QUEEN OF THE FOREST AND OTHER STORIES
By Sanni-Kamal Aminat
Published by Sanni-kamal Aminat at Shakespir
Copyright 2016 Sanni-kamal Aminat
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Shakespir.com or your favorite retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is dedicated to every strong woman who knows her worth…
QUEEN OF THE FOREST
Olu smiled as she slowly opened her eyes. She did not want to wake up, but the smell of the aftermath of rain and the beautiful chirping of birds was too sweet for her to ignore. The sun was up; it was time for her to rise. She jumped down from her home; the Iroko tree, and felt the soil soft and moist under her feet. First, she needed a bath. And then, she would find fresh leaves to make a new dress; her old one had dried up.
Squirrels jumped about, birds chirped, snakes rattled, it was another beautiful day in the forest. She took a dive into the river and let the fresh water seep into her body, washing off the dirt on her dark brown skin. There was something about the river that made her unnaturally happy apart from the fact that it made her clean.
She got out of the river only to be greeted by an awfully quiet forest. The forest that had been alive only minutes ago had been thrown into a state of silent mourning. The birds no longer chirped, the snakes stopped rattling, there were no squirrels about. Even the sun seemed dull. She walked to the nearest tree and climbed it, and then swung from tree to tree checking up on each of them, to see if they were sick and needed healing; she was after all, their healer and their protector.
As she swung from tree to tree, she heard strange sounds, it was not the wind. The wind was a good friend and she knew her voice well, so what could the noise be. The sound grew louder; it meant she was getting close. And then she saw it, the machine that was destroying her home. A tear rolled down her cheek as a tree fell to join hundreds of others.
Boluwatife Olaonipekun stood in front of the mirror in the small apartment she shared with her roommate. Her roommate had not resumed from the holidays yet, so she was free to do whatever she liked. She stood naked in front of the mirror, staring at herself in disgust. She hated everything about her body, her nose was too big, her breasts too small, her complexion too dark; everything about her wasn’t right. That was why Dayo took her for granted; because she was ugly. She was very sure he was cheating on her, otherwise why hadn’t he come to see since her arrival yesterday.
He was seeing someone else, she was sure of it. She had caught him several times, eyeing her roommate, Titi. Bolu wished she was as beautiful as Titi, her light skinned roommate who had a pointed nose. Most people thought Titi was biracial, with her abnormally long hair and beautiful skin. But, Titi was a full blooded Nigerian, just like her. Bolu hated her roommate so much; she wished Titi wouldn’t come back to school, so she could have the whole room and her boyfriend to herself. A little voice in her head told her that her anger and hatred towards Titi was unjustified, but Bolu ignored it. She needed to hate someone, she needed someone to blame for her problems.
Bolu picked up her towel from where she tossed it after she came out of the bathroom, and wrapped it around her chest and smiled. The good news was that the University had finally resumed, she was rid of the torturous four months break. The holidays had been terrible for her, the only friends she had were her course mates, and they all lived in different cities. She wasn’t allowed to go out, or receive phone calls after 10 PM. Sometimes, she was tempted to yell at her parents to remind them that she was an adult, and was entitled to some amount of freedom. But, you just don’t try that kind of thing with African parents.
But now, school had resumed and her life was back. She hung her towel on the bathroom door and changed into a pink bum shorts and yellow crop top. She decided she would not call him first; calling him first would make her look desperate and insecure. So instead, she picked up the romance novel she started reading the previous night. After a few minutes of turning and tossing and changing reading positions on her bed, she decided to stop deceiving herself and picked up her phone.
He answered on the third ring, “Hey baby, what’s up?”
“Oh, so you know you have a baby somewhere abi? You want to tell me you don’t know I’m in town, why didn’t you come to see me yesterday?” Bolu feigned anger, but she was already melting at the sound of his voice.
“I’m so sorry babe; I was a little busy at work.”
“So it has come to this abi? You didn’t see me for four whole months, and now that I’m in town. You are too busy for me”
“Please don’t start; I’ll make up it up to you. Get dressed I’m coming to pick you up.”
Bolu couldn’t contain her excitement, as she hung up. She jumped off her bed and began ransacking her wardrobe, she wanted to look sexy and yet she had to look decent otherwise someone would stone her on the street. That was the major problem she had with the University City, she couldn’t dress the way she wanted.
She finally settled for a little forest-green dress, she did her make up as fast as she could, brushed out her weaves, put on a little perfume. Thirty minutes later, there was a knock on the door and he was just in time, because she had just finished touching up her make up.
Dayo eyed her seductively. She was so beautiful; if only she knew it.
“I’m ready, so where are we going?” Bolu asked, trying to hide her nervousness. They have been dating for over two years; still, she was nervous when she was around him. Dayo was tall, dark skinned, and very handsome. He had a dimple on his left cheek that deepened anytime he talked or smiled. He was the perfect example of perfect; she just wasn’t good enough for him.
“I changed my mind, we are not going anywhere.” Dayo said as he closed the door with his foot, and walked towards her.
Bolu couldn’t hide her disappointment, “then why did you make me go through the trouble of dressing up, if we are not going anywhere?”
“Babe you need to relax, we haven’t seen each other in four months and I don’t want to spend this moment with outsiders. So, it’s just going to be you and me.” He said, as he slipped his hands around her small waist and pulled her close. “You have no idea how beautiful are, do you?”
“But…” Dayo silenced her protest with a light kiss on the lips. “You worry too much.” His hands slipped from her waist to her breasts and he kissed her again, this time it was deeper and intense. Bolu couldn’t remember when he unzipped her dress, or how they got to the bed.
“This is Titi’s bed” she said, as she tried to catch her breath.
“What Titi doesn’t know won’t hurt her.” He managed to say as he unclasped her bra. From that moment on, Bolu could not think of anything else, it was just her and Dayo in the whole world.
Bolu loved everything about school, except the lectures. She was in her final year, and it was time to be serious if she didn’t want to spend an extra year in school. But, all that occupied her mind was Dayo and when he was going to propose to her. She had goals, she wanted to be a writer and an actress and she was actually very good at both. But, her parents would not hear of it, she could be anything but an actress. So, here she was studying political science with no idea what to do with her life. It was one of the reasons she hated her roommate, the girl wanted to be dancer, a choreographer. Her parents did not allow it, and forced her to study law. But, Titi had the courage to go for dance competitions and actually win them. “It’s the twenty- first century for goodness sake! You need to take a bold step and follow your dreams.” Dayo always said to her.
She walked into the lecture room; it was filled up as usual. There were more students than the lecture room could handle. But, she had no worries, her friends, Chioma and Adeola already saved up a seat for her.
“Hey girls, is the lecturer not coming?” She asked as she sat beside them.
“I don’t know, the course rep said he was going to call him.” Chioma answered and returned to her conversation with the Adeola.
“Adeola I love your ring, it’s so nice. Where did you get it?” Bolu complimented her. That was what she did whenever she felt ignored.
“Oh, I got it from Ibadan on my way back to school. It’s very nice, isn’t it?” Adeola grinned as she answered.
“Of course it is” Bolu replied. And with that Adeola and Chioma returned to their conversation, ignoring her again.
Bolu decided to ignore them, but deep down she was hurt. They do it all the time; they leave her out of their conversations. It was because she wasn’t as pretty or as rich as they were, but at least her boyfriend was richer than theirs. Dayo always said doesn’t need friends like them, to let go of them. But, she didn’t have the courage to do so; she wasn’t good at making friends. The voice in her head told her it was better to be lonely than to have friends like them but as usual, she ignored it.
