She walked with the elegant stride of a gazelle. Her head of luxurious black hair carries a delicate oval face which sits on a long graceful slim neck. Her supple black skin glows under the fading evening sun, her lean young and curvy body moved with feline agility.
‘Call for an emergency meeting of……………………………….,’ King Joppa lost the trail of his thought as his eyes fell on her.
The palace secretary, Pious looked back towards the direction of the King’s gaze, but saw no one excerpt palace workers at work.
‘Wh …who is she?’ The King asked, his eyes still fixated on the spot where she departed.
‘Who is who my King?’Asked Pious.
‘I want to see the maiden,’ said the King Joppa pointing towards the path where she walked moments ago, their earlier conversation forgotten as the royal carriage began to move away.
‘What about the emergency meeting of council members?’ Pious asked, but the King was already out of earshot.
He smiled. One great weakness of King Joppa is his eye for beautiful maidens. With his ill health and advancing age, one would think the first man of the ancient Bantu Kingdom would have rested his wild oats.
The aging King sometimes acts senile – instructing a man to look for a maiden he had never sets his eyes on. Looking about him for the last time, Pious sets out towards the Palace harem. Dofa, the Harem chief would definitely have an idea of who the unknown maiden is.
She stretched out her long delicate arms and whirled around the living room. Her brisk walk around the palace definitely paid off. She smiled, hoped to have encountered the prince, the heir to the throne of the Bantu kingdom, but fate decided otherwise and threw her in the path of the king.
Her plan worked far beyond her original intention. He noticed me! She gasped with excitement. According to the old saying, Beauty is vain, but like bees to honey, are men drawn to and fascinated by the tempting allure of a beautiful woman.
She has always been aware of the effect of her looks on men since her fourteenth birthday. That was four years ago, but she never imagined that the King will be completely awestruck and swept off his feet as he was today.
Idanni had cursed the horrible old tradition of her kingdom which compels unengaged maidens who have reached the ripe age of eighteen to enter into the palace harem and become the king’s concubine. None of the gawky boys interested her spirited and fiery nature. She shuddered at the thought of living the life of most village girls – get married to some boring farm boy and raise a house full of kids.
She is acutely conscious of her uniqueness and destination to greatness. Maidens of her age group talk about falling in love with some farm or shepherd boy and ending up as a farmer’s wife.
She grimaced at the horrible thought. Her eighteenth birthday is fast approaching and no man interested her. Her mother has continually pleaded with her to pick one of the boys flocking around her and get married.
‘I rather be a harem concubine than be a farmer’s wife,’ Idana had replied.
Her mother had gasped in horror. ‘You have no idea of what you wish for dear child,’ she took a few steps closer to Idanni and intently held her gaze.
‘A Palace concubine lives like the queen as long as the King is alive, but the duration of her reign lies on her skill to hold the King’s attention for a considerable time period. At his death, the concubines are shaven and kept in isolation until their deaths. A lot of plotting, bickering, politicking and hateful competitions take place at the harem. Once the king gets fascinated by a fresh face, all others are displaced. Many young girls die at the heat of such fierce competitions, blinding jealousy, hatred and fury. The pace of life in the harem is not for the weak minded, deaths occurring daily either by strangulation or poisoning.’
Unfazed by her mother’s frightening tale, Idanni smiled, felt the faint stirrings of excitement. Her eyes flicked over her mother’s face. Advancing age did not hide the face men had lined up to pay homage to decades ago.
Father was one of the valiant warriors of Bantu Kingdom who perished in battle. Mother had since ceased living after his death, her vacant eyes; a pathetic evidence of a life waiting to die. All she does is fill her days with the fading memories of the true love she had shared with her deceased husband. Love is laden with spikey thorns which cruelly stings the heart of those foolish enough to fall victim.
Idanni looked at herself in the golden mirror, one of the spoils of war her father was bestowed with. Love is for the weak minded, and not for me, it should rather be used as a means to an end.
‘I will be entering into the palace’s harem in a few days, but that is just the first step to my destination,’ she said, her long slim hands resting on her rounded hips.
‘The king is aged and probably has five more years to live. After his death, all his concubines are shaven and go into isolation to the end of their days, never to see the sunlight and take in breadths of fresh air. Many die within two years of such isolation. Is that the life you envisage for yourself?’
Idanni frowned. That bit of information is new and scary. Her mother watched as she paced the living room, deep in thought. She hoped the young lady would make the decision to preserve her life.
‘I will go into the harem, enjoy the best of this kingdom until the king dies, ‘Idanni replied, her look intense.
Her mother stared, her mouth hanged opened wide in shock. ‘What about the danger in the harem?’
Idanni turned to face her mother, the look on her eyes bone chilling.
‘I will be the threat at the harem, I will destroy all opponents like a potter’s vessel, I will rule with an iron hand, ‘her full lips parted to accommodate a grin, which made her appear like the evil goddess in an old fairy tale, ‘I will win over the king’s heart and body until he becomes a mere toy in my hands.’
Horrified, her mother starred at the emotionless young woman. She almost could not recognize her daughter any longer. She began to wonder what must have happened to turn her little girl into this cold statue.
‘Should you survive the battle in the harem, what do you do if the king dies unexpectedly?’
She flashed one of her beautiful smiles. This time, her face is soft and demure.
‘After the king’s death, fate will teach me what to do.’ With that, the young woman stepped out of the room, her mother’s anxious eyes following after her.