King of the Land of the Sun: Part Five
Altador had a brief sensation of flying through the air, which ended abruptly as he hit a wall, hard. As he lay there, he thought dimly that he was fortunate that he had been able to shield Hestra, still in his arms, from the blow.
But he had to find out what had happened. He felt like he'd been run over by a chariot, and the smoke stung his eyes and his throat. Still, he let Hestra go and pushed himself to his feet.
A cool wind was blowing through the windows of the chamber, and the smoke was rapidly dissipating. Most of the floor was still solid, except for a few stones that had been directly underneath the blast. Those had apparently fallen into the Hall of Heroes below.
Jazan had apparently grabbed Jerdana to protect her, but the two of them had been closest to the blast, and they lay on the ground unmoving. Sasha, Florin, and Fauna were all slumped against walls, as was Kelland, though Julius was getting to his feet along with Gordos, Torakor, and Marak. Altador went to Jerdana first – his legs were shaking, but he knelt down again next to her and Jazan to check their heartbeats. Both were alive, merely unconscious.
Torakor said, "I've seen bombs before. This blast pattern doesn't look normal."
Gordos told him, "I was watching. I think King Jazan managed to get a partial shield up. Not enough to stop it from going off, but enough to keep it from ripping the top off this building or setting anything afire. Thank Fyora, too – do you know how much that would have cost to replace?"
Marak said curtly, "I'm certain you do, Gordos, and as long as that is true the rest of us need not trouble ourselves with it."
Julius and Hestra were running around checking pulses as Altador had – Julius reported, "Everyone's alive, sir. Though with the headaches they'll have, I'll bet they wish they weren't."
Altador looked around and decided, "We should try and revive Jerdana first. She has healing magic, and she'll be able to help the others."
Gordos offered, "I know Florin has herbs that could wake the dead."
Marak was even more snappish than before. "And he's also unconscious."
Altador sighed. Marak was an excellent warrior and a good man, but he was pricklier than a Maraquan Meerca. "Please stop. See if you can rouse any of the others." He set his hands on Jerdana's shoulders and shook her gently – the warm sense of her power seemed to flow over him, soothing the aches and emerging bruises. He said softly, "Jerdana... Jerdana... awake! You are needed!"
Her eyelids fluttered. She groaned, "Ooooh... Altador, what happened?"
Altador said, "You and Jazan were trying to stop that bomb from exploding. He managed to partially shield it, but we're all a little battered."
Altador had to practically lift her to her feet – she winced with each movement, but the Lupe king could feel her using her magic to restore herself.
And that reminded him of something he'd noticed. "There was some magic in that bomb, but not enough for that sort of reaction. How did that work?"
Gordos explained. "There didn't need to be much. The Moltarans make incendiary devices without any magic whatsoever. They use them to help dig tunnels. It's a fascinating process, really – there's a delicate balance between using so little of the chemical it has no effect and so much that you bring thousands of tons of rock down on top of you. I assume that the magic provided a stabilizing force, to make sure that the device would work as directed."
He clearly could have continued, but Jerdana said, "Would you go get some water? And some food – I wouldn't mind something cold. That will help soothe all of our throats."
The kitchens were the only thing that could distract Gordos when he got into full form lecturing on a topic – if he hadn't been so practical with money, he would have made an excellent scholar. He left happily. Jerdana leaned over Jazan as she said, "I may need him to lend me power. Marak, Torakor, if you'd go get the nurses from the infirmary, I'd be grateful. Hestra, Julius, would you try to get the others into more comfortable positions?"
Even though any of them could have picked up Jerdana and thrown her without expending much effort, the sorceress was obeyed without question. Altador raised an eyebrow at her as the Wave and the Gladiator left. She confessed, "I didn't want to listen to them arguing. Did you?"
Julius snickered, and Altador had to smile as well. Jerdana laid her hands on Jazan's shoulders, as Altador had laid his on hers, but she was able to put power behind it where Altador had only had hope. Golden magic gathered around Jerdana's hands, and Jazan's eyes flew open. He tried to push himself to his feet, but fell back instead, grimacing. "Oh, sweet Fyora. I haven't been this sore since we were all turned to stone and back."
Jerdana scolded gently, "Hold still. I can help – I'm certain we'll need more shields before this is settled. Can I use some of your strength?"
