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I was oblivious to the fact that Gran was nearby. She walked into the room and told me that she had already picked my outfit for the festival. Gran strode out of the room afterwards and Mena could not stop smirking. I wasn’t in the mood to get confrontational so I just hopped on my bed and slept. When I woke Gran told me that Keria came by.
“You should stop seeing that girl. She’s bad news” said Gran, handing me a cup of water.
“The decision is mine Gran; it’s too early for a confrontation” I replied, taking the cup from her.
After breakfast I went to see Keria and I was careful not to get lost. In order to avoid getting lost I pleaded with Mena to follow me half way. On getting to the entrance of Chief Udo’s compound I saw something that made me feel jealous, I was reminded of Mason again. Prince Kes and Keria where locked in each other’s arms.
The green eyed monster was let loose but I was lucky that I was able to put it back to sleep. I didn’t want to ruin the moment for them so I stayed back, eavesdropping of course. Self pity set in and I decided to walk away, I never realised how far I had wandered off because I was in deep thought. When I turned to go back, the route had changed. I was so petrified. The whole environment suddenly changed, the birds stopped singing and all I could sense was terror.
The sunny environment had turned to a gloomy one. A hand tapped me on my shoulder, can’t remember if it was my right or left shoulder. I slowly turned around and saw a woman. Evil was written all over her. She was petite; she had a skin as smooth as clay. She had a very small and cute nose.
Her hair was heavily braided and she was adorned with jewellries. She looked like a goddess and it scared the sense out of me. She was wearing a very long gown. It was army green in colour, on her left hand was a scythe. Staring into her eyes made me feel as if I was falling from a mountain top. I avoided her gaze.
“I am Tena and I ruin everything good.”
“Err Umm you ruin things?” I managed to ask.
She laughed and nodded “I see you have not been doing your assignment.”
I was about moving back but I found out that my legs were stuck.
“You will work with me Jessa and you will be rewarded.”
It was not a question, it was an order and I refused. I told her that I was in Ane because of Omo. She laughed when I mentioned Omo.
“Do you know where I can find her?” I asked.
“Omo was the best thing that ever happened to Ane. I must say you are nothing like her, she was brave but you are timid. I will take you to Omo if you agree to work with me.” she replied.
“I won’t, I am so sorry. My hands are sort of tied.”
“Then leave Ane and never come back because if you don’t.”
She did not complete her sentence but I knew she had just threatned me. She swirled her scythe and disappeared and the whole environment became normal, there was sunshine and there were beautiful birds singing.
I shook with fear and began to run, luckily for me the route had changed and remembered where I came through. I kept turning back to see if Tena was following me. I managed to trace Keria’s house. Keria was happy to see me and I noticed she was alone. Prince Kes had left, she told me that she came to see me but Gran sent her away referring to her as cursed. I apologized and she said I should not worry about that
“There are more pressing matters. The festival of purification is tonight and a really bad thing will happen if we don’t do something.”
“What will happen?” I asked.
“Innocent people will die.”
I remembered Tena’s words and told her that I would be leaving Ane the next day. Keria begged me to stay but I declined, she looked sad.
“Jessa you are the only friend I have got. You are brave, just like Omo was.”
“No. You have Prince Kes, he loves you and he’ll fight for your happiness. I am not as brave as I seem.”
I left immediately because I could not stand Keria’s tears and because I needed to talk with Oris (Gran). Gran did not want to talk to me. She said she was busy. Gran’s countenance changed when I told her about my meeting with Tena, she wore a worried look on her face.
“How did you find her child? This is bad news. Did you anger her?”
“Who is Tena?” I asked.
“She is a bad person.”
“You can do better Gran, why is she after me? What business did she have with Omo?”
Gran stood up and walked out, I walked out too. I decided to leave Ane the next day. I went for a stroll, my mind was heavy. Filled with so many thoughts. I bumped into someone. When I looked at the person, it was Mason! I jumped up in delight. I hugged and kissed him. Suddenly, I pushed him away. I asked him why he abadoned me and he apologized.
“How did you get here Mason? You are supposed to be dead.”
“I am not dead. Do you remember when I first met you? You were so harsh. You didn’t care about my accent or my looks.”
“You are wrong Mason, your looks drove me crazy but your character was what made me fall for you.”
“So romantic but I am sorry the show must halt. I have matters to take care of.” a voice said.
