Queen of Queens
‘Are you alright, fath£r’? $h£ ru$h£d !nto th£ hut. h£r moth£r was late and all $h£ had left was h¡m, so $h£ was always s¢ar£d anytime h£ felt weak or compla!ned of th£ slightest h£adach£.
‘I am f!ne, j√$t a little belly ach£, how are you child’? Th£ elder straightened on h¡s bamboo b£d, h£ opened h¡s snuff box and threw th£ tobacco !nto h¡s m©vth.
‘Not f!ne’ $h£ wiggled h£r nose at th£ sharp smell of th£ tobacco.
‘Why are you not? How did it go with th£ pr!nce’? Th£ elder asked.
‘Not good. h£ still doesn’t share my feel!ngs, I love h¡m so much fath£r and I would die if h£ isn’t m!ne’ h£r voice was shaky.
‘Enough of th£ stupid talk! You are m©r£ focused on your feel!ngs with Iboro !nstead of all th£ power you could hoard from becom!ng h¡s wife; we are not talk!ng ab©vt love h£re, maybe that is why you keep fail!ng’ th£ man snapped at h£r.
h£ wasn’t a weak man and h£ had not expected h£r to sound so weak and chicken m!nded.
‘Why would you say that I have failed? I should be say!ng that to you’ $h£ h¡ssed angrily and jumped to h£r feet.
‘And why would you call me a failure’? h¡s eyes were angry, h¡s foreh£ad creased as h£ focused on h£r, try!ng to see what demon had possessed h£r to address h£r fath£r that way.
‘Th£ Pr!ncess is still alive’ $h£ replied.
‘Abasi! That is not possible, those men a$$ured me th£y would kill h£r, what happened’? h£ dropped h¡s snuff box.
‘Everyth!ng fell !n place as planned, I encouraged h£r to come to th£ forest with me but a man came from th£ forests and butch£red one of th£ men th£reby abort!ng th£ mission. I was so disappo!nted th£y will give up so easily’ $h£ [email protected] h£r experience to h£r fath£r.
‘I can [email protected] believe th¡s, does th£ pr!ncess suspect you’? h£ asked eagerly, h£ needed to cover th£ir tracks.
‘Not a chance but th£ k!ng would !nvestigate, I hope th£ men would not be found’ $h£ replied.
‘No, most of th£m came from far away, now we must create a new plan. Before th£ Pr!nce comes for a visit, we need to work togeth£r and br!ng up a well crafted plan that would lure h¡m to you’ h£ rubb£d h¡s [email protected] greedily.
All h¡s life, h£ had wanted th£ throne of Ajop, but s!nce h£ couldn’t get it, h£ would use h¡s daughter to get th£ throne of Obodom, h£ yearned for power and ¢©Πtr0|.
‘No fath£r, you called me a failure once, I would not want a repetition of that, I have my own plans and I swear to you, th£ pr!nce shall be m!ne’ $h£ was confident th¡s would happen.
‘And how do you plan to achieve that’? Th£ elder asked.
‘If I tell you, it would cease to be a plan. May th£ day break fath£r’ $h£ bowed h£r h£ad and stepped ©vt of h¡s hut.
$h£ needed to rest h£r h£ad after h¡s thorough lovemak!ng; it was go!ng to be a long night of rest and plann!ng.
h£r [email protected] were bound and so were h£r feet, h£r wr*₱per had almost been taken off but th£ K!ng’s guards had stopped th£ people from tear!ng h£r cloth£s.
h£r face was h°t with burn!ng tears; was $h£ born to suffer a cruel fate?
h£r moth£r had died th£ day $h£ was born; h£r fath£r and step moth£r hated and maltreated h£r, everyth!ng and everyone was aga!nst h£r and now $h£ was be!ng framed for someth!ng $h£ did not do.
$h£ cried as $h£ remembered th£ conspiracy by h£r family aga!nst h£r; $h£ cried as $h£ remembered th£ betrayal, even those villagers $h£ had thought liked h£r turned th£ir [email protected]¢k aga!nst h£r.
Th£y had thrown stones and sticks aga!nst h£r and called h£r names.
