Oyepeju’s death did not surprise anyone not even her maids. She should have taken the initiated’s warning to stop thinking bad thoughts. Abike only felt pity for her son, the boy could not even recognise his mother yet. She found herself going to visit the boy everyday, the innocent child was now in the care of his mother’s two maids.
The hour was almost upon them. It was time to stop the coronation. It was time for her to get her revenge. The Mother had provided them a three-person army. Abike and Ogunbiyi were a little worried at first but, they remembered that the initiated were not ordinary people. Three initiated soldiers equalled a million mortal soildiers.
Niniola paced her chambers, something made her uneasy but she could not point it out. No matter what happened, the coronation must take place. She had waited so long for it to happen. She had to make sure it happened. She stopped pacing, she knew exactly what she had to do.
Niniola’s presence was announced to the commander of the rebel army, he would become the Supreme commander of the Kingdom’s army after Adeniyi’s coronation.
“Your Majesty” The commander said as a away of greeting when Niniola entered his hut.
“Commander, I don’t need to remind you of what will happen if this coronation does go as planned.” Niniola said without any preamble.
The commander smiled, he didn’t respond well to threats but he was going to humour the Queen because just like her, wanted the Coronation ceremony to go on without hitches.
“Your Majesty, do not be disturbed. Everything will go on as planned. I have men surrounding the palace. If they see anything suspicious they’ll kill it first and ask questions later. And besides, the priests have promised us everything will go well.”
“I don’t trust the words of the priests, they’ll say anything we want them to say as long as they are well paid or, in this case properly threatened.” Niniola insisted. “I also heard the palace gates have being opened so that citizens can witness the coronation and from what I hear, they are not happy about it. What if they start a riot.”
The commander sighed and tried desperately to hold in his anger. He hated it when his competence was questioned.
“I have it all under control.” He answered.
“For your sake, I hope you do. After all it was the mute slave you sent to the palace that made things escalate so fast.” Niniola said as she turned to leave.
The commander smiled again, he had sent that slave to palace on her orders. She knew the second Queen would try to buy a slave she could trust to spy on her. The Queen was a really dangerous person and he did not want to be on her bad side. But, he hated when his abilities were tested. As he thought about it, he wondered where the girl was.
Abike wondered why the Mother had requested her presence when it was almost time for them to set out. She sighed, and entered the Mother’s chambers.
“Child, this battle would determine your fate, you have to enter into it with the right attitude. And the confusion I see in you is not right. You want revenge but you don’t know whether you should go for it or not.”
“Mother, you understand me perfectly, I don’t know what to do.” She answered.
“I hope what I am about to show you will help you decide. Your attitude is what will determine this battle, it all depends on you.”
“What do you want to show me?”
“Look into the calabash before you.”
Abike lifted the brown calabash and stared into it, for a few seconds she did not see anything but then, it started. She found herself back at her village the night it was burnt down, she saw her mother being raped and killed again. She saw herself at the slave village, her comatose sister was also violated and killed and then her throat being slashed, the pain was so real, it was as if it was happening to her all over again. Suddenly she was in another village and another village; the calabash took her from village to village, the wreckage and destruction was live. Children were orphaned, the old were left to die of starvation as their children were dragged off to the slave village. There was blood everywhere, houses were burnt down, it was the aftermath of destruction of the rebels brought.
Abike was back in the dark, cold room of the Mother. She didn’t even know she had started crying until she felt her warm tears against her cheeks. She wiped them off, it was not time for tears; It was time for action. Her people had suffered too much under bad government.
The Palace square was full of people, citizens, chiefs, priests, soilders. The golden throne had been brought out of the courtroom to the Square. Everyone awaited the presence of the Prince about to be crowned King.
Niniola smiled happily at the dancers who swayed their waists rhythmically to the drummers beats. But, no matter how energetic and entertaining the dancers were, it was obvious that the only ones happy were the dowager Queen and the chiefs. Even the priests were not happy, but they went along with everything for the sake of their lives. The Oracle had stopped talking to them, but it was not something they could tell anyone.
