The Moon of Xxene

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic


[Agaenaye ("Ah-gay-nah-yeh") – third rank of palace Maidens]* [Aya (“A-yah”) – second rank of palace Maidens]* [Oghene (“Uh-geh-neh”) – God]* [Orodje (“Oh-roh-jeh”) – “King”]* [Ovye ("Ohv-yeh") –
“King.” Ovye is a stand-alone title used to address the reigning king]* [Ovyeraye – Queen”]* [Onorogu – Noble caste]

Chapter 15 (v.1) - Fifteenth Phase

Submitted: August 08, 2019

Reads: 30

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Submitted: August 08, 2019

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Her heart pounded like the thundering of horse hooves all around. Her breath was rapid with fright, and a hand covered her mouth to keep her from making a sound as tears spilled from her eyes. She was hidden out of sight but saw the chaos through a slit in what seemed like a shed. The forms flashed before her; orange-clad figures storming helter-skelter, swords drawn and voices harsh. A blood-curdling scream erupted from the pandemonium and she froze—she knew the voice. It rose and fell in a chilling wail that made her heart shrivel. She peered through the slit and saw the orange-clad forms had stopped moving, and in the spaces between them she spied a woman on the ground, a body sprawled lifelessly in her arms, a pool of blood growing around her. As the woman continued to wail, an orange-clad form moved swiftly, plunging a sword through her back to pierce her heart, then yanking it out so forcefully that an arc of blood sprang through the air. She screamed at the sight but the hand covering her mouth muffled the cry. Another arm wrapped around her, pulling her from the shed. She flailed about, but the arms held her firm; silenced her screams. Only her tears flowed like torrents as the bloody scene burned into her brain.

“Please! Agaenaye Emeravwe, please! You must calm yourself!” the nurses of the Palace Infirmary shouted as they tried to hold her still.

Emeravwe screamed and thrashed, overcome by terror and anguish, a headache crushing her skull.

“It is only a dream! It is only a dream!”

The nurses’ cries permeated her own, and as she listened to their pleas and coos, she began to calm.

She stopped thrashing, then slowly open her eyes. Her body shook uncontrollably, her breath haggard and soul shaken by what she had seen. The pounding headache blurred her vision, tears streaming from her eyes. It was a dream? No, it could not have been—not when she had seen it in such vivid horror. Not when she was still so terrified. She rolled on her side in a fetal position to contain her trembling and held her head, weeping and moaning as the headache pounded.

The two nurses standing before her cot watched her in anxious silence. After a moment, one of them called gently, “Agaenaye Emeravwe, are you all right? You are in the Palace Infirmary.”

She did not answer but continued to weep. She could not answer; she had receded into a corner of her mind in which she mechanically rocked herself, chanting, It was a dream. It was a dream.

The nurses watched her a moment more, then turned to one another. “Let us leave her for now. We shall go and prepare the medicine for her headache,” one of them said. The other nodded and they exited the room.

Emeravwe did not know how long she lay weeping on the cot, but long after her tears had dried and the shaking ceased, she stared blankly at the wall of the infirmary room. When the two nurses finally returned, they brought with them her medication and meal, as well as matches to light the candles in the now-dark room. Only one of them stayed behind; a thin-faced woman with an emerald in her forehead who was dressed in the pewter-grey uniform the nurses wore. She pulled up a chair and helped Emeravwe with her meal and medicine.

“How do you feel?” she asked, handing her a glass of water and setting the empty bowl on the table beside the cot.

Emeravwe took a drink and nodded. “I am all right.” She was calmer now but felt as if in a trance.

“Do you remember what happened?”

She shook her head.

“You fainted in Joyovwi Market and your colleagues from the Bureau of Court Affairs brought you back to the palace. It seems you received quite a shock.”

It all came flooding back to her then; the case of the missing Onorogu, the protest in the main market square. She shivered. The protest.

“Your colleagues must have informed the Bureau of Court Affairs of your condition,” the nurse said. “But your records show that you had a similar ordeal when you first entered the palace, so a nurse was also sent to notify the bureau that we shall continue to monitor you for two more days before your discharge. Well, then, get some rest, Agaenaye Emeravwe. I shall return to check on you.”

Emeravwe tucked herself in under the sheets once the nurse vacated the room. She was grateful for the illumination of candlelight, for the images of the horrid dream rambled through her mind, and she shuddered in fear. She did not want to think of it. But as the night wore on, all she did was think; of the recurring dreams she had recently been having, of the headaches and fear that accompanied them. She had experienced nothing like it and could not help mulling over the fact that her dreams of the man with hazel eyes began after her encounter with Aslan’s attendant, and the fright she felt now began with the protest in the marketplace.

