King Lisabi was having breakfast when the queen mother of Arogun entered his rooms. He had just dismissed attendants giving updates about the progress of things for his upcoming wedding to the Crown princess of Ikojo his latest protectorate village. He smiled broadly as she approached.
“Good morning, your highness. May the King live long. I meet you well my son.”
“Mother…” He stood to kiss her cheek fondly. “Join me.”
“Thank you.” She replied quietly as she stood by his table. “But perhaps another time.”
“Then sit with me.” He offered drawing out a chair. “Though you look so serious, I’m already disturbed by the nature of whatever it is you wish to see me about.” He was still smiling at her as he chewed delicately on a piece of fish.
“You need not be.” She replied with a soft smile. “Though I doubt you will like it.”
“What is it?” He asked curiously chewing slowly. “I hope I’ll be allowed to enjoy my fish. I’m starting to develop a keen taste for it which should charm my little water princess bride. The village is full of fisher men I hear.”
“I was hoping we could talk more about this upcoming union and what it really means to you.” She took her seat next to him and turned it so she could see his face fully as she spoke. She could also see an over view of his rooms which opened into one another, the large bed in it being on the far side.
“What it means to me?” Lisabi’s chewing slowed as he raised an eyebrow. “I’m listening.”
She nodded her head ever so slightly still regaining the posture of an elegant queen, tall, slim and stately. “Somewhere below us on the far side of your new empire, a young girl is being eagerly prepared for a joyous union that should bring her people peace, prosperity and protection. And as they prepare, in the deepest parts of their hearts they give their daughter to you in trust as a symbol of the surrender of their village. I don’t know Lisabi if you take this thing as seriously as they do.”
“I don’t know what you mean by that, why do you ask?”Lisabi stopped chewing entirely.
“I ask because I know you. The empire expansion, the alliance, the gold are just a perfect excuse for you to have her. You do not really want her because I know you do not really need her. There is only one reason why this marriage is taking place and I fear it will not last beyond a month, that reason of yours. Once you get whatever you want from her and your feelings clear, then what happens?” The queen looked at him resolutely.
“What are you implying?” He feigned ignorance.
The queen tossed her hand in the general direction of his bed without looking at it, so expertly and faintly that he wasn’t quite sure she did. “That thing that you do, that you think no one sees that you do, and that I know about, will destroy this marriage sooner or later and consequently…this union.”
Lisabi swallowed his fish painfully and glanced back at the crumpled sheets that lay on the bed far away from them and looked back at his mother. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“I do know you know what I mean.” She laid him a serious look. “When this union fails, you do see that I said when, not if because the girl you are about to marry is no fool and no weakling. And I know you my son. I know your weaknesses and your abilities. And I know her strength. If she is pushed to the wall, she will rebel and there will be a crack in your empire, a fracture that will never be rebuilt. If the foundation is faulty now, your building will not hold.”
He sighed and stared at his half empty plate. “Is this some kind of bad luck wish?”
“Your union will not stand the test of your weakness Lisabi. Perhaps you should reconsider this marriage.”
Lisabi reached for a nearby sword and as quickly as lightening, it was by her throat. “I need to really understand what you’re saying?” He rose from his seat shakily, the anger evident in his voice. “What are you saying?”
The queen feared the sword but she showed no sign of it. “I am your mother and I love you.”
“You are my step mother.” He raised his voice. “What are you saying?”
“I am on your side, I want the empire for you, and I’ve wanted it for you ever since you were born.”
“The empire was always mine.” He replied. “It belongs to the first born son. There was never any controversy about that.”
“And I have no wish to take it away from you.” She replied without looking at him or the sword. Her eyes were straight ahead. “Will you put the sword away and listen to what I have to say first.”
“Not until you tell me what you mean!”
“I will in time. I have always told you. A king masters his desires and his feelings and knows how to control his emotions. That is when he can successfully control his kingdom. That is what I want for you.”
