I Will Stand Alone: Part Six
Seji shuddered. "Sweet Fyora, Jazan. If I didn't know it was you I'd be running like the wind."
Jazan smiled at the praise – which was an expression that rarely ever showed on the face of the illusion wrapped around him. He looked in the mirror to see his work.
It was a fine job - he'd learned a lot about illusions in order to recognize hidden traps or spies in the palace, and between his knowledge and power and Pashki's fine eye for detail they'd created a facsimile of Razul that would probably have even managed to fool Jazan, had he been on the outside of it. He wore the same robes and jewelry Jazan had seen him in that afternoon, and Jazan had given the pale silvery eyes a slightly metallic sheen – a sure sign that Razul was one short step from flying into a rage and blasting someone. No guard would dare to second-guess the king in a mood like that.
They were counting on it.
Nightsteed was already downstairs, preparing the entrance of the escape tunnel. Seji would follow Jazan, covered in the same invisibility spell that would shield both him and his friends on the way out.
Pashki said, "So, this disguise is supposed to fool everyone because no one wants to question the king. But what if we actually run into the king?"
Kiri said in horror, "Sweet Fyora, Pashki, why do you even talk like that?"
Jazan didn't much like the idea either – even less because he knew exactly what would have to happen. "Everyone else besides me will need to run – or slither – as fast as they can."
Then he turned from the mirror and realized that the Hissi, Draik, and Usul were all staring at him. Kiri said, her voice small, "Could you win if you fought him?"
Jazan merely shrugged. "Maybe." If Razul were half-asleep. And dizzy. And had both hands tied behind his back. But they didn't need to know that. The fact of the matter was that Jazan was the only one who could even slow Razul down. And, even with his cover blown, he might even be able to buy the five escaping nobles and Nightsteed enough time to escape Qasala.
But that didn't mean that this was a fight that he wanted to have. He just hoped that Razul had enough to do in his workroom that he wouldn't spare another thought for his prisoners until the morning.
He briefly ended the spell, keeping it in his mind so that he'd be able to wrap himself in it again when they reached the dungeons, and brought the cloaking spell to mind instead. He looked around at his companions – all were dressed for the desert, as he was, and bore packs with supplies. It wasn't too far to Sakhmet, but if the alarm was sounded it might become necessary to hide in the tunnels. He asked, "Are we ready?"
Kiri looked a little scared – Pashki and Seji just looked determined. All three nodded, and Jazan brought the veil down over them – they looked blurry to him, inside the spell, but they'd be completely invisible to anyone outside.
It was time to act.
It seemed that poor Captain Sambar's border-reports hadn't been as well received as he had thought they would be when Jazan saw him the day before – there was no other reason for someone of the royal Elephante's rank to be stuck on dungeon guard-duty. Sambar stood up so quickly that he knocked over the stool he'd been sitting on. "Your Majesty!" He bowed.
Jazan snarled at him, "Let me through!" His voice came out lower, harsher – his father's voice, instead of his own.
"Y-y-yes, sir." Poor Sambar. Jazan wished that he could apologize to him. It wasn't as if the Elephante would stop the rescue – he was too good of a man. But it was better that he knew nothing – once Razul had established that someone wearing his own face had set the prisoners free, he would hardly be able to fault Sambar for treating someone he thought was the king with the proper courtesy.
Jazan added another of his father's favorite insults. "I've seen a mutant Slorg move faster than you! If you'd like to be turned into one, keep it up!"
Sambar fumbled the key into the lock of the heavy iron dungeon door and turned it shakily. Jazan snatched the key-ring, grabbed the door and threw it back against the wall with a clang. There was no need to be subtle – subtle was the very opposite of King Razul in person.
He stormed down the hall, toward the cell where Nightsteed had said Asyir and Masazi were. It wouldn't have been hard to find, even if Nightsteed hadn't scouted – he could feel the power in the chains that were necessary to restrain a mage of Masazi's strength. The spells were also on the cell door and the key to it – Jazan thanked Fyora for small favors, as it meant he didn't have to waste precious time searching for the right key. As he walked, he blurred the listening and spying spells slightly – it was easier than veiling them entirely, and when the king checked them later, all he'd see would be blobs of color, and all he'd hear would be mutterings that no spell would be able to clear up. When he reached the door he wanted, he unlocked it and it opened with a long, drawn-out creak.
