“We can’t tell the King that,” the head of the servants told the already crying maid.
“Search all the quarters and chambers, every nook and cranny and report back to me. Now!” he commanded.
He paced from left to right. ‘What could have gone wrong?’ He thought to himself. He stood there waiting for the maid to return. Thirty minutes later, she came running to him still looking weary.
“Nothing.” The maid said weeping the more. “What are we going to do? What went wrong?” Her expression showed confusion. “Are we going to die?” she questioned searching his eyes for answers.
‘Shhhh! Keep shut. Nothing is going to happen to us. I will inform the chief guard,’ he said in a whisper.
‘Hurry.’ she said and with that, they parted to continue their search for the princess.
“It must be him, I’m very sure.”
“He is always hanging around her. We don’t know what that bastard pauper is looking for.”
”He is after the King’s riches. Nothing more, nothing less.”
“Abi” The other chiefs agreed to what the man said.
‘He deserves punishment!’
“Abi,” they said again in unison.
‘Silence!’ The palace stood still as the king rose. Fourteen eyeballs were glued to the King. Using his eyes, he signalled to the chief guard to bring Adekunle in. Ushered in, he looked haggard and his cheeks were swollen like almost burnt puff puffs. The rafia threads used in tying his hands were cutting deep into his flesh causing his wrist to bleed. Blood was oozing out of his back where whip marks were left here and there. Their gazes shifted from the King to Adekunle as he prostrated to greet the King.
“Young man, look at me and confess your sins. Where is my daughter?” the King questioned immediately Soji was back on his feet.
“My King, I know nothing about her disappearance. I swear on the gods of this land, My King.” “Where is the princess?” asked Mr Tanko, putting more emphasis on the word ‘princess’. “I have no idea, My King. I last saw her two nights ago.” groaning in pain, he answered.
“Young man, you have done something grevious and you will be punished for that. Guards take him to the village square, the whole village will know what I am about to do with you.” And with that they dragged him out, pulling the threads the more.
“I didn’t do it,” Adekunle shouted as the villagers all looked at him with disbelief in their eyes and ‘o’ shaped mouths. How could he prove his innocence? He thought to himself. He had tried every means but except one. He had swore to sweep it under the carpets. He knew it was a bad idea that day to confront Mr Tanko to make a deal with him to forgive his father’s debt in exchange of his little secret with a threat not to disclose it to the villagers the next festival day. With the way things were going, he made up his mind to spill it.
“My King, I know the skeletons that hide in your cupboard and your accomplice, Mr Tanko. I know the little secret you both share. If that is the reason for these false accusation…”
“Speak what you know young man” Mr Tanko said abruptly cutting him off mid-sentence. “The letter…” Adekunle looked at the King’s eyes for any trace of fear but found none rather the King sat comfortably and relaxed on his throne like he owned the universe. “…was torn and carelessly thrown. I found it and pieced it together. You, Mr Tanko and the King collaborated to siphon the villager’s funds that the colonial masters allocated to us. By the way we are speaking of pounds here. I initially overhead the conversation before I saw the torn letter.”
“Nooo,” a shout was heard from among the villagers, breaking the tension. All eyes shifted from Adekunle to crying woman. “Adekunle keep shut, you don’t know what you are saying. As your mother, for my sake be quiet.” she spoke in between sobs. “And where is this letter you speak of foolish boy? Where is the evidence of these false accusations son of a debtor?” Mr Tanko asked.
“Under my pillow, my Chief.” He replied with boldness causing loud gasps from different angles of the village square. “Guards, the King shouted, search his house thoroughly and report back here with haste.”
Adekunle noticed the evil smirk on his face immediately the guards dispatched following his mother. He shifted his gaze to the villagers who were anticipating the return of the guards. This was his final option to prove his innocence.
Fifteen minutes of pregnant silence and patient waiting, the guards returned with Adekunle’s mother crying the more. Then and there he knew the reason for the King’s relaxed mood. The letter was gone….