A Queen's Ascension: Part Nine
Vyssa and Tomos made it back to Sakhmet with just one day to go before the coronation. Sakhmet, as they hurried through the busy city, seemed unchanged. The markets were still as packed as ever, with all kinds of trinkets on show (and many being stolen by swift thieves only Tomos caught in the act of) and the sun beating down on them all like their protector. If the weather was good, as it usually always was in the Lost Desert that meant nothing bad could happen. That was how life was, right? If only. Although none of the civilians looked too concerned, there was a general atmosphere of worry hidden beneath the friendly mask of false niceties and pretending everything was okay. Everyone knew Prince Frezon would seize the throne in a matter of days if Princess Amira did not marry. It was that simple.
Before they left for their journey, Jazan had wanted to see the potions Morgana had given them. He seemed stressed when they returned for the Eyries to take them back to Sakhmet faster. Nabile, realising how quickly they needed to be home to make everything okay again, laughed off his worries and put them on the Eyries quicker than Tomos could say a word of thanks. Just before they took off, however, Jazan grabbed Tomos by the arm roughly. It was a surprising movement from the king and everyone around looked surprised to say the least.
"There's something not right about this," King Jazan murmured, so quietly everyone had to strain to hear what he was saying. "You all know I have not touched dark magic in many years, despite wanting to some countless times. But I can still sense darkness around something in a spell and I know when there isn't something right about something. That potion... both of those potions... let me check them out before you leave."
This time, Nabile seemed more worried. "Jazan, what are you saying?"
"That none of this is right. All of this has been too... fortunate, too lucky, finding everyone at the right place at the right time. There is something sinister lurking beneath all of this."
Princess Vyssa sighed, sounding annoyed and impatient. "With all due respect, and many thanks for and to the Eyries, King Jazan, we really need to have as much time as possible for Amira to snap out of whatever hold Frezon has on her for her to find a suitable suitor."
King Jazan scowled at the princess. "This is your last chance to let me check. Otherwise, I relinquish all responsibility for what happens and do not want to be bothered for help again when you need it."
"Jazan –" Nabile appealed.
"Enough!" Jazan snapped. "Jamal and Keri," he said, addressing the two Eyries, "take these two to the edge of Sakhmet then quickly fly back. I will not go back on my word to have these two guide you, but that is your final help from us both."
With that, King Jazan strode back into his palace. Nabile was left standing a little awkwardly next to them. Blushing slightly, she mumbled, "He always had such a terrible temper. I'm sure I can bring him around if you need any more help. But do let me know how this goes, won't you, Tomos? I hope to see Amira crowned Queen of Sakhmet this week. I do not want to see a King Frezon."
"I promise you that won't happen," Tomos told her. "I'll see you soon, Nabile. I... miss you, you know."
Nabile nodded, looking far away all of a sudden. "I miss you too. Now go! Good luck, both of you."
"Thank you," Tomos whispered, as Keri flew him high into the sky and far away until Nabile vanished from being a dot on the ground.
Thinking about it now and the good time they had made, Tomos wished they had given Jazan one of the potions to test. But what would have happened if he had spotted something suspicious? They would be nowhere again. He only had to hope their risk had been worth taking. He wondered how Nabile was now. Was Jazan concerned about them? Or had he washed his hands of them?
Vyssa didn't look bothered about Jazan, and that was because she wasn't. She turned to Tomos now as they reached the steps of the palace. There were two guards outside with the throne positioned ready for the coronation, but otherwise the palace seemed pretty normal.
"Right," said Vyssa, sounding determined, "we have two potions."
"Why?" Tomos asked. "Don't you think it's a little strange we were given two? She only needs the one."
Vyssa shrugged. "She warned us to be careful. I wish people would stop going on about Morgana! I want you to sneak into the palace and distract Frezon so that I can meet Amira alone."
"How will I know where he is?"
"You will. Just walk around the palace and I'm sure you'll find him. I'll go straight to Amira's room. I'll let you go in first. Sneak around the back entrance – the guard there is always distracted by the fountain in the garden."
"You have a fountain in the garden?" Tomos repeated, surprised. "That seems a bit... wasteful."
Vyssa rolled her eyes. "I didn't put it there, the first Coltzan did. Blame my great grandfather if you want to blame someone. Now hurry up. We don't have long."
Prince Frezon stood in the throne room, feeling a kind of empty, pulsating energy that was waiting to be taken and controlled. The crown of King Coltzan was sitting on a stone pedestal with a red velvet pillow. There were gold tassels on the corners of the pillow that shimmered when the light hit them, but Frezon's attention was completely on the crown. Pure gold, it looked heavy and dominating. As a member of the royal family, Frezon was allowed in the room without supervision, but even he couldn't take the crown from its case. Only the heir apparent was allowed to. Being third in line for the throne was a frustrating position when he knew in reality; he would be the one taking the crown tomorrow.
