Part Three: Status
“Two years to remove one pesky weed!” The king growls. He slumps in his throne with a momentary expression of relief. Since reporting news of the plant, our soldiers immediately searched through each quadrant of our territory, though its seeds had already spread invasively rooting itself near Gu sh’wah bushes. Warnings were sent to neighboring tribes, though the G’yote spat on us over our concern for a delicate flower.
Opar crosses his arms. “How can farm boy send out a warning and for two years we’re the ones weeding? Oh King if I may ask, why not have sent the harvesters to venture though the jungle since they seem oh so familiar with foreign vegetation.”
“The more who know of their capabilities…” my words stammer out by the intimidation of my superiors. “It is best to keep the mortality rate low amongst our tribe.
“It’s an easy murder—one even an irate wife could take advantage of.” Fakusha’s eldest brother jests with a curl of his lip, addressing his comrade’s crumbling marriage in a playful manner.
“It does not explain his knowledge over vegetation foreign to us.”
“I know tribesmen from faraway places…” again my words fumble out.
“Speak up!” The king hollers, slamming his fist on the throne’s arm.
“My mother has had visitors over the years.” I intentionally leave the comment vague in hopes to cut off his hopes of further interrogation.
“Ridwiqu’Mar’s mother has slept with spies.” Opar hisses. “Another reason of the many to distrust him.” My gaze drifts to my toes.
The king raises his hand, silence fills the room. “What is important, is this weed has been eradicated before Fakusha’s betrothed has stepped foot on our territory.” A Yoluku ship arrived not long ago. “Have the women decorate our village, the tenting ceremony shall commence tomorrow at dusk.”
A nimble messenger in cobalt blues rushes into the throne room with a small ornate basket in his arms, interrupting our private meeting. Wide eyes glare at him. He falls to his knees holding the basket over his head towards King Torajamaku and his wife.
Opar peeks into the basket then hands it to the king.
“Our prince wishes to maintain favor with the Aykotah, however—”
“However?” Torajamaku stands.
“Let him finish, dear.” The queen hushes reaching for his hand. The king returns to his throne. “Please continue.”
The messenger swallows, inhales a deep breath then nods. “The prince you wish to marry Lady Fakusha revokes your offer as he is now to be wed to Borreka Gush’yanda of the G’yote tribe.”
“Huan Ni’guaro’s sister? He rejected his opportunity to lead our tribe as king to marry a G’yote? Why?”
“It seems she has offered a larger dowry.” Spears tap his spine. His voice now quavering, “Please, I am only the messenger.” I withhold my smirk, thankful I gave the G’yote shaman the suggestion. That will give Fakusha and me a minimum of three full moons to prevent her next betrothal.
The king stares down into his lap to inspect the gift. “Candles and candied fish?” His brow perks, insulted. “He wishes to subdue my wrath with a small bottle of wine?”
“The finest our island has to offer.” The Yoluku messenger adds watching Opar’s scowl increase.
“Offer this!” Our king chucks the candle against the wall, cracking it through the center without it splitting. “Your people will not be granted access to my daughter’s wedding when the time arises. Leave.”
The messenger nods then scurries out. Our king motions for the soldier next to me to confirm he returns to the boat promptly.
Opar picks the candle off the floor and returns it to the gift basket. Rubbing the deep grooves in his forehead, the king lets out a melodramatic sigh. “Opar gather your troop. You leave tomorrow to alert the other princes.” He notions me to his presence. I bow, though he holds the basket out to me.
“Alert Fakusha of this delay, will you?”
“Yes oh king.”
“And scold her on any enthusiasm the news may bring her.”
“Scold her, oh king?”
“Use your friendly charisma before she plots how to dismiss the next prince I choose.”
The waves thrash onto the shore along the beach residing next to the fiery mountains. “Were you sent to distract me as the tribeswomen decorate the village?” Fakusha overlooks the azure waters. “I find it doubtful Father would spare you the day for us to trek here. It still boggles my mind you work for him.”
I smirk. “Everyone works for the king.”
“You know what I meant, silly.” She punches my arm while straddled over a driftwood log. I sit on the ground below, watching wave after wave crash into the sand then retreat.
“You will not meet your betrothed tomorrow. He gave you this in hopes to compensate for the heartache. It seems he has fallen for another maiden, one far more lady-like than a feisty princess who deems it appropriate to beat her guards.”
She rolls her eyes, lashes fluttering to the falling sun. “Can we open the basket now?” I snigger handing it over.
“Oooh! Is this for me? Cheers good friend.” She holds the bottle high. “To not marrying strangers!” She pops open the bottle and chugs.
“Whoa!” I spin to rip the bottle from her grip. “Your father would be furious if I let you drink this all to yourself.” I take a swig of the nutty brew. She nabs the bottle back so I snatch a handful of the candied fish, finding the flavor overly appealing.
Pausing from the bottle, she nibbles at the fish then spits it out.
“I thought you liked candied fish.”
“This is Yoluku candied fish.”
“It’s a delicacy nobles eat to provoke a mood.” She chugs more wine. I swear, that woman drinks like her brothers. “How do you not know this?”
