IF WITCHES WERE HORSES … Episode 11&12 – Kolade Segun Okeowo


“Iya Derombi, you want to talk to me “? Morakinyo asked as the woman moved closer. Her skin shone even in the darkness of the twilight.

“Yes Sir, I want to inform you about something Sir”. She courtesied and knelt; her usual way of approaching Morakinyo.

“Please have your seat Mama Derombi…. I hope all is well? What is it?”

She rose from her kneeling position and sat on the bench opposite Morakinyo. Another bench stood between them.

She sighed heavily and spoke…

“Pastor … it’s concerning one of the women in the church. The wife of Lagunju the blacksmith who gave palm nut shells for the flooring of the church”

Morakinyo’s mind quickly raced back to the man Eebudola referred to. He remembered him; Lagunju, the blacksmith who brought the idea that palm-nut shells could be used to cover the floor of the church instead of leaving it bare. On his own he brought twenty bags of palm-nut shells for that purpose.

“I remember … hope all is well?”

“Ehn… the woman just delivered a baby last market day, now she is very sick. I visited her yesterday, her condition was critical. She was breathing at intervals… Pastor I don’t know what we can do about it” The woman threw her hands as if in despair, her face showing great concern.

“Ah! That’s simple! Let’s go together so that we can pray for her. I believe the Lord will heal her. How far is her place?” Morakinyo had started re-tightening his loosened sandals.

“Ha! No, pastor, you will not be allowed to see her. It is the custom here that a woman who has just put to bed must not see any other man except her husband until the day of the naming ceremony”

“Oh, I see” Morakinyo said realising the futility of what he had just said. His training as a missionary has taught him to respect the culture and customs of host communities as long as they‘re not against the word of God.

“Em… but pastor, why don’t you allow her to come and join you here, so that she can help you in situations like this?” She asked.

“Who?” Morakinyo was not sure of what she meant.

“Your… em, I mean your wife” Eebudola said blushing.

“Oh… I see. Not really, I don’t have a wife yet. I ‘m looking unto God for one” The words came out coldly hitting Eebudola hard. She was sorry for asking. She quickly knelt to express apology.

“Oh… Mama Derombi, there’s no need for that… please rise up” She rose. “We can also pray for the sister here and God will heal her right there in the house”.

Soon the two of them knelt and prayed for the woman. After the prayers, they exchanged pleasantries and the woman departed leaving Morakinyo alone in the church. The thoughts of his discussion with the woman soon led Morakinyo into a monologue.

“If indeed I have a wife, this work would become easier for me… I believe I’ve had enough patience for Sister Gbayike… I’ve sent six letters now and she replied only one”

Indeed Morakinyo had written six letters since he arrived the village sending them through the Post Office in Sepeteri. Gbayike replied the last one. Her reply was neither here nor there. She acknowledged the receipt of all the five previous letters and complained that she had been too busy. She carefully avoided mentioning anything about the proposal but simply thanked him for writing and prayed that God will grant him success in his missionary assignment in the village.

Morakinyo read the letter again and again and wondered if Gbayike understood the contents of his letters at all. He had not minced words in the letters. He was straight to the point that he loved her and would want to hear her response, be it positive or negative soonest.

‘God, five months is enough to wait for any lady who is really interested, I’m not sure this one is interested’

He knelt down and began to pray.

“God I lift my eyes to you. How long will you ask me to wait, God, perform a miracle. Cause my paths to cross that of the woman you desire for me now! I want you to do a miracle now. Now is the acceptable time to do it”.

Greatone shook his head, he wiped his tear-stained eyes with the tip of his shoulder. Morakinyo continued the prayers, completely unaware of the events going on around him. Greatone sighed.

Every Saturday, Oba Folagbade enjoyed a session of private Bible study with the Pastor. Morakinyo suggested it and the King was happy to welcome the idea. For a few months after the arrival of Morakinyo in the village, the private study continued uninterrupted until about fourth month when a battle started.

As usual Morakinyo was busy taking the King through the scriptures when it happened. He was explaining to the King the story of Solomon from 2Chronicles.

“You mean a single man married seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines?”

