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Friday, June 01, 2018

Eki: The Prince's Bride (Book Excerpts) 4




The news about Eki’s engagement to the Crown Prince of Otumara reached their village, Igodi before their return from the capital.

The day Esiso and his group arrived the community, the villagers came out in large numbers to welcome him like a war hero returning from a victorious battle.

 Esiso lapped up all the attention, waving and nodding here and there thinking to himself that his daughter had not even married the Prince, yet he was already being treated like royalty.

 His home too, was in a tumultuous state as the various wives, children, relatives and household staff all clamoured to get the full details of the wonderful event that had happened in the family.

 “What does the Crown Prince look like?  Is he handsome?”

 “When is the marriage taking place? Will the King be present? Will he come to Igodi?"

 ”Eki, what charm did you use to catch the eye of someone like the Prince?”

 “Child, you’re so lucky!”

So said Eki’s friends, sisters and relatives who bombarded her with questions.

 Even her usually quiet, soft-spoken mother was full of curiosity about the unexpected engagement.

 “I hope your father did not arrange this engagement to further his political ambition,” Egwuono said later that night when things had quietened down a bit in the household.

Eki, who was admiring the bracelet the Prince had gifted her, smiled.



 "Mother, my father had nothing to do with this; ok, just a little.”

 “What do you mean, my daughter?” she asked.

 “Why don’t you ask him, mother? He’ll explain more to you.”

Her mother was silent for a moment.

 “Do you like the Prince?

 “Of course I do, mother. I would not have accepted his proposal otherwise; even though it was what Father wanted.”

 “That’s good. You have to have some affection for your husband- it will make marital life easier to cope with. My child, now that you’ll soon become a married woman, you have to know that marriage can be full of challenges. For someone marrying into the royal family and living in the palace, it can be extremely difficult. But, “ she said, pausing briefly. “Your father and I have raised you to be strong, to be able to cope with whatever situation you find yourself in life.  So, I believe you’ll do well in your new position.”

 “Thank you, mother! I’ll not disappoint you and Father.”

 Her mother smiled, a smile that softened the hard lines of her careworn face that still retained some traces of the beauty she had been in her youth.



  Esiso stared warily at the three men seated in his reception room, his mind still trying to digest the message they had just delivered to him.

‘There must be a mistake somewhere,’ he thought firmly to himself, his eyes straying to the array of gifts piled on the floor as well as a side table in the room.

Then he coughed and addressed his visitors. He thanked them for coming all the way from the capital to his home and for bringing along such wonderful gifts.

 “I feel honoured that my humble home has found favour in the eyes of His Majesty, the King,” he said formally, then paused. “I also want to express my gratitude for these great gifts you’ve brought. They are wonderful and I’m grateful to his Majesty.” 

 “Unfortunately,” he paused again. “I cannot accept them or his request.”

The three emissaries from the King looked at Esiso in wonder then exchanged glances as if trying to communicate through their eyes, their innermost thoughts.

“Chief, you’re a man of high status in this Kingdom, full of knowledge and wisdom,” said the leader of the King’s messengers named Etaneki.

 “You know the implication, the consequences of rejecting His Majesty’s offer of marriage to your daughter. The sanctions are severe which includes banishment from the Kingdom.”
Esiso nodded his head. “I’m aware of that,” he said.

 “And you still reject the proposal?” said one of the men named Agofure incredulously, unable to believe what he was hearing. In all his many years on earth, he had never heard of a family rejecting a marriage proposal from the King. Why, many families jostled for the privilege of being in-laws to his majesty. 

 Yet, here was Esiso, who in his view should be jumping for joy that the king wanted Eki, turning down an offer others would kill for. What an arrogant fool, he thought, wondering why such a usually sensible man like Esiso would embark on a route of self-destruction as he was doing.

 “I have my reasons,” Esiso stated, in a solemn voice.

 “They had better be good,” Etaneki said testily.

 “The fact is,” Esiso said, “My daughter, Eki is already betrothed.”
Etaneki glared at Esiso, clearly irritated.

 “So?” he countered sharply. “As long as she’s not married yet, that engagement can be broken once the King is interested. You know this custom very well, Esiso. The only exception is if she is engaged to the Crown Prince or any of the other princes and I know that’s not the case here.”

 “But it is!” Esiso said quickly. The third man in the group who had been silent all along said: “What do you mean?”

 “My daughter has been betrothed to the Crown Prince of this Kingdom!” he said, a note of triumph in his voice he did not bother to hide.

The three men looked at each other, a look of surprise on their faces.
 “Betrothed?” Etaneki exclaimed. “When did this happen?”
A little smile curved Esiso’s mouth.

 “During the ‘Uyere’ ceremony. Prince Obaro saw my daughter there, liked her and proposed,” he said. “We’re expecting his formal offer of marriage from the palace anytime soon. Infact,” he said, pausing briefly,” when I heard some people had come from the palace to see me, I assumed it was the Prince’s emissaries.”

 “We’re not aware of this proposal,” Etaneki said shortly. “I don’t think His Majesty knows of the Prince’s interest in your daughter or he would not have sent us on this mission. The Prince has been outside the capital for sometime, busy with community issues. Perhaps, that is why he has not informed His Majesty about his marital plans with your daughter.”
Esiso shrugged.

“I believe that must be the case,” he said.
The three emissaries conferred briefly for a moment, a grim took on their faces.

 “With this unexpected development,” said Etaneki, “We have no option but return to the palace to brief His Majesty on what transpired here.”
 They stood up, shook hands with Esiso and left with all the gifts they had come with.

Esiso stood in front of his house watching the King’s messengers depart.

 “He wants to marry my beautiful, young daughter! Lecherous old fool!”  Esiso mumbled to himself as he went into the house. Much as he liked and cherished his friendship with the king, the last thing he wanted was to have him as a son-in-law.

The next day, he sent two of his servants with a message for the Crown Prince at Okor.

 “You must wait for a response from the Prince before returning home. Is that understood?”

They nodded and left to carry out the assignment.



***

A night with the Prince


Eki stood in the middle of the dimly lit room, her arms raised up as Eloho, her maid slipped the loose fitting gown over her head. It fell to her ankles, skimming over her feet, painted with the red coloured substance (isene) used on brides. Her eyes strayed nervously to the bed by the corner of the room.

 A little shiver ran through her body as her thoughts focused on what would happen soon in that bed chamber. She did not know what to expect as she was so innocent about the ways of men and women.

What should she do?  How was she to behave when her new husband, the Crown Prince visited her on their first night as a married couple? What should she say?

 “You should relax,” Eloho, one of her maids said, breaking into her jumbled thoughts. Eki looked at the maid, who was a few years older than her, the anxiety she felt visible on her face.
 “I’m afraid, Eloho,” she confessed, as she went to sit on the bed, covered with a woven white quilt. 

 The maid smiled warily at her. “There’s no need to.”

“I’m afraid I won’t know what to do, or I’ll do something stupid and the Prince will be angry with me and … “ she said despairingly.

 “The Prince loves you,” she said softly. “And he knows what to do. So, trust him and everything will be fine.” Eloho assured.







To read the rest of the story, please join us on Sunday when the ebook will be launched on okadabooks.com and where you can download a free copy.

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