Lady Sandstorm: Part Seven
Jazan stood in front of his scrying ball, wondering one final time if this was a good idea. Everyone else thought it was – everyone else thought that the might of whoever the Faerie Queen could send them was desperately needed in the fight against Lady Sandstorm. Altador was moving with all speed... he would arrive in the evening, four days from now. Messengers had said that Heksas and Majah would reach the River Sakh the morning after. Lady Sandstorm could fall upon them at any minute, but it was Jazan’s gut feeling that she would attack during the battle, when they could least afford it.
It’s Qasala she hates – she’ll be glad to help Heksas and Majah. And if they won’t let her rule over them, she’ll just destroy them next.
But to stand before the Faerie Queen and ask for help... he’d only seen her in person once before, in the ruins of Faerieland after it crashed. Even then, tired, upset, and weak as she was, she had made him feel somewhat like a grubby child.
It’s not my own dignity that matters. If it’s necessary, I’ll go down on my knees. He clenched a fist reflexively, hating the very thought of it. Remember Qasala. Remember the people depending on you. She’s not a tyrant – she’ll be reasonable. She’ll see that we need help.
He laid his hand on the crystal and murmured the words – he’d learned the spell to take himself to the Faerie Palace, even though he’d never had cause to use it before. And when he opened his eyes, the Grand Council Chamber was overlaid on his workroom.
Fyora was currently in there, along with a few assorted Faeries. His heart sank as he saw that they were all dressed and armed for battle. A Light Faerie squeaked and jumped back as he appeared in their midst. The Queen looked down at him from her seat... he felt even smaller than Caspar and Esmeralda. I am a king. I have every right to be here.
“King Jazan, you have never called upon me here before. I’ve heard rumors of trouble in the desert...”
“I’m certain they’re all true, Your Majesty. Sakhmet and Qasala are allied against King Heksas of Mentu and Khamtef and Lord Majah of the foothills. Altador is coming to aid us, so we can match their forces.
“But, Your Majesty, Lady Sandstorm has escaped her prison.”
A Fire Faerie cried, “That’s ridiculous! She’s a bedtime story – nothing more!”
Jazan had been prepared to prove himself – he held up his ghostly hand, existing in two worlds at once, and let the sound of Lady Sandstorm fill the Grand Council Chamber. Those deadly words in Old Qasalan: Beware, Qasalans. Lady Sandstorm has returned.
Jazan continued – shooting a glare at the Fire Faerie first; he couldn’t help himself – “We think she’ll attack us when Heksas and Majah do. And, Your Majesty, we need help. Jerdana and I will not be able to defeat Lady Sandstorm by ourselves, even with the help of Qasala and Sakhmet’s lesser mages. I come before you to ask for aid.”
An Earth Faerie said, worried, “But, milady Fyora, the Dark Faeries...”
Fyora explained softly, “Our new home, on the borders of the Haunted Woods, has led to increased attacks by dark forces. Dark Faeries are only one of many threats we face. We fight often these days.”
A Light Faerie finished, “So we can’t possibly spare anyone.”
He said, carefully keeping his demeanor calm, “Your Majesty, Lady Nuria helped us imprison Lady Sandstorm in my ancestor’s days. If you could request – just request – that she help us again...”
A Fire Faerie shook her head. “Lady Nuria was severely weakened by the curse your father put on Qasala – she rests in our Tyrannian fire lands, trying to regain her strength. If Lady Sandstorm has as much power as you think, she would be destroyed.”
Jazan swallowed, ignored the reference to Razul, and steeled himself to beg for some help – any help. If she could destroy a Faerie... I’m just one mortal Kyrii! But then, by his real body, a small figure crept up and put its hand on the scrying globe, joining him in the vision.
He’d forgotten to wonder if Caspar was about. Unlike his sister, he was rarely underfoot – unless it came to magic, in which case he would get into anything. He’d almost eaten a pile of cursed crystals once. He wrapped his arms tightly around his father’s legs when he saw the faeries. “Daddy!”
A couple of them cooed – Jazan realized that, rather than making him look unprofessional, Caspar had given him a gift. They’re faeries. They love children and innocents. How can they refuse me any aid at all with my child by my side? He patted Caspar’s head... while the boy was curious about magic when he saw it performed, it frightened him when it actually happened to him. “It’s okay, Caspar. It’s okay.”
Fyora stepped down from her high seat and asked, looking at the little Ixi, “Is this your son, King Jazan?”
He felt the magic surrounding them ripple, and Fyora entered the scrying-spell as well. She touched the little Ixi’s shoulder. “Would you look at me, Prince Caspar?”
He looked up at her for a second – then abruptly buried his face in Jazan’s leg again.
Fyora said softly, “Tell me, Prince Caspar, do you think that your father can fight Lady Sandstorm?”
Caspar looked back at the Faerie Queen with the sort of disdain that only a three-year-old could produce. “Well, of course. Daddy can do anything.”
