Mmaeze has been made the new goddess princess, a mortal worshipped as the gods. But she would rather remain a regular princess. She is in love with a common warrior in her father’s army and now their romance is a taboo.
Akunne, a powerful witch just broke loose from the watch of the Council of Witch Doctors. Shrine virgins are being molested by priests. Arochukwu fighters are marching up the hill to attack Udi. Farmers are having the poorest harvest in their era. Ifedi, a psychopath is on rampage killing young girls. Her brother, Jidenna is plotting to steal the throne from her father. Obiageli, her best friend is scheming to become the next queen of Udi. An over ambitious Obikwe desperately wants to become the most spiritually powerful person in all the land and in his quest he puts the life of everyone in the kingdom at risk.
The people expect the new goddess princess to make everything alright, but she would rather be in Izu’s manly arms, cuddling. The ancient kingdom of Udi never had it this bad, yet it seems their problems had only begun.
Obiageli made her way into the hallway from where she would connect the Prince’s chamber. A maid was walking towards her, carrying a wooden tray with a clay bowl of scented animal oil in it. Obiageli caught the fragrance before seeing the content. Just as the maid was about to walk past her, she lifted the bowl from the tray.
“The queen sent for that,” the maid cried.
“The goddess demanded for it.”
The maid stood without words. She still held up the tray as if there was something else on it.
“Go on,” Obiageli gestured in the way the maid was coming from, “go fetch another for the queen.”
She reached the entrance to the prince’s chamber and bent her knees slightly at the macho guard in front of the door. “I bear a message from the goddess princess to the prince.”
The big man did not say a word or make any gesture in response. He was lifeless for four seconds before he turned to face the door and went in. He came out less than ten seconds later to nod Obiageli in. Obiageli thought it was such a shame that such a charming hunk could not make a word out of his heavy set jaws. After she stepped into the room, she paused for a bit for the guard to shut the timber door behind her before she went further inside. Once she did, she took a moment to look around.
Three oil lamps stood on a single forked lamp stand close to the wall adjacent the entrance door. They cast brightness unto the wall decorated with chalk and coal drawings. The drawings were repeated patterns of circles and sinusoidal lines. Nothing so fancy to her senses but exotic enough to keep her in awe.
The walls were beaten and polished in the way she could tell only the finest of stone workers could have accomplished. She had lived nearly all her life in the palace but she never entered the chamber of a prince. No prince had ever liked her enough to invite her over. Perhaps princes were the only specie of men who do not find her attractive. Perhaps they thought of her as family because she was adopted as daughter by their aunt. But she was adopted at an age when no one would be in doubt of her biological lineage and her foster mother never made any impression like she was to be taken as a biological daughter. She was more of a glorified house help.
This might have been her first day inside a prince’s chamber but she was certain it wasn’t going to be her last. She took her time to admire the walls again. She wasn’t particularly awestruck. She had seen better interiors inside the king’s chamber. In fact, if you ask her, she preferred living in the king’s chamber. But then, she knew her quickest route to the king’s chamber was through the prince’s.
“Is this guest going to come in here?” Obinna’s nearly pitch devoid voice came reverberating from an inner room.
She counted her steps into his inner room and stood right at the entrance of the room. She held the clay bowl in both hands.
“What message do you bring from the goddess princess?”
She opened her mouth, left it open for two seconds and shut it back.
She wanted to move closer to him but she didn’t anyway. He stood from the chair and began to walk to her. “Are you alright?”
“The, th-th-the evening spirits deal fairly with you, my prince.”
“The goddess princess waaan..”
“Come in and sit. By the way, that smells so good.”
She entered and sat on a round carved wood that had a hollow for buttocks fit. He sat beside her on a similar chair.
“Pardon me, my prince. But I am not comfortable being inside a room alone with a man.”
“I can imagine. But please don’t be shy or scared to tell me what the goddess sent you to tell me.”
“She says you should follow your heart.”
“Follow my heart? Is that all she said?”
“She sounds like she expects you to understand what she meant.”
He shrugged, “I just might understand.”
“What is the oil for?” He nodded at the bowl by her feet.
“My prince, the goddess has been worried about you lately.”
“I cannot tell, my prince. She thinks something bothers you. Perhaps.”
“What is the oil for?”
“The goddess asked if I can help her make you happy. She is the best friend I ever have. I will fetch from the Ishu to keep her happy. I know you are a prince with so much work and burden. I have brought this oil to give you a foot massage. You will be soothed in your sleep and wake up with a bright heart in the morning. This will bring gladness in the goddess’ heart,” as she was speaking she knelt to his feet and dipped two fingers into the oil. She held his right leg with the other hand. Then she oiled the leg at the ankle, “it will be my delight to make this happen for my goddess and my prince. So please, allow me.”
“Oh Obiageli. You are such an innocent little girl.”
“Is there something I should be aware of that I am not?”
He reached his right arm towards the lamp on a table and held it over her face. “You are a beautiful girl.”
“Thank you, my prince. Are you feeling better now? Should I massage harder?”
“Please be as tender as you possibly can. And you can also move up away from the feet.”
She oiled her hand and rubbed it on his calf, sheen and knee. He put down the lamp and relaxed his back on the wall. She massaged gently and tenderly. It was tickling him and he held his lower lip between his teeth.
“Please you can move up again.”
“Your thighs? Are you sure?”
