A new season of the series begins today. I hope you enjoy it! Please don’t forget to share this link and leavve a comment! Thanks!
It had been raining steadily for the past few hours, yet, Ajao had not commanded them to stop. The slaves trudged on, weak, cold, starving and exhausted from the five day journey. Oyinade’s mind was numb, her feet were sore with blisters, her clothes drenched, dirty and clinging to her slim frame. She asked herself yet again how it had happened that her father’s kingdom was taken over so swiftly. Who had King Adegbite offended? Ahead of her, Olabisi was prodded on by a young warrior.
“What is wrong with you? Is this weight on your chest preventing you from walking straight?”
Olabisi didn’t respond, she moved her feet slowly and her body trembled. She was reaching her breaking point, ready to give in to the exhaustion and pain she felt. The young warrior who was prodding her on was Akinde, one of Ajao’s right hand men. Olabisi was to join two of his other wives back at Kajola. He looked forward to many nights of passion with her voluptuous body and hoped that she would bear him daughters as endowed as she. They would fetch him bountiful dowries. Either way, she was an asset to him.
“Move quickly!” he snapped at her.
“I’m tired….” Olabisi moaned, pain tightening up her chest. She who was easily susceptible to cold had suffered a runny nose, coughs, headaches, fever and nausea and could no longer stand the arduous journey.
“We have one more day to go and you will be in my house. You better stand up straight before I whip you.”
She really could not do as he wished, her knees trembled and her chest burned with pain. In anger, Akinde hit her with a thick stem he had cut off a tree.
“You’re lazy! You’re lazy and I won’t tolerate it!”
As if on cue, Oyinade went out of the line and rushed to her friend who was howling and bent over.
“Please! Please! Let me help her!”
Akinde looked forward, his master was not watching. “If you slow me down, I will beat you too!”
Oyinade helped her friend up, as she did, she felt how hot her body was and realized how very bad this trip was for her friend. Two of the slaves on the line had been killed for slowing down the company and the only reason she hadn’t been thus treated was because she was to be a wife to Ajao’s right hand man. Oyinade realized that there was nothing she could do but help her to go for as long as she could. Leaving her to rest in the thick bushes was not an option, it was too dangerous for anyone. Animals and bandits roamed the trail. Akinde, too angry and frustrated about the situation walked ahead of them, leaving them to lag behind momentarily.
“Romoke betrayed me.”
“She betrayed us. I heard what happened, and now Oyeleke is also king. This life!”
Oyinade sighed. “She looked so triumphant when she came into my cell.”
“She didn’t even come into mine. What was our offence?”
“I don’t know but I know that she will pay for it.”
They walked on for a while longer.
“Let me go Oyinade.”
“I cannot, do you know what will happen to you if they dump you here?”
“I don’t care. I cannot continue like this.”
“They will kill you.”
“I don’t care, what am I living for?”
“Don’t leave me Olabisi!”
“I don’t want to but I don’t think I can survive this journey. Who knows what awaits us at Kajola?”
Oyinade was silent, she knew her friend was right but did they have any other choice but to be optimistic? They walked on in silence, Oyinade holding on to her friend and pleading with Akinde to have mercy on her. As the day wore on and the sun slowly began to set, Olabisi suddenly began to convulse. Her whole body trembling violently and mouth foaming. Ajao pulled Oyinade away from her, and pushed her towards the other slaves. The whole company watched Olabisi until she was still, her tongue sticking out of her mouth.
“Let us go.” Ajao said.
At night, Oyinade was still in mourning over her friend. She sat quietly on the grass with the other slaves, ate nothing and spoke to no one. Ajao noticed her behaviour, took a bowl of food and walked over to her.
“Eat your food.”
Oyinade took the bowl of roasted yam and palm oil from him and set it beside her. She folded her arms and began to think again of her friend. Ajao scratched his scar and sat beside her.
“You’re thinking of your friend, isn’t it?”
He stank of decayed blood and human flesh and Oyinade found it difficult to open her mouth to respond to him. The man repulsed her greatly.
“Didn’t you hear me?”
“I heard.” she muttered, careful not to be rude to him and incur his wrath.
But Ajao knew exactly how she felt about him. He saw her cringe, purse her lips and hold her breath. Yet again, she rejected him and made him feel inferior.
“You think you are better than me isn’t it?”
Oyinade was overwhelmed. “No!”
