Secrets in the Lost Desert: Part Two
Horace marched grimly through the palace and down to the dungeons. He supposed that it had only been a matter of time before he ended up in the dungeon. With all the strict new laws and tougher guards, a lot of people would be locked up. The Blumaroo arrived at that bottom of the palace and in the cold damp cells of the dungeon. One of the guards pushed him into an empty cell and closed the door. The dungeon was so colourless and depressing. Normally, there were few people in here for very long. Now, there was at least one person in each cell. The dungeons were so different from the rest of the palace. It was dark, filthy, freezing.
Horace slumped down on a creaky, uncomfortable bench and sighed. “At least I get a window.”
The tiny window showed the beautiful courtyard full of fountains, plants, and monuments. At every corner and turn there were guards patrolling. Horace reached his hand out and touched the cool sand. He might be stuck in here for a long time.
Nabile and Stan swiftly darted behind bushes and beside statues. Nabile’s eyes had grown used to the dark. As the two thieves crept through the gardens and yards, the guards paid no attention to them. A few times they were almost spotted, such as when an Elephante had marched by them. Nabile could swear that he was looking directly at her, but she held her breath and the guard had moved on. The courtyard was a maze of turns and corners. Stan knew all the perfect places to hide and wait when a guard past by. Nabile had used her skills that she acquired in the Temple of a Thousand Tombs to memorize the way that they came. She tried many entrances, but, as she predicted, they were all locked. She had carefully turned many different knobs; each had clunked in denial. Their last destination was Amira’s room.
They were close to the princess’s tower when Nabile gasped, “It’s Horace!”
She would have rushed over to see her imprisoned friend, but Stan held her back and covered her mouth.
“Be careful,” he ordered. “Dere’s a pair of guards stationed there. Dey ain’t gonna move like dem other guards.”
Nabile nodded sadly. This was another reason why she had to see Princess Amira immediately. The two continued to the tower. When they arrived, they found that it was easy to climb. A lot of bricks jutted out, while others caved in. Nabile went first and was followed by Stan. When Nabile reached the top, she made a disappointing discovery.
“The window is closed and locked.” She pouted. “We’ll never get in now.”
The Ixi tried to look through, but her sight was blocked by curtains. The two climbed down again slowly. When they reached the bottom, Stan pointed wordlessly at something. Nabile looked at where he was pointing. She saw a Lenny posting up a notice. When the Lenny left, Stan and Nabile approached the notice.
“It don’t believe this,” whispered Nabile. “It says here that all senators will lose their power and control. Has Amira gone crazy?”
“I suggest you look here,” advised Stan.
Nabile read a little lower and gasped in horror. “It says, ‘The Sakhmet army will commence the war with Khmatef by morning. If Qasala interferes, they will be destroyed as well.’ She can’t do that.”
“I’ve been wonderin’ ‘bout something. How can she be so sure she’ll win? Our army may be strong, but I don’t think dat it could face both da Qasala army and Khmatef army.”
Nabile did not hear him; she was already rushing back the way she had come.
She quietly called out, “Thank you, Stan. I need to get back to Qasala now.”
General Dacon’s wanderings had placed him at the dungeon. He decided that he should see how the Princess had changed the prisoners. He walked down the old, creaking stairs to the cells. He was stopped by a guard, a Hissi.
“I’m sorry, sir, but no one is allowed in here,” apologized the Hissi.
“I am General Dacon. I should be permitted to go where I please,” declared Dacon, annoyed.
The Hissi cowered back and let Dacon pass. The Tonu looked at all the recent prisoners. Only a few days ago the cells had been close to empty. The general was surprised at how many people he knew were locked up. Several liked shopkeepers were behind bars. As General Dacon passed through the dungeon, he shook his head with confusion. At the end, he arrived at a large, bolted, and locked door. A Techo and a Buzz were guarding it.
“Who is in there?” asked Dacon
“This cell contains the dangerous Princess Sankara,” stated the Techo who was looking at him with suspicion. “You aren’t supposed to be down here.”