Jazan nodded. "Of course." He winced as he took a deep breath.
Jazan had apparently been more severely injured than Altador had been – the healing took longer than the brief burst of power that Jerdana had given the Lupe, and both Jerdana and Jazan were sweating from the exertion of magic by the time it was done. Jazan frowned. "That was too much. I could have coped."
Jerdana shook her head. "With Psellia and Siyana gone on the Queen's business, the Council needs you. And it needs you without sprains or broken bones." Altador helped each of them get to their feet.
Jerdana went to Florin, Fauna, Sasha, and Kelland, and woke them one by one. The nurses arrived – Altador was forced to drink a fairly repugnant potion, but it helped keep the already-returning ache at bay. Scrapes and cuts were bandaged – while they'd only lost a few stones from the floor, others had been chipped, and flying shards of stone were sharp.
Altador looked down through the hole that the bomb had made, and recoiled.
He'd thought that Melanthe's statue had still had its place in the Hall of Heroes – she had helped to found the city of Altador, even if she had later betrayed it. But the falling stones from underneath where the bomb had exploded had knocked her statue off its pedestal, where it had broken into several pieces on the floor.
He tried telling himself it was a good sign, that it meant that his dreams were meaningless and Melanthe had no more power to hurt anyone. But he didn't actually believe it. Instead, he looked away – Sasha was in hysterics, and he went to go comfort her instead.
Julius shouted, "Look! The Darkest Faerie's busted all to gravel! Serves the old witch right!"
Hestra scolded, "Julius!"
The silence in the room would rapidly have become awkward, but at that point Tristan flew up into the room. Kelland asked, "How are you? Did you go back out into the city after you brought Laila and Nymala here? Is there any news?"
Tristan shook his head. The brown Draik said, "Yes, but no. Hardly had any time at all before someone told me all the Council had been in an exploding building. Is everyone okay? Sirs? Ladies?"
Altador couldn't help but chuckle at the belated attempt at proper decorum. "Yes."
Tristan nodded. "That's good. Because there are several hundred people out front waiting to find that out, and more coming every minute."
Even the bustling nurses stood stock-still at that announcement. Fauna, who hated crowds more than anything else in all Neopia, said, "Oh, Fyora protect us."
Altador knew his duty to his people. His Council was fine, for now – he had to stop Masila from allowing this attack to create the chaos she would have liked it to. There was no doubt that this was from the Thieves' Guild – chaos was what they wanted. The sort of chaos that would allow them to take possession of this city and its treasures.
The plaza and the road outside the great Hall were thronged with Altadorians. When they saw the Council, applause started up. Next to Altador, Sasha twirled and bowed – Altador was too sore for any such thing, but he did wave at a small girl near the front, who immediately retreated to watch him wide-eyed from behind her mother's skirt.
But he had to raise a hand for quiet, and he began, projecting his voice to make sure all could hear. "I thank you all for coming. As you have heard, there was an attempt on the lives of the Council. Fortunately, none of us were seriously injured. But the danger is real.
"Many of you have heard of the Thieves' Guild. Some of their most unsavory members and former members are in Altador. The disturbances that have been reported recently can be laid at their door. They are led by Galem Darkhand's former right hand, Masila."
There were gasps – it would be hard to find any adult in Neopia who wasn't familiar with the story of Galem, Kanrik, and Masila.
Now was the important part. Altador continued, "These people have come into our city, which has weathered fire and flood, war and treachery, in order to destroy it. Will we let them bring us to our knees?"
He could feel it, just as he felt magic – all of the people following him, the tide of emotion rolling in his favor. "I charge all of you today to guard this city. Let there be no dark places where Masila and her henchmen can hide! If you see a member of the Thieves' Guild, or hear any rumor of where they might be, send word to the Guard at once. She cannot stand if all of Altador is united against her – no power on Neopia could! Friends and fellow-citizens, do you stand beside me?"
Altador could feel the roar of the crowd through the soles of his feet. As they cheered, Marak asked, trying to be heard over the din, "King Altador, you do realize that there's certainly at least one of Masila's gang of thugs in that crowd, right?"
Kelland said fiercely, "Who cares? Let them come – we outnumber them!"
They outnumbered them. In bodies and hearts, Masila and her thieves were outnumbered. And with all of Altador's people allied against them, they would fall.
To be continued...