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They say marriage gets easier as the days progress, but I've got to tell you, my case is different.

Osagiede got on my nerves over the next few days, so much that I decided to take my mum up on her words, not to ascend the throne --- definitely not. More like travel to my home town instead and make a holiday out of it.

After booking a flight to Benin, I began tidying up things at the office. Not having anyone to take over the reins was definitely going to put a strain on my business, but I was able to leave the few things left in the capable hands of my secretary.

The flight home was peaceful, save for the intermittent dismal weather reports on the tiny television in front of me, so I switched it off. Once in Benin, I collected my small luggage, passed through customs and the usual airport issues and made my way outside.

There the family driver stood, a bit greyer around the beards, but still the same jovial man I remembered him to be.

"Small oga, hope sey plane no do gizz gizz for air?" He asked this, all the while glancing at me in the rear view mirror, a habit he hadn't yet let go off.

How he always managed to take my parents to places and get them there in one piece was always, and still is a mystery to me.

Nevertheless, I was not at peace with him continually peering at me instead of keeping his eyes on the road. I needed to do something about it.

"Uncle Efe ... I think I saw your wife back at the airport." I made sure to keep quiet then to allow my words sink in before I continued speaking again, this time, putting a note of worry in my voice. "She looked very angry."

This time it was his turn to go deathly quiet. He turned stock still in fear, so still, I was scared we would really have an accident. Luckily his eyes stared straight ahead, fixated on the road, not a word slipped past his lips for the rest of the journey. Now free to munch on the snacks my mom sent, I gazed at the scenic view as the car sped on. Thick forest blanketed both sides of the road, almost fighting for space with the tarred road we were passing through. Father had told me a tale or two about animals living inside the forest. One such story clung to my mind, not letting go.

It was a tale of how he and grandfather went inside the forest with some huntsmen to hunt for game. They happened on an elephant and killed it. A part of me thought it was true, while the other less - believing part didn't.

Stories of grandfather's great hunting prowess floated around the palace and the town at large, of how he always caught large game when he ventured into the forest. So no, it didn't really surprise me that he had caught an animal. But an elephant?

I shook my head disbelievingly, peering at the thick forest as we sped by.

My pupils widened when I saw a horn extending from a huge body with f . . .

Naah! That obviously wasn't true.

It had to be a trick of the light.

Or was it?

I shook my head to dispel it of whatever had taken over and continued munching. The comfort of the car and the blurry landscape was enough to lull me to sleep. Soon enough, I was spread, as best as I could, across the comfortable leather seat, with my feet propped up and my head against the window. Some minutes later, something tugged at my shoulder. I disregarded it and snuggled into the seats once more, ready to sail into another dream planet.

The tugging continued, followed by a man's voice that sounded suspiciously like the driver. "Small oga, we don reach house. Shuo! You dey sleep like person wey don die. Abi you don die?" There was a long pause in which his last statement was enough to slip me out of dream land and into reality.

A loud yawn slipped past my lips before I could stop it. The stretch that followed, released the tension from my shoulders and body. When I deigned to open my eyes, the driver was standing agape, looking at me with wide bulging eyes. I looked past him and my eyes widened as I took in the wide black gates of my country home. The paint looked glossier than I'd last seen it, then I remembered mother's penchant for maintenance.

The two huge lions painted in gold on either side of the gate looked almost life-like as their eyes glittered from beneath huge manes. The staff of office was clearly emboldened in an x, smack in the middle of the gate. I was still admiring the fine artistry of the staff, when the gates opened, parting it apart. They opened wide to reveal a fountain so large, it took my breath away. As a child I'd gazed at it in awe, watching water drip into the small pool below it.

Now as an adult, I still gazed at it in awe as I took in the ostentatious nature of it. Mother had as usual, maintained it with a whole tank of pipe born water supplying the fountain daily, with hidden pipes that ran to and fro. The fountain spanned a height of twenty feet and a width of fifteen feet. Cherubic angels stood on either side, their wide wings outstretched, mouths smiling and arms opened wide, ready to welcome owner and visitor alike that came to gaze at their beauty and splendor. I swept my eyes across it as the car moved forward at a snail's pace.

