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I could not believe my ears, I opened my mouth to talk but words couldn’t come out
“Who did it?” he asked
No one answered and his rage increased. He took a sword from a nearby guard and walked around the room. I went to meet him and I whispered to him to calm down.
He ignored me and walked towards one of the most beautiful maids, seized her left arm. He brought her out and cut off her head. The other maids screamed in horror, the guards didn’t flinch. Hot tears rolled down my cheeks; I was too shocked to scream. When Prince Ari touched me; I shivered, he held me and led me out of the dining room. After leading me to my room, he turned to leave.
“Stay, I beg you. You just beheaded a human in my presence and you expect me to stay alone. I am so petrified.”
“I thought you would want to be alone”
He asked me if I felt any pain in my stomach and surprisingly I didn’t. He stayed with me althrough the night, my night was filled with nightmares. Each time I woke, I found him awake. The fourth time I woke I urged him to go to sleep
“I have a better idea, I’ll keep watching over you. You will watch over me while I sleep during the day.” he said.
When I woke the next morning, I didn’t find him in my room. By the time I had freshened up, he came. He had eye bags and I tried to stifle a giggle. He could hear the rumble in my stomach; he asked if I was hungry. I nodded slowly
“I am scared of eating. I may get poisoned again”
“Let’s go make ourselves breakfast then.” He replied.
He looked tired, I told him to get some sleep. He wanted to argue but he let it rest, after he left. When I stepped out of my cabin, I saw a guard and I when I asked him what he was doing there; he simply said he was following orders from the Prince. I just shrugged and left for the kitchen. I noticed he was following me and it made me feel uncomfortable.
When I got into the kitchen, I did not know what to make for breakfast. I just made fruit salad; I mixed so many fruits and told one of the maids to roast four of the fishes that Prince Ari had caught earlier in the morning. Whilst eating, I asked Prince Ari to tell me about his past lovers and he declined sharply.
After breakfast, I retired to my room and I saw a maid waiting. She was with a dagger and she told me that the queen of Amei had sent her to kill me. Luckily for me, Prince Ari forgot his beads in my cabin so he came to fetch it. He killed the maid without hesitating, he was so furious with the guard that he had allocated to me.
We got to Amei the next day and I was surprised to discover that Amei was a floating village. Amei was far more beautiful than Ane, I felt like I was in another world. The vessel stopped and we came out. There was a foot bridge that was very wide and so many people came out to welcome us. The Amei people’s diet contained a lot of sea food; they get some food crops from the island on the Far East.
They ate meat on special occasions. Meat was forbidden on certain days, if someone was caught eating meat on those forbidden days, a fine would be demanded depending on the financial strength. The people of Amei were mainly fishermen, a tiny population were farmers and they hard farms on the island at the Far East and there were a few hunters. There were no healers in Amei, Amei had mini schools were customs and traditions were taught to children.
Marrying of multiple wives was prohibited; all married women had a betrothal anklet on their left leg. That was the sign of matrimony. Greeting was done by kneeling with your right knee when greeting someone older. Age mates greeted each other by bowing to each other. Only a virgin was allowed to marry the Prince, the marriage came in two phases; the lady is proven to be a virgin then the lady must get pregnant. After this, the marriage becomes finalized.
Every indigene of Amei had a tattoo, a barracuda which was the sigil of the Amei people. The men had theirs on the right portion of their chest while that of the women were on the right portion of their back. The people of Amei were so dynamic and some were dark skinned while some were light skinned. Cremation was practiced because there were no lands. Fireflies were abundant and they were very useful because of their bioluminescence.
Ari’s hand was around my waist, he never stopped holding me. The two incidences in the vessel were to be blamed for his over protection. All eyes were on me, I was extremely shy.
“This is your home now my love, they are your people now.” He whispered.
When we got to the end of the foot bridge, there was a large boat waiting. I discovered that some of the people dived into the water.
“What are they doing?” I asked in a surprised tone.
“Going back to their houses, not everyone can afford a boat.”
“But they’ll get sick.” I snapped
He told me that the one likely to get sick was me, “you are not used to this environment.”
I looked around, I was marvelled. The buildings were built on rocks and the some parts of the rocks were embedded in water
“I know what you are thinking. Amei has always been this way. The early settlers met it this way.”
“The houses?” I asked.
“No, the rocks.”
The water was turquoise and I just wanted to deep myself inside the water. Prince Ari beckoned to me to enter the boat. I saw an old man at the far end of the boat and I greeted him out of respect but I got no response from him. “You don’t greet people first my love, it’s the other way round. You are royalty now.” replied Prince Ari
“I am nervous.”
