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Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) - Literature (5) - Nairaland

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Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by Tuhndhay(m): 3:23pm On Oct 08, 2020
Nice one Obehid..... Good to see you trying your hand on another storyline different from the earlier
Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by obehiD(f): 11:23pm On Oct 09, 2020
@Elvictor thank you...you're right at least Taiso admitted he isn't innocent, as for Debisi...anyway, let me not come and spoil it wink

@tunjilomo well, okay then, that's the feeling I get, humor when I've written it well...

@PenHub It's okay, you don't have to pick sides, me I've already picked my side, but I'll wait till the story ends to reveal who I was rooting for cheesy

@doctorexcel thank you very much!

@Tuhndhay yes oh, I'm trying my hand at something new, no magic, just as much intrigue as I can manage wink
Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by tunjilomo(m): 11:27pm On Oct 09, 2020
obehiD:
@Elvictor thank you...you're right at least Taiso admitted he isn't innocent, as for Debisi...anyway, let me not come and spoil it wink

@tunjilomo well, okay then, that's the feeling I get, humor when I've written it well...

@PenHub It's okay, you don't have to pick sides, me I've already picked my side, but I'll wait till the story ends to reveal who I was rooting for cheesy

@doctorexcel thank you very much!

@Tuhndhay yes oh, I'm trying my hand at something new, no magic, just as much intrigue as I can manage wink

Una dey different timezone, abi una no dey sleep?
Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by obehiD(f): 5:21am On Oct 10, 2020
18

There was a certain allure to the den that I could not name on first sight. The building, up close, loomed larger than it had when I’d initially seen it as we’d ridden by. Now I could see the nuances in the texture of the red paint that coated the walls. It took me back to Isan, back to my colorful nation, back to the rich clay soil that marked us. The paint was so lifelike it made me feel as if I could run my fingers over the exterior and feel granules of sand.

A little squeak preceded the opening of the den’s large doors, revealing a half-dressed male slave. I caught glimpses of the ambiance behind him. The hallway was dimly lit, giving off an aura of mystery intricately wound with danger. Faint glows of red light, a red as dark as blood, punctuated the darkness. I couldn’t help but smirk at the menace that the décor promised.

Eghe shivered beside me.

Tonight, he wasn’t a tumbler. He wasn’t dressed in the tumbler’s girdle, but in a seamless white galabia. His wide eyes and slightly parted lips somehow imbued a measure of innocence on his weathered features. I smiled.

The slave bowed deeply to me, it was a waist bow, too well-orchestrated to be spontaneous or unique. “Be welcome, madam,” he said, stepping out of the way and extending his hands into the darkness behind him.

‘Madam.’ I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been called that. This evening, my braids were unadorned by the royal gems which usually gave away my identity.

I gave a curt nod to the slave, my eyes perfunctorily sliding over his body. He looked to be in his early twenties. His exposed chest showed lean muscles which reminded me a little too much of Debisi. His white silk trousers billowed around his legs, stopping short at feet which were left bare.

The door closed behind us, sealing us within the enigmatic haze of the den’s lighting.

“What is your desire, madam?”

My eyebrow rose instinctively in response. It wasn’t the question, but the way he uttered it, with his voice low and breathy, nibbling on his plump bottom lip after. He lowered his gaze demurely away from mine.

“How are the slaves prepared?”

His head rose slowly. When his eyes snapped back to mine, they drifted deliberately to the side, just enough to appear as though he was too shy to meet my gaze.

He licked his lower lip before responding, giving it a glossy shine. “A bath.” he said, in that breathy voice, the one that made it clear he was aroused, though his flaccid rooster told a different story. They trained den attendants to look like this, act like this, demure in this way. “Shaving. Lubrication.” He panted between each word, as if just saying the words made him think of being prepared to wait on my pleasure, and that the thought left him short of breath. “Shall we go to the viewing, madam?” he asked.

I studied him carefully. “And will you be amongst the slaves on display?”

His eyes widened. “No, madam, I do not cater to sexual needs, it goes beyond my calling.”

A knot in my chest loosened. It set my mind at ease to know that even here in Bono the Isan slaves were afforded the same protections the calling necessitated. I smiled at the boy. “A viewing won’t be necessary, I brought my own.” I jerked my chin in Eghe’s direction and smirked at the predictable shudder he gave. “Have him prepared. And a flagellation suite if you have one.”

The slave bowed. “As it please you madam.” He extended his hands deeper into the darkened hallway. “Please, go straight ahead, madam, I will come for you when your wishes have been met.”

I nodded. I could almost smell Eghe’s anticipation as I walked past him. He kept his head bowed, his gaze lowered and away from me, but I didn’t need to look into his eyes to read what he felt. His body told me all I needed to know.

The hallway ended in a door that opened up to a large circular room with an entirely different mood. This room was brightly lit. White light streamed down from hanging chandeliers and from lanterns positioned in cubbies built into the walls. The wall was like nothing I’d ever seen. It was a wall of doors, separated by narrow strips which contained the lanterns. In the center of the room there was a slightly raised dais. The dais was furnished with pillows and with two people of opposite sexes, both wearing nothing but Nuri masks over their heads. They stood facing each other, arms by their sides, not moving, the slight movements of their chests the only signs that they were alive, not statues.

The steady sound of carefully controlled breathing drew my attention to the left. Mede was on edge. She’d been like this since we left the inn. I probably shouldn’t have let her come. Why did she insist? I looked away. I’d come with two tumbler guards. They were both dressed in their girdles, but they carried no spears, just daggers buried into the pockets at their sides.

I wove through the cluster of partially filled couches, arranged around the stage, were the patrons lounged idly, picking from sparsely filled trays. I kept going until I reached the semi-circular bar at the edge of the room. Two slaves attended to this region. They worked around a circular column of shelves and cubbies reaching as high as the ceiling, each part of it splendidly filled with an artistic display of bottled drinks.

I took a seat at the bar and gestured for my tumblers to do the same. Mede was still as tightly wound as before. The other tumbler was more relaxed though. He was younger than Mede, but he’d been with me for a long time, almost as long as Eghe. Unlike Mede, this was not his first time following me to a den of iniquity. Dens like these were filled with aphrodisiacs. They put them in drinks when requested, and burned them in censers in the playrooms. Mede, hating aphrodisiacs as much as she did, usually stayed away. This evening she’d insisted on coming.

I shook my thoughts free of her, and picked up the clear crystal glass an attendant placed behind me. I took a sip, then grinned at the tumbler who’d ordered it. It was pineapple zobo, made with a shot of ogogoro, with a light topping of ground opiate kola nuts. I rarely indulged in alcoholic zobo, but when I did, this was exactly how I liked it made.

My eyes flicked lazily over the room and its occupants. I saw couples twined together on the couches, in twos, threes, fours, they fed their exhibitionist streaks, idly playing with their partners. Fingers crawled over rising phalluses and thumbs brushed against pebbled nipples, but there was a sense of anticipation in the languid stroking, as if they were waiting for the real entertainment to begin.

My attention caught on the couple standing in the middle of the room. With their heads covered I could not tell if they were slave or free, but I could tell from the darkness of their skin that they were Isan. They stood just as still now as they’d been when I first walked in. The masks they wore only had holes cut out around their nose. There were no slits for them to see through. I stared at them and wondered at their stillness. As far away as I now was, I could no longer see the rhythmic rise and fall of their chests, the only signal to their being alive. From this distance, they were statues.

The lights flickered.

Once.

Twice.

Then something changed. The soft lull of whispered conversations faded away, leaving an eerie silence in its wake. A bang sounded, the thud of a door being slammed close. It reverberated through the room, made even more poignant by the silence that it had invaded. A man walked in. His face was covered, his skin the light brown of the Nuri, but he had no aha markings on his bare chest. He was a big man, with broad shoulders, and limbs thick with muscle. I watched his saunter, and had a fleeting thought that there was something predatory about the way he walked.

He stopped in front of the dais and circled it. His mask was different, it wasn’t a Nuri mask, not a full cloth mask that covered the entire head, but a face mask, one with an oddly familiar style. He stopped abruptly, kicked a pillow out of his way and stomped onto the stage. He circled the woman first, inspecting her. She didn’t move, not even when his fingers tweaked her nipple. He released the pincer hold and thumbed the jutting peak with the back of his finger, a careless caress. A step a little to the left, and his fingers moved away, casually creeping across her skin. In between her breasts, down her flat stomach, over her wide hips, across the round globes of her ass.

Then, suddenly, he snapped his hand away.

She moved for the first time then, stumbled backwards, as if the absence of his touch left her without support. I found myself leaning forward, the glass cup I held to my lip momentarily forgotten. There was something engrossing about the act. It was like a dance without music, dialogue without words. Somehow the man had become a magician, his touch capable of breathing life into what had once been a statue.

“The dance of the Ekpo masquerade, Nwada, fascinating, is it not?”

The voice that broke my attention was gravelly and sounded slightly amused. His voice held all the arrogance of one fully aware of the superiority of his station in life. I didn’t need to look at him to know that he was a noble. I also didn’t need to look at him to know that he was a fool. Only a fool would call me ‘Nwada’, the common title for a Nuri noblewoman. Did I look Nuri?

I inclined my head slightly to the side.

“Forgive my friend, your excellency, he has never been out of Bono.” He turned to his companion, “she is Isan, you fool, not Nuri.”

I studied them both, slightly irritated that they’d interrupted my viewing of the dais and the scene taking place on it. The first one who’d spoken was an albino, he stood a head shorter than his friend, but he was bulkier. The second was bleached. They were both older, in their early forties I guessed, dressed in neatly pressed dashikis.

“May I?” the bleached one gestured to the empty seat beside me. I didn’t need to turn around to know that the slight shuffling I heard came from Mede, no doubt preparing to throw her dagger at the man for his presumption.

I nodded at him. He sat.

I turned my attention back to the stage. Both statues had come to life now, they both trembled under the man’s caresses. He walked between them, drawing closer and then leaning away when the object of his gaze leaned forward to meet him. It was like he was a musician and they were the instruments he played.

“Is this your first time witnessing the dance of the Ekpo masquerade?”

There was something so odd about seeing a beard with hair as frosty white as his. This one was smart, unlike his friend, he’d called me excellency, the honorific for an Enogie. He’d seen my tumblers and made that connection. Only landed Isan nobles and their families could submit requests for personal tumbler guards. Most of them were refused.

I nodded, in answer to his question.

His expression dimmed. “The den master always puts it on the night before a reaping.”

That caught my attention. What the heck was a reaping? “Reaping?”

It was his companion who gave me an answer. “Yes, the Nuri have taken residence in Ikeja, and every Ikejan knows that whenever the Nuri come, a reaping follows. The more prestigious the Nuri visitors, the more brutal the reaping. And I hear that this time the visitor is as prestigious as the Nuri get,” he leaned closer and whispered, “the Eze himself.”

I reeled from the shock of those words. The Eze was in Ikeja? It made absolutely no sense.

The man’s eyes widened and shimmered with the thrill of having knowledge which was clearly highly prized. “The last time we had a truly brutal reaping was when Oza Onitsha came to Ikeja. There were wailing mothers rolling in the muck of the ogiri for weeks after.” He chuckled.

