The Fall of Qasala: Part Five
"How did you find us?" Nabile croaked once she had found
"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
"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
"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
"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
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 -"
"I don't think Jazan is ready for this."
To be continued...