“Oh My God! What is Agnes wearing?” Chioma exclaimed. And, the whole class burst out laughing. In Bolu’s opinion, there was nothing wrong with what Agnes wore. But, she laughed along because her friends considered it terrible. Agnes was a nice girl, but she didn’t have any friends. If she ditched her friends now, she would be just like Agnes. And the last thing she wanted was to be like Agnes.
“Announcement class, the lecturer won’t come today.” The course representative announced.
“I can’t believe this; I just got dressed and wasted transport fare for nothing.” Bolu complained amidst the scrambling of seats as everyone tried to leave the class at the same time.
“Don’t mind these lecturers. He should have called the course rep to inform him before, we came to class.” Chioma said.
“At least now we have time to go to that place we wanted to go.” Adeola said.
“What place, can I come along? I have nothing to do at home, and I don’t have any other class today.” Bolu asked.
“I’m sorry; you know what they say that three is a crowd.” Adeola answered.
“Oh alright, you could at least drop me off at my place.” Bolu said, trying to hide her disappointment and hurt.
“Of course, why not” Chioma answered.
As if the day couldn’t get any worse, by the time she got home, Titi was hanging her clothes in the wardrobe.
“Yaay! You are back; I’ve missed you so much!” Titi said with a lot of excitement, and made to give Bolu a hug. But, Bolu just walked past her as if she didn’t see her. She didn’t hide the fact that she hated her roommate.
“What did I do to make you hate me this much? You’ve never liked me” Titi asked
“Thank God you know I don’t like you, so stop trying to be friends with me!” Bolu snapped and entered the bathroom. Now that Titi had returned, she had to keep a close eye on Dayo.
Ever since Titi returned, Bolu had not seen Dayo. Though he called her every day, his constant excuse for not seeing her was work. She knew managing a club and his other businesses was time consuming, but, he also had to make time for her. He was having an affair with Titi, she was sure of it. Titi was always going out, the other day when her phone rang; she went into the bathroom to receive it. She never did that before.
Bolu couldn’t hold it in anymore. She was going to see Dayo whether he liked it or not. She went outside to get some eggs for breakfast. And just as she got outside the gate, her biggest fear was confirmed.
“What were you doing in my boyfriend’s car?” Bolu yelled at Titi who had just alighted from Dayo’s car.
“Hey babe, I was coming to see you” Dayo smiled, as he answered. Titi already knew trouble was coming, so she slipped away while Bolu was glaring angrily at Dayo.
“You were coming to see me abi? So what was Titi doing in your car?” She asked angrily.
“What are you talking about? I saw her on my way here and picked her up, what’s the big deal?”
“What’s the big deal?” Bolu repeated “You see no big deal in cheating on me with my roommate?” She said at the very top of her voice.
“Please don’t create a scene. I don’t know what is wrong with you; I’ll come back when you calm down.” Dayo tried to enter his car, but Bolu pulled him back. “You are trying to run away from the truth, I’ve seen the way you look at her. You’ve been attracted to her from the very first day you saw her, because she’s more beautiful than I am. I knew it; I was just too stupid to admit it.” She continued to yell, not minding the fact that people were staring.
“What?” Dayo closed his eyes and sighed “I’ve had enough of this, I’ve had enough of your insecurities, and I’m tired of it. You call me several times a day just to keep a check on me, even after I just left your place, I don’t even enjoy having sex with you because you are so bloody self-conscious. I can’t do this anymore Bolu, It is over!” Dayo yelled back, and sped off, leaving Bolu shocked.
Days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, Dayo was truly gone. It affected Bolu so badly that she lost the little self-esteem she had. She stopped going to classes, and stayed in bed all day. At first her friends tried to help out of her misery, but they got tired and left her alone. She contemplated suicide but, she didn’t have the courage to do it. Everything she lived for was gone; she found out too late that Titi was not having an affair with her boyfriend.
“Are you just going to continue living your life like this?” Titi asked in the angriest voice she could muster. “So because you got dumped by a guy, you think it’s the end of the world?”
“Titi please, stop shouting, I have a headache” Bolu pleaded and raised the covers over her head.
“Why won’t you have a headache? When you stay in bed all day doing nothing, your body is screaming at you to get up and make use of it.”
“Titi, please leave me alone. You have the perfect life, I’m the loser so let me lose in peace.”
“I’m sorry, I can’t let you lose.” Titi replied in a gentler tone and sat down on the bed beside her.
“I know you hate me, because you think I’m beautiful and I have my life under control. You are wrong, I don’t have a perfect life, and I’m insecure about a lot of things.”
“You are?” Bolu asked, as she slowly lifted the covers.
“Yes I am, but I don’t let it weigh me down. When I was younger, every friend I made left me whenever they meet someone new, it made me feel unwanted. But I made the decision to love myself and if they don’t want to be friends with me, then that’s their problem. I know it’s easier said than done, it’s a long journey but slowly you will get there.”
“You think so? My friends abandoned me; Dayo said a lot of hurtful things to me, I….”
“Then why don’t you show Dayo and your friends that you are better and stronger than they think you are. To do that, you need to get out of bed and this apartment. My friends and I are going to the club tonight and I would like you to come with us.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea, I don’t know how to make new friends.”
“Then you are going to learn, now get up from this bed.”
Bolu reluctantly sat up on the bed, “my God, you look a mess” Titi said, “let’s get you cleaned up.”
“I’m sorry for the way I treated you all these years, you are the true friend I needed.”
“Oh come on, don’t be like that” Titi hugged her, and Bolu began to cry.
With Titi’s help, Bolu began to appreciate herself more. She started attending classes again, finally had the courage to ditch her friends and even became friends with Agnes. The hardest part was getting over Dayo, because she had built her whole world around him. She took Dayo’s advice to take a bold step and she auditioned for a stage play.
“How did it go?” Titi asked with enthusiasm.
Bolu smiled, “I didn’t get the lead role I wanted, but I got a part.” She answered.
“I told you. All you had to do was try.” Titi jumped in happiness and hugged Bolu.
“Congratulations!” Bolu heard a familiar voice say from behind.
“What is going on here?” Bolu asked, looking from Dayo to Titi.
Titi smiled and said, “He’ll explain everything to you, I’ll be at home. There will be a party waiting for you, so get home early.” Titi bounced off and disappeared into the crowd.
“Wait… where are you…” But Titi was already gone.
“Before you say anything, let me apologise. I’m sorry about those hurtful words I said, I really do enjoy having sex with you. You are not self-conscious at all in that aspect. That day when we fought, I was really hurt when you said Titi was prettier than you. In my eyes, no one is more beautiful than you. I just couldn’t stand the way you always put yourself down and let your insecurities take over, I couldn’t stand the way you let those girls you call your friends, treat you as if you are not important.”
“Please let me finish. I thought I couldn’t deal with it, so I broke up with you. But, then I realized I made a big mistake. I missed you. But, I wanted the stronger you, I wanted you to love yourself and stand on your own. I wanted you to know you are loved, to be positive and to take active steps and decisions. I know you wouldn’t do it if I came back, so I called Titi and she felt the same way. Look baby, everybody has insecurities, it’s what makes us human. How we deal with it is what makes the difference. I’m sorry if I’ve hurt you in any way, I really am.”
