Still thwarting Sloth's mind control... Circulation: 120,207,245 Issue: 243 | 9th day of Relaxing, Y8
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The Fall of Qasala: Part Six


by danama

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I watched with grim satisfaction from the walltops as the fire hidden beneath the sand sprang out, devouring all that it touched eagerly. Trying to ignore the screams from the enemy, I continued to release my traps as the mages under Nightsteed's command helped to summon the fire from the sand into the open air. It took a lot of persuading - the fire was unwilling to change from the heat in the sand into real fire, for it knew that it would soon die without fuel. But the mages and my own urging, as well as the promise that it would be able to burn for a brief, glorious second, persuaded it and it rushed out, eager to burn.

      "Vinifae!" Jazan had spotted me, despite my efforts to stay out of his sight. "What are you doing here? I thought I told you to stay in the city."

      "My lord, I have come to assist the mages."

      Jazan frowned, displeased at the fact that I has disobeyed him and would continue to do so. "Fine. You can stay and help. But don't overexert yourself, or my father will be livid. Understood?"

      "Yes, my Prince," I replied.

      Jazan nodded in satisfaction as he turned back to his troops. "You with swords or other close range weapons, hasten down to the wallgates so that you may prevent the enemy from infiltrating! Long range weapons line up here in three rows, ready to fire!"

      "My lord!" Daysteed galloped over to where Jazan and I were standing. "The Sakhmetians are retreating!"

      "What?" Jazan looked confused. "But why... "

      "They probably wish to rest, my lord. And so should we."

      "No," replied Jazan. "Not even an hour of fighting, and they are tired already? No army can be that weak." He drew his sword, a blade bedecked with gold and silver that looked magnificent in the sunlight. "I'm going after them." Before I could stop him, he had raced down the walltop stairs and made for the wallgates.

      I opened my mouth to call him back, but Nightsteed shook his head. "Don't bother, Vin, I'll go after him. The young rascal needs to learn sooner or later to heed wise words, and I'd prefer sooner to later any day. Daysteed, stay here with Vin and keep an eye out for the enemy." I sighed; Nightsteed had spoken truly. He glided down from the walltops, faster than an arrow, and galloped out of the wallgate.

     *

     Princess Amira eyed the yellow walled city that towered magnificently before them. "It looks rather grand, a city worth ruling over for a change. Does that mean that we're here?"

     "Yes." Nabile looked at the city. Grand, indeed, she thought. Lots of plunder and riches to be had, then.

     "Finally!" Amira sounded impatient as Nabile helped her down from the carriage. "I thought we'd never get here! Next time, I shall get some proper Ogrin to pull me - not some filthy little urchin who couldn't pull a feather on a string."

      Nabile rolled her eyes. It had been hard enough to persuade two of her followers to pull for the Princess, and Amira herself hadn't been too much of a help. But they had relented eventually, when Nabile promised them a reward and had reminded them that bringing the Princess along was a necessity. Nabile doubted that Amira would have stayed true to her word after the battle, but this way she was certain that the Princess would have no choice but to hold to her word. She opened her mouth to answer back with some rude remark when she noticed a little wallgate on the side of the city open up, and a red figure hurry out.

      "Oh!" exclaimed the Princess. "Is that Kyrii carrying a - a sword?"

      Nabile sighed. "Yes, but don't worry about it - we'll protect you." She signalled to her followers and they all drew their blades. The pink Ixi grinned; that Kyrii looked rich. The plundering could start here.

     *

      Nightsteed galloped towards the wallgate which Jazan had exited from. Really, that young rip! There could be all sorts of dangers lying out there, but no, of course Jazan hadn't thought twice about it. His bravery was admirable, but his common sense was not. Nightsteed paused just outside the gate. Was it just his eyes, or was there another army standing out there, watching Jazan. But the Sakmetians had retreated. It had to be reinforcements. Cursing himself for not seeing this coming, Nightsteed called up an illusion that turned him from the magnificent royal Uni he was to a wraith, a mummified Uni who seemed to be made of darkness. Nightsteed smiled - the Steeds had always been able to change their appearance at will, and it looked as if this particular skill would come in handy now - intimidating the enemy was always a good move.