Was there some connection? A trigger-effect? But why? Why would she have such dreams? Was she ill? The dreams of the man with hazel eyes were unclear, but the anxiety she felt each time was real. And everything about this dream had been so vividly clear, as if it had truly taken place. Emeravwe covered her head with the sheets, shivering as the images of the bloody scene flashed boldly before her eyes, a feeling of foreboding overwhelming her.

She had trouble falling asleep that night but finally drifted off in the dark hours of morning, and when she awoke, she felt only slightly better. Though a mild headache persisted, she was able to briefly put aside her worries when Akpokene paid her a visit in the afternoon, followed by Mudiaga and Agaenaye Fatima not long after her departure. They took a stroll in the garden of the Palace Infirmary and Agaenaye Fatima informed Emeravwe that she and Mudiaga submitted their report on the case to Aye Chioma and Eunuch Otase, and that they were all to standby for further instructions from the Bureau of Investigations. Agaenaye Fatima then excused herself on an errand and Mudiaga escorted Emeravwe back to her room.

As he turned to leave, he hesitated at the door, looking long at her.

“What is it?” she asked.

He smiled. It was not his usual mischievous smile, but quietly tender. “I almost had a baby because of you, you scared me so much. I must like you more than I initially thought.” He lifted a hand as farewell and left the room.

Emeravwe was discharged the following evening. When she met Aslan in their garden, he noticed her pallor, and she informed him of her stay in the Palace Infirmary. 

Hearing this, he fussed over her worriedly, putting a hand to her forehead to check for fever, and asking, “Are you certain you are well?”

Emeravwe wavered. She wanted to tell him about the dream she had had, but the feeling of presentiment persisted in her, and she did not want to disturb him further. She nodded. “I just had a headache, is all. It is nothing to fret about.”

****

Princess Ada took a sip of the guava juice then set the glass down, disgruntled. She looked up and eyed Lady Oyoyovwi who sat on her left. “I expected a better show from you this time, Yoyovwi. But what is this,” she lifted a fruit fork to jab a slice of papaya on the porcelain dish before her, “guava juice, fruits, and nuts? Are you hosting a play date for children?”

They sat at one end of a stone veranda whose wide central steps led down to a flagstone walk which meandered through a garden planted with palm trees, yellow plumeria trees, and various other blossoms. The air was filled with the sweet scents of the blooms, the irresistible fragrance of plumeria permeating through all. Princess Ada sat at the head of the great cherrywood table spread with silk cloth and laid with an assortment of fruits and nuts; papayas, cashews, pistachios, mangos, and various others.

Oyoyovwi smiled pleasantly. “I thought I might send you back to the palace sober today. At the last Meeting Asa and Ewoma hosted, the palm wine flowed in abundance. If we indulge thusly at every Meeting, we may not live to see our grandchildren.”

The twins mentioned, Ladies Asa and Ewoma Imodu Mitaire, who sat to Princess Ada’s right, giggled. Daughters of the Minister of Personnel, they were petite in frame and resembled adorable kittens, with big springy afro curls, trillion-cut rubies, and round brown eyes. Ewoma, the younger of the two, wiggled her eyebrows at Oyoyovwi. “So, you are already contemplating grandchildren?”

Oyoyovwi cast her eyes down bashfully.

Oyoyovwi O-Jiban Onovughe was nineteen years of age and beautifully endowed. She had gorgeous even dark chocolate skin, a slim face with a radiant-cut ruby adorning her forehead, high cheekbones, full lips, and deep dark eyes. Her silky black hair fell down her back and about her slender shoulders, her neck long and beautiful. And though her figure was willowy, there were no sharp edges, only lean and supple curves. She was, in one word, stunning. Yet as if that were not enough, she was also the only daughter of Prime Minister Onovughe, and renowned to be the ideal proper lady.

Princess Ada sighed. What use is beauty and decorum if you cannot attain your heart’s desire? She stabbed a papaya slice and took a bite of the sweet fruit. “I suppose it will have to suffice since you gave such consideration to our health. But it is all a bit like you, Yoyovwi,” she swept a hand over the table of delightfully carved and arranged refreshments, “beautiful and delicate, yet entirely uninteresting.”

Lady Ufuoma Imodu Oghomena, the voluptuous granddaughter of the Minister of Rites who sat beside Oyoyovwi, rolled her hazel eyes. “We grow tired of finding things to interest you, Princess Ada. We have experienced everything from riding elephants, to swimming with otters when Ovye granted us a holiday at Ofure Palace in the Ejokpa Province. What more would you have us do? Ride lions to the Erhinyoja Desert and have oasis parties with nomads and camels?”

