Crickets’ shrillings seized everywhere in Oyèrẹ̀mí’s quarter. The sky groaned and was ready to bathe the earth with storms. The wind ran with all his power from the east, shook everything up and disturbed the oil lamps in the quarter. This was the second rainfall of the year. There would be many harvests in the town. Oyèrẹ̀mí was seeing Àríkẹ́, her fiancé off. It was Àríkẹ́’s first time in the palace since when they had been dating.
On the night when they would know each other. Oyèrẹ̀mí was with his friends playing the Ayò game and taking palm wine under the Árábà tree nearby the market square. Àríkẹ́ who was one of the most beautiful ladies in Ajégúnlẹ̀ town was hawking ẹ̀kọ́ eléwé. Many people had wanted to have her as a wife including Baṣọ̀run Àjàyí who promised her father the heaven and earth. Àríkẹ́ did not know who Oyèrẹ̀mí was when he talked of love with her because he did not use to flaunt his royal background outside the palace. He would sing with children, wrestle among the teenagers, drum with his best friend, àyànwálé, and sometimes roast cassava with elder women. Nobody knew he was a prince from the palace except Àyànwálé. The only prince known by the people was Adégòkè because he usually acted as the one anywhere in the town. Àríkẹ́ told him that she wanted a peaceful future for herself and her children and this was why she did not want a man from the noblest background as a husband and she could see sincerity radiating in Oyèrẹ̀mí’s eyes as they kept glowing the light of the full moon that they consumed.
“You can use your beauty to take us away from this penury, Àríkẹ́” Àkànní, her father was persuading her to consider Baṣọ̀run as her suitor instead of the random guy she said that she met some weeks ago. “Ìyá Àríkẹ́, don’t leave me to this matter alone?” he pleaded.
“What you want me to say, my lord?” she knelt. “We should be very careful not to force our lovely daughter to do what she does not want to do, my husband. You also know that Àríkẹ́ is no longer a kid. She knows what is right for herself, my husband. One would not have a tree on his farm and fails to recognize its fruits, my lord” she bowed in respect.
“Hmm. You are right. But this poverty is too much these years, my wife. You see, Baṣọ̀run has sent some baskets of gifts to us.” He pointed to the three big baskets put beside their bamboo bed.
“Báàmi. You should not take anything from him ó. What is not enough now will soon become surplus. If we are alive, we shall feast on an animal that is more huge than an elephant, Báàmi.” Àríkẹ́ hugged him and her mother held his legs.
He gave a deep sigh and leaned on the mud wall. He wiped his face with his two and patted Àríkẹ́’s back. He rose his wife and hugged both of them. Someone was knocking on their wooden gate. When Àkànní got there, he met a man who dressed in Lábánǹkádà with an Abetí-ajá cap made from the same cloth.
“Good evening ó. Who are you looking for?”
“Good evening, sir.” He prostrated removing the cap on his head. “I am Àyànwálé, the drummer. I come to see your daughter, Àríkẹ́” he said as he rose.
“From where and what do you want to see her for?”
“Baba. I am being sent to her by my friend and if she gets, she will recognize me.” He bowed.
“ó da. Kò burú. Àríkẹ́!!” he called her and she instantly came out.
“A-ha! Bọ̀dá Àyàn. Why are you here tonight? Where is Oyèrẹ̀mí? She asked.
” Báàmi, he is a friend to the guy that I was telling you about, Oyèrẹ̀mí.” she informed her father.
” Oò!! How are you? How is he doing? Why is he not here with you? If you see him, inform him that he can come and see his fiancé anytime. He is welcome.”
“Thank you so much, sir.” He prostrated. “He is the one that sent me to Àríkẹ́. He wants her to come to the palace.”
“Which palace ?” Surprised, Àríkẹ́.
” Has Baṣọ̀run arrested him for seeing him with Àríkẹ́?” Asked Àkànní.
” No, sir. Oyèrẹ̀mí is the first child of king Adégbolá and the heir to the thrown.” He said.
