ÀLÀ quietly lifted a brick slab from the roof covering the temple’s middle courts, and he peeped down to see if Iyun was there.
Down there in the hall he saw his precious damsel bound up and blindfolded amid two hefty priests guarding her.
Àlà’s heart was torn apart, and he cried.
Yet the young prince knew he’d got no time for tears, if he wanted get his lady out alive.
He noticed right now that Iyun’s guards in that holy court below were unharmed. As well as other priests roaming about there and looking for him.
Àlà raised his head and let out a quiet breath. He was relieved.
The ordeal will be easier now, he told himself.
The young man bowed again and took another glance into the temple court below. Just then he saw his woman being led somewhere by the two priests. His eyes bulged out and his heart pounded hard.
Àlà instantly made his eyes follow the men’s path. He observed that they were headed at the storeroom in that temple building. The prince heaved a sigh of relief now. He was sure he would be able to rescue Iyun this time.
If Iyun is kept in the storeroom with these unharmed priests, rescuing her will be so easy, he thought.
And with that, Iyun’s man aimed towards that part of the rooftop.
Zenas watched from the hideout as a group of people began to surround the temple’s outer walls. He studied the situation and soon he could tell that the crowd were the devotees.
The young evangelist was now sure Prince Àlà’s intrusion was discovered. And those devotees must have been sent to the walls to help prevent the intruder’s escape, he reasoned.
Yet Zenas feared that the prince might have been caught already.
He thought of what to do now. He reasoned that those worshippers were so many that they wouldn’t even know themselves.
So Zenas thought to come out of his hiding place right then and mingle with them.
And from there the missionary would smuggle himself into the temple, bearing the gospel seed.
Jakan exhaled a relieving puff of breath where he stood at a vintage point in the temple’s middle court.
The elderly priest had just secured their sacrificial offering, the slave girl Iyun. But he had even gone a step ahead of the intruder.
Jakan had secretly replaced the two priests manning the girl with four combatant soldiers, and just when they got to the storeroom.
The soldiers the chief priest assigned to Iyun were the armed guards officially securing the temple; the troupe he’d sent for just a while earlier.
At the same time the temple building’s perimeter was being securely manned by the devotees.
‘Now there’s no room for escape for the desecrater of tonight’s sacrifice!’ growled the old man.
Hoping that the mysterious intruder would come for the slave girl where they kept her now and fall into the snare, Jakan decided to sit himself on a stool in front of the bolted store room door.
And there the chief priest patiently waited for the trap to catch the culprit.
King Obade was seated in a small underground closet in the grand temple edifice.
The elderly monarch was rounded by a group of armed sentinels who were ready to protect their King from the malicious intruder… even with their blood and sweat.
When the chief priest had discovered the breech of security, he’d quickly ensured that the king was led to a secure place in the temple building.
And just now Obade got an update about the ongoing situation at the temple hall. He received a note from Jakan now, and it was sent through a messenger.
The king opened the note and read it to himself.
Your Royal Majesty,
The intruder shall not escape under my watch, sire. From my judgement, the cursed mortal must have come to rescue the slave girl, our sacrificial offering. But I have laid some traps for the young man.
This is the current situation.
Your humble servant,
Jakan the Chief Priest.
As Obade finished with the note, he couldn’t help but tie two incidences together.
He looked at another letter which he got through the royal secretary a long while earlier. The message from the palace simply stated that the crown prince Àlà was now back from his voyage.
But now that he’d just been hinted that the intruder might be there for the slave girl, Obade couldn’t help the fearful thought that tonight’s perpetrator was his own son Àlà. His heir who had fallen head over heels with some slave girl from Koje Outpost.
King Obade feared and he trembled.
He trembled at the dreadful possibility.
Àlà cautiously removed a brick slab from over the storeroom. And he slowly let himself into the small, curvy chamber set to trap him.
As the crown prince descended down he was met with four valiant soldiers armed with spears pointing right at him.
