“A king, if he forgets who he is, will live like a common man.”

Adesewa walked as fast as her legs could carry her to the palace. She knew the news would get to Adedibu one way or the other and she didn’t want him to hear from any stranger. It was already the talk of the town’s jesters. His wife, the Olori had been caught in bed with Rotimi, the Balogun and her ex-lover. It was true the king had taken the proverbial meal from the pauper’s mouth even though he had an overflowing storehouse of food by asking the hand of Kikelomo in marriage when everyone in town knew Rotimi and her had been together since their childhood days.

Adedibu was known as one who did whatsoever he pleased caring less about what others thought but Adesewa knew that Kikelomo was the only thing he had ever wanted that felt out of his grasp and that he was not as inhumane as the villagers thought him to be. Rotimi had stood no chance with Kikelomo when Adedibu asked her hand in marriage because he was the Kabiyesi and no one dared question his choice, not even the Balogun.

But now, the shaky promise of peace that the villagers had held on to when Rotimi had not challenged Adedibu about taking Kikelomo from him was shattered. All hell was let loose. The sound of wailing she heard from the palace had her hurrying her steps. The noise seemed to be coming from the Queen mother’s hut and she just knew that she was too late. The news had already gotten to the palace.

As she got closer to the King’s hut, she passed by people with solemn faces. Ahead of her, Otun, Osi and Iyalode took burdened steps towards the hut, shaking their heads in grief. She slowed down for them to go on in before she followed. On entering the hut, she fell on her knees to pay homage to Adedibu even though he had his back to them all.

Kabiyeeeesi o!” she greeted. “My elders, I greet you.”

“My daughter, you may rise.” Otun said to her, not raising his head.

She stood up on shaky feet and wondered how long the silence would wear on before someone broke it. She didn’t wonder for long.

Eeeeeeeeeeeewo o!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” The high-pitch tone and cowries beating against bare flesh announced the arrival of Yeye Mofe, the High Priestess. “Kabiyesi o!” she greeted the King even though he paid her no heed. She spoke fast all the time and it made one wonder what it was that always made her pressed for time. It was unheard of for the Yeye to have a family so the only duty she had was to the village.

‘Yio bale yio bale ni labalaba fi wo gbo lo.

Kaka kiku ma je sese, a fi sawada ni’

Yeye Mofe’s loud chanting filled the hut and Adedibu finally turned towards them, his eyes bloodshot and swollen. She knew he had been crying and it irked her that there was nothing she could do to ease her brother’s pain.

“A king, if he forgets who he is, will live like a common man.” Yeye Mofe continued, chewing her mouth and looking round the room, wide-eyed. When she opened her mouth next, Adesewa knew that the High Priestess had a message to relay. Taking slow, calculated steps towards the Kabiyesi, she drew shapes in the sand and chanted. All eyes were on her as she moved and Otun, Osi and Iyalode shared fearful glances when they realized what she was drawing. There was no escaping doom now. War was inevitable.

Vocabulary: *Olori- Queen, Balogun- Army General, Kabiyesi- Unquestionable One/King, Eeeeeeeeeeeewo o!- Abomination!, Yeye- Mother ‘Yio bale yio bale ni labalaba fi wo gbo lo. Kaka kiku ma je sese, a fi sawada ni’- Incantations, Otun, Osi and Iyalode- Yoruba elders (Otun and Osi are men, Iyalode is the women’s leader)*

-The Grace Ola


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