The Fall of Qasala: Part Two
"All Qasalans able to wield a sword or magic report to the
Palace Meeting Hall immediately to note your position in the defence of Qasala.
Steel users report to Daysteed. Magic users report to Nightsteed. Those too old
to go into battle must travel to the Palace with those too young to look after
them. Every spare paw is needed to ensure a safe future for Qasala. Take all of
your valuable (be it sentimental or financial) belongings with you. That is all."
As I let the spell which enabled my voice to be heard
throughout the city, I couldn't help but wonder just how many Qasalans were
listening to the message with an increasing sense of dismay. To be torn away
from your home and your loved ones, not knowing whether you would live to see
the next sunrise… it was a feeling I had never felt but could imagine all too
I jerked myself away from those thoughts and
started focusing on my job, what I was supposed to be doing. I carefully laid
a large sheet of blank white paper on the table and got out some brushes. In
my mind I could see the city of Qasala as if I was a Pteri flying over head.
Picking up a brush with some difficulty and dipping it in the ink pot, I began
to lay out my plans.
Wearied by thirst and lack of sleep, the Sakmetian
army marched on in the blazing morning sun. Too them it seemed as if they had
been trooping forever in these cursed endless deserts. Still, all of them were
loyal to their Princess, all of them were willing to endure much more on her
orders. They all knew that she did nothing without reason.
And secretly all of them felt proud at the thought
that when all of this was over, their Princess would truly be the ruler of all
the Lost Desert, and their city would be the major city in the desert. All the
trade would go there, making the city flourish and prosper, and they would be
the proud guards of all the splendour and beauty that was to come. Besides,
what was a little tramping in the desert? None of them thought that they would
find any trouble in ordering all the other 'renegade cities' to bow down to
the Princess, if they existed at all.
Little did they know just how wrong they were.
If the army could have seen what was to befall them in a couple of days, more
than three quarters of them would have turned and fled.
A knock on the door brought me to my senses
as I sat in a dream-like trance at the table. Swiftly getting to my hooves I
walked over to the door and opened it. Two royal Unis, one female and one male,
"Daysteed? Nightsteed? Here for the plan of
defence, I presume?"
"You presume right," Daysteed replied. She looked
as if she had been running errands all day. "We need to know what you're planning
so we can make our own plans accordingly."
I beckoned them over to the table where my crude
but accurate map of the city was sitting. I waved a hoof over my drawing.
"That's what I've got so far. I'm planning to
cast an illusion over the whole city, just in case. If the army keeps marching
in our direction anyway, I'll just cast off the illusion in one sweep, to gain
us the advantage of surprise. Then I can use my magic in defence. The red lines
are where I'll plant lines of fire as traps for their soldiers. The blue lines
is where I'll create rivers to use as a moat. See, the moat will encircle the
entire city with an outer border of fire."
"Fire won't burn long without fuel," Nightsteed
said thoughtfully, "and water can be bridged in a few days. I don't mean to
put pressure on you, but that's not enough - we'll need more time to gather
our troops and supplies, give orders, stuff like that. What are those yellow
"I've examined the area around the city, and
those are the areas where we are weakest. A fault was found in the wall there
a few years ago, and I don't think that it's been mended properly. That's our
front gate - easy enough to knock down with a battering ram. So I'll have to
concentrate on those areas. I'll create chasms that will be impossible to breach.
They'll have to be small, but they should be enough. I was thinking of doing
it for the smaller wallgates too, but we need an escape route just in case,
and they shouldn't be too hard to defend, small as they are."
"Vin." Daysteed looked at me, her normally merry
eyes serious. "I can't use magic and I'm not a Power like you, but I know enough
of magic to know that that sort of magic will take a lot of energy. You're going
to be tired day and night just from holding the spells. The city is huge. If
you're going to surround it with that much magic…"
"Come now, Daysteed," I said, trying to sound
light. "It's all for the good of the city, really, and it's King Razul's orders.
Besides, it really isn't that much magic - only four works."
"You think you can cope with it?"
"Of course!" I tried hard to smile and I think
I might have succeeded, but Nightsteed shook his head.
"You're a horrible liar, Vinifae. Don't work
too hard now."
But even as I showed the Steeds to the door,
I knew that both of them knew that that was exactly what I was planning to do.
Night had fallen over the tired heads of Amira's
troops. The banner that they had carried all day long had been tied to a tree
and was now lying still, slumped against the trunk, sometimes lazily flapping
a little before drooping down again. It seemed to reflect the army themselves.
Most had gone to sleep. Half of those awake were merely chatting quietly or
staring into the fire. The rest were at the sentry post, fighting to keep their
One particular yellow Kyrii was feeling particularly
dozy as he stared out into the night. It was his first time marching with the
Army and he was hungry and thirsty and wanted to sleep. He didn't want to do
sentry duty, but he was appointed to do so and so as a loyal soldier of Amira
he had no choice but to obey.
As he remembered his duty, he stood up a little
straighter and peered cautiously into the darkness, feeling that he had something
to live up to. A true soldier did not laze half asleep when he had a post to
fill. A true soldier did his duty without complaining for the good of all.
"The illusion is in place, my lord," I told
Razul. "Should the followers of Amira glance upon our direction they will see
nothing but sand.
"Thank you, Vinifae," Razul replied quietly.
"You have done well."
Still, by the tone of his voice I could tell
he was worried, worried for his people, as a proper king should be. I felt helpless
- my king and his people were threatened, and all I could give them were a few
days. I knew that it was more than most Qasalans could do, but I was the Power
of Qasala and I should be able to hold back the invaders all by myself! It was
only the knowledge that I would be of no use to my city if I overstrained myself
too much that kept me from flinging out all my power right at that moment. And
besides, magic was apt to leave the user if it was all used up too quickly,
and once it was all gone, of what further use would I be?
"Vinifae? Are you alright?" Razul was looking
at me with concern in his eyes. "You should rest - you'll be having a monstrosity
of a day tomorrow."
"As you wish, my lord," I replied, and bowing
to Razul, I left the room.
It was not a long walk to my rooms, and so I
reached them quickly without any interruption. I checked my illusion - it was
still in place. I fixed a spell so that I would be able to hold the illusion
while I slept. Exhausted from the day's events, I had climbed under the covers
and shut my eyes when -
BANG! BANG! BANG!
In a flash I was up and at the door - living
at the palace meant that you slept with one eye open. To my surprise, Prince
Jazan leapt into the room and grabbed me. I stumbled backwards for a moment,
and in that tiny split second I lost concentration over my magic. Jazan was
babbling in fast, uncontrolled speech that I could barely hear or comprehend.
I managed to get my thoughts under control again but it was too late - the damage
had been done.
The Kyrii blinked in confusion. No, it was still
there - a great city with walls made of yellow stone, standing majestically
in the middle of the desert. He yelled aloud and his unit commander came running.
His unit commander looked up at the city, eyes wide in disbelief. Then something
happened that made them both stare in total astonishment.
The great walled city had disappeared.
To be continued…