“Still… your mom’s as educated as our witch doctor on these matters. Was this prince from the Yoluku tribe?”
“You know I am not permitted to admit anything on who you will or no longer will marry.”
Fakusha slides off the log to offer me the bottle. She lays her head on my lap to stare up into the early stars. “It’s a strange present nonetheless.” Holding up the candle she tinkers with the broken seam.
Watching her, my lips rest on the smooth glass edge of the bottle. “Don’t. I need to fix it.”
“It’s wax, you can mend it just as easily if I…” The candle snaps in half. She holds her nose to it enjoying its fragrance. She lifts it to me for a sniff. Pleasant, sure. We swap bottle for candle when I notice the stiff wick.
I smell the candle again, the scent familiar. Fakusha holds her palm for my dagger. I hand it over without a second thought, studying the candle further. She breaks off a dry twig from the driftwood.
“I’ve only seen these in flowers yellow and orange.” She removes a flint stone from her travel pouch to light the useable half of the candle. My eyes widen to the burning stem pinched between her finger tips. I catch her wrist and blow it out.
We’re nose to nose when footsteps shift the sand above us.
My gaze travels beyond her loose braids to the fully armored soldier confidently striding towards us with a wicked glint to his stoic face. A thick coil of rope hangs off his broad shoulder. From day one he’s been scheming to remove me and here’s his chance wafting in front of him like roasted boar meat on a golden platter.
“Greetings Opaaar. Wish to join usss?” she offers holding her near empty bottle up high.
His lips twitch upward.
“Aren’t you supposed to be gathering your troop for tomorrow’s sailing?” I ask.
Opar flicks the dirt from his nails. “We’re packed and ready.”
“Don’t you have a wife?” I hiss. Spending many hours by the king’s side rather than hers, then to head off for a long journey, he should cherish what short moments are offered. “What are you doing here?”
He plants himself on the log above us. I sit back, though Fakusha unaware of the tension lifts the basket to him offering the final scrap of candied fish. His feet dangle between us, like an unwanted chaperone he spaces us apart. “My apologies, did I spoil the mood?”
Fakusha guffaws. “You’d assume so, but Ridwiqu’Mar likes his head on his body.”
“I do.” Ripping the bottle from her hand, I offer the remaining drips in hopes it would help him unwind. “Wine?”
He shakes his head. “My father said he saw you two running off to the bushes up to no good, and well… he was correct.” His glare drops to Fakusha whose gaze can barely focus on the braids she’s fiddling with. “Strong wine, it seems.”
I gulp. “Unfortunately so.” Scratching my scalp I offer, “There’s nothing I could do that could delay this report, is there?”
Opar hops off the log and motions me to the open sandy expanse. “What’s that game you two used to play? King-Guard?”
“King and Protector.”
“Hmm. Yes. She would shout commands from the tree tops and you would hit the bushes with your measly little stick.” He tosses me the rope.
“You wish to play King and Protector with us? We’re um… seems inappropriate given our age.” The imaginative game is meant for young children. Normally there would be two sides. One person would be the king who is held hostage, the rest or in our case, just me would be the loyal army. The two sides would fight until the king is saved or has escaped on their own. Fakusha and I would just pretend we had opposition, or half way in I’d pretend I defeated the hoards and was able to finally rescue her.
Fakusha slaps my back. “Oh Ridwiqu’Mar, it will be fun. Tie me up! Tie me up!” I do so cautiously. “Oh come on. You can make it tighter. Don’t go easy on me.”
Opar unsheathes his sword. “Your game seemed redundant without a formidable enemy. The king is impressed by your swordsmanship. I am not, you are schmoozing him to increase your ranks while seducing his daughter behind his back.”
I join Opar in the expanse, balancing the pommel in the palm of my hand. Violent waves wash out the jungle sounds. “Why can’t you appreciate my skill?” Why can’t he assess me in public? Throwing my sword in the air, I catch it by the hilt. He charges with a powerful two handed swing.
“You shouldn’t be a soldier.” My weapon is jostled from the forceful impact. Push and pull, metal scrapes metal. Skill aside, owning a dull overworked weapon holds a heavy disadvantage. A few more weighty impacts and the handle could split apart. “You’re a harvester’s son. That’s who you are. This life was never meant for you. Lady Fakusha shouldn’t know your name. You’re born from infidelity. Go back to the fields, farm boy.”
I boot him a step back, though like Fakusha his stance is firm. Glimpses of steel breeze by my limbs. Soft clinks of my weapon dodge most the strikes. Experience and talent aside, I refuse to lose in Fakusha’s presence.
“Are you jealous I’ve caught the king’s attention?” I pivot, deflecting a stab forcing his blade’s direction to the sky. I must be careful; he could slam his meaty head into mine if I leave myself exposed for an extended moment. “Or is this because you’re second, and you’ll always be second. There is no promotion for you. There never will be. Even if the king died, you will never rule. Joroar, your father perhaps but…”
A pungent scent chokes out my breath—Poison.
He kicks me to the ground. I roll in the sand dodging his painted blade. Recognizing the coating in the moonlight, the malodorous sap is deadly.