Jazan was touched by the faith that his son had in him, but at the same time he hoped that Fyora wouldn’t take it as evidence that they were fine without aid.
But the boy wasn’t done talking. He said, “But I think it would make him happy if the faeries helped him... everyone says that faeries help.”
Oh, thank you, Caspar. Thank you, my son. His own weak point was getting people to agree to do what he wanted them to do using words – he was far better with showing them that he would be a bad person to make into an enemy. The little desert Ixi had, in his own way, been far more eloquent than Jazan ever could have been.
Fyora nodded. “Very well, then. I shall send faeries to help your father.” Then she looked at Jazan and said, “I do not know who will come just yet – expect them the same morning that the enemy armies arrive.”
Jazan bowed out of gratitude, even though he didn’t really think he owed a fellow monarch – even one as exalted as Queen Fyora – more than a nod. “Thank you, Your Majesty.”
And he let the scrying spell dissolve, then picked up Caspar and hugged him tightly. “Good job, Caspar. I’m very, very proud of you.” And I’ll do everything I can to keep you, your sister, and your mother safe. Anything I have to do, I’ll do it.
“So can you tell Aldie to give me my puzzle box back?”
He smiled. I wish that was the biggest problem I had, Caspar. “Of course. All of those Usukis of hers – she doesn’t need your puzzle box, too!”
He noticed a gemstone set into the wall glowing gently. I’ve got an eavesdropper outside, then – but not one with magic.
He guessed who it was, and then threw open the door to see Hanso standing outside. “I just got here. Do we have faeries?”
Jazan set Caspar down and crossed his arms. “Does ‘just got here’ mean, ‘King Jazan, I wasn’t eavesdropping, so please don’t throw me in the dungeons?’”
The infuriating Ixi leaned against the wall. “I figure I’m pretty safe in front of your son. Do we have faeries?”
He turned away so the thief wouldn’t see him smile. “Yes. We have faeries.”
At evening, four days later, Jazan stood over the main gate to Qasala, looking west toward the mountains, from where Altador would come. He’d decided it was safe enough to let the children watch, so they both stood on tip-toes to see over the battlements. Aldie had found an Altadorian flag somewhere – probably with one of her many Usukis – and waved it happily, occasionally poking her brother with it. Nabile warned her, “Once more, Esmeralda, and I will take that away from you and give it to some other child who will behave.” Then she looked up at Jazan. “What’s the latest word from Jerdana?”
He’d been using magic to communicate with the Aisha frequently as the Altadorians approached Qasala. “We should see them on the horizon shortly. I can’t believe he managed to bring that many soldiers over the mountains that quickly.”
She smiled at him. “Altador comes through for his friends. Just like you, Jazan.”
He shook his head. “Altador’s the heroic type. I do what needs to be done. I do it quite well at times...” he smiled back at her, “but I just do what needs to be done.”
Amira knocked a few people aside to meet them. “We just had word from the scouts, Jazan – Heksas and Majah will be at the River Sakh before dawn! But they know we’re waiting for them, so they aren’t going to stop and sack Sakhmet on the way there.”
Tomorrow morning, they would gather close to Qasala, where the broad plain in front of the city would allow them mobility backed up by the strength of Qasala’s rebuilt walls. It’s the best place... it’s our best hope.
And then there was a horn-call on the horizon – Jazan could picture Altador winding the gold-bound horn that old Lupe had showed to him once. The assembled soldiers and Qasalan citizens cheered. “Altador! Altador! Altador!”
And then the army marched into sight, with Altador striding in the front and Jerdana running to keep up with his pace. He could tell that Amira was ready to elbow her way through the crowds again, but he merely looked at people and they got out of his way.
Hanso came running with Brynn close behind. “We’re coming, too! If he brought Rosen and Guildus, then it’ll practically be a reunion!”
Brynn smiled fondly. “It’s been years, hasn’t it?”
Nightsteed was next, alongside Tomos – who was healed enough to fight the next day. The Lupe said, “I didn’t get dragged through the underground funhouse of death to not come with you guys when Altador arrives!”
Underground... funhouse... of death. He does have a certain way with words, doesn’t he? “Let’s go, then, before such a motley delegation starts to look like a bad idea.”
Altador did seem happy to see Hanso and Brynn – he clapped them on the back and asked them how they’d been doing. Jazan cleared his throat politely. “It’s great that we’re all together, but why don’t we talk after we’ve finished making plans?”
Amira nodded. “Thank you very much for lending your aid, King Altador.”
Altador extended a hand to Jazan, who shook it. He was probably the only other Neopian ruler that the Kyrii would consider a friend – they didn’t need any more formalities.
From down near his waist, Jerdana asked, “Do we know which faeries are coming to help us tomorrow?”
Tomos shrugged before Jazan could answer. “Nope. We just sit tight and hope that it’s not a couple little apprentices who’ve only ever helped catch Petpets falling out of trees.”
He’s right again – sit tight and hope is basically all we can do.
A lot of hope.
To be continued...