She kept her distance from Oyelese’s wives as much as she could the day after that.
The hostility directed her way through icy stares and obvious resentment was all she could bear.
She knew she could not bear yet another assault. She refused to. She was a Princess. She was the Princess. And she refused to let their anger towards her late father treat her like dirt.
“They say you have not been eating,” she heard his voice, smelled his manly scent and felt his presence close to her. Yet, she refused to look him in the face. Asides from how her body drew to his, she wanted to hate him for everything that had become of her since she was captured by his army.
“Are you sick with any infirmity?” he asked but she ignored him. Silence fell upon them in the room, the echo of voices from the compound the only sound between them.
In her hands was a green leaf, which she rubbed together between her palms. It was a leaf which helped with protection and good fortune. She had plucked it in the compound earlier in the day and had intended to eat it after squeezing the juice in her mouth.
“You utter no response to my question.” Oyekunle said and like the first time, she ignored him. Guiding the green juice from the leaf to her mouth, she suckled on the liquid that touched her mouth in little droplets. “If you are unwell, just tell any of the women in the compound if it is embarrassing for you to say to me.” And with that, she heard him turn and leave the room.
Tossing what was left of the leaf in her mouth, she sighed in frustration before she began to chew.
Hating him was becoming more cumbersome. She had to muster more strength and find other reasons to loathe him, because, somehow, being the enemy was somehow not enough.
When Oyekunle stepped into the scorching afternoon sun, the cold response – or lack of it – that he had received from the princess in the hut he just left, irked him.
She was so stubborn, yet appealing in every way a woman could be to him.
He remembered having another woman in his bed the first night they arrived in Saki because his body was drawn to her beautiful royal body.
He remembered asking Oyelese to get him some of the best so he could select. Yet, once they got inside, shed their clothes and he buried himself inside a woman who did everything she could to pleasure him, he could not help but be immersed in the memories of the one he could not touch.
He wondered if the gods were playing a fast one on him. Or if it was a curse. Or how else could this strange manifestation be explained?
“Adebanwo,” he called to Oyelese’s youngest wife. She was pretty, her body covered with flesh in moderate proportion and her buttocks rotund like the fresh fruits of a blossoming tree.
She was Oyelese’s favorite and once, the man had secretly told him he was not taking another wife after her.
“She is my ultimate satisfaction.” He had said, his words accompanied by loud laughter.
“Adebanwo, please keep an eye on Adeola for me…” he saw the look of irritation that flashed through the woman’s face when he mentioned Adeola’s name. And even though he knew Adebanwo strongly believed she had good reason to hate, he could not help the words that came out of his mouth, “She is my guest, which makes her your husband’s guest. Treat her with respect and let me know if anything is wrong with her.”
As he sauntered past Adebanwo in search of her husband, he did not miss the look of shock on her face.
Walking past the remaining women who gathered to make lunch, he found Oyelese in his inner chamber, waiting with some of their most trusted men.
“Word has reached us from Oyo.” Oyelese said the moment he made his entrance. “They are launching an attack.”
“We’re not ready.” Oyekunle said matter-of-factly, taking his seat near Oyelese, facing the other men in the room.
“The men and I agree. And that is why we have come up with a plan.”
Oyekunle faced Oyelese, listening “We would send word to them before dusk tonight and inform them of the potential danger their princess is in.”
Oyekunle knew it was a tactic of war, one that was usually employed when things weren’t in the favour of one of the camps. It was good old blackmail.
However, he knew there was some iota of truth in the words Oyelese spoke – Adeola was a prisoner and sooner or later, they would call for her head.
The chances of her ever returning to Oyo safe was slim. She had more chances becoming a Mistress and bedding one of the highest ranking officers in his army.
She was the enemy and that was her fate. Period.
Yet, somehow, he found himself hoping she did not have to suffer that luck. But even he knew he could not do much. He might be the rightful heir to the throne but he also couldn’t make certain decisions alone.
“Ajanlekoko thinks we should send them a limb so they know we do not play.”
Oyekunle gasped when he heard the word. “You want to maim her?” he asked in utter shock. “That is absolutely unnecessary!”