Princess Ada perked, beaming. “How surprisingly ingenious of you, Fuoma!”

Asa laughed. “If we intend to party with camels, we must invite your grandfather, Fuoma. He would meld right in with his humpback and droopy eyes.”

“And would fulfill our requirement of a chaperon,” Ewoma added with a chuckle.

Princess Ada clapped her hands exuberantly. “All wonderful ideas! But I do not think it will be necessary. There will be plenty entertainment in the palace for some time yet.”

“What do you mean?” Oyoyovwi questioned.

Princess Ada turned a devious grin to her, jauntily placing an elbow on the table and resting her chin on her hand, her amber eyes sparking with mischief. “I mean that there are more pressing matters, Yoyovwi, so you would do well to stop contemplating grandchildren.”

“Of course, she must contemplate grandchildren!” Ufuoma contended, reaching for the display of peeled and cored lychee. “Continuing the royal line will be her foremost duty!”

“Fuoma!” Oyoyovwi called demurely, embarrassed by her friend’s suggestive statement.

Princess Ada shook her head. “How can she pluck stars if she cannot see the sky? Yoyovwi has yet to marry into the Royal House, much less bear children!”

“That is nothing of consequence,” Asa said, forking a tangerine wedge, “she is already Ovye’s betrothed.”

Ewoma snatched the fork and tangerine from her before she could eat. “Fool! That is of the most consequence! Until she marries Ovye she will continue to simply be Lady Oyoyovwi, not Ovyeraye Oyoyovwi.” She clicked her tongue, consuming the fruit.

“But we all know it is not just the title of Ovyeraye that Yoyovwi is interested in.” Ufuoma said, looking teasingly at their friend.

Oyoyovwi lowered her eyes and Princess Ada could practically feel the heat radiating from her. Since they were children she had looked fondly upon their king, and none of them had missed this. Of course, Princess Ada knew, there were many ladies who admired her Sovereign Brother. Of the three of them, she and Prince Etegah took after their Sovereign Father with their sable locks, Prince Etegah acquiring his dark brown eyes, as well. Aslan alone had absolutely inherited their Sovereign Mother’s devastating looks and was nearly a carbon copy with his charming amber eyes and burnished copper locks. There were many noble ladies who would swoon at just a glimpse of his smile, Oyoyovwi not being the least. But as far as Princess Ada knew, though they were engaged, Aslan had never given Oyoyovwi a second thought. In fact, she was sure of it now.

Princess Ada leaned forward. “Yoyovwi, if you wish to be with my Sovereign Brother, then you might do a little more than merely wait for him to marry you. You must assert yourself!”

“What do you mean assert herself? She is not some common harlot!” Ufuoma protested.

Asa laughed. “You cannot expect the model of a proper lady to be as bold as you, Princess Ada. Yoyovwi could never be so forward with her affections.”

“Nor would she ever have the opportunity,” Ewoma added, finishing some almonds and taking a sip of her juice. “Ovye could not spare her the time, preoccupied with court matters as he is.”

Princess Ada smiled impishly. “I was also under the impression that Sovereign Brother’s interests began and ended with the court, but that may not be the case!” She turned to Oyoyovwi, taunting, “You are beautiful, Yoyovwi, but there are many more beauties in the palace strutting before Sovereign Brother while you maintain yourself in solitary decorum. You can blame no one if a palace Maiden happens to capture his heart.” The girls looked appalled but Princess Ada shrugged indifferently. “Our Sovereign Mother may have arranged your betrothal, but that was when Sovereign Brother lacked firm footing at court. Now, he might very well toss you aside to embrace a willing Maiden—and are they not all willing?”

The girls looked to Oyoyovwi with concern and sympathy.

“Oh, Yoyovwi, it is true!” Asa cried. “You have been betrothed for two years yet Ovye has made no mention of marriage!”

Oyoyovwi fought to maintain a pleasant expression but looked a bit crestfallen. “That...is because he has been working to take command of the court.”

“No, you are too naïve,” Ufuoma said. “Orodje Otaroghene was often ill, but that did nothing to curtail his affections for Honored Lunar Petal Grand Princess Consort Dowager Chovwe, and she was an Aya!”