“So you stayed away from me for two months, do you know how devastated I was. I wanted to kill myself. And you appear now, telling me that it was for my own good?”
“I know how it sounds and I’m sorry, I…” his voice was low; he feared he had lost her forever.
“You don’t need to be sorry, because whatever plan you and Titi hatched worked, I feel better about myself now and nobody can pull down, not you, not my parents, nobody! So please stop apologizing and kiss me now.” She tried to smile amidst the tears that flowed down her cheeks.
“You want me to kiss you here, with all these people watching?” he asked as he drew closer and brushed away a lock of hair from her face.
“I don’t care, just do it” she said and stood on her toes, as he bent down to kiss her, amidst the oohs and aahs of the crowd, someone even shouted at them to get a room. But, she didn’t care, she was where she wanted to be, life was not perfect, she still had her insecurities, but she was overcoming them and the best of all; she was happy.
Aisha tried to sleep but she couldn’t, each time she closed her eyes the nightmare hunted her. Nightmares of the night she was taken from her bed, the night she lost her freedom and her will to dream. Some girls were asleep, but most pretended to be asleep, like her.
She tossed and turned on the bare floor in the dark room where they were made to sleep. But, she had to be careful not to attract the men, they had been ordered to sleep and so they must sleep.
She knew well enough what happened to those who disobeyed, those who asked questions. It had happened to her best friend Amina who was beheaded, for asking why they had been taken away from their school. It was gruesome and bloody, but it was a constant reminder to her and the other girls to keep their mouths shut and do as they were told.
Thinking about her friend, she realized how much she missed her. She missed her smile and her witty remarks. But now she was gone, gruesomely murdered for no reason, while her mother waited expectantly for her daughter to return.
Aisha could only hope and pray that her friend was now in a better place. There were times when she had wished that she could disappear forever, because her mother scolded her for every little mistake. She had thought that her best times where when she was at school; away from home. Now she longed for her mother’s scolding and her warm embrace but, she was in a dark cold place, surrounded by men who beat and rape her, men who could come in and drive a dagger into her heart at any time just for the fun of it.
The men told her that the world is plagued by infidels and unbelievers and she would earn a special reward in heaven if she killed them. They wished to turn her and the other girls into cold hearted, deluded murderers like them.
Aisha could not touch a life chicken, not to mention slaughtering one. How could they ask her to join them on their path of destruction? No, they didn’t ask, they commanded.
Some of the girls believed them or pretended to believe them to escape the pain and torture the men gave them. But, Aisha knew better, whether they believed them or not, the men would still hurt them, just for the fun of it.
Aisha wondered who the real unbelievers and infidels were; those who lie against Allah and use that excuse to murder, rape and torture others or the innocent victims of these deranged men?
No, she would not do what they ask of her. She would not kill for them and blame it on religion. After all, no matter what decision she made, only death awaited her.
She was cold and lonely; the fact that there were other girls in the room did not count. Those who were not sleeping were lost in their thoughts of how tragic their childhood had become. Even if they were rescued, they had nothing to look forward to, their childhood had been ruined.
How much she missed Amina, she missed how they would have cuddled and kept each other warm in the cold.
She sighed, she’d made her decision even though it meant sure death, and at least she would die as a peaceful Muslim.
Mojisola tapped her friend and told her to look at the woman who was about to leave the salon.
“What is it this time?” Temilolu asked her friend, Mojisola, the Queen of gossip. Temi had almost turned back when she entered the salon and met her there. And unfortunately they had both come to make braids, so there was no way to escape her early.
“Did you see that woman that just left?” Moji asked again.
“Yes, I did.” Temi answered, as she winced in pain when her hairdresser pulled her hair. She wished Moji would just keep quiet; she didn’t need her useless blather to add to her pain.
“That woman has been divorced, three times now. I don’t know why some women find it difficult to stay in a man’s house.” Moji said with disgust, oblivious to the fact that no one was interested in what she’s was saying.
Even the hairdressers knew her, she was never satisfied, and always had something to complain about. If there was a way they could turn her away whenever she entered their salon, they would have. But, they feared that she would ruin their business with her bad mouth. So, they had to endure her behaviour.
“Didn’t you hear me? I said that woman has been divorced three times.” She repeated herself, when nobody answered.
“Don’t judge her so quickly, you don’t know what she must have gone through in her three marriages.” Temi answered, hoping that would end the topic.
“I don’t agree with you, I think she is a slut. All her husbands were rich men; she only married them for money.” Moji stubbornly continued, and Temi rolled her eyes. She should have known that Moji will never give up on the topic.
“Why do people think that women who marry rich men don’t love their husbands?” A woman who had a little girl with her, asked. “I don’t know this woman you are talking about, but…”
“But what? Your husband must be a rich man, because you are so quick to defend a woman you don’t know.” Moji snapped at the woman with the child.
Temi looked in the mirror and gave the woman an apologetic look. Temi felt guilty that she knew Moji.
“Please stop pulling my hair, I already have a headache. Do you want to kill me?” Moji yelled at the girl braiding her hair.
“I’m sorry ma” the hairdresser apologised, and exchanged looks with the hairdresser braiding Temi’s hair. Moji did not see the exchange, but Temi did through the mirror and smiled with them.
“I don’t know what must have happened to that woman but, I believe a woman should have a little endurance.” Another woman said, supporting Moji.
“Finally, someone sees my point! A woman is meant to endure, no matter what her husband does to her. Marriage is not a place of enjoyment, at least not for a woman.” Moji said enthusiastically.
Temi rolled her eyes again at the absurdity of her friend’s statement. How they became friends was a misery to her.
“Don’t you have anything to say to this?” Moji asked.
“I already told you what I had to say, I don’t think it is right to judge people without knowing them.” Temi answered.
“Why did I even ask you? You can’t understand, since you have never been married.” Moji said, and would have turned to face the woman who supported her earlier, if she had not been held in place by her hairdresser.
Temi was hurt by her friend’s statement. It was true that she had never been married, she would be thirty-two the next month, but she would rather marry late, or not marry at all, than marry someone who would not treat her right.
“All I know is that a woman has to endure everything in her marriage.” Moji said to her supporter.
“The same way you endure your husband’s battery and abuse, right?” Temi asked. The look of shock and embarrassment on Moji’s face gave Temi the feeling of triumph.
“You go about making comments on other people’s lives, when yours is not perfect. You think nobody knows about the torture you ‘endure’? Go and make your life perfect before you comment on the imperfections in other people’s lives.” Temi added.
Moji began to hyperventilate, but she managed to control herself and stormed out of the salon. She was never coming back to that Salon.
“Aunty, won’t you finish your hair?” her hairdresser called after her, and they all burst out laughing.
Temi knew she had lost a friend, but she could do without friends like her.
THE LOVER WHO KILLED MY MOTHER
He bought me lots of gifts, from clothes to shoes, to designer bags and jewelleries. He told me he truly loved me, which was why he bought so many expensive things for me. I was overwhelmed and excited. But sadly, I could not use the things he bought for me without arousing my mother’s suspicions or the suspicions of my teachers. Still, I could not help but show off my expensive gifts to my friends. They were all jealous of my boyfriend, since the only guys they got to date were the small boys in our school.