“It is nothing to joke about,” the bleached one chastised, his voice a low growl. Then he turned to me. “Forgive me, your excellency, we will not speak of such upsetting things.”

The words came from their mouths, I heard them, and even understood them to some degree, but I could not get past the reeling, and how heavy my head suddenly felt. I cleared my throat. “Why would the Eze of Nuri be welcome in Ikeja?” The stories Debisi told me came back in a rush. The Eze of Nuri had stolen the Alake of Ikeja’s only son and enslaved him. It was the shared hatred of the Eze of Nuri that now bound the Ooni and the Alake of Ikeja. It made absolutely no sense that the Alake would welcome the Eze, or really any Nuri.

“Ikeja is like a fruit rotting from the inside, and the Alake is the root of the rot. He is friends with the Nuri, he permits them free walk of the land. He allows them the Oro forest for their hunt, their reaping.” He snapped his fingers, as if to cast off an evil spirit. “Even now he dines with the Eze of Nuri on the flesh of the Bono.”

I shook my head. “No.” It made no sense. The Alake of Ikeja loathed the Eze of Nuri, I knew at least that much from Debisi’s tale. What was the son’s name…it was right there on the tip of my tongue, I remembered it had made me smile when Debisi mentioned it in connection with his sister, Lola…Kola… that was it, Kola. the Eze of Nuri had stolen Kola, enslaved him, and then sent him back to his father, who’d refused to claim a slave as his son. The Alake of Ikeja hated the Nuri as much as the Ooni did.

The albino leaned forward. “Why do you think the Alake refused the pure prince entrance to Ikeja? The Alake might be as thick as thieves with the Alaafin, but not the pure prince, the pure prince wouldn’t stomach the reaping.”

I’d thought that the Alake of Ikeja had barred our entrance into the village as some sort of power play with Taiso, but it hadn’t occurred to me that there might be something, or someone, he didn’t want us to see in his village.

Ayisha.

The thought came out of nowhere. I couldn’t help it. What if Ayisha was in the village, only kilometers away from me? If the Eze of Nuri was in there, then the chances were high that Ayisha would be too. And what was this reaping they spoke about?
Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by obehiD(f): 5:22am On Oct 10, 2020
The bleached man sighed. “It must be nice to be secure in the strength of your rulers. To have an Oba as great as Netite, succeeded by a warrior as fierce as Tanose, a family of rulers that actually care for their people. What a thing. Perhaps I should move to Isan. What do you think, your excellency, is there room for me in your great nation?”

His words troubled me. “You do not think that the Ooni cares for his people?”

“Kabiyesi?” He scoffed. “The Ooni is an old fool who’s grown content with watching his mistress’s stomach swell. He’s cuckolded the Alake and so he tells himself he’s won victorious over his enemy. Then he rolls over and lets the Nuri Bleep him. The Nuri reap our children and the Ooni does nothing. Is it any wonder that the Alake makes alliances with them?” He reached for his glass, swirled the amber liquid for a few seconds, then downed it in a single gulp. “If only they’d let our pure prince succeed the throne,” he said, as he slammed the empty glass onto the table. “We’d finally have a ruler worthy of the name.”

The albino laughed. “Worthy of the name? The pure prince uses glasses, my friend, he is flawed. Remember what my niece said, he stumbles on his own feet when he fights.” He spat. “I’d much rather call a bleached man Kabiyesi than a weak one.”

The bleached shook his head. “No, my friend, no, it is all an act, part of the agreement.”

The man’s words reminded me of others, words that Taiso had spoken to me. He’d told me that he’d reached an agreement with Debisi concerning the crown and warned me to honor it, right after he’d confessed to trying to have Debisi killed, and alleged that Debisi had done the same to him.

“The agreement is a myth.”

“No,” the bleached one insisted. He snapped his fingers for the attendants to fill his glass. “Sisi told me herself. You know Sisi, my sister’s eldest, the prettiest girl in Ikeja. She spent a month in the Capital, being courted by the pure prince. He told her of the agreement himself, he showed her his glasses. They are fake. Sisi wore them.”

The albino let out a dismissive snort.

“Truly,” the bleached insisted, “the Alaafin was jealous of the pure prince after he beat him in that archery tourney the late Alake of Ibadan held. The Alaafin swore that if the pure prince did not put on glasses and appear to be less than what he was, he would kill him, and kill every member of every noble family who has ever supported him. That is why the pure prince appears weak and why he wears glasses. He told my Sisi. He is a man of character that one, he would rather appear less than see innocents killed. That is what we need in a ruler.”

The albino still wasn’t convinced and the bleached went on talking, eager to set him straight. The conversation faded to a distant buzz in the back of my mind. I couldn’t pay attention to it, I couldn’t, not when that day with Debisi kept playing on a loop in my mind. Debisi and me walking to that clearing, him telling me his life’s tale, allowing me to expose his secret about the fake glasses, him swearing me to secrecy because no one else knew. If the bleached man was right, then it was a lie. All of it. How many other women had he told his story to, confident that they would take it back to their families and spread it? No wonder he had staunch believers everywhere he went. I imagined they’d all heard about the agreement, or at least some version of it.

“But can he fight?” The albino asked. “What use is an Ooni who cannot fight?”

“Sisi says he is an even better fighter than the Alaafin and that is why the Alaafin works so hard to discredit him, so that no one will ever know the truth. But I know, we all know. The Eyo masquerade chose the pure prince, it is why he is albino and his brother is not. It is why.”

I was speechless. Could Debisi really have lied to my face? The truth was evident, but I couldn’t get myself to believe it. I recalled the look on Debisi’s face as he told me his story, the shock when I discovered the glasses were fake, the pleading when he begged me not to tell anyone else. Maybe this, Sisi, girl had stumbled onto the secret too and he’d begged her not to divulge it. It wasn’t his fault if she went back on a promise she made to him. Yet, I couldn’t fight the feeling that others knew. That if this bleached man living in Ikeja knew of Debisi’s secret, his agreement with his brother, an agreement which Debisi had never told me about, then others knew. Just thinking about the agreement made my head throb. Taiso had told me that the agreement existed, but Debisi had told me a different story when he talked about the fake glasses. He’d told me that Taiso didn’t know they were fake, but if this bleached man was right, then Taiso had insisted on Debisi wearing them.

And if this bleached man was right, then the Alake of Ikeja had barred our entry through the gates of those impenetrable marble walls, because he was hosting the Eze of Nuri. I thought about it, and warred with it, because the implications of an alliance between Ikeja and Nuri, the implications to Bono and to the Nulin nations as a whole, would be devastating.

“What is the Oba, most revered of the Isan nation, doing skulking around a den of Iniquity in the ogiri of Ikeja?” A dry voice called out behind me. As soon as the words were delivered, the bleached man stopped talking and turned to gape at me, his mouth hanging open like a dead fish.

Though the voice that spoke was familiar, it wasn’t friendly.

I turned around. My eyes locked on the brand on the man’s forehead. I clenched my jaw and then had to force myself to relax. “What are you doing here?” I asked, my gaze still on that brand. I’d ordered him branded, and watched as that, and other things, were done to him.

He made me a mocking bow. “What reason indeed, could a eunuch healer have for frequenting a den of iniquity? You may have cut of my dick, revered, but you didn’t have my eyes removed.”

I leaned back, resting my back against the edge of the wooden table, and eyed the man. I took a sip of my drink, only too aware of the wide Bono eyes that stared at me. A slave had heard him call me revered, he’d gasped and rushed scurrying away. Soon, more people would know. I couldn’t keep the coldness from seeping into my gaze. “You should be grateful that your head is still on your body,” I said calmly, my lips forming into a smile as chilly as my eyes.

“Should I?” he shrugged. “Perhaps, but it is not a gratitude I owe to you. It was your father who saved me, after you’d given the order to have my head removed. You took your revenge in other ways, though, didn’t you?”

His words evoked a painful memory. I’d fought bitterly with my father over the eunuch healer’s fate. If it was left to me the man would have died a painful death. But father intercepted my order and had him banished instead. Banishment, for a child molester, so that he could travel to some other land and take advantage of some unsuspecting children. I could still hear the argument, our voices bouncing off the walls, father’s roar every time I interrupted him. He’d wanted to release the healer without punishment, I told him that if he did so, he might as well go ahead and disown me. Tiwo’s calm voice of reasoning broke in. He’d talked father into agreeing to a banishment and when I’d been inclined to argue, he’d given me one of his ‘trust me’ looks and I’d held my tongue.

After father’s ruling, Tiwo, Mede, Eghe and a handful of my most trusted tumblers escorted me and the eunuch healer to the border. We castrated him on the way there and put the Isan scourge of a pedophile’s brand on his head. There would be no more unsuspecting children in his future.

I studied the eunuch healer. He’d had a name once, a name I remembered, but the Isan scourge on his forehead stripped him of that name and whatever Isan wealth and titles he’d accomplished in his illustrious life. As much as I despised him, even I had to grant that he had been a genius in the healing arts. The years had been kind to him. He would be in his early fifties now, though he looked at least a decade younger. He didn’t slouch. He still had those smile lines on his face, and the wrinkles around his eyes that made him look kind, approachable, welcoming. He’d been the head of the royal healers, I’d known him as a child, laughed with him, been comforted by him. Until his true nature had been revealed. His frame was still as slight as it had always been, he was a man who believed wholeheartedly in exercise and the healing benefits it carried.

“How apt that you found a home for yourself in Nuri?” I remarked casually, eyeing the Isiagu he wore over brown khakis. “Where else would a pedophile be welcome?”

When I was younger, I’d gotten so much comfort from looking into his eyes. He had the same calming presence that my mother had, a gift of their calling to heal. Even now, he still gave off that calming aura, it felt like some sort of cruel joke. There was nothing calming about the anger that tightened his features though.

“I am no pedophile.”

“You were complicit in the sheltering of a child slave, who you raped. If that is not a pedophile, I don’t know what is.”

I’d forgotten about the Bono men sitting beside me, until they gasped. The eunuch healer glared at them and they scurried away. I frowned at that, alarm bells chiming in my head. The eunuch healer should not have the power to dispel Bono nobles with a glance.

When his gaze turned back to mine, I made sure to keep my face impassive.

“You are still as uncompromising now as you were then. I told you before and I’ll tell you again, even though I have little to fear from you now. I did not know she was a child. Her master told me that she was eighteen, slow to mature. My mistake was in believing him.”

To enslave a child, it made me shudder. The man who’d done it was dead, killed by the oracles, as was the fate for all who committed sacrileges against the callings. A person had to have reached the age of maturity, before they could beseech the oracle for the right to call themselves slave. They had to make the request, and only an oracle could grant it. It made me sick to think of what was done to that child. She was safe now, well taken care of, but she would always bear those scars.

“You are a genius. That’s what my father said, it’s why he forbade me killing you. A genius. What kind of genius healer cannot tell between the body of a woman of eighteen and a child of twelve?”

“I…” I arched a brow and his words trailed off. “Revered…” again he couldn’t finish his sentence. He sighed. “I thought she was of age.”

