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Stats: 2,565,920 members, 5,934,249 topics. Date: Thursday, 22 October 2020 at 06:55 PM
|Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by obehiD(f): 4:26am On Aug 01|
I have a longer update today. Hope everyone enjoys
|Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by obehiD(f): 4:27am On Aug 01|
The soft voice, whispered into my ear, dulled the sound of static vibrating through my head. The acrid dryness receded from my mouth and I felt like for the first time since I’d discovered the news of my mother’s royal affair, I could breathe. How had she gotten so careless as to have a baby with a man who wasn’t her husband? And not just any man, but the Ooni, her husband’s biggest enemy. I thought back to the way that the Ooni had greeted me, the way he’d wrapped his arms around me and pulled me into a bear hug, the way he’d called me ‘daughter’. Had he done all of those things thinking that I knew of the relationship he shared with my mother? He’d been so casual about calling her ‘iyawo’, he wouldn’t have done that if he didn’t think I knew. I gritted my teeth. Mother…
I let the prodding of that sweet voice pull me away from my mother and thoughts of her mental state.
Ahead of me, male and female dancers, properly dressed in the short iros of virgins, danced to traditional Bono tunes. A group of servants approached us. They placed white stools in front of us and then filled those stools with glass cups and a large platter of spicy meats.
I turned my head, the advent of a smile already coloring my face, as my eyes locked on the beauty that had whispered into my ear. There was only one person who called me mistress.
“Ayisha,” the words drifted from my mouth like a prayer.
“Mistress,” she bit her bottom lip and then dropped to her knees, holding my gaze as she knelt. She kept her hair cut short, a tribute to me and the year she’d spent in my nation as my slave. Her short hair was a point of contention in her family, but she was surprisingly obstinate in refusing to give in to her parents’ demands. My eyes trailed over her chocolate skin, darker than the honey brown of the Nuri, but not as dark as the Isan. I gazed at her long, curled eyelashes, then my eyes travelled down the slope of her flat nose, to her full brown lips. She still wore the white coral bead collar I’d gifted her. I would never forget the night I put it around her neck. She’d sworn she’d never take it off. I smiled at the long cream boubou dress she had on. How very traditional of her.
I tipped my chin up slightly and she rose.
“Your majesty, I didn’t see you there,” Debisi stuttered. He rushed to his feet and bowed to Ayisha. “Please, come, sit down.”
Ayisha curtsied. “Thank you, your highness.” She rose and made her way around the couch. As she sauntered over, her tiny hips swaying beneath the baggy outline of the boubou, I watched my ‘intended’. He was ridiculously easy to fluster. While he was standing, and making his obeisance to Ayisha, his brother sat still and stared up expressionlessly at the display. The Alaafin’s gaze turned to me and his eyes scoured my face, then he smirked and turned his gaze back to Ayisha.
“Not there,” I said, when Ayisha bent to sit beside me, at Debisi’s position. She stood up immediately and turned her gaze to me, waiting. She was perfect. If only she wasn’t a Princess. If she’d been born Isan instead of Iyo. I sighed. Then I tilted my head to the other side and turned to face the Alaafin as Ayisha obediently walked to my other side, and waited for the man to move.
He frowned. “Excuse me?”
“You don’t mind, do you?” I asked, sweetly, “I believe it was your father’s intention for me to sit close to my intended.”
He stared at me. His eyes narrowed and he tilted his head to the side, observing me as if I was a puzzle he struggled to decipher. Then his white-bleached eyebrow lifted, and the corner of his lip tipped upward. He made a mocking bow to me. “Of course not, revered.” He moved further away and Ayisha sat.
I leaned close to her and whispered, “hello, my love,” then I kissed her underneath her ear.
I pulled back and found my gaze travelling to the prince seated beside me. He adjusted his glasses, bearing a frown which was disconcertingly similar to his brother’s. Then his eyes met mine and he looked away, like a guilty child who’d been caught pilfering meat from a pot of soup. I smiled to myself.
“Ayisha!” Tiwo exclaimed. He’d been so focused on the dancers that he’d missed her approach. “What a pleasant surprise.” He beamed at her. There were few people that Tiwo genuinely liked. Ayisha was one of them.
She smiled back at him. “It’s very good to see you again Tiwo.”
The Alaafin’s gaze travelled from me to Ayisha and then back. “How do you two know each other?”
It was none of his business, but I couldn’t miss an opportunity to see my girl flustered. “Ayisha and I spent a pleasant year together in Isan.”
Tiwo scoffed and rolled his eyes. Ayisha’s gaze lowered and then turned to me. She smiled, completely unflustered. It was Debisi who choked on his drink. I helpfully tapped him on his back to make the drink pass easier. He pulled away from me, denying my aid. Oh well, I shrugged, but I was intrigued. What meaning did he read into what I’d said? It had been a perfectly harmless statement to anyone who didn’t know the details of Ayisha and I’s relationship.
“I see,” the Alaafin eyed me. Every time he looked at me, I felt as if he was sizing me up, but for the life of me I couldn’t understand why. Not that I cared.
Tiwo cleared his throat and then gave me a warning look. I could tell that he thought I was going too far. Homosexuality was an affront to the pure people of the Bono nation. I turned my attention to the platter of food, and speared a toothpick into a particularly good looking peppered snail. I picked it up and then offered the toothpick to Ayisha, fully expecting her to take it from my fingers and feed herself. Of course, she bent and picked the snail off the pick with her mouth, her gaze locked with mine as she did it, forcing me to feed her.
I ignored him.
“What are you doing here?” I asked Ayisha. As soon as the words left my lips, the teasing smile fell away from her face and the joy that had lit her eyes faded, as if it’d been extinguished. I frowned. I did not like to see her sad. “What’s wrong?”
“I am on my way to Nuri. My father sent me there to get married.” There was a note of despair in her voice, and her lovely eyes, filled with tears.
I couldn’t blame her. I would rather die than marry a Nuri man. Just the thought alone…thankfully I was Oba, decider of my fate, no one could make me marry anyone.
“Marry who?” Tiwo asked.
Her lips turned down. Even frowning she was sexy. “The Eze.”
If I was drinking, I would have spat the liquid out. “What?”
She nodded morosely. Her gaze turned down to the hands she held together in her lap. “He is terrible, Tan, despicable. The things I’ve heard about him.” She shivered.
Ayisha’s father was the emperor of Iyo. The Iyo empire was a vast conglomerate of over twenty city-states, each with their own monarch, who swore fealty to the emperor. I did not want to think of politics when Ayisha was so clearly suffering, but the idea of the Eze of Nuri bound by marriage to the Iyo empire, was a thought even less appealing than being married to a Nuri. The power that the Eze would wield.
Tiwo’s eyes met and held mine.
The Eze was too powerless now to seek revenge for what happened to the Oza, but if he had the military might of the Iyo empire behind him, I shuddered to think of the havoc he could cause.
“I wonder, revered,” the Alaafin drawled, “if you’ve heard what the Eze did to the delegates that you sent back with his uncle’s corpse.”
I held his gaze. “What did he do?”
He shook his head. “He beheaded them and left one of their heads on a spike in front of his palace.” The Alaafin bent, seemingly unaware of the wide-eyed look Ayisha fixed on him. He picked up a piece of peppered kpomo and tossed it into his mouth. He chewed slowly, taking his time to lean back against the back of the couch, before delivering his conclusion, “he beheaded them with his own cutlass. Did it right there in the middle of his throne room. A few of the old men wet themselves waiting for their turn.”
Ayisha gasped. She turned to me and grasped my hands in hers. “You have to help me, Tan, please, I can’t marry him, he’s a monster.” She’d always looked at me like that, believing that I could do anything.
“Oh, you have no idea. Iyawo mi, tell her,” the Alaafin instructed.
I’d forgotten about the Alaafin’s wife. She’d glared at me from the moment I was introduced to her, but now she cast her hateful look on her husband. The animosity in her gaze far outweighed that which she’d sent my way. She clenched her hand and the toothpick she was holding snapped. Then the Alaafin rose his gaze to hers and the hatred faded as if it had simply been wiped away. She looked subservient and even ducked her head shyly. He cleared his throat with the arrogance of one who hated to repeat himself, and the words poured forth from his wife’s mouth.
“He is a monster,” she said. The words sounded rehearsed, but feeling was injected to it the more she spoke. “He is an abusive rapist. Nothing makes him happier than to hear a woman’s cries of pain. It arouses him to make them bleed. To hear them begging him for mercy.” By the end of her speech, I could hear the tremor of fear in her voice, and I felt sorry for her.
Tiwo frowned. “How would you know this?”
She rose her head and stared, surprisingly, at me. “The Eze of Nuri is my cousin.”
A panicked sob escaped from Ayisha’s lips. I looked at the misery in her gaze and I knew what she was thinking. Her hands clenched tighter around mine and then she released my hand and receded into herself. She forced the emotions away from her face. “He is my lot.” She said, resigned. I shook my head.
Ayisha was a masochist. It was a part of herself that she’d been struggling with when we met. I’d tried to teach her that it was okay for her to need what she did, and in the end, I really did believe that she’d learnt. But now I could see the familiar patterns forming again. She thought that she deserved a monster like the Eze Neka described. Even after all this time, there was still a part of her that hated the pain she craved and believed she deserved to be punished for it. I could tell that she thought the Eze was her punishment.
Now she’d zoned out.
I leaned back and turned my head so that I could whisper to her. “Come back to me, my love.” That didn’t get to her. We’d been apart for too long, once upon a time it would have. “You are beautiful, an angel,” I whispered the cajolements I would have used on her in the past, “you were made this way, and who you are is perfect. We are sublime in our own spectrum, aren’t we?” She craned her head slightly towards me, the first sign that anything I’d said had registered with her. “Answer me girl,” I added a touch of steel to my tone and she nodded. “You were made special for someone like me, and I praise the masquerade everyday that you exist. You are my gift and the only thing you deserve is a reward.”
“A reward,” the words drifted out underneath her breath.
“Yes, my love, a reward. That is all you deserve.”
“I don’t deserve a monster,” she said.
“No, my love.”
“I don’t deserve him,” her back straightened. “I won’t marry him.” She said, and then louder, “I won’t marry him.”
I smiled at her. “That’s my girl, and you’ll get your reward.”
She turned to me and her lips parted. She nodded. My smile deepened. Now, I just had to figure out how to keep her from getting married to a monster.
I kept my thoughts to myself as she collected herself.
“That was…” the soft voice came from my other side. I turned to Debisi. He couldn’t possibly have heard anything I said, none of them could have, unless they were mami watas. His tongue darted out of his mouth to pull his bottom lip into his mouth. He focused on me and adjusted his glasses, then he shook his head and looked away.
Tiwo cleared his throat. My brother always knew how to diffuse the tension I created. The Alaafin was staring at me again, as if I was a dilemma he was toiling to solve. His wife had gone back to glaring at me, but this time there was something in her eyes. It looked like pain, not exactly pain, but grief. I recognized that look, it still came upon me when I thought of my father.
“The Eze of Nuri is my cousin.”
My god. I gaped at her. “Your father was the Oza.”
|Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by obehiD(f): 4:27am On Aug 01|
This time the hostility she showed me almost matched that which she’d directed at her husband. “The Oza you killed,” she snapped.
Tiwo groaned. He opened his mouth and I knew he was going to do something stupid, like confess.
“I’m sorry,” I blurted out before he could speak.
“You’re sorry you killed an unarmed man after welcoming him into your nation with assurances of safety?”
“He tried to rape a slave. We fought and I had to defend myself.”
“I’ve heard of the legendary fighting prowess of the Oba of Isan, trained as a tumbler, hailed in war. You could not disarm an old man without killing him?” her words dripped with scorn.
I felt completely unprepared for this. It was one thing to tell my story to old Nuri men, it was another entirely to lie to a dead man’s daughter. I found myself aping my earlier words, “he tried to rape a slave. He desecrated our calling.”
Her face tightened with rage and she spat her words at me with the venom of a viper. “My father would never…”
“That’s enough,” the Alaafin cut her off. “You are being rude to our royal guest. Your father deserved his fate, he insulted the Egbabonelimwin masquerade by attempting to defile a slave. You Nuri think that you can do whatever you please, defiling the flesh, insulting the masquerades, well this time you were stopped. Now apologize to the Oba and remove yourself from here.”
She dropped to her knees in front of me and bent her forehead to the floor as a Nuri slave would. For some reason, the obeisance she made reminded me of the way the Bono slave had bowed to beg forgiveness. It was a chilling comparison.
“Forgive me, revered, your actions were justified,” there was a tremor in her voice.
I shook my head. It was wrong. The whole thing was wrong. She was a daughter grieving her father, she had every right to face her father’s killer. She was entitled to her anger, and to her grief. If I’d known that the Oza had a daughter in Bono court, I would have come here ready to make reparations. No matter how justified the killing, she was entitled to some sort of explanation.
I stood up and rushed forward, bending to lift her up. Before I could touch her, the Alaafin snapped, “now get out!” She crawled backwards, a good distance away, then she stood up and ran out of the hall.
I remained standing, staring in the direction she’d fled in. Then my irate gaze turned on the Alaafin. His hatred of the Nuri was obvious in the way he’d spoken. But she was his wife, how could he talk to her like that? He, more than anyone, should understand her rights to reparation. He should have sent word to me to let me know that she was here. I should have been prepared. I opened my mouth, prepared to rain down my anger on him, but then he stood up.
“I apologize,” he said, “I am poor company now.” Then he left before I could vent my rage.
The whole exchange left a bitter taste in my mouth.
I sat down, but it wasn’t enough, I needed to vent my anger, and the only one left I could pour it out on was Debisi. I turned on him. His eyes widened and he drew back, away from me. “Why wasn’t I told that the Oza’s daughter was here?”
Debisi blinked at me as if he was having trouble understanding what I’d said. Then he seemed to force himself to sit upright. He took his glasses off his face and averted his gaze as he wiped the lenses with his shirt. “This is the first time that I have heard Neka speak that way about her father’s death. When I offered her condolences, she told me that her father had shamed himself and that his death was justified. I am sure she told my father the same thing. We did not think that she blamed you, as such, there was no need for reparations.”
