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The Fall of Qasala: Part Five


by danama

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"How did you find us?" Nabile croaked once she had found her voice.

      "Oh, just a little spy," said the Princess. "Or did you wonder where little Tomos got his in depth information about the palace from? But that's not important, nor is it interesting in the slightest. Do you or do you not want to listen to my proposal? I assure you, there's gold in it for you." Her voice changed, bringing a little honey into it.

      Nabile sighed. It was obvious that she wouldn't be able to get any more information out of the Princess. "I'm listening," she said.

      "I need to find a few thousand soldiers from somewhere, pets who can wield a blade without cutting themselves. Unfortunately all my guards are... busy, so I don't know where to get these soldiers. However, if I could pick some rats off the street and give them blades, maybe they would work for me."

      A crafty look came into Nabile's eye. "Maybe they would, Princess. But they'd need an incentive, wouldn't they? Rats won't work if there isn't any... substantial reward. I've heard from somewhere that rats are particularly attracted to gold. And they'd need to know what they were needed for."

      "Unfortunately the palace treasury is almost empty. But as I said before, some nobles might start having a rat problem after the job. Very, very wealthy nobles. And unfortunately my guards might be too busy to help them. As for what they're needed for - just a little fight here and there, nothing the rats wouldn't be used to," lied the Princess.

      Nabile grinned and looked back at the Scarabs. They nodded back, and Nabile turned to the Princess.

      "I think you might find that some rats are willing to help you."

      "I'd have to know how many there were, though."

      "About two thousand would be my guess."

      "Perfect." Atro might not be pleased with them, she thought with a smile, but this should teach him to be careful what he asked for. "Bring everyone with you tomorrow morning at dawn, and meet me at the back gate of the palace. I'd expect you'd know where it is?"

      "Of course, Princess," replied Nabile with a mocking bow. "Count on it."

     *

     "I can't believe you're planning a charge today," the First Unit Commander muttered to Atro as he watched Amira's troops gear up for battle. "We don't have enough soldiers to win the battle yet!"

      "We don't now, but Amira sent word by Seti that she has found two thousand soldiers for us, so we'll be able to actually begin a proper battle. What I have planned today are just scouting missions, really - I just want to know the enemy's strength, their tactics, that sort of thing."

      "You aren't scared of the magic then?" The image of the whirling tornado was burnt into the unit commander's mind. Like all humble soldiers, he was frightened by any supernatural workings that happened.

      Atro tried not to look as if he was afraid. "Absolutely not," he lied. "All that trickery as all well and good, but when it comes to a good steel blade, there's no comparison at all! That king might have magic behind him, but I'm willing to bet that he's flesh and blood, just like any other pet, and that he'd fall to a blade like any other creature. Now I've got better things to do than sit around answering all of your questions. You'd better get ready too." And with that, he stalked off, trying to direct his thoughts away from whirling columns of fire.

     *

      "My lord, they're mounting an attack on us." I looked at Razul, who was staring out of the window at the Sakhmetians. "Shall I tell the fire to start burning?"

      "Wait till they're on top of it before you activate it," said Razul. "We'll need it to have the maximum effect."

      I nodded. "We should proceed to the walltop to aid to the defence."

      Razul shook his head. "I am forbidden by Jazan to present myself at the battle lest I be wounded or killed. Jazan will be going in my place, to lead the troops into battle."

      I looked at Razul, incredulous. "Jazan? Jazan has almost no battle experience whatsoever, and the Qasalans do not know him. Who will boost their spirits when they are tired, hungry, irritated? My lord, with my protection, you will not be harmed. We need you at the battle! If not for a great general who is skilled at leading troops into battle, then for the confidence and pride that you can give us!"

      "Jazan needs to learn what it is like to lead troops into battle, and I don't see why he shouldn't get some battle experience now. Besides, the Sakhmetians will think that I think that this battle will just be a walkover, which will give them false confidence, which may urge them to rash and hasty decisions. Vinifae, I know that this may lower confidence levels among my troops, but if it boosts confidence for my heir, the future of Qasala, it is most definitely worth it."

      And so it began. At the time I had thought of it as only a small argument, devoid of any influence upon the coming events, but I was wrong. It was this, and more, which would bring about our ruin.

     *

      Daysteed watched as Amira's troops charged forwards. She lifted a wing, signalling a line of the archers standing on the walltops to fire. They were skilled with the bow, and every arrow flew true and steady, finding themselves buried in fur and feathers and skin. Nightsteed grimaced as he trotted up the stairs towards her.

      "Why must so many fall?" he asked, watching the front ranks of the army collapse. "Why?"

      "Front rank, reload! Second rank, ready! Second rank, fire!" Daysteed turned to Nightsteed, having finished giving out her orders. "It's war, Nightsteed. These Sakhmetians would have us bow down to them, and are willing to destroy to do so. We must fight them in defence."

      Nightsteed shook his head in dismay, before turning to his own warriors, the mages. "Those with command of fire, help the Lady Vinifae with her traps! Those with air powers, blur the vision of our enemies, turn the wind against them so that they are slowed and that their arrows will not fly true! Those with powers of the earth, use stone to batter against our enemies! Water mages, bring down rain that will make them see not twenty paces in front of them! Light and Darkness mages, stay back: this is a first battle, not too important in the entire scheme of things so we will leave the risky things until later!"

      Daysteed looked at Nightsteed. "I have to go and tell the Prince to begin his counterattack. Stay here, and make sure that my archers stick to the plan. I'll be right back."

     *

      "What is it, that I may not have my rest after staying up all night?" Amira asked sharply to the Jeweled Scarab, who had entered her room without her permission.

      "I'm sorry, my Princess," replied Nabile with an exaggerated bow, "but my people will not move unless you travel with us. They think that there might be a chance that, after the fighting, you will not keep to your promise and refuse to pay us. Therefore, we have decided that you will come with us. In our company, not in that of that weak Shoyru Atro, who may not be able to guard you properly."

      Amira was speechless. How dare this grubby little Ixi give an order to her. Her, the Princess of Sakhmet!

      "You can trust us," Nabile went on smoothly. "A Scarab is nothing without her word. We just need assurance that you won't ditch us. A proper Princess would be willing to sacrifice anything for her people, don't you think?"

      Princess Amira glared at Nabile. "I don't have a choice, do I?"

      Nabile smiled. "Well, if you want your extra troops, no."

     *

      "Daysteed comes," Jazan told me, "and doubtless with an order to take my spearthrowers to the walltops. You must stay behind here, Vinifae - we cannot risk you."

      "If you wish it to be so, my Lord."

      "Lady Vinifae! Prince Jazan!" Knowing the Prince's love of formalities, Daysteed had had to address us formally. "My Prince, you and your long distance attackers are required at the walltops. Make haste!" Jazan nodded and left in silence. Daysteed looked back at me.

      "Are you tired, Vin? After all that magic, you should rest."

      I shook my head. "King Razul needs me to help with the city defences, and besides, I've already rested. I need to get to the walltops to help... "

      Daysteed stared at me. "From what I heard, Jazan asked you to stay behind. Are you disobeying his command?"

      "Yes. Daysteed, I -"

      "What?"

      "I don't think Jazan is ready for this."

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» The Fall of Qasala: Part One
» The Fall of Qasala: Part Two
» The Fall of Qasala: Part Three
» The Fall of Qasala: Part Four
» The Fall of Qasala: Part Six



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