It was over for h£r, h£r reputation was over. Death was approach!ng.
$h£ closed h£r eyes and let th£ water drip from h£r eyes as $h£ thought of Onoitem, it hurt h£r that all th£ money h£ had saved for th£ir marriage had been taken away. Would h£ ever forgive h£r?
Would h£ stand up for h£r?
Time pa$$ed !n th£ cell wh£re $h£ was be!ng locked; it had no mean!ng to h£r, only th£ crow!ng c*ck a$$ured h£r of th£ break of day which propelled h£r !nto uncerta!nty, would $h£ live or would $h£ die?
A rue smile crossed h£r face at th£ thought of death, well, even if $h£ died, $h£ had one reason to be happy while $h£ lived: Ono, th£ love of h£r life.
Th£ petals of !nsomnia vani$h£d before h£r eyes and sleep started to cajole h£r; $h£ had only shut h£r left eye wh£n $h£ h£ard h£avy thuds approach!ng h£r cell.
‘Get up’ a fierce look!ng warrior opened th£ cell wh£re $h£ was be!ng locked.
‘Asierie, Good morn!ng’ $h£ bowed h£r h£ad hop!ng to curry some sympathy but h£ ignored h£r gesture and turned h¡s [email protected]¢k towards h£r with©vt look!ng [email protected]¢k.
‘Come with me, th£ K!ng wants to see you’ h£ replied.
h£r h£art raced, h£r [email protected] trembled, was it time for h£r death? How could $h£ die with©vt see!ng Ono’s face, j√$t once, even for th£ last time?
$h£ followed th£ lead of th£ warrior, h£r [email protected] were still bound and so h£r feet; th£y pa$$ed a number of huts still with!n th£ palace till th£ K!ng’s throne house, which was a separate mud house was !n view.
Mma scanned th£ large hut wh£re th£ K!ng received both subjects and nobles briefly; from wh£re $h£ stood, $h£ could see some chiefs, th£ Queen, th£ Pr!ncess.
$h£ took a deep breath and released it as $h£ saw th£ oth£r face seated amongst th£m, h£ came! h£ came for h£r! h£r h£art stopped.
‘Mmafiong’! Ono rose to h¡s feet as h£ spotted h£r close to th£ throne house but recollected h¡mself briefly as h£ remembered h£ stood before th£ k!ng.
Th£ Pr!ncess saw th£ pa!n that fla$h£d !n h¡s eyes as h£ called th£ accused maiden. $h£ felt a sharp pa!n !n h£r h£art as $h£ stared at h¡m. h£ was !n love with h£r.
‘You ask a difficult th!ng of me’ Th£ K!ng cleared h¡s throat.
h£ had asked h¡s warriors to f!nd th£ man that had rescued h¡s daughter from h£r attackers, but that was no longer necessary as th£ man already showed up to claim what was rightfvlly h¡s; only that h¡s request was difficult to grant.
‘Please my k!ng, let your pardon be my reward. Mma is not a thief, th£ cowries th£y found !n h£r hut are th£ cowries I gave to h£r; I have been sav!ng th£m for marriage’ Ono fell on h¡s knees.
Th£ Pr!ncess was greatly touch£d by h¡s show of love and th£ words h£ spoke; it made h£r respect h¡m th£ m©r£.
Wh£n h£ had come to th£ palace, h£r fath£r had s£nt h£r guards to rouse h£r from sleep so $h£ could identify th£ man; how could $h£ forget h¡s [email protected] face?
‘But th£ little boy called h£r a thief, h£ was absolutely confident’ th£ Queen chipped !n.
Th£ news had travelled like wild fire.
‘Fath£r, please, h£ saved my life and my respect. With©vt h¡s h£lp, I would’ve been dead by now. h£ s√¢ked th£ poison right ©vt of my bones; h£ was ready to die for me at that moment, please grant h¡m th¡s request’ th£ pr!ncess rose to h£r feet.
h£ s√¢ked th£ poison right ©vt of my bones; h£ was ready to die for me at that moment, please grant h¡m th¡s request’ th£ pr!ncess rose to h£r feet.
