The Fall of Qasala: Part Six
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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
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
"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...