I scoffed. “Now, you’re just lying to yourself.” Then I flicked my gaze away, dismissing him. When my attention returned to the dais, I noticed, with a measure of disappointment, that the entertainment had long since ended. There was nothing on the stage now but pillows strewed about. It left me with an odd feeling of loss, as though I had missed out on seeing something spectacular.

“Forgive me, your excellency, I…I mean revered, if I had known who you were…” The bleached man was back. The eunuch healer was gone to another part of the room. I watched him as he wound his way around couches. People hurried to make way for him, and bowed to the waist in greeting as he passed. How had he accumulated so much power?

“Are you well acquainted with the witch doctor?” The bleached man asked, his gaze following mine.

I looked away from the eunuch healer. “Witch doctor?”

He jerked his head at the eunuch healer. “He is the Eze of Nuri’s witch doctor. They say that he follows the Eze wherever he goes, and that his presence alone is enough to ensure the Eze’s longevity. No ailment can befall the Eze, no weapon cuts his flesh, no wound festers, not when his witch doctor is by his side.” The bleached man shuddered. “He will be part of the reaping.”

I was about to ask more, but the bleached man’s attention was already on something else. Someone behind me. I turned around in time to see an elderly woman bowing deeply to me. Her skin was a dark shade of honey, a cross between what was usual for Nuri and what was usual for the Isan. I could not tell from looking at her where she haled from. She could just as easily have been Bono. Her velvet wrapper and the braids falling from her head told of an Isan heritage.

“You honor us with your presence, revered. If it please you, I am Osareme, master of this den.”

I gave her a curt nod, distracted by the bleached man’s words.

“Your slave, and the suite you requested are both ready for your use.”

Another curt nod and she backed slightly away, waiting for me to follow.

“Follow the eunuch healer,” I whispered to Mede. I kept my voice low, so that only my tumblers could hear. “I want to know what he’s doing here.”

The eunuch healer had grown used to attending on royals, it made sense to me that he would seek similar employment. Working for the Eze of Nuri would account for the authority he seemed to command here. But then, would that also be proof that the Eze of Nuri truly was in Ikeja? And if he was what was I going to do about it? I’d come to this den to find the release that came with indulging my needs for sadistic domination. But now, pleasure was the furthest thing on my mind. I thought of Eghe, kneeling in a flagellation suite, waiting for me to give us both the release we craved, and I sighed.

“Osas will go,” Mede said, “I will stay with you.”

I studied Mede. She’d never countermanded my orders in public before. Never. Just as she’d never ‘insisted’ on accompanying me to a den of iniquity. Insisting, overruling my orders, she was forgetting her place. I thought about all the ways I could force her back in line, and images of Mede tied naked to an X cross invaded my thoughts. I imagined circling her. I could hear the snap of my whip and see her answering shudder. I imagined her lips pulled apart, her panting, the sound of her breathing, in tune with mine, her eyes, opened wide, shimmering with fear and an undeniable arousal.

Shaking my head, I forced my thoughts free of Mede. I’d pushed those feelings down, buried them deep, why did they keep crawling back up?

I caught and held Mede’s gaze. “Careful,” I warned her.

Her gaze lowered. “Let Osas go, please, revered.”

I turned to the tumbler and nodded. He bowed and backed away, keeping his front to me. Then I stood and walked beside the den master to the flagellation suite. As we moved, my head throbbed with a desperate need to assemble the pieces of the puzzle into a clear picture of what was going on behind the marble walls of Ikeja, the plots the Alake hatched, the schemes Debisi planned. But my body throbbed with a different, much baser need, one Mede had inflamed with her defiance.

3 Likes

Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by tunjilomo(m): 8:36am On Oct 10, 2020
Na wa oooo. What type of intrigue and suspense is this?
Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by PenHub: 9:28am On Oct 10, 2020
Thank you @ Obehid. Much suspense
Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by Elvictor: 10:12am On Oct 10, 2020
lemme wait for the main action
Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by GeoSilYe(f): 5:41pm On Oct 10, 2020
ObehiD you're killing me with suspense nawww
Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by dawno2008(m): 9:47pm On Oct 10, 2020
Africa version of GOT cool with lots of scheming and power play and lovely twists, you don't really judge a book from it covers.
@obehiD thanks so much for this captivating story,more inspiration I prayed cool
Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by NoChill: 11:33am On Oct 12, 2020
Mede is in trouble
Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by PToretto(m): 4:59pm On Oct 13, 2020
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Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by obehiD(f): 3:23am On Oct 17, 2020
@tunjilomo lol, I'm just trying my best to keep the story spicy wink

@PenHub Thank you for reading, I'll try to keep the suspense building

@Elvictor main action loading ...

@GeoSilYe sorry oh, don't worry there's no suspense in this update, we have a break from the suspense

@dawno2008 WOW! Mind blown, lol, thank you grin I'm going to make sure that the twists keep on coming

@NoChill as in ehn, you haven't seen anything yet, what has entered Mede oh? Somebody help me ask her undecided
Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by obehiD(f): 3:57am On Oct 17, 2020
19

“Your pleasure awaits, revered.” The den master stopped in front of a smooth white door with a red knob, encased in glass. “Do you desire an attendant to wait on you?”

I shook my head.

“Tug on the bell cord if you need anything, revered, an attendant will rush to your summons.” Then she bowed deeply and backed away from me. I absently noted her departure in my peripheral vision. My focus was on the doorknob. The deep darkness of the red metal within surrounded by fragile glass. It seemed an apt analogy for the flagellation suite, the room where the fragility of human flesh was exposed and shattered, giving way for the rich, red, hue, of life sustaining blood, to flow.

I reached for the doorknob and stopped short when I saw Mede’s hand had reached the destination inches ahead of mine. I’d bent forward to reach the door and Mede had bent too, for the same purpose. The angling of our bodies left our faces so close that I could stick out my tongue and run it over the crease that had formed between her eyebrows.

She stared at me. I’d known Mede for a decade now, and in that time, I had never seen her look as scared as she did in that moment.

I pulled back. “What’s wrong?”

She shifted so that her body was completely positioned in front of the white door. I couldn’t look away from those wide eyes and the worry lines that now marred the tranquility of her face. She shook her head. “You can’t go in,” the words were barely above a whisper.

I struggled to understand her. She seemed so scared, terrified. I looked around me, trying to make sure there wasn’t some danger I couldn’t see. The hallway was empty. It was just the both of us.

“I don’t understand.”

Her tongue darted out, pushing its way between her lips and pulling the lower one into her mouth. I watched as she released it, as that tempting tongue withdrew back into its shell. She was killing me with her look. The fear, the tremor in her voice when she’d spoken, the uncertainty in her gaze. It was so unlike Mede, and yet so like every version of her I’d ever dreamt about.

“Eghe is in that room,” she said, “he’s your tumbler.”

I frowned. “So?”

“You can’t go in. He’s your tumbler. You just…” she trailed off, shaking her head so slightly the ends of her braids crept distractingly over her bare shoulders. “You can’t.”

“I don’t know what’s wrong with you Mede, but I’ve played with Eghe before, he has no problem with it. Neither should you.”

Her lips pulled apart, far enough that I could see a glimpse of her teeth. Then she snapped her mouth shut and cleared her throat. Now the fear in her eyes morphed into something that looked a lot like pain. Mede, hurt? I shook my head. What was wrong with her? What was wrong with me for letting her detain me?

I jerked my head to the side, an act of impatience every one of my tumblers knew to heed. Mede stubbornly stuck her ground. “You can’t do this. He’s your tumbler. It’s not right.”

My eyes narrowed on her. I tried to read her face. I was good at reading people, I would not be who I am if I was not. I could plainly see that she was hurt, I read the look of betrayal stamped onto her features. It annoyed me.

“Get out of my way.”

She crossed her hands over her chest and tipped her chin upwards.

I took one look at the obstinate tilt of her face, the way she’d squared her shoulders, the feet that she’d spread to stand her ground, and I let a cold smile creep onto my lips. I moved towards her, taking one step at a time, till I was only a step away. Then I caught her gaze and held it, pondering at her thoughts, the insanity that drove her to this. If only she could read my mind, and see how desperately I wanted to hurt her, and how sweetly she was giving me a reason to.

“Please,” she said. She sounded lost. I wondered if she even knew what she was asking for. I said nothing, I just waited her out. She moved out of the way.

“No one comes in,” I ordered. I didn’t look at her. “No one.”

“Yes, revered.”

I twisted the knob and walked in.

It was as if I walked through a mental filter. As soon as I crossed the threshold, all of my thoughts, my concerns and worries, all pieces of myself not connected to the purpose of the room faded away. Debisi’s scheming, the intrigues surrounding the Alake of Ikeja, the witch doctor’s inexplicable presence in the den, Mede’s strange behavior and even my worries for Ayisha, all became a distant hum in the recesses of my mind. Nothing mattered more to me in that moment than the suite and its sole inhabitant.

The den’s flagellation suite was like others I’d seen. It was a large space with a massive X cross in the middle of the room. There were other smaller crosses positioned around the room, spaced between vertical and horizontal spinning wheels with chains running over the smooth flat surface of the board. Several cuffs hung from metal links falling from the ceilings and swept the floors fixed to bolts holding them in place. There were several racks filled with all manner of pain implements, a whole section was dedicated to whips.

I walked around the room, ignoring for the moment, the naked boy kneeling in the middle.

The drawers had been left open to display the various implements they held. Knives, daggers, collars, needles. I ran my fingers lightly over the spiked ends of a metal wheel. The bed was expected, but not the size, this one looked large enough to hold over a dozen people indulging in some wild, acrobatic sex. I walked over to the other side of the room. These drawers held blindfolds, leather gags, nipple clamps, hoods, belts with links that could only be chastity devices. I eyed a rooster ring, but decided he wouldn’t need it.

By the time I circled back to Eghe he was panting. He knelt the way I liked, with his knees spread wide enough that I could clearly see the extent of his arousal. I could tell the effort he put into controlling his breathing once I drew closer.

My palm moved smoothly over his freshly shaved scalp. “This wasn’t necessary,” I remarked, to test him. He did well, he didn’t speak. “Why did you shave it?”

Now that he’d been asked a direct question, he had permission to speak. “I knew it would please you, revered.”

I said nothing to that, just kept stroking his head. I let my fingers trail down his neck, tickle behind his earlobes, creep along his spine. He twitched a little, but for the most part, he held still.

“Present.”

He stood up, his rise was artful, carried out with a tumbler’s grace. I turned my back on him and walked over to the single table in the room. It was a large desk, one that had a heavy armless chair on one side of it, with a spindly cane leaning against it. I picked up the wine decanter on the desk and filled a golden cup with palmwine. Then I perched against the desk, sipped my wine, and enjoyed the view. He had his hands folded, correctly, behind his back, his legs spread, his pelvis tilted forward, drawing attention to his jutting erection.

His breathing faltered as I circled him again. I left a wide enough berth that our bodies didn’t touch. “Do you want some wine?”

“Yes, please, revered.” The unsteadiness in his voice reached deep into me and soothed me.

“Close your eyes,” I whispered into his ear. He did, without a second thought, without a single furrow of worry or fear appearing on his beautiful face. His trust was a heady thing.

I poured some of the wine over his shoulder, chuckling when he jerked in surprise. His eyes stayed closed though; he was being very good. I bent forward and licked the creamy liquid off his skin. By the time I was done there were goosebumps all over his back.