“Yes Your Highness… the story of Solomon teaches a great lesson especially to those in positions of authority. Pride moved Solomon to the extent of committing such terrible sins. God punished him in return”

The King nodded. He was no longer listening to the rest of Morakinyo’s explanation. The huge number of wives and concubines of Solomon kept intimidating him. He wondered how Solomon managed to keep and satisfy such a large harem.

“Your Highness…” Morakinyo stopped when he saw that the King’s mind had wandered away. The brief silence brought Folagbade back into awareness.

“Eh… sorry, I was trying to imagine how large a house with seven hundred wives would be”. Morakinyo smiled. He sincerely understood the shock of the King about the fact that Solomon had many wives. Folagbade had only one.

Morakinyo adjusted his cane chair, drew it closer to the King to read another portion from the scriptures to him. Just then, Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru; the Chief Priest stormed into the palace. For about four months, he had been away from the town. Some people said he went to receive more powers from an unknown destination. Others said a huge whirlwind came and carried him away into Elegbeje, the forest of a thousand and one demons.

Different information and rumours flew about in the village concerning his whereabouts. A few people believed he ran away from the village when reports came to him that the ‘wonder man’ was coming to start a church in Onigba-Iwofa. In the markets, women argued endlessly about the sudden disappearance of the priest.

A woman living close to his house said she saw him leave the house around midnight wearing a white agbada and moved towards the river where a huge crocodile was waiting to take him under the great River Oniwaraka. The story gained ground and spread quickly around the town, though no one believed it.

“Folagbade, the gods have seen your worth!” the Chief Priest roared violently as he stormed into the palace. He came back about three days earlier to hear strange reports from his children. The strange epidemic had stopped, a church had started and sacrifices have ceased!

“The sacrifices the gods asked from the villagers, you stopped it!” He roared again his voice gradually reaching a peak. Morakinyo shifted his position to the other side. “Who gave you the false assurance that you’re leaning on ….eh?”

Then the unexpected happened! Folagbade stood, walked two steps closer to the priest, his finger pointed near his nose “Who gave you also a false assurance… I ask you, Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru” Folagbade roared back. The suddenness of the challenge made Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru jump back unconsciously. He opened his eyes wildly, unable to believe what he had just seen. He had expected Folagbade to cringe with fear, begging and asking for forgiveness profusely.

“I said who gave you a false assurance?” Folagbade continued. “Ever since you have been collecting sacrifices from the people, of what benefit has it been to them except that you and your children have been growing fat”. It was getting too much for the priest. He strained his aging eyes to be sure he was seeing the right person

“I have nothing to do with your gods and goddesses. I got my assurance from Jesus” Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru cast a careful glance at Morakinyo and wondered if he was the one called Jesus. He thought to himself; “I’ll finish this one in minutes”

Folagbade continued his outburst “Olojongbodu saw Jesus and became powerless…Ogaranganjan became dead like vegetable at his sight” Morakinyo nodded in agreement. He was enjoying the scene. He was proud of the King. Initially, he had thought of standing in defence of Folagbade but now, it was glaring the Priest was in for a great show down.

“If there’s any attack you want to launch, go try it… the great calamity Jesus will cause you and your demons will be more than what the soap causes the eye.” Folagbade hissed aloud and returned to his throne-chair. Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru looked around in despair and mock-sympathy for the King.

“Folagbade!” his voice roared again “The little child in his folly abuses the Iroko and looks back to say… ‘did they not claim the Iroko can kill. The little child does not know that the Iroko strikes when least expected. …Ahhh, you a child have cursed the Iroko tree; now watch the Iroko devour you. You have defied the gods, go and bid the world farewell… today, you shall eat the dust as your fathers did! I swear by Orowusi Anikulapo; my father!” He shook his fist violently at Folagbade and turned around to leave; Morakinyo quickly rose and stopped him.

“Baba…I salute you Sir. I bring greetings to you from Ibadan. I want to appreciate your care and consistent love and care for the people of the land. His Highness has explained to me all the exploits you have done to assist in bringing the recent health challenges in this town to a halt. May you live long Baba. You see; His Highness is not angry with you, he can’t, he is your son. He simply wants you to understand that there is someone greater than all the gods and demons you’ve spoken about. They ‘re merely….”

The priest hissed loudly interrupting Morakinyo.

