My Enemy, My King: Part Five
Alaric awoke with a ferocious headache – he put a hand to his head as he opened his eyes.
He was out of the cavern of the Orb of Khammar, which by itself was rather confusing. Instead, he was under a blue-and-white striped lean-to. He rolled – wincing as he did so.
There was a little campfire outside the lean-to, rather inexpertly made, and the whole camp was set up close to a sheltered oasis, which was surrounded by sandy dunes. It was nighttime, and in the shadows of the moon and the fire, he could see a figure bending down under one of the palms by the water – a figure with long ears and a white travelling cloak. Those ears meant Kyrii, that was for sure. But they didn’t look like black ears at all.
He was being silly. Razul wouldn’t have rescued him. And a sorcerer who had travelled into the heart of Chen-Ra’s maze by magic would have no need to stop in a desert camp.
He never intended for any of us to survive. He meant for us to bypass those traps to get that amulet into the room with the Orb so he could magic himself in, take it himself, and leave us helpless.
But how did I survive? I didn’t get out on my own, that’s for sure. Whoever’s down there must have helped me. They must have gotten me out alive and brought me here.
The stranger in the white cloak was heading back up the slope to the campsite, now – Alaric attempted to pull himself to a sitting position, but his headache was having none of that. His whole body hurt. He lay back on his blanket, closed his eyes and tried to breathe deeply.
The stranger tipped a canteen into his mouth. “This will help with the pain – I mixed it up myself.”
Alaric knew that voice. He opened his eyes and looked straight into the face of Prince Jazan.
His first instinct was to pull away – he didn’t really want to have to take any medicine mixed up by a twelve-year-old. But the boy pulled him back. “I swear it’s good. I’m not half as stupid as everyone thinks, you know.”
“Just help me sit up, will you? I mean, Your Highness.”
Jazan shook his head. “Don’t call me Your Highness. Especially not after my father’s the reason you nearly died. I’ve been trying to nurse you back to health for three days now. Nightsteed’s covering for me – he says he took me to Sakhmet to find some scrolls for the library.”
He helped Alaric sit up, and the Lupe took a drink from the canteen – it didn’t taste half as bad as he’d thought it would, and he could feel the difference immediately. Jazan smiled a little, and went back to put the water he’d fetched over the fire.
Alaric realized that, now that the pain had lessened, he was also ferociously hungry. “Well, then – ah, Jazan – got any food?”
“It’s in the pack right by the tent stake.” He was intent on what he was doing as he added the ingredients of several little vials and jars to a bit of the water, which he’d put in a silver bowl. It was clearly some sort of magic, but before Alaric could ask what, Jazan said, “Alaric’s woken up. Has Father noticed anything?”
A deeper, older voice said, “He’s complaining as much as usual – but he’s spent most of his time locked away with the orb.”
Jazan’s face was drawn. “We don’t have a lot of time, then – the spells I put on those scrolls to hide them won’t last forever if he’s trying to break through. Good night, Nightsteed.”
“Good night – take care of yourself and the soldier, Jazan.”
“I will, Nightsteed.”
Alaric looked in the pack of food – the boy had managed to pick solid travel food fairly well. With the secluded camping spot, the fire, and the lean-to, Jazan had done a good job for a rich boy who’d never had to fend for himself before. “Who helped you set up all of this?”
He was taken aback by how angry Jazan was as he turned away from the fire. “Didn’t I say that I’m not stupid? Just because Father thinks I’m an idiot doesn’t mean I actually am – but everyone’s heard him say it so much that they believe it, too! I can figure out much more than everyone else thinks I can. Much more!”
Alaric held up his hands. “Hey, I wasn’t saying that you’re stupid. I know you’re not stupid. You got me out of a spot that I was pretty sure was the end of the road.” He found the tea leaves. “Want some? I’ll do the brewing.”
The prince nodded. Alaric asked as he poured more of the water into a pot and threw the leaves in, “By the way, how did you get me out of there?”
Jazan leaned on his knees – he looked like he was one step short of curling into a ball. “I knew what Father was going to do – I’d seen the amulet on his desk, and I found the old parchment about it the night that you left. So Nightsteed and I rode out here – he had to leave the day before yesterday, since he was just supposed to be escorting me to Sakhmet – and we waited. Father would make some sort of grand show of it, and we knew we’d notice. So when he was gone, I went in to see who we could save-”
Alaric couldn’t help but interrupt. “Wait – you went in there by yourself? The four of us nearly got ourselves killed a dozen times if it was once, and we’re a lot more experienced with such things!”