The drummers stopped and so did the dancers as it was time for the prince come in. The poet introduced him with praises that could make anyone’s head swell. Adeniyi entered all dressed up in the royal regalia, it was the happiest day of his life. The chief priest motioned for him to come forward and sit on the golden throne where he would be crowned.
Adeniyi moved towards the throne and was about to oblige the chief priest but a voice stopped him.
“Don’t you dare sit on that throne.” The voice said again, this time it was louder and clearer.
Everyone turned towards the speaker and she was almost unrecognisable. Abike was no longer in the black slave’s uniform, she wore a soldier’s uniform. No one recognised the uniform, her thick black hair and been braided tightly and neatly on her head. Her eyes lined with kohl, her formidable look was completed with the arrow she pointed at the prince.
“The only way you can sit on that throne is when I’m dead.” She said.
Adeniyi’s eyes widened with surprise, he had not gotten a chance to meet the slave, but he knew she was the one. He wanted his life more than he wanted the throne.
Niniola was infuriated, how could a slave threaten her son’s life, she more angry at her son for being so afraid of a slave.
The commander laughed so hard and deep, it almost distracted Abike, she could not take her eyes of the Prince, because the moment he sat on the throne; it was over.
“Do you think you can pull this off alone?” He asked, he suspected witchcraft must be involved in the slave’s ability to speak. With all he had experienced nothing surprised him.
“She not alone” Ogunbiyi said as he stepped out of the crowed with the three soldiers the Mother had given him; All women in the same attire as Abike
“Really, you think you can defeat me with three women?” The commander asked, irritated.
“Try us” Ogunbiyi said as he played confidently with his sword.
The priests who had recognised the pure people started to back away. They knew it would be unwise to go head to head with them.
The commander rolled his eyes at the cowardice of the priests. He was tired of the drama going on.
“Please kill them.” He ordered his soldiers with a bored expression.
As soon as he said, it was as if he had unleashed the pure people. Even with the commotion that had started as the citizens tried to run for their lives, the initiated soldiers moved through the people at the speed of light and within minutes the rebel soldiers were dead.
Ogunbiyi had gone for the commander’s head and he had gotten it.
During the commotion, Adeniyi had tried to sit on the throne but Abike was faster than he was. He lay on the floor with three arrows in his chest.
Niniola began to scream at the sight of son’s dead body, it was the beginning of her insanity.
Abike looked around, it was all over. The burden she carried for over a year had been eased; or so she thought.
Four months after the battle, the Oracle had spoken to the priests finally and had chosen the next ruler of Ibiyowa kingdom.
“Do you really have to go? Stay here and rule with me.” Abike begged.
“You know I can’t. The kingdom has been damaged beyond repair. I have to go out there and help them settle.” Ogunbiyi answered as he stroked her face with his fingers.
“Ruling the kingdom is a heavy burden, o can’t bear it alone. I need you here.”
“The Oracle chose you for a reason, I’ll help you bear the burden, but I can do it here. The kingdom has to be rebuilt, soldiers need to recruited. As the General, that is my duty. You’ll always have me and the young Prince. He’s your son now, train him well because he is your successor.”
Abike sighed, there was no way to convince him to stay, he was a soldier and he’s duty was outside the palace. It would be wrong of her to force him to stay. The gods had chosen her to clean up the mess the previous government made and she would do a good job of it.
“I have to go” He said as he bent to kiss her lightly on the lips, it was not the first kiss they’d shared but sadly it was the last. She was the Queen and he was a soldier; their fate ked them in different ways to achieve a common goal.
“Take of yourself and the Prince.” He said, before he finally left her hut.
“I will” Abike answered into emptiness. Her path was never the easy one.
Thanks for reading The Mute Slave, hope you enjoyed it.