$h£ couldn’t bear to see h¡m that desperate, though $h£ felt jealous of th£ way h£ ¢ar£d for th£ girl, h£ seemed to be truthful and honest and $h£ wanted h£r fath£r to see h¡m !n th¡s light too.
‘Obot…$h£ was accused of th£ft, that is a serious offense. What k!nd of k!ng would I be should I let h£r go with©vt a trial’? Th£ K!ng was adamant.
“You must let h£r go if you do not want to !ncur th£ wrath of th£ gods” a loud voice sounded.
‘Wise one’ th£ K!ng acknowledged th£ entrance of th£ priest and so did th£ oth£r people pres£nt.
‘You h£ard me, K!ng, $h£ is !nnocent, th£ gods revealed it to me’ th£ priest repeated.
‘Are you say!ng $h£ was be!ng framed’? Th£ K!ng’s beady eyes sh°t up.
‘I only said what th£ gods asked of me. Release h£r, !n due time, those who seat on th£ throne of wickedness shall be exposed’ th£ priest stamped h¡s staff on th£ floor; bowed three times before th£ K!ng and stormed ©vt of th£ palace.
‘May you live long great K!ng’ Ono who had been rendered speechless by th£ entrance of th£ priest suddenly found h¡s voice.
h£ ru$h£d ©vt of th£ throne house and scooped Mma up !n h¡s arms.
‘You came for me’ $h£ cried and clung to h¡m.
‘Yes. I love you and I will never abandon you no matter what happens’ h£ sealed h¡s promise with a light peck on h£r face and th£n carried h£r ©vt of th£ palace and begun to sh©vt “$h£ has been v!ndicated”!
‘How do you feel now Pr!ncess’? Th£ Queen stared at h£r daughter but Obot wasn’t pay!ng attention to h£r moth£r, $h£ watch£d with jealousy th£ two lovers that had j√$t left th£ palace.
‘F!ne’ $h£ replied abruptly and walked ©vt of th£ throne house, feel!ng confused and overwh£lmed by th£ grow!ng attraction that $h£ had for th£ stranger.
Obodom was larger and rich£r than Ajop K!ngdom !n natural resources and manpower.
Th£ir rivers were wider and ©vt of th£m came a lot of fish, crayfish, periw!nkle and oysters.
Th£ palm trees blossomed with fruit and !n season, oil flowed !n th£ land.
Edidem Okopisong, th£ ruler of th¡s great K!ngdom was a ruthless and ambitious man; h£nce h£ had a lot of enemies.
‘It is important that we seal your marriage with Obot before someone else takes h£r away from you’ th£ K!ng said to h¡s son who had j√$t jo!ned h¡m !n h¡s throne house.
‘How so? All oth£r K!ngdoms know $h£ is my betroth, who would dare to rise aga!nst us’? Pr!nce Iboro settled !n h¡s throne that was beside h¡s fath£r’s.
‘Th£ K!ngdom of Ajop rema!ns our strongest ally and we must seal that marriage. Our enemies grow as th£ trees !n th£ woods, we must be watchful and we must be ¢ar£ful that is why we would be leav!ng for Ajop !n seven days time, we are go!ng to take h£r [email protected] !n marriage’ th£ k!ng said to h¡s son.
‘I totally agree with you fath£r. We need a powerful K!ngdom like Ajop to strength£n us’ Iboro agreed with h¡s fath£r.
‘Yes, once th£ K!ng of Ajop dies, th£ k!ngdom would [email protected]|| under h¡s daughter, as $h£ is th£ only child of th£ k!ng and that automatically makes you th£ K!ng. Tell me, who would dare stop a K!ng who has two powerful K!ngdoms under h¡s rule’?
Th£ Edidem’s face glowed with pride and expectation; h£ had not been a fool to enter !nto an agreement with th£ K!ng of Ajop concern!ng h¡s only child.
‘I have to go now, I want to tra!n with Udo’ Pr!nce Iboro bowed h¡s h£ad and left to meet h¡s younger broth£r, Pr!nce Udo.
h£ and h¡s broth£r’s had faced a lot of battles that motivated th£m to tra!n th£ m©r£.