The first pillar came into view as we rounded the bend --- The North pillar. This was characterized by chalets scattered around, totaling twenty, complete, each with a servant's quarter. Each chalet was individually outfitted with everything needed to keep guests entertained. This was where visitors of the king stayed. Huge trees had been strategically planted all around the chalets, serving as a covering from the sun's merciless heat. It sheathed the chalets in a coolness that was only felt from the beach side.

I remembered playing hide and seek with my cousin. He never found me, because I would go deep into parts that had not been cultivated then. No trees dotted those areas. I'd wondered around, taking in the eerie, but peaceful aura and breathing in the clean earthy smell of trees. Now, all of the bushes were cleared and in its place, huge canopy trees stood.

We kept moving and I kept drinking in the scenery before me, memories threatening to drown me. If the car had kept moving, we would have rounded a left bend and come to where the other two pillars were situated. The East and South pillar. Instead, the car took a right turn which led us to the second pillar --- The West wing. There, the car came to a halting stop in front of a huge edifice that served as the King's abode --- A four - story brick house with the widest oak doors I hadn't seen in years.

I sighed, because this was where I had grown up as a child. As I looked up, it seemed even more daunting than I had thought. It could house a mini - town, and there would still be space for more people. The door beckoned to me, it's knobs shone in the bright sunlight --- large and golden.

Delicious tendrils of memories weaved through my mind at an alarming rate. . .

Of me tugging at the door in consternation . . .

Of my cousin shoving me aside and hefting the wide doors open . . .

Of mother hugging me and leading me through the wide doors, of . . .

"My son has come home o!" The door was wrenched open and mother ran towards me. It seemed the wind was beneath her feet as she bounded at a fast rate towards me.

She threw herself at me, the force of it taking my breath away, making me exhale through my mouth with a loud whoop. Her hold on me tightened, almost cutting off my breathing circulation.

"Mmmmnnng." I tried to get the words out, until I felt her hold on me loosen.

I began to feel sudden jerky movements but I couldn't tell if they were coming from me or mother. Her hold on me loosened to the point where her head was on my shoulder, but the jerky movement continued --- increased, even. I felt some moisture on my shoulder and knew she was crying. I held her closer to me, cradling her in my arms.

"It's alright, ma. I'm home now. Don't cry." I took a hold of her shoulders and gently drew us apart. She nodded, cleaned her eyes and steered me towards the door, where an entourage of uninformed servants waited.

"You're welcome, my prince." They all chorused in unison bowing, almost to the ground.

I smiled at all of them while mother held me tightly to her. Once I was led inside, a feast awaited me on the table.

A feast, fit for a king.

Unfortunately, I wasn't planning on stepping into the big shoes of my father anytime soon. Nevertheless, my stomach growled in appreciation of the spread set before me on the dining table. As if reading my mind, mother steered me towards the long dining table --- that could seat thirty guests --- and pulled out the seat at the head.

"I can't, this was father's pla --- "

"Which is now yours." She cut in, with a smile.

Not wanting to argue, I nodded and settled down into the wide high backed silver bedecked chair.

It didn't feel right. I squirmed, looking for an excuse to remove myself from father's seat and position myself somewhere else, but once mother sat beside me and fixed me with a warm smile, all thoughts of getting up fled my mind. I just had to suck it up.

Not only did I do so, I thoroughly enjoyed myself as mother regaled me with funny tales of the theatrics that take place amongst the staff in the palace.

Lunch was a merry affair. I was plied with food, as servants kept placing delicacy after delicacy on the table. I briefly wondered whether mum thought I was Shrek or an Ogre, who could eat a whole house and still want more. After a short while, I pleaded a full stomach and got up and settled in the lounge, with mum fast at my heels. She was like a watch dog, not letting me out of her sight and I basked in her affections.

After all, I was her only child and son. She hadn't seen me in awhile, so she was entitled to her attentions and affections.

As she talked, I became drowsy. Mum kept talking as I drifted off into a dreamless sleep.




More tugging on my shoulder ensued, and I tried valiantly to swat at the pesky thing disturbing my much - needed sleep.

"Mnnng! Leave me alone!" I grumbled.

"Son, wake up!" Mum's insistent voice, pierced through the fog of sleep surrounding me.

I shot up like a rocket, when I found her peering at me, concern written all over her face. "What is it, ma? Is there a problem?" I was feeling the beginnings of a headache because of the way I was rudely awakened.