“You…!!! It is not your fault… I suppose you are the one Folagbade handed over the great shrine of the Olojongbodu to. Thank your stars that I was on a journey when you and Folagbade went on your demented rampage. The absence of the cat renders the rat an emergency landlord. Let me warn you!….three days are sufficient to pack your load and return to wherever you have come from… or else thunder will strike you!” He stormed towards the door. Morakinyo spoke quickly.

“That is not possible! The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof! The Lord sent me here and only Him alone can remove me from this village!”

Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru turned back and stared strangely at Morakinyo. “You shall hear from me very soon!” With that, he dashed out of the palace in a violent manner that betrays his age.

“Your Highness, Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru cannot do you any harm” Morakinyo started. He knew Folagbade needed assurances now. He had challenged the Chief Priest with the confidence Morakinyo had built into him using the word of God. The slightest expression of fear from Morakinyo would crash the entire confidence of the King.

Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru stormed into his house and made straight for his power room. He stopped, breathing heavily as he considered his encounter with the King. It had never happened before. None of the three Kings who had ruled before Folagbade; all of them his direct ancestors could look at Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru straight in the eyes, but Folagbade had done the impossible!

‘So what was the Queen of the Coast of the Katangua River doing when all these happened?’ He sat on a log in the power house thinking of what to do. Suddenly an idea struck him. He stood and approached one of his deadliest charms!

Darkness had fallen before Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru proceeded on his deadly mission. After a careful consideration, he decided to carry out the attack himself and not send any demon. He did not see what any demon could do if Olojongbodu and Oganranganjan; the greatest amongst them all have been humiliated by the gods of the Pastor! He resolved to kill Folagbade and afflict Morakinyo with paralysis. Once the King dies and the Pastor is paralysed, no one would teach the villagers where to return.

Soon, he was standing in front of Morakinyo’s house. ‘He stays in the last room there… by the time I get him paralysed, to attack Folagbade become easier’ He said to himself as he dips his hands into his bag and brings out a powdery substance. He raised his head to cast a spell. His countenance changed immediately as he saw Greatone, a long shining sword in his hand pointed to the ground.

“So who do you think you are?” Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru charged at Greatone “Who are you? A spirit or a demon? Stand clear out of my way or I will destroy you both”

Suddenly he launched forward towards Greatone who lifted the shining sword towards him. Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru stopped, a strange force withstood him, he could not move ahead anymore. Fear gripped him. He marched a few steps backward carefully surveying the astrange creature with some blinding rays of light shinning around him. “I guess this must be the demon they call Jesu” He told himself.

He turned around and headed towards Folagbade’s house. He was there in a twinkling of an eye, having used “egbe”, the speed-inducing charm. He walked gently towards the personal room of the King and chanted incantations.

“The dead does not argue with the living.
Termites dwell underground.
Underground is the abode of the dead,
May you from now on dwell underground like termites!”

He picked a charm and was to throw it on the wall when he saw Powerone who had stood there all the while. Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru looked menacingly at him and thought he was Greatone.

“You this white demon, what have I got to do with you… I will harm you this time around” Powerone did not say a word. His sword lay carefully on his side, his right hand already on the handle.

“Whether you like it or not, I cannot be stopped this time around” he made to throw the charm again. Powerone got angry and struck his sword, a distance from Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru. The priest landed heavily on the ground groaning in pain. He tried to stand and flee, but his legs would not cooperate…he’s been paralysed!

He crawled away towards his power house. He tried the distance-consuming charm, but nothing worked again. He had to endure the pain of having to crawl over stones, broken bottles and sharp stumps. By the time he got back home, wounds covered his legs.

“What double insult is this? Me…. Paralysed! I’m finished! Could this be the work of the Jesu… ah Jesu, you have done your worst!!! Ah I shall be back….The stealth of a leopard is not act of cowardice !!!”

He tried again to rise but falls again. His hands had also shrivelled completely. “It will be a big shame for me to go back and apologise to that boy…never, death is better than shame, I’d rather die!” He rolled himself carefully to another corner of the room where his dane gun hanged near the wall. ‘Rather than have the lion lord over the tiger, they had better hunt separately’

He reached for the gun and checked to be sure it’s loaded. Satisfied that’s its loaded, he drew it closer to himself with the nozzle of the gun fixed directly to his forehead. ‘Death is better than shame’

He adjusted his legs carefully, struggled to get of the big toes to the trigger. It was midnight. He sighed heavily and said to himself.