I remembered the voice instantly. It was Tena’s. I came back to my senses and realized it was just an illusion.
“You like the Greek man so much? Not to worry he is alive. He rejected you because he grew out of love for you.”
“Don’t speak ill of dead.” I replied
“Mason fixed his death just to get away from you. Were you that repelling?” she asked, snorting.
Tena’s words stung so badly. I even thought a scorpion had stung me, she told me that she would make me so powerful and would give me the honour of killing him. I told her that I would never work for her; I also told her that I was incapable of killing. I also told her that Mason had not grown out of love for me. I was so scared that what Tena was saying was the truth but I did not want to ooze weakness. Tena screamed in frustration and departed. I was in deep thought.
“Why me?” I asked aloud.
“Because you are my friend and I think you are the only one that can stop the madness. The unjust massacres.” replied a voice.
I turned around and saw Keria, I was so surprised, and she looked like she had been searching for me for hours. I asked her how she found me and she said she was lucky. We went to Mena’s house and there she told me she knew the people that were going to be killed during the festival of purification.
“Prince Kes’ father is going to give Ruke the honour of choosing those who would be put to death.”
“Why Ruke?” I asked.
“She is the future Queen of Ane. We have to stop her. She will choose the two children of her mother’s arch rival.” replied Keria.
I wanted to ask so many questions but Keria told me that there was no time. We did not know what to do to avert the impending danger.
“Are the children innocent?” I asked.
We could not do anything to help the children. Keria, Mena and I were so sad. I suggested we send them to the neigbouring village but Mena dismissed the idea.
“The next village is Amei; we are not friends with them. They are hostile.”
“I suggest we forget about doing anything. What will be will be.” said Keria
In the evening, I dressed up and left for the palace: the venue. Keria came along so we all went to the Palace together. Mena patted my shoulder and told me that another opportunity to help the helpless would come my way. There was a lot of cultural display; I enjoyed every one of them. The peak of the festival was when the Prince of Amei arrived. I thought I had seen enough of handsome guys but he proved me wrong.
“That should be the perfect distraction. Forget about Mason Jessa!” I said to myself.
That familiar voice, Tena again. She was following me everywhere.
“I have a surprise for you Jessa, after the surprise you’ll be indebted to me.”
I kept staring at the Prince of Amei. Keria whispered something to Mena and giggled. I was not in the mood to gossip and besides I was so sure it was me Keria was talking about. I started thinking of how to approach him. He was bare chested, his biceps looked powerful. I already imagined myself in his arms. His cornrows looked lovely; he was dangerously handsome and his beauty scared me a bit.
Prince Kes came by to give Keria something. When he was leaving, he noticed the way I was looking at the Prince of Amei, he chuckled softly. He whispered to my ear. “You are staring too much Jessa.” I laughed and he squeezed my hands lightly, “stop making it obvious you don’t want him finding out do you?” he asked.
“I don’t care if he finds out, introduce me to him please.”
“I’ll see what I can do.”
After he went back to his seat, I was a little bit sober. Ruke read another meaning and came to meet me. Prince Kes wasn’t too comfortable with that.
“Can I have a word with you?”
“No Ruke. I am busy”
“Yes busy drooling over my husband-to-be. I insist.” She snapped.
She dragged me to an enclosed place and warned me to stay off her supposed beau.
“Having problems keeping him? That’s what you get for forcing yourself on a man.”
“Shut up and listen to me you whore. Stay away from my Kes or I’ll kill you.”
“Ruke dear, can I share a secret with you?” I asked. Ruke fell silent so I took that as a yes. “I don’t like Prince Kes. Eversince I set my eyes on the Prince of Amei, my world hasn’t been sane. I want Prince Kes to be happy with Keria. They have something and that thing is so strong.”
“What’s that?” Ruke asked, frowning.
“It’s called LOVE; I am so sure it is extinct in your world. Do not threaten me again or else I’ll make sure the king hears about it and I will also ask for protection because a jealous woman is like a tsunami.”
“I will ask for your head this night. The king won’t refuse it because I have paid my dues.”
“Yeah by sleeping with Prince Kes’ father, I wish Kes could see what’s going on around him but he can’t. Too bad, I really want to tell him but I am not a snitch. I have got a festival and a dashing prince to get back to. Excuse me!” I snapped.