My jaw drops, my glance to Fakusha is brief. Clutching sand in my free hand, I bare my teeth, and charge him for a lethal strike.
Even if the king dies, as long as the queen lives, whomever Fakusha marries remains eligible for the Aykotah throne. Technically, the queen could remarry and have more daughters, but if her only daughter were to die...
Opar came to confirm her mortality. How easy it would be for him to murder her, then sail off at dawn.
“Wow! Great acting! This is fun.” Fakusha cheers, very drunk. She doesn’t even try to untie her own ropes.
“The late king Xund’Mar was my uncle. Tribes feared us under his rule. The Miroregos throw their riches to the wind and our village suffers.”
“The village was in ruin upon Torajamaku’s arrival. His charity has lifted our spirits. Your uncle was a tyrant!” I growl, releasing the sand into his face. He picks at his eyes, while wavering his weapon with half the control. How dare he attack her? She is our tribe’s only hope to prosper.
A faulty swing on his part provides me the opportunity to disarm him. The sword flings towards the sea as I strike him to the ground.
How dare he attack my…
With my sword at his throat, I motion Fakusha to me. She wobbles and hops—trips, laughs, then scoots close enough for me to untie the rope while keeping the threat at bay. “Since our king is gracious enough to allow a harvester’s son such as myself to fight for him, perhaps he will show mercy to your betrayal.”
“He may favor you over his sons, but I am his personal guard.” The gift was presented to the king.
Repulsed, I shake my head tying him with the ropes, creating a tight leash to drag him back home. “One who paid a messenger for false report?”
Unfortunately I focus most my attention to assisting Fakusha through the rough jungle trail. She trips over few roots, complains about being sore, to then sing offensively loud. Our hostage is not threatened in the least, mocking us—primarily me the whole journey back to the village.
“Heavy speculations considering the Yoluku prince did send their rejection.”
“Perhaps.” However, they would not bother with a gift at all would they? The candle, wine and fish, it would create a mood not for the king’s daughter but the king himself. The fumes would poison him and whoever he lit the candle for. Since he is a faithful man, the queen would fall too. “Though Keyla’s candle making skills are nearly as reputable as her…” I clear my throat. “She is popular among merchants.”
Opar ignores me.
“And your sister has been engaged to whom? For how many years?” I tug at the rope. “The Wek’Wek prince rejected the offer to become king of the Aykotah through Lady Fakusha, when he could have a more patsy consort. Why, Opar?”
“I am but a loyal son.”
“And a greedy fool.”
We approach the throne room at dawn. Fakusha drapes her arms over my shoulders, collapsing on my back.
The king raises a brow. “Opar?” Why aren’t you on the docks? Why is my daughter drunk? Why are you bundled in rope being dragged on a leash? With the bewildered look on his face, he shows uncertainty to where his interrogation should begin.
“I caught these two—”
“You caught nothing.” He turns to me, shifting his weight from one arm of his throne to the other. “Explain.” Opar opens his mouth. Torajamaku lifts his hand, “Ridwiqu’Mar, explain.”
“Joroar tries to overthrow you.”
The king’s brows rise. He motions me to continue.
“That white flower is common on the islands of the Wek’Wek, Wu’Wu Suoluangah, and Shi’queteih people. Joroar is second in line to the throne with his blood ties to the late king Xund’Mar. I noticed, I mean… the arrival of that weed corresponds to his daughter’s engagement to the Wek’Wek prince. They remain unmarried after three years of this announcement. His niece, an expert candle maker was the creator of yesterday’s gift containing none other than…”
“Yes, oh king. Her little brother insisted on giving Fakusha bouquet after bouquet. At first his infatuation seemed innocent, though he always seemed to pick the wrong blossoms. Opar here, challenged me to a duel and well, you are aware of the result. However, he carried this rope and his blade was poisoned.”
“Indeed, oh king.”
“And my daughter’s state?”
“Uh… yes. The wine was safe for consumption. The Yoluku fish too… the present given to you and your wife.”
He scowls following my insinuation. “Not the worst assassination attempt, I suppose.” Opar’s eyes drift to the floor boards, accepting his fate. The king glances to the wall in the direction of the bedroom chambers. “It is a good day to be alive.”
I nod in agreement.
The king grins, his attention tilts to Fakusha. Her eyes fight to remain open. “Take her to her mat, will you, Ridwiqu’Mar?” I nod following command. “With haste, you’re needed at the dock.”
I toss the rope end to Torajamaku. My eyes widen comprehending his unspoken praise. Opar’s position is mine. I’m… I’m the king’s guard?
Bound yet silent, Opar grimaces.
The king scratches his beard, shifting his gaze between us two, “I can’t have second best by my side, now can I?” He stomps on the rope as I piggyback his daughter to her chamber.
Softly I place her down. She grips my armor as I pry her stiff fingers free, her lips brush my cheekbone. I blink, somehow stunned more by her action than her Father’s words. Fakusha may never remember this moment, but I’ll cherish it forever. My body floods with heat, returning promptly to serve the king.
Thanks for reading Ridwiqu'Mar's story. You will be able to find him and the character's mentioned in The Aykotah Daughter.
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