“That is what you like about Boye right? He is a master at concealing his feelings and emotions.”
“Not concealing, controlling. That is what has helped Boye to be the successful chief warrior and protector of your kingdom that he is today Lisabi. Put… the sword… away.” The queen’s voice was controlled, even and calm despite she was a mass of jumbled nerves inside. What she was doing could be termed treason which could put her away for life. She knew it but she knew she needed to hold the control and redirect the King’s emotions. Lisabi held the sword still. “All I want is for your father’s wish to come true; you, sitting atop the start of a great empire that transcends you and transcends the now. That was what he wanted to do and he could not because his ‘indiscretions’ put him in a position of weakness. You are more like him than you know.”
“I thought Boye is the one who is more like him, quiet and reserved.”
“Yes but only in that way. Your father was an ambitious and proud man.” said the queen. “And No, your brother the crown prince has no ambition to rule. He has found his calling and its best to leave him there. The Kingdom is yours, you have the ambition and the charm required to hold such a position but what I fear is that thing that you do which may take you down. That is what I want to prevent.”
“And so…” Lisabi continued his look softening, the sword remaining still.
“Give up the girl and let us find you another princess.” She turned into the sword and looked up at him. “Trust me, please trust me. She will not do for you.”
“What?” He said quietly frowning.
“You know that what I am saying is true, she will not satisfy you, you will tire of her soon and then what happens? Omotade will not be able to do what I have done for your father, she will not take it. And it will be bad for this empire. You need someone quiet and submissive by nature.”
“Why now? With the wedding only two days away, why bring this up now?”
“Because of this…” She pointed in the direction of the crumpled sheets on his bed. “Because you will not stop. I keep changing the female servants but you will not stop. I took this risk to warn you before you lose it all. Better now than later.”
Lisabi stared at her for a long time. Then he put the sword away. “You don’t know if I love her.”
“I do not doubt that you do but then you can never love one woman and we both know that. I do not doubt you.” The queen said glancing up at him. “I fear her.”
“What is it to fear about her? I am the King. She will have to just submit to me.” He sat at his chair and threw the sword on the table between them.
Lisabi stood and stared at the window with his hands in his pockets. Deep in his heart, he knew the Ikojo princess would be a handful but he had been determined to change and behave towards her. “This was going to be the last time you know.”
“Lisabi, we both know it is usually difficult to stop. But you need a wife and I promise you, we will find one.” The queen continued.
He was quiet for a long time. “So what happens to all the preparations?”
“Listen to me… and trust me. Then try to understand where I am going.”
He looked at her. “Where are you going?”
Silently relieved the sword had been put away she reached for his arm. “The alliance must still be made. The wedding will still go on.”
“So if I’m not marrying the princess, who is?” He walked away from the window, hands still pocketed.
The queen took in a deep breath “Crown Prince Ajiboye.”
“Of course not!” Lisabi roared turning round to face her. “He doesn’t even like her.” He lifted up his hands.
She kept the hand on his arm. “It doesn’t matter. You need him to do this for you because he is the only one who can still marry their princess and mean much of anything to them. He is a royal and he can be trusted to bring Ikojo under total domination because he can be in that village more often than you will ever be able to. And I know they will agree because it frees their daughter to ascend her father’s throne on his demise. ”
“No!”Lisabi stood shaking his head. “No.”
“My son, listen to me. He can tame that woman much more than you can, he does not have your weakness and he is in the royal capacity to mean much as a replacement for you to the Ikojo people. Ikojo is vital to the success of this empire and you know it, I know it and they know it. Plus, Balogun is still alive somewhere waiting for the right moment to strike, do not give him that opportunity. If you marry Omotade you will fail her, she will find him and they can ruin this empire. Please…” She fell on her knees in front of him. “Let your brother do this. Sacrifice this one girl and think about the empire.”
Lisabi took in a deep slow breath. It was long before he spoke again. “Who will tell the Olu of Ikojo?”