I found out about Ruke’s deceit when I visited the palace earlier that day. Mena suggested we tell Prince Kes about Ruke’s plan so we went to the palace but unfortunately we did not see him. Mena went to deliver some herbs to the Queen whilst I wandered off.
That was when I saw Ruke in the palace garden. She was complaining to her mother that she could no longer share her bed with the king. Ruke had already started living in the palace because of the forthcoming wedding between her and Prince Kes. The king gave the order that Ruke should live in the palace.
Prince Kes was eavesdropping, when we returned, his mood changed. He kept staring at me like he was betrayed. Keria wasn’t happy because of the eye contact Prince Kes maintained with me. She stood up and left angrily. I went after her.
“I am your friend, I don’t want Prince Kes, and maybe I did but not now. I want the Prince of Amei. So please tell that green eyed monster of yours to go back to sleep.”
Keria smiled and hugged me. The festival had ended and it was time for Ruke to make her request. A guard came forward and handed the king a shiny stone. It was crystalline. The king kissed it and ordered Ruke to make her request. I became so nervous.
No matter Ruke’s request it would be granted because he had already kissed the sacred stone. It was the tradition in Ane for a member of the royal family, selected by the oracle to ask for the head of an anje so as to purify the land.
“That is why it is called the festival of purification to purify the land, the anjes pollute the land.” a voice said.
It was Tena! She was driving me loco. She told me that I would go home smiling and when I begged her to spill the beans she refused. Everyone was waiting for Ruke’s request. I remembered when Keria came to tell me about Ruke’s evil plan.
“My great king, I Ruke Eki the daughter of chief Eki, future queen of Ane request for Ruke Eki, Prince Kes’ bride to be and future queen of Ane’s head.”
After saying this Ruke reminded the king that her request was final since he had kissed the sacred stone. People could not believe their ears. Her parents started wailing. They ran to meet her and her father asked her if she was aware of the consequences. Ruke nodded and there was uproar.
“Silence everyone. I have committed a sacrilege.” shouted Ruke
Everyone became calm; they waited patiently for her confession.
“I was thirsty for power, so I figured that the only way I could achieve that was to sleep with the king to gain favour in his sight.”
The Queen fainted; the king bowed his head in shame. I was so shocked, I saw Tena laughing. Immediately I realised that Tena had a hand in Ruke’s confession. I was a bit sad for Ruke that she was going to be beheaded but a part of me was elated.
Prince Kes went to where Keria stood and knelt down and asked her to marry him. Keria was about to leave when I blocked her way, she was crying so hard. Prince Kes stood up and hugged her, he begged her to stop crying that redemption had visited them. Keria stopped crying and said “I will be your wife Prince Kes.”
Ruke was being led to the place of her execution; I followed the guards just to satisfy my curiosity. My mind was heavy; I just watched a human die. Tena could not stop smirking
“You owe me a lot Jessa, I just saved innocent children and I made Prince Kes and Keria get back together. I deserve an accolade.”
“Yes Tena, you saved the children. Prince Kes and Keria did not get back together because of you. I owe you nothing, now leave me and never disturb me.”
Tena disappeared, I was alone suddenly. I became scared so I began to walk briskly
“You would be a befitting future queen for Amei.” A voice said.
It was the Prince of Amei! I was happy to see him. My mood changed.
“Thanks for the compliment my prince”
“I am Ari”
“I am Jessa”
“I could not take my eyes off you during the festival of purification.” He said.
I smiled and the next thing I knew, he asked me to marry him. I was amused “you don’t even know me. You just met me.” I replied.
“I know you enough to love you.” He said.
“Lust after me you mean? Love is not lust. What you feel for me now is pure lust. I assure you Prince Ari, you’ll get over me.”
He didn’t argue further, he offered to walk me home and I did not refuse. When I got home, supper was ready. We ate in silence and the only expression Gran had on was a smile after I thanked her for dinner.
“Where is Mena?” I asked
“In her room, she is a little bit sick. I made her chew some herbs, she will be better by morning. An herb is missing from my collection. It causes hallucinations; I was hoping you’d know something about it.” I almost smacked myself. I remembered when Mena and I went to Gran’s room to pick it. We wanted to use it on Ruke but we didn’t get the chance.
“Why did you want to use it?” Gran asked.
“For justice” I replied
“You almost went about it the wrong way.”
“Justice is Justice Gran. Good night.
Written by Kezi Angela Patrick