I frowned at him. When he put his glasses back on, I could see the effort he exerted in forcing himself to hold my gaze. I sighed. “I’m sorry, I should not have snapped at you.”
His mouth popped open. He cleared his throat. “You’re…” he frowned, “apologizing?”
There was just something about his nervousness that I found unbelievably cute. I smiled wryly, “yes, I tend to do that when I’m wrong.”
“Oh,” he said. The frown remained on his face, and a red flush crept up his neck. “What do I say?”
“You accept my apology.”
He nodded, then he smiled, and I realized it was the first time he’d done that. He had a dimple. I was a sucker for dimples. “Apology accepted.” He cleared his throat. “I’m sorry if I appeared…” he paused, as if at a loss for words.
“Flummoxed?” I helpfully provided.
He nodded and his dimple got deeper. “Yes, uhm,” he cleared his throat, “I am not used to royals apologizing to me.”
Giving what I’d just observed of his brother, that wasn’t surprising. “You’re a royal,” I pointed out.
He shrugged. “Only a small one.”
“You have a beautiful smile,” he said, then the red travelled from his neck to his cheeks. He looked away.
I decided to take pity on him and turn my attention away. I turned to face Tiwo who was rolling his eyes, shaking his head, and smiling like a goof. Ayisha smiled too, but not anywhere as annoyingly as my brother.
“I was thinking,” Debisi spoke up, “I mean, about your dilemma, your majesty…”
“Just call me Ayisha,” she interrupted, “I’m not good with all the formality.”
He nodded and I couldn’t help but notice that he did not appear unsettled by her. He did not blush when she smiled at him or appear even the slightest bit frazzled. So it was only me he found unnerving. Interesting.
“Well, Ayisha, is there anyone else you could marry?” His gaze turned to me and the blush returned, “I mean any man, you could marry?” He forced his gaze back to Ayisha. “One that your father wouldn’t disapprove of?”
“Well,” Ayisha’s brows pulled together, “there is a Sehzade, the only son of the Sultan of Sokoto. He is part of my escort to Nuri. Sokoto is the largest city-state in the Iyo empire, so my father would not disapprove of the match. The Sehzade is a childhood friend of mine. He says he loves me.”
“But you do not return his feelings?”
She shook her head and her gaze turned to me. “I like him, I like him more than most men, but I have only ever loved once.”
I smiled at her. “Unfortunately, your father won’t approve of me.”
Her face lit up. “But he would. He likes you Tan...”
“As a friend for his princess perhaps…”
“And a match with the Isan nation is much better than one with Nuri.” She forged ahead.
“Wait a minute!” Debisi’s voice was the strongest I had ever heard it. He frowned at Ayisha and there was a real sense of wrath in the icy look he gave her. For the first time since we met, I saw a glimpse of steel behind his outward appearance. “Are you trying to steal my intended?”
I couldn’t help it, I burst out laughing. The laughter just fizzled out of nowhere and it poured out of me. I laughed so hard my stomach hurt.
“My sister loves you Ayisha,” Tiwo said, speaking over my guffaws, “but she needs an heir.”
“You could always provide the heir,” Ayisha stated, reasonably.
Tiwo was stunned. “And who says I want to get married? I am not Oba. Thankfully, the job of providing heirs does not fall to me.”
The conversation seemed to be getting more and more ridiculous. I decided to help it along in that direction. “Mede?” I tipped my head upwards, turning my gaze on the tumblers who were trying very hard to appear as though they could not hear every word of our conversation. “Would you provide heirs so that I can marry Ayisha?”
Mede chuckled. “Unfortunately, I do not have any royal blood.”
“Not even a drop?”
“Not even that.”
I groaned. “Well then,” I turned a lascivious gaze on Eghe that started on his painted face and ended in his penis. Then I retraced directions and waggled my eyebrows at him. “Looks like it’s all up to you Eghe.”
“Sorry, revered, as much as it pains me to fail you, I must confess to the same lack of royal blood as Mede.”
It was the straightness of his face while he spoke that sent us all over the edge. This time we all laughed. Mede managed to do it only shaking her shoulders and Eghe’s shoulders didn’t shake but his lips trembled. Tiwo threw his head over the back of his couch and belted out his guffaws. Ayisha chuckled and nervous Debisi laughed so hard he had to wipe the tears from his eyes.
“Fine,” Ayisha said, once the laughter subsided, “it will have to be the Sehzade.”
“Well,” Debisi said, “if you’re sure, then you can continue along on your journey to Nuri. Once you get there, go to the shrine of the Ijele masquerade and swear a love match. In the Nulin nations, a love match is irrefutable. The Eze will have no choice but to send you back to your father with his congratulations and wedding gifts, since you consummated your love in his nation.”
I regarded Debisi in a new light. The plan was genius. He was right, if there was one thing the five masquerades were united on, it was a true love bond. No person in the Nulin nation would insult or do anything to defile a love match. The Eze might be a monster, but the fact that he was yet to go to war with Bono, at least showed that he was a rational one. He would not insult the masquerades by even appearing to be affronted by the match, especially not if it was sworn to in a shrine of the masquerade of his nation.
“There’s only one problem,” I said, “you don’t love him.”
Ayisha shrugged. “He’s a very nice man, and I do like him. If I have to marry a man, then I cannot think of a better one. As long as I can still visit you every once in a while?”
“Oh, love, I would insist upon it.”
“Then what more could I ask for?” she grinned at me. Then she turned her attention to Debisi who was now staring warily at her. She smiled at him. “I’m not trying to steal her anymore. Can we be friends again?”
He regarded her for a while, then he nodded with the solemnity of a monarch bestowing imperial favor.
“Thank you!” She climbed over me and kissed him on his cheek. Now, that made him blush.
It was good to see the worry eased off her. But I would have to meet this Sehzade and make sure that she wasn’t going from the frying pan to the fire. My gaze drifted towards Debisi.
His eyes were narrowed studiously on me.
I turned to face him and stroked his face without even thinking about it.
He jumped, then he relaxed, but red colored his skin.
“What is it?” I asked him.
He shook his head. “Nothing,” he rearranged his glasses as he seemed to do whenever he grew nervous. Then he returned my assessing gaze. “You are not what I was told, I mean,” he cleared his throat, “you are not what I expected.”
I found myself laughing unrestrainedly for the third time that afternoon.
|Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by obehiD(f): 4:28am On Aug 01|
I spread out my arms and let the Bono servants dress me in my evening robe. The material was light and airy in the clammy heat. One of them walked over to stand in front of me and tied the sash of the robe in a pretty knot. The other reached from behind and rearranged the black material until it fully covered my body. The servants were young women, about as old as I was. Virgins, from their dresses, and both with bleached skin.
“Is it always this hot here?”
“Yes, revered,” the one in front replied, keeping her head bowed, “but we can stay and fan you to sleep.”
I smiled at that. “No, that won’t be necessary, just leave the windows open.”
The door to my room opened, and a girl with her hair sheared off, walked in, dressed in a white robe, and a bead collar. She kept her head bent while she fiddled with the belt in her robe. Then she pulled it open and let the sheer material drop to the ground, revealing that she was pleasantly naked underneath it.
The Bono servants gasped. They stepped back from me and made a sign in front of themselves, as if to ward off evil mami wata spirits.
“Leave us,” I ordered. They could not obey my order fast enough. These servants had obviously been trained in the Isan customs. Through out the time they attended me, in my room and the adjoining bathroom, they kept their bodies facing me. Now, as they scurried away, they did it without once turning their backs. Not all the servants, and even nobles, in the Bono court adhered to our Isan customs as these ones did.
I waited till they were gone, then I walked toward the kneeling girl. I ran my hand over her smoothly shaved scalp. “I don’t think your future husband will appreciate this.”
She tipped her head up, levelling those mystifying eyes on me. “He will not mind mistress.”
I’d met with the Sehzade and I approved of him. He was dominant without being domineering, which meant that my sweetly submissive Ayisha would find pleasure in their bed.
I let the corners of my lips tip downwards. “I did not send for you,” I scolded.
Her lips parted. She closed her mouth and swallowed. “You said that I would get my reward.”
I eyed her, flicking my gaze like a lash, from her breasts to her slightly parted thighs, then back to her face. I let the furrows form on my forehead and the corners of my lips dropped even further. I made sure there was no compassion in my gaze. She shivered. “And you decided it was your place to presume upon me?”
Ayisha shook her head. “Forgive me, mistress, I know better.”
“Yes, you do,” I snapped, “or at the very least you should.”
Her bottom lip shook. “We are leaving tomorrow for Nuri. We’ll be married as soon as we reach the Nuri nation. I don’t know when next I’ll see you.”
“And that excuses your appalling behavior?”
She shook her head frantically. “No, mistress.”
I turned my back on her. I waited until I was certain she couldn’t see my face before I let the smile out. Then I forced it back down. “I’m going to have to punish you.”
Her sharp inhale was loud enough to hear. “Yes, please, mistress,” there was a slight tremor in her voice.
I turned back around to face her, mindful of the eyes she had fixed on my face, watching, waiting. “Tell me what you want, my love.”
“Pleasure, mistress,” she blurted out. I quirked an eyebrow. “And pain,” she added, hastily.
“Go into the bathroom and wait for me.”
She rose and walked in the direction I pointed her to with the slight gesturing of my head. The bathroom wasn’t perfect for this, but it would do. I almost wished I was back in Isan. While Isan had a pleasure chamber with rooms built to my specifications, it did not have Ayisha. I walked towards my red trunk and dug through it for the essentials. It wasn’t as if I’d been planning on staying in Bono long enough to play, but on the off chance that I had the opportunity to visit one of the Bono dens of iniquity, I’d come prepared. I reached for the purse with the clamps and chains and pulled out a short leather whip.
The door opened again, and this time Mede walked in. She glanced at the items in my hand and blinked. “Yes, revered,” her voice sounded a little unsteady…or perhaps it was just wishful thinking on my part.
“No one comes in. We wouldn’t want anyone interrupting my time with the princess.”
She bowed, “as you wish, revered.” Her eyes dropped to the whip, then she looked away.
“Eghe can stand guard alone if you want to join,” I tried to convey the promise of carnal pleasure in a sultry tone.
She scoffed. “Thanks, but no thanks.”
I shrugged. “Suit yourself,” I said, walking out of the room. Faint sounds of her chuckling followed me until I shut the door to the bathroom. I slammed it shut for the pleasure of seeing Ayisha jump.
The bathroom was quite ordinary for a royal adjunction. It had a small pool of water, about twelve feet in radius, and several small, leather beds. There was a wooden stove to the side, with an empty censer, for burning mild sedatives. Some of those sedatives were wonderful aphrodisiacs. There were several pillars throughout the room. The only thing odd about this bathroom was that everything in it was white. Which, I suppose, for the Bono wasn’t odd at all.
My girl knelt between two pillars. She turned as soon as she heard the door slam, and now she watched my approach with quiet anticipation. I took my time. By the time I reached her, her chest was quite visibly rising and falling. I placed the purse and the whip on a leather bed.
“Arms up.” I walked over to her and stretched her arms out till her palms were spread out flat against the stone. “I don’t have restraints, but I don’t need them, do I?”
She shook her head. “No mistress,” her voice came out breathy and more than a little unsteady.
“No,” I agreed, “because if you bring your hands down, I will be very disappointed.” I placed my hand on her belly and smirked at her quick inhale. I walked behind her, drawing my flesh against hers as I moved. My hand trailed up her stomach to cup her breast. Her nipple was already pebbled before I rolled it between my thumb and forefinger. I put my foot between hers and pushed slightly on the right. “Wider, my love,” I whispered into her ear.
She closed her eyes and spread her legs.
Then I heard something. Not my sweet girl’s pants of arousal, but a foreign sound, one that didn’t belong in that room with us. It was the sound of solid objects scraping against each other, like wood sliding along wood. Like the opening of a door. Had Mede decided to take me up on my offer? That would be a first. I turned, but the door to the room remained closed. I looked around the bathroom. There was no one else there.
I took my attention back to Ayisha. My hand trailed back down her body, to the curls on her pubis. I slipped my finger through her wet folds and chuckled. “Already wet for me.”
“Yes, mistress,” she panted.
I pinched her inner lips sharply. She knew better than to respond to a comment. Only direct questions. Then I pushed my particularly long middle finger into her. She was tight. I kept going deeper and she froze when the tip of my finger met with an obstruction.
“Is your husband expecting a virgin?” I teased, pushing lightly on that flesh.
She let out a strangled cry of protest, but she clamped around my finger, holding it in. Such a contrary girl.
“Yes, mistress,” she replied.
I pushed again, exerting just a little bit of pressure on her hymen. We’d played this game many times before, and every time her fear made her wetter. “We’d better not disappoint him,” I said, pulling my finger out. Then I walked back in front of her so that she could watch me lick my finger clean. She tilted slightly towards me.
I heard another sound. It was part gasp, part groan. There were two things interesting about that sound. The first was that it came from two different voices. The second was that none of those voices belonged to Ayisha. I knew then that we were being watched.
I swore underneath my breath and swiveled. I turned in the direction of the voices and immediately caught what my previous cursory glance had overlooked. There was a small slot in the wall, created from a loose tile. Two distinct eyes held my gaze.
“A moment, my love,” I whispered to Ayisha. I was enough of a Viewer to not judge the instinct in others, but I always asked for the courtesy of obtaining my permission first.
I turned away from her.
I took a step toward the hole in the wall and the eyes pulled back. “Cowards,” I called out, once I saw the tile sliding back into place. “Why don’t you stay there and face me?” The sound of hastily retreating footsteps was the only response I got. I walked over to the tile and pushed it out. The hole revealed a dimly lit corridor. The watchers had already fled too far away for me to see them, but from the look of the walkway, it appeared to be a hidden passage, the kind designed for the court to flee in case of an emergency. I placed the tile back.
“We were being spied on,” I said to Ayisha. I stroked her face while I said it, so that she could stay at least partially, in the sexual fog I’d managed to create before. “Would you like me to stop?”
Her eyes took on a pleading despair. “No, mistress, please.”
I ran my knuckles down her cheek. The hole had been behind her, so our peepers wouldn’t know her identity, it was only my identity that had been exposed.
“Please, mistress, I need this one night.”