Princess Ada nodded. “Indeed. Though she bore Sovereign Father no children, it was evident he favored the Grand Princess Consort. He even built her Comfort’s Haven, her seaside palace in the Jomafu Province, where she continues to enjoy the amenities of a Grand Princess Consort till this day.” Princess Ada looked pitifully at Oyoyovwi. “It would be a shame for such beauty to share the same lonely fate as my Sovereign Mother.”

“But surely you would support her in such a case!” Asa proclaimed.

Princess Ada affected a look of sympathy, placing a hand to her heart. “Truly, Yoyovwi, you are like a sister to me. I could not bear to see you heartbroken.” She broke in a wide grin. “But who am I to interfere with passion, especially that between an Orodje and his beloved?”

Ewoma gasped. “Do not tell me you secretly support such an illicit affair!”

Princess Ada simply offered a mischievous smile and rose. “Excuse me ladies, I have an appointment at the Bureau of Court Affairs.”

Rising as well, the other ladies looked baffled.

“You make it a point to steer clear of dreary court matters, so what business could you possibly have at the Bureau of Court Affairs?” Ufuoma questioned.

“I must meet someone on Sovereign Brother’s behalf.” She turned to Oyoyovwi. “It might interest you to come along.”

Oyoyovwi looked perplexed. “I am the host of this Meeting. It would not do for me to desert my guests.”

Princess Ada laughed as she made her way from the table. “Suit yourself. But know that I have given you ample warning.”

****

Emeravwe and Mudiaga sat beneath a pergola outside a restaurant in Joyovwi Market. It was early evening, but the market still bustled; street-runners lighting lamps at corners, people streaming into the restaurant sector for an evening meal with family and friends, the smells of suya, meat pies, samosas, and jollof rice wafting through the air.

“He’ll be passing by soon,” Mudiaga said, rising from the table and walking to the edge of the pergola.

Emeravwe nodded, following his lead. She stayed close to his side, looking around the market until she spotted the other officers. Upon reviewing the information gathered from the interviews, the Bureau of Investigations devised a list of Okémeh’s possible next targets and assigned officers to keep surveillance over them. Emeravwe and Mudiaga were part of a group who kept watch over the son of the Director of Palace Courtyards and Gardens, and while the officers were tasked with apprehending Okémeh if they appeared, Emeravwe was to record the events that transpired during their surveillance. They had kept vigilance over the official for the past three days but saw no threats. On this day, too, as his sedan was carried through the market, Emeravwe and the officers trailed him home. The trip was uneventful, and they returned to the palace.

When they arrived, Emeravwe and Mudiaga found the Bureau of Court Affairs in a flurry of disarray. Maidens, Eunuchs, and officials scurried about the halls, voices raised in excited gossip. In their office, too, they found Eunuch Otase and Aye Chioma briskly calling out instructions while the rest of the team rifled through papers and files or hurriedly scribbled away.

“What devil passed through here?” Mudiaga asked in wonder.

Aye Chioma turned from the long table where she bent over documents with Eunuch Odeshi, Agaenaye Ugonma, and Eunuch Akpome, exclaiming in relief, “Indeed, Oghene meets all needs and well met! You may report on your investigations later. We are behind on the new protocols to be used in this quarter’s Inspection of Quarters, so take up pens and help us finish the copies.”

Emeravwe and Mudiaga moved to take their places at the long table, Mudiaga questioning, “Did the Orodje come to conduct another surprise inspection? The bureau hasn’t been this scattered since his last.”

Emeravwe’s heart leapt. Since she entered the Bureau of Court Affairs the king had made no appearances though she anxiously waited. His visits were rare, so if he had come while she was away, she did not know when she would ever get a chance to see him again.

Aye Chioma answered, “No, but it does seem the royal family has taken quite an interest in the bureau. It was Princess Ada who visited this time.”

 “What?” Emeravwe and Mudiaga exchanged looks of surprise. For as long as she had lived in the palace, Emeravwe had never even heard of Princess Ada stepping foot in the Outer Palace.

 “We were unable to work because she requested a tour and insisted on seeing every office,” Agaenaye Ugonma complained.

Mudiaga shot to his feet, slamming his hands on the table and bursting, “You mean you got to see the princess while I was toasting in the sun? Damn! Well, how was she? As beautiful as rumored with lustrous bronze skin and eyes more dazzling than stars?” He ducked suddenly as a pen came flying at his head.

“Vile peasant! How dare you address the princess so crudely!” Eunuch Otase, who had thrown the pen, reviled.

Grinning, Mudiaga sat back down, but looked at Agaenaye Ugonma, prodding.

Agaenaye Ugonma whispered, “Even more beautiful.”


© Copyright 2019 OE. All rights reserved.

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