A Queen's Ascension - War:Part Three
Three Months Earlier:
“How dare you do this!” Nabile screeched, unable to believe that she was being manhandled by two guards on each side of her into a room in the Sakhmetian palace. She had been forced up the winding stairs and into the palace from a back entrance the entire time, after struggling to escape across the whole journey of the Lost Desert. Her initial submission to the situation had quickly dissipated when she realised the enormity of what was happening and she had been a very unpleasant prisoner for the guards to ride along with. Now that she was finally being dumped into her final destination, the guards seemed eager to get away, leaving immediately without a word of response and locking the door behind them.
“I am Queen of Qasala, this is simply unacceptable!” Nabile screamed after them. She felt a bit ridiculous saying that, remembering her earlier days as a thief and a commoner, but it was the only leverage she had.
Even with this leverage, there was no response from the other side of the door. She knew it was futile, but she went and tried the door handle anyway. It wouldn’t even budge and after a few attempts she gave up with a sigh.
Was this how it was going to be now? Her a prisoner? What was going to happen to Vyssa and Tomos? Had they been caught too? Would Jazan save her?
What did Sankara plan to do with her?
“This is unbelievable,” she muttered to herself. How had things gone so wrong, so quickly? Who would have thought that Princess Amira held the peace of the Lost Desert that much?
She took in her surroundings and quickly realised it was not just one room, but a luxury apartment (although not the luxury which should have been accommodated to her as a queen, she noted). This was a relief, at least. There was going to be no going to the toilet in a bucket or sleeping on rags or any of that.
It didn’t take a genius to figure out she was being treated nicely for a reason. Was the reason to appear kind? Lure Nabile into a false sense of security? Lure Jazan into one?
Nabile was so distracted by her thoughts that she almost didn’t notice the door unlock and a figure step in.
Her short dark bob and her kohl-outlined eyes were the first things Nabile noticed. The arched, almost amused eyebrows were next, followed by the thin line of her mouth. She was wearing a white dress which made her seem almost shapeless, and a small crown was atop her head, its ruby jewels hitting the light, making them appear as though they were dancing on top of her. The door remained open behind her, either as a taunt to Nabile, an arrogance of the fact she could not escape even with the door like so, or (as Nabile preferred to think) a fear for what could happen if she was locked in a room alone with her.
It was Queen Sankara.
It occurred to Nabile, somewhat belatedly, that this was only her second time properly meeting the Aisha. As meetings go, like the first this wasn’t brilliant.
To Nabile’s astonishment, Sankara bowed her head. “Your Royal Highness,” she said, almost sounding respectful, “it is a great honour to see you again.”
Nabile folded her arms and frowned at her. “Shall we skip the pleasantries?” She snapped. “I don’t think you’re here to make friends.”
“No…” Sankara shrugged. “I suppose not. But never let it be said I did not treat you with the respect you deserve – or rather, have acquired on account of your status. Quite the desert rat before, weren’t you?”
“I am proud of my roots.” Nabile replied calmly. “In Sakhmet, no less – unlike yourself. I do not even recall where you came from – K something or other, wasn’t it?”
Sankara’s eyes flashed and Nabile could see she had hit a nerve. “I came to inform you that this is where you’ll be staying as my prisoner. You will be brought meals daily and will not be permitted any visitors. There will be a fair trial which will judge your accountability and guilt in the crimes that have been committed again Sakhmet and the Lost Desert.”
“A fair trial?” Nabile laughed. “I very much doubt that.”
Sankara shrugged again. “A fair trial.” She repeated with a small smile. “But that trial is – alas – delayed for the time being.”
“Delayed?” Nabile echoed. “Why is that?”
“Your dearest husband has declared war on us…so we cannot possibly arrange your trial whilst we are so busy.” Sankara answered.
Nabile gasped. So soon? What was Jazan thinking? Did he have a plan?
“In any case, that is all I wished to tell you.” Sankara said. “Good bye, Nabile – I’m sure the next time we meet I will be Queen of Qasala, not you.”
My coronation as King of Sakhmet will be taking place next week on the Sunday. I would like to think you would be attending, but of course I have my doubts. Nevertheless, we have done well with our plan and I owe you my gratitude. Without you, that potion to deal with Amira would have certainly come from an unreliable source. I can trust you to say nothing, for any amount of neopoints.
