I Will Stand Alone: Part Five
Jazan unlocked the door to his rooms quickly, carrying a tray of food for a rather late luncheon. He was thankful that he so often took meals in his room while reading – the sight of him with the covered platter wouldn't cause anyone to think twice. And if it seemed like far more food than one person needed, Jazan could fall back on the stereotype that young men always ate as if they were preparing for a famine.
He shut the door behind him, and as he locked it again he heard a noise that made him jump and almost drop his tray. It was only after it repeated that he realized it was a snore from the open door of the bedroom – Seji had apparently claimed Jazan's bed and was making up for his lost night of sleep.
Kiri was sitting at his desk, using a charcoal stick to draw something. Pashki had curled up in his chair with one of his books. He said, "I've brought lunch. Nightsteed should be up here any minute."
Pashki complained, "Then can we wake Seji up so he can stop snoring and help us plan?"
Kiri shook her head and tucked some of her hair out of her eyes. "Don't be mean, Pashki. At least we've had time to sleep."
Jazan set the tray of food on his desk, removed the lid, and took his own plate, taking a big bite out of a pita as he did so. As he chewed and Kiri and Pashki took their own lunches – Kiri chirped, "Thank you, Jazan," while Pashki merely attacked like a hungry Anubis – Nightsteed rapped at the door. Jazan let him in, pita in hand.
Nightsteed looked grim. "I'll stay here and we'll start planning, Jazan – I've found out where Asyir and Masazi are. But the king wants to see you now. His emphasis."
Jazan winced. "How upset is he?"
Nightsteed merely replied, "Nuria bless you, Jazan."
That was bad. That was really bad. Of course, Razul was clearly in full-out paranoid conspiracy-hunting mode, so there was no way that it could have possibly been good.
Kiri's blue eyes were wide. "Isn't there anything that you can do?"
Jazan shook his head. "If I don't come when he calls like a good little Anubis, I'll get added to the conspiracy he's imagining right now."
Pashki frowned. "But there is a real conspiracy. And since you're helping us, you are part of it."
Jazan winced. "And, if at all possible, I never want him to find out."
Nightsteed urged, "Go, Jazan."
Jazan tried not to show how scared he was, especially not in front of the sisters. They were relying on him to rescue their parents from the king – they couldn't know that, if Jazan tried to face down the king today, he would probably lose.
And they needed him. So he would just have to do his best to defuse Razul, to be as helpful and half-witted and harmless as possible.
He smiled at Kiri, and stuck his hands in the pockets of his trousers to hide the fact that they were trembling.
And then he set off down the halls.
He opened the door to Razul's study. "I'm here, sir. You sent for me?"
The king was in a high foul humor. "No, I sent for the Kyrii who looks like you but is smart enough not to waste my time with idiotic questions!"
Jazan didn't allow the sting of the insult – they always stung a little, no matter how many he bore the brunt of – to hurt his composure. "How may I serve you, sir?"
Razul pointed to the chair in front of the desk. "Sit down, boy, and listen to me."
Jazan did, keeping his eyes fixed on the wood of the desk. His father said, "There's been plotting against me. Everyone knows it! Even you, as dim as you are, have noticed it, haven't you, boy?"
Jazan nodded. "I have, sir. Lord Asyir and Lady Masazi..."
"Don't even speak their names, boy!"
"I'm sorry, sir."
"Plotting. Whispering. They're all around me, seeking to take what's mine. And, boy, I hope you know that none of those who'd like to take the throne would put you on it. They know whose side you're on. They will not treat you kindly."
Jazan said, keeping the loyal-son mask perfectly motionless, "I have no fear, sir. You are greater than any of them."
Razul slammed his hand on his desk. "Well, if even you can see that, why can't they?"
Jazan replied, "I don't know, sir."
But Razul wasn't listening. He said, half to himself, "I've got to dig them out, root them out... Boy, get out of here. I've got plans to make, and they're all far too complex to waste time explaining them to you!"
Jazan rose. Razul snapped, "Keep out of my way, boy."
"Yes, sir." That was one order he'd be extremely glad to obey. He left the study and shut the door behind him as quickly as was seemly.
