Once a Scarab: Part Five
Tomos came to with a pounding headache, and opened his eyes.
They were in a little storeroom, by the looks of the boxes piled up. As a mercy to his head, the only light was from the cracks around the badly-hung door, and between its weathered planks. In the other room there was the sound of laughter and the smell of food – clearly, the bounty hunters were celebrating having found two Scarabs.
Nabile was curled up in a miserable-looking little ball, still asleep. They'd been sleep-gassed before, and Tomos knew that she'd feel like something the Mauket had dragged in for the next few days.
He'd need to try and wake her up – he shook her, but she didn't even moan. They needed to find a way out of here before anyone realized that they'd actually caught the Queen of Qasala. If Akhmaris found them, she'd be back in a dungeon cell alongside him as a hostage, and he wasn't going to allow that to happen.
What did they have to work with? He could try prying open some of the crates and boxes, but that would make noise, and if he drew any undue attention he'd probably get tied up for his trouble. He stood, wincing at the pins-and-needles feeling in his arms and legs. What to do? What to do? What could he use? Sitting around and giving up and seeing Nabile delivered to Akhmaris wasn't possible.
Then he looked at Nabile again. They hadn't had any time to talk or take stock of their options, and maybe she had something. King Jazan might have given her some sort of fancy magic thing.
He rifled through Nabile's pockets, but all she had was a mirror. He took it out – it could get thrown at someone at least. Hadn't she had coin in her pockets too?
He looked at her left hand – her ring was gone. They'd been searched, and apparently looted as well. She wouldn't be happy at all. She loved that ring.
And all they had was this useless mirror. He muttered, "You'd think King Jazan could have given her some sort of magic weapon or something useful."
And then the mirror in his hands lit up – Tomos blinked away the afterimages, and when he could see he almost dropped the thing.
King Jazan was looking at him out of the mirror! The king asked, golden eyes narrowed, "Where's Nabile? Is she with you?"
Tomos nodded. "She's right here – she's knocked out. Some bounty hunters got us. Sleep gas." As quietly as he could, he explained the whole situation.
King Jazan looked over his shoulder – the mirror was too small to see where he was or who else was with him. "Nightsteed, I need to leave as soon as I get my sword. You're in charge – I may be gone for a few days. I need to teach Akhmaris a stern lesson."
Tomos would have paid Neopoints to watch that lesson being taught. King Jazan looked straight at him again. "I'll be there in just a minute – will she be safe?"
Tomos said, "I think so." Even if the bounty hunters came in to turn them over now, he could hold them off for a minute.
And then the mirror went dark.
Tomos waited, wondering how Jazan would get there. Probably some sort of magic – it wasn't anything Tomos would know anything about. To pass the time, he shook Nabile again. No response. She was still out like a light – well, she was shorter than him, and a good deal skinnier. How much time had passed? With no windows, he had no way to tell.
And then there was a bright flash through the cracks in the door, and King Jazan said, low and furious, "Which one of you has my wife's ring?"
Tomos couldn't help but chuckle, picturing the shell-shocked bounty hunters face-to-face with the angry Qasalan king. One stammered, "Your – your w-wife?"
"Yes, my wife. She's the pink Ixi, currently in... that room there. But my spell was linked to her wedding ring, which is in here, and if I get it back right now I may consider not turning every Neopian in this room into a Scamander."
There was a pause, and a gasp of shock. King Jazan's voice was colder than the night wind as he said, "He'll turn back in a day or so. Now if you gentlemen will pardon me, I'm going to return this to Nabile. And if you attempt to stop me, or attack me while my back is turned, I will make you regret it, as he regrets his theft. Except your regret will be permanent."
And then the door turned to a pile of splinters on the floor. As Tomos blinked in the brighter light, King Jazan walked in and immediately knelt down beside Nabile. He said to Tomos, "Sleep-gas is magic, and I can counteract magic. Here." A few sparks flashed in Tomos's direction, and his headache faded. "Tell me if they try to run."
One look out at the terrified bounty hunters – two of the ones who had chased Tomos and Nabile, two others, and one Scamander on the table – let Tomos know that none of them intended to run, or speak, or even twitch until the king was gone.
