The Fall of Qasala: Part Four
The sun glinted on steel as the yellow Shoyru stepped up
and clanged on his shield with a spear, creating a deafening sound. I crouched
beneath the walltops, hiding myself until King Razul came to give me my orders.
From my position I could just see the army. As I made a rough estimate of their
number, I sucked in a breath sharply. There were thousands of them, possibly ten
thousand, all of them looking strong, brave and impressive as the sunlight glinted
off their armour and weapons.
"Vinifae! Are you ready?" I whirled around,
startled, and looked into the eyes of my king.
"Yes, my lord."
"Then let it begin." In a dignified, graceful
movement, Razul stood up until he was visible to the Sakhmetians. They all seemed
to jump a little in surprise as they saw the majestic figure of the King. The
Shoyru, however, regained his composure quickly and he began to speak to our
"I presume you would be the ruler of this city?"
"I am," Razul replied quietly, confidence and
pride showing in his voice.
"Then it would be my duty, as Commander of the
Sakhmetian Army and loyal servant to Princess Amira, to inform you that you
and your city have been requested to appear at the Sakhmet Palace to pledge
allegiance to the Princess. If for whatever reason you refuse, then I am obliged
to tear down your city, stone by stone, until you have become one of Amira's
followers. Do you understand?"
"I do. And you may send my reply back to your
Princess now. Qasala will only ever belong to the King or Queen of the city,
and will never bow down to Sakhmet. You can try to destroy it, but be warned:
we will fight back with equal, if not more savage, force."
The Shoyru shrugged. "I guess I have no choice."
He drew his sword that hung at his side. From my position I could see that the
blade was of a very good quality, the steel shining in the sunlight. "By the
sword I bear in honour of Sakhmet and its Princess, I swear that I will defeat
your city or die trying!" He looked as if he was ready to spring forward at
that very moment. But the look in his eyes faded as Razul spoke again.
"Then you will die, Shoyru, for we have more
than the might of steel behind us!" Razul nodded to me and I, without revealing
myself, began to focus. In one mighty, powerful movement, he raised both paws
and added his magic to my own. A great column of fire rose from the sand before
the Shoyru. As he yelped in shock and jumped back, the fire slowly transformed
This was hard magic - we had created a gigantic
illusion instead of calling up the elements to conserve strength, but still
it was too big for one magician to maintain. As the water spout turned into
a large tornado, I asked some other bits of air to create a wind that would
make it seem as if the tornado was real. But I was tiring. By the time the tornado
had disappeared, a column of stone set in its place, I could hardly breathe.
But I had done my work. Amira's followers watched with disbelief as the entire
stone column simply disappeared. I sank down, trying to breathe, as Razul smiled
at the Shoyru.
"You have my answer, Commander."
With that, he crouched behind the walltops where
he could not be seen and led me gently down to the castle.
Amira looked up from the farming reports she
had been reading at the sound of paws pounding on her door.
"Come in!" she called in a loud, clear voice.
At her invitation a puffy red Yurble came running into the room.
"Princess, Commander Atro has sent messengers.
They say that the Commander has found a city in the desert, but they face an
army of evil sorcerers who refuse to pay allegiance to you. The Commander has
sent for reinforcements. He says that he needs at least a few thousand pets
who can wield a weapon properly."
"Really, now?" Amira asked, sounding calm but
actually quite angry. Atro should know that when he left on his heroic little
'quest' he had taken almost all of the soldiers who served her. Reinforcements?
There were barely enough able pets to guard her as it was, especially with talk
of the Desert Scarabs and their scruffy little bunch getting bolder by the minute,
moving up from just plain thievery to bigger things, like threatening a few
well known Sakhmetian nobles at knife point. How long before they moved up the
ladder a little more and starting trying to assassinate the Princess herself?
"Thank you, you have my permission to leave now."
The Yurble bowed before turning and scurrying
out of the door. Amira pondered the situation. She hadn't really thought that
there would be any cities out there in the middle of nowhere - the Army's journey
had only been ordered so that she could make her rule more official. But now
they had found a city, a strong one with the power of magic behind them. And
they could not back away from battle, or Amira would lose face. But Atro had
said that he needed reinforcements if the battle was to be won. So reinforcements
she would have to give him
But where to find so many soldiers? It wasn't
as if she could simply pluck out the commoners - she was willing to bet that
none of them had ever even seen a blade in their lives. And the Sakhmetian nobles
themselves had no proper defence against even the scruffiest of street rats...
Amira smiled, a smile that most of her servants
knew as the one she got when an especially good plan had come to her. Suddenly,
she knew exactly how she could get the troops Atro needed, and rid the city
of a rat problem at the same time.
"You're right," I said, handing back the spyglass
to King Razul. "They're not doing anything at all. They're just... sitting there."
It was a normal sunny, hot afternoon. I had
mostly slept in the morning, trying to regain my energy. After getting up for
lunch, I had found Razul striding over the watchtowers. He had said that there
had been no word from the walltop sentries at all, and so he was going to check
if there was anything wrong. Without anything better to do now that my magical
strength was still replenishing itself, I had gone with him, just in case.
On reaching the walltops, we had found the sentries
looking bemusedly at the place where the enemy had set up camp. They told us
that the Sakhmetians had not been doing anything worth reporting. And they were
"They look as if they're waiting for something,"
Razul said, his features creased in a frown. "But what could it be? My spies
have told me that there are only a few soldiers left in Sakhmet, so it can't
be reinforcements. They could be waiting for the cover of night, but they know
that we are not fools - we would still be watching them in the darkness. And
not one of them has left the camp."
"It is puzzling, my Lord. But remember that
every second they wait gives us an extra second to prepare for the battle,"
I reminded him. "We ought to be thankful for all the extra time they are giving
us. Daysteed and Nightsteed will be ready with their troops soon, which means
that we have a better chance of defending this city against the invaders."
"I know, I know," replied Razul, "but I can't
help but think that this silence might mean something sinister..."
"I, too. But perhaps we are just being paranoid.
In any case, the best thing - or, the only thing, as the case may be - to do
is to wait and hope for the best."
"You speak the truth, Vinifae. Come, I would
like to check on Daysteed and Nightsteed's progress. Let us go."
The pink Ixi slipped through the shadows as
if she was one of them herself. She knew exactly where she wanted to go, and
how to get to it, so the hard part was done. All that remained was the execution
of the plan...
The other Scarabs followed her, all of them
swift and silent, but none so much as her. She was the highest among them, their
leader. The Jewel Scarab. And she had earned that position.
The pink Ixi, the one they called Nabile, paused
just outside the door, lest there be a pet inside the room which she was about
to enter. Assured that the room was empty, she slid her knife from its sheath
and delicately inserted the point into the locking mechanism. It clicked, and
then the door was open.
She cast about in the darkness for the object
she was here for as the other Scarabs filed inside. Then the light turned on,
and her heart missed a beat. She whirled around, and looked into the eyes of
the Aisha Princess.
"I," Amira said quietly, "have a proposition
To be continued...