I leaned forward and allowed myself a taste of her lips. No tongue, not yet, just a slight brush of my lips on hers. She groaned and her lips pulled apart, giving me access. I pulled back. “Okay, my love.” I let my fingers move from her face, down her neck, to the hard nipples, begging for my attention. Then I bent and sucked one of those nipples into my mouth. I laved the nip with my tongue.
A knock on the bathroom door pulled my attention away before I could do any more.
I stepped back, letting the nipple fall from my mouth. Ayisha whined at the loss.
“What is it?” I asked, irritated.
“I’m sorry for the interruption, revered, his royal highness, the Alake of Ibadan, requests your presence. He says it is urgent.” Mede’s tentative voice came through the door.
What did Debisi want? “Tell him I will come to him when I am free.”
I heard an exchange of whispered words and then Mede’s, “he says he is not a coward, that he is here to face you.”
For some reason it took some time for the meaning of those words to register with me. I realized then, that in the day I had spent with him, I had come to think of Debisi as honorable. So, it was not easy to associate Debisi with the dishonorable peeping I had witnessed. I frowned and a million punishments came to my mind. Then I had to remind myself that he was not my slave, he wasn’t mine to punish.
“I’m sorry to do this,” I spoke softly to Ayisha, “but I have to go and see him. I will be back.”
She nodded, then her lips slowly bent into a grin, “I’ll just have to think of a way to occupy myself while I wait.”
“Feel free to ‘occupy’ yourself. As long as you do it without taking your hands off those pillars.”
I kissed her then I left.
Mede stood beside the bathroom door, and a red-necked Debisi stood in front of her. He looked different without his glasses. With the glasses and the ruffled hair, he’d looked like a scholar. Without the glasses he looked a little too much like a fallen angel.
“You know,” I remarked, “I would have let you watch if you’d simply asked. You didn’t need to spy on me.”
He looked mortified. He was dressed in a white galabia with a slit down the top that showed a sprinkling of creamy-white chest hair. He fumbled in his pocket and then pulled out a pair of glasses that he hastily cleaned.
“I’m sorry,” he said, “I did not mean to spy…” he paused and swallowed, “I mean, Tai…I, thought,” Tai, his little slip provided a clue to his spying partner. He shook his head. “It does not matter what we…I thought, I was wrong.”
At least he had the courage to come in here and apologize. I turned to Mede and nodded. She bowed and retreated from the room. Then I walked closer to the prince and ran my finger down his exposed chest. He lurched, his wide eyes snapping up to me. The red crept up from his neck.
“Is this what you do to keep yourself fresh,” I asked, “you jerk off watching others doing what you’ve sworn to never do?”
He frowned. “Jerk off?”
So, he was going to play coy. The smile I gave him wasn’t exactly pleasant. He tried to take a step back, but I wrapped my hand around his rooster before he could. Then he froze.
“What are you doing?” he sounded terrified.
I stroked him through the thin fabric of his galabia. My grip on him ran from the head to the base, hit his balls, and went back up. “I’m demonstrating what it means to jerk off.”
“Why? You obviously like it.” I’d never seen a man as old as Debisi get hard that quickly. If I didn’t slow down, he’d come, after just three strokes. Maybe he really was a virgin. “Isn’t this what you were doing while you watched.”
“No! Please, stop. This is ungodly.”
“But it is not ungodly to watch.”
“I’ve said I’m sorry. Now, please, stop.”
I released my hold on him and he withdrew. He didn’t stop retreating until his back hit the door. He closed his eyes and muttered. My gaze travelled down to his erection and then up to his face. He was all red. He cleared his throat and fiddled with his glasses. “Why did you do that?” his gaze rested a few inches to the left of where I stood.
“Didn’t you like it?” I teased.
He frowned. It was cute. His eyebrows drew together as if he was in deep thought while his rooster stood at full mast.
“Our tenet of verdure forbids carnal pleasure of any kind before marriage. I have kept myself fresh for y…” he cleared his throat, cutting himself off, but it wasn’t too hard to complete his sentence.
“So why were you spying on me?”
He fiddled with his glasses. “If we are to be married, I think that I should know what interests you.” The coloring in his cheek darkened. “I did not believe what I had been told…that is, when I was told that an Isan slave was seen coming to your room, and a female,” he spat the word, ‘female’ out as if it had a bad taste, “I wanted to see for myself.”
I turned my back on him, suddenly irritated with him, his brother, his family, and his entire nation of ‘verdure’, for all the ways they sought to curtail my pleasure. “Feel free to tell your father to call off whatever betrothal plans he’s made.” I could never marry someone who would seek to make me feel ashamed for being myself.
I walked away.
“Stop, please, I did not mean to offend you. You are Isan, your ways are different from ours.” He rushed through the words then mumbled, “I do not want to call off the betrothal.”
We were not betrothed, but since I was the one who’d used the word first, I wouldn’t haggle over it now. Besides, I’d had enough of the prince. There was a sweet girl waiting patiently for me. She did not look on what we had with scorn. She found pleasure in the service she gave to me. For this one night, she deserved all I planned to give her. The pain and the pleasure, the fear and the arousal, and the ecstasy when I finally let her come. All of it.
“Can I stay?” A quiet, uncertain, voice called out from behind me. Then the voice firmed. “I want to stay. I want to watch.” The confidence in his voice faded and he finished in a small voice, “you said you’d let me if I asked.”
“Why?” I didn’t turn around.
“I want to know you.” It was the pleading in his voice that made me consider his request. He was lucky my girl was an exhibitionist, and that I was suddenly in the mood to play with two toys. I wouldn’t touch him again, far be it for me to violate his tenet of verdure, but I could enjoy watching a pure Bono prince’s reaction to my play.
I turned around. “Okay,” I bent my head towards the bathroom, “Come.”
3 Likes 1 Share
|Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by tunjilomo(m): 9:29am On Aug 01|
I won't say a word. Lips shut.
A million elbow bumps.
|Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by dawno2008(m): 11:11am On Aug 01|
Beautiful throughout, very interesting, captivating.
|Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by cassbeat(m): 9:24am On Aug 05|
Keep it coming obehid
|Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by obehiD(f): 5:20am On Aug 08|
@tunjilomo lol I won't say a word either. Million elbow bumps received and shared
@dawno2008 thank you thank you, you're making me blush
@cassbeat it's coming
|Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by obehiD(f): 5:21am On Aug 08|
We stood underneath the white tarp roof of the Ooni’s tent, looking out across the white stone grounds, to the white fence that led into the palace. I could hear Tiwo’s nervous shuffling behind me. The last time I’d looked back he’d been fidgeting with the coral beads around his neck, and the time before that he was twiddling his thumbs. Debisi stood to my right, calmly poised in his short virgin iro. There were no traces of last night on the face that stared coolly at the opening gates. Unfortunately, Ayisha and the Iyo contingent had already made their leave earlier in the morning. My sweet girl was on her way to Ikeja, the Bono village that bordered Nuri. The Ooni stood beside me and beside him, my pregnant mother. We still hadn’t spoken. I was beginning to think that she was avoiding me. I was worried for her, I didn’t think it was smart of her to get in the middle of her husband and the Ooni’s feud, but she hadn’t yet granted me an audience to say this. Mother could be quite adamant when she wished to be. I just hoped she knew what she was doing. The Ooni’s olori did not join us. Which left the Alaafin and his olori standing beside my mother.
Every time our eyes met that morning, I was reminded of the fact that he’d led his brother to spy on me and Ayisha in my bathroom and he hadn’t joined his brother in apologizing. Perhaps I was giving Debisi too much credit, but I couldn’t fight the feeling that he wasn’t the type to go around peeping. I was almost completely certain that he hadn’t known of the loose tile in my bathroom before that night. His brother had pointed it out to him.
My gaze drifted to the Alaafin’s wife. She’d been pleasantly deferential to me all morning. There were no more hateful glares being sent my way. Whenever our eyes met, she bowed her head. Something about her change in moods made my hackles rise. Her behavior yesterday was what I would expect. Considering what the purpose of this meeting was, I would have expected her to sit it out. I could not see how my paying reparations for the dead slave in person wouldn’t chafe at her when I hadn’t been willing to do the same for her father.
But then, there were many things I was starting to find odd about the Bono court. The Alaafin’s wife, the Ooni’s heir, even the princes’ reaction to my mother was curious. From what I’d seen in the Ooni’s treatment of my mother, it looked as if he’d demoted his own wife and exalted mother to that position in all but name. But neither Debisi nor the Alaafin seemed to be bothered by this. If another woman had moved in with my father while my mother was pushed to the background, I would not have let the matter lie until my father sent the woman away, pregnant or not. Why did no one seem to care about my mother’s presence here?
A set of four strapping Bono horses pulled an elegant white carriage into the palace. It was a large carriage, the type that I would expect only a wealthy Alake to own. White lace drapes covered the windows, blocking the view of the carriage’s inhabitants. The driver, an albino man in a white trouser and shirt set, pulled at the horses’ reins. They came to a stop a few feet away from the white table and the closed coffin that rested on it.
Two male servants sat up front with the driver. They climbed down and wound their way around to open the doors to the carriage and let down the steps. The inhabitants emerged. If their coloring wasn’t enough to give away their identity, the black they wore did. It was strange to see Bono’s with colored skin.
They were a family of five. The father, a man who appeared to be in his late forties, came down one side, holding the hand of a young, teenaged girl. An older woman, also in her late forties, came out the other side and a boy, who appeared to be around eighteen, followed after her, and behind him came a woman, who looked to be of an age with me. They were all dressed in white, it would have been an insult to visit the Ooni’s palace dressed in anything other than that, but the gele wrappers the men tied around their neck and the women on their heads, were black. It was a show of their mourning.
This was the slave’s family.
Their wealth was evident in the quality of their clothes, in their bearing, in the grandeur of the carriage they’d rolled in on, and in the servants they’d brought with them. Four of them marched stolidly towards us. While their clothes showed their mourning, their faces did not. The youngest girl, on the other hand, had shimmering eyes and a hand over her mouth. She stopped beside the coffin and then broke down into tears. Her father tried to pull her forward but she would not budge, then she broke away from her father’s hold and ran back to the carriage. A servant accompanied her.
“What do you think the chances are that her display of grief was a performance put on for our benefit?” Tiwo whispered the question to me.
Debisi heard. He turned around and fixed a look of such calm disapproval on my brother that Tiwo actually apologized.
“Ignore my brother,” I whispered to Debisi, “he gets inappropriate when he’s nervous, and right now, he’s very nervous.”
Debisi turned to stare at me. It was the first time since last night that he’d met my gaze. He’d been doing a lot of looking just a fraction to the left or right of my eyes. He nodded and I couldn’t help but feel a little proud at the fact that he didn’t blush. He was getting over his uneasiness around me. He turned back to face my brother. “It will be alright,” he said, in a firm voice.
“Do you really think so?” Tiwo asked. He’d refused the assurance from me, but he seemed a little too eager to take it from Debisi. Not that I could blame him, there was something reassuring about Debisi’s confidence on this issue. At the end of the day, he was Bono and he knew his people and their customs better than I did.
Debisi nodded calmly. “They will not dare do or say anything that could upset my father. It will be a matter of ceremony, they will accept moneys in reparation and thank Tanose for honoring them by delivering the corpse in person.”
Tanose? I eyed him. When had we gotten to a first name basis? But Tiwo exhaled and for the first time that morning he stopped his nervous twitching, and so I let the prince’s slip go.
“Thank you, your highness,” Tiwo muttered.
Debisi flushed. “Just Debisi, please.”
The grieving family drew to a stop in front of the tent. “Your highness,” they greeted as they went down on their knees in front of the Ooni.
“Rise,” the Ooni commanded.
They did. It was the man who spoke. His wife stood beside him and their two children behind them. “Thank you, your highness, you’ve honored us by welcoming us in person. It is an honor we do not deserve.”
“We are here to welcome you at our daughter, the Oba of Isan’s, request.”
Now that the Ooni mentioned me, the family turned to face me. The man’s gaze chilled when it fell on me. I looked into his cold eyes and knew that Debisi’s words were more than a little optimistic. This man would not be thanking me.
“Revered,” he bowed to me, “you honor us.” It sounded as if he’d pushed the words out grudgingly through clenched teeth.
“It is we who are honored,” I stated aloud, reverting to the ceremonial plural.
The man’s hateful glare turned to one of contempt as he bowed to Debisi. I noticed that and stiffened in outrage on Debisi’s behalf. Debisi, for his part, remained as cool and unaffected as he’d appeared before.
“Let us go inside and discuss these matters,” the Ooni said, in that natural bellow of his.
I couldn’t help but note that while the sugar merchant had been contemptuous in his assessment of Debisi, he tripped over himself to appear deferential to the Alaafin. They walked behind us, and so I could hear the sweetness in his voice. It was saccharine, just as his son’s had been on the night of the feast, after he’d scorned my brother’s advances. I suppose it made sense, the Alaafin was heir, he would be Ooni after his father, he was the right one to suck up to.
We made our way back to the Ooni’s white parlor and sat at the head of the room. Again, the Ooni demanded that I sit beside him and Debisi beside me. My gaze was on the sugar merchant when the Ooni made this request, and the sugar merchant stood bowed beside the Alaafin, and so I was in the perfect position to watch the tightening of the Alaafin’s features. Then he noticed I was watching him, and the anger faded, he smirked at me and bowed.
“I’m afraid yours isn’t the only brother who acts inappropriately when he’s…nervous,” Debisi whispered into my ear as I watched the Alaafin sit.
I turned to face him. “What does your brother have to be nervous about?”
He held my gaze for a while. I don’t know how long we stared at each other, or why I let the silent exchange go on as long as it did, but I found myself unwilling to look away until he did. His eyes flicked downwards. “It is an honor for a prince to be seated beside the Ooni during a formal engagement.”
Ah, a little sibling rivalry. Moments like this made me so grateful for the family I’d been born into and raised in. Our father had never let politics or ambitions come between Tiwo and I. He’d chosen an heir and taught us both in different ways what service to our nation demanded of us. “You are not seated beside the Ooni,” I pointed out, “I am, and you are seated beside me.”
I was not unaware of how condescending the words came out. I suppose there was a part of me that wanted to see his reaction. He smiled. “Yes, revered, an equal honor.”
