Laide was baffled. She had trudged her way to the place they met two weeks ago, but there were no traces of him. She dropped her heavy bags and heaved a sigh, a sign of pure fatigue. She looked here and there but there was no sign of his arrival. She sat on her bags, fondling her twisted pigtails.
Laide was not just ravishing, she was one young woman full of virtues.
Sitting on the bags, tears trickled down her stunning face as all that had happened in the last three days came to her memory. Her father was a brave hunter and warrior, a warlord who fought for his land. But three days ago, heart rending news reached the land that the warriors of their land had been defeated at war. Laide knew the outcome: It was either her father had died at the battle ground or that he had done the otherwise – banishing himself – never to see or step his foot on his fatherland again. He had become a shame, a failure, all of a sudden.
Laide was not sure if she would ever see him again, if only he had not died.
Just a day after the sad news was brought, her mother was immediately asked to become the wife of another influential man. Her mother, Kemi, had been given to her father, Biyi, when he defeated the Akanrans. The two had loved each other completely with their only child, Olaide.
Kemi had immediately been given to Ebunlomo, a very rich cocoa farmer as his wife, but she was not ready to be with any other man. She knew her parents would not take that, plus she had no authority over herself. She sneaked out in disguise at night, out of Ebun's house, out of the whole of Yayegbe.
News reached Kemi's parents and daughter. Her parents were disappointed; Laide was not, but when reality struck, fear gripped her. She would no longer be seeing both of her parents again; worse of all, she would be given to Ebun in place of her mother.
She was crying in her room when she heard a whistle at her window. It was Irede.
"I'm scared Ire," she said to him.
Irede came up with an idea: “Let us disappear from Yayegbe.” Laide was so happy to hear that. She was ready to leave with the love of her life. They planned to meet at Oke Ajuwon, where women sundry their crops such as cassava and yam for flour and flakes. They had been there two weeks ago, when Irede accompanied her to sundry her mother's cassava.
She should be scared of Irede for the fact that he had been a captive for many years, and had been freed just two years ago; but her parents had so much faith in him, and had supported their friendship. They often refer to Irede as the son they never had. Even when she was no longer sure of her parents' existence, she still trusted Irede with all her heart.
Sitting on her bags, she waited for Irede in sorrow, but he did not appear. Fear gripped her. Was Irede turning his back on her? No, he wouldn't. But Irede did not show up. Laide felt so dejected. She had waited from dawn to dusk; when there was no sign of Irede coming, she found a safe place to lay herself. She ate from her bag, and then slept off.
As early as possible the next day, she stood up and started her journey out of Yayegbe. She knew she had put herself in harm's way. It wasn’t long before she noticed two brawny men at her heels. She turned to them in fright. They had malicious grins. In a flash, they snatched her bags and got her on her knees. They made her lie on her back.
"Help!" She cried with all her might.
The men thought they had heard some loud noises, but soon they realised it was sound of horses. Could it be war? They let go of Laide immediately, now scared to the bone.
Three horses came into view, each ridden by one man. One of the men dressed richly, and the others looked like his guards.
"Help!" She cried to them.
The richly dressed man descended from his horse. He was so handsome but Laide knew her Irede would look much better if he had dressed in similar robes.
"What happened?" He asked.
"They attacked me on my way, they wanted to rape me," Laide answered.
"But they haven't touch you, have they?" He asked.
"No, they haven't."
He turned to his men, "Tie these men to your horses; they'll follow us to Yayegbe."
The name rang in her ears, "Yayegbe?"
"Yes, are you from Yayegbe?" The man asked her.
"Yes, I am escaping from Yayegbe," she said truthfully.
The man made her sit under a tree with him and asked for her story, which she told him, hiding away nothing, not even Irede's part.
"I am the King of Iyere's nephew. And I am ready to help you if you will go back to Yayegbe with me."
"Yes, I will."
He took her hand and kissed it. Laide begged for the men's freedom and the man released them. They were so thankful to Laide, surprised that she could beg for them even when they had already tried to harm her. The man asked that the two men join his other men in accompanying him to Yayegbe.
Laide and the three men arrived at Yayegbe palace at dusk. The other two men arrived later. The king received them with so much respect.