“So why don’t you respond when I’m talking to you?”
“Please don’t be offended, I’m thinking about my friend!”
Ajao smiled coldly. “Eat your food. Eat it or I will force it down your throat.”
“Please don’t be offended I didn’t mean to appear rude.”
It took every ounce of willpower for her to speak to him without throwing up. Ajao observed her closely and crouched before her.
“I am going to make you my wife, do you know what it means to be married to me?”
She shook her head.
“I know, but you will soon see that your life is about to get better. So cheer up and eat.”
She nodded and averted her eyes. Ajao got up and smiled, feeling on top of the world again.
By evening of the next day, they arrived at Kajola, weary but relieved that the journey was over. The slaves were led into the presence of King Adegunju, a big man with four, large, vertical tribal marks on both cheeks. His big body filled his throne, his dark face was round and on his head was a crown made out of animal skin decorated with cowries and feathers. He smiled as Ajao and his men came in.
The warriors and slaves got on their faces and paid homage to him.
“Ajao! The warrior who defeated the lion and has conquered kings, you are welcome!”
Ajao smiled widely and his face transformed into an almost friendly one, but his scar stretched to its limit, making him look like a statue.
“I have brought you wealth, slaves and the crown of Adegbite, the weak king.”
“The foolish man! I told him not to trifle with me. I told him that I am Adegunju and that I would pluck out his eyes and take his crown, but he refused to listen to me. That was seven years ago, look at me now. Am I not the victorious one?”
“Yes you are Kabiyesi!” his chiefs who were seated on one side of the throne room hailed him.
“Where is his wife?”
“I didn’t bring her, she is sluggish and wouldn’t have been able to make the journey.”
The king sulked. “You have made my joy incomplete. I wanted to lay his wife in the public view of everyone and have my way with her, so that everyone would remember that I am not to be trifled with.”
Oyinade winced slightly where she was, her head averted and her mind racing with the fear that Ajao or someone else would mention to the king that she was King Adegbite’s daughter.
“I apologize my Lord but I brought you great riches from Iluope. Duro! Where is the box?” He said to Durojaiye one of his right hand men.
A wooden box full of cowries, statues and expensive aso-ofi was opened. King Adegunju smiled.
“You have outdone yourself Ajao!”
The slaves had been distributed amongst their owners. Oyinade’s royal clothes had been taken away and replaced by an old iro and buba. She had had a bath in the stream, been fed with amala and ewedu with no stew or meat to go with it. Then she was led into a small room with an oil lamp and a mat and the door was shut. Ajao came in some minutes later, smelling clean. He had had a bath, eaten and drunk. Oyinade bowed her head and stared at her hands.
“Stand up and remove your clothes.”
“You said you were going to marry me!” She said in confusion. “Shouldn’t I meet my seniors first?”
Ajao began to laugh. “You make me laugh. Me, marry you? You think I have brought you here to treat you like a wife?”
“But you said…”
“I said what I said because I didn’t want you to kill yourself with grief and starvation. You are here as a slave, as a nobody, and fit for nothing but my pleasure. You held your breath as we talked in Iluope, I stunk to you, and I meant nothing to you. But now listen, I have brought you here so that you can know what it is like to be reduced from royalty to nothing. Get up and take off your clothes.”
“What did I do to you? What did I do?”
“You’re wasting my time!”
Still Oyinade began to plead and beg for mercy but it only emboldened Ajao. He took pride in knowing that he had such control over her and that he had demolished yet another king. Kings were nothing, they had no real power, they needed men like him to take territories and defend them. He was Ajao, the man who had killed a lion and conquered seven kings. No king was greater than he.
In the early hours of the morning, limping and bleeding, Oyinade was led to a large mud house where the other slaves slept.
As she lay on her side and thought about her ordeal, she realized that her greatest mistake was not heeding Iya Adigun’s advice. Her life had been spared but harm was coming her way in no small measure. Was she who had been served hand and foot from the day of her birth, to be nothing but a dispensable slave, used at will and have no family of her own? She had had doubts about Oyeleke, but would her life not have been better with him? Was she to die in a foreign land, merely tossed into the earth and covered up? Had all her good works been in vain?
Oyinade wept tears of pain, shame, regret and grief. One week ago she had been planning with her maids how they were going to build her new home, her father had had promised her whatever she needed but here she was, far way from home, alone and abused.