I chuckled at that, then I turned and found that Debisi and I had become the focus of the entire room. They were silently watching our exchange, probably because the Ooni was doing it, with a smug grin on his face. I noticed again the tightening of the Alaafin’s features and the clutch of his fists, I supposed now he was upset that the attention had turned to Debisi instead of him. What a petty little bugger. I wanted to take Debisi away and shield him from this Bono court and his jealous brother. Really, what did Taiso have to be jealous of? He was the heir. But Debisi was doing just fine, he sat still with his face expressionless, staring into the room and the seats that were now filled with Isan and Bono nobles.
“What did I say?” the Ooni belted out, very satisfied with himself, “a perfect match.” I wanted to punch him in his smiling face, but then he sobered, and a sheen of tears filled his eyes. “Netite should have lived to see this.”
I did not even know that I was doing it, until my hands held his wrinkled one in mine. Something in my heart broke at the way he’d mentioned my father’s name with the shroud of grief over his features. The tears in his eyes. He’d loved my father. Perhaps there was more to his relationship with my mother, more to him. He patted my hands with his, smiling down at me and that look, combined with his smell, was all too familiar. It reminded me of my father. I released his hand and looked away.
The Ooni cleared his throat and turned his attention back to the merchant’s family. The parents sat between the Alaafin and his wife, and their children sat on the sofa beside theirs with young Bono nobles I didn’t know. My brother sat on another sofa beside ours, with Isan nobles. My tumblers stood at several positions throughout the room, spaced between Bono palace guards. The Ooni was in a rush to get the matter over. There was something candid about the way he plowed ahead. I wasn’t sure that if I was the mother of a grieving child I would appreciate the way he belted out his desire to get the ‘unfortunate matter’ settled, but you could always tell from the Ooni’s open features that he did not mean ill. He reminded me so much of my father that I could almost like him, if he wasn’t having an open affair with my mother.
Tiwo rose. He turned to face the grieving family and explained to them what happened to lead to their son’s demise. Tiwo wasn’t good under pressure. He’d had a speech memorized, and he recited that, the fight, the struggle, his push, the slave falling, bashing his head, and bleeding to death. But the boy’s family pushed for more. They wanted to know where it happened, and when Tiwo answered, they wanted to know what their son was doing alone with Tiwo in his room. As soon as Tiwo confessed to his sexual relationship with the slave, the merchants pulled back. They flung denunciations at my brother, accusing him of coercing the slave.
“There are witnesses,” I stated calmly.
They looked even more disgusted. “Witnesses to the act?” the mother sounded appalled.
I nodded simply.
“Who are these witnesses?” the father demanded.
I tipped my head back towards Eghe and Mede. “Our tumblers, our personal guard. We set them to watch our brother because it had been an unnerving night for him.”
The man hissed. “They would lie if you asked them to. My son would never kneel to anyone. He would never play the role of slave.”
“There are Isan nobles here who saw us with your son. They saw him play the role of slave. And before you say that he was coerced, remember that we ran into a clearing and killed a man who tried to coerce your son. Your son knew how to use the Isan slave’s prerogative. If he was being coerced by us, would he not have used the slave’s prerogative when he served us?”
“Am I supposed to trust your word?” the man spat the words at me as if they were filled with vitriol.
“You will trust her word! She is my daughter and you will not insult her in my presence!” The Ooni boomed, surprising me by rushing to my defense.
|Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by obehiD(f): 5:21am On Aug 08|
The man’s eyes widened. He bowed to the Ooni. “Of course, your highness, forgive me, I did not mean to insult a member of your family. It is just…” he trailed off.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Debisi draw forward. His frown mirrored mine. A sixth sense told me that I would not like where this was going. I opened my mouth to speak up, to say something, anything, but the Ooni bellowed before I could speak.
“Well, speak plain my friend.”
“Yes, your highness, yes, I just do not wish to displease you.”
The Alaafin drew forward and he frowned. His pose matched his brother’s. But the merchant’s wife was calm, relaxed, as if she knew where this was going. Our gazes met and she sneered at me. Her expression seemed to confirm my earlier thoughts that I would not like where this conversation ended.
The merchant’s voice trembled a little when he spoke. “It is not the way of the Bono to speak of such things, but it occurs to me that, given what we all know about the Isan nation and their pleasure slaves, I am not sure how much credence to give to the queen of such a court. But if you say she is your daughter, one with enough rectitude to marry into the Bono royal family, I would of course trust her every word implicitly.”
My frown deepened. There was a change in the mood of the Bono nobles, an undercurrent that I could not decipher. I’d heard the man’s words but I had not found anything mystifying in them. They’d been insulting, and if he was my subject I would have punished him for the insult he dealt my court, but as a Bono, I understood his disregard for the Isan attitude towards sex and pleasure, just as I had nothing but disregard for the Bono ‘verdure’. But he was as entitled to his feelings as I was to mine. So why the serious look on the Ooni’s face?
“Then you must trust her every word implicitly,” Debisi commanded. His voice was firm, but it did nothing to turn the looks away from the Ooni.
“I agree with my brother,” the Alaafin drawled, “the Oba of Isan is a monarch with the honor to come to Bono and deliver the corpse of one who’d been nothing more than a slave to her. A slave who’d dared to assault her brother. If that is not proof of her rectitude, I don’t know what is.”
I couldn’t tell who was more shocked at the Alaafin’s eagerness to run to my defense, me or Debisi. Debisi gaped at his brother as if he’d never seen him before. I frowned at the Alaafin. We were not friends, in fact, I was very confident in our mutual dislike of each other. Why was he speaking up for me? Perhaps he was just a good statesman, one who wanted to keep Isan and Bono as friends after he ascended to his father’s throne. I did not know, and not knowing irked me.
The Alaafin’s words had the impact that Debisi’s didn’t. The merchants swiveled, husband and wife, and stared with open shock at the Alaafin. The Alaafin for his part, trained a censorious look on them that had them both paling.
“Of course,” the merchant sputtered, turning back to bob his head down, “I did not mean to insult you, revered, not at all.” He kept bowing to me. “Not at all. I take your word, and your brother’s and I am grateful and deeply honored that you brought my son back to me. Your presence here is more than enough reparation.” Now I was the target of his sickly-sweet tone of voice. “I humbly apologize for my earlier words.”
I could not believe it. Something about this whole encounter was wrong. I looked at the merchants and they both kept their heads bowed to me. The Alaafin was looking at his father. The only person who was not acting strangely was the Neka the Alaafin’s wife. Her face was pinched with displeasure and she was back to glaring her hatred at me.
“I believe the issue is settled father,” Debisi pushed.
I turned back to the Ooni who regarded me with narrowed eyes.
“Yes, baba,” my mother put her hand on his arm, “it is settled.”
There was something more going on and I hated that I did not know what it was. The merchant’s words had caused something and now Debisi, my mother and the Alaafin were all trying to take it back. But, for the life of me, I could not say what that thing was. I did not enjoy not knowing what was going on around me. It was starting to make me quite angry.
The Ooni pulled his arm away from my mother. “The merchant insinuates that you have not kept yourself pure for my son as he has done for you,” he announced.
Debisi groaned. My mother’s panicked eyes turned to me. The Alaafin’s jaw clenched. I could not help but be amused by this.
“And if I haven’t?” I asked.
The Ooni’s eyes narrowed on me. He’d gone in an instant from looking like a doting father to a displeased king. “Then you would have insulted my nation, my family, and most importantly, me.”
“And what are you going to do about it?”
“Tanose.” My mother scolded.
“You are making it worse,” Debisi whispered to me. “Just tell him you have, it doesn’t matter if you’re lying, he won’t call you on it, not unless you push him further.”
The Ooni waited in silence. I waited with him, my wry expression growing more and more amused the more aggravated he became. His face turned red and a vein in his forehead ticked.
“Stop this Tan,” Debisi begged, “just tell him what he wants to hear. Please.” He sounded desperate.
The entire hall was tense. I thought it was ridiculous. Yes, the Bono believed in purity, but I was Isan, not Bono. I thought their expectation of virginity made as much sense as me expecting Debisi to be as well versed in the acts of pleasure as an Isan man his age would be.
“If we cannot trust your word,” the Ooni said, “then how can we trust your brother’s? How can we trust that he did not maliciously murder a son of Bono? And if he maliciously killed a son of Bono then he must make reparations with his life.”
Tiwo turned ashen. He fell to his knees in front of the Ooni. “I did not, I swear.”
“Get up,” I snapped at my brother. Tiwo rose and stood with his head hung, like one waiting to be sentenced. My tumblers were now standing close to me, but their proximity to me, and the Ooni meant that the palace guards had drawn closer to. There were ten of my tumblers in the room and thirty palace guards. If it came to a fight, the palace guards would die without any casualties on my side.
“Is this how you treat your friends?” I asked, silkily.
“You are not my friend, I thought you were my daughter, my family, a child who cared as much for her father’s word as my son, Debisi, cares for mine.” That vein in his head just kept throbbing as he spoke.
“Baba calm down,” my mother stroked his back, “think about your health.”
“Your daughter, huh?” I eyed my mother, “I suppose I can see how fucking my mother would make you think that you had the right to belittle me.”
Debisi grabbed onto my arm and shook me. “What are you doing?” he demanded once his shaking tore my attention to him. His eyes were wide with terror. “Please, stop. Please.” I pulled my arm out of his grasp and turned back to face his father.
The Ooni rose his cane and slammed it against the white marble ground with enough force to shatter inferior wood. That was a quality walking stick.
“You will submit yourself to the oracle’s test,” he declared.
My mother tried to get his attention but he ignored her. Debisi pleaded with his father to relent. The Ooni stared at me. He had a long torso and so when we sat his face was almost at the same level as mine.
“And if I refuse?” I asked.
“Then your brother will pay for the Bono life he took with his own!” the Ooni yelled at me. The Ooni’s yell was an impressive thing, especially given that the normal tone of his voice was a bellow.
“You think that I will just sit here and let that happen?”
“You insult me!” the Ooni yelled. He pushed himself to his feet and peered down at me from the height advantage that standing gave him. “You come into my home, enjoy my hospitality and you insult me. You are a child, and yet you insult me?! I called your father ‘brother’ and for that I will give you the next five minutes to contemplate your choice. If at the end of that time you have not submitted to the test, your brother will be arrested.” The Ooni turned his back and stormed out of the room.
Some of the guards left with him, triple the number that left came in after he walked out. My tumblers drew closer to me, spears pointing out, the nobles seemed at a loss for what to do.
“Why did you do that?” I turned to face him. Debisi shook his head but he kept his gaze away from me. He was waiting for a response I wouldn’t give. As if the Ooni was in the right. He was the one who’d insulted me. “I’ll go and talk to my father.” He stood up and walked away.
“It’s a waste of time,” the Alaafin deposited himself beside me, taking his father’s place, amidst the tense standoff. “The Ooni has issued a challenge, he will look weak if he rescinds it.”
“Why are you so stubborn?” My mother’s soft voice prodded. “Would it kill you to be humble?” Then our eyes met and she laughed. “I suppose it would.” She shook her head. Then she turned to the Alaafin and said, “she feels she’s failed her father if her spirit isn’t the strongest in the room. She will not bend.” I did not like the way she spoke to the Alaafin and the way he smiled at her. “I will go with Debisi and talk to him.” She stood up and left.
Tiwo’s scared gaze met mine and I knew what I had to do. Maybe my mother was right, maybe there was a part of me that was still trying to prove to my father that he’d made the right choice in naming me heir. But I knew, I knew that if I was a man, the Ooni would not have spoken to me the way he did, younger age or not. Sometimes it felt as if I had to fight against the world to prove my right to lead. But there were a few people who’d never questioned it. My father was one of them. Tiwo was another. And there was nothing I wouldn’t do to secure his peace of mind. My irritation at the Ooni would just have to take a back seat. For now.
“Take me to the palace shrine,” I said to the Alaafin.
Tiwo tried to hide his relief but he was nervous, and when he was nervous his smart tongue and schooled expressions fell away. I smiled at him.
“What was the point of that?” the Alaafin asked. He sounded curious as he led the way out of the room. “You must have known that all you needed to do was make a teasing remark to my father. He would have laughed the whole thing off. Why would you try to battle wills with him?”
I eyed him. “Why did you speak up for me?”
He shrugged. “You intrigue me.”
“Tell me, Alaafin, if I was a man, would your father have acted the way he did?”
He regarded me coolly. Then he grinned. “No, but you’re not a man. And there’s nothing you can do to change that.”
I scoffed. “Change?” What an arrogant presumption. “No,” I said, “I don’t want to change my gender, I want to change yours.” The Alaafin chuckled in response. As far as I was concerned the world could do with more women…a world with only women, now that was a pleasant thought. My thoughts trailed to Mede, then my sweet Ayisha. For some reason, flashes of Debisi spotted my mind. I pictured his rooster last night, how it had come to life under my expert touch. Perhaps there were a few men that could stay as men. I smiled.
“Don’t worry about the oracle,” the Alaafin said, “it’s easy enough to pay them to lie.”
I frowned. “Why would I want to pay them?”
He stopped in his tracks and gaped at me. “You don’t really mean that you’re a virgin?”
I’d been a child when my father had first talked to me about his dreams to unite our family with the Ooni’s. A true Bono wedding had been his wish. My eyes roamed dismissively over the Alaafin’s face. “Only in the way that matters to your people.”
He seemed shocked. Then he fell into a laughing fit so exuberant that tears came out of his eyes.
|Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by cassbeat(m): 9:18am On Aug 08|
Nice update as usual.... It seems like they have forgotten about the merchant's family for the meantime....
|Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by dawno2008(m): 1:25pm On Aug 08|
Thanks so much for the update,
and why do I have this feeling that the Alaafin connived with the sugar merchant to unsettling the revered and his brother.
|Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by Bluehaven(m): 5:54pm On Aug 10|
OBEHID is just doing me jigbijigbi anyhow!
|Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by ogyunging(m): 10:24pm On Aug 11|
|Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by Folex34(m): 10:44pm On Aug 14|
Thanks for the update
|Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by obehiD(f): 4:52am On Aug 15|
@cassbeat we'll see about that
@dawno2008 hmmm, interesting thought, very very interesting
@ogyunging happy you like, encore coming
@Folex34 thanks for reading
|Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by obehiD(f): 4:52am On Aug 15|
The courtyard was beautiful, it was one of the few places in the Bono palace that had color. Lush beds of green grass sprouted on the roofless area. In the middle there was a fountain completely encased in green and white flowers. A few minutes ago there’d been a show with white metal faucets extending from the body of the fountain so far out that the single fountain was able to water the entire grass bed. Now the water was back to gushing out only over the region surrounding the fountain.
