A Valentine's Day Extravaganza
An abrupt knock on her bedroom door made Nabile, the benevolent and spitfire Queen of Qasala, glance up in anticipation. She was sitting at her bedroom vanity table, brushing her dark hair that was to be later pulled back into a braid. It would take her a while, and she needed every minute to be ready on time for the evening's festivities. But she heard her husband on the other side, and she decided to attend to his inquiries.
"Come in!" Nabile responded.
The door nudged open, and her adoring husband Jazan, King of Qasala, stepped inside. "My love, did you by chance read the letter from Shenkuu?" he asked.
"Yes I did. I left them here." Nabile motioned to the letter lying next to her on the table. "Don't have the Emperor come to us, we can travel to Shenkuu. We haven't visited in a while and I'm sure it's lovely around this time."
Jazan preferred wholeheartedly to remain in his beloved Qasala and not travel, but pleasing Nabile trumped everything. "Whatever you wish. I shall respond to him tomorrow."
Out of the corner of his eye, Jazan saw Nabile's ball gown lying neatly on the bed. "That looks nice," he muttered.
"You think so?" Nabile set down her brush.
"I know so." Jazan nodded approvingly. "You will look wonderful as always."
Nabile rose from her seat and embraced Jazan so that her head rested on his shoulder. "I don't have to go tonight," she insisted.
"You must go. Amira has been planning this for months and will be upset if you are absent." Jazan stroked her hair. "I don't want you to miss out because of me. Now what was its ridiculous name? Ah yes, 'Princess Amira's Valentine's Day Extravaganza.' I would have felt a bit out of place there."
"I still cannot believe that you approved of Hanso taking me."
I had almost forgotten. he thought gloomily. The entire situation made Jazan shudder. Hanso, the Ixi thief whose mission in life was to annoy Jazan as much as possible, was escorting the Qasalan queen to Sakhmet for the evening. "At least one of us needs to go to represent Qasala, seeing that other diplomats will be in attendance. And I really did not support the concept of Hanso bringing you at first, but it gives me the opportunity to destroy him if he steps out of line in the slightest way."
"So you didn't see what was sent to me?" Nabile motioned towards her nightstand where a dozen red roses were resting. "I think that warning you gave him about 'making a move on me' went in one ear and out the other."
Jazan's face fell as he glared at the flowers. "He cannot be serious."
"Oh, and look at the note he wrote me," she took a piece of paper out of her pocket and read it out loud. "'Dearest Nabile, I cannot wait for Friday evening's festivities. I am humbled to be bringing you to Princess Amira's Valentine's Day Extravaganza. Enjoy these roses, they are just beginning. And who am I kidding, I am going to make a much more handsome date than that temperamental Kyrii with the guyliner. Don't tell Jazan I said that. Yours truly, Hanso.'"
"That DOES IT!" Jazan roared as he grabbed the note and ripped it in half, incinerating the rest in a fire spell that emerged from his hands. "When he gets here I am banishing him to the deepest Qasalan tomb!"
"He sent that as a joke, dear," she gently reminded him. "Hanso would have taken Brynn if she did not have the conference in Altador. And I would have taken you if you did not have the meeting tonight... and your work for Fyora."
"Don't remind me." Jazan's shoulders slumped. First Jazan had a meeting with an ambassador of Meridell about trading and other lengthy things he had no desire to discuss. In addition, Queen Fyora had asked a month ago for Jazan to translate nearly a hundred scrolls of old Qasalan texts that were to be stored in Faerieland's library. He had procrastinated until the night before they were to be delivered. And that night was Princess Amira's party at her palace.
"I have to finish getting ready. Hanso will be over in about an hour... and please don't punish him until after the dance." Nabile gently guided Jazan out of the bedroom and kissed his cheek before she shut the door.
Jazan was left standing in front of the door. "I will try my hardest," he said to no one in particular.
Jazan had been pacing back and forth in the lavish foyer of his palace ever since he left Nabile to her primping. Hours had gone by that could have been spent translating the important scrolls for the powerful Fyora, but Jazan was more concerned with others things, such as Hanso. When Jazan had finally decided that he would be unable to attend Amira's party, Nabile went on a hunt to find a friend that was free for the evening to take her. And the only one that was also dateless just so happened to be the infamous blue Ixi thief.
"Helloooooo? Anyone home?" came a voice from outside on the palace steps.
He had finally arrived. Extraordinary. The sensation of a dagger piecing through my brain has returned. Jazan rolled his eyes and opened the door to the sight to one of his least favorite people in Neopia.
"Evening, Jazan! Happy Valentine's Day!" Hanso strolled into the palace and gave Jazan a hearty slap on the back. The ever confident blue Ixi thief wore a dark blue suit coat and black trousers with his hair slicked back into a ponytail. "I know how much you wanted me to be your valentine today, but I'm sorry to say that I'm taken."