My lover was a married man and a father. He was tired of his wife and did not hide it. He was so caring and handsome, and I was in love with him, just as much as he was with me. He showed me that no man could ever love me like he did. Every night, he would sneak into my room and we would make love. He would tell me how much he loved me and how he wished we could be together forever. But, it was not possible, he was a married man and I was a secondary school student.
One day, my lover surprised me; he came to pick me up after school. I needed the help of my classmate with an assignment that I didn’t understand, and I was asking him about it when my lover arrived.
My lover didn’t understand, he thought the classmate was my boyfriend. If I had known he was coming to pick me up, I would have waited for him alone. He had warned me not to talk to any other man except him.
He did not say a word to me, as he drove me home. I tried to explain what I was discussing with Ade, my classmate. But instead of calming him down, my explanations made him angrier. He parked the car and slapped me. I didn’t see it coming and tears rolled down my cheeks.
“How many times have I told you, that I am the only man for you? Those young boys have nothing to offer you, they can never provide for you like I do.” He yelled at me.
I was hurt and disappointed, and in my mind I vowed not to see or speak to him again. But, at night when he came into my room and begged me, he promised he would never hit me again. I believed and forgave him and we made love.
One day, my lover asked me to elope with him. He said he was tired of his wife and their fights and that he wanted to take me far away with him, where we would be together forever. But, I refused because as much as I wanted to be with him, I couldn’t leave my mother, I was the only companion she had. My father wasn’t exactly the type of husband she had hoped for. Another reason was that I wanted to finish school, I wanted to be lawyer; I had other dreams and aspirations. I couldn’t just get up and leave.
My lover got angry and hit me again, he said I didn’t love him and I was just like his wife. Once again, I vowed never to see him again. But, even as I made the vow, I knew I was lying to myself. I loved him too much to stop seeing him.
As usual, he came to me later that night to beg me. And as usual, I forgave him. He kissed me, and I melted. I was just beginning to lose myself into the kiss when my door burst open. My lover and I quickly separated, but not before my mother saw what was happening.
I couldn’t believe I had forgotten to lock my door. My mother’s feet were rooted to the floor; the shock was evident on her face as she looked from me to my lover, my father. Her eyes went completely white before she fell to the ground and never stood up again.
We walked hand in hand into the cinema. I remember the first time we met; she was a youth corps member who had come to serve at the aluminium company I worked for. Many don’t believe in love at first sight, but the moment I saw her, I knew she was “the one”.
At first, I didn’t know how to approach her, because I feared she wouldn’t have the same interest in me. Until one day; she walked up to me and asked me if I would like to have lunch with her. I was a little surprised; I never thought she would talk to me. But, who was I to complain? That lunch date was the beginning of many, many dates.
We had a lot of things in common; we liked the same kind of movies, books, even the same taste in food. But, as alike as we were, we had our differences. She was very modern and I was very conventional, I liked things neat and tidy, while she was very carefree. I wanted our relationship to be on the low, to avoid unnecessary trouble at the office, but she didn’t care, she wanted to shout it to the whole world.
Kissing her was a sweet addiction; making love to her was like paradise. We were in a world, where no one existed but us. She was my muse, my inspiration; she made my life worth living. I hated fighting with her, I hated seeing her cry. She was funny and adventurous. She made me try so many things I never thought I could.
Before I met her, I didn’t believe in marriage, I couldn’t imagine myself being tied to one person for the rest of my life and the relationships I had had before only strengthened my conviction. But, that conviction had been broken; I want nothing more than to spend the rest of my life with Sophia.
The movie was very emotional and romantic; Sophia and I were moved to tears. I don’t know if we carried over the emotions from the movie, but the sex we had that night was very beautiful and I wanted nothing more than to love her forever.
After our love making, she cuddled up against me and rested her head on my chest, while I stroked her back gently until we both fell into blissful sleep.
I picked up the phone sleepily, not bothering to check who it was. “Hello” I answered gruffly.
“You didn’t want to pick up before abi?” My mother’s voice blasted in my ear. I had avoided her calls for the past two weeks, because every time she called, she asked me the same thing.
“How are you Mama?” I asked, as I sat up on the bed, the call had also woken Sophia, and she sat up, and watched me as I conversed with my mother.
“When are you getting married?” My mother asked.
“Mama, you called me this morning to ask me that?” I asked, frustrated. I let my mother rant for a few more minutes before I cut the call on the pretext of bad network.
“We can’t keep hiding our relationship, you know?” Sophia said, as I hung up.
“I know, but tell me, how I am going to tell my mother that I have found the one I want to marry, but she is a woman like me.” I answered, looking into her eyes. We both sighed, because we knew there was no way to explain to my mother that I was a lesbian without killing her.
IF THE WORLD WAS DIFFERENT
Christiana must have fallen asleep when she came back from school, because when she opened her eyes her mother was glaring down at her.
“What do you think you are doing?”
Christiana sat up, her mother was definitely angry; she could hear it in her voice. But, why she was angry, Christiana did not know. She seemed fine a few minutes ago when she came back from school.
“I’m sorry I fell asleep,” Christiana apologised as she got up from the bed, even though she did not know if that was the reason for her mother’s annoyance.
“Have you forgotten you have somewhere to go?” Her mother asked. Her tone still implied anger. Christiana was confused for few seconds before she remembered what her mother was talking about. “But daddy said I should not go, he…”
“Your father is not home now, I want you to go and meet the pastor at the place for the deliverance. Do you still have the address?”
“Yes ma, but I don’t think it’s a good idea. Daddy said I should not go anywhere.” Christiana protested.
“What does your father know, did he carry you for nine months or did he go through ten hours of labour to have you? No he didn’t. So, he cannot understand what a child means to a mother. The Pastor said there is a dark cloud over your head and I don’t want you to be in danger, I want you to be delivered so you can live long and have a peaceful life. Your father is too proud to understand all these, only a mother can understand.” Her mother tried to convince, more like blackmail her to go for the damned deliverance. Christiana agreed to go and see the pastor, not because of the passionate lecture she had just received, but because if she refused she would never hear the end of it. She had one more year in secondary school; she had already started going through the lists of universities that would take her far away from home. Until then, she would try her best not to be on her mother’s bad side.
“Good girl! Now take off your uniform and change into appropriate clothes. When you are done, come and meet in the kitchen to collect transport fare. But, make sure you are back before your father returns.” With that, her mother left her standing alone in her room, wondering what kind of deliverance takes place at 4PM, Monday evening without your parents.
Christiana looked at her wristwatch, it was almost 7PM and she was yet to locate the big house the pastor had described. But, the description on the paper in her hands and the guard at the new leather factory told her she was on the right path. Why couldn’t they do the deliverance on the church premises, why did she had to come this far? But then, she had heard that demons sometimes entered the bodies of other people around after they have been driven out. It was all a waste of time, because there was no demon living in her. She was only doing it to avoid her mother’s wrath, but if she did not find the place soon, she would turn back; mother’s wrath or not.
David paced restlessly about in the large sitting room, he had been waiting for her since 4PM it was almost 7PM and she had not arrived yet. Maybe she would not come; maybe she had seen through his scheme, she seemed like a very smart girl. He did not like smart girls, they always gave him trouble. But, there was something about this girl, he had to have her and deal with the consequences later. She was not his first and she definitely won’t be his last. Why wasn’t she here yet? If she doesn’t come, he would go over to her house and spew some more lies; members of his congregation were gullible people. He got up to get his car keys and make the journey to her house when the bell rang.