“Do you want some wine, my sweet boy?” I nibbled on his earlobe before pulling away.

“Yes, please, revered, I am thirsty.”

“Open up.” His lips pulled apart without hesitation. I placed the rim of the cup against his open mouth and poured, a little at a time, till the wine was gone. Then I wiped away the little spills, on his face, across the plains of his bare chest, I cleaned it all with my tongue. He was so good, he left his mouth open, until I pressed against his chin, giving him permission to close it.

“Position yourself against the cross.” This time he failed the test, his eyes pulled open, and he blinked a little dazedly before he began walking. I made a clucking sound and he froze. His head snapped towards mine, and I feasted off the shimmer of apprehension in his gaze. “Did I tell you to open your eyes?”

Now the apprehension morphed into a fear so complete it made my heart race.

He shook his head and squeezed his eyes lids together. “Please, forgive me, revered.”

I let the silence grow, knowing that in darkness his terror would increase. He couldn’t see my face, couldn’t see how annoyed I was, couldn’t gaze the extent of the punishment he’d earned, and so his mind would rush to fill in the details. I let it, and enjoyed watching the tremors when he began shaking.

“Hands and knees,” I snapped, pulling him away from the mental torture he’d subjected himself to, “bad boys don’t get to walk.” He dropped to all fours. “Go to the X cross.” He crawled with his eyes closed. I wondered how many objects he’d bump into before he found his cross. The thought made me smile.

While Eghe muddled about the room, I made my way to the censers. They’d left a pile of aphrodisiac incense on a stone platform by the censer. I plucked a few and weighed them. Eghe and I had played together long enough for me to learn his limits where opiates where concerned. I wanted to burn just enough that it raised his arousal, and lowered his inhibitions, but not so much that he completely lost his wits. Deciding to start light, I placed two piles on the censer bowl.

It didn’t take long before the fumes rose and drifted around the room. They smelled sweet, like mangoes, and left a saccharine taste in the mouth that was oddly not repugnant.

By the time I reached Eghe, he was kneeling beside the large cross in the middle of the room. I wondered if he’d specifically made an effort to find this one, or if it had just been the first he’d stumbled across. His face was relaxed, rubbed free of lines, even his closed eyelids had no crinkles. He looked completely at ease. It was obvious that the aphrodisiacs had already taken effect. For me, the amount I’d burned was little more than a sweet-smelling distraction, but Eghe’s tolerance was nowhere near as high as mine.

“Get up.”

He stood without leaning on the cross or reaching for the ground for support. Even with his eyes closed, his grace was impeccable.

“You get to choose, front or back?”

The bobbing of his Adam’s apple betrayed his nervousness. I ran my finger slowly over that swollen knob, enjoying the feel and the texture of it, enjoying it even more when he swallowed underneath my finger.

“Back, please, revered,” need fought with fear and arousal and I could hear the tremor of each desire in his voice. I drank it in, and craved more. I wanted to hear his screams, wanted to watch him writhe against the harsh wooden grains of the X cross, wanted to watch him bleed, to wet my tongue with the taste of his sweat, his blood, his tears.

I took his hand and pressed it flat against the surface of the cross. A little pressure on the hollow of his back, was all the incentive he needed to feel his way to the cross and then push himself flush against the surface. I ran my hand down his spine and bit his shoulder in warning when he fidgeted. He froze, his breathing became less even, his body tense. I stroked his skin, marveling at the smoothness of it. When my fingers brushed over his nipple his breathing turned harsh. I wrapped my hand around his dick and stroked, while my other hand cupped his balls. I could tell how badly he wanted to move, to force a pace to my stroking, to beg me for release, but he didn’t. He knew me too well to try. Precum spilled out of him, and I stroked him with it, using his fluid to lubricate my strokes. I kept going until his restraint broke, until he couldn’t stop his pelvis from tilting forward, and slamming his rooster through my fist.
Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by obehiD(f): 3:58am On Oct 17, 2020
“Stop. Moving.”

He did, but he panted, he had to work at it, to fight against the impulse to take his pleasure. His teeth worked into his bottom lip. He bit down hard, almost hard enough to break the skin.

When I finally released him, he let out a low growl, like a wounded animal, but he didn’t speak. The extent of his arousal was painfully clear, still he didn’t try to stroke himself against the surface of the cross. For this night, his pleasure was wholly mine to give, and he showed me with his actions that he understood that. I kissed him on his right shoulder. “You did well, sweetness, very well. I’m proud.”

The tension drained out of him. I had to walk around the cross to see the smile of contentment that filled his face. “Thank you, revered.”

He shouldn’t have spoken, we both knew it, but Eghe was never one to accept praise without offering gratitude. I smacked him on his ass anyway, as a warning to remind him of the rules.

“I’m planning to have quite a bit of fun with you, sweet boy, can you take it?”

His head moved towards the sound of my voice, but his eyes remained closed. “For you, revered, I can take anything.”

I chuckled at that. “Will you stay still, or do you need restraints?”

“Restraints, please, revered.”

I nodded, even though I knew he couldn’t see. “Blindfolds?”

He panted, “yes, please, revered.”

I made quick work out of restraining him. Every time I touched him he inhaled sharply and his breathing grew unsteady. I loved the sound of him, those little pants of arousal he made, the deep inhales when our skins met, the groans when I stroked his erection. I tied the blindfold over his eyes and kissed a trail down the back of his neck.

He shivered when I swiped my tongue across his nape. “What is the slave’s prerogative?”

Abeg.”

“In the mood I’m in, you might have to use it,” it was a dark promise, one that made him squeak and shudder. I always pushed the people I played with beyond their limit, to make sure they would use the slave’s prerogative. The ones that didn’t, I never played with again. I was oba, too many tried too hard to take more than they could to please me. It was an impulse I squashed as soon as it came up. Eghe and I had done this too many times for me to question his willingness to call out when the pain had crossed beyond the point of pleasure. Still, it didn’t hurt to remind him that I expected him to keep me from crossing that line.

I made my way around the room, letting my thoughts fall away as I gathered my implements. Only one thing mattered from this point on, one person, and he was chained to the cross, waiting on our mutual pleasure. I selected a single tail whip from the rack and picked up a sharp dagger.

As soon as I made that first snap of the whip, my focus had zoomed to a single target, the trembling back laid bare in front of me. I let the whip fall and luxuriated in Eghe’s grunts, his whimpers, his cries, they wrapped me in a blanket of control so comforting I felt the troubles of the world fade away. The power was intoxicating, it made me feel as if there was nothing I couldn’t do, no problem I couldn’t fix.

The sounds lulled me.

The snap of my whip.

The thud of leather against flesh.

The whimper of pain.

The grunts of arousal.

I broke off every so often to run my fingers and tongue over the welts I’d made on his back. To stroke his unflagging erection. To check that he wasn’t dehydrated, or too spaced out on endorphins. I asked him for a number each time, a point where he was on the pain scale, I asked him to repeat the slave’s prerogative, I asked once for the names of all the fledglings who’d come with us. Each time his mind snapped back from the edge of the high the pain sent him to, and when I resumed the whipping the lash felt like the first.

I’d stopped to check on Eghe, for what was perhaps the twelfth time, when I had the inexplicable feeling that I was being watched. I swiveled, the whip coiled around my hand, and turned to face the door.

For a second, I forgot how to breathe. My chest tightened, as if someone had slammed a truck into me and I was suffocating from lungs that couldn’t fill with air.

The sight of her.

She leaned her upper back against the wall, and had her legs spread wide. The burning incense had formed a slight translucent cloud around the room. But I could still see clearly through it, to the left hand that cupped her right breast and the thumb that rubbed over a nipple so hard it poked out through her clothing. My eyes trailed down, of their own accord, down her body, down to the right hand, the fingers resting stationary on the puffy lips of her labia, and the long middle finger stroking frantically between them. I knew it was too far away, that my eyes had to be playing tricks on me, but I could swear I saw the wet patch between her legs.

I didn’t even realize I’d let go off the whip until I heard it fall. The thud was faded, like a distant buzz. I found myself moving, my legs acting as principal driving me forward before my brain could even catch up to it. I was standing in front of her by the time it dawned on me that I was walking.

She was shameless. She looked me in the eyes as she teased herself and moaned. The sound and sight of her was too much. It hit me with a wave of arousal so strong I would have climaxed, if I hadn’t trained myself out of involuntary orgasms a long time ago.

I had no thoughts, no words, I was stunned speechless. I wasn’t even sure that it was real, this, her, here, touching herself, it felt too good to be real.

She leaned forward, and I knew, she was going to kiss me.

This was the moment I’d been pining for since the first time I laid eyes on her ten years ago. I watched her face move closer, and it was excruciating, the wait, the wanting. I knew what the right thing to do was, and for the first time in my life, I struggled with it. I wanted her. I wanted her so badly I ached. I wanted her so badly my clit throbbed and my nipples bunched and tingled. Every part of me wanted her. And I could have her. I could push her against the wall and feel her body pressed flush against mine. I could lap at her lips till I’d consumed all traces of her arousal, then I could flick at that button her finger stroked, with my tongue, and watch her explode in my mouth. I could rip those clothes off, and finally taste her flesh. I wanted to devour her, to take those hard nipples in my mouth and learn her tolerance for pain. How much suction would it take to make her flinch?

All the things I wanted.

But it was wrong. I could not take a lover against their will. And Mede, as sweetly dripping as she was, was under the influence of the aphrodisiacs burning in the censers. Aphrodisiacs she had no tolerance for. I would be the worst kind of hypocrite if I took advantage of her in this state.

But I wanted to, by all the masquerades, I wanted to. I knew that if I let this opportunity pass, I might never get another.

My better senses won out in the end. I wrapped my hand around her neck, stopping her before our lips met.

She seemed dazed, surprised that I would stop it. “Please,” she said, just as she’d said to me before I walked into this room, begging for something neither of us could name.

I squeezed, not too hard, but hard enough to exert some control on the both of us. The more force I put in, the more power I regained over my body. This it understood, control, domination, bending another to my will, it was my body’s natural state. It pushed away the daze of longing.

For Mede, it did the exact opposite.

She came.

I couldn’t believe it. I gaped at her.

She came.

The sound of her orgasm rung in my ear. The pitch of it. It came out wild, completely uninhibited, as if it had been ripped from her, forced out of her without her control. And the way she’d tipped her head back, pushing her neck even further into my tight hold. It was like an offering of trust, her neck, her orgasm.

I released the check I placed on my emotions and I choked her. I squeezed until it was beyond playful, until the shock of it chased the afterglow of the orgasm away from those beautifully dilated pupils, until she struggled to breathe and wrestled with my grasp. I squeezed until fear was the only thing shining through those sweet eyes of hers. Then I released her and enjoyed the sight of her falling to her knees and struggling to fill her lungs with air.

“Get out,” I said to her, and she scrambled on hands and knees to obey.

By coming into the room without my permission, she’d disobeyed me. I tried to find the anger, but all I could think about was the sight of her leaning against the wall, stroking herself. The sound of her orgasm. She’d come from me choking her!

“Revered?”

