Lekan still didn’t quite understand what was going on…
He got the feeling he’d been duped, and that ticked him off, but he wasn’t sure how or when or why he’d been duped.
Especially the why.
He was a nice guy looking for some thrills, just trying to live life with a little danger thrown in. He hadn’t hurt anyone. He had just gone on a fast boat with goods that may or may not have been illegal with men that may or may not have been smugglers.
He was a good guy though.
Which was the real reason for the puzzled frown as he studied the king even though he was fairly sure he was supposed to be looking at his feet, blinking every time the gavel hit.
He thought the gavel was really a tad overdone.
The charges bounced through the room then through his head, mixing together in a muddle he couldn’t comprehend.
Conspiracy against the crown. Bang
A really complicated term for dodging taxes. Bang.
Trading without a license. Bang.
(Really, the gavel was a little too dramatic and obvious. They probably meant for it to be a hammer pounding nails in his coffin. Complete silliness.)
Minor treason. Bang.
All of this was rather blown up. He hadn’t even seen the goods or even looked for the smugglers. They had found him.
Maybe that should have been a hint to the trouble that had ensued.
Glancing at his uncle and mother, he tried to gage what they thought of the entire ordeal. Uncle was stone faced as he stared at the king. One fist clenched and unclenched slowly while the hand gently resting on Mother’s shoulder didn’t twitch. Lekan wondered if he was angry at the king or at him. Probably the latter, but there was always hope. He watched Uncle lean towards a stranger and whisper though his face gave away nothing of the matter.
He could only look at his mother for a short time. She looked composed, hair and makeup done as if she would be going shopping afterward with some friends, but her hands were clenched in front of her and shook. Her eyes darted the way they did when she got nervous, and they were red. Though she hadn’t cried at court, it was obvious she had spent the last three days upset.
He returned his gaze to the king who was talking fervently with an amazonian woman who sat behind him but just barely.
He had no doubts that everything would work out. He was a good guy, and he hadn’t really done anything wrong, a little stupid, but not wrong. He just couldn’t see how everything was going to work out yet.
He bent knees that had gone stiff during the trial and pulled at his tie, loosening it ever so slightly. Catching the fierce look of his uncle and the subtle shake of his head, Lekan stilled, resigning himself to a few more moments of awkward stiffness.
His eyes flickered about the room. They settled on the floor then flicked to the pulpit and the barrel chest of King Rufulo.
He wore ceremonial robes that disguised some of the brute strength he was known for. Black skin held a contrast to the bale blue cloth symbolizing justice and truth. His white teeth flashed into sight as he murmured to the queen who had started a risqué fad.
Lekan liked the style personally, despite what the older aristocrats said.
She wore a gold ring through her right nostril, and sheer cloth of orange and blues that wasn’t quite thick enough to hide the skin underneath. Her blonde wig, obviously fake, was decorated with a bright headband, and her face was unpainted, but she was beautiful without it. Lekan wasn’t the only man who lusted after the queen despite her age. She seemed unaware or uncaring of how her clothing fell as she whispered urgently in her husband’s ear.
The whispering made him nervous, so he studied the phonograph which was nicer than any of the ones he had seen. On a normal day, it would be playing. As it was, nothing could mask the murmurs of the court.
He rolled his shoulders and looked up as Rofulo pounded his gavel.
“We would have given him a life sentence, being generous.”
Lekan’s throat constricted as his mother cried out. His eyes flicked in that direction even though he knew he didn’t want to see. His uncle sheltered her as best he could, removing his jacket to cover her as he embraced her, glaring stonily at the king. The man he had been whispering to earlier leaned forward to speak in his ear again.
Lekan felt sick. He needed to sit down, but he couldn’t. He had to be still. He looked over at his uncle to see if he was watching.
His mother was keeping his attention in her need for consolation.
He decided he would be safe to sit for a few minutes. When his mother was upset, she took a long time to calm herself.
A gasp went up when he sat, but he heard it through the padding of what must have been his pulse but sounded like the ocean. He couldn’t remember when he’d last gone to the ocean. The real one that crashed over cliffs, not the tame channel speed had made exciting for a few moments. He should really find lasting excitement. He pondered the depth of these thoughts and decided he was rather impressed with himself.
“Let’s stand up. You’ve clearly made your point now.”
Lekan looked up.
Now he was being dragged up by his arm. “Will I at least be able to say goodbye to my mom, or will she be able to visit?”
“I will never understand why fools like you get all the luck.”
He studied his uncle calmly, blinking slowly as his mind worked through this conundrum.
“Maybe this isn’t luck. You’re really not prepared to go overseas.”
This new wrench thrown into the slow turning gears that compromised his thoughts, everything came to a grinding halt. “...Uncle Obi?”
The look of disbelief was a familiar one. “Do you ever find it wise to pay attention?”
This question answered none. “What are you talking about?” Surely, now wasn’t the time for a lecture.
Obi glanced up as if asking for help. “You’re going to get beheaded. I don’t know who is going to do it or why. I have the sneaking suspicion it’s going to be me wielding the axe.”
“No one beheads anymore.”
“I’m sorry, but electrocution just isn’t as powerful as beheading is. It doesn’t strike the same fear into the hearts of would be criminals.”
Lekan was still feeling as though he was behind. “Maybe you should ask those being electrocuted.”
His uncle snorted. “Maybe there’s some hope for you yet.” He pushed Lekan forward. “Let’s go home.”
Obi glanced at him, and Lekan was more terrified to see a slightly pitying look than he had been to see any of the thunderous ones he’d received in the past six months. “I suppose hearing your life end before it’s really had time to begin is a good excuse for not paying attention. I’ll catch you up on the ride to your manor.”
He stumbled after his uncle. “Wait, what-“
“You’re really going to question this?”
For one of the first times Lekan could remember, he decided his uncle had a point.