KING Obade raised his head and spoke at last.
‘Do you know why I gave you the name Àlà when you were born?’
His question didn’t quite sound like a response his prince was anticipating.
‘No, Your Majesty,’ replied Àlà. ‘I really don’t know why you’d name me Purity, of all the names on earth.’
Obade smiled. ‘We didn’t give you a name for the first three seasons after you were born,’ he resumed. ‘I didn’t want to name you after my wishes for you. I wanted you to name yourself, somehow.
‘And when I watched how you would live, you found the name Àlà. Because that is you even from your mother’s womb.’
The prince’s dark eyes lingered on the king with a questioning look in them.
‘I didn’t name you Àlà because you didn’t touch dirt as a toddler,’ continued Obade. ‘I named you because you picked up litter on the floor and you wouldn’t even let go till you’ve wiped it clean with saliva.
‘We had to ensure even then that there are no litter or dirt around you, so that my little son doesn’t continue risking his hygiene.’
Obade gazed at the prince.
‘Son, I’d never seen such a strange obsession with cleanliness that wouldn’t mind getting soiled in a bid to make some kind of beloved dirt pure!’ he blurted out.
‘And so I gave you the name Àlà,’ he added.
The crown prince connected absolutely with the king’s description of him. And he marvelled at how so well his father could put his entire being in simple words.
King Obade went on. ‘And now, son, I can tell what you are looking for by looking at your eyeballs,’ he said as he peered into his son’s fiery eyes.
‘What you’re looking for can’t be found in scrolls of history or mythology. They can’t even be found within this entire library walls.
‘No, those kind of mysteries don’t lodge here among scholarly books, son.
‘The answer you seek is in the pulsating beats of your heart, in the sincerity of your passionate heart. Only you can answer your question, Àlà.’
Àlà nodded slowly and let out a quiet breath.
‘By the way,’ Obade put in, ‘what could you use to clear Koje’s age long transgression? What could you use to end Koje’s age long curse? What can even turn Koje from low horses to noble humans?’
He shook his head as he stood up to leave. ‘Son, our great books don’t have the answers to all of these. But you can find it for us. You can find it for you.’
Àlà reasoned that the king was right. And the crown prince was all set to find the perfect way to free Koje from the Animal Curse plaguing its entire generations…
For the love of a Koje damsel.
The prince heaved a thoughtful sigh as his father walked towards the exit.
King Obade turned around at the giant stonewall arc that led further away from the history and mythology section of the palace library.
And he spoke, in an earnest tone of voice. ‘You know the High Heavens wouldn’t embrace a dirty earth, unless it is clean?’
The crown prince only got up and kowtowed. And his father turned around and made his way out.
Prince Àlà got his father’s last words clearly. He knew the king wasn’t objecting to his strange love for a maiden from the outcast community of slaves.
Àlà knew his father was insisting that he got rid of the animal curse first before the high and noble prince could make a slave girl a wife.
He knew he had to get rid of the everlasting curse that made Koje the low caste it was.
The crown prince exhaled deeply. And he parted his lips with two desperate words… in one feeble, quivery breath.
‘Aargh… Iyun!’ he gasped out aloud.
It was her golden name his trembling lips uttered.
At eventide, King Obade ambled forth and back in the flower garden at the palace.
The old monarch had asked his palace attenders to stand back at a distance, as he needed some time alone.
The king walked slowly, as the verdant edges gently brushed against his regal robe. And he stopped awhile by a little pond in the garden.
Obade gazed down into the pond littered sparsely with a few white petals. And his figure reflected off in the shallow water.
But rather than see himself in the reflection, the elderly monarch could only see his son.
Right then, the king wondered with a burdened heart just what Àlà had to do to be able to own the woman of his heart. But it was past fathoming out how his son would redeem a cursed caste by the love in his heart.
Yet Obade could tell by the fire in his prince’s eyes, that he was unstoppable.
And he knew Àlà would even scale the heights of heaven or descend the depths of hades, to own the wild flower he had found.
Just then, King Obade remembered the new weighty verdict on Koje. That the outpost community were no longer mere slaves, but had become the sacrificial lamb for the prosperous Jaiye nation.
Koje had become the ritual blood for the earth purity sacrifice. Koje was that much of a cursed caste.
Obade now wondered if his crown prince even knew this.
The other reason behind the king’s surprise visit to his son was to inform him of the journey he might have to make to neighboring kingdoms soon enough.
King Obade had intended to send the crown prince along with other sons of nobles as emissaries to allied kingdoms. To deliver an invitation for the oncoming festival of earth purity.
Since the educated elite in Jaiye kingdom were the palace nobles and their offspring, the heirs of all the nobles would be sent as royal emissaries to the barbarian kingdoms around them…
So that the young Jaiye elite would read to those unlearned allies the ostentatious invitations they could never read.
But then again, Obade’s own heir was engulfed already by a stranger, mightier fire… than the flames of a necessary human sacrifice consuming his own soul.
Àlà was aflame with a huge, unquenchable blaze. And his fiery eyeballs couldn’t even tell it all.
King Obade looked into the pond’s reflection of him. But what he saw was his own son.
He let out a burdened sigh.
For he feared where this was leading.
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