That night, Labake sat on the mat and watched as her husband ate the dinner she had prepared for him in relish. She knew that she was not supposed to bring up discussions while he was eating so she was anxious for him to finish. When he had swallowed the last morsel of amala, eaten the last chunk of bush meat and gulped down the last of his palmwine, she gathered up the traditional plates and bowl and handed them to a maid who was waiting to receive them. When she returned to her husband, the king, he had reclined in his seat and was fanning himself with a woven traditional fan with a very satisfied look on his face.
Labake sat down on the mat again, sitting very close to him then cleared her throat. “Olowo orimi, may I ask some questions?”
“What is it, Olori?” The king asked.
“Well, I was taking a walk today… and for the very first time, I reached the far end of the palace…”
“Yes?” The king urged her to continue.
“I must say that during my walk, I came upon something I find rather queer…”
“Which was?” The king pressed.
“A statue, Kabiyesi. The statue of a woman.” She answered and the king suddenly grew tensed then slowly sat up. Labake, who pretended not to have noticed, however continued: “Kabiyesi, can you tell me what that statue is all about? Why is it there? Why is a mere statue treated like a royal being?”
“Too many questions at once, Olori, which do you want me to answer first?” The king asked, obviously not comfortable with the topic.
“Any one, my king.” She answered.
“Alright, I will tell you, dear wife, but you should know that I’m not allowed to speak much about that statue because it is sacred. All I can tell you is that, it has been in this palace for ten generations now and it’s the family tradition to honour her the way I do. Every king must honour her whether he likes it or not.”
“Is she like a goddess or what? Is that why she’s adorned in royal beads and fed pure honey and freshly boiled eggs and eko every week? Why does she have a garden to herself? What has a mere statue got to derive from all these?”
“I can see that someone has been giving you information, Labake. Mind you, like I said earlier, I’m not really allowed to discuss her with you. Just pretend that she’s not in the palace.” The king said, eager to dismiss the topic.
“But Kabiyesi, I’m your wife. As the Olori, I don’t think there’s anything that should be kept from me. Since I’m now a part of this family, don’t I deserve to know the tradition of this family? How will I teach my sons the traditions of this family when I’m left in the dark about so many things?” Labake tried to manipulate her husband into spilling.
“Woman! Do not pressure me!” The king suddenly snapped, making her flinch. “I have told you what I can and you must let the matter be! You are a woman and women are not allowed to know some things, because not only are they too emotional, they also can’t keep their mouths shut! When we have sons, I shall take it upon myself to teach them the family traditions when they are of age, but for now, I have told you what you should know, so let me be!” He said sternly.
Not pleased with her husband’s reaction and tone of rebuke, Labake’s face fell. Displeased, she bowed her head to her husband and begged to be excused. She was upset and didn’t wish to keep his company any longer, so she decided it was best to go have her bath and retire to bed, but she made up her mind that whether he liked it or not, she would unravel the mystery around the statue.
In the morning, Labake woke up to find the bed empty. She presumed that her husband must be in his palace, convening with his cabinet of chiefs. Yawning and stretching a bit, she decided to go have her bath. Her personal maid carried a pot of water into the royal bathroom made from palm fronds. As Labake approached the bathroom, her maid followed her into the bathroom. Labake stripped her wrappers off and handed it to the maid who immediately returned to stand guard outside the bathroom door. As Labake began to lather her hands with the native soap, Adigun crept from the small bush behind the bathroom, walked stealthily along the back wall of the bathroom and paused when he finally found a hole in the palm fronds. Quickly glancing around to make sure that there was no one else in sight, he peeked through the hole and smiled lustfully when his eyes found the Queen’s nudity.
His eyes devoured her naked body and the firm well-sculpted calabashes on her chest, then his eyes lowered to admire the rows of waist beads that adorned her waist. What drove him crazy the more and made his member spring to full life were the two deep dimples above the Queen’s shapely buttocks. As he washed her have her bath, he dipped his hands into his loose native trousers and began to stroke himself while he filled his eyes with degrading images of her. When Labake poured the last bowl of water over her body, Adigun quickly pulled his hand out of his trousers and crept away as quickly and quietly as he could, having enjoyed watching her nakedness and reveling in masturbating with it. When he had put as much distance between himself and the royal bathroom, he finally stopped under a tree and leaned against the trunk to catch his breath. He began to plot up ways of how he would bed the Queen. He felt that if he didn’t take her to bed soon, he might lose his mind. He had never yearned for any other woman before the way he yearned for Labake and he was angry that Labake had given in to the king’s advances instead of his. Although, he was determined to use her distress to his own advantage. Rumours had spread around the palace that the king was yet to consummate the marriage and Labake was deeply frustrated. Well, if the king was not so keen to make a woman out of his wife yet, well, he , Adigun, was very willing to help him enjoy the responsibilities he was shirking.
Two nights later, the king who lay on the bed, turned his head slowly to look at his lovely wife. Realising that she was asleep, he propped on his elbow and carefully waved his right hand in front of her face and when she gave no reaction, he became more certain that she was definitely asleep. Quietly, he threw the bed wrapper off his body and gently moved his feet to the floor. With his wary eyes glancing back at his sleeping inquisitive wife every now and then, he slipped his feet into his animal-skin slippers, quietly rose from the bed and snuck out of the room into the night. Immediately he was out of sight, Labake’s eyes flew open. She got off the bed too, grabbed a shawl and snuck out after her husband.
In the dark, she followed him through the palace but making sure to give enough distance and make no sound so that he didn’t notice her. Labake followed her husband to the end of the palace until he stopped before the statue. She watched her husband throw wary glances around to be sure that no one was in sight before he opened the bamboo gate of the fence and walked into the small garden housing the statue. She hid behind a tree a bit far off from the statue and watched him. From the movement of his lips, she could tell that he was speaking to someone but she couldn’t see who it was.