She had walked for another five minutes before she found the giant white mansion just standing by the street. The feeling that it was all wrong came again, as she stood in front of the large gate about to press the bell. Why did she have to come this far for the deliverance, why were her parents not invited? She wanted to turn back, but she remembered her mother’s silent warning. She could tell her she did not find the place or that no one was there. But, she was a terrible liar and would be found out immediately. She took a deep breath and pressed the bell, she waited a few seconds and when there was no answer, she was relieved. She would tell her mother there was no one there, although, her mother would still find a way to blame her. She had just turned back, when the big gate opened.
“Were you leaving?” David asked, with the hope that he won’t have to drag her inside.
“Yes sir, I thought there was no one here.” Christiana answered as she slowly turned to face the very petite pastor, all hopes of avoiding the deliverance drowned. David smiled and got into character. “The devil has different ways of stopping our destiny. Come inside it’s already dark.”
Christiana nodded and smiled even though she did not understand the connection between the devil and her. She entered the compound and it was larger than she thought and well illuminated. She wondered just how big the generator that powered such a mansion was. Then it hit her that everywhere was too quiet. “Where are the prayer warriors and the other girls?” She asked.
“They are waiting for you inside. They have been waiting for you since; you know we cannot start the deliverance without all the girls.
The doubt in Christiana’s mind was stronger than ever now, and it took all her strength not to turn and run. Besides, she was already there and it was dark. Her father might be home already, whether she stayed or left, she would be punished. When they entered the mansion, she was not surprised about how large the sitting room was or the beautiful staircase that led to a series of rooms was either. But, what surprised her was that the house was as quiet and empty as it had been outside, there were no prayer warriors! Now she had to turn and run, but it was too late. She heard the click sound of the being locked.
“What are you doing?” She asked as she stared into the pastor’s very yellow and devious face. She did not know what he intended to do with her, but whatever it was, it was not good. Her whole body began to shake and she looked around for somewhere to hide but there was nowhere to run to. She should have turned back when she had the chance.
THE GOLDEN CALABASH
THE CALABASH IS GONE
Omifunke stared at her feet as the High Priestess chastised her, she dared not look the angry priestess in the eye.
“How many times have I told you not to leave the shrine without my permission or that of the other senior priestesses? You were not present at the morning ritual either. Why do you find it difficult to follow orders, are you the only apprentice here?” The High Priestess’ voice was low and reproachful.
“I’m sorry Your Holiness, please forgive me.” Omifunke apologized, without looking up. It was not that Omifunke intended to be disrespectful or stubborn. It was just that she felt out of place in the shrine longed for life outside the caves. The High Priestess was like a mother to her but, she did not belong there.
“I am getting tired of your childish tricks. Get out of my sight and reflect on what you have done.” The High Priestess said as she turned her back on Omifunke. Funke held back the tears that stung her eyes as she exited the room.
“ Don’t you think you were too harsh on her? We both know she does not belong with us, she has a far greater destiny.” Omitola had been so angry at Omifunke that she did not notice when her second- in- command had entered her chambers. “What is wrong with you? You’ve been very moody lately. I know you are the High Priestess and all that, but we are friends first. You know you can tell me anything.” Omisola said.
Omitola sighed and sat on her bamboo bed “I’ve been having weird dreams lately,” she said. “Oluomi, our mistress has been visiting me with tears in her eyes. But, every time I ask what is wrong, she only shakes her head and disappears.”
“That is very bad; our mistress is a bringer of happiness, what could be wrong?”
“I have to pay a visit to the Capital City, to make sure that the King and the priests are doing their duties. But, in the meantime make sure all the apprentices stay inside the cave until I say otherwise. Keep an eye on them, especially Omifunke. We may not know what her destiny is, but, we know it is very important.”
“Yes, your holiness.” Omisola bowed and was about to turn and leave the chambers when, an apprentice ran in panting.
“How dare you barge in here like that?” Omisola was infuriated “Don’t you know this is Her Holiness’ chambers?” Omisola yelled at the apprentice who was already on her knees. “Forgive me Your Holiness I shall deal with her appropriately.”
“No it’s all right; she must have a reason for barging into my room like this. Speak child, what is the matter?”
“Forgive me your Holiness. But, the Golden Calabash is gone!”
“What do you mean the Golden Calabash is gone, where did it go?” Omisola asked, not registering the effect of what the apprentice had just said.
“I’m on cleaning duty, so I went into the Calabash room to clean it, but when I got there, there was water on the floor and the calabash was missing from its stand.”
“WHAT! Are you sure of what you are saying?” Both Omitola and Omisola asked unanimously. “Lead the way; I’m going to check it out.” The High Priestess ordered.
All the apprentices and senior priestesses gathered in front of the room to see the calamity that had befallen them. They all fell silent and cleared the way as the High Priestess and her second-in-command approached.
Omitola entered the room and came back outside, her eyes filled with sorrow. Not only was the shrine in danger, the whole Kingdom was in danger.
“There is no time to waste; I have to visit the Capital City immediately. Omifunke and Omitilewa shall accompany me to see the King and the order of priests. Omisola, the shrine is now in your hands protect it with your life. Ready the horses we leave immediately!”
Omifunke rode silently alongside the High Priestess and Omitilewa, the apprentice who found out that the sacred calabash was missing. Something was wrong, the horses were too quiet; they knew what was happening. But, they wouldn’t say a thing. Why had the High Priestess asked her to accompany her to the Capital City? She was tired of living in the cave, but the Capital City was beyond her aspirations.
“Kabiesi, I have received an aroko from the High Priestess of the Omi goddess.” Oluwo, the Chief Priest said.
“What did the message say?” His Royal Majesty, King Adedotun of Ayedun Kingdom asked, as he looked down from his throne.
“Your Majesty, it says that something bad has happened and that she is on her way to the Capital City.” Oluwo answered.
“The High Priestess is supposed to notify us three moons before her arrival, so that we can prepare adequately for her. For her to send such an urgent message, it means something very bad has happened. I want you and your priests to wait for her at the gate of the city and escort her to the Palace.”
“Yes Your Majesty,” the Chief Priest bowed and turned to take his leave. But, the King’s voice stopped him.
“Do not forget to make a protection ward on the city, the priestesses are women of extreme beauty that is why they live in the mountains. I’m sure you understand what I am saying.”
“Yes, Kabiesi” Oluwo bowed once more and left.
Adedotun sighed; he had so much on his plate already. The last thing he needed was the troublesome priestess. He had met her when he was still a Prince, and the encounter was not pleasant or rather, it was too pleasant.
“Who is there?” he called, and his steward ran into the courtroom.
“You called for me Your Majesty?” The steward said.
“Go and inform The Queen and the Crown Prince that the High Priestess is on her way to the Capital City, and I want the Palace presentable.”
“Your Majesty, the High Priestess is coming?” The steward asked, with fear written all over his face.
“Do I have to repeat my command?” Adedotun asked. He understood his servant’s fear, but he could not let such fear grow. The Kingdom was at the verge of falling and fear was the last thing he needed in the hearts of his subjects.
“No, Your Majesty, your wish is my command.” The steward bowed and exited the courtroom to deliver the king’s message.
After riding hard for three days, they finally arrived at the Capital City. The horses were tired, she could feel it. If the High Priestess had not boosted their energy with a spell, they would have already died. But, they were still tired and weak, and Omifunke felt sorry for them. The High Priestess was kind, but she was a bit insensitive where animals were concerned.
