The tales of the night he was born presented itself to his memory like a well prepared feast as he neared his home in Tede.
It had been said, that on the day his mother brought him into the world, thunder had struck for the first time in many years, followed by heavy downpour of rain.
He had been termed special and a rare gift from the gods. Because until then, there had not been a drop of rain from the Heavens and drought had killed many in the land prior to his miraculous birth.
The goddess of fertility and of rain, Osun, had bestowed him upon the people of Oyo.
“You were our savior” His mother had told him many times, as he grew into a strong young man. Every morning, she sang his oriki and just before he went ahead for the day’s task, she always said to him that one day, he would bring revenge on the enemies of his father and father’s father and he would lead the people of Tede back to the throne of their fathers.
Oyekunle had grown up with vengeance planted in him, watered by the reminder he heard from his mother and Uncles and every member of Tede Village.
He had grown into a man who longed for the day he drove his knife into the heart of the man who betrayed his grandfather. The man, who was supposed to be his grandfather’s right hand.
“Adesoji dug his knife into your grandfather’s back without mercy” his mother said one night, her hands shedding Egusi seeds in front of their hut in Tede. Standing in front of them on a wooden stool was a little fire, held by a small iron stand. It shone brightly, chasing away insects and providing light for them in the darkness. “Your father and I had just gotten married, we were expecting you my son” her eyes looked into the fire in front of them; Oyekunle was accustomed to the dreamy look in her eyes whenever she spoke of his late father, Oyewale.
“He had chosen me out of all the maidens in the Village even though the Princess of Ife had high hopes of being his Queen.” She smiled wistfully, shrugged before she continued, “But for some reason, his eyes caught me when I was on my way to the stream one morning with my sisters.”
“Did he talk to you immediately?” Oyekunle had asked one time, because he knew his mother liked to talk about his father. It was the only time her eyes shone brighter than the full moon and laughter danced on her lips like a professional would to the beats of the Bata drum.
Oyekunle loved to see his mother happy. So he always asked about his father because he knew that made her happy.
“He did” she said, bit her lower lip and continued. “He told his Guards to call me” she giggled like a young maiden, shook her head before she continued. “I did not want to answer him o. I did not know that which he wanted but you know, you cannot say no to the Prince of the whole Oyo Kingdom. So I went to meet him and I greeted him, my knees not afraid to wed the gritty sand that led to the stream”
“He asked for your name?”
She nodded. “He told me I was beautiful and he wanted to see me again. He invited me to the Palace and you see, my son, he sent the best Adire through his Palace guards to me that day so I can wear before seeing him.” She poured the clean Egusi seeds into a wooden bowl near her. “My sisters wove my hair into neat Patewo and adorned it with beads. By the time your father and I met, he had already fallen in love with me”
“And you loved him too”
The smile on her face widened, her eyes filled with so much love, Oyekunle wondered if it was in his destiny to make any woman that happy in his lifetime. It was his destiny to revenge his father and his grandfather’s death but maybe it was not his destiny to make a woman happy.
“I loved him very much” she lowered her eyes, “I loved him with my heart and my soul. But Adesoji took that away from us” a certain coldness had crept into her eyes now. Hate filled her beautiful eyes as she spoke of the man who had betrayed her husband and his own father, led the Akangun against the Alaafin and stabbed him in his sleep.
“On the night you were to be born, Adesoji brought to the Palace the whole Akangun. He was a coward you know?” she said to her son, “He did not even wait for the Alaafin to wake so he could look him in the eye before sending him on a sojourn to the great beyond. He just drove his knife into his chest and shed his blood while he lay asleep with his Olori” She grabbed his hands and said, “You must get back what is ours, Oyekunle my son. Oyo is ours and you must get it back for us, for the loyal followers of your father, for me and for your father who was murdered like a goat while trying to save his Kingdom”
And like that, every single night and day, the drums of vengeance was beaten for him to hear, drummed into his ears so all he could think of was get back the great Kingdom which used to belong to his father and his father’s father.
It was almost morning when he arrived at Tede. The first Cock had just crowed and the darkness was giving signs of giving way to day.
He disembarked from his Horse, tied it to the big Tree that sat in his mother’s compound and ambled towards his Hut.
It had been a tiring ride back home but he reveled in the fulfillment of the first step of his revenge mission.
He had dug a knife through the chest of the King like he had his own grandfather years before. Now, he was going to gather his army, which had been undergoing training for years just for the purpose of the impending war and he was going to strike while they mourned their dead Kabiyesi.
He had not snuck in on them because he was a coward like their Prince, he had snuck in on them because he did not want them to see their attack coming.
It was a strategy sold to him by his mother.
“You are not sneaking up on them because your hands are not skilled in war, you are sneaking up on them so the battle can be won with less casualties on our side. And because Adesoji killed your father’s father in his bed.” She had said after preparing dinner for him three moons before. He had been sitting with his Uncles and members of the Army he was leading into Oyo when his mother had served his hot Amala and steamy ewedu with several pieces of goat meat.
She had been serving the others when she told him the reason he was not going to war directly.
Oyekunle had initially dismissed the idea. He did not believe sneaking up on a King who murdered his father was a great move, he had not trained years under the rain and in the sun just so he could move like a Robber on the day he set out to kill their enemy.
However, he always listened to his mother.
Besides, his men had acquiesced.
He had barely settled into his bed when he heard his mother’s voice. She pulled the mat that shielded the door aside and strolled in.
From her eyes, he could tell that she barely slept.
“My Son” she called. Retrieving the bloodied knife from his pouch, he showed his mother. She beamed in satisfaction. “May the gods of your Ancestors never depart from you as you have revenged your father’s father and your father’s death”
“May they guide you as you ascend the throne of your forefathers”
When she was done praying for him, she said, “Now go to bed, Kabiyesi. We have a lot to discuss in the morning”
He slept not long after she had left and dreamt of his coronation that night.