Eghe. I’d forgotten all about Eghe. I cursed at Mede then, the anger finally arriving. Eghe was my focus, my primary, I’d left him chained to the cross, completely forgotten because of Mede. Just the sight of her had completely robbed me of my senses. There was very little pleasurable in the sudden desire I had to march out of the room and beat Mede until she remembered that I was her Oba, and obeying my orders wasn’t optional.

I took a deep breath and forced myself to relax, then I walked back to Eghe and tried to explain to him what had happened. Our scene had been broken. The release we’d both earned snatched away by Mede’s interruption. No, I couldn’t blame her. I was the one in charge, I should have kept my focus on Eghe, he should have been my priority.

Why had my brain completely shut down the moment I saw her? That had never happened to me before.

“Let me give you your release,” I said to Eghe, stroking his face to calm myself as much as it did him.

“Please, finish with the whip, revered, please.”

I wanted to give into the yearning in his voice, the plea, but I was too emotional to use the whip on anyone. He deserved better. I’d failed him.

“I’m sorry, sweetness, not tonight. Let me give you your release then tend to your wounds. I’ll make it up to you, I promise.”

He sighed, then nodded.

“Oral or vaginal?” He knew vaginal would have to be with someone else. I would find a slave for him if he chose that option.

“You, revered, always you.”

I leaned into him and pressed a light kiss against his lips. “You are too good for me, my sweet.”

He started to argue.

I shushed him with my lips, then I went down on my knees and took him into my mouth. I tried to focus on him, on his pleasure, on his release, but I couldn’t get the picture of Mede out of my head.

1 Like

Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by PenHub: 9:47am On Oct 17, 2020
Thank you Obehid
Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by doctorexcel(m): 6:44pm On Oct 18, 2020
Thank God its SATURDAY. It is always a pleasurd to read your post.
Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by obehiD(f): 11:50pm On Oct 23, 2020
@PenHub Thank you for reading smiley

@doctorexcel Thank you! It's always a pleasure to read your comments grin
Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by obehiD(f): 4:09am On Oct 24, 2020
20

“Why did you disobey my order and come into the suite?”

Mede gulped. Her bottom lip quivered so slightly, I ached to run my finger lightly over it. She wasn’t staring me boldly in the eyes now, but I could still remember when she had. The look of her, high on the fumes, teasing herself to a climax. The daring when she’d leaned forward, her lips so close, her yearning so palpable I could almost taste it. I had to force the images out of my head. I thought of Eghe instead, of the scene he’d earned, the one that she’d interrupted, the disappointment he’d felt when I could not finish. It was my failure, but she had a part to play in it, and I let those feelings simmer. I tried to use my anger at her to force my body under control. I told myself that I had to, I had to be able to look at Mede and not see her as she’d been in that flagellation suite, with her nipples erect, begging for my touch.

My eyes trailed down, crawling over her body, desperate to seek those points out, even as my mind fought for control.

“Revered.”

It was the way she said it, the huskiness in her voice that told of carnal knowledge which could not be unlearned. She said the word and I remembered the heat of her flesh against my palm. The firmness underneath the smooth surface of her skin. The orgasm when I choked her. ‘Revered’ it was all she said, just that word, as if it should be enough to explain why she’d disobeyed me! I wanted to look into her eyes, to impose my will on her, to force her to submission. But for the first time in my life, I was scared of what would happen if I succeeded.

I turned my back on her instead, cursing myself for a coward.

I told myself that she’d been under the influence of the aphrodisiacs when she’d entered the room, when she’d teased me, when she’d come, and I knew. The logical part of my brain knew that if she’d wanted me, she would have had me, a long time ago, but I couldn’t get the image of her climax out of my head. The feelings I’d struggled so hard to bottle up all came bubbling out and it left me shaken.

I wondered if we could ever go back to the way it had been before.

“Revered.”

A tumbler came into view and Mede’s face, flashed in my mind, as it had been in that moment, with her mouth hanging open, her pupils dilated. My heart thumped wildly.

But it wasn’t Mede. I knew it wasn’t Mede, Mede was behind me, I’d turned my back on her.

It was Osas. He walked over to me and bowed, whispering into my ear, “I found out why he was here, revered.”

I stared at Osas in a daze. For the life of me, I couldn’t even begin to fathom what he was talking about. “What?”

“The eunuch healer, revered, you asked me to follow him. He made circuitous rounds, but eventually, he got down to his goal.”

The eunuch healer?

It came back to me slowly, too slowly. Could lust really do this to my head, make me forget everything that I’d been preoccupied with before? Even Ayisha. I’d forgotten about Ayisha. I cursed myself and Mede and a few mami watas that were said to be responsible for toying with love. Once the floodgates opened, the worries poured back in, the eunuch healer’s strange presence here in Ikeja, just one amongst many.

“And what was his goal?”

“A young girl, looked to me to be about fourteen.”

I froze in my tracks, my tongue suddenly heavy in my mouth. I’d had him castrated, marked his forehead, just for this reason. “He molested her?” I asked, when my mouth was finally light enough to move.

“No,” Osas shook his head, “nothing like that. He just asked her questions.”

The knot in my chest eased. I did not know what I would have done if the eunuch healer had hurt another child right under my nose. I’d probably have done what I should have a long time again and ended his sorry existence.

“What type of questions?”

Osas frowned. “Forgive me revered, I could not move too close without being noticed, so I only picked up pieces, a word was repeated. Reaping.”

It sounded familiar. “The same reaping the Bono men had spoken off?”

“It sounded like it.”

I sighed. “Take me to the girl.”

“As you wish, revered.” He walked by my side and led me through the maze of darkened hallways, past rooms belching the familiar thuds of whippings, through a heavy darkness punctuated by the euphoric cries of a woman coming apart. In the darkness it was easy to imagine that there was a face that came with that sound, it came easily to me now, like it was tattooed on the inside of my eyelids where I could see it every time I blinked. Mede.

It was a relief to walk out of the darkness, into the blinding light of the showroom. I heard voices that were not heavy with longing, and felt myself start to relax.

We found the girl peeking into a wax room with all the furtive stealth of a deplorable spy. She gaped at it. I’d been around places like this long enough to have an idea what was going on behind the curtain she held slightly bunched in her little fist. We were a few steps away when she noticed us. She gazed at us with all the wide-eyed fear of a thief caught in the act, and I could read quite plainly how desperately she wanted to run away.

She didn’t though. She released her hold on the curtain and dropped to her knees in front of me. “How may I serve you, madam?”

“Are you a slave?” I asked. It was a purposefully dumb question, and I was happy to see that she clearly thought so, from the look she gave me.

“No, madam, I am not old enough.”

“Then why do you kneel?”

She stood up. She kept her head bowed in front of me, but I could see how much of a struggle it was. The longer I let the silence draw out, the more nervous she became. She started fidgeting, pulling at the ends of the pretty gown she wore, and raising her head slightly to snatch quick glimpses of me.

What inquiries could the eunuch healer have come to this girl for?

“What is your name, angel?”

She giggled at the endearment. “Cherry.” Cherry? I snorted at that. I cradled her chin loosely in my hand and tipped her head up till she was forced to look me in the eye. Then I simply waited. She nibbled on her bottom lip. “I wasn’t lying,” she said, squaring her shoulders, “it will be my name, after my first shearing.”

After her first shearing, which meant she wished to be an Isan slave. “And what is your name now?”

“Ayomide.”

Bono. She wasn’t albino, her coloring was a bit like the den master’s, it could easily fall on the darker spectrum of Nuri or the lighter side of Isan.

“May I please speak with you in private, Ayomide?”

Her eyes widened. She pressed her palm flat against her chest and asked, “me?” drawing it out in awe.

“Yes, please.”

“Me?” she asked again.

Osas made an impatient sound and I shut him down with a glare before he did anything to frighten the girl. She didn’t seem to notice, her wide eyes were fixed solely on me. It took her a while, but she slowly nodded. She slipped her hand into mine and pulled me along with her, to a small room with a large couch and a small wooden table.

I sat first, which I immediately regretted, because it meant I got to see Mede’s face. She looked how I felt when I’d turned my back on her. Mostly scared and uncertain, but when our eyes met, I felt the undercurrents of her anger, saw the blame she apportioned to me, and sensed the stirring of a longing so deep I immediately snapped my gaze away, and then hungrily turned back in search of. It was too late, she was already turned away from me, peering intensely into the ground as if it held answers to questions I was too scared to ask.

I turned my attention to the little girl. She stared at me with an admiration that felt wholly undeserved, especially in that moment, after what had transpired with Mede.

“So, you want to be an Isan slave?” it was not the question I had come to ask, but it was safe, an easy way to ease my thoughts away from Mede.

She nodded, her head bobbing with an eagerness that seemed almost too much for her slight frame.

“Why?”

She shrugged as if to say ‘why not?’.

“Have you ever lived anywhere outside this den? Have you considered that there might be other ways to live than what you’ve seen here?”

She frowned. I could tell from the way her lips pursed that she meant to get belligerent. So, I chuckled and spoke before she could.

“No oracle of Egbabonelimwin will deem you fit for slavery if you have not lived free and, in freedom, felt the prompting of the calling to serve.”

She crossed her hands over her chest and glared at me.

“It is the truth, little fighter, I would not lie to you.”

I watched the anger fade away, but I was surprised to see the fear that followed. “It is safe here, madam, this den is the only place in ogiri that is free. I want to live here forever.”

“Free from the reaping?” I asked.

She nodded.

“What is the reaping?” I tried to keep my voice gentle, determined not to betray the extent of my curiosity.

“Do they not have reapings in Isan?” she whispered, there was a note of wonder in her eyes when I shook my head. “Then the masquerade watches over you.”

She didn’t seem inclined to say more, but I could sense her nervousness. It made me all the more eager to know. What could make a child so scared?

“Tell me,” I said, “maybe I can help.”

She accepted my offer for help with childlike optimism. “During the reaping every family that lives in the ogiri of Ikeja must send a child into the Oro forest, to appease the Oro mami watas.”

I was stunned speechless. It took me a while to gather my wits enough to speak. “Surely some resist?”

She leaned closer to me. “A woman with five children resisted once. She left her house the morning of the reaping and when she came back, all of her children were dead. Some say the Oro mami watas left her alive so that she could make more children to gift them.”

“You mean parents actually send their children away?”

She nodded. “Sometimes, a few return, sometimes.”

I glimpsed the faraway look that crossed over her features and instantly saw the truth she hid. “And have you ever met one? One who returned?”

Her eyes flashed in alarm, and then she tried terribly to school her features, but her hands were shaking. I took her hands in mine and held them, and for a few moments she let me, then she pulled them away and jumped to her feet.

“I must return to my duties madam,” she bobbed a curtsy at me and made to walk away.

“You are one of the ones who’ve returned.” I said.

She stopped walking, then she ran to the door. Osas stopped her. He picked her up and held her away when she started screaming and clawing at his eyes. He shook her, but her fighting only got wilder. She screamed so loud I wasn’t shocked when the den master came bustling into the room.

“What is…” she took one look at me and trailed off. “Forgive me, revered, I did not mean to interrupt.” She bowed deeply and backed away from the room, closing the door behind her.