Prince Adelafe, as the king called him started his talk about Laide's issue. It was then that the king made it known to them that Irede had been thrown into prison. Laide's grandparents caught her sneaking out of home and had thought she would be heading to Irede's house but she did not. When they could not find her, they arrested Irede, having seen him trying to escape too. The matter was brought to the palace and Irede was jailed; even after several torture, he refused to disclose where Laide had headed to. They had searched for her in vain.
Laide felt bad. All along, she thought Irede had turned his back on her. She did not know that Irede was rather suffering because of her. She begged to see him. Prince Lafe accompanied her to the prison where he was kept. He was shocked to see her.
"Why did you let them find you?" He asked, displeased.
"I'm so sorry for all the pain I've made you pass through, but this man here will help you," she said.
"Who is he?" Irede asked.
"Don't worry about who I am, you'll be out soon," Prince Lafe said and left with Laide.
Few minutes later, Irede was released from prison but he was not able to see Laide because she was with the men. When Irede heard that the man was a Prince – an heir, since his uncle, the king of Iyere had no child – he was scared that he would lose Laide to him.
Laide was confused as to which to choose, her parents or Irede? Prince Lafe had promised to find her parents and bring them back to Yayegbe if she would marry him and let go of Irede. Irede stood away, head bowed; he knew he had no chance. Why would she choose him over her parents? If he had similar opportunity, would he choose her over his parents?
"How sure am I that my father is not dead?" Laide asked.
"He is not. His dead body was not found. It simply means that he had gone into exile."
Laide spared Irede a glance before sighing, "I want my parents back but I don't want to lose Irede either. I..."
"Forget about me, Laide; maybe we aren't just destined to be together. He would give you all the comfort you need, and your parents being alive is enough joy for us. I can remain your brother. Who knows what my own luck would be too?" Irede said.
Laide could see beyond Irede's pretense; she knew Irede did not want her to go. He was just speaking to make her decide.
"You see he's ready to let you go. Laide, I'm ready to make you live with me forever in this palace with your parents. Just accept me," the prince said.
"I'm sorry. I have to think over this. Did my parents even think of me before leaving me behind? Isn't Irede's sacrifice great enough? I have to think well please," Laide said.
"No problem Laide, but I'm leaving in the morrow. And I want you to know that no lover can love you over your parents. If your father and mother had the opportunity of leaving with you, they would have, so don't blame them," the prince concluded.
Early the next morning, Irede and the two men that wanted to rape Laide were no where to be found. The prince was so angry. Laide did not understand what was happening. The king immediately asked his guards to go in search of the men.
"What happened?" Laide asked the prince.
"Those men had stolen all the money I brought for the king. This king is the my uncle-in-law and, this is how I bring money to him every year"
Laide felt bad. She had begged the prince to let the men go. Even though she was not the one who asked them to follow them on the journey, she knew she was at guilt.
"What do we do?" Laide asked.
"We just have to be sure that Irede does not support them in this."
"Never!" Laide shouted, "Irede will never cheat."
"I hope so."
Laide sneaked out of the palace to Oke Ajuwon, to see if she would find Irede there, but he was not there. Instead, she found a letter stuck in a hole in the rocks. It was his handwriting. He left a note behind, stating that he had gone for peace’ sake. He asked her to marry the sweet prince and stay with her parents. He also stated that he had plotted with the two men and had stolen a whooping sum of money, which could sustain him far away.
Laide fell in a heap to the ground and cried her eyes out. Her life was shattered, she thought.
When she showed the letter to the prince, he pitied her and calmed her down. He kept Irede's part a secret from everyone. He was however happy that Laide would be his.
The prince and his entourage could not leave that day as promised. He sent a message to Iyere concerning the theft, a letter he did not really send.
At dawn the next day, the king of Iyere himself arrived at Yayegbe. When the news reached the prince, he looked disturbed and Laide did not understand why.
King Gbade of Yayegbe and King Radeyo of Iyere greeted each other with warm regards. They sat together outside the palace. Laide did not understand why Prince Lafe had chosen to stay inside and not meet his uncle.
"I heard my nephew is here," the king said.
He heard? Wasn't he the one who sent for him?