I walked over the open white marbled grounds amidst bowed heads and bent knees. Women in the Bono court curtsied while men bowed. In Isan men and women bowed. The Bono nobles looked at me differently since I’d subjected myself to their Eyo masquerade’s test of verdure. As if having an intact hymen made me pure, one of them.
“I am surprised that you’ve taking the Ooni’s mandate so quietly,” Mede remarked. She walked beside me, my only guard in that moment. It was odd how one simple test could make things change so drastically. Now the Bono palace guards treated me as if I was theirs to guard, as if I was already part of their royal family.
“Are you really?” I studied a grass sculpture of a rose in bloom. The sculpture was positioned in front of an alcove, artfully shielding the people behind it from full view. The light bulbs on the roof of the walkway were formed into patterns of flowers. They lit our way, but were far enough from the alcoves to only partially light it. The combination of the flowers and the lights gave the alcoves a sense of privacy usually absent in such a public forum.
“Revered,” Bono and Isan nobles, mixed together, bowed and curtsied as I walked by, making a path for me in their midst. I nodded in greeting without stopping.
“Maybe I shouldn’t be,” Mede said.
I turned slightly so that my eyes could roam over her beautiful face. She was smirking. “And why is that?”
“Oh, nothing,” she shrugged, “I just couldn’t help but notice how fond you’ve become of the Bono prince.”
I flicked my gaze over her face and then I turned away from her. She was wrong about that. I was seething, boiling with rage at the insult of the Ooni’s mandate, but I hadn’t yet been poked to the point of snapping at others because of it. The Ooni, in his ‘wisdom’, had given the order to bar my exit. Which meant I’d have to fight his palace guards if I wanted to leave. It was only the thought of the unavoidable loss of life that would ensue from such a scuffle that had kept me from slaughtering my way out. The Ooni and I were not enemies, at least not yet.
There were benefits to being forced to spend the day here. Debisi of course was on the top of that list. We hadn’t spoken since he’d walked out after his father that morning, but we’d been in each other’s proximity throughout the day and our gazes had locked a few times. He’d appeared upset with me. I found it amusing. Then there was my mother, who though she stubbornly refused to talk to me about her husband and her relationship with the Ooni, had been quite pleasant company. She’d even managed a grudging chuckle from Tiwo. My poor brother had retired to his room early, it had been an emotionally taxing day for him.
“You are fond of him, aren’t you?”
Mede scuffed. “Be careful with him, revered, he’s not one of your slaves.”
I smiled at that. “Do you like him?”
Her face took on a cute scrunched up look, with lines forming on her forehead and her lips tightening. “I think the two of you make a good match,” she said carefully.
“Why are you being so diplomatic?”
She relaxed her features and giggled. “I don’t know, revered, I think you like him.”
“And do you like him?”
“He’s submissive, which should please you.”
I shook my head. “Debisi isn’t a sexual submissive, I would know, I tend to hunt for that sort of thing in others. Do you want to know what I found when I scouted for it in you?”
Mede shook her head. “You’re changing the topic.”
“Am I? I thought the topic was people I am sexually attracted to and seeing as you are one of those people…” I let the words trail.
“Give it up, revered,” she sighed.
I laughed. “Answer my question, do you like him?”
She settled a serious pair of eyes on me. “I don’t know him, but from what little I’ve seen, I think that he hides a lot about himself. As does his brother. The only truly open person in their family is their father.” She smiled when she talked of the Ooni. I was astonished, she usually didn’t like men, especially the arrogant sort.
“You like the Ooni?” my voice came out dry, which wasn’t surprising, giving my current thoughts on the man in question.
“He reminds me of your father.” The smile faded and her gaze hardened. “They certainly seem to have the same questionable taste in women.”
I probably would have struck any other subject who’d said that to me in that scornful tone with that look of distaste on their face. To Mede, I said, in a wry tone “now that was just too bad of you.”
She froze. “Forgive me, revered.”
“Leave me,” I jerked my head to the side.
She swallowed. “I’m sorry, revered, I did not mean…”
I rose my hand up cutting her off. “Go.”
She bowed and walked away.
She wasn’t in the courtyard this evening, she was probably back with her lover. She was happy, happier than she’d been the last time she’d come visiting with her husband. I did not really care that she was being unfaithful to him, sex in all its bountiful proportions was the Isan way, and to be honest, I’d never really liked the Alake. There was just something about him that rubbed me the wrong way. What bothered me was the man she’d chosen to be unfaithful with.
I kept walking, letting the chuckles, the snatched up pieces of whispered gossip, and the slightly subdued humming of the palace musicians, distract my thoughts. Then I saw the merchants and their eldest daughter walk into an alcove, hidden behind a grass sculpture of two lambs frolicking.
I found myself drifting towards that alcove without putting much conscious thought into it. I didn’t realize, until that moment, how upset I was with them. It was the merchants who’d started it all with the man’s comment on Isan pleasure slaves and my ‘rectitude’. Because of them I’d had to lie with my legs spread on an altar while an oracle of the Eyo masquerade poked between my legs. Not that I’d minded that much. Oracles in Bono swore to lifelong celibacy. Let’s just say I’d done my best to make the woman uncomfortable. I thought of her stunned reaction to the way I’d gyrated underneath her touch, and had to stifle the urge to laugh. No, the test had not bothered me at all. It was the way the merchants had set it up that got to me. I marched to that alcove determined to get to the bottom of it.
Then I heard a young voice drift out of the alcove and stopped in my tracks, only then realizing how close I’d gotten. It was the daughter speaking. “It’s done,” she said. I began to step back, refusing to do something as dishonorable as eavesdrop. “I slept with the Alaafin, I think my virginity is enough to stave off his ire.”
“You foolish man,” the voice that snapped was feminine, but older, the mother.
“How was I supposed to know that it was not his wish?” he sounded like someone who was scared and struggling not to show it. “Do you think he likes you? Maybe he will make you his mistress, it’s no secret how he feels about his wife.”
“No,” the daughter, “he slept with me as if it was a chore, but we are Bono, he knows the price we place on virginity.”
“A chore?” the man sounded panicked. “What will we do?”
The older woman’s voice was calm, “you told him what I told you, right?”
“Yes,” the daughter said, “I told him that we’d paid homage to the Alake of Ikeja. He was not happy.”
“Displeased or not, he won’t do anything, not while he thinks we have the Alake’s protection. We should leave before he has time to find out we don’t.” The older woman’s confidence did not waver.
I swiveled and found Debisi standing behind me. He was dressed in his evening casual galabia.
“Revered, your highness,” the merchants family bowed to us. They were obviously unaware of the fact that they’d been overhead. They scurried away. I frowned in their direction.
“I would have thought that someone who found peeping as distasteful as you did, would be equally repulsed at the idea of eavesdropping.” He said the words with calm solemnity, then his visage cracked, and he smiled. “Not that I’m judging.”
“I am,” I said honestly, “but I found myself unable to walk away. I knew that you Bono were hypocrites, but until this moment I didn’t realize just how much.”
Debisi’s eyebrow lifted. “I don’t think the Bono own exclusive rights to hypocrisy.”
I ignored his retort, too baffled by what I’d just overheard. “Someone put them up to what they did.”
To his credit, he didn’t pretend to not know what I was talking about. “Yes,” he said, “they wouldn’t have dared cast aspersions on your purity if someone powerful hadn’t convinced them to do it.”
“The Alake of Ikeja?” I asked.
Debisi appeared taken aback. “Why would you think that? Because they said they paid him homage? If you recall, they also said they were lying about that. Which makes me give them more credit. I can count on one hand the number of people that know of my brother’s acquiescence to the Alake’s wishes.”
I was startled. “You were eavesdropping on them too.”
“Yes, and unlike you, it was actually my intention to do so.”
My chest tightened. I was disappointed in him, and the strength of my reaction surprised me. “So, you peep, and you eavesdrop.”
He fidgeted with his glasses, shifting it around on his face. “I don’t peep on naked women, I swear it, that was…you were…my first.” His neck reddened. He looked away from my face. “But I spy on conversations, knowledge is important here, and my position is…tenuous.” There was a pleading note in his voice, “please believe me Tan, I would not lie to you.”
“Tan?” my tone chilled, “I did not know we were so close.” Any of my slaves would have started offering up apologies at this point.
Debisi smiled. His fidgeting stopped and he looked me squarely in the eye, “I hoped we were.”
|Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by obehiD(f): 4:52am On Aug 15|
His hair was in disarray again. I ran my fingers through his curls and smiled at how uncomfortable my touch made him. He didn’t move, but he got red. He cleared his throat. “Would you prefer it if I called you ‘revered’?” He looked away.
I pulled my fingers out of his hair. “Why do you think it wasn’t the Alake of Ikeja who put the merchants up to their speech on my rectitude?” I hadn’t answered his question and we were both aware of it.
“Well,” he fidgeted with his glasses, a clear sign that he was still unsettled by my touch, “why would he care about your virginity?”
“Perhaps he wanted to embarrass me as a punishment for my mother deserting him?”
Debisi shook his head. I could tell that solving puzzles calmed him. He’d stopped fidgeting and the red that colored his skin was gone. “No, that sort of intrigue is too petty for the Alake. I honestly thought it was Taiso, he owns the sugar merchants in Bono.”
“Your brother appeared just as surprised, and displeased, by their words as you were.”
“Taiso is a brilliant actor,” Debisi stated without inflection.
“What would he have to gain by embarrassing me?”
“My brother wants you, he is attracted to you. He likes that you come with a powerful nation, and he loathes that I could be king if I married you. I’m a virgin, if it came out that you were not, our union would not meet with much approval. In such a scenario, he could make a play for your hand in marriage. It would be an easy thing to divorce his wife and marry you, theirs was no binding love match.”
I chuckled. Perhaps it was not funny, but I could not help but laugh at how ludicrous it all sounded. I would not sleep with Taiso if he was the only male in the world, and I told Debisi that. His face lit up. “You must think that I’m pretty powerless if you imagine any man could just claim my hand in marriage.”
“No,” he replied, shaking his head, “and now that he’s met you, my brother knows that too. Besides, the merchants would not have sent their daughter to appease him if they were acting on his wishes. It was not Taiso.”
“That troubles you?”
He nodded. His worried frown was so cute I ran my fingers over the furrows in his forehead. They went away instantly, and he reddened. He cleared his throat a few times and started rearranging the position of his glasses on his face. “I do not like not knowing who the players are.”
“Is it all a game to you?”
“Not to me, to them. I’m just trying to stay afloat.”
My hand went down from his face to cup his cheek. “You poor boy.”
He held my gaze, and even though his face was red, he looked nothing like a boy. “I’m happy that you are still a virgin.”
I pulled my hand away. “Don’t be. Having a hymen doesn’t make me a virgin.”
I turned my back on him and realized that we had become the focus of the entire courtyard. They all stood around, Bono people dressed in white, Isans in red, staring at us. I met a few of their gazes and their eyes dropped away. The previously quiet courtyard filled with the nervous flurry of forced conversation. I began walking.
“Why does it annoy you that you are still a virgin? I am a virgin too.” Debisi followed me.
“You are Bono, I am Isan. And really, you can’t prove your virginity.”
“There is a test for men just as there is for women.”
“No test can prove a man’s virginity.” I knew the test he was talking about. They stroked them with warm cloths and saw how quickly they came. As far as I was concerned it was a test that existed just to say that a test existed.
“If it displeases you so much, then why? I would not have held a lack of vir…hymen against you.”
I smirked at the way he’d changed the word. “For my father,” I said, “because he wanted a true Bono wedding.” Because he’d had Mede watch me whenever I played with a male pleasure slave. It had always rubbed me raw. In battle there was no difference between male and female, in his eyes, in leadership, no difference, but in sex there had been.
I’d railed at him the first time Mede had stopped me. He’d just sat on his throne looking superior. He’d known at the end that I would bow to his will. Anal was my solution. Mede never told him. My father’s Bono heritage came out in that. He found nothing wrong with men having sex but a woman having anal sex was repugnant to him. After he died I could have stopped trying to please him, but he was my father, and a Bono wedding had been his wish.
“I suppose in following our father’s wishes we are the same.”
I looked at him and quirked a brow. So he’d stayed ‘fresh’ because his father asked it of him too. “And here I was thinking you remained a virgin because of lack of interest.” He could not prove his virginity, but I believed him.
His chest puffed out. “I am a handsome prince, interest has never been a problem.”
“Handsome? Aren’t we a little full of ourselves.”
He laughed and his dimples made their first appearance that night. “I did not expect to like you.”
“Why is that?”
“Ferocious warrior queen with a pleasure chamber as large as an Alake’s mansion?” He teased and I smiled. “Looking back, I can say now that I was kept well informed to ensure that I would not like you.”
I knew he was talking about his brother. I changed the subject to one that had stoked my curiosity the moment I’d heard the merchants’ family speak of it. “Why would anyone think that the mention of an Alake’s name could frighten an Alaafin?”
Debisi stopped walking. He stared at me for a while, as if he was contemplating something, then he slipped his hand in mine and led us on a dizzying dance around court nobles that ended with us in the most secluded alcove in the entire courtyard. The entry to the alcove was shielded by a white marble sculpture of a neck with a string of pearls around it. The sculpture blocked all but a few rays of light from seeping through. If it was anyone else, I would have suspected ulterior motives for this clandestine venue. With Debisi I was simply curious.
“He has something on my brother,” Debisi whispered.
I frowned. “The Alake of Ikeja? My mother’s husband?”
He nodded. “Something huge. Taiso has dirt on all of our nobles, including the Alake, but whatever it is the Alake has on Taiso, it’s big enough to make Taiso give up profitable business ventures, and bands of mercenaries, the second the Alake asks for it. Tiaso isn’t even that accommodating with our father.”
