Lady Sandstorm: Part One
“Many, many long years in the past, so long ago that not even Queen Fyora can remember it, our desert was as green and temperate as Altador to the west.”
“How long ago?”
“So long ago that Sakhmet had not even been founded. Qasala stood alone, a gem amid the rolling hills and under the gentle sun. But there was evil in the land. A Fire Faerie turned to dark arts, and wished to use them to rule all the land south of the Wood and east of the mountains. So she went to the Qasalans and said, ‘I will make your people greater than you could ever have dreamed. All you have to do is bow before me and make me your queen.’”
“We said no!”
“That’s right. We are a proud people of a strong lineage, and we would not let ourselves be ruled by an undying tyrant. We told her to go back to her tower and her dark magic and to leave us in peace.
“But she was proud as well – arrogant, vain, and power-hungry. As she left our gates, she swore that she would see our city scoured into dust and sand, and that we would come back to her on bended knee. And thus her revenge began. She put all the power of her element into the sun of our land, scorching the ground dry with the blazing heat. She drove the rain clouds far away, leaving the earth parched. She scoured the land with storms, leaving dust and sand where there were once grass and trees. And the people of Qasala gave her a new name – Elzamyr Akhu, which in the language of old meant Death-Wind Queen. Today, we call her Lady Sandstorm.
“She waited for us to bend and break under what she had done to our land. But Qasalans would not be defeated that easily. We learned to protect ourselves from the sun and storms. We learned to find wells, and the oases where water still flowed. And no power could destroy the River Sakh, which flowed and still flows with the strength of ages from the mountains to the sea. And, day by day and year by year, we learned to flourish in the desert that our land had become. When Lady Sandstorm saw this, her rage overcame her, and she plotted to destroy us once and for all.
“King Jazan the First was ruler of Qasala in those days. He had been a boy when Lady Sandstorm first came to Qasala. Now he was old, but strong and wise. He knew that he could not stand against Lady Sandstorm alone, and so he allied himself and his people with her sister, Lady Nuria, who still guards the desert today. With all the strength of the Faerie, the king, and the mages of the desert, Lady Sandstorm was defeated and buried deep under the earth, where she will remain.”
King Jazan the Fourth finished telling the story and stood, going to each of his twin desert Ixi’s beds and tucking them in. “Now, good night, Caspar. Good night, Esmeralda.”
The little prince’s eyes were already closed, but his sister was still wide-awake. “Daddy, is she under the earth until forever?”
Nabile got up from her chair. “Forever and ever. The only power Lady Sandstorm has left in Neopia is to keep you from going to sleep if you keep talking, silly Aldie.”
Esmeralda asked, “Can I have a Cobrall? I want a pet Cobrall. And I can teach it to do tricks and it can bite Caspar if he pulls my hair.”
Jazan shook his head fondly – it was lucky that Caspar was already asleep, or they would have had yet another argument on their hands. Three-year-olds. Nabile said firmly, “No Cobralls. No Wadjets. Nothing that slithers.” She snuffed the lamp. “Good night, little chatterbox.”
“How about a Mauket? Maukets don’t slither! Neither do Anubises, or Gebs...”
Jazan followed Nabile out of the twins’ bedroom. Once the door was closed, she started to laugh, then yawned. “It is fairly late, Jazan.”
He reminded her, “Nightsteed wanted to meet with us – something about a message from Sakhmet.”
She yawned again. “Well, if it’s for Amira, let’s go take care of it.”
Nightsteed met them in Qasala’s library, where they all sat in front of the big window to take advantage of the cool night air. Jazan wouldn’t allow himself to yawn – it was late, but as long as there was work to be done, he could keep himself awake. If there was one thing he’d learned in his ten years as king, it was to forgo sleep.
The news from Sakhmet wasn’t good – Lord Majah from the foothills was threatening invasion of the city. Nabile shook her head. “Again?”
Jazan said, “It may be best to do what we did last time – remind him that Sakhmet and Qasala are allies. Unless he’s tripled his forces since his last attempt, he can’t possibly hope to stand against us together.”