“Oil everything, massage everything, please.” He pulled his wrapper out of her way and she ran her oily hand over his left thigh. “This is what a prince deserves,” he gasped.
She stopped and stood away.
“Is anything the matter?”
“Something is sticking out from between your legs, my prince. I cannot allow myself look at it.”
The prince cast a lifeless stare at his groin. Then he looked up at Obiageli, standing four footsteps away with hand over her mouth. “Oh child. Does it scare you?”
She did not respond.
“Come back and continue what you are doing. It is working. It is making me forget my burden and if you do it so well, who knows, I might wake up with a bright heart. Is that not what you want your goddess to see?”
She did not move still.
She nodded at his groins.
“Do not allow it make you fear. It will go away.” He reclined so that more of his thigh was exposed to her.
She took slow steps to him and dipped her fingers into the oil. She knelt in front of him and pressed her two hands on his upper thighs. The scary thing did not go away nor showed any sign it would. Instead, it grew harder. But she did not run away again. She kept her eyes on it, never looking away again.
He placed his hand gently on her hair. She readjusted her head as a sign of subtle resistance of his touch. He was breathing fast. “Your press is growing weaker.”
“I am looking at it, my prince and it is making me weak in my arms.”
“I see you are liking it.”
“It is so big, my prince.”
“It wants a massage too.”
“Are you sure, my prince?”
“You are betrothed to another, my prince. I cannot do this to her.”
“No. you are doing nothing wrong.”
“Are you sure?”
“You are offering your prince an honorable service. Do it to the bottom.”
“The goddess sent me here to help you be happy again, I am not sure that includes what you are asking for. I am not sure she will be happy to hear I went out of my duty bounds. I will not like to offend her.”
“You are making me run out of patience.” He held her head firmer and pulled it closer to his groin.
She grabbed his wrapper and tore it off him in one move.
There was a loud knock on the door.
“My prince, there is an urgent matter that demands your attention.” Someone said from outside.
“Is someone dying?”
“My prince, someone is missing.”
He stood quickly. “Stay here. I want to meet you when I return.” He pulled on his leopard skin skirt and reached for his sword, put it in its sheath and made for the door.
She sat on the bare floor beside his bed and watched him leave.
A small crowd had gathered at the palace square under the udara tree. Prince Jidenna was addressing a group of palace guards. “The moonlight will help us search better. Let us assemble a full group as quickly as possible so…”
“Who is missing?” Obinna asked Jidenna directly.
“The earlier we get into the woods, the safer for her,” Jidenna continued as if he did not hear his brother.
“Has the king been informed of this case?”
“If the king has to be disturbed from his sleep for such a matter then one begins to question what he has a grown prince for.”
“This is a weighty matter that requires the…”
“Brother, you have a bulge between your loins.”
Obinna turned away slowly.
“The Aluchi wood is notorious for tiny vipers,” Jidenna continued to address the small crowd of guards gathered around him, “so we have to be careful. I only pray she wasn’t dragged away by a beast.” As he was speaking his audience of guards swelled. New guards who needed to be given the briefing afresh were whispering their questions to the others and their combined voices caused a rumbling he didn’t like. “I want a hush here now.”
A grave silence fell under the udara tree.
“I will lead this search party and we will be on our way right now.” He led by heading for the south entrance to the palace that led to the lowlands. The guards followed.
After standing aside to observe for a moment, Obinna was sure there was something wrong with this but wasn’t sure how to tackle it. Seeing them march away, he realized he had to react now or it would be late.
“I command this search party to halt.” He said.
Jidenna kept walking whether he heard or not. Some of the men stopped.
“The king has not authorized this mission. Even the chief of the king’s guards is not here. If you leave, you face the king’s punishment.”
The rest of the guards stopped and stood still where they were.
Jidenna began to walk back to meet his brother, “How can someone be missing in the kingdom and we are more interested in rules?”
“This rule can save all of us from going missing. I will get the king to come address this matter himself. Until then, everyone go out and call every other guard who isn’t here. Ganiru,” he called one of the guards, “go now and fetch the chief of King’s guards. Tell him of the emergency and tell him he is summoned to the king’s court immediately.”
Jidenna began to clap, “How honorable and royal. A subject of the king is in a desperate situation and we first of all call a council.”
Obinna ignored that and started at the court entrance. On his way, a woman ran up to him. “My prince, the queen says you should join her.”
“Where is she?” as he asked that he looked up at where the woman came from and saw another band of people, mostly women. He headed their way instantly. Sitting on the clay polished floor in front of the queen chambers were Nnedimma’s girl friends. The yellow oil lamp gleaned off their teary eyes. Though they had lost their voices, they managed to tell their tale to Obinna all afresh like they had told it to the royal women and a thousand others including guards and servants and even the rats of the palace and seven miles around it.
His hands held unto his hips as firmly as they could while he listened to the ladies cry out their strange story.
When he determined he had taken an earful and half, he reached down to help the girl on their feet one after the other. He asked for a cotton wrapper and covered each girl’s shoulders with one. Then the prince asked two guards to accompany the girls to their houses. Some women followed them. Obinna reckoned they must be relatives or even mothers who had come with them to the palace. He returned instantly to the king’s court.
His right foot had just stepped on the first step of the thirteen step granite stairwell that led unto the grand entrance door of the court when Jidenna turned away from the king and began to descend. Jidenna cut a biting left eye wink at him before he raised his voice to reassemble the guards.
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