Bono court scheming held very little interest for me, but I could see how much it meant to Debisi. “You’re trying to find out what it is, aren’t you?”
He nodded. His face was dark in the alcove, just an outline in the sculpture’s shadow.
He was silent for so long that I thought he wouldn’t respond. “The Alake had a son, an heir. He was our sister’s best friend, before she died. He was also the first Bono noble that the Nuri stole and branded. When they sent him back to his father with a brand on his neck, the Alake sent him back to the Nuri. That was when they started meeting together in secret, my brother and the Alake, and that was when the Alake pried the first concession from Taiso. Whatever the Alake has on Taiso, it dates back to that time. I’m sure of it.”
My mind spun. I remembered the princess, she’d been between Taiso and Debisi in age. I had some vague recollection of her death only because our father had left for Bono with a large contingent of troops right after she’d died. He’d left mother in charge and mother had let me make all the decisions. It was the first time that it had really sunk in on me that I would rule a nation. Then father had returned with a crate of ogogoro and we’d gotten drunk together, the four of us, mother, father, Tiwo and me. He hadn’t told us anything about the trip, and we hadn’t asked.
My free hand found his face in the dark. He hadn’t let go off the hand he’d held to pull me in. I stroked his face. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Lola was the light of my world. I followed her around like a lost puppy.” I imagined a young Debisi clinging to his elder sister’s hand, as he held mine, and running around the courtyard with her. I could hear the tears he choked back in his voice.
I wanted to comfort him, to ease his pain. I moved closer towards him, drawing close enough that my breasts rubbed against his chest, and I kissed him. My lips formed around his. They were wet and salty, evidence that he’d been crying. I pulled my other hand out of his grasp and placed it on the other side of his wet cheek.
He moaned into my mouth.
I took advantage and slipped my tongue into his mouth. His tongue reached out tentatively for mine and then he tasted me, and retreated, then he came forward again, licked me a little longer and retreated. It was as if he was fighting against his own desires. I pulled my tongue out and nibbled softly on his bottom lip before pulling away, not unaware of the erection pressing against me.
We were both breathing heavily.
“Thank you,” he said into the silence.
“I don’t want you to call me revered. Call me Tan,” I replied, finally answering his earlier question.
“I want to kiss you again,” his voice was so soft I could barely hear him.
“Will you beg?” I matched his tone. I wasn’t quite sure why I said it. He isn’t your slave, Tan!
He didn’t reply.
The sound of a throat being cleared outside our alcove tore my attention from the face so hooded in shadows that I could not see its expressions.
“Revered,” Mede’s voice came through to the silent space Debisi and I shared, “the Ooni is requesting your presence.”
I walked the few steps between where I stood and the entrance to the alcove.
“Yes, Tan, if it’s what you want, I will.” Debisi’s softly spoken words followed me out.
|Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by obehiD(f): 4:53am On Aug 15|
Mede and I had been together long enough to perfect the awkward silence that followed one of us going too far. That silence hung heavy between us as we meandered around the nobles engaged in their idle late-night respite about the palace courtyard. It lasted the duration of our sojourn through the palace walkways, past one white arched door, which was quickly followed by another in the exact same shade of white and having the exact same design. In most ways the Bono palace was a tedious study in monotony.
“I’m sorry,” she blurted out, after we’d walked past white arched door number…I’d lost count about ten of them ago.
“Why do you dislike my mother so much?” I did not turn to face her.
“I see her differently.”
“And what exactly do you see?”
“Please don’t force me to answer that, revered, it will vex you. I think I’ve already pushed you as far as I dare for one night.”
I let the silence fall back into place. It was less awkward now that an effort to breach it had been made. We climbed up a staircase and walked past five more white arched doors before I probed the silence.
“I am not blind to mother’s faults.” I said, honestly, “but is her infidelity really such a terrible vice? Yes she can be more circumspect about it, but I suppose if she is here, then things between her husband and the Ooni must not be as dire as I thought.”
Mede sighed. “Your mother is not the paragon of virtue you believe her to be.”
Now that was a joke. “Paragon of virtue? My mother?” Two phrases that had no business being in such close proximity. “I would not go as far as to call her that.”
“You think that lewdness is her only vice. It is not revered.”
I stopped walking and frowned at that. “If you have something to say, say it, if you do not, then perhaps silence is our best recourse this night.”
She bowed to me. “I am sorry, revered, I did not mean to annoy you.”
I let my eyes roll coolly over her prone form. I flicked my fingers impatiently and she straightened. “Lewdness is not a vice,” I cracked a smile, “at least not in my dictionary. If you think lewdness is a vice, you have not been properly engaged in licentious acts. Would you like me to show you how it is done right?”
She grinned and fixed me with a look of cool censure. “One of these days I will take you up on your offer and what will you do then?”
“The masquerade be praised.” I rolled my eyes to the heavens and threw up my hands in exaggerated thanksgiving. She chuckled. “When you take me up on my offer, you’ll find out why my lovers always come begging for more.”
My eyes widened, “yes, you’re taking me up on my offer?”
“You wish. Yes, when that day comes, I will indeed find something out.”
I scoffed. “Tease.” Then I turned around and we continued walking. The silence that fell on us now was comfortable, like an old cloak. Still, as we continued walking, I could not help but wonder what it was that Mede and Tiwo found so distasteful in our mother. With Tiwo I always chucked it up to mild jealousy. Mother doted on him, but she’d always fawned over me. Tiwo had the normal mother-child relationship and he hated it. I got the mother-oba relationship with lavish praise and unasked for gifts. Our father had always tamped down the difference. I wondered if I would ever stop missing him.
“We’ve arrived, revered,” Mede stopped in front of a surprising sight. This white arched door had a spot of cream on the handle. My eyebrows vaulted up at the door’s nerve. I cheekily decided to aid in its coup, by keeping its secret.
Two palace guards stood in front. They bowed to me and pushed the door open. I walked in to find the Ooni seated in a small parlor. It was the kind of room I would expect for private meetings. It had two sofas placed on either side of a white table. He stood, leaning heavily on his cane. It was the first time that I’d had cause to think that cane had any purpose other than decorative.
“Your highness,” I bowed stiffly to the older man, “please, don’t rise on my account.”
Of course, he stubbornly chose to push himself to his feet. The doors closed behind us.
“Tanose,” he was heaving a little when he finally managed to stand upright, “I am upset with you.”
His eyes were narrowed on me and his wrinkled face was red with the exertion of his rise.
I held my left wrist in my right hand behind my back and began pacing around the small, intimate, space. “Your highness, you seem to be of the mistaken impression that I am somehow less than you. Perhaps it is my younger age, but I suspect that it is more likely a result of my gender…”
“Now, see here…”
“I am not finished,” I snapped, cutting him off. His eyes rounded and he inhaled so loudly I feared he was going into cardiac arrest. I sincerely hoped he wasn’t, because having to run to his aid would diminish the severity of the scolding I planned to give him. I continued as if I hadn’t been interrupted. “I am the Oba of Isan. I am the ruler of a nation that surpasses yours in military and economic might, so, I cannot imagine what would lead you to the erroneous conclusion that you could talk down to me in public, as if I was an errant child, and then have the gall to instruct your guards to keep me and my entourage locked in the palace. The fact that your gates are not now littered with Bono corpses is a testament to the esteem that my late and dear father held you in. You have dealt me an insult today, your highness, and I demand an apology.” Now finished, I stopped in my pacing and turned to face the Ooni with my legs spread and my eyebrows lifted in expectation.
The Ooni’s mouth hung open. He observed me, his eyes scouring over mine with the keen interest of a first glance. I refused to blink first, not even when I felt the burning sensation and the start of mistiness in my eyes. It was the Ooni who blinked first, the Ooni who looked away first. I was surprised to see a grudging smile grace his lips. He walked back to his sofa and sat. Then he lifted his cane and pointed at the sofa opposite him. “You’ve made your point Tanose, now sit down.”
The nerve of the man. “If the next word out of your mouth is not an apology, then I am riding out of here, and I don’t care how many people I slaughter to do it.”
He gaped at me. “You cannot really be this stubborn.”
I glared at him. “Wrong words,” then I turned my back on him and walked out of the room.
“Stop her!” He ordered.
The guards reached for me. Mede slammed the butt of her spear into one’s stomach, and on her return swing, slapped the shaft against the other. I elbowed the first one in the belly when he reached for Mede and swept my leg out, tripping him. Mede had the other one on his back already, with the sharp point of her spear poised above his neck.
“That’s enough! Eh Tanose, that’s enough!” The Ooni screamed. “You can see I am not strong this night, are you really going to force me to make my way over there?”
“You know what to do,” I said.
“You have my apology. Now release my guards and come back in here.”
Mede did not draw back until I gave her permission. Then she stretched out her hand to help the guard she’d felled up. As far as apologies went, the Ooni’s sucked. But in deference to the relationship he’d had with my father,I walked back into the room and shut the door behind me. “I suppose I have my mother to blame for your inability to accord me the respect I am due.”
He sighed. “Did no one ever tell you that if you go through life spoiling for a fight, you’ll spend your entire life fighting?”
Interesting words of wisdom from a king always at the precipice of war with another.
“Tell me now that if it was the Eze of Nuri standing in front of you, you would talk to him as you do me.” I used the Eze of Nuri because I had been thinking of Nuri and Bono always at the brink of war, so the Eze was the first male ruler on my mind.
The Ooni’s lips tightened and his gaze chilled. “Do not mention the Eze of Nuri to me. If the Eze of Nuri was standing where you stand he would be dead.” His words were spoken with such intense hatred that I could not help but be puzzled by it. Of course, I hated the Eze of Nuri on principle, because of my idea of the typical Nuri man, and the tales I’d heard about him. But the Ooni’s hatred seemed to be much more personal. I could tell how honest his earlier words were. He wanted the Eze of Nuri dead.
I spoke up, unwilling to lose ground. “Perhaps not the Eze then, but some other male ruler. I am the Oba of Isan, and it would be an honor if I decided to get betrothed to a son of Bono. But that is not how you treat me, and I cannot help but wonder why.”
The anger at my mention of the Eze had cleared from his features. “I treat you as a daughter, because that is how I see you.”
I bristled. “I am not your daughter.”
He scoffed at me. “Let me finish. It is not because you are a girl, it is because you are Netite’s girl. It is rare for two rulers to share the sort of filial love that your father and I had. He was the one person alive that I knew I could trust implicitly, and I imagined I was the same for him. We saw each other as family and it was our dream to make that a reality.” He sighed and leaned back into his sofa. He released his hold on his cane and massaged his temple. It wasn’t till that moment that I realized how much pain he was in. I found myself moving towards him and replacing his fingers on his temple with my own. I kneaded the flesh underneath my fingers, inching upwards to his forehead. Then I let my hands go back down. I massaged the back of his neck and then I kneaded the cords of muscles on his neck. Healing was a part of tumbler training. I’d done massages like this many times for my father.
The Ooni groaned. “You have magical hands, my daughter, just like your mother.”
I stopped at the mention of mother, then I reminded myself that he was an old man, a friend of my father’s, in pain, and I forced myself to continue. “Giving the sort of relationship you share with my mother, I sincerely hope that you do not see her when you look at me.”
He froze underneath my hands and his eyes fixed on my face. Then he burst out laughing. His laugh like his voice was a natural bellow. “Naughty girl.”
The words rubbed at me. “Please, don’t call me that.”
He held my gaze, frowning disapprovingly. “What made you so prickly that you can’t be teased?”
“I can be teased, just not like that.”
He regarded me for a while, and then he jerked his head in a curt nod.
“Speaking of your close, brotherly, love for my father, what are you doing sleeping with his widow?”
He shirked my hands off his body, leaning away from my touch. I shrugged, I wouldn’t force him to feel better. I walked around his sofa and sat on the one facing his.
“Bello!” he yelled. The door opened and a guard poked his head in. He bowed. “Bring a bottle of ogogoro and two glasses.” The guard bowed and retreated. The Ooni eyed me. I sat with my legs crossed, my back resting against the sofa, waiting for him to speak.
“You know,” he began conversationally, “I tried to stop your father from naming you heir.” A quirked eyebrow was the only response he got from me. “I thought he was insane. Who names the younger child heir? I told him that his decision would lead to civil war, that your brother would raise an army to wrest the nation from you. Netite laughed at me,” he chuckled, “he laughed as if I had suddenly become a comedian. As if it was ludicrous. I can tell you now, that if I named Debisi my heir, Taiso would burn this entire nation to the ground before he let his brother sit on my throne.”
“I think that has more to do with how they were raised than anything else.” I remarked.
His eyebrows rose. “I cannot insult you, but you can insult me in my own home?”
I shook my head. “I am truly sorry if you took that as an insult, your highness, it was only an observation.”
His eyes narrowed on me then relaxed. He nodded his acceptance. “They were close once, you know, when Lola was still alive. She was like the glue that held them together. She held us all together.” He stopped speaking and his eyes took on a faraway look. I could read the grief on his features, just like Debisi’s grief when he’d talked about his sister. The Ooni was so distracted by his grief that he did not notice the guard walk in with a white tray bearing the liquor he’d requested and the glass cups. He placed that tray on the table. I uncapped the bottle, poured some of the alcohol into the cups and walked over to sit by him.
That was when he snapped out of it.
I held a cup to him and he took it from me with a shaky hand. He threw down the considerable amount of alcohol I’d poured into the glass in a single gulp.
“Your mother came to me after she’d had a bad fight with her husband.”
I stiffened. “He hit her?”
“No,” he shook his head, “nothing like that. Just words, but words can do equal damage. I took her in. At the start we were just friends, she was the widow of the brother I lost. Then my night pains became more severe and your mother would massage me. It was nothing more than a healing touch, healing, it’s your mother’s calling.” I nodded, unnecessarily. “She’s old, she doesn’t look it, your mother, but her joints get stiff. We went from massages to healing tonics. We would go outside and talk and she would mix together her herbs, and we would talk about Netite. She was the only one who understood my grief. We’d both lost spouses we loved. Hers died, mine became a shadow of herself after we lost our daughter. Your mother, she understands, I don’t…” he trailed off. “I wonder sometimes what Netite would say if he could see us. Would he hate me?”
I shook my head. “No, as long as you made each other happy, he would give his blessing.”