‘Only two things befit the brave… He won the battle… He died on the battle’

Gradually, the great toe found its way to the trigger and he pulled!


He reached for the gun and checked to be sure it’s loaded. Satisfied that’s its loaded, he drew it closer to himself with the nozzle of the gun fixed directly to his forehead.  ‘Death is better than shame’

He adjusted his legs carefully, struggled to get of the big toes to the trigger. It was midnight. He sighed heavily and said to himself.

‘Only two things befit the brave… He won the battle… He died on the battle’

Gradually, the great toe found its way to the trigger and he pulled!

It was a hard one; he missed the trigger as the toe veered off. He set the toe to the trigger balancing the gun to his forehead again. The toe hanged carefully to the trigger… then… he closed his eyes tightly and pulled the trigger!!!

The loud explosion woke the entire town!

The Queen of the Coast saw everything! He saw the blood, the mangled brain and the lifeless body of the priest. Her meeting with the Daughters of the River was under way. It was just a quarter after two. In the next forty-five minutes, the skull clock will beep off to signify the end of the meeting.

Her anger rose violently as the trigger put paid to the destiny of one of her strongest allies in the region above the sea level.

“This is nonsense!” She roared with rage. “You all goofed! What is this that you’ve done” Were you sleeping when that man started the deadly mission in the town? She roared violently again causing an angry storm to blow the river. All the agents bowed in worship.

“You have utterly disappointed me! What explanation do you expect me to give to the Lord Lucifer?… Princess Virginia!”

Princess Virginia rose silently from her kneeling position and walked towards the throne shaking with fear as she approached the Queen.

“Your Highness, it was not our fault” She started, still shivering, unsure if her defence would ever convince the Queen. She knew what punishment awaited her if she failed to convince the Queen; several rounds of rαpe and torture from the imposing male agents with long fingernails and sharp teeth which they use to bite their victims.

“We tried our best to stop the man from getting to the town. We attacked him but all failed. He has a stubborn nature, he refused all distractions” The rest of the marine agents in the Onigba-Iwofa mission rose and joined Virginia in front of the Queen bowing their heads as they approach the Queen, afraid to look at her eyes.

“Oganranganjan came to give us word that he could not harm him. He said two swords rolled around him while emissaries of the Greatest One stood beside him” said Sapientia who stepped forward next and spoke.

“We even set Olojongbodu the great demon to task concerning him but, no sooner than the man entered the shrine that the demon had to escape from the building”

The Queen still boiling with anger looked menacingly around. She cast a glance at the male agents behind him who were waiting eagerly for her to give the command that they may pounce on the female agents. She turned back at Virginia and her mates.

“But then, what kind of power is the man using? Have you investigated and found any strategy to bring him down?” None of the group spoke.

“Your Highness, may I speak?’’ Princess Hagatha rose from her kneeling position.

“Yes, speak Princess Hagatha”

“I was in the town last week on a stroll…. As I moved closer to the former shrine of Olojongbodu, I heard him praying…”  

Her report was brief and full of useful details. The Queen nodded. Hagatha’s suggestions were useful and worth making use of.

“Princess Hagatha, you shall proceed to the Onigba-Iwofa to commence work on the new plan”

“Mother! Have you forgotten, I am deeply involved in the campus operation and I have not finished. Am I to suspend that for the Onigba-Iwofa operation? “

“No! You shall handle the two together. A man with that spiritual level needs somebody like you. This is just one of the responsibilities that go with your promotion”

“It is well Mother; wherever a stone is sent, there it goes’’ She curtsied and returned to her position.

“You must start immediately. I give you six months to complete the operation. Sapientia will go with you. She will be your emissary back to me here in the palace’’

The Queen glanced at the skull clock, two minutes to three. She waited for another sixty seconds before she disappeared with her attendants. The skull clock moved gradually towards three. The seconds dragged away slowly as silence reigned everywhere. Soon it was three o’clock and all the Daughters of the River cleared off the meeting ground.

