The Queen is the most powerful of the chess pieces. She combines both the movements of the bishop and the rook: she can move across any straight line or diagonal on the board.
The queen is materially equal to nine pawns, but she is vulnerable if she acts alone against coordinated enemy pieces.
The king is the most important piece on the chess board. The game is lost when, no matter how many pieces are on the board, the king is under attack and cannot escape, a situation referred to as checkmate. The game ends in a draw if the king is not under attack but no moves can be legally made by one side.
The king takes only one step at a time in any direction and because of this weakness he has to be protected by the other pieces. The king has no material value. More correctly, the value of the king exceeds the value of all the other pieces on the board put together.
Ikenna toyed with the ivory chess pieces of the exotic chess set in his inner chambers. He did this anytime he wanted to settle his thoughts. It was like a learned response. Anytime his mentor taught him the ways of a king, he did it over the chess board. The words of his mentor – or was it his voice brimming with unshakable quiet confidence? – always seemed to soothe him no matter the turmoil he was in.
“The king does not run, even under the rain, except in battle. He must never raise his hands above his head for that is a sign of surrender. He must be the image of supreme confidence for his people.”
Ikenna was the peace child, kidnapped from his home as a boy and raised by the enemy clan as a hostage against further attacks from his father. The tradition was that he be given back to his village when he became of age, if he chose to go. Looking back, it seemed cruel to uproot him from his family and people, but as he grew, he came to understand the circumstances he was in and how his heartache was a trifle compared to thousands of mothers losing their children forever. At least, he could look forward to being reunited with his people and learning their ways afresh someday.
“The king must be visible to his people but distant from them. He must stand on the same rocking log as they do, but never on the same side. He will come out on various occasions to remind his people of why they exist, because human memory is fickle. When they see him however, they must not be able to touch or approach him. They will see him as the epitome of all ambition they may aspire to.”
He had not been given much opportunity to miss his former people. He had been accepted and cared for here like a son of the king. Every need of his was met and the perfunctory respects paid him by the dwellers of Isiso. Recently that had begun to change. His foster father, the ailing king was about to be gathered to his ancestors. The people no longer had to pretend to believe his moral ideals of showing love to the enemy.
“The king must recognize what is important and vital to the survival of his people. He will use this knowledge to position himself as the guardian of those values and resources, making himself indispensable to his people. This way, he will not have to fight for power. The people will fight for power and then hand it over to him.”
Ikenna’s situation was not helped by the fact that the king had no sons. A woman could not be king in Isiso. His adopted cousins were nowhere near royalty material either. Two of them were teen drunks and the third had barely seen eight planting seasons. It also didn’t help that the first daughter of the sick king was in love with Ikenna. If he asked for her hand in marriage, the king could not legally refuse. And if he chose to return to his people with her it would be the perfect revenge for his abduction many years ago. If he chose to stay, well, he could be crowned king, an even greater blow to the people of Isiso. He could not take any harmless decision whichever way he turned.
“The king’s intentions must never be revealed until it is too late to stop them. Only a king can fully understand the depths of a king’s mind.”
Recently Ikenna had begun to piece things together. The sessions with his mentor, the real title of the book he read from every time he came visiting, the recent agitation of the people every morning on the market days, the frantic reminder messages from his soon to be reunited family – it was all coming together in his mind. His foster father had foreseen this possibility and steered the whole situation towards the choice Ikenna was about to make. It was so subtle and brilliant that even after you saw you were being manipulated, you felt flattered that so much effort had been made to keep you from realizing what was going on. It was almost a testimonial to how intelligent you were perceived by the person trying to play you.
The fact that he understood this even pointed to the fact that he was to be king. He understood the mind of his royal foster father. Even the right hand of the king, his mentor Izibor, had not ever hinted that this was why he had been instructed to read the book of the kings to Ikenna during his weekly visits.
That very instant, the old influential man stepped into the tent. Izibor had come to escort him to address the joint gathering of the people of Isiso and the emissaries from his biological clan now waiting in the royal courtyard. As he followed quietly behind the stooped sage, he remembered the last instruction from the book of the kings:
“The king must either tell the people what they want to hear the most or what they fear to hear the most. In the rare case where the two cases coincide in his announcement, the king will be established in the eyes of the people as a god incarnate.”
Climbing up the wooden platform in the kings courtyard, Ikenna squared his shoulders and set them back. He lifted his chin, looked over the heads of the gathered crowd from one end of the square to the next and back to the centre, and assumed the tone of a king.
The believer replied, “Every promise of God proves true;
he protects everyone who runs to him for help.
(Prov. 30 vs. 5, The Message)