‘Do you remember wh£n th£ Nkuku cult group attacked us on th£ way to th£ Mkpa Eyong K!ngdom’? Udo asked h¡s elder broth£r.
‘How could I forget’? Pr!nce Iboro scoffed.
Th£ Nkuku cult was a secret cult group that was paid by nobles to haunt or kill oth£r nobles; th£y were utilized to wreck havoc for a h£avy fee.
‘One of th£ reasons we must tra!n [email protected] should we ever face th£m aga!n’ Udo said !n a determ!ned voice.
Iboro wasn’t pay!ng much attention to h¡s broth£r; h£ was m©r£ focused on th£ pr!ncess whom h£ will marry soon.
h¡s h£art was gladdened as h£ thought ab©vt h£r beautiful face; h£r sparkl!ng green eyes and h£r attractive l¡ps. h£ couldn’t wait to make love to h£r f!nally after years of not touch!ng h£r, after years of wait!ng.
‘Long live your highness’ one of th£ palace guards bowed prostrated before h¡m as h£ m©v£d towards th£ area of th£ Palace that was meant for tra!n!ng.
‘Wh£re is Udo’? Th£ Pr!nce asked after h¡s younger broth£r.
‘h£ left to br!ng some weapons from th£ war room’ th£ guard replied.
‘Very well th£n’ Iboro replied and lowered h¡mself upon an ancient stool on th£ tra!n!ng ground.
‘What took you so long’? Pr!nce Udo came along with two mach£tes and two wooden spears.
‘I was with fath£r…’Iboro replied and stared at h¡s younger broth£r who resembled h¡m all @r0vnd except that h¡s voice lacked th£ baritone that h£ was known for.
‘You look excited ab©vt someth!ng; tell me, are you f!nally gett!ng married to your sweeth£art? To th£ most beautiful woman on earth’? Udo w!nked and launch£d a spear at h¡s broth£r.
‘Exactly, how did you guess’ Iboro dodged th£ spear and jumped to h¡s feet.
‘I eavesdropped’ Udo replied.
‘Bad manners’ Iboro fetch£d h¡s spear and launch£d th£ sharp edge at Udo but h£ missed it.
‘I am happy for you broth£r, you would be th£ envy of oth£r pr!nces for Obot’s beauty is not to be compared. $h£ truly stands ©vt’ Udo advanced towards h¡m.
‘What can I say? I am a lucky man’ Iboro chased after h¡s broth£r.
‘Yes, !ndeed you are, for th£ gods spared your lover’s life. $h£ was almost raped and killed at th£ forest yesterday’ Udo dropped h¡s spear and surrendered as Iboro’s spear found h¡s ch£st.
‘What are you talk!ng ab©vt’? Iboro threw h¡s spear on th£ ground and called ©vt to th£ servants for water.
‘Wh£n fath£r called you !nto th£ throne house, I a$$umed that was th£ message h£ had wanted to [email protected]’ Udo was surprised h¡s broth£r had not learned of th£ news.
‘But how could $h£ not tell me? I asked after th£ pr!ncess last night’? Iboro bit h¡s l¡p and crossed h¡s [email protected] togeth£r. h£ had been with Afiama h£r friend and h£ had !nquired ab©vt h£r.
‘Don’t tell me you’re still sleep!ng with that whore’ Udo rose to h¡s feet angrily.
h£ was th£ only one that knew ab©vt h¡s broth£r’s affair with th£ daughter of Elder Nkwo, a noble man of Ajop, who was also th£ir K!ng’s adviser.
‘I can’t h£lp it, would you rath£r I sleep with th£ servants? A K!ng must have honor, or would you want me to take a concub!ne? We both know th£ Pr!ncess would hate me for that’ Iboro sigh£d.
‘But sleep!ng with h£r friend is not acceptable, you promised you would end th!ngs with Afiama’ Udo felt disappo!nted as h£ realized h¡s broth£r was still hav!ng an affair with th£ Pr!ncess’ best friend.
To be cont!nued….