Suddenly, a bat which swooped down to hang upside down on one of the branches of the tree whose trunk she was hiding behind, startled her and Labake looked into the tree and calmed herself when she realised that it was only a bat. When she returned her attention to her husband again, she realised that she could not see him any more, and much to her surprise, the statue was also gone from its pedestal. She squinted her eyes in order to see clearly in the dark but all she could see was her husband’s white wrapper on the grass but nothing more. She knew that her husband was still in the garden but what was he doing?
As she was about to emerge from her hiding place and pull closer to tje garden in order to take a closer look, a hand suddenly came around and covered her mouth. Startled, Labake went still and became rigid. Had she been caught? Had her husband put someone to watch out for her. Did he know that she was going to follow her? All these questions flitted through her mind and her heart pounded faster in her chest as she thought of what her husband could possibly do to her for her defiance. Much to her dismay, she soon realized that not only was a hand clasped over her mouth, another hand was on her ample bossom. As she started to speak against the hand, a familiar voice came from behind her, almost tickling the back of her ear.
“Remain quiet or they will hear you.”
Disgusted, Labake tore herself away from her captor and spun around to glower up at him. “Adigun!” She said in distaste.
“Shrrr!” He placed a middle finger over his lips, indicating that she should be quiet.
“What are you doing here?!” She asked in a harsh whisper now, her eyes shooting daggers up at him.
“I am a guard, remember? I should be asking you that same question. A Queen should be in bed at this time of the night, Labake. What are you doing sneaking around?” He asked.
“That’s none of your business!” She retorted. “Does being a guard give you the right to address me by my maiden name and also touch me in a disrespectful manner?!” She scowled.
“Ahan, what sef? Did I really touch it? I mistook you for one of those unruly maidens who play witches at night.”
“Oh! So that’s how you go around harrassing the maid servants in the palace, Adigun, isn’t it?! I’m not surprised that you are still the goat you are!”
“Shrrr! Lower your voice!” He said to her again, warily glancing over her head towards the garden. “So tell me, why are you here when you should be in bed?”
Labake hesitated then scratched the back of her head as she looked away. “Just get out! It’s none of your business!” She retorted and turned to look at the garden again.
Adigun stared down at her buttocks which was protruding towards him and unable to stop himself, he reached out and caressed her buttocks. Labake jumped, spun around and slapped him. “The guys!” She hissed.
Undaunted by her reaction, he leered at her and said. “You are still very much feisty, aren’t you?”
She stuck a warning finger up at his face and warned. “You dare touch me like that again and I’ll have that hand of yours separated from your body before dawn!”
“So says the Queen who doesn’t even know how lovemaking feels despite being in the fifth week of her marriage!” He taunted.
“Shut that mouth of yours!” Labake hissed, feeling embarrassed.
“Pretend all you want but I know that one day, after all these shakara of yours, you’ll yeild!”
“I’d rather sleep with a drunk than go to bed with you!”
“I’m more man than the king will ever be! Let me lick your honey before it rots!”
“You fool! Honey never rots! I shall wait for as long as it takes! No man will touch me except my husband!” She resolutely told him.
“The husband whom you followed into the night?” Adigun said now and Labake went quiet. “Is he even aware of what you are doing?”
“If he was, would I be hiding behind this tree?!” She retorted and eyed him.
“Then you shouldn’t be doing this, Labake. It is very dangerous!” He told her.
“I dont care if it is, Adigun! I need to know where my husband goes to at night and I need to know why!”
“Well, now you know!” He gestured with a hand towards the garden.
“I don’t know anything yet. Does he come here to sleep in the garden or what?? And where is the statue of the woman I saw some minutes back?! One minute, it is there and the next, it is gone!”
Adigun chuckled slyly. “There are some things unknown to mortals, Labake. And there are some things the human eye cannot see.”
“And what is that supposed to mean?”
“It means that no matter how hard you try, you’ll never get to see what is going on in there.” He pointed at the garden.
“Then tell me!”
“Never! May the gods forbid that it comes from my own mouth!”
“But all the guards, including you know what goes on the garden, don’t you all?”
“Not all the guards, my Queen, just I!” Then he began to brag. “I’m Adigun, the eagle eye! There’s nothing I don’t see! My family have charms potent enough to make mortals see or do things that’s tagged impossible in the human world.”
“Listen, I’m not in the mood for all these your nonsense talk, Adigun! If you are going to help me, do so, if you are, be gone already!” She turned to glance at the garden again.
Adigun dipped his hand into a leather bag strapped across his body and pulled out a tiny gourd whose end was tied with a red piece of cloth, then he held it up and said to her. “This charm here, will reveal a lot of things to you and all you have to do is rub it around your eyes.”
“Really?” Labake smiled hopefully now but when she tried to reach for it, Adigun held it out of reach.
“Uhn, uhn, uhn!” He shook his head. “Not so fast, Labake. I have this potent charm to offer, what have you got to give in return.”
Labake gave him a disgruntled look now. “If it’s money you want, I’ll give it to you but let me have that.”
“No, I don’t want cowries, what I want is the food the king has refused to eat.”
Labake’s eyes narrowed in shock now. “What! Are you out of your mind?! Are you asking me to sleep with you in exchange for the charm?! Do you want the gods to strike you dead and cause a plague in the land?! What you have just asked of me is nothing but a taboo, Adigun and I will never do such!” Labake swing her arms over her head and clicked her thumbs and index finger at the ground in a gesture that indicate an abomination.
To be continued…
© Angela Okoduwa