The coronation ceremony has ended. The drum beats has faded into the night and the chorus of the crickets and the owls has risen in its stead.
The moon was high in the dark clouds, shining its silvery rays on the crushed chicken bones, empty palmwine kegs and half eaten plates of food that littered the palace arena. Some slaves were walking around picking the remains of the feast and loading them in their raffia bags.
The villagers had long dispersed. Most, drunken and snoring in their huts. A cock’s loud crow broke the still night.
The throne room was nearly deserted. The nobles of Dangala kingdom has long gone home to their wives, yet the newly crowned king remained seated on his throne. His bronze crown with a lion head carved at the center sat on his head.
Agila gripped the edge of the throne chair. His knuckles whitened. His heart slammed in his chest. As the first born son of King Nzenta the 5th, he had trained all his life for this throne. He had survived endless sword practice at the hands of Dangala’s best warriors and he had endured the long hours in the chambers of the wise Isekas, the Dangala royal historians. As the heir to the throne of Dangala, Agila was expected to be a seasoned warrior and a master historian. So, in those long days, when he sat with the Isekas, memorizing the past kings of Dangala kingdom and their numerous conquests, his eyes stole glances at the slave girl scrubbing the floors of the chamber.
Her braids were long and unkempt yet it didn’t dim her beauty. Her nose sat proudly on her shiny ebony face, and her eyes sparkled like the moon. Agila had seen many maidens in Dangala and even in the faraway Jaza kingdom. Yet no maiden equalled Zila’s beauty. Not the maidens of the sacred cave and not even his own betrothed, Asatira the princess of Ege kingdom.
He was fourteen when he fell in love, it was in one of those numerous history lessons, when the white haired Isekas were whisking him about and forcing him to recite the sacred traditions of Dangala kingdom that his eyes darted from his aged teachers to the little girl standing few steps away from him. Her eyes danced in mirth, the dimples in her cheeks burrowed further, her eyes shone like a million diamonds.
Agila sucked in a sharp breath, he was too engrossed in her beauty to notice the golden cup of wine she was offering him. He jotted back to reality and quickly stretched out his hand to her. His fingers brushed against hers. A tremor swept through him. He looked up at her and saw that her smile had vanished. She must have felt it too. He had never felt this way for any other maiden.
“What… what is your name?” he asked, stuttering.
“Zila!” she replied, smiling as she walked away. Her short wrapper danced around her waist. Her feet tapped against the floor. As she walked to her bucket and began to scrub again.
That night, he dreamt of her. Dreamt of running down the hills with Zila giggling behind him. He dreamt of Zila wriggling in his bed, her hips jerking upward to meet him half way. Then he saw their children wearing royal robes. He had awoken that night with pain in his heart, he knew the dream would remain a fleeting illusion. Zila will never be his. Traditions forbade a slave to wed a prince.
Agila jotted back to the present. He saw Osi, the head of his king guard, a towering build of a man, looking down at him.
“What’s it, Osi?”
“It is time you retire, your majesty”
Your majesty? That title still sounded strange to Agila’s ears. It suited his late father better. A hundred thoughts roamed Agila’s head.
“Will I be a good ruler?”
“And will Dangala strive in my reign?”
“Will I do my father proud?”
“Will the gods favor me?”
Osi walked closer to Agila and bent and whispered to his ears.
“The gods will guide you, Agila. Just believe it”
It was almost as though Osi had read his thoughts. But was not surprising, given the fact that the guard has known him since he was a child. Osi was the one who picked him up, when as a little boy of six, he crying in the garden after a serpent had bitten him. Osi had crushed the serpent’s head with a spear and lifted Agila in his hands and said…
“A king does not cry!”
“But I am not a king and this hurts alot.” little Agila had insisted.
“You will be a king someday, my prince.” Osi had said as he carried little Agila and headed for the royal infirmary.
Agila drew his royal robes together, it was a long velvet robe with golden embroidery at the edges. He adjusted the crown on his head as he rose. Walking down the corridor with two candle stands illuminating the way, Osi’s soft footsteps echoed behind him.
They got to the large golden door of the royal chambers. Osi turned to Agila, a smile shining on his lips.
“Your majesty,” Osi said, “A surprise awaits you. Worthy of a king.
Agila was still trying to make out what Osi had said when Osi bade him farewell and walked away. Agila opened the door. The room was dimly lit. A single candle illuminated the room. A large golden bed sat in the middle of the room. A large table was on the right corner, a leopard fur lay on it. Agila walked briskly to the bed. He was tired. Perhaps sleep would be most welcome.
He loosened the strap of his robe and as he was about to unlock the hook.
“Agila…” a voice called.
“Mother!” he whispered. His eyes turned to the direction of the voice. His mother. The Queen was standing in the left corner of the room, near to a bronze lion statue. Next to her were five maidens. All naked. Agila’s eyes roamed over their pointy breasts and the shallow depth of their navels. He drew a raged breath.
“These virgins are yours for the night, my son.” Agila’s mother said. “They will please you. They will do your bidding.
As his mother spoke, Agila walked closer to them. The first one had big breasts that swelled at the intensity his gaze. The second virgin had her hair plaited in intricate weaves and adorned with cowries. Agila ran his hand over her flat belly. He watched desire shine in her eyes. He walked over to the third. Her braids fell like black water ropes around her ebony body. Her breasts were like a hill standing tall and proud. Agila looked up from her belly to the smooth curve of her neck up to her face.
Her dimple burrowed in. Her eyes shone. Agila’s heart slammed against his chest. He was suddenly that 14 year old boy staring at the golden cup Zila had extended to him. If he had thought she was beautiful then, then he must have been mistaken. She was a goddess now. Her beauty had the fury of the sun and the purity of the spring combined. She was innocence and adventure. Agila looked into her eyes, there was a fire. Burning in their depths. She remembered him.
“This one will do, mother!” Agila said. His eyes held Zila’s.
“Err… mmmm… What about the others?” his mother queried.
“Let them go. This one will do.” he said extending his hand to Zila. Their hands clamped. Hot current surged through them.
As the Queen mother and the maidens scurried out of the room. Zila and Agila remained still, held bound in each other’s gaze. They already knew what the night would bring.
READ ALSO: THE BETROTHED
Written by Chioma Ngaikedi.