Lady Sandstorm: Part Four
The door burst open to his workroom, and Hanso ran in, closely followed by Brynn. Jazan asked, “What in Fyora’s name are you two doing?”
Hanso shrugged. “We got bored of politics and decided to follow you.”
Brynn added, “He decided to follow you, and I came to keep him out of trouble. King Jazan, what was that?”
He looked out the window, at the desert where – somewhere – Lady Sandstorm was lurking. “A demon out of bedtime stories, back to take her revenge.”
Brynn asked, “How bad was this demon?”
Nabile twisted a strand of hair anxiously as Jazan said, “She was a Fire Faerie gone bad. She’s the reason the Lost Desert is a desert.”
Hanso winced. “That’s bad.”
Brynn asked, “What can we do? There has to be something we can do.” Hanso’s brow was creased as he thought. Jazan wondered, ready to slide into irritation again, Does he think he can come up with an idea to save us this time? He’s been in this desert for a couple of days – I have dwelt here for over two hundred years.
But even I am an infant compared to Lady Sandstorm. How can we fight her? Is it even possible? We don’t have the magic that the sorcerers of old had, and they didn’t have Majah and Heksas breathing down their necks. With all that’s stacked against us, will Qasala be wiped from the face of Neopia, and Sakhmet along with it?
No! We survived my father’s curse – we destroyed him, we returned, and we rebuilt our city. We will survive this! I am king in Qasala now, and Caspar will be king after me.
Nabile laid a hand on his shoulder, and he looked down at her. She said softly, “Take some time to go think. We can take the news back to everyone else.”
Jazan pictured the uproar and winced. “I don’t want to do that to you, Nabile.”
“They’re less likely to all start shouting at me than you. Go, Jazan. I’ll tell them that Altador’s coming to help us – that should calm them down.”
“But we don’t know that for sure...”
“It’s almost completely sure. Jazan, listen to me. Go be by yourself for a while... that’ll make you feel better. All these people talking at you never helps you – it only makes you want to blast something.”
He couldn’t help but laugh. “True enough. Nabile, if anyone tries to give you any trouble, come find me. I’ll be in the Hall of Kings.”
As Jazan left the room, Hanso asked, “How do we tell all of those people that a bedtime story’s come to life?”
Nabile sighed. “We tell them quickly and then make up some other business we have to attend to.”
He heard the sound of a sword being unsheathed, and Brynn cried in frustration, “If only there was something I could fight!”
You’ll have that soon enough, Brynn. We’ll all have plenty of things to fight soon enough.
The Hall of Kings was deserted – it usually was. Between the long window that looked out on the barren borderlands on one side and the solemn statues of past rulers in their alcoves on the other, most people found it creepy. Jazan didn’t... they always struck him as being guardians of his people. Now the catacombs deep underground where their bones rested – that gave him the chills.
Though the magic may have been what kept people away. The Hall expanded through magic... there was always enough room for the kings of the past, plus one empty alcove. That was the only thing that unsettled Jazan about this otherwise peaceful place – looking at the space where his own statue would stand when he was dead and gone.
The alcove next to his had a statue of his father... he had been a king, so he had earned his place, though no other ruler in the line had been as horrible to Qasala as he. Jazan walked past that statue quickly... the sculptor had portrayed him as he had looked when he returned from the dead, and while it showed clearly how much of a monster Razul had been, Jazan had no desire to remember the events of that day.
He kept walking – the hall was long, since Qasala’s past stretched many thousands of years. He walked past mages and warriors, scholars and artists, old wizened kings leaning on their staffs and others carved as fighters in their prime.
He hadn’t realized he had been looking for one particular statue, but when he saw it he knew instantly that it was why he had come.
King Jazan the First was a Draik, not a Kyrii as the current Jazan was, carved as an old man with a beard, but holding a spear in one hand and a globe of magic in the other. Jazan laid his hand on the pedestal as he sat down. This must have been what he looked like when he went out to fight Lady Sandstorm, allowing the mages to cast their spell on her. He didn’t include that part of the old tale in Caspar and Esmeralda’s bedtime story yet, because Jazan the First had died during that battle, sacrificing himself to defeat the enemy of his people.