General Dacon sighed and backed up. He then turned and left. The Tonu felt something at his leg and looked down. He saw a yellow Blumaroo trying to grab at a key. Dacon smiled at him. The Blumaroo looked clever, but poor. Dacon felt sympathy for him. Once he made sure no one was looking, the Tonu tossed the master key to the prisoner. He would have gotten a key sooner or later.
Before exiting, he took a last look at the pair of guards. He had never trusted them and he could not understand how they ended up guarding one of the most notorious criminals to Sakhmet. The Tonu was returning to the ground floor when he saw that the sun was starting to rise.
He thought about Princess Sankara. She hadn’t started evil, just young and confused. No, he could not keep saying that. She was nineteen years old when she tried poisoned King Coltzan. Still, she had had a stressful life. Her town had been invaded and she had been separated from her family. She did, however, understand the damage she had done. General Dacon tried to remember where it was she had come from. Was it Qasala? No, that could not be right. It was Khmatef.
General Dacon gasped as he realized this. He had to see Princess Amira again!
Nabile had escaped from the palace with no trouble. She was sprinting across the Lost Desert to her home. She knew that it was vital that she arrive at Qasala before the army. By the time the sun rose, Sakhmet was only a dot on the horizon. Still, she could see movement coming in that direction. The Ixi continued her dash, more determined than before. The ground was cold beneath her feet and sand blew in her eyes. Nabile paid no attention to these pains. Eventually, she arrived at Qasala. Her heart was beating fast and she was panting. She collapsed from exhaustion in front of the city.
Stan was wandering the courtyard aimlessly. Guards were always hunting him. Even when he was not in immediate peril, he liked to hide in the palace courtyard. Today it was easy to stay hidden because almost everyone who could fight had been sent to war. The Kyrii sighed at the lack of thrill. He was not sure if he was sighing with relief or sorrow.
Suddenly something shined in his eyes. It had come from the direction of the Princess’s tower. The curious Kyrii went to investigate. He found that the light had not come from the tower, but a dungeon cell below. Inside was a yellow Blumaroo inspecting a key.
“Hey, you’re Nabile’s friend, aren’t ya?” asked Stan.
“Yep, I’m Horace,” answered the prisoner grimly.
“Where’d ya get dat key?” inquired Stan.
“One of the guards handed it to me,” explained Horace.
“What?” asked Stan, but he saw that Horace was as confused as he was.
“It’s no use, though.” Horace sighed. “There are still a few guards patrolling the dungeon and I’ll never fit through this window.”
“I’ve got a better idea,” stated Stan. “I just need that key.”
Horace handed over the master key and waved to Stan as he left. The yellow Kyrii approached the tower and began to climb as he had the night before. When he reached the top, he carefully slid the key into a lock on the window. He silently crept behind the curtains and peered in at the scene in front of him.
Stan almost gasped, but he caught himself. Inside of the chamber were two Princess Amiras. One was crouched on the floor in a defensive position. The other was holding a scimitar menacingly. They both looked ill in different ways. The one on the floor looked like she had been deprived of food, water, and sunlight. She was dirtier than her counterpart, and her clothes were ripped. The other princess looked as if she was wearing too much makeup. It was as if she was trying to make herself look sick.
“I have tried to be patient with you,” said the standing Amira. Her voice was shrill and whiny; it was not the usual smooth voice of Amira. She continued, “I cannot win this war without the secret weapon. Where is it?”
Even in her weakened position, the other Amira looked bold when she spat, “I have no idea what you are talking about. Even if I did, I would never help someone as evil as you!”
The fake Amira was getting angry as she shouted, “You know as well as I do that King Coltzan had a great weapon that could crush cities. Tell me where it is!”
“My father would never build something only to destroy,” protested the weak Amira.
The false Amira shook her head and calmly said, “If you won’t tell me, then I will have to get rid of you. Just like I got rid of your father.”
To be continued...