So he turned to watch the king, who laid a hand gently on Nabile's cheek. Tomos saw the magic sparks come from King Jazan's fingers again – what would it be like to have power like that on command? And then Nabile's eyelids fluttered. She asked, "Jazan? What happened? Wait – Tomos – Tomos!"
Tomos said, "I'm here. You had some sort of magic mirror in your pocket and I accidentally called the king and he's getting us out of here."
Nabile got to her feet, leaning on Jazan's arm – he took a moment to slide her ring back onto her left hand. She beamed at the king, he beamed back, and Tomos pretended that he couldn't see.
Nabile whispered to Tomos, "You officially have my permission to always search my pockets if you need to."
He grinned as they entered the main room of the bounty hunters' lair – they all pressed themselves against the wall, even the Scamander, to keep as far away from an angry King Jazan as possible. The king swept past them without even looking at them, and Tomos followed him and Nabile out onto the street.
Nabile smiled up at Jazan as they left the bounty hunters' lair. "Thank you, Jazan."
He said softly, "I'm just glad that you're safe."
Nabile could tell that he was a little upset. She said, "I'm fine. Really. Whatever you did worked – I'm not even sick. Did Tomos tell you that we sent Amira to the Scarabs?"
Tomos saluted sloppily. "The whole story."
Then she realized, "I never even told you that I had that mirror, much less that you had to say Jazan's name to make it work. How'd you figure it out?"
Tomos looked sheepish. "I did say the king's name out loud..."
Jazan raised a single eyebrow, and Nabile decided not to press her friend. She said, "We need to go meet the Scarabs. Amira's going to need all the protection we can give her. Akhmaris said he has most of the guards and mages on his side."
Jazan said, "I'm needed here, then. Qasala's doing well. Nightsteed can manage."
Nabile looked up at him, catching his phrasing. "Jazan, we're needed here. Don't you dare to tell me to go back to Qasala." She had to be honest with him. "The Scarabs are our only allies at the moment, and they're all scared to death of you. You need me here to keep the peace."
There was a quiet noise behind Jazan – Tomos was clearly trying not to laugh. She snapped at him, "Oh, be quiet, and go find a street sign so we know where we are."
Tomos pointed – there was one just above Nabile's head. She sniffed at him and said, "Good. Gebmid Street. Only ten minutes away."
Tomos muttered, "But the king can't climb, either."
Jazan sighed. "You do what you need to. I'll keep up one way or another."
And they set off down a dark street once again.
Nabile looked up at the moon – it was almost midnight. She whispered to Jazan, "You were dressed and ready right away when Tomos called for you. You didn't intend to go to bed by a decent hour tonight, did you?"
He said, a little too quickly, "I had work to do."
"You always have work to do. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't sleep." Nabile had quickly learned that day-to-day royalty had little to do with heroism and much to do with paperwork.
Then Jazan stood stock-still, ears straight up, listening. Nabile asked, "What is it?"
He shuddered. "There's a spell going on. Something big. What devilry are Akhmaris's mages cooking up?" His eyes were wide, and Nabile could tell that he wasn't really looking at her – she grabbed his hands.
Tomos asked, "What's going on?" Even Nabile could tell there was something happening now – the air seemed to tingle, and she could smell the smoky-spicy scent that she always associated with magic.
And then there was a white flash like lightning, blinding Nabile – she tried to blink away the afterimages as quickly as she could.
Jazan was slumped against the wall, eyes shut. She asked, "Are you okay? Did it hurt you?"
He pushed himself up. "I got here just in time. It's a blocking spell. It prevents any magic from outside from getting in, and any magic from inside won't be able to get out. No communication spells. No transportation. No scrying. No long-distance workings. We're limited to whatever we can put together inside this city."
He said "we," but she knew that he still meant "I." He always took responsibility for everything, even if it was more than any man could be asked to handle. She whispered, "I'll help you, Jazan, in any way I can."
Jazan sighed, putting a hand to his forehead. "This is bad, Nabile."
Tomos shrugged. "Well, we've got the Scarabs, a real princess, and a king who can zap cities into other dimensions. Where we're from, we're doing great!"
Nabile smiled at him – she knew it had to be partly bravado, but it was exactly what she'd needed to hear. She ordered, "We need to keep moving. We need to reach the Scarabs.
"And then we're going to have a council of war."
To be continued...