The order of priests was waiting for them at the gate, the soldiers bowed as they trotted past them. Omifunke could smell the protection charm on them. In fact, the whole city reeked of it. No one wanted to fall under the spell of a priestess’s beauty. She heard that the King himself had once fallen under the spell of the High Priestess, and it was only the grace of the gods that spared him.
“Welcome, High Priestess of the Omi goddess, we are pleased to see you” Oluwo greeted. But, the High Priestess looked down on him disdainfully from her horse, “I wish I could say the same” she said. It was no secret that there was no love lost between the priestesses and priests.
The priests were all dressed in white, they wore white, all the time unlike the priestess who dressed in colourful aso oke and adorned themselves with beautiful beads. They wore white only on special occasions.
“The King awaits your presence” Oluwo swallowed the insult.
“Lead the way.” Omitola answered, with all the pride befitting a High Priestess.
The Palace was grand and beautiful; it was unlike any place Omifunke had ever seen. The mountain where they lived in the forest was beautiful. But, she could not compare the beauty of the caves to the Palace. The King and members of the inner court were already waiting for them in the courtroom.
“Kabiesi o” they all chanted as they went on their knees to pay homage to the king. The King waived his horsetail and they all rose.
“What brings her holiness to the Palace on such a short notice?” The King asked. Omifunke couldn’t take her eyes of the king. For a man in his fifties; he was very handsome.
“Your Majesty, the Golden Calabash has disappeared.” The High Priestess answered without mincing words. The Golden Calabash was the protector of the Kingdom, given to them by the Omi goddess herself. This happened when the first Queen of the Kingdom offered herself as sacrifice to the goddess to protect the land. The goddess did not take her life, but she was moved by the selfless act of the Queen, that she gave them the Golden Calabash and ordered that the Calabash should be taken care of by pure and chaste women; the priestesses.
“What do you mean the Calabash is gone? Is it not your duty to protect the calabash?” Someone asked rudely. The High Priestess turned to face the speaker and gave him her coldest smile, the one she used when she was insulted but had to be respectful.
“You must be Prince Adedayo, the Crown Prince.” She said “I am very sure that her majesty the queen, instilled good manners into you. So you should know better than speaking out of turn.” She added, with a mock bow. Omifunke forced herself to look away from the King and turned to the Prince who stood behind his father; he was even more handsome than the king.
“Do not be offended your holiness, he is only a child. Tell me, why did this happen?” The King asked.
“I should be asking you that question, Your Majesty”
“How dare you speak to his majesty in that manner? You might be the High Priestess, but the King is second in command to the gods.” Oluwo said angrily.
“He might be second in command to the gods, but, he is not a god. This means, he has obligations to perform to the gods and he has failed to do so.” The High Priestess could no longer contain her anger has she faced the Chief Priest. “Tell me, as the Chief Priest, why did you stop the King from performing the annual festival to worship the goddess and thank her for her mercies?”
“It had become too expensive and the Kingdom’s finances are very low” The Priest answered trying to hide his surprise that the priestesses found out.
The High Priestess shook her head. “Your Majesty, you need better advisors. Your people are suffering, yet the Palace is dazzling. You abandon religion because it is expensive, yet you adorn yourselves in the most expensive clothes, throw excessive parties and build unnecessary structures, at the expense of your people and the gods. Your people may take it because they have no choice, but the gods will not remain silent. And when the wrath of the gods comes, both the guilty and innocent will pay for it. You stopped worshipping the goddess and she has taken her gift away from us. Now, our enemies will be able to conquer us, there will be famine and hunger, there will be war, and the Kingdom will seize to exist.”
“What is the way out?” the King asked.
“Should the calabash ever disappear, only the noble and the pure may go to the dark lands to retrieve the Golden Calabash” The High Priestess quoted the prophecy that had been handed down to her by generations of priestesses.
“By noble, you mean….”
“She means royalty, Your Majesty. The Crown Prince must go on this journey.” The Chief Priest said. The court room was thrown into pandemonium, no one ever returned from the dark lands.
The King sighed; he should have listened to his wife, when she warned against stopping the festival. But, he let the Chief Priest manipulate him, because of the rivalry between the priests and the priestesses. As a King, he had failed in his duty to settle their dispute and now the Kingdom was in danger. For his own mistakes, his son must go to a land where no one ever returned. The King had gone deep into his thoughts that he became oblivious to the commotion that had started in the Palace.
“Your Majesty, this is not the time to be lost in thoughts, you need to make a decision fast. Please give the royal command to let your son go on this journey to redeem our Kingdom.” The High Priestess cut into the King’s thoughts.
“Must my son go on this journey? The prophecy states that someone of royal blood must go on the journey. Can I not go in his place?”
“Do not speak like a child Your Majesty; you know your place is in the Kingdom. I understand how you feel, but this is a mission for the young, brave and strong.” The High Priestess answered.
“You cannot know how I feel; you do not have a child.” The King said.
“That is true, but the priestesses I watch over are just like my children. So please do not be sentimental and give the royal command.”
“My father, do not be sad I shall go into the dark lands and I shall return victorious. All I need is an army of one hundred men.” The Crown Prince said.
“Your highness, the dark lands is not a place for just anybody. Only the chosen may go there and there is no guarantee that they will return.” Oluwo responded.
“For the very first time since I have known you, Oluwo, you have spoken with wisdom.” The High Priestess said.
Omifunke was beginning to hate the Prince, who did he think he was? How could he even think of taking an army to the dark lands?
“But, didn’t the prophecy say that the noble and pure will go to the dark lands?” The King asked.
“Indeed Your Majesty. That is what the prophecy states. And we all know that no one is purer at heart than the Omi priestesses.” The High Priestess answered and the Chief Priest scoffed at her response. But, she ignored him and continued.
“That is why I have brought two of my apprentices with me; one of them shall accompany the Prince on this journey. This is Omitilewa, the priestess who found out that the calabash had disappeared and, this is Omifunke, a priestess whose destiny is great but, unknown.” The High Priestess introduced her apprentices, and the King took notice of them for the first time.
“How dare you take this matter with levity? You want mere female apprentices to accompany me on such an important journey?” The Crown Prince blurted out in annoyance.
“Silence boy, these mere female apprentices are far more powerful than you can ever imagine.” The King cautioned. “So, who among these apprentices will accompany the Prince?”
“Your Majesty for that to be known, the Chief Priest and I will have to do a special consultation. The goddess is angry. To summon her, we need to combine our powers.”
“Will you be able to work together? It is not a secret that you both hate each other.” The King asked.
“For the sake of the Kingdom, I can work with the lowest of persons.” The High Priestess responded. Oluwo kept quiet and endured all the insults, he would have his revenge. He would make sure that the priestesses lose favour with the King. His first step had been to stop the festival; he didn’t know the goddess would get so angry. But, when everything ends, he would find a way to get custody of the Golden Calabash and put an end to the priestesses forever. But for now, he would endure.
“Good then, when will you start?” The King asked.
“As soon as possible” the High Priestess responded.
After two days of consultations and rituals, the High Priestess and the Chief Priest finally came out of the shrine, and another meeting was set at the Palace court room.
“What did the goddess say?” the King asked.
“Your Majesty, the goddess has spoken. Omifunke shall accompany the Prince on this journey.” The High Priestess responded.