"Yes, your majesty. He's been here since two days ago. He brought money for me from you but it was stolen. He said this is how you've been sending money to every land for peacekeeping."
Peacekeeping? Laide was now more bemudded.
"Don't mind him. He's here on his own mission. I did not send him anywhere," king Radeyo said.
Laide was shocked. Then what brought the prince here?
"And where is he?" King Radeyo asked.
"He's inside. No wonder he has refused to come out. The youths of nowadays can be so daring," king Gbade said.
"He is of course daring. Just call him out to meet his uncle," king Radeyo said.
The king sent his men to call the prince.
"Could he have been here for this damsel?" King Gbade asked.
The king of Iyere smiled as he looked at Laide.
"Sure, she's worth fighting over, but he was not here for her; he was here for something daring as you said," the king turned to one of his retinues, "bring out the men!"
The landau was opened and the two men were brought out together with Irede himself.
Laide was shocked. Fear gripped her. Irede had been caught? Tears circulated in her eyes.
"These are the men who stole the money. How did you find them?" king of Yayegbe asked.
Prince Lafe came out with his two accomplices and Yayegbe's guards.
"Let Lafe relate everything himself," the king of Iyere said.
"Father, I have nothing to relate," Prince Lafe said.
"You have to make a choice. Either you confess and be forgiven or be tortured to confess and sent to jail," king of Iyere said.
Others were stunned. How grievous could what he did be that he is being threatened with jail?
Prince Lafe slowly went on his knees, head bowed, "I'm so sorry my king, but no one in my shoe would act less. I'm just about to lose what I've always been longing for."
"I understand you my son, and that is why I'm giving you a chance to live freely. I know you have a good heart," king Radeyo said.
Prince Lafe was now shedding tears, "I came all the way from Iyere to look for the long lost prince."
Long lost prince?
"I heard that there's a man with the royal mark on him here. I rode here and met Laide on the way, and immediately my heart went out to her. I helped her and it was through her that I met Irede, the man with the royal mark."
"He's my cousin. He has the royal mark on his neck, just below his ear. I was not the one who noticed it, it was Yayi, one of my two men. We pretended as if nothing had happened, and I planned with them and the other two men to get rid of Irede before the light of yesterday. To make it easy, I made the king free him from prison, but instead of killing him, he escaped with the other two men. I should have known that they were planning against me but even if I had known, what would I have done? Perform more evil act?"
The king of Iyere said, "These men immediately sent a letter to my palace, having escaped with my only child, Irede, whom I had named Adejuyi from birth – he had been lost since five – but the priest had put my mind at rest that we shall find him one day, and this is the day."
Laide could not stop the tears from brimming. Irede too had tears in his eyes.
"I'm so sorry my king."
"How do you want me to trust you now, Lafe?"
"Trust me father."
"I have plans for you Lafe, but..."
Prince Lafe quickly held the king's legs, "Please, I'm so sorry."
He turned to Irede, "Please help me beg father."
Irede finally let the tears pour; he got to the king and embraced him warmly, "Father!"
"Please Irede," Prince Lafe begged.
"Forgive my cousin. If he hadn't been here, I could have died in prison. You might not have heard of me again," Irede pleaded.
"For your sake Juyi, I've forgiven him." The king said.
The prince stood up and Irede turned to him. They embraced tightly.
"Thank you!" Prince Lafe breathed.
After breaking the embrace, Prince Lafe went to Laide, got her hand and took her to Irede, then got their hands together. Irede dried his tears, cleaned the tears on Laide’s face too, and then embraced her.
"I love you, Olaide."
That was the first time he would be saying that to her, she was happy, "I love you too, Iremide."
They furnished those statements with a passionate kiss.
Laide left for Iyere with the royal family and guards.
Within a week, her parents showed up at Iyere palace. Laide was so happy. They were equally glad too. Irede was so pleased to see them again; they had been with him when he had no one.
Though prince Lafe was pardoned, his two accomplices were sent to jail, despite Irede's pleas. Irede became friends with the two men who tried to rape Laide.
Indeed, nobody really knows tomorrow...
Let's discuss this story in the comments below
This is indeed a nice story.
Wow great piece! Recommended.