should be.” It didn’t surprise Erika that Ifechi had sensed something, he had a knack for reading people. “This is more than we bargained for when we first took her in. And while I told her she can continue to stay, it’s not just my decision alone to make.”
“I think it’s a risk to us, if she stays. He’s a sorcerer. A powerful one, according to her.” Olisa’s expression shifted from pensive to disquiet. “We will be in danger of his spells, curses and charms if she stays here.”
“He might be a sorcerer, but he had no right to treat her the way he did. He violated her. Since she was a child, he’s been violating her. That is wrong. Evil.”
“I agree with you, Erika. Using her in the way he did was evil and he should be made to pay. Heck! I wanted to hunt him down and make him pay myself. But he’s a sorcerer.” Olisa threw up his hands. “How do we fight a sorcerer? Certainly not with words and bare hands. I can guarantee you they won’t work.”
“No, words and fist fights won’t protect her from him, or us from him.” Erika admitted. “But she has nowhere else to go, Olisa. She’s not lying in that, I could see fear in her eyes. I don’t know why it is here, to this house, she had to come and seek shelter. But she did, and I think outside here, she’s more at risk.”
“She’s still at risk here. We are at risk.” Olisa groaned, like he did when he was impatient, rubbed his hand over his eyes. “I don’t want to throw her out, but I don’t know if she should stay.”
He could make the decision. As man of the house, it was his right. “You want her to go then?” Erika asked gently.
“I don’t know. What I do know is that I don’t want us facing the wrath of some vile sorcerer.”
“I feel sorry for her. It scares me that we might have to face this sorcerer, but I feel so sorry for her,” Binyelum murmured.
“I feel sorry for her too. We all do.” There was a snappy edge in Olisa’s voice. “But we have to look at this thing with clarity. We have to be certain we know what we’re doing if we let her stay.”
He was torn, Erika could see that. Torn between his kind heart, his sense of justice and his need to protect his family as a man.
“If you feel she shouldn’t stay, then we will ask her to be on her way.” She touched his arm in a gesture of understanding.
“How come I get to make that decision all of a sudden?”
Erika let herself smile. “You’re the head of this family.”
“When it suits her, she remembers.” Olisa scowled, then sighed. “Nne, what do we do? Tell us.”
He was man of the house, officially the head, but he would always respect Nne as the elder and give her place. That was Olisa, and Erika felt the rush of pride and love for him as she always did when he did something honourable.
Nne looked at Erika before she focused on Olisa. “What does your heart tell you it’s the right thing to do?”
“Nne…” Olisa began.
Nne shook her head. “What is in your heart about this woman? Say it.”
“Well, there’s quite a bit in my heart about her.” Everyone snorted at Olisa’s teasing. “We can’t open the door and ask her to be on her way. It probably would be for our own good if we do.” Olisa shrugged, sighed. “She stays. Maybe there’s a reason she came here, maybe it’s just coincidence. But she stays.”
Nne nodded her approval. “That too is my thinking, whatever the reason why she’s here, and however afraid we might be, she should stay.”
“And when he comes for her, what then?” Binyelum asked. “Because surely he’s coming for her. Your dream reveals that, Erika.”
“God help us.” Nne said. “Anyway, it’s a Sunday and I don’t intend to be late for church. We will take water and salt along, so Father can bless them. Then we sprinkle the entire house when we get back.”
“I doubt holy water will keep off an evil sorcerer,” Olisa muttered.
“He has his spells, we will use our sacraments,” Nne retorted. “We will do what we can to protect ourselves.”
“If we’re going to get holy water, maybe we should bless olive oil too,” Binyelum suggested.
Olisa groaned. But everyone ignored him.
“It wouldn’t hurt.” Nne nodded. “Let’s get on. It’s already after eight.”
Erika waited for Binyelum and Olisa to step out before she asked. “Are we doing the right thing, Nne?”
“I hope so. For our sake, I hope so.”
“I am scared. Troubled too, but more scared,” Erika confessed. “What is going on? Why is this happening? How we going to protect her, or ourselves?”
“In time, we will receive all the answers, I hope. For now, God will protect us. That, after all, is his job,” Nne added with a smile that quickly filtered away. “I am worried and afraid too, child. Your brother is, and Binye too. But we will do what seems right to us, and hope God, and the good spirits bless and shield us for it.”
“I suppose that’s all we can hope for. I will go take my bath.” Erika said and stepped out.
Taking in the blue skies, moulds of white clouds on one side, and glow of light that shimmered down, Erika wondered what she was going to see now. It wasn’t a familiar realm and disquiet inched into her as she contemplated the setting.
She came out of nowhere, appeared on the setting and started walking towards her, the sky and clouds behind her. Light surrounded her.
It moved with her, Erika observed, fascinated. Calm and peace breathed out of her, shivered in the atmosphere and filled Erika. Anxiety seeped out of her, leaving only utter peace.
“Who are you?” she asked, dazzled by her beauty, awed by the peaceful energy.
She was luminous, light sparkled like translucent glass around her. Her clothing was a white robe, long to her ankles and loose fitting. On her feet, peeked out white sandals.
“The question is who are you?” Her voice was soft and lilting.
“I am Erika, daughter of Ikenna and Ure, granddaughter of Nnekasi, sister of Olisa and of Binyelum, and trader of dried fish.” Her chin slightly lifted, she challenged, uncertain why she did. “Who else can I be?”
She smiled. And Erika thought she’d never seen a sweeter smile, or a pair of eyes brighter with laughter. “You are all of that, and you are more. In your heart, you know this.”
“In my heart, I always wonder, but I don’t know. If you won’t tell me who you are, tell me who I am. Tell me why I saw Lota and the sorcerer in a dream. Tell me who the dark presence is.”
“Every question has an answer, and answers are right only when given at the right time.”
“Why is now not the right time? He comes, the sorcerer. He will come after Lota.”
In a graceful dip, she nodded. “He will. That is how it’s meant to be.”
“Then how do I protect her from him? I–none of us has the power to fight a sorcerer.”
“When it is time, you will have what you need to fight him.”
More cryptic answers, and they made her impatient. “Did her gift come from you, Lota’s?” Erika tried another angle.
“It came to her from whom she came, as your gifts come from whom you came.” She had stopped walking and stood now, light blazing around her like a shield.
“My gifts? I only know of the gift to see in dreams what is to come. What others are there?” Erika inched closer to the wall, wished she could go through it. To touch her. “What are these other gifts I am not aware I possess?”
“In time, you will know.”
“I see everything is time with you. If nothing is the right time, why then am I having this dream?”
“It is meant to be, that you will see me in dreams. That you will come to know me.”
“But I don’t know you.”
“You will.” She tilted her eyes upward. “You will know her too.”
Erika lifted her eyes. Beyond the white cloud, a black patch formed, and in it, she felt the dark presence.
“She? The dark presence is a woman.” Fear slicked past peace and took hold. “Who is she?”
Understanding she meant the sorcerer, Erika said impatiently. “We just agreed he’s coming.”
“He is near.”
“What?” Erika touched the wall, then snapped her hand back at the sizzle of electricity. “The sorcerer–Ojioku is near? How near?”
“Remember, it is for you to protect her.”
But she was gone, just like she appeared, vanished in the twinkle of an eye.
Even as she swore, Erika came awake.
Touching her forehead, and feeling it warm, she rolled out of bed. This was just wonderful. It’s a woman surrounded by light who has no answers for her questions.
“When the time is right,” she muttered, scowled and grumbled as she went to pick the lamp.
Time wasn’t right for answers, but it obviously was for a vile sorcerer to come after them. Just wonderful.