The silence in the Arogun palace courtyard was deafening that morning as a clan of high level warriors and guards stood in rows facing their commander. Beside him stood the village war chief Arole and the deputy chief warrior, Erelu. The only other sound came from an occasional blowing of wind on the high roof top where the courtyard stood. The men looked deathly pale as they watched their commander in chief hold a fellow warrior by the neck in what looked like a vice like grip. His face was expressionless as he gripped tighter and pushed the man backwards towards the edge of the courtyard. A few more steps and the fall down the rocky mountainside would be deadly.
“Your highness,” Arole the elderly and respected village war chief took a step towards their commander. “Perhaps he is sober now. Please let go of him…”
The commander held on with his right arm outstretched and the left calmly hanging by his side. He appeared not to have heard the plea.
“My lord, a bit of time in the prison will teach him a lesson. Do not take his life.” Erelu added nervously.
Ajiboye’s eyes narrowed as he held on. “There were two of them in the weapons room.” He said quietly as the unfortunate warrior struggled for breath and gripped his master’s arm. “I need to know the identity of the second warrior.”
“Just release him to us sir and we will find out but please spare his life, your highness.”
“I need to know, who the second warrior was!”
The frightened young warrior gasped and shook his head.
Erelu steeped closer. “Your highness…He will talk, I will personally see to it that he does.”
Ajiboye frowned for a very long time and then let go suddenly. The warrior gasped painful breaths of air, relieved and ashamed.
Erelu kicked him with a ferocious roar. He slipped and fell holding onto his hurting neck. “Who was the other person?”
“No one…” He managed to whisper.
Erelu signaled to the chief prison guard. “Take him for questioning.” He was eager to get him away from their commander.
The Crown Prince stared stonily into the distance. With the wedding only a day or two away, he was under a lot of pressure to keep the peace and order. The enemies of the empire would certainly try to capitalize on the joyous occasion and with the influx of many visitors and well-wishers, the Kings guard would have to be on extra alert to keep them at bay. This would be an easy time to target the King and he was desperate for his men to understand that and work with him to protect their empire.
“Your highness…” Erelu said softly. “Your men are waiting.”
The Commander was quiet for a bit. “Dismiss them, let the leaders wait behind.”
Quickly, was the command carried out. Erelu dispatched the clan two warriors preparing to take the King’s sister, princess Rimi and her entourage ahead of the wedding party to Ikojo. Their leader had to wait behind for the meeting however.
Ajiboye faced the fifteen men that remained with arms behind his back. The three palace guard leaders, ten warrior clan leaders, the chief of the prison guard as well as the elderly war chief and his own deputy. “The break into the weapons room is just a little of what I know is being planned by the enemy and with this wedding, I know for a fact that unless we double our combined efforts and work to keep our men in check, the enemy might come closer to hitting us where we are weakest. This is a sensitive time for the empire and the alliance this marriage will bring is opposed by many. This is the time we need to rise up and be brave and be a step ahead of any plans to attack and kill any member of the royal family, disrupt the wedding festivities or kidnap the Ikojo princess. They have done it before and they will try to do it again. This princess is the key to the alliance and I know that a definite attempt might be made on her life at this time.”
He paced as he spoke and looked each warrior and guard in the eye. “Be aware that any other member of both royal families could also be targeted by the enemy so as to force us to stop the wedding or whatever evil plot they have in mind. So at this time I will be especially unforgiving of any warrior or guard or leader I deem inefficient or lax at his duties and I will not hesitate to remove or imprison or kill any member of this group that commits any crime or perpetuates an action that directly or indirectly puts any royal family member at risk. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes sir!” Was the rugged chorus.
“The plans have been thoroughly laid out for you and we have gone over the details several times in the last one week. I hold the ace and I determine at the last minute which group does what so that limits to an extent how much of our plans can be leaked to the enemy. I expect total and absolute loyalty from every one of you present here and I expect you to lead your teams with the same intensity and commitment to excellence you see me demonstrate. In the absence of further questions, Deputy commander Erelu will give you the plans for this morning which you are to follow to the later as you await further instructions.”
He stepped out of the half circle and strode away from the group towards the palace. The war chief followed him closely and they left the deputy in charge of the rest of the meeting.
“The men are scared and on edge. This is the time to pull them together young prince.” Arole whispered as they left walking in step with each other.
“This is a time to drive fear into their hearts and show strong leadership. I can’t believe he broke into the weapons room!”
“I admire your courage and your words are moving and motivating but we need the support of the men not their fear. Threatening to throw someone over the rocks was a bit too much.”
Ajiboye whipped round angry but controlled. He took a step towards the elderly man, leveled him a gaze and asked a question. “When a member of my team and not the enemy steals weapons from my weaponry, what do you think he has in mind?”
“Yes, I know and I agree.” The war chief stood facing the Crown prince. “Steeper measures should be put in place to ensure we discover every secret he has and find out what exactly he was……”
“He is a traitor Arole, plain and simple.” Ajiboye wiped back around and headed for the entrance that led to the steps up into the palace where his personal servant was waiting to help him remove his armor and war equipment. Arole stood at the foot of the stairs and watched the prince run the stairs two at a time.
“I know his highness is wise and brilliant but we must think of better ways to motivate the warriors.” He said. The later saluted and disappeared into the corridor.
Ajiboye was tired in truth and he needed a shower. He had been up since midnight planning, training and retraining the troops to get ready for the action of seeing the wedding successfully carried out. He got to his room hoping for a long cold bath, breakfast and a short nap. His personal guard stood at attention as he approached the door to his rooms.
“Your highness, the queen mother wishes for you to see her this afternoon.”
“Send a message to her. I will send for her as soon as I am ready. Lock the doors.”
“Yes sir.” He bowed and sent a message through a servant to the queen mother and then bolted the prince’s chambers.
Ajiboye disappeared to his bedroom, the only place of solitude he had, where for minutes he could pretend he was not the one in charge of security for a steadily growing empire nor the Crown prince of Arogun. He walked slowly to the corner where his bath water had been carefully prepared and clothes laid out and drew the curtain. Peeling his remaining clothes and slipping into the large tin tub of water was the most appealing thing he had done all day and he was going to enjoy every moment of it. The initial shock of the coldness of the water was wearing off leaving his muscles relaxing with every second longer he stayed in the tub. Ajiboye leaned back his head, put out his arms round the edges of the tub and closed his eyes feeling the water drain away every pain and ache in his back, arms and legs as well as the emotional strain he was under trying to be on top of every matter pertaining to the security of the Arogun royal family and empire.
He let out a big sigh and leaned up to wash his face severally with the cold water. Then he leaned his head back again to the side of the tin tub feeling the anger drain away. As his mind cleared and rest slowly sank into his mind, his thoughts wandered where he had promised himself they would never wander again; to the beautiful, strong and independent woman who was about to be married to his brother, the crown princess of Ikojo.
Ajiboye sat up suddenly in the tub causing some water to spill to the floor in the process. “Get a grip on yourself.” He cautioned himself and forced his mind to go over the plans for the security for the two day wedding ceremony again. Keeping his mind occupied with work was key to fulfilling that promise. So he did just that.