He nodded. “I thought so too.” He cleared his throat. “And you? Do you hate me?”
“No, your highness, you make her happy.”
He exhaled. “I should not have pushed for proof of your virginity as I did. It was foolish. You are Isan, your ways are not ours. And if you had not been a virgin? It would have been my loss.” He turned to face me and held my hands in his. “Stay with us for a while.”
I prepared to refuse.
“Just think about it, spend one week, maybe two. Visit with your mother, get to know Debisi. I really believe that the two of you would make a good match. Debisi is so much like Lola, he has her light, but I worry about how much longer he can keep it. Protect my son, Tanose, show him a world where the love between royal siblings can transcend power struggles. Give him a chance.”
There was something wrong with his impassioned plea. He sounded like a man who was already aware that he’d lost his fight. But he was still alive, he was still Ooni. Why couldn’t he protect his son? “Debisi is stronger than you think,” I said, “certainly strong enough to protect himself.”
His smile was pained. “I know he can survive. He’s smart. But a person can lose themselves and still survive. Debisi’s only weakness is his integrity. My son is Bono, raised in this court, if it came down to a choice between integrity and his life, he will not choose the former.” He released my hand and turned away from me. “Netite laughed,” he said, “I told him that his children would fight for his throne and he laughed. I named my eldest heir and my children still fight. He named his youngest heir and her brother bows to her. Perhaps you Isans are the only ones who got it right. Maybe calling is the most important of the five tenets.” Then he leaned forward and poured himself another drink.
I thought it was time for me to go. I cleared my throat. “If you would excuse me your highness,” I began to rise.
He turned to face me. “Are you in a hurry?” he asked. “I was hoping that you could massage me. The massage was always better than the tonics and you are the only one since your mother who’s known how to do it well.”
I nodded. “Of course, your highness,” I sat back down.
He smiled. “So easily? I was expecting a fight. I thought you would accuse me of belittling you again.”
I chuckled. “I understand you better now, your highness.”
“Can you really not call me uncle?”
“How many more concessions do you plan to wring from me this one night?” I asked, purely to be contrary.
He laughed. “Netite’s girl. Your father made the right decision when he ignored my advice, he was always smarter than I was.” He took a gulp of his ogogoro. “Netite’s girl,” he mused.
|Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by cassbeat(m): 11:10am On Aug 15|
Yea. I kinda knew you will add the merchant's family to this new update... Thanks for this piece...
|Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by tunjilomo(m): 12:04pm On Aug 15|
A calm and beautiful update.
|Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by GeoSilYe(f): 1:28pm On Aug 15|
Hmm something smells off about a lot of things and also, can Tan just leave the Isan Kingdom for that long? Can we know who is in charge? Perhaps the nobles?
|Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by doctorexcel(m): 2:56pm On Aug 15|
Wow. Thanks for these PLENTIDAFUL update.
|Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by dawno2008(m): 1:07am On Aug 16|
@obehiD words can't express how I feel reading this master piece,you made Africa royalty look sophisticated and adoring, even with all the schemes and power play.
Weldon sire,please keep up the good work.
|Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by monalicious(f): 4:30pm On Aug 19|
Choi. This story is really beautiful, and that last episode was so nice. I can feel the ooni's emotions when he called her netite's girl. Madam, I duff my hat once again
|Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by obehiD(f): 5:33am On Aug 22|
@cassbeat and I knew that you knew thanks for reading
@tunjilomo thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it
@GeoSilYe That's a good question. She does have a noble in Isan that's in charge, but more on what happens when she's gone is explained later
@doctorexcel Thank you for reading the plentidaful update
@dawno2008 thank you for the kind words! I really appreciate it!!
@monalicious thank you! I'm so happy you could feel that, it's nice to hear that the emotions are coming out the way I want them to
|Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by obehiD(f): 5:43am On Aug 22|
“Good morning mother,” I kissed her on her right cheek. She smiled and tapped my cheek daintily. Her left hand was wrapped lightly around the Ooni’s upper arm. “Good morning…uncle.” I couldn’t help the wry smile that twisted my face at the Ooni’s startle. He recovered quickly, and then his face lit up and I could almost swear I saw tears in his eyes.
“Good morning, my dear,” he bellowed.
“Good morning mother, your highness,” Tiwo’s greeting was stiff. He was annoyed with me for prolonging our stay in Bono.
Mother cupped his face in her hand and then pulled him close for a peck on the cheek, which my brother predictably recoiled from. Mother pretended like she didn’t notice, but the Ooni didn’t. He glowered at my brother. I couldn’t tell if Tiwo noticed. He looked straight ahead, to the palace stadium. We were close enough that we could hear the clash of wood against wood, punctuated by groans of exertion.
They walked with a little entourage. The Alaafin stood beside his father, and beside him were three young Bono men I didn’t know, all of whom had bleached skin. Four young women walked beside and behind them, and at the furthest edge of the line was Debisi. I walked in front of the line, ensuing the back rows and the dozen or so older people behind the Ooni.
“Good morning, revered,” Taiso stepped forward, blocking my path. “I hope you had a pleasant night.”
“Yes, thank you,” I nodded, then walked around him, my tumblers following.
I strolled over to Debisi. By the time I reached him there was already a deep red flush in his neck. “Good morning, revered,” he bowed.
“Revered?” I scolded, loud enough for everyone to hear, “why so formal this morning?” I kissed him on the cheek, just a breath above the corner of his lips. “Good morning,” I whispered into his ear.
He cleared his throat, then he took off his glasses and wiped it on his white shirt. He was dressed differently this morning, they all were. He was wearing khaki knickers instead of his formal iro, and his shirt was a casual white cotton. The Ooni and the other married men wore long trousers. The women wore skirts.
“Ehn, why so formal, son?” The Ooni boomed. Then he laughed, and Debisi’s blush deepened. He put the glasses back on his face, but he couldn’t resist the urge to fidget. Apparently, the Ooni had decided that proximity to us would be better, because he’d abandoned the other edge of the group, for the edge that I now walked on. He stood beside me, with my mother by his side, and Tiwo, grudgingly standing beside her. Tiwo caught my gaze and glared at me. I rolled my eyes at him and looked away. In my attempt to fling my gaze far away from Tiwo, it landed on Taiso, who, by his humorless expression, was not pleased.
“I shouldn’t have been,” Debisi’s gaze flicked to mine, and a smile graced his face as he said, “Tan.” To which the Ooni laughed and clapped his approval, urging the nobles who trotted behind him to do the same.
“That’s my boy!” He clamped a hand on Debisi’s shoulder.
Taiso’s jaw clenched, the nobles spread further from the Ooni so that they were standing behind Debisi. Debisi cleared his throat, rearranged his glasses on his face, then he dusted off imaginary flint from his white khakis. He was very obviously uncomfortable with all the attention. I observed all of this with the periphery of my mind, while my main thought function focused on the way that Debisi had said my name. It was the first time I’d seen him since our kiss last night, in the palace courtyard, since I’d officially given him permission to call me by my name. I’d heard him call my name before, but this morning, he’d uttered it with reverence and awe, as if it was an honor just to be able to say it.
A warm tentative palm brushed against mine, just before thin fingers wound around my hand and rested lightly against my skin. My eyes rose to Debisi’s face, and I could tell from his light hold, and the fear in his eyes, that he expected me to pull my hand away. I wrapped my fingers around his hand and grinned when his nostrils flared and his smile widened. He was just too cute. Handholding. I couldn’t remember the last time anyone had initiated a handhold with me.
“It looks like we might be hearing wedding bells by the end of the year,” one of the nobles behind us teased. The teasing met which much approval from the Ooni, which I suppose was why the noble said it.
“Is something wrong with Mede?” Debisi kept his voice low. I shook my head. I was touched that he’d been observing me closely enough to notice that Mede not guarding me was an anomaly.
“She’s training the fledglings.”
“Tumblers a year away from the end of their training.”
He frowned. “You brought trainees to guard you in a foreign nation?”
He was worried about my safety? Really, adorable. “I was not aware that I needed heavy guard in Bono. Am I not safe in your nation, your highness?”
His eyes snapped to mine. “No, of course not, I just meant…” it took him all of ten seconds to realize that I was teasing him. Then he shook his head at me and looked away. “Why so formal?” He threw my earlier question back at me in a soft tone that only I could hear.
I leaned close to his ear to whisper, “I wasn’t told not to be.”
He turned around so quickly that if it had taken a second longer to rear my head back he would have headbutted me. “Of course, you don’t have to be…I mean you shouldn’t be…I mean you can call me whatever you want Tan.”
“Whatever I want?” He nodded. “Are you sure? I have a pretty good imagination,” I lowered my voice, “and a very dirty mouth.”
His ears reddened and he smiled wide enough for his dimples to make an appearance, but he said nothing.
We’d reached the stadium. It was smaller than the one we had in my palace. The white sand arena was the size of a standard football field. I imagined it doubled for a wrestling pit as well. No self-respecting Nulin nation went without both a wrestling pit and a football field in the palace. The seats in the stands were white leather, they looked large enough to comfortably seat about a hundred, with an area sectioned off for the royal family. The stands were empty now. My tumblers took up a section of the field, for their training. I imagined the Bono palace guards were meant to train as well, but they’d abandoned that training to gawk at my tumblers.
“It has been a long time since I’ve seen Isan tumblers fight. One could almost forget how good they are.” The Ooni’s voice held a note of wonder.
It was interesting. The tumblers fighting now were just fledglings, they weren’t yet, technically tumblers. I’d traveled with four of them this time. The group gravitated towards the fledglings going two on one against Eghe and another more matured tumbler. The fledglings did well, they held their ground. They trained with wooden shafts, and attacked their fully trained counterparts with coordinated thrusts. The Ooni climbed onto the stands and the nobles made to follow him. I broke away from the group then, pulling my hand gently out of Debisi’s.
“Revered,” Mede bowed when I jogged up to her. She stood by a table of shafts, drenched in sweat, and slightly heaving. I waved my guard away. They walked over to join the tumblers standing closer to the trainings.
“The fledglings look good,” I commented, leaning against the wall beside her.
She picked up a cup from the table and downed the contents. “You were holding hands with the prince.”
My eyes rolled to the side, glanced at her impassive face, and then moved back to watching the tumblers training in front of me. I rose my eyebrows. “Jealous? Just say the word and I’ll hold your hand too.” I let my eyes roll back to her and then move leisurely down her body. “I’ll hold whatever you like.”
Her lips twitched. “Should I assume that a betrothal announcement is on the horizon?”
“Now why would you assume that?”
“Because we’re still in Bono.”
I didn’t respond. Three of the fledglings were female, one was male. They were all young, by the looks of it, around my age, give or take a year. Eghe swung his stick. One of the tumblers jumped it, the other bent backwards to avoid its swing. Both returned to their former poses swinging. Eghe twirled his stick and knocked both of theirs away.
“He can’t take his eyes off you.”
“What?” I turned to Mede.
“Your prince.” She jutted her chin towards the stands.
I kept my gaze on her.
“He looks smitten. Is he?”
I didn’t say anything.
“What are you fishing for Mede?”
“What’s in the water?”
“Look at me.” There were no emotions clearly showing on her face as she stared at the stands and none showing when she turned to meet my gaze. “What are you fishing for?”
“You kissed him.”
“And you care?”
She shrugged. “Normally you can’t shut up about that kind of thing. You haven’t mentioned it once. Is he the future Iyoba of Isan?”
“How did you know we kissed?”
“I saw you in the alcove.”
I remembered the alcove not being that well-lit. “Spying?”
“If seeing is spying. I’m not blind.”
“Not that I mind, mind you, you can spy on me kissing anyone whenever you like. Kissing, sucking, fucking, you are welcome to watch. You have in the past.”
“At your father’s orders,” she stated in a biting tone.
I frowned. “Why are you snapping at me?”
“Yes, we kissed. Yes, I’m staying in Bono longer to get to know Debisi better. I don’t know if I want to marry him yet, but I’m considering a betrothal. I don’t know if he’s smitten. I know that I’m not, but feel free to badger me about this whenever you please, and I’ll be sure to tell you if that changes. Was that all?” My tone was flat. The expressionless mask fell from her face. She looked away from me. “Can I go back to watching my tumblers now?”
Her gaze snapped up. “Yes, revered, of course.”
“Of course?” My eyebrows inched upwards, “so I need your permission?”
Her eyes widened. “No, revered, of course not.”
“No, I shouldn’t ask for your permission?”
She shook her head. “You shouldn’t.”
“Now you tell me what I should and shouldn’t do.”
“No, you know that’s not what I meant.”
“The nerve!” I gasped. “Now you presume to tell me what I know.”
I took a step closer towards her, frowning. “You’re disagreeing with me.”
“No,” she took a step back, “I wouldn’t dare.”
“Looks to me like you dare a lot.” I stepped closer.
She tried to move backwards but the table blocked her retreat. I leaned closer towards her and she leaned back. I placed my hand on the table, she watched the appendage as if it was a snake that could bite her. I reached behind her and picked up a training shaft, then I took a step back and she heaved a sigh of relief. I threw the shaft at her, she caught it, staring warily at me. I lifted my hands to the knot of the white velvet wrapper tied around my chest. I kept my gaze on her as I loosened the knot and let the wrapper drop. She caught it before the material hit the sand. I took the shaft from her hands.
“Do I have your permission to spar, Mede?”
“What can I say that won’t get me into trouble?”
“That’s a good question, next time ask yourself that before you open your mouth.”
She bowed. “Yes, revered.”
“Really, it’s so unfair of you to taunt me like this, rile me up and then leave me with no other way to relax than to go out there and spar. The next time you get me this worked up, I’m venting on you, in a dimly lit room, with the both of us naked.”
She rose her head and looked me straight in the eyes. “I guess that’s fair enough.”
My heart lurched and then it started racing. I took a step back, stunned by her response. Then my eyes narrowed when I noticed that her shoulders were shaking. “I wasn’t joking,” I warned.
“I agreed with you, revered.”
I gaped at her, but I got over my shock quickly. “I’ll be looking forward to it.”
“Don’t hold your breath. All this means is that I’m going to have a better filter on my words.”