"How dreadful," the Kyrii king replied dryly and closed the door behind him.
"Check this out." Hanso straightened his violet bowtie. "I asked Nabile what color her dress was and then had Brynn pick this out. Neat, huh?"
"Absolutely charming. Now listen," Jazan hissed and raised a finger to the Ixi. "The flowers crossed the line... well, actually, you crossed the line a long time ago. Should anything, and I mean anything else like that happen, I will unleash a spell on you that will cause you to wake up in the Tomb of the Undead. And if you return Nabile late, I will turn you into a Selket. Understood?"
"Even Brynn understands that this is just a friendly event!" mocked Hanso. "Looks like you're a little jealous! By the way, I did read that thing you sent last week... the twenty-three page list of things I cannot do or say tonight."
The list was written after Nabile failed to succumb to Jazan's pleas to find a better date. "Have you retained any knowledge in that thick skull of yours?" Jazan crossed his arms over his chest.
"Nope! I'm just gonna wing it."
"Nabile won't want to take you if I turn you into a Mortog!" Jazan snarled and raised a hand.
"Jazan! Hanso just got here and you're already arguing with him!"
Jazan and Hanso turned their attention towards the top of the staircase. Nabile was standing and looking incredibly displeased but incredibly captivating at the same time. She had ditched traditional formal Desert attire and instead opted for a ball gown with style influence from Meridell. The violet color did indeed match Hanso's bowtie, and the lace details and ribbons woven into the fabric made it extremely elegant. And after many tries, Nabile had finally perfected the neat braid that cascaded down her back.
"Looking snazzy, Nabile!" Hanso straightened his jacket and flashed a smile. "Absolutely beautiful! We're gonna be the best looking couple there, especially with my sweet bowtie!"
"By the love of Fyora..." Jazan massaged his forehead as Nabile tried to hold back laughter.
"What? Am I supposed to tell her that she looks hideous?"
"No, you are not," he stiffened. "Only I get to tell her that she looks beautiful."
"So what should I have said?"
"'I am honored to be escorting you tonight, Your Royal Highness Queen Nabile of Qasala.'"
"Yeah... I like what I said better," Hanso stroked his chin in admiration. "And by the look on Nabile's face, she did too!"
Nabile had completed her descent down the staircase just in time to stop the bickering from escalating. "Oh, Jazan..." Nabile sighed and placed her hand over Jazan's clenched fist. "Hanso and I are just going as friends, remember that. He has Brynn, and I have you."
"Right. I will be reminding myself of that throughout the evening in order to stay sane," Jazan muttered.
"We better leave now, Nabile! Can't be late to the biggest party in Sakhmet," Hanso linked his arm with hers. "Have fun doing homework, Jaz!"
As Hanso turned to escort Nabile out, the pink Ixi smiled at Jazan. He returned with a halfhearted grin. Once the door closed, Jazan groaned. It actually physically pained him to go through with this.
The bells tolled ten times as Jazan counted each of them to distract himself from translating the Qasalan scrolls. He had been working nonstop for five hours and was nearly finished with only a couple more sentences of the last scroll remaining. It took him three minutes to furiously scribble the last words onto parchment. Once the arduous task was complete, he collapsed in a heap on his desk.
"Finally..." Jazan sighed. The meeting with the ambassador took longer than usual, but Jazan eventually kicked him out and began tackling the scrolls. He was just glad that it was all over.
"That took a while." a voice came from outside. Jazan gazed up the sight of the Nightsteed, his loyal friend of many years, waiting by the door.
"I actually thought I would be working well into the morning. I'm surprised I finished everything this quickly." Jazan leaned back in his chair.
"When does Amira's Valentine's Day shindig end?" Nightsteed asked.
"Her parties usually last until sunrise."
"You weren't going to stop by the palace?"
Jazan shrugged. "I wasn't planning on it... I really thought I would be working throughout the night."
"You aren't worried that Hanso is going to do something stupid?"
Jazan stopped. He had been trying to stay positive about the bumbling Hanso taking Nabile to Amira's, but now doubts were flooding his mind. "I was not concerned until you brought it up. What do you think he would do?"
"Oh, I don't know..." Nightsteed pondered the possibilities. "He could forget Nabile there."
Jazan did not buy the reason. "Even though Hanso is incredibly irresponsible, I am fairly certain that he will not leave Nabile behind, unless he wants to wake up in the middle of the desert."
"You're cutting him too much slack. We both know that he's got a way with stealing things... especially hearts."
That did it for Jazan. He shot up from his desk and sprinted past Nightsteed. "How fast can we get to Sakhmet?"
Nightsteed smirked. "Faster than you think."
