Her body still ached, but it didn’t stop her from finishing the soup and the goat meat that accompanied it. Sliding back down, she snuggled under the sheets. The head cook, Ireti, that Mekani had talked about had since brought her food. The elderly woman sat on the chair by the bed and watched her eat up.
Ireti was such a nice woman. Although plump, she had carriage and grace in her steps. Top that up with being an excellent cook and a wonderful waitress
Deba didn’t think she’d be able to eat much when the food first arrived. But she had emptied the soup plate, the vegetables and the goat meat that followed.
“Thank you.” She said, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. She was truly grateful for a sumptuous meal.
“I am glad to be of service, my princess.” Ireti smiled. “Ever since you arrived, we have all been eager to wait on you. Everyone in the kingdom has been talking about your arrival and they just can’t wait to see you.” She finished, really excited like a little girl.
“Yes, Princess. Everyone.”
Deba’s eyes widened as realization hit her. Back at Utho Era she was nothing but the late Ezodo’s daughter. The people rarely called her princess. Of course, except Yuwa, who chipped it in every now and then. Now it dawned on her why Mekani had continuously called her princess – princess of Gor, that was what he meant. Not princess of Utho Era, as she used to think. And him? Who was he? Especially since he was her father’s adopted child.
“…….. I’ll pack up your plates now. I hope you rest well, princess.”
“Oh” Deba winced, feeling guilty she hadn’t been following the elderly woman’s conversation. “Thank you so much, ma. The meal was great and I enjoyed your company.”
“Ma?” Ireti’s brows got up, curiosity taking over her expression. “I don’t know many princesses who call their subjects ma. I’m really going to enjoy having you around.”
Deba chuckled. “The feeling is mutual.”
The elderly woman’s smile broadened. She picked up the used plates and bowed, before walking to the door and out of the room.
Deba sighed. She hadn’t expected Ireti to bow to her. I guess I’m going to need to start getting used to a lot of things. She thought, before turning to face the window. The intensity of the sun rays flooding the room told her it was almost midday. Although she wanted to rest some more, she knew she needed to bathe first. Where is the washroom? She thought. As if in cue, a soft knock on the door distracted her.
“Please, can we come in, Princess?” A female voice asked from the other side.
“Yes”, she replied, wondering who ‘we’ entailed.
The door opened and three girls dressed in a white, simple floor-length robe, walked in. They shut the door behind and bowed in unison like an unseen force controlled them with puppet strings. “The prince said it is time for you to wash up.” The lady who seemed to be their leader spoke.
Prince? Deba thought. Mekani. Definitely, she couldn’t be referring to any other person. Or maybe it was Dogo, or Kubu. What of Mayo? Her mind, however, remained fixed on Mekani. She should have known that he was a prince in the kingdom. It explained the princely robe he wore – almost similar to the one worn by Prince Daoud during his sham of a marriage to Izogie.
“Izogie” the name escaped her lips, almost inaudibly. Deba couldn’t help thinking that her cousin was either dead or suffering at the hands of the madman that is her husband.
“Your bath, Princess.” The leader of the girls reminded her.
“Yes.” She agreed. Amidst pains, Deba sat up and then got out of bed. “Where will I bathe?”
“Here.” The girl smiled, then clapped her hands twice. The other girls moved, took Deba’s hands and gently led her to the far end of the room where a curtain was drawn together. They pulled it apart to reveal a bath made of bricks. Then they went out briefly to get hot water which they used in massaging her joints before giving her body and hair a thorough wash.
It was sometime later. The girls were long gone and she was fully dressed in a white off-the-shoulder long-sleeved gown that covered her body up to her ankle. A belt held the free gown together at her waist. And a cape hung from her shoulders to the floor.
Deba stood against the wide opening that served as a window. Apparently, she was inside an elevated palace, high enough to reveal a large extent of the city to her. Deba looked out at the city below and was entranced by its beauty and riches. She knew it was no small city. Men and women went about in their numbers. Some were merchants, ringing bells and calling out to passersby to buy their goods. Others were regular farmers, fishermen, carpenters, goldsmiths and even medicine men. She couldn’t help but wonder just how large and rich the kingdom was. Utho Era was large, thanks to her papa. But since his supposed death, the kingdom didn’t expand. It just maintained its size. Talking about color and beauty, no, Utho Era didn’t have as much as the little she knew Gor had.
“What have you been up to, papa?” The question escaped her lips.
“Nothing you won’t know soon”, A familiar voice said. She turned around to see Mekani casually strolling in her direction. “Sorry”, he apologized, “I didn’t mean to startle you. But your door was left open”.
Her eyes traveled to the slightly opened door and back to him. “It’s Ok. As long as it is you.” She smiled. He smiled too, before moving to hug her from behind and planting firm kisses on her neck and bare shoulders.
“Why? Because they gave me a wash and new clothes?”
He chuckled. “Yes.”
“Naughty you.” She laughed lightly. The sound of her laughter tickled his senses and his grip around her waist tightened. She felt his hardness against her behind and she quickly turned to look down at it, before looking up again.
“What?” Her brows were raised.
“You know what.” He replied, “You’ve always known what.”
“But it can wait.” He moved to take the space by her side. “What do you think about what you’ve seen so far?” He asked, looking out at the city below.
“I’m impressed,” Deba said, resuming her position by the window. “When you talked about my father’s kingdom, I expected something small, with thatch roofs and half-naked people”.
Mekani chuckled. “I can imagine. But why half naked?”
“Because you and the men were half naked”. She grinned at him
“It’s our disguise. We couldn’t risk being recognized as royalties outside of Gor. It is better that way, to keep thieves at bay.”
“True.” She agreed. “So what about the others? The men, I mean”.