“Why is that?”
“I am on my way to the heart of Amei. I have never done this.”
“But you have visited the Prince of Ane in his palace.”
“Yeah but I didn’t go there as a future bride.”
When we got to our destination, Prince Ari helped me get out of the boat. The palace guards and maids were there. They just kept staring at me and I wanted to yell at them to take their eyes off me. Apparently, the chiefs of Amei were just coming out of the Palace. They hailed Prince Ari but were so cold to me. Prince Ari told me the reason for their disdainful treatment. It was a very stupid reason. They were hoping that one of their daughters would marry Prince Ari.
“They fail to accept the fact that I am only a man, I cannot take more than one wife.”
There was a small pool of water nearby was crystal clear. Prince Ari sat beside the pool and placed his legs in it. He told me it was some sort of purification ritual.
“The water never gets dirty; it must be done before entering into the palace.”
I imitated him, when went into the palace afterwards and immediately we saw a very tall woman, with a copper coloured skin. She was wearing a very long gown and I thought she was going to trip. Her hair was heavily braided just like Tena. She didn’t need to wear a crown for me to know that she was the queen of Amei. Authority was written all over her.
I knelt down to greet her and she smiled and told me I was very beautiful. She took me away from Prince Ari to get me ready for the banquet. He was reluctant to leave; he whispered to his mother that he knew she sent two maids to terminate my life. She apologized immediately to me when we were alone and assured me that it would never repeat itself.
“I was trying to get even; your great grand mother was very wicked to Amei.”
“I am not Omo, I am different. I take exception your highness; I have a very nasty impression of you.”
“What’s your impression of me?” She asked.
“You don’t value human life.” I replied.
The Queen laughed and laughed, “I never killed people for fun like Omo. Don’t you ever talk back at me or else you’ll regret it.”
I vowed that I would never apologize “like I said your highness, Jessa and Omo are two different people. I have value for human life” The Queen stiffened; she did not utter a word to me again. She asked about my parents. I was caught unawares, I stuttered. She was waiting for my reply when a maid came to give her a message. She left immediately and I was relieved. Prince Ari’s mother was on my blacklist!
My room was so beautiful, it also had a pool. I ran to one of the windows and I loved what I saw. I saw a large body of water that was so blue. Ane was nothing compared to Amei, Amei could pass for a resort. I missed Mason; I wished he was with me. I looked at the anklet and smiled sadly.
“Where is he? What is he doing? Does he still love me?” I asked aloud.
“Prince Ari is in his chambers getting ready for the banquet. I am sure he loves you. My name is Mona; I am your personal maid.”
I smiled at her; she was average heighted and so slim. She had a tattoo at her back. Her dark skin was spotless, her hair was cut short and I noticed this in the other maids too
“Why is your hair short?” I asked.
“Maids are not allowed to have long hair; long hair in Amei signifies privilege, riches and authority.”
“Do you miss your hair?”
“Sometimes but I am used to having a short hair now.”
After I finished bathing in a pool of sweet smelling flowers, I felt good. Mona saw the anklet on my left leg and giggled. I was oblivous to the reason for her excitement
“So the Prince has given you a bethrotal anklet? It is so beautiful. It looks so foreign; no woman in Amei has this type of anklet.”
I was uneasy, she told me that I will have to take it off in due time
“It is a symbol of betrothal. You cannot wear two anklets. It would send a wrong message.” She replied.
After snapping at Mona to mind her business, she kept everything business like. After a moment; she excused herself. After she left Prince Ari came in and he looked so different, he just had his hair done. The cornrows were fat and long, he was wearing a pair of loose trousers. His chest was bare and I did nothing but stare. When he came nearer, I became stiff.
“I don’t bite.” he said
“Of course you don’t.” I replied, avoiding his gaze.
I sat on the bed so he squatted to be able to look me in the eye.
“Will you marry me Jess, I mean Jessa. Will you be my second half? Will you be the mother of my sons and daughters? Will…”
“Alright Prince Ari, I get it!” I snapped “I will marry you.”
He could see the gloom in my eyes. When he asked me, I told him that I was a little nervous and he squeezed my hands lightly. I turned my back on him and a tear dropped. My thoughts drifted to Mason.
“Will you accept this anklet as a sign of our union?” He asked.
I showed him the anklet and he was angry “who is he Jess?” I was mute, so he stood up and left but before leaving he said. “I am a patient man, I will give you time to get over him.”
Written by Kezi Angela Patrick
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