Omifunke was not surprised when the High Priestess called out her name as the Prince’s travel companion. She had prayed silently to goddess to let the mission pass her. But obviously, the goddess was still too angry to answer her prayers.
“Omifunke, do you accept this journey?” The King asked.
Omifunke fell to her knees and answered “Your Majesty, I accept this journey with all my heart.”
After another three days of protection rituals, Prince Adedayo and Omifunke were ready for their journey. Their mission was to find the Omi Mountain; the abode of the Omi goddess. It was similar to the mountain where the priestesses lived, so it would be easy for Omifunke to identify it.
“Take this white stone, it will guide to where you need to go. Remember, this journey is for the Prince. You are only going with him to protect him from the unseen.” The High Priestess said, as she handed Omifunke the stone.
“Yes, Your Holiness.” Omifunke answered. She could detect a hint of sorrow in the High Priestess’ voice but as usual, her face was expressionless.
“I do not need the protection of a woman.” The Prince said in his arrogant voice.
“Of course you don’t.” The High Priestess answered with a smile.
“Keep your mouth shut and see the priestess as a guiding light to the goddess” Her Majesty the Queen said from behind. Every one turned to face the queen and bowed. She smiled at them and walked straight to the High Priestess and hugged her.
“Sister, did you think you would come to Palace and leave without seeing me?” she asked with a smile.
“I dare not Your Majesty; I shall remain in the Palace until they return from their journey. My sister we have a lot of catching up to do.” The High Priestess smiled.
Everyone was surprised and confused. This was the first real smile Omifunke had seen on the High Priestess in many years, she couldn’t help but smile herself.
“Sister, may the goddess give you the patience to handle the Prince.” Omitilewa said with a smile.
“I would simply turn him into a cat, if he gives me too much trouble.” Omifunke whispered with a mischievous grin.
“He would make a cute cat” Omitilewa whispered back and they both burst into laughter.
“May the goddess be with you on this journey and may you return victorious.” Omitilewa said suddenly with all seriousness.
“Thank you, sister.” Omifunke answered and they hugged.
“Mother, you didn’t have to come to bid me farewell, I am a grown man” Adedayo said.
“Grown man or not, I am still your mother” Queen Iyiola responded as she hugged to him. “May the gods be with you.”
“The auspicious hour has come; it is time for you to leave.” The High Priestess announced, and began to ring her little bell, the one she used to ward off evil spirits.
“Take this” Omitilewa said, handing over her bow and bag of arrows to Omifunke.
“I can’t take this. You know I can’t kill an animal.”
“There are more dangerous things than animals. You need it more than I do.” Omitilewa insisted.
“Bless you sister” Omifunke said as she slung the bag over her shoulders. She heard the Prince smirk, but she ignored it and mounted her horse. The guards opened the Palace gates and they trotted out of the Palace. As soon as the Palace gates closed, the white stone began to glow.
“And the journey begins…” Prince Adedayo said.
Omifunke and Adedayo rode in silence; they followed the guidance of the white stone. After taking so many turns that neither of them could remember; they left the Kingdom behind, and found themselves travelling through a thick forest.
“You know your presence on this journey is an insult to me” Adedayo said, breaking the silence.
“I’m sorry your highness, I mean no disrespect.” Omifunke responded, trying her best to hold in her anger.
“You priestesses are arrogant and annoying and I bet you are not as powerful as the whole Kingdom believes you are.”
“I’m sorry your highness, if we have caused you any discomfort.” Omifunke apologised again.
“That’s right, be sorry. But get one thing straight, on this journey; you are my slave, not my protector.”
“Yes, your highness.” Omifunke responded. And silence fell upon the journey once again.
Adedayo was irritated; his travel companion was no fun at all. She was just like the other girls, always wanting to please him. He thought being a priestess, she would be different somehow, but she was just like the rest of them. Even his betrothed was like that; “yes your highness! As you wish your highness!” were all the girls in the world like that? Is there not even one that would even dare to look him in the eye when they speak or even talk back at him? He wasn’t even King yet and his life was already boring.
Omifunke rolled her eyes and sighed, she prayed to the goddess to give her the patience to deal with the Prince. He had the guts to call her a slave, she had heard of his bravery in battles but she had not heard of his rudeness and arrogance. She was irritated by the fact that he thinks himself high and mighty because he was the Crown Prince. She pitied the woman that would be his wife. Omifunke owed her life to the goddess, but if ever she was to get married, she didn’t want a man like the Prince. The Prince was handsome and pleasing to the eye, but his attitude was disgusting.
“Let’s rest here for the night; we’ll resume travelling at first light tomorrow.” The Prince announced and as soon as he said it the light from the white stone died out. “Is it supposed to do that?” he asked.
“You are the leader on this journey; everything involved in this journey follows your command including the white stone.” Omifunke answered as she dismounted her horse.
“Wow, that’s incredible. Let me see it” he said with so much excitement that it scared Omifunke. She opened her palm.
“White stone shine!” he commanded and the stone shone. “It actually works” he laughed. “White stone off!” he commanded again and the stone went off. “This is so cool, it’s like I have supernatural powers.”
Omifunke could no longer control herself, she burst out laughing. The Prince was acting like a child who had just received a new toy. She laughed so hard that she did not notice that the Prince had stopped laughing and was staring at her. She quickly cautioned herself “I’m sorry, your highness.”
“I didn’t notice it before, but you are really beautiful.” He said without taking his eyes off her.
“Forgive me, your highness.” Omifunke apologized with her head bowed.
“Do you have to that? I know you don’t like me and I don’t like you either, but I don’t pretend. So for the sake of this mission let’s be completely honest with each other.”
“Do you really mean that?” Omifunke asked, looking directly at the Prince.
“Yes, I do.”
“Good! Do you know what I think of you? I think you are an arrogant, rude, spoilt brat who has no respect for women, just because he is a man and the future king!” Omifunke blurted out, it was as if the prince freed her from bondage.
“You are right about everything except one thing. I do respect women; I just don’t like women who place themselves above men. And yes, being the future King gives me the right to be arrogant and spoilt.” He replied with expression that said that he didn’t care what she thought of him.
“So you are a chauvinist pig then?” she asked with disgust.
“Whatever you say darling” Adedayo replied with a shrug.
Omifunke shook her head in disgust “you are hopeless; I’m going to start a fire.” She said.
“There is no need for that, the heat coming from your hot head is enough to keep us warm throughout the night.” He taunted her. Omifunke hissed and went about her business. Soon they had a fire burning and apart from the Prince offering her meat which she refused, they didn’t say anything else to each other.
They were both getting ready to sleep, when they heard it, they jumped. “Did you hear that?” the Prince asked. Omifunke nodded slightly.
The roar came again, but this time it was louder and closer. The fire went out and they were in complete darkness. The roar came again and it sounded very close this time. Whatever it was, it was gaining on them.
DEMON GUARDIANOF THE DARK LANDS
“Whatever that is, it is not a friend. We have to get out of here fast!” Adedayo said, as he drew his sword. But it was too late. The creature had seen them. Adedayo could not explain what it was; it had red-hot eyes, the body of a man with a three horns on its head, one on both sides of its head and another on its forehead. Sometimes it was there, sometimes it was not. The horses were restless; they would have fled if they weren’t tied down.
“May the goddess protect us” Omifunke prayed, her voice laced with fear.
“What is that thing?” Adedayo asked.