“Dogo and Kubu are with their families. Mayo is chasing a farm girl he met on our way back. He claims he is in love already.” Mekani grinned.
Deba chuckled. “That is a fast love. But what about his family? I thought he’d go out to look for them.”
“We did look for them. A long time ago. His wife remarried. She seems very happy with her new life. There was no use bringing her sorrows. Mayo thought it best to let her be. She has suffered enough because of him.”
Deba nodded, pretending to understand why he’d let go of his wife if he truly loved her. “And his kids?”
“The new husband adopted them. He’s truly a good man at heart”.
Deba nodded again. There was nothing as romantic as marrying a good man who is willing to reciprocate the feeling. She loved Mekani. That was for sure. There was just no way she’d settle for another man all because Mekani suddenly disappeared for five or six seasons, no matter how good the other man claimed to be.
She looked at him then. Thankfully his eyes were focused on the city below. Looking at him over again, from head to toe, told her he was the perfect man for her. No one else would be able to take his place, in her heart, or on her bed.
It took a while, but she finally tore her eyes away from him and sighed. Images of what their lovemaking would look like had started to form in her head. Lingering on such images would only be a case of starting something that wouldn’t finish. Warm feelings had started to creep all over her body. To ease what she was feeling, she looked out again at the city below and let her eyes absorb its beauty. “Gor is much more than I ever imagined.” She spoke at last. “It is beautiful.”
“Yes.” Mekani agreed, looking at her. “Wait till you see the rest of the kingdom. We mimicked what we saw in Mombasa and Gao. During his journey, your father happened to visit Timbuktu. He got some ideas from there also”
“Travelled far and wide, I see.”
“You don’t approve?” His brows shut up.
“I do. I’m just wishing I could travel the world too.”
“Ok. I get. Jealously.”
She spanked him playfully. “Must you miss read things?”
“As long as it concerns you, yes.” He leaned over and kissed her lips lightly. “I like the perfume they used on you too.”
“My bathers, you mean”.
“Hmm… Before I forget, thanks for sending Ireti. I enjoyed her food. She really knows how to prepare tasty meals. And thanks for the bath girls too. They bathed me thoroughly. I’ll be bathing myself next time though.”
“I know.” He chuckled. “You want independence. But your body ached. You needed help.”
“True. Thanks for the thought.”
“You’re welcome. Talking about thoughts, Juba will see you now.”
Deba’s heart skipped. Then she swallowed. Finally, her moment had come – the moment she had been waiting for. Different thoughts flashed through her mind and for the first time since she learned that her father was alive, she truly wondered what she would say when she met him. Of course, that was outside the explanation surrounding his sudden disappearance for 8 years. That is, 8 seasons. She didn’t know she looked scared until Mekani spoke.
“Don’t look like that.” Mekani took both her hands and pulled her into his embrace. “You’ll be relieved after you’ve seen him.”
“I know”, she swallowed. “I just don’t know what to expect”.
He raised her chin to look at him. A soft kiss followed. “Expect to see your father”.
She nodded. “Ok.”
“Come. We shouldn’t keep him waiting”. He led her out of the room.
With Mekani leading the way, they walked out of the room into a quiet passage. A few servants were there, including Ireti and the girls who gave her a bath. They bowed as the duo walked past. Some distance away, Deba turned back and waved at Ireti. She smiled broadly and waved back, just before they turned left into another passage, narrower than the first. Mekani stopped briefly to open the door at the end of the passage. A flight of stairs greeted their eyes. Together, with Mekani in front, they descended until they reached the bottom of the underground building. There were five small windows joined to the ceiling at different spots. Through the window, several feet could be seen walking past, unconscious of the eyes watching them.
The walls of the spacious room they found themselves were made of bricks. Wooden statues, about 10, lined the east wing of the room. In the middle was a king-sized chair with thorns at the back. In front of it was a footstool and by the sides, two empty benches. Several hooded clothing’s hung from the wall at the west wing of the room. A closed door stood beside the last clothing hanging from the wall. Deba couldn’t help but notice that all the clothes hand hoods.
Mekani moved to light a lamp. Then he walked over to where the curtains were tied. He undid the knots that held them apart and pulled them together to block out sunlight. The light from the lamp remained the only source of light. Then he walked up to Deba.
“Please don’t mind the darkness.” He said, “Juba prefers it this way. At least there is a lamp. Just wait a little longer, he will be with you shortly.” He squeezed her hands gently, before turning to leave.
“Where are you going?” Deba asked. She seemed frightened at the idea of being left alone to face a father she had not seen for eight seasons; a father who had become a god and a king.
“I will wait outside”, Mekani explained. “I cannot be here without Juba’s permission”.
“You can stay”, a voice said. It was vaguely familiar and also strange. It had something in it, something that sounded like sadness mixed with joy. Deba looked around, but there was no one.
“I am in front of you.” This time, the voice came from the king-sized chair with thorns. She looked hard at the chair and thought she saw movement. “Come closer, my dear”, the voice pleaded.
“Don’t be scared.” Mekani encouraged. “He is your father.”
Deba’s eyes widened, “Papa?”
“My baby”. The voice sounded like it was smiling now.
She moved to stand in front of the chair. Then she knelt and stretched her hands to touch him. True, he was there. But his form was without color. He was like water, taking on the color of anything placed on him or around him – In this case, the brown color of the king-sized chair.
“Papa!” She cried and threw herself at him. He hugged her and together, they wept for joy, uncertainty, and sadness over all they had endured – all the seasons they had been apart and the pain that had followed. Deba’s heart sank. Her papa was truly not the same.
To be continued….
First published in 2016 on Karo’s Story Blog
©Karo Oforofuo. August 2016. All rights reserved.
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