The den master’s retreat bothered me. In this instance it worked in my favor, and I understood why she did it, I was after all the Oba of Isan. While she lived and worked in Bono, all the slaves that worked in the den were my subjects, with sworn allegiances to me. Still, how could she leave so quickly without finding out why Ayomide was fighting so hard to be free? What if we’d hurt the little girl? But what could she really do if we did? I was Oba, she had no power against me. It was a humbling thought.

At least one good thing came out of the den master’s entrance, Ayomide had stopped screaming. She gaped at me now, the same way the Bono men at the bar had once my identity was revealed.

“Put her down,” I ordered.

She continued gawking at me, even as Osas lowered her to her feet.

“Will you please come and sit down? I won’t hurt you, I promise.” I patted the empty space beside me and smiled when she cautiously approached.

You are the Oba of Isan?”

I nodded.

“But you’re so young!”

“Shh, don’t tell anyone, they think I’m older,” I winked at her, swearing her to secrecy, and smiled when she giggled.

It was hard but I forced myself not to push. I didn’t want to put pressure on her by staring, and I couldn’t look at Mede, so I kept my gaze straight ahead on the wall, not moving my head, not even by the slightest bit, until I heard Ayomide’s soft voice say, “yes, I returned, but it wasn’t because the Oro mami watas chose not to take me.”

“Then how did you return?”

“I promised to never tell.”

“You haven’t told anyone?”

She shook her head. “I swore to the Eyo masquerade, not to tell.”

“Not even the eunuch healer?”

“The who?”

I remembered he was known by a different name here. “The Eze of Nuri’s witch doctor.”
Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by obehiD(f): 4:09am On Oct 24, 2020
She shrugged and snapped her fingers as if casting off a curse. “Especially not that one.”

I nodded, trying my best to keep my features stoic. “You do know that the natural born rulers of the Nulin nations are descended of the masquerades, don’t you?”

“Yes, revered, I know.”

“Then you can share their secrets with us, without fear of breaking your oath. We are one with them.”

I watched deep lines form on her forehead. She placed her right elbow on her lap and rested her head against her palm. She was seriously thinking about it.

“I think you might be right revered,” she said finally, “because it was on the same terms that I was sworn to secrecy.”

“You were sworn to secrecy by a ruler of a Nulin nation?”
Her eyes widened, and I could see her shock. She hadn’t meant to let that slip. But she shrugged and nodded. Then she frowned and shook her head. “Not yet a ruler, revered, an Alaafin.”

Taiso. I fought against the instant wave of mistrust that followed the name. Debisi was not blameless, I reminded myself, he was scheming for the throne just as much as Taiso did. “You can tell me, but only if it feels right, if it feels in accord with the masquerades.”

“It does, revered. You are special, it is why the Alaafin brought me here, because not even the Oro mami watas trample on grounds that belong to Isan.” The Bono dens were like embassies, home to Isan slaves, and as such, under my protection.

“But you said you did not believe that it was the Oro mami watas that chose not to take you?”

She shook her head. “Not unless Oro mami watas have the skin and aha of the Nuri.”

It all came together then. I felt stupid for not putting it together before. The Bono men had specifically linked the reaping to the Nuri. They’d talked about wailing mothers, about missing children, it was the abduction. But not of nobles, of commoners, on a scale that was extremely troubling. Why did the Bono not speak of the Nuri kidnapping these children? Why did they only talk of the rare cases of the nobles getting kidnapped? If Taiso swore this girl to secrecy then he knew and he was keeping it a secret. I wouldn’t put it past Taiso, but why? And why would the Alake of Ikeja allow a kidnapping on this scale, unless he was in league with the Nuri.

“So, the Nuri just let you go?”

Her gaze lowered to her hands. “Not exactly. I was with the Alake of Ikeja’s heir, that was why they let me go. They hadn’t realized who they’d taken until after they branded him.”

I frowned at that. The Alake of Ikeja’s son and only heir was Kola, and from what I remembered of Debisi’s tale, Kola had been taken almost a decade ago, that was far too long ago to be the case that Ayomide spoke of. “I did not know that the Alake of Ikeja had a son here.”

“A bastard,” she said, “but an albino bastard, much more valuable than the brown boy.”

“The brown boy?”

“The Alake of Ikeja’s legal son, before he was disowned.”

“Kola.”

She nodded. “Yes, revered. The Alake’s new heir is his albino bastard, Mamus. When he heard Mamus had been seen going into the Oro forest during a reaping, he sent soldiers after him. I was with Mamus. The Ikeja soldiers spoke with the Nuri men and they let us go.”

I found it hard to believe that the Alake would fight so hard to retrieve a bastard son that had already been branded, just because he was an albino. When the Nuri returned his legal son to him, he’d sent Kola away, disowned him because of the slave brand he bore. But he’d gone fighting for his albino bastard. I knew the Alake of Ikeja was an albino, but it baffled me that skin pigmentation could mean so much to him, more than his own child.

“Where does the Alaafin come into this?”

She smiled. The tension in her face eased, and I could tell that Taiso had become something of a hero to her. “He was so kind and gentle, the Alaafin. He was visiting Ikeja when it happened and he came across us, running along the forest boundaries, rushing back onto Ikeja soil before the Nuri changed their minds and came back for us. Mamus was crying. He’d heard how his father disowned Kola because of the slave brand, and he was scared that the same thing would happen to him. It didn’t make sense, his father had sent soldiers after him, he wouldn’t have done that if he planned to disown him, but Mamus was convinced the Alake only sent soldiers because he thought he hadn’t been branded. The Alaafin helped Mamus hide his brand with burning and tattoos, and he brought me here, to this den, the one place free from reapings. I swore for Mamus sake that I would not tell anyone what had happened.”

There was one thing that still troubled me about these reapings. “Do people truly believe that it is Oro mami watas responsible for taking their children?”

“Only those that prefer to. Everybody else knows the truth.”

“And what is that?”

“That it is the Alake of Ikeja working with the Nuri,” she said, with as much certainty as the Bono men at the bar, who’d first brought it up.

I was still pondering on her words when a soft chime sounded.

“That is the prompt for the last showing of the dance of the Ekpo masquerade. Have you seen it revered?”

I shook my head.

“They will need my help preparing,” she said. She’d already stood, she was already walking towards the door, but she stopped in front of it and waited.

I knew she was waiting for my permission to leave, and I was just about to give it to her when Mede spoke. Her voice was the same as it had always been. Soft and direct, but it sounded different to me, now, it seemed a bit huskier, made more alluring because of the new ways I’d now heard that voice used.

“Which Alaafin was it that brought you here?” She asked.

For some reason the question made my heart stop beating and then start pounding.

“Alaafin Debisi,” Ayomide replied.

My throat felt dry all of a sudden, like I hadn’t had a drink in ages. I had not expected to hear Debisi’s name connected in anyway to this tale of kidnapping and child slavery. It was as if my brain was now filled with so many ideas, like yarn, tangled up together. The men at the bar had said the reaping only happened when Nuri visitors came to Ikeja, and that this time the Eze of Nuri himself was in Ikeja. He’d insinuated that was why we’d been turned away from the gates and I’d wondered if Ayisha was at this moment sleeping in fear behind the large Ikeja walls.

“They say that the Alake of Ikeja and the Alaafin, Taiso that is, are as thick as thieves. That is why the Ooni does nothing while the reaping in Ikeja continues. They say that Taiso protects the Alake of Ikeja, and that as the Alake of Ikeja is in league with the Nuri, so must Taiso be too. You’ve met the Alaafin, what do you think?”

I’d been thinking for so long that I hadn’t noticed Ayomide had left. Now, the eunuch healer stood by the open door, smirking at the tumblers that barred his entrance. He was the one who’d spoken.

“Surely you have nothing to fear from me, revered.” He made a mocking bow when he called my honorific, but my thoughts were too heavy to dwell on it. I flicked my fingers distractedly and my tumblers let him in.

“What do you want?” I eyed him.

“Wasn’t it obvious? I wanted to hear what wonderful secrets that lovely little gem had to tell. I had an inkling she’d spill it all to you.”

I frowned at that. “Explain yourself.”

“Surely you don’t think I’m foolish enough to think you’d let me wander around this establishment alone. I knew you’d set one of your tumblers to follow me and so I showed him what I wanted you to see. It took me a great deal of gold to even learn Ayomide’s name, so you can imagine my frustration when she kept refusing to answer my questions. I saw your presence here as the perfect opportunity to hear the pretty lies she’d been taught to say.”

‘Pretty lies she’d been taught to say’? “Interesting phrasing,” I said, ignoring his earlier remarks. “Would I be correct in assuming you eavesdropped on our conversation?”

“Of course,” he confessed without guile, “I paid the den master double her weight in gold for the privilege. Now the den master, there’s an honest woman. I offered your little actress double that and she still wouldn’t speak. That is how I know she was waiting specifically to speak with you.”

“Or maybe she takes her oath to the masquerade seriously.”

He burst out laughing. “She takes it so seriously she broke that oath to tell the secret to you? Because you are descended of the masquerade? Even if she believed that, you are descended of the wrong masquerade. It was the Eyo masquerade she swore her secrecy to, not Egbabonelimwin.” He shook his head. “No, someone paid her a lot more to selectively keep her mouth shut.”

“She’s just fourteen, no one that young and innocent could be that good an actress.”

“Fourteen? Is that how old she claims to be?” he shrugged. “Oh, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all a lie. She did escape the reaping with Mamus, but the details of her escape are not quite as she presented them. Don’t deceive yourself, revered, there are no innocents in the ogiri of Ikeja, just hustlers and schemers.”

I looked at his face, at the arrogant expression, the smirk on his lips. “I suppose you’re going to tell me what actually happened?” I wondered if he thought there was any way that I would take his word over that of an innocent child. I’d watched her, seen her reactions, caught all the emotions that came out of her. She was not lying. So why did the eunuch healer want me to believe that she was? What game was he playing?

“It was not the Alake of Ikeja’s soldiers that saved Mamus and Ayomide. The Alake of Ikeja doesn’t even know about the reaping. I mean, he’s heard the rumors of children getting lost in the Oro forest, the Oro mami watas and all of that nonsense, but he believes as much as any rational person would. He thinks it’s all superstition, people sacrificing their children to mami watas. Their silly little people to him, and the Alake of Ikeja is too grand a man to concern himself with silly superstitions. It’s quite an ingenious way to bring him down, really, if you think about it. The people hold him responsible for the real kidnappings happening, and he thinks it’s all a scary tale told to make little children stay away from the Oro forest. He does nothing. Of course nothing happens behind those large marbled walls, only the commoners in the ogiri of Ikeja live with the horror. And what happens when a mistake is made and the Alake’s heir is kidnapped? He’s miraculously saved, one of the only two children ever to return from the reaping. Don’t you see what’s happening?”

“I’m sure you’re about to tell me,” I drawled.

“He’s being framed! The ogiri of Ikeja is close to a boiling point, and the Alake is playing general behind the marbled walls, preparing for war with the Nuri, not knowing that he has much more trouble brewing closer to home. One or two more reapings and the people will revolt. They’ll kill the Alake, they have no love for him, and who do you think stands to gain from all of this chaos?”