He was very far back in time – only six kings stood between him and the end of the hall. He looked down the other way, down through the ages and to the heavy doors at the present day, feeling as if he was separated from the rest of the palace by time as well as distance. It was quiet here, peaceful, lit only by the light of the stars. He wouldn’t mind never having to leave.
But I have to go. The crown I wear, the scepter I accepted... those were a promise I made to the people of Qasala. We will have to fight armies and sorcery, and I will have to lead. It’s my duty, even if I have to give my own life to complete it.
He looked down the hall to the light at the end, where in the rest of the palace and city people wondered what was happening and what he would do to save them. And as much as he wanted to be alone, he knew that he couldn’t put thing off any longer. He left the statue of King Jazan the First and went to rejoin Neopia.
The next morning, Jazan sat in the library with a pile of scrolls at his side. Princess Amira was working with the generals to create their war strategy... it had been decided that, since she had more experience with the enemies in question and the Qasalan library had many more resources, he would lead the effort to find spells that could be used to stop Lady Sandstorm.
Nabile squinted at the page she was focused on. “It’d be a lot easier if the scribe who wrote these had been worth his salary... my handwriting is better than this!”
He held his hand out. “I’ll take it.”
Nabile ordered Tomos, “Go get me something else to look at.”
He grumbled, “Why do I have to be the errand boy?”
“Because you can barely even read!”
Most of the scrolls boiled down to one thing... without resorting to black magic himself, there was no way that one mage alone could stand against a Faerie experienced in the dark arts. This fight would have to be a group effort, and a large one.
However, he had yet to find anything that could tell him what to do.
If only we could find out how she escaped!
Then Hanso yelled, “King Jazan! Come over here!”
He stood up, thinking that a little more respect was in order – especially in front of all the other scholars – but he still went, and Nabile and Tomos followed.
Hanso stood triumphantly in front of a bookshelf in an abandoned corner, with Brynn at his side. He said proudly, “I’ve found a hidden door!”
Jazan looked closely at the bookshelf as Hanso said, “So, if I do this...”
He was about to tell the Ixi to wait until he could examine it – many of the old secret passages were unstable after their time underneath the desert sands – but before he could say a word, Hanso pulled on a shelf.
The floor collapsed underneath them – Jazan threw out his magic desperately, trying to protect them as bookcases and chunks of stone followed them. He could feel the stones bouncing around, trying to break through the shields he’d set to protect the others...
They hit a slanted surface and began tumbling down it, until Jazan hit something hard and cold. Someone else fell against him – from the sheathed sword digging into his leg he could tell it was Brynn.
He tried to look up the passageway, but there was only blackness. It must have sealed up behind us – the rubble closed the passage!
Nabile cried, “Jazan – light! We need light!”
He created a globe of magic in one hand, then let it float up to the ceiling to illuminate their surroundings. They lay against a wall, where the bottom of the ramp met a stone corridor. Hanso stood up and brushed himself off as Brynn said, “Hanso, I swear, if we make it out of this alive I’m going to kill you!”
Tomos groaned. “I’ll help you do it, Brynneth... I think my leg’s hurt.” He tried pulling himself to his feet with a chunk of a former pillar as support, but fell back with a moan of pain. “My leg’s definitely hurt. Might even be broken... Could someone give me a hand?”
Then Hanso said, “Hey – footprints!”
Jazan pulled him back. Hanso fell to the floor, but he didn’t particularly care – the fool deserved it. “I’ll investigate first this time.”
He knelt down and looked at the prints. There were two sets of tracks in the dust of the floor – they weren’t particularly recent themselves, but still clear amidst the other grime. “Several years old at the very least. Two people, it looks like... barefoot... and these look like spots where water might have dripped, which also explains how they stand out so much...” But how in Neopia were two people dripping wet in an underground corridor in the middle of the desert?
Nabile joined him, then looked up at him with her eyes wide. “Jazan – I know where we are!”
Tomos asked, “How in Neopia do you know where we are?”
Nabile grinned. “Tomos, you ought to know of all people!
“You and I made these footprints!”
To be continued...