The village church conducts baptismal services every month. The number of converts was increasingly encouraging. During the last baptism at the River Oniwaraka, seventeen adults were baptised.

As Morakinyo returned home from yet another baptismal service at the river, he could not help singing praises to God. Fifty two adults were baptized in the latest exercise. His mission works in the village have really paid off. To say the least, he was enjoying the call. His needs were regularly met by the likes of Eebudola, Odesola’s wife, Oba Folagbade and a few others.

The church in Ibadan has been very supportive too. Thrice, the Senior Pastor had sent offerings from the Missionary Appeal Fund to him. He had been one of those who called for the creation of the Missionary Appeal Fund. He never knew the fund was ever going to serve his needs one day. Recently, he received a bank draft of ten thousand naira from a Christian body in the United States of America with an affiliate body in Lagos. He wondered how they knew about his activities in the village. He quickly dashed to Shaki, the nearest city where he cashed the bank draft.

With the money he had bought musical instruments for the church and bought a hundred bags of cements to plaster the walls of the new church. He dropped the rest at an electronics store where he had been making deposits for a big generating set. That same day he returned to the village with a Yamaha 900w generator for the church.

All these filled his heart as he sang rejoicing towards the parsonage. A few metres away he saw a visitor waiting for him at the door. The visitor, a woman must have waited for sometimes because she had already made herself comfortable on the pavement of the house.

He walked closer to the parsonage and saw the woman clearly. She definitely was not from Onigba-Iwofa or anywhere near; at least her dressing was not in any way like those in the Onigba-Iwofa. She appeared to be in her mid twenties. Morakinyo tried to remember if he had ever met her before, but could not place her in his memory. She rose as Morakinyo arrived the entrance.

“Good morning sir”  

“Good morning my sister’’ he responded.

“I came to see Pastor Morakinyo Olagunsoye’’  

‘She even knows my name’

“Pastor Morakinyo Olagunsoye? … I hope all is well sister’’ Morakinyo knew she must be a Christian. Her dressing and manners appears christianly. “Em… Why do you want to see him?’’

“The Lord sent me to him’’ said the lady.  “I came from Lagos’’ she added.

“From Lagos!’’ Morakinyo was amazed; Lagos was a lot of distance from Shaki,  let alone Sepeteri or Onigba-Iwofa. ‘Could she be from the Mission Agency that sent the bank draft’ He wondered.

“Please come inside, I am Pastor Olagunsoye, do come in and have your seat. You need to rest…’’ He led the lady into the sparsely furnished but neat sitting room. Morakinyo did not move all his things to the village. Only the basic necessities and a set of new cane chairs were moved into the parsonage.

“I’ll get you some water” He got a glass and served her water.

“Thank you Sir, God bless you”

“It’s a pleasure… by the way may I know your name?”

“Oyinkansola Oyero, but most of the brethren in our church call me Sis Oyin”

“I see… you have beautiful names. You are welcome to Onigba-Iwofa, God’s own village’’ She smiled.  “Thank you Sir…Concerning the message I have for you from the Lord…For about six months now, the Lord had given me a strong burden about a mission he wants me for in a remote part of Yorubaland. Truly, I first rejected totally, but when it became clear that it is the will of God, I made up my mind and prepared to moved ahead’’

Morakinyo adjusted his chair, he knew he must listen carefully to everything this lady had to say. He sensed there was something unique about her.

“God told me, he had sent someone ahead of me to the village, but there is still much work to do there. I got here today and was told you have been here for more than four months now. I believe this is the place God wants to use me’’

  “Wonderful… Sis. Oyinkansola, this is surprising. You came all way from Lagos to a village like this just for God… but what about your job?’’

“I resigned last week from my teaching job’’ I had to give it up for God’’ Morakinyo thought he was dreaming. This was too good to be true. Was God answering his prayers or….He tried to resist thinking along that line.

 “I see…’’ He said trying to hide the excitement building inside him. “But, how did you get to know that Onigba-Iwofa is the village where God wants to use you’’ For the first time, his curiosity sought deeper explanations for the decision of the sister.