The wiggling of waists belonging to several beautiful maidens, their hips adorned with beautiful beads as they danced to the beats of the drummers who made music for his coronation was particularly his favorite.
Breasts juggling, waists wriggling, bodies glistening with sweat under the hot sun and feet adorned with bright beads digging into the full sand in front of the Palace, it was exactly what he intended to have planned when the time came.
There was also merriment; palmwine generously shared, meats from the great hunters served and several prominent people paying obeisance as he reclaimed the throne that had always belonged to his family.
So it was no surprise that the next morning, when the sun rose, he, Oyekunle, rose with gladness and overwhelming joy. In fact, he wore his joy like an Agbada as he went in search of his mother before going to hunt for an animal.
When he finally became king, he intended to have time for his hunt. He enjoyed hunting; finding for himself a good Deer or Antelope for meat. The sport was one of his favorite things to do and it was known amongst his kinsmen that he delighted in having his arrow shot into the belly of a robust animal while in the Forest.
He also loved to kill Leopards and Lions. Making clothes from their skin was something that brought joy to him and what he loved to adorn himself with while he went for battles for the Village of Tede.
Stretching as the morning sun welcomed him to his yard, he yawned before marching towards his mother’s hut.
The young maidens that came to help his mother out took turns to greet him, each lowering her head as they told him good morning.
It was a taboo to look the Prince of Oyo in the face and even though they had migrated to Tede years after his father was killed, he still got the royal treatment.
He found his mother supervising a young girl packing her clothes, ready to take it to the River for washing.
The girl greeted him, her eyes lowered, before she packed the clothes; which included his own dirty laundry, and headed for the River.
“Oko mi, did you sleep well?” His mother asked, her hands placed tenderly on his shoulders.
“I did. E kaaro maami”
“Kaaro oko mi” she spread her hand towards her room, “I have prepared your breakfast and I would have had one of the girls brought it to you as usual but like I said, I have some things I want to discuss with you”
She led him to her room; a haven of royalty. The room was large, adorned with Adire which cost several cowries to purchase, every space was covered with the material, even the floor.
Horsetails decorated the mud wall, skin of Lions and Leopards hanging beautifully near the horsetails.
They were also handcrafted calabash inspired designs which had been hung with a nail on the wall, his mother’s royal beads hanging close to them.
She had told him once that the room was reminiscent of her room at the Palace in Oyo.
However, as Oyekunle stepped his bare feet into his mother’s room that morning, he realized it was not just food waiting for him. There, sitting on the bed, near the steamy Ogi and Akara spread out for him by his mother, was a beautiful maiden, clad in a seemingly new pair of Iro and Buba.
She fell on her knees the moment he entered the room.
“Her name is Peju” his mother began to say, “She is the woman you will marry and make your Queen in Oyo”
Oyekunle did not have a problem with being handed a wife like the head of a goat on a Platter. However, he knew how tradition worked and it did not work this way.
“Peju, please give my mother and I room to talk privately”
The timid girl hurried out of the room, leaving him and his mother facing each other.
“Maami, are you not supposed to go and see her Parents first? Send people from here to her family to find out secrets they might be hiding and also, finding an Alarina to deliver messages? Why are you not following tradition?” He inquired, his mother smiled.
“Do you not remember the story I told you of how your father and I met? You are a King, you do not follow tradition, You make tradition”
Before he could argue, she continued, “Listen Oyekunle, her family would not decline our proposal; we are royalty. So at this point, the question is, do you want to marry her or should we find someone else? I have checked her waist, they are strong enough to carry children. She also seems to possess a grace I have not seen around here so she would wear her crown well as the Olori.”
Oyekunle was still not satisfied with the arrangement. He knew his mother wanted him to take a wife. A wife who would birth the Heirs of the Kingdom he was to rule. But there were a lot of things waiting to be done.
And he intended to take his bride the right way when he was ready.
It was what the Alaafin did.
It was what he was going to do.
“Maami, there is a war waiting to be won. We will discuss this after we have taken the Kingdom of my fathers” he was about to make his exit when his mother’s voice stopped him.
“My son, I am aware of the war ahead. But marriage to this girl will guarantee us some of the weapons in her father’s arsenal”
“Yes, you heard me. Her father is Orisajagun”
“Hmm…” Oyekunle sighed. He saw the advantage in the alliance. However, they had prepared well for the battle ahead and they could do without Orisajagun’s Arsenal for now.
“I know you think we have everything under total control now, my son. But look at it, what do we stand to lose if we have this girl’s father giving us all he has?” His mother said to him.
“I see where you are coming from, Maami. But still, let us discuss this later. We have no need for Orisajagun’s arsenal at the moment” he turned to go when his mother called him back. But this time, his mind was made up. “I have to go, Maami” he said and marched out.
His army was waiting for him to command them and lead them into the battle to Oyo that night.
They were going to strike while the iron was still hot; attack the Kingdom and kill the current heir to the throne and everyone who took sides with the now late Alaafin against his own Grandfather.
Pain seared through him as his feet hit the ground outside his mother’s hut, he staggered and found his balance before he turned.
Standing before him, ready to make another attack was the Princess of Oyo Kingdom, the daughter to the Alaafin he had just murdered.
Raising her fist in the air, she lunged, ready for another attack. This time, he ensured she missed. Grabbing her hands with one of his, he shoved her against the wall, snatched the beads off her wrist and tied both hands behind her.
“Thank you for making my job easy, Princess. Now your brother and his allies have no option but to surrender”
Dragging her with him, he threw her across his shoulders and ambles towards the dungeon.