He touched the glass in an almost gentle manner. Then he turned sharply and marched outside the door, coming face to face with two guards and the same servant boy he had seen in his room a while back.
"What's going on here?" Frezon asked, trying to hide a smirk.
"We found him wandering around down here. We suspect he was trying to get into the throne room." One of the guards told him. "We're just throwing him out now."
"Wait." Frezon said. "I know this guy. He was impersonating a servant in my room sometime last week. I think he needs to be thrown in the dungeon. Who knows what he's doing here, but he seems adept at getting in." Then Frezon spotted that the Lupe has something in his hand. "What's that? He's got something in his hands. Open your hand." He ordered.
Tomos swallowed. He knew he was done for. But he also knew that Vyssa had another potion and she could get to Amira while he was distracting Frezon. Maybe this was what Morgana intended for the potions all along. Maybe she realised he would need to be the distraction. He held out the potion after a moment's pause and tried not to feel scared when Frezon snatched it from his grasp. The prince opened the top of the flask, sniffed it, and then threw it to the ground, where it smashed into smithereens.
"Your highness, with all due respect, we probably should have checked that out..." The second guard mumbled, before trailing off at the glare Frezon gave her.
"It was dark magic, I could sense it." Frezon snapped. "No doubt intended for the princess herself! Guards! Throw this intruder in the palace's dungeons."
Tomos was led away, left hoping that he had created enough of a diversion for Vyssa to get to Amira.
Frezon watched them go, smiling. When they disappeared around a corner, he marched purposefully to Amira's room.
Princess Amira was lying in bed when Vyssa burst in. Despite the sudden noise, Amira barely glanced towards its direction. Vyssa couldn't believe the sight of her sister. She looked so tired and frail. Was this the future Queen of Sakhmet? What had Frezon done to her?
"Amira, get up!" Vyssa shouted, shaking her sister.
She groaned loudly. "Vyssa, what you doing?" she murmured, slowly sitting herself up. "I was just taking a nap. Taking a nap is good for my strength. I must look my best at all times." Her voice sounded almost robotic, as if she was repeating what someone else had said to her and she learned their lines. "Where have you been, anyway?" she added, sounding more herself. A tiny frown of confusion appeared on her face. "What's been happening lately with you?"
"I've been busy. Now, I've got this potion for you to drink," Vyssa answered, opening the bottle and handing it to Amira. "The, um, doctors say you have to drink this as fast as possible. All of it. You have to do it now."
Amira lifted it to her lips, and then hesitated. "Doctors?" she echoed. "What's wrong with me?"
"Nothing... nothing... it's for the coronation tomorrow, so you have full energy, that's all. I took one too," Vyssa lied. She wasn't sure why she was lying to Amira, but she had to make sure her sister drank the potion.
The princess seemed to accept this explanation, and drank the potion without a pause just as Prince Frezon walked through the bedroom door.
"The guards outside told me you were in here, Vyssa," Frezon said, sounding relaxed. "I thought I'd drop by."
Vyssa laughed. "You're too late, Frezon! I've given Amira the potion that will cure her. As soon as she is broken from this hold you have on her, she's going straight to the senators and telling them exactly what you've done. It will explain her weird behaviour over the past couple of weeks and with me backing her up, there's no way you'll ever be able to set foot in Sakhmet ever again." The Usul grinned; satisfied she had beaten Frezon at the last hurdle. She turned to Amira, beaming from side to side. "Isn't that right, Amira?"
But when she saw Amira the grin slipped from her face faster than lightning. That's what it felt like though. Lightning, zapping through her body.
Amira was sprawled on the bed and lying awkwardly, the bottle balancing on her stomach. Her face looked clammy and unpleasant and she was very, very still.
"A-Amira?" Vyssa whispered. An awful, terrible feeling crept upon her. She felt physically sick and her legs began to tremble. "Amira, wake up."
Now, Prince Frezon began to laugh. "Yes... that potion you got from Morgana. Useful, I see?"
Vyssa closed her eyes as she sank to the floor on her knees. "How do you know Morgana?" she mumbled, dreading whatever answer she was going to be given.
She should have listened to Tomos. Where was Tomos now? Why hadn't she let Jazan check the potion? She held Amira's hand and tried not to think about how limp and lifeless it felt.
"Why, did she not tell you?" Frezon asked. It was clear he was enjoying every moment of this. "My dear... Morgana is my mother."
To be continued...