A Queen's Ascension: Part Six
It was hot. Of course it was hot. When was it never? The sun was like some unstoppable force here, even though far away it never shone through the thick trees of the Haunted Woods. Nabile looked up at the gorgeous blue sky and found herself with a sense of foreboding. No pathetic fallacy here if so, she thought to herself with a frown. What was it that was bothering her exactly? She couldn't put it down to one thing. She had heard some whispers of rumours coming from Sakhmet; Jazan was especially concerned, but chose to ignore it for now. Prince Frezon was rumoured to be staying with Princess Amira and Princess Vyssa and the coronation of Amira was coming closer. Nabile hoped nothing was going wrong and it was simply a royal formality that had to be addressed. She knew all about Queen Sankara and her evil ways. She could only wish that Frezon was nothing of the sort – but she had heard nothing about him other than his name and heritage.
At that moment, Jazan walked into the room with a sense of purpose about him. The more Nabile thought about him as she stared into his dark eyes the more she realised how lucky she was. She had everything she could ever want here. Apart from Tomos of course! She couldn't help feeling wistful at the adventures he must be having right now, but she wouldn't trade her current life for the world. Shaking her head to rid herself of her daydreams, she noticed Jazan looked more worried than normal. She leaned over to him and patted him on the arm.
"Jazan?" she ventured, carefully. Jazan had a temper on him and she wouldn't want to anger him if he was stressed. "Is everything okay?"
"The stupid law. I should have known," he murmured, more to himself than to Nabile.
"What law?" Nabile asked.
He sighed. "Princess Amira cannot become queen without a suitor. No suitor, the crown goes to the next heir."
Nabile's eyes widened. "But surely this can be changed! The next heir is Princess Vyssa, so the same law would apply anyway. When was this silly law made anyway?"
"It was back in the times of the long lines of King Coltzans. King Coltzan I made the law with the birth of his son, King Coltzan II. It was a way of making sure only kings would rule the kingdom of Sakhmet. It was long before our time here. But the law can only be changed by the person in power – the king or queen. With King Coltzan III's assassination, it left a gap. This meant there was a time period in which we had no king to rule over us; the time we are currently living in. With two daughters, there was no automatic ascension. Ten years without a king or queen and there must be one before other places notice a weakness. This is now," Jazan explained, looking weary. "Princess Amira has to find a suitor before the coronation or the next heir will get the throne."
"What about Princess Vyssa? Why can't Amira just find one?" Nabile frowned. She was annoyed at the old law, but there wasn't much she could do about it. She was only the queen of Qasala. Being queen of Sakhmet was a different position altogether.
"That's what I'm concerned about," Jazan told her. "Princess Amira is renowned for rejecting suitors, but she would have been warned by the senators of the consequences if she does not find one in time. Time is almost up, and she's not even giving them a chance to speak anymore. She's refusing to see anymore suitors. This isn't right." There was a pause before he added, almost sadly, "Coltzan wanted Princess Vyssa to take the throne originally, you know. But the senators felt it would be better for Amira to do it. Because Princess Vyssa does not have a suitor also, this means the person next in line for the throne would be Queen Sankara. As you know, she is banished from Sakhmet for good, and is queen of her own throne. The person in line after that is..."
Nabile knew where he was heading with this. She finished his sentence for him, whispering, "Prince Frezon."
"And Prince Frezon," Jazan said, "does not need to find anyone at all to become King Frezon of Sakhmet. It will happen immediately, at the coronation. And the Lost Desert as we know it will never be the same again, I just see it now."
"He'll bring Sankara back for sure!" Nabile gasped.
"Who knows what he will do?" Jazan muttered. "But it certainly won't be good."
At this, there was a loud knocking on the door. A guard walked through and bowed low before speaking. "Your Majesties, Her Royal Highness Princess Vyssa is here to see you. She brings with her your good friend Tomos, Queen Nabile, ma'am."
"Tomos?" Nabile squealed in delight, at the same time Jazan gulped in horror, "Princess Vyssa?"
They both came in looking somewhat apprehensive. The atmosphere was a mix of tension and joy and overall it made the situation very uncomfortable. King Jazan cleared his throat and carefully took in Vyssa's expression. It was a mixture of doubt and worry. Her clothing was rumpled and stained with dust from the sand along the way. It told him she had not come with any royal officials, which meant there had been no time to lose. It was true – there was no time to lose. The coronation was in a week now. And the journey back, without any help, would take them three days. Something told Jazan that Vyssa was doing this without informing anyone at the palace, and that this was the right thing to do.
"We hate to drop in unexpectedly, Jazan," Vyssa told him, "but this is an emergency. I've no doubt you have heard the rumours circulating Sakhmet about my sister refusing the throne. It will be passed to Prince Frezon if we don't snap her out of his control of her. What you don't know is that we discovered her used a potion to manipulate her – Tomos found the parchment detailing this. It was a plot by Sankara herself."