Àríkẹ́ had lost and she was very surprised, angry with him for keeping such a secret from her but still filled with joy that she did not betray the hope of her parents.
Ìyá Àríkẹ́ met them and she was informed. She was very happy that she did not fail to convince her husband to allow Àríkẹ́ to decide on her own.
“Ahh!! Kááábìési ó” both of her parents went on their tribute to Àyànwálé and he quickly stopped them from doing such. They told Àríkẹ́ to put on her best dresses. Her mother went into her basket, she took out her most expensive, iyùn and adorned her daughter’s neck, wrists and ankles with them. She was now looking more beautiful than the first time. Oyèrẹ̀mí’s mother could not take her eyes away from her when she got to the palace. If not that she needed to be with the king who was on the sickbed, she would have stayed all night looking at Àríkẹ́.
When she left in the rain, Àyànwálé met them and followed Oyèrẹ̀mí back to his quarter. He told him that he had been looking for Àbẹ̀ní and she was nowhere to be found. Oyèrẹ̀mí told him that she would soon come home.
On getting to his quarter, he met Aṣípa and ọ̀tún in front of his quarter with some palace guards. He did not understand what was going on until Baṣọ̀run Àjàyí came along with Olorì Àwẹ̀ní – his mother, Olorì Àṣàkẹ́ – Adégòkè’s mother and the king’s physician.
“The king’ s physician said that the long time illness of the king is caused due to the poison given to him by someone in the palace ” Baṣọ̀run began as to where Oyèrẹ̀mí stood. Everyone was shocked except the three of them that had known before. “Since I had heard about it the incident, we have started our investigation and we are scouring every quarter in the palace looking for the culprit,” he said.
“Are you here to search my quarter? Why do you think I would poison my blood father?” enquired, Oyèrẹ̀mí.
“Anything can happen under the sky. Why is a python child killing his mother?” contended, Aṣípa.
“I wonder ó. Or is it not under this same sky? Please pave the way and let’s do our jobs. Hey! Enter his quarter.” ordered, Baṣọ̀run.
“If they born anyone of you well, dare to infiltrate my quarter. What makes a hen not urinate after she defecates, I will prove it to you tonight.” Olorì Awẹ̀nì knew that her son was now getting angry. He was rubbing his hair. His eyes were gleaming wide. She went to him and held his hands, then he was calm.
Olorì Àṣàkẹ́ was not existing in the group. She had lost in the thought. All that she told Baṣọ̀run when he came to her chamber and the sex. The way the old chief handled her, turning her back and front,smacking her sins away from her boiled youthful thighs. The trembling lips and the moaning that escaped her mouth.
“Did anyone listen?” she thought jerking her cloth.
She remembered his promise.
“I would cover your deeds. Your son would become the next king. I swear on my grey hairs” he continued putting her on, fondling her tender breasts and she was just lost all herself in the deep depth of the sensation.
“Ahhhhh! Àrẹ̀mọ̀ !!”
The noise tossed her back and she found herself in Oyèrẹ̀mí’s room. An Àdò was found in his room. The physician tested it, it brought out the same smell. He could never mistake it for another thing. It was the real poison that was killing the king. Ọ̀tún could not believe his eyes. Aṣípa’s mouth was opened wide to the tactical cunning of Baṣọ̀run. Oyèrẹ̀mí became a dump. He could not convince her mother, the rest of them, that he was not the one. His eyes and his mother’s eyes got fixed on themselves.
“Can he do it?” thought, his mother. “No way! I trust my only son.”
“I’m now relieved. Every storm is over.” Olorì Àṣàkẹ́ thought and gave a little smile.
” Let’s check his backyard. He must have something there. I did not see the maid that blew the whistle around?” announced, Baṣọ̀run.
“The poisoning would cost him to be exiled from the palace but, If this is found out, no way, he would be killed in the market square having his head displayed at the outskirt of the town. But, why? ” thought Aṣípa.
On getting there, there was nothing. No traces. No blood stains except the downpours.
“These boys told me that the job was completed. Where is the corpse?” thought, Baṣọ̀run.