Àlà was shocked and entirely caught off-guard.
The masked young prince had peeped down into the storeroom before he descended. But he only saw Iyun. The soldiers hid themselves at the curvy corners of the room.
Àlà had thought it was only some unarmed priests that had been sent to guard Iyun. And when he couldn’t find anyone beside her when he peeped down, he had assumed the two priests were simply sitting somewhere around the room.
The prince realised now that he’d just descended into a trap. But it was too late.
Yet the young man wouldn’t give in to defeat. Not without putting up with a fight.
Àlà drew out his sword right then and brandished the blood stained blade.
The desperate soldiers weren’t scared back like the masked prince had desired. Àlà didn’t want to spill blood. No, not a human blood.
The soldiers charged towards the masked intruder with their spears, as the prince wielded his sword in defense.
Iyun’s heart pounded heavily where she was tied up and made to sit in a blindfold. The young damsel could tell even without seeing a thing—she could tell that the valiant intruder was the prince.
It was her man Àlà.
Iyun knew her prince had come for her. And if not for the gag in her mouth she would have screamed out his valiant name.
But her heaving heart screamed out in a loud big silence.
‘My prince! Your Highness! My prince!’ she whimpered.
Jakan could hear the clash of blades from the entrance of the storeroom where he sat.
He grinned broadly. ‘I was right,’ he said. ‘My instinct doesn’t fail me. My trap has caught that foolish boy who dares to toy with death!’ he boasted.
Jakan sent an instant message to the devotees guarding the temple walls, and he asked them to retreat inside. The devotees returned into the outer court and continued with their supplications.
Zenas the missionary, who had already mingled with the crowd of worshippers, joined the worshippers now on their way back into the temple courts.
The fight was a hard one. It was four against one.
The masked Jaiye prince fought with blood stained sweat for his most treasured damsel.
And the four fearless soldiers fought hard with all sense of duty and honour. With all the best of the skills learnt from the dreaded war chief Ragun.
But neither of the two party was fighting to death. They were each fighting to incapacitate the other.
Àlà didn’t want to slay any of the sentries. For he knew they were performing their duty. All that the valiant prince wanted was to save his only damsel. All that Àlà desired was to rescue Iyun alive.
The armed guards, too, didn’t want to kill the impudent intruder. They wanted to bring him alive to their king.
But when Jakan observed that the fierce fight was taking too long, he yelled out an order from outside.
‘Break his limbs! Show him the dreaded gates of hades!’ he roared.
The old man’s voice dropped to a quiet mumble right after. ‘If that’s what will break him down to sanity!’ he mused.
On hearing Jakan’s order one of the soldiers thrust his spear into the crown prince’s side. The brass head went right in… rupturing internal flesh.
Àlà groaned with in a long, pained moan. And as the soldier drew out the spear, a gush of blood and fluid spluttered out with it.
The prince yelled and held both hands to cap the wounded side.
Iyun trembled and wriggled so hard. Her eyes and heart cried a hurting stream. But her tearful cries were soon stanched by the cruel gag and blindfold. Ever before they could flow.
Soon another guard thrust a spear into the prince’s thigh and Àlà’s limbs gave way beneath his sturdy frame.
The prince couldn’t hold up any longer. His sword fell from his trembling hand, and he dropped to his knees right then. He groaned in agony.
One of the soldiers shouted. ‘Unmask the fool!’ and someone moved close to remove the prince’s mask.
Jakan stormed in just then. ‘Don’t unmask him yet,’ he ordered. ‘I can guess who he is. It’s a silly slave boy I saw with the girl when we were capturing her!
‘I should have captured that boy too,’ he went on. ‘I never thought a mere Koje boy would cause such a trouble. I’ll make a scape goat of him today!
‘Away with him!’ the old man roared. ‘To the outer courts!’ he commanded.
And Jakan himself led a trembling Iyun down there.
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© 2020 by Kayode & Tola Olla