“It is extreme but it would buy us time.” Oyelese said and Ajanlekoko, a mean looking macho man who Oyekunle himself had known since he was a little boy, nodded in agreement.
Legend had it that Ajanlekoko had killed a Boar, a Leopard and an Elephant before. And all, he killed with his bare hands with very little scars to show for it.
He had also fought with mighty armies in the east, the north and cities far away.
His thirst for blood was never quenched and Oyelese believed if he had been in Saki when Oyo took siege of the town, they wouldn’t have killed as many as they did.
Oyekunle thought Ajanlekoko was a sucker for human blood and one who should be put on leash. His thirst for blood and constant longing for war was sometimes inexplicable.
And he also knew, that Ajanlekoko was responsible for the bizarre suggestion Oyelese just made.
“Oba lola, if we send them her toe, they will know we are not jesting. And while they decide what to do next, we strike.” Ajanlekoko hit his hands together, an eerie smile on his face.
“I don’t think that is a good idea. No need to maim their princess to prove a point.” Oyekunle said and the room broke into murmurs.
Oyelese faced him, “This is war, we’re not supposed to be reasonable, ‘Kunle.” He said, trying to convince the man he regarded as his own brother. “Besides, Oyo has won a battle here before, if we give them an edge over us again, we would never recover from the loss.”
“I know. But I still maintain my stance on the matter.”
“Sentiments are tactics that do not work in war,” Ajanlekoko began to say, the look of displeasure on his face as clear as day. “If we do not strike now, we could be dead by morning.”
“Sending the body parts of their Princess is not a tactic either. What is to say they will not attack you for maiming one of their own? It is no news that Oyo does not play with its royal blood.” Oyekunle countered. He stood, “Let us reassemble when we have useful tactics.” He said finally and walked away.
When he stepped out, Adeola was sitting under the sun, looking bored.
“You should not sit in the sun for long,” he said to her.
She pursed her lips and said to him stubbornly, “You may have taken me prisoner temporarily, but you have no right to tell me what to do.”
“I apologize for looking out for you, your royal highness” he said with mockery.
“I do not care for that. Now mind your business and be on your way.”
He shrugged, began to walk past her when she spoke to him again, “Keeping me here is foolish but I guess you have plans. So tell me, what are your plans for me?”
His eyebrows knitted in a frown, “I am actually supposed to tell you that?”
She shrugged, “I’m already here, you wouldn’t be losing anything if you did.”
When he saw the seriousness on her face, his lips broke into a smile. “You are serious.”
What Captor discussed his plans with his Prisoner?
“Are you going to kill me?” Adeola inquired.
He paused for a few seconds before he told her, “No.” at least his men hadn’t decided to do that.
When she sighed, his heart sunk. She thought he was going to murder her? Why would she think that?
You killed her father, moron.
And when he was reminded by his head what he had done to her father, he realized why she felt she was unsafe with him.
She lowered her eyes and muttered, “thank you.”
He squatted before her, held himself back from touching her, his gaze on her beautifully sculpted face “You are safe with me.”
She scoffed, “Don’t feel the need to make me feel better. I don’t need you to.”
“I am not trying to make you feel better…”
You most definitely are, Oyekunle.
He sighed, “See, we have not decided what to do with you yet…”
Her eyes shot up in horror, “You are deciding what to do with me?”
“Deciding like… like what to do with a goat?”
“No… not like that…”
“That means I could actually be killed!”
With that one, he kept quiet.
Her eyes widened, she was horrified. “Are you going to maim me?” she whispered.
“I need you to inhale and exhale, Princess.” This time, he placed his hand gently on her shoulder. But when his hand came in contact with her skin she jumped, shoving him off her.
“You are going to maim me and you need me to breathe?! You animal!”
She had drawn attention to them now, her eyes filled with tears.
He whirled around and saw Oyelese looking at them, his face expressionless. The Princess stormed off, her cries stifled.
Oyekunle’s heart sank again. He wished she was not caught up in the animosity. However, at this point, it would be a miracle if she escaped unscathed.
“You are not an emotional man, Oyekunle. That is something only women should be left to feel.” Oyelese spoke the words like feeling emotions was a ridiculous thing for a man.