Nightsteed asked, “Will you send a response to Amira tonight or tomorrow?”
He took a breath. “I’d better get it done tonight – there’s no use in letting her worry.”
Nabile sighed. “You’re honorable and dutiful. I’m just sleepy.”
That was when the tremors began to shake the room. Dust and a few small stones fell from the ceiling. Jazan shouted, “Under the table – get under cover!” I hope people know what to do – we’ve never had an earthquake in Qasala before! He heard a rumbling boom from outside. Something bad had happened, but he didn’t dare go to the window and see what.
Nabile cried, “The Lost Desert doesn’t have earthquakes! Remember that Moltaran ambassador? The rock underneath us isn’t supposed to move, or whatever it is that causes earthquakes in other places! He told us about it! He told us several times, he was so interested!”
Nightsteed called from his own shelter, “It has to be magical – there’s no other explanation! Don’t move – it may be targeting you!”
With Nabile as scared as she was, Jazan fully expected her to snap at Nightsteed. He wasn’t surprised. “Okay, Mother – I was going to run all around under the cracking ceiling, but I think I’ll stay here!”
The king risked looking up at the ceiling. It’s fine in here – it’s just the ornamental stonework that’s cracking – but the rest of the palace?
I need to do something.
He told Nabile, “This is going to be a big spell – I may need help from you.”
She laid her hands on top of his. “You can borrow my strength if you need to.”
Palms flat on the floor, Jazan reached through the mazes of stone that made up the walls and towers of the palace. He sent his magic through all of them, willing them to hold their shape and keep their purpose.
There – in a hall by the kitchen – the ceiling was close to collapsing. He had to do more here – he forced the stones back together as well as he could. He didn’t have the energy to fix the breaks completely, but repairing the damage would be a job for masons now rather than magic.
Jazan then reached through the rest of the palace, fixing two more places that were in danger of falling. He was close to the end of his own strength – he borrowed as little as he could from Nabile.
He gradually let go as the tremors slowed and stopped. As his magical awareness receded, he checked on the tower where his family lived. There were Caspar and Esmeralda, huddling together under Caspar’s bed. They’ll be terrified.
I can’t go to them until I make sure that I’m staying together...
He opened his eyes again as he reminded himself that he was no longer the palace, but a single Kyrii. The floor was still. He crawled out from under the table and pulled himself upright – he was slightly dizzy and weary to the bone. Nabile said as she stood, “If I ever go through that again, it’ll be too soon.”
Nightsteed walked over to them. “Don’t say that until we – Sweet Fyora!”
Jazan could count on one hand the times he’d heard that sort of fear in Nightsteed’s voice. His heart plummeted as he turned toward the window.
On the horizon, beyond the city’s walls to the southwest, fire was shooting into the sky. No –more than fire – lava! He said in horror, “A volcano!” A volcano in the desert? We aren’t supposed to have volcanoes any more than we’re supposed to have earthquakes!
Nabile said softly, “Fyora protect us all.”
As weary as he was, Jazan knew there was no way he’d be able to sleep tonight. He started planning out loud. “I’ll send that letter to Amira with the first messenger I can find. I’m certain they can see this volcano from Sakhmet – I’ll ask her to come as soon as she can. This will take a united effort. And then we need – I think General Sambar should come with us to investigate, and I could use another mage for backup. I’ll wake Mirzah – well, not wake. There’s no way that anyone in Qasala is asleep. But I want to be leaving the city at dawn.”
Nabile tapped his shoulder. “There’s only so much one man can do, Jazan. Promise me you’ll get some rest, okay?”
He looked out at the red-lit night sky – the fires of the volcano had only grown brighter. “Look at that, Nabile. How can I think of sleep with that out there, threatening our people?”
She yawned once more. “You’re right.” Then she straightened up. “We need to make sure the children fall asleep again, and then we get to work.
“Nightsteed, could you see if you can find some of that coffee from Neopia Central? I want it strong.”
To be continued...
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