I shook my head at her, smiling as I jogged over to the tumblers. For obvious reasons, Mede had had my full attention when we spoke and so I hadn’t noticed the distinct halt in conversation. My tumblers still trained, their focus was still on their sparring, but everyone else stared at me. They gaped. The Bono nobles, the Bono palace guards. I found their sudden attention on me slightly troubling, but I shrugged it off.
Eghe stopped swinging and bowed. “Revered.” The rest of them stopped as well, bowing as Eghe did.
“Have I grown a moustache Eghe?”
He rose his head. “No, revered.”
“Then why are they all gawking at me?”
“I think it’s the girdle, revered.” It was one of the fledglings who shed light on the conundrum. Her voice shook when she spoke.
“Ah, the girdle, thank you.” I smiled at her. She looked away shyly. I’d forgotten that this was the first time since I arrived that I hadn’t been formerly dressed in my velvet wrapper. Now I wore my girdle, it was purple, unlike the red that regular tumblers wore, and it had my family’s crest embroidered in gold on it. But it was just as revealing as my tumblers’ girdles. It stopped at midthigh and it was sleeveless, which I suppose, made it more revealing than the regular tumblers’ apparel. Since I knew the cause of the looks, I found it easier to shake off.
“Take a break,” I jerked my head at Eghe and the other mature tumbler, “let’s see what the fledglings have learned. Four on one.”
The tumblers I’d dismissed bowed and jogged towards the table. I saw out of the corner of my eye that a light skinned individual, in khaki shorts and a shirt, was coming towards me. I turned my back on him and positioned myself in the middle of the four.
|Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by obehiD(f): 5:43am On Aug 22|
“Well,” I prompted, then I poked the butt of my shaft at one of them. He just stood there gaping at me. “Attack, now!” I snapped.
Then I started swinging and knew that their training would take over.
I was wrong on that front.
I was used to there being a certain initial reticence from tumblers to strike me. It usually faded after the first time I sparred with them. This was my first time sparring with these fledglings, but I at least expected them to lift their shafts. I swung my shaft at one, saw that she was too stunned to stop my blow and I swerved around her and struck her on her firm butt instead. She squealed and then turned around swinging. Her first thrusts were reckless, a reaction to the blow I’d struck, but then she calmed and started concentrating. She made a few decent swings that I blocked easily. I evaded her stick and circled back into the middle of the group. I bent to avoid another blow, then, using my solid shaft as a support, I jumped up and slammed the soles of my feet into her belly. She was good. My kick sent her bending backwards, but she stopped her descent with her stick and used it to propel her back with enough force to crack my skull, if I was still standing where I’d been.
I wasn’t. I’d found another target. He at least rose his stick to stop my swing, but he put no muscle behind it. I slapped my stick against his, sending it flying out of his hands, then I flipped the stick and stopped my strike an inch away from his balls. He gaped comically at the stick between his legs as if he’d never seen a stick before. I pulled my stick back. “Next time I won’t stop,” I warned. He bent to pick up his stick. I heard a swooshing sound and ducked, before the stick could hit my head. I swiveled in my squat, with my stick spread out, and managed to knock down my assailant and the girl standing beside her.
The last girl came at me before I could taunt her. Good. She twirled her stick over her head, I rammed mine into her stomach. She groaned and doubled over.
“Is this a joke?” I yelled. “I was told that you were the best students that the training master had to send. If this sorry display is what passes for tumbler education, then I might have to find a new training master.” They weren’t looking timid anymore. In fact, if their heaving, tight lips, and narrowed eyes were anything to go by, they were quite angry. I fanned the flames. “And I’ll have the four of you sent back to the Oracle to have your callings reread. Motion? You think you deserve to share my calling? You disgrace the calling with this showing, you insul…”
Two sticks came swinging at me at the same time. I fell to the floor, with my feet tucked underneath me, so that my butt rested on the soles of my feet, when I was lying flat, then I jumped back up, with a two-handed swing. I slapped away one stick, that the owner quickly stopped its recoil, and I broke the other. One of the tumblers threw the fledgling a replacement. I had no time to watch because the other two joined in.
Now it was a true four on one.
With both hands on the edges of my stick, I stopped a powerful downwards blow and pushed the Player down with my feet. While he jumped back, I parried with two, twirling my stick to divert their blows, and ducked the last. I struck hard enough that a recoil stung one girl. She retreated. I pushed off another who’d gotten too close, using my much taller frame to send her crashing to the floor. She somersaulted and came right back for me. I was proud. I took a painful jab in the side, and delivered a blow in the stomach. I just barely ducked out of the way of two sticks coming at my head.
When you riled tumblers up, there was no pulling them back. That was what I loved about training with tumblers. We were trained to disregard faces and identities when we fought. I was the first Oba with the calling of motion in over a thousand years, and so it had been a long time since an Oba had sparred with tumblers. Tumblers were no longer trained to hold back when they fought, not even in a spar. Still, there was a hint of caution when I fought with older tumblers, ones who weren’t sparring against me for the first time. These fledglings didn’t show any caution. They fought as if they fully intended to kill me, and I loved every moment of it.
Now that they’d found their groove, they came on me in full force. I had to duck and swing, shove and kick, fall, somersault, use every skill in my arsenal to fend them off, and even that wasn’t enough. I found a break in their circle and I dashed out of it, felling two of them in the process with a swing to the back of their knees that sent them sprawling. They didn’t stay on the ground long. Tumblers never did, unless they were paralyzed, or dead.
They chased me to the walls, and I ran happily, using my long legs to full advantage. None of them were as tall as I was. I was drenched, panting, my heart pounded, and I was elated. I got to the wall, around the field, and used that as a jumping board. The first person to reach me got a kick in the gut for her efforts. The momentum from my push against the board was enough to push her into the air, but she pulled her knees to her chest in the air and began to roll. She landed on her feet, then came running right back.
I climbed to the top flat surface of the wall. The first person that tried to jump up with me, got smacked in the thighs. She fell back down. I turned around, and sent the girl behind me down, by stomping on her hand before she could climb up.
A smack in the back of my knees told me that I was not alone. I turned around and bent to a squat when I saw the boy’s stick coming right at me. I struck him in his stomach. He absorbed the blow without moving back. He jabbed his shaft forward, I slapped it away with mine, then on my return swing, I grabbed my shaft in two hands and swiped at his moving legs. He fell. It was such a short fall that if it was anyone but a tumbler, falling at that awkward angle, they would have broken their necks. We were trained to rearrange midair, no matter how short the distance. He turned his fall into a somersault that vaulted him right back onto the ledge.
I heard the whoosh of a stick ripping through air and I knew that the fledgling behind me was attacking. I started to bend into a squat when I heard, Debisi’s panicked voice yelling, “Tan!”
He broke my attention. I shouldn’t have let it happen, it wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t sounded so damn scared. I turned to locate him, forgetting the swinging stick I’d heard coming for me. The force of the stick knocked me off the ledge. I swiveled midair so that I could stop my fall with my forearms. I tried to push myself back up to my feet but there were already two sticks poking into my back.
I turned around and lay flat on my back. When I looked up all four of them stood beside me with their sticks hovering in the air above me. I thought about continuing, I was sure I could still push myself off the floor and continue my fighting without getting hit too many times, but I was worried about Debisi and the fear in his voice when he’d called out to me. So I threw my stick to the ground in a clear sign of surrender.
They lowered their sticks. Two hands reached out to pull me up.
When I stood, Debisi was standing in front of me, with his brother and the other young nobles behind him.
“Are you okay?” His hair was in complete disarray, which was shocking since it had looked combed and neat when we’d walked over. His concern was written allover his face. His look of worry turned into one of anger when he glared at the fledglings I’d sparred with.
“What’s wrong? Why did you scream my name?”
He looked confused when he turned back to me. “I was calling out a warning to you,” he said.
I closed my eyes and groaned. It would be a while before I found another set of new fledglings and goaded them into the kind of recklessness that it took to fight me as these ones had. They hadn’t held back. Next time they would be just as good, but not as ruthless. I turned on them and eyed each one of them. None of them met my gazes. Their senses had already started to return. They’d fought me as if I was one of them, but I wasn’t.
“Which one of you paid the prince to distract me so that you could win?” I teased. They looked up then, staring warily at me, then at each other. “Fess up,” I prodded, “because you know if he hadn’t called my name you would all be lying sprawled on your bellies right now.”
It only took one to smile. It was the girl I’d goaded into fighting first. “We did no such thing, revered.”
“Pfft, I don’t believe you.”
They all broke in, then, laughing and promising that they hadn’t.
“We’ll have to have a rematch to prove it, but tomorrow, take a break now.”
They bowed. “Thank you, revered.”
“You fought very well, your training master will be pleased.” I praised. It wasn’t a lie.
They beamed. “Thank you, revered,” then they retreated, jogging backwards so that they didn’t turn their backs on me.
I turned back around. Now Taiso stood beside Debisi and they both wore matching expressions of disdain as they stared at the retreating fledglings. It was usually harder to see the resemblance, but right at that moment it was clear that they were brothers.
“You should not train that way,” Taiso scolded, turning his attention back to me, “you could get hurt, and those imbeciles weren’t smart enough to realize they were sparring with their queen.”
“Do not call my tumblers imbeciles,” I stated coldly. “And if they’d held back, I would have beaten them bloody. When I tell my subjects to fight, they fight.”
There was an odd expression on Debisi’s face, one that seemed to have its roots in some combination of fear, shock, disapproval and amazement. Taiso grinned. His eyes roamed over me in that intense way that always made me feel like he was trying to dissect me with his gaze. I did not like it and I glared at him to let him know.
“Of course, revered,” the Alaafin bowed, “you know best when it comes to your tumblers.”
“Forgive me, revered,” one of the young Bono women with bleached skin came closer to me, “is this how all people dress in Isan?”
I studied her face. She seemed truly curious and so I gave her an honest, sarcasm free, answer, “no, Oloye, this is only what tumblers wear.” She looked like a noble woman but I couldn’t tell if she was of royal lineage, or if she was an Alake, so I called her by the general ‘oloye’ which the Bono used to refer to all title holders.
“Oh,” she appeared shocked. “Are you a tumbler?”
“Revered,” I turned towards Mede’s soft voice and smiled in gratitude at the cup she proffered. I plucked it from her hands and emptied it of its contents. Eghe held a pitcher, he refilled my cup. “Where’s Tiwo?”
Debisi opened his mouth, but the Alaafin spoke before he could. “He accompanied our father and your mother on a walk around the grounds.”
“Tiwo went on a walk with your mother,” Mede muttered, “they must have held a knife to his throat.”
Only Eghe and I heard her. I turned to Mede and whispered to her in a taunting tone, “dimly lit room,” reminding her of our earlier conversation and the promise I’d made her.
Her eyes widened, she bit into her bottom lip and she held my gaze, then she laughed at me and looked away. I turned my back on her, smiling. Debisi eyed the both of us contemplatively.
“From what we all saw, the rumors don’t do your talent justice. I guess it’s a good thing that my brother has your fighting skills to rely on.” The Alaafin teased, “you’ll have to fight the thieves off and protect the both of you.”
The Alaafin’s entourage laughed. I could see now that they belonged to Taiso, they were his posse, not Debisi’s. Debisi’s neck reddened, and he looked away from me, obviously embarrassed. I watched him there, standing in this group, with his brother and these Bono nobles laughing at him, and he looked so lonely.
“Stop it,” I snapped. How could Taiso not see how uncomfortable he made his brother?
The laughing tittered to a stop, but Debisi still wouldn’t look at me. He fidgeted with his glasses instead.
“No, really, it’s the truth. My brother should have been the commander of my armies, but that job will have to be Ola’s.” Taiso pointed at one of the men standing behind him. “Debisi has two left feet and no right hook.” Taiso laughed and I glared at him and his noble entourage, daring them to laugh again. The man he’d pointed to laughed and the woman who’d asked me about my girdle, but the others looked away.
“What armies? I wasn’t aware that an Alaafin had armies.”
The Alaafin stopped laughing. He glared at me and his jaw ticked. Then the glare washed off, leaving a contemptuous look on his face. He turned to Debisi and put a hand on his shoulder, “let’s spar, brother.” Debisi began shaking his head and I could tell he was preparing to refuse, when Taiso squeezed his shoulder and said, in an uncompromising tone, “it would please me.”
Debisi sighed. “Of course, brother.”
Taiso snapped his fingers, pointed at the tables, and palace guards rushed over to fetch the sticks. He took his stick from a guard’s hands and turned to face me. There was something menacing in the look he gave me, a kind of dark intent, then he turned to face his brother and they began sparring.
Sparring was too generous a word. It was basically Taiso beating his brother, while he teased him, and egged the Bono nobles to laugh at him. Debisi could not fight. I’d thought Tiwo was bad, but Debisi was terrible. It had only taken a moderate swing for Taiso to knock the stick out of Debisi’s hand. Debisi rushed to pick it up and Taiso tripped him. Debisi fell to the ground, his glasses came off. Taiso didn’t even stop for him to pick the glasses up. He just went for him. Luckily, Debisi was able to grab his stick and stop the blow. But he couldn’t hold on to the stick. He rushed for his glasses as Taiso placed a cruel hit on his back. Debisi cried out in pain. He’d just gotten his glasses back on when Taiso aimed his stick at Debisi’s face. Debisi rose his arm up and caught the blow in his forearm before it could smash into his face. Taiso taunted. The nobles laughed.
I didn’t even realize I was holding my hand out until Mede placed a stick in it. I gave her as big a smile as I could muster and was heartened when I saw my anger mirrored on her face. She took the cup from me.
I charged into the fray and deflected Taiso’s blow, where it was poised to come down hard on Debisi’s arm for the fourth time.
“Would you like to spar with me now?” I asked him, and I prayed he would say yes.
Of course, he didn’t. He tossed his stick aside and made a comment about sand fighting being a thing for the lower classes. Then he walked off with his noble entourage and the rest of the palace guards trailing behind him.
|Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by cassbeat(m): 10:07am On Aug 22|
Taiso is a clown....
|Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by tunjilomo(m): 11:55am On Aug 22|
|Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by Elvictor: 5:30pm On Aug 22|
this is wonderful, this piece surpass every Africa prose I envisaged. quite a delight to read, in betwixt feminists will love this masterpiece.
|Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by Folex34(m): 11:32pm On Aug 22|
cassbeat:And also a Stupid fellow
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