After traveling through the dead of the Lost Desert night for what seemed like forever, Jazan finally arrived and stormed into the Sakhmet Palace with Nightsteed by his side, ignoring the chipper greetings of Amira's servants. When it came to decorating for Valentine's Day, Amira left no stone unturned. Everything in the royal hall was either pink or red, from the banners to the tablecloths to the suits and ties of the orchestra members that were playing upbeat ballads complete with violin solos. Jazan detested the decorations and the holiday in general, but he slowly learned to accept it because of Nabile. Many well-dressed Neopians packed into the hall appeared to want to converse with Jazan, but they could tell by the angry look on his face that he would not respond well to their greetings. One Neopian, however, ignored the warning signs and approached him.
"King Jazan of neighboring Qasala, fancy seeing you here." came a familiar voice. Jazan turned around to see a blue Gelert in a black suit approach him in front of a watchful and gossiping crowd.
"Kanrik, shouldn't you be leading the Thieves Guild?" Jazan retorted, only to be met with a shrug.
"There's been a lull in fighting." Kanrik took a sip of his drink.
"I see." The Kyrii nodded. "Where's Hanso?"
"There was a tear in her dress so she went with one of Amira's seamstresses to stitch it up."
Jazan buried his face in his hands. "I said Hanso, not Hannah."
"Oh." Kanrik stiffened. "Haven't seen him."
"Of course you haven't." Jazan scowled and abruptly left Kanrik behind. He did not get far before running into the elegant Amira, who wore a shimmering red dress and glittering gold jewelry.
"Jazan! Nabile said that you weren't coming." the Aisha princess disapprovingly surveyed Jazan's favorite black and gold robe, wishing he wore something more festive.
"I changed my mind. Where is she?" Jazan demanded.
"Last time I saw them, Hanso was escorting her to the dance floor," Amira began to absentmindedly twirl her hair. "And I must say, Hanso is looking quite dashing this evening."
"Looks like Hanso already stole one heart... but he will not steal another!" Jazan snarled and left Amira standing in confusion. He turned his attention to the dance floor, which was full of partners dancing to the slow music. The Kyrii scanned the crowd for a blue and pink Ixi, and after much searching, Jazan caught sight of Hanso twirling Nabile. He pushed through the dancers and finally fought his way to the middle.
"Out of my way, Hanso!" Jazan shoved the blue Ixi thief out of the way and took his spot in front of Nabile.
Hanso stumbled to the side, straightening his jacket once he regained his balance. "Whoa there, somebody's a little late to the party!"
"Qasalan royalty is never considered late for anything," he replied smugly and took Nabile's hand. "Now, if you'll excuse us."
"Oh, I'm sorry, are you wearing a bowtie that matches Nabile's dress?" Hanso huffed but was met with Jazan's piercing eyes. "Fine, I'll just be over by the punch bowl."
As Hanso began to nudge his way through the crowd, Nabile turned to her husband. "I was expecting you to show up eventually."
"You know me too well, my love."
She raised an eyebrow in amusement. "What was the final straw that sent you here?"
"I was gently reminded that Hanso is a master thief and is capable of stealing anything..." Jazan grimaced. "Especially hearts."
"Well, no need to fret about that. My heart was stolen a long time ago." Nabile playfully tapped the tip of Jazan's nose.
That made Jazan feel much better, and he smiled happily. "Now, has Hanso done anything to make him worthy of eternal banishment from the Lost Desert?" Jazan asked eagerly.
Nabile chuckled. "No. He has been wonderful, and in fact I learned that he's an exceptional dancer."
"Well, I'll show him." Jazan challenged as he spun his wife around, much to her delight.
Meanwhile, a sidelined Hanso took a drink of punch as he watched Jazan, Nabile, and the rest of the party-goers dance. "Man, does Jazan really not trust me?"
"He did somewhat, until I reminded him about the things you could be doing wrong," Nightsteed said nearby between chomps of chocolate covered pretzels.
"You planted the seed in his head?" Hanso said in bewilderment.
"I'm sorry, I needed him to find some excuse for us to go to Princess Amira's. I was quite upset that I was going to miss it." confessed the Uni.
Hanso paused. "Wait a sec, you wanted to come here? Why?"
"Because of the food! Look at all the chocolate here! I can't remember the last time Jazan bought chocolate for the palace. I miss it terribly."
A light went off in Hanso's head. "If you get me on Jazan's good side, I'll get the best chocolate delivered to you once a week for a year."
Nightsteed perked up. "It will be a challenge, but for that reward, it will be done."
"Done deal," Hanso raised his glass of punch in Nightsteed's direction. "Happy Valentine's Day, Fearsome Uni of the Undead."
Nightsteed shrugged and clinked his glass back. "Close enough."