Ogundele broke down the small wooden gate with his foot he and his comrades stormed the shabby compound. There were only two huts in the compound, the occupants of the compound rushed out of their huts to know what was going on. A man probably in his late forties with a wrapper tied around his waist he had been preparing for bed when his compound was invaded. A young woman, whom Ogundele considered too young to be his wife, also came out visibly scared as she pulled her two children closer to her and embraced them in her bosoms.
“Who are you? How dare you invade my compound?” The man asked angrily.
Ogundele ignored the man and asked “are you Olu the story teller?”
“Yes I am if you want a story come back tomorrow I want to go bed now he said.”
“Then you must be the one who started the rumour that the king kidnapped the children and poisoned them to make it look like the rebels did it.”
Olu cleared his throat “I don’t know what you are talking about” he lied.
Ogundele drew out his sword and forced Olu to his knees, his wife and children screamed at the sight of the shining sword.
“Look at your family!” Ogundele ordered Olu slowly looked at his wife and children “look at them! Do you see how afraid they are? By the time the rebels take over the kingdom they won’t be alive to be scared or afraid. So you better tell me where you heard that story or you…”
“I will tell you! I will tell you!” the man yelled visibly shaken “I will tell you but you must promise to protect my family. I did what I did because of them please promise me they will be safe.”
“Your family will be safe if you choose the right path, now tell me.”
When they arrived at the palace it was already dark but the palace compound was almost as bright as the day, torches were hung everywhere. The carriage went straight to the guest quarters the place had been specially prepared for their arrival.
Abike and Omotayo stepped down from the carriage they were welcomed by a group of maids who had been waiting for them all day. There were six of them dressed in blue wrappers from their chest to their knees. Their thick hair divided into four groups neatly held together by blue beads matching the colour of their wrappers.
One of the girls stepped forward and bowed “Welcome my lady, my name is Titilayo I will be waiting on you from now on” and then she turned to Abike “I will also be attending to you during your stay at the place I hope you enjoy your stay” she said smiling and then she bowed again. “Please come in” she said, stepping aside to let them enter the other maids did the same.
Omotayo looked around as they entered the hut she noticed the hut was extremely large and beautiful, she adjusted her shawl inside the hut was warm there was a large bed at the far end of the room the floor was designed with animal skin, there was a dressing table and a mirror close to the bed, the room was brightly lit. There was a small round table in the middle of the room with three stools around it; Omotayo guessed it served as a dining table.
“My lady you must be very tired and hungry I shall serve dinner after you have had your bath” Titilayo said politely
“I don’t want anything” Omotayo replied sharply
“But, the king will be here soon and you have to be pre…”
“I don’t want to see anybody! Just leave me alone” she yelled.
Abike sighed and told the maids to excuse them for a minute. The maids bowed and left “I shall be waiting outside, in case you need me” Titi said and followed the other maids.
“Sit down” Abike ordered gently and Omotayo took her seat at the round table, Abike sat opposite her.
“You must understand that that you are now in the palace, you must respect the king at the mere mention of his name. And do not forget that you are the king’s bride to be” Abike said calmly.
“Mother, that is the whole point I do not want to be married to the king I have someone else” Omotayo blurted out.
“I know, but you must forget that someone else besides your bride price has already been paid there is not you can do.”
“Since when did it become a tradition for a bride to get married in her husband’s house?” she asked rolling her eyes
“There is a reason for this, when the time comes you will understand.”
“I know the reason, you want power, you want to be the king’s mother in law you do not care for my feelings.” She said rudely
“You do not have a say in this matter, by this time tomorrow you will become the second queen.” Abike said with a final tone and Omotayo sighed.
“Titilayo!” Abike called
“My lady you called me” Titi answered immediately
“Prepare a nice warm bath for the lady and have her prepared” Abike ordered
“Yes my lady” Titilayo answered
“Please take me to my room, I will like to retire to bed immediately” Abike added.
“Yes my lady, please follow me” Titilayo said.
“Are you sure it’s a dead end?” Adeola asked Ogundele who sat opposite him at the table.
“Your majesty, we have come a long way I dare not lie to you” Ogundele replied firmly and Adeola nodded his head slowly.
“So that’s how it is” Adeola said slowly.
The king’s steward entered and bowed “Your Majesty, I am sorry to disturb you but they have arrived and settled down at the guest Quarters” the steward said.
“That is good I will leave immediately” Adeola replied, the steward bowed and left.
“Your majesty, why do you suddenly look nervous?” Ogundele asked smiling.
“Do you think she will help us?” Adeola asked
“Your majesty, she is a woman who agreed to marry a stranger, she agreed to marry to a man whose name is unknown to her relying and trusting nothing except love. I believe she is a strong willed woman who would support the man she loves.” Ogundele answered.
“She is a strong willed woman” Adeola repeated
“Your majesty, permit me to leave now”
“You are free to go, you have been very helpful” Adeola said.
Omotayo sat in front of the mirror while Titilayo put finishing touches to her hair and face. She had her bath, rubbed her skin with sweet smelling coconut oil and put on fresh wrappers; the maids adorned her ankles and wrists with red anklets and bracelets. The maids wanted her to remove her brown bracelet saying it was too cheap for a queen, she had refused if only they knew how much it worth. The bracelet worth so much to her not because of its price, but because of the one who had bought it for her.
“My lady you look really beautiful, if only you could put a smile on your face then you will look perfect” Titilayo said smiling.
“What if I don’t want to look perfect?” Omotayo asked gently as she rubbed the brown bracelet on her left wrist.
“My lady, the palace is a very beautiful place every maiden in the kingdom wishes to be live here, every maiden wishes to hold a place in the heart of the king” Titilayo said she, unable to understand why Omotayo was so moody.
“How can I hold a place in the heart of someone who has never seen me? I still don’t understand what is happening in my life”
“So this is also an arranged the marriage, will the king ever find a woman that loves him sincerely?” Titilayo thought but she dared not voice her thoughts, as a maid in the palace she is meant to be seen and not heard and sometimes she had to be invisible.
“My lady, his majesty the king graces you with is presence” A maid announced as the king entered the hut.
As Adeola entered the hut with his steward, Omotayo stood and bowed. “You may rise” Adeola said
Omotayo thought the king’s voice sounded familiar and then as she raised her head she was shocked.
“YOU!” she almost screamed and then she faced Titilayo whose head was still bowed “I thought you said I was supposed to meet the king what is this person doing here?” she asked.
“My lady, you must not speak unless the king asks you to” She said quietly almost whispering
“What are you saying? How can this person be the king? This person cannot…
“Be quiet my lady you might get punished” she whispered again this time shaking visibly with fear that her mistress may be punished for being tactless.
Adeola tried seriously to control his laughter as he watched the drama before him. “Leave us” he commanded
His steward and Titilayo left the room without looking up. Omotayo watched them leave and then turned her gaze at the tall handsome dark figure standing before her and then she realized he was holding a white horsetail which only the king could touch and he had royal beads around his neck even the garment he wore was meant only for the king. She suddenly realized that the man standing before her was not her lover who had disappeared into thin air, but King Adeola Adeyeye the great king of Ifokanbale.
Adeola smiled and took his seat at her table “please have your seat” Adeola said humbly but Omotayo didn’t hear him memories of how she had insulted him and called him all sort of names ran through her mind.
“How could I have been so stupid? He is the king! Second in command to the gods! What I have done?”