He shrugged. “It wasn’t too bad – I have magic, too, you know. And the spells were weak after the Orb was taken away.”
Alaric shook his head. He was sure it had still been very, very bad, but the boy didn’t seem to want attention drawn to him. He didn’t want to hear the rest of the story, anyway – since there was no one else being sheltered in this little oasis, he knew he was the only survivor. He finished, “And you saved me.”
Jazan nodded. “I... I couldn’t find anyone else. Maybe they managed to escape by themselves, but you took a blow to the head. I barely got you out before the entire place collapsed.”
Alaric held out a hand to the boy. “Well, then, Jazan, I owe you my life. Thank you.”
Jazan shook it – poor kid, the glow in his golden eyes showed that he didn’t get thanked very much for anything. Then he noticed him wince. “What’s wrong?”
Jazan rolled up the dark brown sleeve of his tunic – he had a bandage wrapped around his forearm. “I got cut by some falling stone. I’ve been trying to take care of it, but it’s tricky.”
Alaric could finish the sentence in a way that Jazan would never admit. Because you’ve been taking care of me. “Here, let me see that.”
Jazan was good with potions, but not so good with practical medicine. Alaric started making a better poultice and bandage to put on the wound. “That better?”
“Much – thank you.”
Alaric asked, “So, Jazan, what are you going to do after you’ve finished patching me up?”
Jazan looked up at the moon. “I’m going to go steal the Orb of Khammar back from my father.” Then he turned to Alaric. “Would you like to help me?”
Alaric was aghast. “You’re kidding, right? It’s bad enough he tried to kill me once – I don’t need to make that man into my enemy!”
Jazan said vehemently, face drawn, “He is your enemy. He’s the enemy of every peaceful Neopian who wants to live quietly and die in their bed.” He reached into the pack and pulled out a scroll. “Look at this!”
Surrounded by Old Qasalan characters, there was a picture of a fiery demon, raising a bony hand over what looked like terrified mummies. It was a decidedly creepy image. Alaric asked, “What is that?” He ran his fingers along the parchment – who could even imagine something that unnatural?
Jazan looked up at him. “That’s what Father wants to make himself into. That’s what he’s going to use the Orb of Khammar to do. He’s going to turn himself into a demon so that he can live forever. And this,” he gestured at the mummies, “is what he’s willing to do to the Qasalans to get there.
“And I’m going to have to stop him.”
Alaric looked at him. “You? I’m not trying to talk down to you, Jazan, but you’re how old? Twelve?”
Jazan folded his arms. “I’ll be thirteen next Month of Sleeping.”
“Still, how do you expect that you’ll be able to fight your own father? He’s bigger than you, he’s had longer to practice his magic, and he’s crazier than a Werelupe howling at the moon!”
Jazan sighed. “Because I’m the only one who can.”
“What do you mean, you’re the only one who can? Jazan, I’m not going to let you get killed here!”
Jazan sat straighter. “I’m the one who copies notes for him. He makes me lend him magic for spells – I know about all the wards he’s put around his workroom, and all of the things that he’s working on. I can get past all of them – I’ve been studying with Nightsteed a lot more than Father knows. I’m powerful – and I’m not saying that to brag. I can get to the Orb. I can take it. And I can bring it to Faerieland.”
Alaric raised an eyebrow. “Faerieland?”
“If anyone can keep that Orb away from my father, Queen Fyora can. And if he ever gets so strong that he can take it back, he’s already won, so there’ll be no use in hiding it.”
Alaric looked up at the stars – what could he do? He’d never seen anyone so determined. And he was so young! What could it have been like, growing up with a father like that? He was pretty sure that Jazan’s mother, Queen Esmeralda, had long since gone to rest – King Razul had been Jazan’s only parent, and Alaric couldn’t think of a worse one to have.
He looked over at Jazan, who sat watching him as patiently as a Mauket. He was thinking like a king already, wasn’t he? Thinking about the safety of Qasala. Thinking about the greater good of Neopia. And he was trying to do things himself – that was something Alaric had always admired.
And he was right – if Razul’s plan was even half as bad as Jazan said it was, it wasn’t something that Alaric could allow himself to turn his back on. He’d helped deliver the Orb of Khammar into the king’s evil hands, and he had a responsibility to set that right.
He stood up and held a hand out to the boy, helping him up as well. “I’m with you, Jazan. I’m with you all the way.”
To be continued...