Immediately, Masazi went on the verbal attack. "Finally decided to pay some attention to us, have you?" Asyir just slumped against the wall, looking very tired.
Jazan stepped inside the cell, got rid of the local eavesdropping spell entirely, and then he let the illusion and the veil drop. Masazi gasped, and Asyir sat up straight as he said, "Your Highness? Seji?"
Jazan said softly, "We're getting you out of here."
Seji added in a whisper, "We've got the girls – Pashki's helping to fuel all the spells. We're going to head for Sakhmet. And while this is probably not the right time, Masazi, I did tell you so."
She smiled. "I know – Jazan, you told me you'd help us."
He didn't know what to say – he unlocked her chains first, then Asyir's. The desert Lutari stood up and stretched. "Ugh – that's uncomfortable, and I've slept in armor before."
Masazi said, "I'll help you with your spell. You're looking a little tired."
Jazan was feeling a little tired, as well – all the magic he was using was straining him. He didn't even want to think about all the walking still ahead of them. So when he raised his illusion and the invisibility veils again, he quite gladly gave the Elephante a link into the spell. Immediately, he felt as if he'd been wearing a backpack full of rocks, and someone had come and taken it from him.
They hurried down the dungeon hall again, and Jazan opened the door and wordlessly hurled the keys right past Sambar's ears, sweeping past him as the Elephante scrabbled to fetch them from the floor. Around a corner – oh, Jazan couldn't wait to let this spell go! – and then Seji opened the disguised door that led into the tunnel.
Jazan sagged against the wall as he dropped all the spells – he didn't think he'd ever used that much magic at once before. It had been harder than he was expecting. The door shut, and Kiri and Pashki immediately jumped on their parents, hugging them tightly and being hugged in return. Jazan looked away – merely to give them privacy, and not because he was envious since his only family member was grasping, power-hungry, and crazier than a Werelupe howling at the moon.
Nightsteed said gently, "We really do need to be moving – there's no telling how long it will be before Razul's done in his workroom. It'll take a while to get to the wall exits."
Seji picked up a lamp off the ground, and Masazi flicked a flame at it. "I'll lead. Masazi, Asyir, there are cloaks and scarves for both of you."
The lord and lady threw on the travelling clothes as Seji began to slither down the tunnel. Jazan followed. He was amazed that the rescue had gone so well, even though their plan was good. So he kept an eye on all the side tunnels, aware that a nasty surprise was more than due. But he was short on patience, and he was prepared to try to turn any of those surprises into Scamanders in order to keep them from telling Razul that he'd been involved in the escape.
That was when Kiri and Pashki both came up to him and hugged him. Seji stopped moving as Kiri said, "We'd never have been able to do this without you, Jazan. We're going to get out of here and go to Sakhmet and our family's going to be safe, and it would never have happened if you hadn't helped us. Thank you so much, Jazan. We'll never forget it. Ever."
As tired as he felt, Jazan smiled back. On one level, he wanted to protest that he was merely doing his duty, protecting the citizens of Qasala from anyone that wanted to harm them, his father the king included. But the praise felt too good to try and brush it off. So they all continued to follow Seji in silence, which somehow managed to feel warm and companionable despite the creepiness of the tunnel system.
They reached the door out into the desert, and Seji opened it up.
Sand blasted through the doorway, stinging and finding its way into shoes and clothes. Jazan stumbled back as Lord Asyir said in horror, "A sandstorm!" The Desert Lutari's face turned pale.
Kiri asked, "Can't we do anything with magic?"
Masazi shook her head. "Too much power. Too much sand to try and manage. The most any mage could do is make a shield to keep sand out, and even then you'd be travelling blind."
Seji said grimly, "We're going to have to wait it out. There's nothing else for it."
Pashki cried, voice going shrill, "But we don't have time for that! Razul's going to find out Mama and Papa are missing, and he's going to start looking for us!"
Masazi turned to Jazan. "Go back into the palace. No need for you to be caught with us."
Nightsteed shook his head. "We're supposed to be in Sakhmet getting scrolls for the library. If Razul sees us back so soon, he'll start adding things together in ways we won't like."
Jazan took a breath. "We can put up wards – try to cover our trail, keep ourselves from being discovered."
They all nodded in silence as they slid down the walls of the tunnel into seated positions.
They all knew they had no other choice.
To be continued...