KING Obade tiptoed into the grand palace library.
He had stopped the palace eunuchs accompanying him in the middle of the hallway leading to library.
Obade had asked about his son that morning. His only son and heir to the throne, the crown prince Àlà.
It hadn’t been just a few moons since the ruler set his eyes on his son within the extensive palace complex. It had indeed been ages. At least, in Obade’s eyes.
The old king was told that his crown prince was there in the central palace library, at the giant section of history and mythology. Àlà had been buried in the classic scrolls of Jaiye kingdom since early morning.
Obade, along with his chiefs, had been occupied with council meetings over the oncoming Festival of Earth Purity. And for a long while now.
Yet, while the past few moons had been a hectic period for the Crown, the king couldn’t but stop a moment to miss his own very prince.
He decided to get up and surprise his beloved son with a spontaneous visit where Àlà was, sunken in scholarly books.
Obade’s slow, tiptoe steps were effectively silent and discreet. As the king stepped into the spacious library and headed at the classic section of history and mythology.
He quietly drew close to Àlà from the back, gathering his flowing, elaborately embroidered ofi to a compact, snug fit with his two hands.
The old king leaned on against a study shelf just behind his prince and managed to keep his breath utterly quiet still. He was absolutely sure Àlà wasn’t alerted. And he was eager to see the surprise on his son’s face.
Obade wondered when last he’d got this agile, playful mood with his crown prince. He had missed him through this long period, really. He’d missed the younger him in the figure of his son.
King Obade was just congratulating himself in his thoughts for walking to Àlà so stealthily that the latter wasn’t alerted at all. Obade was just beaming with smiles for the unusual feat when his songs of praise were interrupted by a voice.
‘Welcome, Your Majesty,’ the deep throated voice muttered.
The king’s eyes were firmly closed. And just when he was wondering if he was caught already or if his ageing ears were beginning to hear things instead, Àlà came around to his side with a fat scroll clutched to his own chest.
‘Fa-ther!’ the prince whispered in Obade’s exposed face.
The king parted his eyes open in front of his son and the two men burst into laughter.
It was a generous chortle that rattled through the grand library. And it bounced and rebounded from the wooden floor to the stone walls, and to the brick ceiling.
When the laughter ended, it was Obade who spoke first.
‘It’s been an entire season since I last saw you, Àlà!’ he blurted.
Àlà shook his head with a smile. ‘Ah Father, your eyes are always on me. It’s only been half a season we talked like this, and just a few moons since we saw.’
Obade exhaled. ‘Ah, yes, yes! But it looks like it’s been an age to me!’
Àlà nodded. ‘I know.’ And he led them both to a seat.
Obade went on as they sat in the library. ‘The upcoming festival and rituals has taken all of me! And the change in our sacrificial offering has occupied my head ever since the chief priest told me the appointed time has come.’
He warmed up to Àlà. ‘But tell me son, what have you been up to all the while?’
Àlà stammered without progress for a bit. He didn’t even get to say anything meaningful.
The crown prince wasn’t prepared for the question. It was all too sudden. And he hadn’t thought he’d have to tell the king his recent activities that soon. Yet he knew he wasn’t the type to keep anything from his father.
Àlà stuttered through some inaudible things and fumbled sheepishly with his fingers.
He then decided to talk about it, and without the clear details yet. But he knew the king was a wise man who didn’t need words to be direct to know their shades of meaning.
‘I’ve been making trips to Koje,’ the crown prince said, his hands fondling each other. ‘I went to Koje to see the mountains. But there I saw a flower in the wild.
‘And ever since I set my eyes on the strangely beautiful flower, my heart has never returned here from Koje.’
The king heaved a pregnant sigh. ‘Is your flower from Koje?’
And those were King Obade’s only words before he buried his head in a long silence.
Àlà answered the king’s question with a quiet mutter. ‘Yes, Your Majesty.’
Right then, the crown prince was compelled to wait on his father in the dense silence that overwhelmed the two men.
Prince Àlà waited patiently to see if his quest for the beauteous Koje flower would be overruled with a grave sanction at the King’s command.
He waited to know if he would face a capital punishment for venturing to love a maiden among the outcast community of slaves.
He waited and waited to know if the abominable quest, that he wasn’t ever going to halt – if this abominable love for the Outcast could perhaps be considered pardonable by the Crown. Or even forgivable by the Heavens.
Àlà waited in the grave silence that lingered between them.
Between the Crown and his Prince.
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