Behind him, he heard a crash and the sound of pottery hitting the floor. Jazan suspected that the large decorative vase in the corner by the door was there no longer. He shuddered. At least Razul was taking out his frustrations on the décor rather than a person.
With his father in a mood like this, if they didn't think of a flawless plan and execute it perfectly, they were all done for. It was as simple as that.
Despite the heat of the desert afternoon, Jazan shuddered again.
Jazan entered his rooms again to find that his desk had been dragged to the middle of the room so that Nightsteed, Kiri, Pashki, and Seji could all cluster around it.
Nightsteed came up to him and gave him a friendly nudge with his horn. "Good to see you, Jazan. Get the king to calm down?"
Jazan shrugged. "At least until I left. He's searching for people trying to dethrone him, as usual. But I think he's convinced that I'm on his side. Now, what do we have for a plan?"
Nightsteed said, "We haven't gotten far. Asyir and Masazi are in the dungeons, deep. There's no tunnel entrance too close to there – we'll need some magic to veil ourselves and to confuse the spying spells."
Jazan nodded. "I should be able to create something. I'll need Pashki to help me, though."
Nightsteed nodded. "Confusing the traces left behind. Good thinking, Jazan."
Seji said, "I think we need to take the tunnels all the way out to the edge of the city. I know an exit that only gets used for hunting parties now and then, and this is the wrong season for that. And then I think we ought to head for Sakhmet – it's the closest place we can get behind strong walls and strong mages. If we ask for sanctuary, and Razul comes after us, he might as well just declare war and have done with it."
Nightsteed said, "I'll tell the king that Jazan and I are going to Sakhmet to pick up scrolls from the library there. That'll give us a good reason to be preparing for a desert trek, and we'll have the time to go with you all the way to the city."
In that moment, Jazan envied them tremendously. Coltzan II was a good man and a good king. He always treated Jazan kindly on his brief visits there, never so much as mentioning the fact that Razul had to be one of the greatest continued threats to Sakhmet's peace and prosperity. They'd all be safe and happy there. But Jazan would have to return to Qasala, return to this life of skulking and studying, hoping for and dreading that inevitable confrontation with his father, which would come as surely as the sun would rise.
Kiri said, "Maybe – do you think Jazan could pretend to be the king? That would be a good way to make sure no one asks any questions."
Nightsteed said, "Good idea. I need to go ask the king's permission and get our supplies together – this needs to be done tonight."
Jazan disliked the idea of assuming his father's face for any length of time, but he had to admit that the idea was a sound one, and he knew Razul well enough to make the con very convincing indeed. And by covering his face and voice in an illusion, he wouldn't necessarily give himself away if he didn't manage to block all of the spying spells.
Perhaps there was a bit of a dramatic flair to the thought that he'd missed at first glance, though. Using his father's face to foil his father's plots? He couldn't help but smile at that. "I'll be able to do that. Do you know any illusion spells, Pashki?"'
She nodded. "One or two."
"We'll use your spells for the base, so Razul won't recognize them."
Seji said, "I ought to be there as well – you two will have to focus on all the spells you'll have going, and you may need me to knock some heads together."
Jazan decided, "Pashki, you'll be feeding me power, but you can do that from the mouth of the tunnel entrance. Kiri, if you stay with her, you can keep yourselves hidden. We'll leave the supplies with you. If anything goes wrong, get out of here and head for Sakhmet."
Seji nodded. "Good planning, Jazan. Worst comes to worst, someone needs to get out of here, at least so the world will know what Razul has done."
So the world will know what Razul has done. That phrase caused the glimmer of an idea to dance around the edges of Jazan's mind, not fully in focus. It wouldn't do to force it – he'd only lose it entirely. So he let it go – it would all make sense later.
He stood by the desk, and he and Pashki started to work out the basics for the spells they'd need tonight as Seji and Kiri started to draft a letter to King Coltzan II, formally requesting sanctuary. If there was anything Jazan had learned about being a prince, it was that even the simplest and most obvious of actions often were accompanied by paperwork.
And they all hunched together over the table, working, as the long afternoon lazed by.
Waiting for the night to come.
To be continued...