Mother didn't answer me. Instead she dragged me from the seat with the strength of two men and half - pushed me through the lounge, down the long corridor and past many doors. On and on we went, passing room after room, chandelier after chandelier, until we stopped in front of two wide doors painted with the emblem of the staff and a golden crown. There, mother stopped and turned, letting go of my hand. She looked at me searchingly. It seemed she was gauging my reaction. I looked around me, seeing familiar surroundings, but try as I might to remember, my brain couldn't grasp at the tendrils of memories struggling to come forth. Like eels, they slipped away and dissipated completely.

Mother beckoned me closer and my feet moved towards her of their own accord. "Open it!" She instructed.

I frowned, but did her bidding. As I clamped a hand around the handle shaped as a lion's head, I pushed and the steel door creaked, as it swung open --- right into another world. Light busted out from above and I shielded my eyes against the sudden brightness.

When they had adjusted somewhat, I braved a glance at my surroundings, scanning the large cavernous room with an awe that surpassed being in the presence of the queen of England.

The revered Throne room.

My eyes bounced around as I took in the leather chairs where the high chiefs sat, totaling twenty. Behind them, numerous plush cream leather chairs sat in a pattern, for visitors. I moved deeper into the hall, my eyes continuing to drink in every little aspect of the room. War paintings of old dotted the left side of the wall, as well as contemporary one's. Carvings of the first king, dating back to the eighteenth century weren't left out either, as they dotted the right side of the wall.

More light flooded the massive room, as mum put on more of the chandelier lights. I shielded my eyes from it's glare. When eventually they settled to the bright light, I gazed up at impressive looking chandeliers hung from the ceiling adorned with cobwebs. I guessed this room had not been opened since father's death. Heavy silk drapes hung against the walls. And just like the chandeliers, they were dusty - looking.

I kept swinging my gaze around, drinking it all in, until my eyes fell on the tiger skin rug. It paved a wide path way, all the way up to the gold plated steps that led up to the throne chair. There, a tiger head stared at me menacingly from it's perch at the foot of the throne, it's eyes golden brown, it's fangs bared. Somehow it had been preserved to still look fresh, after all these years. The look it gave me seemed to say --- proceed if you dare. I quickly glanced away from it's eyes and was met, instead, with the imposing throne chair.

I gasped.

The throne chair. . . the revered throne chair.

It sat resplendent, majestic, grand.

Made of pure gold from it's wide arm rests to a wide leather seat that could comfortably sit three men to it's claw feet, it was a sight to behold and more. Two massive pillars also made entirely of gold, stood on either side, caging the throne chair and serving as a form of shield from the attack of enemies. That is if any enemy managed to get in through the palace, pass the North pillar, gain entrance into the palace and pass through the steel doors. The numerous guards were always ready to kill and be killed for the king.

Something glittered from the leather - padded seat. I walked to it in a daze. The staff of office beckoned at me from it's total perch on the seat. Nothing I describe will show it's true beauty, so I'm not even going to try.

I remembered as a little boy I would seat on father's laps during his meetings with the chiefs, and play with the staff while he held it in his hand. Fond memories swept through my mind and I was helpless to stop them. Tears choked my throat as I stood, staring and willing the memories away. I turned round to see mother staring at me, her head cocked to one side, a quizzical look on her face.

Anger like a lance, pierced through me. Hot and painful. "Blackmail, ma?" I moved close to her, stealthy as a cat. "You brought me here because you thought it would make me change my mind to ascend the throne, right?"

She said nothing, but her face answered it all. The play of guilty emotion was stark and clear as day. I stalked out of the throne room, anger surging through me in relentless waves.

How could she wake me up, knowing fully well I was tired from the journey?

How could she try to blackmail me?

My feet unknowingly led me to my father's study where I banged the door shut behind me and made straight for the decanter of alcohol I knew always sat on the table. I rushed to it, about to pour a generous amount of liquid into the glass, but stopped and went for the bottle instead. I chugged it down like it was water. The bitter liquid coursed down my throat, tracing a fiery pathway as it went. Anger made me see red, literally, and so fueled with adrenaline, I took every last drop into my system.

I looked around with wild eyes after. Wanting to lash out at something, I looked at the empty bottle in my hand and threw it against the wall where it splintered into many parts, and then I stalked to my room.

Libre Baskerville
Gentium Book Basic
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