“It is one of the demon guardians of the dark lands, and he is not friendly.” She answered.
“Wow, nobody said anything about demons” Adedayo gripped his sword tighter.
“You cannot fight it, you cannot outrun it.” Omifunke said.
“Nonsense, I can kill it, if I can see it.”
“No, that is its strength; it hates light and dwells in darkness. You can only see it if it wants you to, it could be standing right in front of you and you wouldn’t know.”
“Show yourself if you are brave enough to fight me” Adedayo yelled, challenging the demon.
“Are you mad? Did everything I just said enter your head at all?” Omifunke almost cried in frustration.
Adedayo ignored her and called out to the demon again “Show yourself if you are brave enough” he yelled again.
Suddenly, there was a roar-like laughter and the demon showed itself, it was completely naked and had claws for fingernails. Adedayo swallowed hard at the sight of the demon and almost began to regret his decision. But it was too late, it was now or never.
“Get behind me” he said to Omifunke without taking his eyes off the demon.
“Not a chance” Omifunke said, as she appeared beside him, her bow drawn and ready to let loose. “I understand now why Omitilewa gave me this, she is a priestess of prophecy and a seer, and she had foreseen this encounter.”
“I just hope you know how to use that thing” Adedayo said, still without taking his eyes off the demon. It was circling them, it was weighing his opponents and then suddenly it ran towards them. They split, Omifunke fired arrows at it non-stop. Adedayo even managed to slash it with his sword many times, but it was no use, the demon was relentless. It slashed Adedayo’s right arm with its claws, temporarily disabling the arm. It was a good thing that Adedayo was left handed.
In swing of luck, Adedayo’s sword hit demon’s forehead horn. It paralyzed the demon for a few seconds before it came at them again, but this time it was obviously weak.
“White stone, I need you help now. Please give me your light.” As soon as Adedayo said this, the white stone shone brightly from Omifunke’s pack where it had been waiting patiently for the Prince’s command. The light blinded the demon; Adedayo took the chance and cut off the demon’s head in one clean swing. The demon collapsed, its head rolling on the ground and Adedayo fainted.
The next time he opened his eyes, he was on his back with a stinging pain on his arm, and Omifunke was sitting by side, swatting flies that dared to perch on his wound. He couldn’t tell whether it was night or day, but, he knew he was under a big shade.
“How long have I been out?” he asked.
“Three days, I put herbs on your wound; it will draw out the demon’s poison.” She answered. He could detect anger in her voice, she was mad at him. His eyes were getting heavy again, but he knew, the moment she stood beside him and drew her bow that she was the woman he had been waiting for.
THE OMI PRIESTESS
It’s been six days after their encounter with the demon. Omifunke was still gave the Prince the silent treatment. She was still mad at him for engaging the demon.
“How long will you remain silent?” Adedayo asked as he rode up beside her.
“What were you thinking when you challenged the demon?” She asked, without taking her eyes of the road. The forest was a tricky a place. They would have been lost if they did not have the guidance of the white stone.
“What should I have done? You said we couldn’t out run it, I had to do something and besides we killed it. So what’s all the fuss about?”
“You almost died!” Omifunke yelled as she pulled the horse to a stop and faced the Prince.
“Ohhhh, so that’s why you’ve been so angry. You were worried about me. So you care?” the Prince asked with a mischievous grin.
Omifunke rolled her eyes and turned back to the road. “Do not misunderstand me, you are the future King of our Kingdom, you should take care of yourself better, that’s what I meant.”
“Hhmm hnmm!” the Prince said as he rode past her, still grinning.
Omifunke did not know why she hated that grin so much, why did it affect her so much? She had to kill the feelings brewing in her mind because the Prince was out of bounds and she was dedicated to the goddess.
The rest of the journey continued in a silence that was more awkward than before. The white stone continued to lead the way. Soon, they found themselves at an open stream; the source of the stream was a mountain where fresh water flowed from.
Peace and calmness was suddenly upon them.
“We are here!” Omifunke declared with a smile that showed so much joy and happiness.
“It is so peaceful here?” Adedayo said as he got off his horse. Even the chirping of birds that Adedayo had found irritating the moment he entered the forest sounded melodious to him. “I could live here forever?”
“Do not get carried away, danger lurks behind beauty.” Omifunke warned as she got off her horse.
“Welcome! The goddess has been awaiting you” a voice said.
“Please drop your weapons before entering the stream, for the house of the goddess is a peaceful place.” The voice said.
Omifunke and Adedayo dropped their weapons and entered the stream, the followed the voice to the mouth of the mountain where the water flowed from. The water was very cold, and soothing in a weird way, it made reluctant to get out of the water.
“Please follow me,” The voice said.
Omifunke was not surprised that she could not see the messenger; she had heard great tales about the invisible messenger of the goddess and knew it would be unwise to offend the messenger by asking questions. She gave the Prince a look that meant he should obey quietly.
They went through the waterfall, but surprisingly they were not wet. The mountain cave was designed just like the shrine, but in a grander style.
They kept on walking, they could no longer hear the voice, but they could feel its presence, and knew where to go. Finally, they got to a large room; its entrance was covered with a curtain of water that was not transparent.
“The Prince can go no further.” The voice said.
“Why?” The Prince asked, before Omifunke could stop him.
“You are not qualified to see Her Majesty, except you do not wish to return to your Kingdom alive.” The voice said.
The Prince rolled his eyes in frustration and attempted to protest, but the voice had sealed his mouth shut. Omifunke, gave the Prince a look of assurance, and stepped through the curtain of water.
The goddess all dressed in white, was seated on her throne. Her hair was braided into large, thick cornrows that reached her waist. Her skin was so fair, that it was almost white and her smile was so warm, that it could thaw the coldest of hearts. The most fascinating fact was that she did not look a day older that twenty years, but her eyes held the wisdom of a thousand years. Her throne was surrounded by soft white fur and low golden stools.
“Welcome my child!” The goddess said as Omifunke approached, with her head bowed.
“Your Majesty, your humble servant is here.” Omifunke said, as she went on her knees.
“I know what’s on your mind. But, contrary to what you have been told, this is not the Prince’s mission but yours. He is your protector and your destiny.” Omi said.
“Your Majesty, I do not understand.” Omifunke answered.
Omi smiled, “You will understand soon enough. The heart of men is full of evil; do you know why I took back my gift? Great danger is upon your Kingdom. There is a dark stain among the pure. It is now up to you, to protect my house and prevent it from falling, because if it does, the Kingdom falls with it.”
“You majesty, I still do not understand.”
“You will, soon enough. Follow your heart, and protect my Kingdom.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.” Omifunke answered, but she was still confused.
“As I speak to you, the Calabash has been returned. Protect it with all your heart, and remember to follow your heart.”
The journey home was uneventful and silent as both travellers were occupied with their own thoughts. If Omifunke had been confused about her destiny, before embarking on the journey, she was even now more confused. Was she to allow her feelings for the Prince grow? If she did, how would she protect the shrine?
Adedayo wondered why he was chosen for the mission, if the priestess was the one to recover the Calabash. Why was he so attracted to the priestess when he had the Balogun’s daughter as his betrothed? He was the future king; he could have as many women as he wanted. But, he did not want many, he wanted one, that would love, understand and rule the Kingdom with him. Was Omifunke the one?
The answer to all these unanswered questions lies in ‘The Kingdom of Deceit” Coming out soon!
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