      He began to move, faster than he had ever done so in his life. He soon caught up with Jazan, and with a toss of the head, threw the startled Kyrii onto his back.

      "Nightsteed?" Jazan asked. "What are you doing here?"

      "Making sure you don't get killed," was the gruff reply. "Play along with me - we could gain the upper paw here." Nightsteed let out a loud neigh and reared up on his hind legs. The Scarabs, who had watched all of this with wonder on their faces retreated a pace or two. Even the Jeweled Scarab was frozen to the spot for a second, surprised by this unexpected ghost like creature, before coming back to her senses.

      "Charge!" she yelled, and in a messy, disorganised sweep the Scarabs obeyed.

     *

      "Vinifae? How goes the battle?"

      I turned around, and King Razul stood in the sunlight, looking as powerful and commanding as usual.

      "It goes well. Our enemy has retreated, and we have lost only a few - it is harder to aim from down there than it is from up there."

      "How is Jazan faring? Where is he?"

      "He has not yet had a chance to prove himself yet. He took off after the Sakhmetians when they retreated. Nightsteed has gone after him."

      Razul turned pale. "He has left the city walls, and has not returned?"

      I nodded, confused. "Yes. Why do you ask?"

      "When I left the palace, I noticed that one of the wallgates was open and so I locked it, and told the guards to lock all the other gates! They'll be locked out!"

      "Nightsteed can always fly Jazan over."

      "After all the work he has done today, burdened by another neopet, and doubtless with hundreds of arrows flying at him? I think that even Nightsteed will have difficulty with a task like that." Razul rushed down the city, and as I watched him go, I realised with a bitter taste in my mouth that he was right.

     *

      "Stop your troops!" Amira yelled to Nabile.

      "Why would I want to do that? For your information, Princess, it's me who's giving the orders around here, not you. There's plunder to be had, and I'm not about to stop my people from getting at it."

      "Adam curse you and your thieving ways!" Amira shouted, the picture of fury. "Why do you think that Kyrii looks rich? He has to be important! From the looks of him, he's young - an heir, probably. He'd have influence on the others. You stupid street filth, know you not that a war can be won as easily, nay, easier than with blades?"

      Nabile hated to admit it, but the Princess was right.

      "You're going to try and talk to him?" she sneered. "Talk to him, he who is riding that beast? You haven't got the courage."

      Amira flinched - the one thing she was scared of about talking to the Kyrii was that Uni, that creature that seemed to have an aura of darkness and death. "And I suppose you do?" she shot back, trying to regain some of her dignity.

      "Watch me." Nabile strode up boldly and called out. "You on the Uni! You know that you will die soon if this goes on. You can flee, but we will bring you down, for both you and your steed with tire. Yet if you come over here and negotiate with us, we will spare your lives."

      "What do we do?" Jazan hissed to Nightsteed.

      "We need assurance that they won't go back on their word. Ask them; they seemed to think that I am a harmless steed, and it will be best if they go on thinking that." He snorted. "When they have made and found their mistake, then we shall see."

      "How do we know you will not kill us anyway?"

      Nabile glanced back at Amira, who shrugged. "We don't want our soldiers to die, and that will happen to many of them if this war ends. It was conceived in haste and misunderstanding, and it can be ended in peace and compromise. I'll be willing to bet that you do not want such an end for your people either."

      "Fair enough." Nightsteed sighed. "I hate to admit it, but they were right when they said that we'd die if this fleeing game went on. Her words were true, and I have a feeling Amira is not some barbarian intent of bloodshed. She wants our city, and she wants it without a fight. There's always the chance that they'll hold us hostage, but I think Razul, Vin, and Daysteed could prevent that from happening." He began to trot towards the Princess and Nabile, moving calmly through the ranks of the Sakhmetians.

      "We accept your proposal," Jazan said to Nabile, who was watching him with a smug smile on her face.

      "So be it," muttered Nightsteed under his breath.

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» The Fall of Qasala: Part One
» The Fall of Qasala: Part Two
» The Fall of Qasala: Part Three
» The Fall of Qasala: Part Four
» The Fall of Qasala: Part Five
» The Fall of Qasala: Part Seven



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