Sometimes, he wondered if men and women were so different, they could not afford to do things attributed only to one of them.
It was ridiculous to him but it was the way the human race worked, clearly.
“The Princess is a tool of war. We have to use her.”
Oyelese’s words resonated in his mind.
It was not because it had to be the truth, it was because as things were, it was the truth. It was the truth his men had chosen to live by.
“We do not have to. If we did not have her, we would have chosen another option.” He countered.
“But we have her. The tides have turned in our favor.” Oyelese argued. “Think about it, brother. We need to use what we have and she is what we have.”
Oyekunle watched Oyelese march away, his mind troubled.
If he did not find a way out before the sun set, the beautiful princess he found appealing for some strange reason was going to lose a part of her.
And he did not want her to, the only person he wanted her to lose herself to was him.
ODE ORUN 👑
Osun sat in her throne room, her eyes on the waters outside her chamber. When the sun set, she was traveling from Ode Orun to the world below. She was going to dwell with the humans in human form without most of the powers she possessed until she found a solution to the problems they faced.
She smiled at the irony of becoming a god and still not possessing the absolute powers.
Shouldn’t she be able to wave away the troubles and pains her people faced just by waving a magic wand from the heavens?
Yet she couldn’t. Her powers were limited somehow and she had to travel to the Earth to fix the problems of her worshippers.
You’re the goddess of love and fertility. You must go and restore love in the land where hate now lies and bring again the joy of painless birth.
She sighed. She loved her people but Olodumare’s instructions had been clear; “You have to find a way to bring love back into the hearts of the people. If it is induced, then it is not real.”
“But how do I do that? How do I bring love into the hearts of people who loathe themselves so much?”
“If I told you, then it wouldn’t be a job.”
Now, she had to travel and make it happen.
“Take me with you.”
The annoying devil was around again. She rolled her eyes in frustration.
“Olodumare was clear.”
Olodumare had been clear, Osun was going to travel with Oba. She had refused to think about it since she was told. Even now, she liked to believe that was not her reality.
Traveling with her arch enemy? What a joke.
“You do not even like Oba.”
“I don’t like you either.”
Esu was in front of her, a sinister smile on his face.
“Try your trick all you want but you do not travel with me. Besides, the people in the world could do without the devil amongst them.”
He drew his brows together, his lips puckered. “That is unfair, they love me. I decide their fate.”
“The ultimate reason you’re hated.”
“I would give it one last try.” He said to her but she ignored him and only resumed thinking about her journey when she figured he had vanished as quickly as he came.
When the sun set, she was ready. All she had packed was a petite calabash, one painted white and which contained two cowries.
Remember, those cowries can never be used unless you are in a fix.
A real fix.
Again, she nodded as the breeze brought Olodumare’s echoing voice to her where she stood at the entrance of Ode Orun.
Oba was by her side, an uninterested look on her face.
Osun held back the urge to hiss. Did she think she wanted her to come on the journey with her?
Earlier when she had asked Olodumare why she had to go to the Earth with her arch enemy, the response had been clear;
You cannot restore love when you don’t have it. You only give what you have.
As much as she knew that was true, she was not certain if she and Oba could ever find love.
Sango joined them where they stood but he made sure he was spaces away. He spoke no words and betrayed no emotion.
His two wives were being sent on a journey and he had no control over it. Osun knew he sulked deep down but he dared not show it to Olodumare.
Osun and Oba stood side by side, both set their gazes on the tall white gates of Ode Orun, waiting for it to open unto them.
Her heart was beating fast and her throat had run dry; an irony because she was the one who lived beneath the waters. Yet, now she knew dryness inside of her.
Hold your hands, it will be a tumultuous flight.
Without looking at each other, the two goddesses held hands, both unwilling to tighten her grip on the other.
And for some reason, as they stepped into the clouds behind the gates, Osun felt something was not right.
When the clouds gave way beneath their feet and they fell into the earth, both tightened their grip on each other without being told.
Osun hadn’t realized falling was so scary.
However, it was when she hit her waters on the earth that the second surprise hit her.
The person she had traveled with was not Oba, it was Esu.