I am making Sankara my chief advisor of the military, as well as to be the Neopet who coronates me. I feel the backlash from Vyssa will make the public far more accepting as this. It was so long ago, and the people are distracted. King Coltzan is now a distant memory.
All the best, mother,
Frezon (King of Sakhmet, and soon enough, the entirety of the Lost Desert)
Jazan lowered the letter. “It is definitely incriminating, but I’m not sure now what we should do.” He looked at Vyssa and Tomos, who were studying him, confused. “I’m sorry…I know I’m not making much sense and I know I called you back here urgently…Nabile has been arrested.”
Vyssa gasped. “Arrested? By Sankara?”
“The very same,” Jazan confirmed glumly. “There wasn’t much I could do about it – it wasn’t like their accusations were necessarily untrue.”
Tomos began pacing up and down the room. This was his best friend now in danger! “Jazan, how could you let them take her?” He barked angrily. “You’re meant to be a powerful sorcerer and you let some measly guards take Nabile –”
Within a moment, Jazan was in front of him, eyes blazing. His sheer height dominated the space above Tomos and made him realise that his words said in anger could have dangerous consequences. He quickly took a step back and raised his hands in surrender.
“I’m sorry, Jazan, I didn’t mean that, I’m sure you did the best you could do –”
“Never, ever, presume to speak to me like that again.” Jazan hissed, his tone threatening. “Don’t pretend that you would have done something different when you were not even there. I had no choice. To use magic would be to set myself up for a forced abdication on the grounds that I would be called dangerous and unhinged against the justice of law.”
“Tomos is extremely sorry, Jazan,” Vyssa promised, shooting Tomos a look of daggers. “What should we do now?”
Jazan stepped back from Tomos and sighed. “I apologise, Princess. Emotions are running a little wild here. This has gone too far now. I have declared war on Sakhmet.”
“War?” Vyssa echoed.
“It is the only option we have. But I need your help.”
Vyssa and Tomos straightened up, knowing what they were being told was serious. This was now worse than they could have ever imagined. They both knew that alone, Jazan did not have the power to defeat a Sakhmetian army, backed up with the rest of the Lost Desert. Qasala was going to lose, unless they did something.
“I have written a letter to every Head of State in Neopia.” Jazan told them in a low voice. “Each letter explains our plight and that we need assistance in this war. You need to show them Frezon’s letter each time alongside these. Make sure these letters are only read by the addressees – we don’t want spies getting wind of this.”
“How will we gain entrance to see them?” Tomos asked, concerned. “We are surely known throughout Neopia as criminals now. What if they send us straight back to Sakhmet?”
Jazan nodded. “I thought about this. Queen Fyora owes me a favour – I helped to rescue her back during The Faeries’ Ruin – and so you should be able to show this letter addressed to her with my stamp on to get you passage to her. She promised me she would help me in the future. Unfortunately, she won’t be able to use her faeries – she would never have them intervene as their power is too great – but she might be able to grant you safe passage through every other area. Your only challenge will be the Haunted Woods to get through to Faerieland.”
“We will do it, Jazan,” Tomos said, “for Sakhmet, the Lost Desert…and for Nabile.” He took the bundle of letters and placed them safely into his back, snapping it shut after them.
Vyssa and Tomos left Qasala donned in disguises, as well as a charm cast by Jazan which would hide their appearances until they left The Lost Desert. The king had also provided them with enough food and water for a month, which meant both of them had to carry huge backpacks on their backs, as well as the small leather bag containing the letters which Tomos kept safely next to his waist.
They were not feeling optimistic. A mammoth task lay ahead of them. First they had to reach Faerieland and hope that worked…and then meeting everyone else, across Neopia, and convincing their armies to join Jazan’s fight? It seemed impossible, but they had to try.
“We can do this,” Tomos whispered to Vyssa, giving her one of his easy smiles.
“I sure hope so,” Vyssa replied, and they marched onwards out of the desert, and into their first challenge.
The Haunted Woods lay ahead in the distance, a dark spot on the horizon beckoning ever closer.
To be continued…