Behind King Jazan, Nabile gasped in shock. "Goodness!" she exclaimed. "Where is this parchment? This is a direct attempt to sabotage the throne and take it for themselves through cheating. If you show it to the senators, they can strike Prince Frezon from being an heir and banish him from Sakhmet."
"Prince Frezon discovered me with it. I pretended to be a servant and got away, but he burned the parchment," Tomos said quietly, sounding disappointed with himself. "I shouldn't have let myself get caught so easily. I know better than that."
"Yes, well, it is too late to worry about what could have been." Jazan sighed. "Tell me, why are you both here of all places?"
"We were looking for a cure to the potion. We hunted around the marketplace in Sakhmet, when an old Aisha overheard our conversation and told us to look here for Morgana. She said she would be able to make a potion for us that would snap Amira out of it," Vyssa explained. "On the way, we stopped at my father's shrine and he whispered Nabile's name in Tomos' ear. We hoped that meant you knew where she was."
Nabile frowned, thinking for a minute, retracing the past. "Back when I was a thief, I think I did hear whispered tales around here about a beautiful desert Uni who could make all kinds of potions. I'm not sure if that was Morgana, though."
"The Aisha said she would be by a well," Tomos chipped in.
"Oh! The old well! I know exactly where that is. It used to have water in it when I was very young, but now it is all dried up and no one goes near it. Are you sure that's where you wanted?"
"Yes. Oh thank you, Nabile. I can always count on you." Tomos grinned.
The friends shared a knowing smile, before Jazan cut across them.
"Am I the only one concerned that a strange Aisha happened to be in the right place at the right time when you were wondering about potions?" he asked. "She knew exactly where you should go? How do we know this isn't some sort of trap set by Prince Frezon?"
"I was disguised. We weren't using names. We simply said we wanted a potion that would stop someone being controlled," Vyssa snapped, losing her patience. "Are you going to show us or not?"
Nabile waved a hand for peace. "I'll show you. Follow me."
"Nabile, I don't want you to be involved with this –" Jazan protested.
"Tough," she interrupted with a small smile. "I'll be back before you know it."
Jazan rolled his eyes, knowing he couldn't change her mind. Instead, he glared at two guards to let them know he wanted them to go too. As they were leaving, he called out to them, "Come back here afterwards. The journey home will only take a day if you ride on my Eyries."
Tomos turned around. "Thank you," he said.
"You're welcome." Jazan replied. "Now go!"
The potion worked wonderfully. All is going to plan. Amira is rejecting suitors left right and centre. She is insisting the throne must go to me. To think in a week we will have control of this place, as we always wanted! A servant accidentally stumbled upon the parchment, but I dealt with it accordingly, burning it in front of his eyes and making sure he knew that I was an intimidating individual. Don't worry about it, because even if he is the same Lupe you saw with the princess, we have truly fooled them.
Nothing can go wrong with our plan now. I'll see to it after my coronation you are no longer banished from Sakhmet.
They reached the well just as the sun was beginning to set. Nabile and her guards bid the two of them a farewell and a good luck before heading off. Nearby was a village, but it seemed to avoid the well directly as though it feared it. The villagers were anxious too as they saw the queen walk towards it, but didn't comment. They did not recognise Princess Vyssa, but one young Bruce waved excitedly to Tomos as he walked past. It turned out Tomos had stolen food for his family long ago and they were now doing much better than before. It made Vyssa feel even more respect for Tomos, but also sadness that compared to her luxurious life, these Neopets were happy because they now had food. The villagers, when questioned about Morgana, said she was in the well or so was rumoured. No one had ever seen her.
"Nabile is lovely. I can see why you were such good friends with her," Vyssa murmured as the two of them stood by the well, peering down into the darkness it swallowed. A cool breeze picked up her hair and wanted to carry it away, causing the strands to fall across her face.
Tomos nodded. "We still are good friends. Before, though... we were so close. It was us two, and the Desert Scarabs, and all the adventures we went on. She has other responsibilities now of course." His tone was sad, but suddenly he grinned. "It seems I make a habit of becoming friends with princesses in disguise."
That made Vyssa chuckle. "You're the first friend I've had in years," she admitted in a mumble. "Unless you count Amira, of course, which I don't really, because we argue a lot." She shook her head. "Come on. We have to figure out a way of getting under the well."
"We have no digging tools," Tomos pointed out. "I think you and I both know the only way to get into the well is to jump."
Vyssa picked up a rock from the ground and dropped it into the well. As they listened, there was silence for two seconds, and then they heard the crash of the rock finding the ground down there.
They looked at each other. "Is that too much of a drop?" Vyssa wondered aloud, suddenly fearing for her own health.
Tomos shrugged. "We haven't got a choice here, have we? Come on, Vyssa!" His tone was playful. "Where's your sense of adventure?" And with that, he jumped.
"Tomos!" Vyssa shrieked. She heard a thud and feared the worst. "Tomos, are you okay?"
"I'm fine!" he called. "It's not too bad. Stop being such a scaredy-clops."
She stared downwards, once more took a deep breath, and then she too leaped into the well.
To be continued...