I kept quiet and watched the man talk.

“The person behind the reapings. The person who saved Mamus and Ayomide, ensuring that the Alake keeps thinking that the reaping is all just fiction. Oh, and it never hurts to have the heir to the Alake of Ikeja eternally in your debt. If you were the Alake’s heir how much gratitude will you owe the Alaafin that saved you from slavery?”

As soon as he said the final sentence, I understood what he was hinting at and burst out laughing. I laughed so hard that tears came out of my eyes. All of that work, the eunuch healer’s prancing about the room, weaving and waxing, telling me great tales, all to end at that.

“Do you really expect me to believe that Debisi is behind the reapings in Ikeja?”

The eunuch healer crossed over and sat on the small table opposite me. He steepled his hands together. “Please, revered, think about it. He is the only one with anything to gain from this. Taiso is tied to the Alake of Ikeja. All the other Bono nobles follow him out of fear, or greed, but the Alake of Ikeja is the only one truly in his corner. If the Alake of Ikeja goes down, Taiso loses his biggest supporter amongst the nobles and all the nobles that the Alake keeps loyal to Taiso, will turn to Debisi, like this,” he snapped his finger. “Taiso would never risk the Alake of Ikeja losing his power.” From what I’d heard, the Alake of Ikeja had something he was holding over Taiso. That was more than enough motive for Taiso to want the Alake gone, but the eunuch healer did have a point, the Alake of Ikeja seemed to be the only one supporting Taiso of his own free will. Still, Taiso did not seem like the type to endure someone holding power over him the way the Alake did. But I found it hard to believe any Bono could be behind these reapings. It stunk of the Nuri.

“I suppose you’re going to tell me that the Nuri have nothing to do with this.”

“You wouldn’t believe me,” I couldn’t help but note that he didn’t deny it, “but think about it revered. What would make the Alake of Ikeja side with the Nuri? There is no person in Bono that hates the Nuri more. It makes no sense. And the Nuri by themselves could not get into the ogiri of Ikeja and convince parents to give up their children. The Nuri do not have that kind of power in Ikeja. It is a Bono behind this.”

I stared into his eyes and tried to read it. He seemed so open, desperate even for me to believe him. But surely he had to know that there was no way I would believe him? I knew Debisi. Perhaps he wasn’t a saint, perhaps he was scheming for the throne, but this, this kidnapping and selling of children, it was a horror beyond Debisi.
Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by obehiD(f): 4:10am On Oct 24, 2020
“Who are you loyal to, eunuch healer, tell me that, if you want me to believe you?”

“I am loyal to the Eze of Nuri, I do not deny it, I am as loyal to him now, as I was to your father when I served him.”

That was the only condemnation I needed to be assured of the guilt of the Nuri. They took in child molesters, raped slaves, but kidnapping children was beyond them? Even though several witnesses had put the Nuri behind the crimes.

“Where is Ayisha?” I asked him.

“The Oyo princess? The last I heard, she was on her way to her betrothed, the Eze of Nuri.”

“And the Eze of Nuri is where exactly?”

“Right now?” he asked.

I nodded.

“In Nuri, of course.”

“Not in Ikeja.”

“Of course not, the Alake of Ikeja would never let the Eze of Nuri into Ikeja.”

“But he’d let you.”

The eunuch healer said nothing, but his silence spoke volumes.

“If the Alake of Ikeja isn’t hiding anything, then why did he turn us away from the gates.”

He seemed genuinely puzzled. “Turn you away from the gates? No one in Ikeja even knows you’re here. Why do you think I was so surprised to see you in this den? I thought you’d chosen to stay in the ogiri. Whatever his relationship with your mother, the Alake of Ikeja would never turn you, or the Alaafin Taiso, away from his gates.”

I stood up. “Tell me, eunuch healer, how is it that you’ve come to know so much about Bono politics?”

“It is my honor to call myself an advisor to the Eze of Nuri, and in that capacity, I find it is in my favor to keep myself abreast of all the goings on in the Nulin nations.”

I smirked at him. “Well said. If you will excuse me, I think I’ve had quite enough of you for one night.”

I was at the door when the eunuch healer’s parting words reached me, “heed my advice, revered, nothing here is as it seems.”

I twisted my neck slightly so I could stare at him. Then I scoffed and walked away. I tried to discard all of the eunuch healer’s words as rubbish as I made my way to the exit, but there was too much that made sense. I knew in my gut that the Alake of Ikeja would never side with the Nuri. He loathed them. But, if he hated them so much, why let the eunuch healer in? It was obvious from his sphere of influence that the eunuch healer had been to Ikeja a great deal. Why? I suppose he was Isan, so technically not Nuri, but he served the Nuri and the Alake had to know that.

I kept running through the thoughts as we joined Eghe at the stables and mounted our horses. It was a short ride back to the inn, one made somewhat soothing by the even galloping of the horses, but my mind whirred and buzzed. If the Alake of Ikeja truly was as blind to the goings on in the ogiri then who was behind the reaping? Could it be the Nuri alone? On that score the eunuch healer was right, the Nuri could not orchestrate this mass exodus of children to the forest. They could kidnap them once they were there, but they couldn’t provide the amount of fear needed in the ogiri to keep parents sending their children to the forest. So, who was behind it? Could it be Taiso?

By the time I got to my floor on the inn, I was so distracted I walked right into Mede as she held the door open. She caught me with her hands on my waist.

It took me a while to realize that she was holding me. We were as close now as we’d been in the flagellation suite when she’d tried to kiss me, as close as we’d been when I’d held her throat in my neck and squeezed, as close as we’d been when she’d climaxed. We were so close that when I leaned slightly forward, our breasts grazed. Now my mind buzzed with one need and my body buzzed with another.

I couldn’t give my mind the closure it desired, there were too many pieces, too much information I didn’t have, but my body was a whole other story. My body’s need was simple. It was her. She’d turned me on with a single look before I even went to the den and now my entire body burned for her.

There were no aphrodisiacs now, nothing to cloud her mind. She scared me, wanting her scared me, because with Mede it would never be simple. I could not have what I had with Eghe, but I also couldn’t run away. We’d reached this point, we couldn’t pretend that things were the same.

I found my courage and smiled at her. “Will you spend the night with me?” My voice was so low I feared she wouldn’t hear me. But she did, she heard every word, and I could tell, as the smile flashed over her face, as her eyes closed, her head leaning forward, I could tell exactly what her answer would be.

“I’m sorry, revered…”

I forced myself to chuckle and somehow managed not to startle at how strange it sounded. “There’s no need to be sorry Mede,” I said it because I had to, because I was the Oba, because it was not easy to refuse me, and so I had to help her. Even if my heart felt like it was being ripped apart, all over again. This was why I’d fought so hard to bury the feelings, because it fucking hurt to love someone you couldn’t have.

She released me, pulled back and ran away. I’d seen tears in her eyes. Mede, so distraught, she didn’t even realize she’d turned her back on me. I blinked mine away.

“Can I do anything?” Eghe’s voice was low. I knew what he was offering, but I shook my head. “You didn’t come, revered, you made sure I did, but you didn’t.” It was unlike him to push. “Use me, anyway you want, just get your release too, please.”

I was in too much pain to think of that now. It was strange how a person could touch you and turn your entire body on, then leave you and send pain coursing through your veins.

“No, thank you for offering.” I leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek. “You should get some sleep, have someone else stand guard tonight.”

His jaw clenched. “Is that an order, revered?”

“Yes.”

He bowed. “As you wish.”

I grabbed his hand before he could back away. “I love having you watch over me Eghe, but we had a heavy scene. I need you to rest. Come back when you wake up. I’m not going anywhere.”

He smiled, it was one of the sweet, full, smiles that made him look so young and vulnerable. “Yes, revered. Good night.”

As I walked into my room, I tried to hold on to the image of Eghe smiling, but all I could think about was Mede saying, ‘I’m sorry, revered.’

I’d just barely gotten into my sleeping tunic when Tiwo came slumbering in. He held two iron cups and a bottle of palm wine. I watched him saunter into the room and collapse onto my bed.

“I heard Mede rejected you again, let’s drink.”

I smiled at him. “Eghe told you?”

“Who else.” He filled the glasses. “This is Isan palm wine, so you know it’s good.”

I took my cup and emptied it. Then I held it out to him for more.

“Want to talk about it?”

I shook my head. “I shouldn’t have let the feelings out again. We had the talk, Mede and I, she made it clear before that she wasn’t interested in me like that.”

“You want my advice, talk again. She didn’t follow you to the den out of concern for your safety.”

“No, I can’t push it. Do you remember the seamstress from Uzebba?”

Tiwo laughed. “The one that danced at our father’s funeral. How could I forget? You were so angry Tan, I thought you would kill her. Everyone else was mourning but not her.”

“She said she was finally free. She’d been one of father’s favorite pleasure slaves. He’d loved her. Her slavery should have been her choice, and yes, she’d never said no, she’d said yes, begged for the slavery even, but only to please him. He was Oba.”

“You cannot blame father for it. He saw a woman he liked, and he courted her. She didn’t turn him down. How was he supposed to know?”

“I don’t blame him, I just can’t be him, not in that regard. He wore her down Tiwo, he chased her till everyone she knew told her she was a fool to keep turning him down. They told her it was her duty to serve the Oba. That can’t be me.”

“Father chased a woman he loved and got the happiness of being with her. He did not worry about why she said yes, he was just grateful that she did.”

I looked into the cup of wine and swirled.

“So,” he said, “you won’t believe the conversation I had with Neka this evening.”

I frowned at him.

“You looked like you needed a distraction.”

He was right, I did. “Go on.”

“So, it turns out, your princeling has been a very bad boy.”

“Debisi?”

“Neka thinks he’s trying to sow seeds of discord between the Alake and his brother. According to Neka, Debisi is the reason we aren’t in Ikeja right now. He got some powerful Ikeja noble to convince the guards to bar our entry seemingly on the Alake’s command. It’s what he was up to on our way over, communicating with his noble on the inside, setting up lines of communications with the guards.”

“Mamus, the Alake’s heir, the one he saved, that has to be his noble on the inside.”

“What?” Tiwo looked completely lost.

“Oh, do I have a story for you, brother.” I told him about the den, about the reaping. The bar, the Bono men, their hints at Debisi’s scheming, their allegation that the Alake of Ikeja was in cahoots with the Eze of Nuri, the eunuch healer, the little girl Ayomide, the eunuch healer’s return and all his hints and insinuations.

Tiwo whistled when I was done. Then he whistled again. “You don’t think Debisi could be behind that reaping, do you?”

I shook my head. “But he’s hiding something, and I am done waiting for him to come clean about it. First thing tomorrow morning I’m going to confront him.”

“You know what I’m thinking sis?”

“What?”

“You should just go back home and marry a nice, sweet, Isan boy. There are many who will beg for the privilege. Marry Eghe. The masquerades know he’ll kill for the chance to Bleep you.” I punched him on the shoulder. He fell back onto the bed. “Seriously Tan, I’m not sure this betrothal to Debisi is such a good idea.”

“You think he’s capable of being behind something as gruesome as the reaping?” I asked.