That is a great miracle! I left Lagos very early in the morning today without knowing where I was going. I simply told God to direct my steps. I entered the vehicle going to Ilorin. When the vehicle got to Oyo, we heard reports that two tanker lorries collided along Ogbomoso-Ilorin road rendering it impassable’’

Morakinyo listened with rapt attention. “Our vehicle then decided to detour and pass through Shaki. A few kilometers after Shaki, the vehicle broke down, so we became stranded there. Just then the Holy Spirit ministered to me to start moving towards an untarred road opposite us. I did so, since I had told God to lead”

Morakinyo was all ears listening with rapt attention. 

She continued “Less than fifteen minutes after I started trekking, a lorry passed by me and called Onigba-Iwofa. I stopped the driver and simply followed the lorry down here!”

“Ha, that is a great testimony. The Lord orders the steps of his children, you know?’’ The testimony was worth sharing with the congregation, so Morakinyo sought more information “Sis. Oyinkansola, I must confess, I’ve never heard this type of testimony before. I believe it is not a coincidence but the plan of God. Certainly, it is the will of God for you to come to this village. I am equally convinced more than ever before. I hope your husband is somehow in support of this vision, how do you intend to cope…’’

“Ah no! Not really’’ She interrupted. “I am not married. I am still praying about it’’ Morakinyo felt something tickle inside him.

“What is happening Lord!’’ He smiled uneasily and quickly stole a glance at her. Their eyes met…she blushed and smiled innocently.

“I’ll like that you meet the King of this village. He has helped so much to ensure the success of my mission here’’ He said, to ease the tension.

“Can we go now? I hope to return to Lagos today and get my load down here’’

“Today! No way! This is already three o’ clock, it’s definately too late. Besides, the only vehicle that leaves this village moves by six in the morning. You have to wait till tomorrow. You will stay with one of our church members, Mama Derombi. She’s a caring woman. You’ll love her’’

“I see’’

“Let’s get to the King so that you can have enough time to rest… If you travel tomorrow, when do you hope to return?’’ Morakinyo was already making calculations.

“If possible, I want to return tomorrow. I really don’t want to give way to any distraction no matter how small’’

“That is a wise decision…however you’ll need to wait until after tomorrow, it’s not good to travel late around this paths…besides, vehicles move only on schedule. It’s a miracle that you got here from Lagos at this time…On my maiden visit from Ibadan; I got here around 11pm”

“Jesus” She screamed!!!

Morakinyo led the way as they go to Folagbade’s palace.

The news of Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru’s death met with wild jubilations in the village. His children tried as much as possible to hide the news of his death, but the whole village heard the early morning gun shot. The neighbours knew where it came from and became extra vigilant as soon as it was morning. Before noon, the whole village had heard the news.

At first, women talked about it in low tones whispering to one another. No one was sure if it was real. Some said he had only pretended to be dead in order to identify his real enemies and later deal with them. Others said he would rise before sunset.

By late afernoon, the town crier had arrived the market square and broke the news. Folagbade ordered the news to be broken immediately contrary to tradition. Normally, the death of a Chief Priest is not announced until after three days. Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru’s death was different, it was a big relief that he passed away.

As soon as the town crier broke the news, the market women broke into loud jubilations. Some women carried leaves and sang victory songs to the palace congratulating Folagbade over the death of his arch-enemy. Another group of women danced towards the parsonage to rejoice with Morakinyo. They met him and his visitor, Oyinkansola as they left the parsonage on their way to the palace. They sang:

O ti se o, Baba ti se o            He has done it   

Ohun to n ba wa l’eru            Our greatest fear,

Baba ti se o  The Lord has done it.

They danced around Morakinyo almost forming a circle around him.

“E ke Halleluyah!” Said Morakinyo. The loud chorus of Halleluyah was deafening.

Morakinyo knew he had to do that to get their attention and let them know it is not right to be jubilant over an enemy’s death. He spoke for about ten minutes and convinced them to simply give praise to God and not jubilate. They listened to him. One after the other, the women dispersed dropping their leaves and emergency musical instruments.

“Why are they rejoicing?”  Oyinkansola asked

“The village Chief Priest died this morning. Only God knows what killed him. Though many people believed he committed suicide’’

“He must have been very wicked?’’

“Very wicked and notorious. He lived on sacrifices prescribed by him in the name of the gods!’’ They laughed and continued walking towards the palace.