Tiwo shook his head. “No, but I think he might be capable of taking advantage of it, which might be worse.” He yawned. “A good Isan boy, that’s what you need. Leave all this Bono scheming behind. They can tear themselves apart if they want to. Let’s go back home and secure our borders.”

I couldn’t help laughing at that. “After we get Ayisha.”

“After we get Ayisha.”

I wrapped my arm around him and smiled when I felt him do the same. I still felt the ache of Mede’s rejection, but Tiwo’s presence made it easier to bear. I thanked the masquerades for him as his light snoring lulled me into a peaceful sleep.

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Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by Elvictor: 7:30am On Oct 24, 2020
wakanda confusion is this?
Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by doctorexcel(m): 8:24am On Oct 24, 2020
Which kind wahala be this? Who are we to believe?
Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by PenHub: 10:55am On Oct 24, 2020
I'm confused. And at the same time shocked @ the revelations. Thanks Obehid
Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by cassbeat(m): 7:23pm On Oct 24, 2020
shocked
Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by Oremeyii(f): 2:52am On Oct 25, 2020
Debisi seems so calculating and scheming, but I don't want to believe he's responsible for the reaping. Millie was soooo right when she called this a cross between GOT and Black Panther, like reallyyy.

How do these ideas come to you people's head sef *sulks*

The story line is really impressive, the characters, this fictional universe, everything and I really mean everything!
Well, Saturdays just got a whole lot more interesting..
Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by dawno2008(m): 12:21pm On Oct 25, 2020
Except all gang up to tarnish Debisi's reputation, which I doubt so much,cos all revelation shows Debisi is so damn dirty and can do anything,I mean absolute anything to get to power. From what I can see, he won't esistate to backstab Tan, cos of his hunger for power.

And like Tiwo rightly suggest, the Reverd should just go back to Isan and get a good isan dick and forget all this albino reddish dick heads with all their scheming.
@obehiD thanks so much for making my weekend worthwhile.
Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by dawno2008(m): 12:22pm On Oct 25, 2020
Except all gang up to tarnish Debisi's reputation, which I doubt so much,cos all revelation shows Debisi is so damn dirty and can do anything,I mean absolute anything to get to power. From what I can see, he won't esistate to backstab Tan, cos of his hunger for power.

And like Tiwo rightly suggest, the Reverd should just go back to Isan and get a good isan dick and forget all this albino reddish dick heads with all their scheming.
@obehiD thanks so much for making my weekend worthwhile.
Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by eROCK247(m): 2:04pm On Oct 25, 2020
Tiwo and Tan, I pray the love between them doesn't ever get polluted. They're, for me, a perfect example of how siblings should love each other.
Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by Tuhndhay(m): 8:36am On Oct 26, 2020
Now this is looking more like a story Obehid crafted.
The intrigue, suspense and "anticipation" is building up........ Obehid wows me with her writing.
Ayisha I hope she is still alive and someone should talk sense to Tan, I need to find a way to meet up with Egbe so she can behave herself but what if Neka is lying as well
Barman Three bottles of "cold" ......... for Obehid, so she can be inspired deeply
Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by obehiD(f): 3:39am On Oct 31, 2020
@Elvictor I'm trying to panther it too

@doctorexcel lol, it's up to you, who seems most believable

@PenHub Thank you for reading!

@cassbeat grin

@Oremeyii Thank you!!! I'm sooo happy you're enjoying it

@dawno2008 hahaha, all gang up to tarnish debisi's reputation really. Debisi is something else, but I'll let you decide for yourself after this one

@eROCK247 I agree oh, I really like Tiwo and Tan siblingship

@Tuhndhay haha, so before it wasn't looking like a story I crafted? Well I'm happy it's looking more like me now, I'm enjoying trying a different style. Thank you for reading!

3 Likes

Re: Masquerades Of The Nulin Nations (18+) by obehiD(f): 3:49am On Oct 31, 2020
21

The shaking that woke me the next morning was slight. I blinked, drowsily. It took me a while to get my bearings. The first thing I heard was the sound of Tiwo’s snoring, light, like a lullaby, tempting me back to sleep. I sat up, forcing my eyes open. Bending my head to the sides, I let my eyes roam around the room and wasn’t too surprised to see a human form standing beside me.

“Good morning, sweetness.” I usually dropped the endearments after we played, but I could see from the cautious look on Eghe’s face that he’d needed it this morning. He beamed at me.

“Good morning, revered.”

We both whispered, neither one of us wanted to deal with Tiwo’s morning grumpiness. It made his wit acerbic. I could tell from the glimpses of blue I saw through the seam between the halves of the curtains that it was still very early in the morning, hours before sunrise.

“What is it?” I asked. Eghe would not wake me this early unless something was wrong.

He held a lantern, one that bathed his face in a golden glow. That lantern exposed his features and told me that he did not like what he was about to say. That feeling brought me an instant pang of dread. Was there something wrong with Ayisha? Where was Mede? Why wasn’t she the one waking me? Had something happened to her?

“His royal highness, the Alake of Ikeja, requests your presence, revered. He says it is important.”

Debisi? Eghe frowned as he said the words, and the frown deepened on Debisi’s title. How had I not noticed this animosity before? I nodded and Eghe withdrew a few steps, but he stayed in the room, holding the lantern aloft to light my way.

I rose slowly, careful not to make any sudden moves that would jerk Tiwo awake. I couldn’t help smiling at the sight of him though, he was so peaceful in sleep, like a child. I stripped out of my tunic, changing quickly into a simple velvet dress that had been at the top of my case. Then I ran my hand through my braids, untangling my night bun, and letting the strands fall. When I was done with my preparations, I nodded briskly to Eghe and led him out of the room.

Debisi paced in the hallway outside the room. His hair was in complete disarray. His white shirt was rumpled and his khakis filled with creases. He turned around and froze when he saw me. I couldn’t help but notice he’d been polishing the lenses of his fake glasses. Now he smiled, and returned those glasses to his face. He rushed forward.

“Tan,” he greeted me, with a faint blush appearing on his cheeks. The longer I stared at him the more the blush deepened. I marveled at it, that blush, the innocence it proclaimed.

“Debisi.” I uttered his name without emotion. It had only been a few hours since we’d last spoken, but in that time, it felt as if the world had turned on its head. The man standing in front of me now was a stranger. I remembered the man I’d taken on strolls in the palace, the man I’d kissed, the man I’d stripped, but that man felt like a lie. Just a costume, like the glasses he wore, like the blushes he affected.

He frowned, those creamy brows of his bent. “Debisi? What happened to ‘Bi’?” He teased.

I almost laughed at that, a dry laughter, the kind that comes out of shock, when the unexpected reaches levels so bizarre that laughter becomes the only solace. “What indeed.” I wondered if even he could realize how apt that question was. What had happened to Bi, my sweet boy, the man I’d started to imagine a life with?

Debisi stepped forward. “What’s wrong Tan? Tell me, please.”

He looked so concerned. How could anyone so false appear so honest? He kept his features open so that I could see for myself how real his confusion and concern were. It was how he’d always done it when he’d lied, he lived the lie, became it, wore the lie so honestly on his face that it became the truth. He deserved an applause for his performance. I was almost tempted to give him one.

“What do you want Debisi? I had a long night.”

He grabbed my hands in his and squeezed them. I looked into his wide eyes, into the terror in them, the fear that made them water. He dropped to his knees in front of me. “I came to apologize for how I spoke to you last night, but I can see that something is wrong. What is it Tan? Tell me.” I was stunned speechless. “You have to tell me, please, talk to me. Please.”

I wrenched my hands out of his. What was wrong with him? A look of pain contorted his features once I pulled away from him. It was real, the pain, the fear, the emotions he showed me, no one could lie like that. Could they? I hated this, I hated that I now had cause to doubt myself. I knew how to read people, I knew when I was being lied to, so how had Debisi crawled beneath my defenses and fooled me? Even now, on his knees, I couldn’t help thinking about how much I liked him like that. And he knew it too, he’d known all about me before I’d even arrived.

“Get up.” My irritation came out with the curt command.

He did. Just like that, without hesitation, he rose. It was the same way that Eghe had risen in the flagellation suite the night before. Like a slave, with his head bowed, a supplicant beseeching my favor but too lowly to gaze upon my face.

“Stop it,” I snapped.

His head reared up. He stared at me without guile, as if he couldn’t even begin to imagine what annoyed me, and that was what annoyed me.

“Stop what?” Now he looked lost. His hand rose to adjust his glasses, his nervous tell.

I sighed. “Stop the act, Debisi, you’re not fooling me any longer, so you can stop with the blushing. Stop with the submissive gestures. It’s insulting.”

“Oh.” He lowered his eyes and reached for his glasses. I watched him take them off, watched him wipe the lenses with his white shirt. He peeked up at me, like a shy school boy, and then looked away when our eyes met. “Can I ask why?”

I frowned at him. “Why what?”

He shrugged and mumbled, “why my submission insults you?”

Ahh! I wanted to slap him. I wanted to hit all thoughts of deception out of his brain. Why did he have to sound like that? The mumbling, the hint of insecurity, the tremor of despair in his voice. “Because it’s fake.”

He stopped mid-wipe and rose his gaze to mine. “It’s not. Not with you. You make me feel different Tan, like I can be my real self, like I can know who I really am. I’ve never felt like I could be this with anybody else.” My eyes narrowed. He lowered his gaze. “I’m not lying. Why do you think I am?” His voice was soft, gentle.

“You want to be Ooni,” I said.

His jaw clenched. He shrugged.

“Debisi,” I warned.

“I don’t want Taiso to be Ooni.”

I sighed. He’d said it, he’d confessed. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting. A clarity of purpose perhaps? Maybe I thought that if I got him to confess then I’d know what to do with him, how to treat him. But I knew deep down in my gut, that there was more to Debisi than the schemes he was held to blame for. I could not be this bad a judge of character. I just couldn’t.

“You lied to me,” my voice had gentled. I wasn’t even sure I knew why. There was just something about Debisi that brought out my protective instincts. He made me want to fight his battles for him, to shield him from the world, as if he was too precious to muddle in the filth the rest of us did.

“I’m sorry.”

I shook my head. “That’s not good enough, Bi.”

His gaze rose to mine. “What made you suspect? Was it what Taiso said to you in Lekki?”

“Partly. Partly because I saw you working the nobles while we had that dinner in Lekki. And partly because I’ve watched you keep secrets and lie to me throughout this trip. Why?”

“Can we walk? I’ll feel better talking about it outside.”

I nodded.

Eghe trailed behind us. He’d taken up post close enough to see us, but not so close that he heard what we said. I could sense Debisi’s agitation as we walked. He buried his hands in his pockets, so deep in thought that the veins in his forehead stood out.

“Lola taught me how to act you know,” he said, conversationally. I didn’t respond, but he just chuckled and smiled. His love for his sister was unfeigned. I smiled a little at the dimpled joy it brought him. There was grief in his happiness, but there was still so much joy. “I had a knack for it. Do you play boju-boju in Isan?”

“No.”

“It’s the gift of the Eyo masquerade, it’s why the Bono are so good at scheming. The Isan have tumbling, we have pretend.”

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Lucifer's Key (book Two) / Sequel To "without A Silver Spoon" By Eddie Iroh / Doctor

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