The Old Switcheroo: Part Eight
After parting ways amicably with King Roo, Hanso managed to sneak out of the Tournament Hall through a side door. He stretched happily, breathing in the fresh air. Even for someone with so much charisma, it felt good to get out of the spotlight. Jazan's royal sidekicks hadn't found their way out yet, so he was rid of them for a while. There was no point in stealing anything while he was in Jazan's body, so he intended to have as much fun as possible in order to make up for that. He heard music in the distance. The Merry-Go-Round! He hadn't been there in ages. He crossed the river and went straight towards the carousel.
Hanso had already jumped onto a wooden Uni when Jazan's attendants caught up to him, breathless from running.
"Your... Your Majesty! Sorry to interrupt, but we need to talk," puffed the chamberlain, a desert Tonu.
"I'm afraid that will have to wait," said Hanso as the music of the Merry-Go-Round started. His Uni began to move, and he waved goodbye to the attendants as he rode away from them.
The attendants were bewildered. "But... my liege! Everyone saw what you were up to in there," called the chamberlain.
"Of course they did. I was the center of attention." Hanso's voice came from behind as the wooden Uni reappeared on the other side of the Merry-Go-Round. Hanso was sitting with his legs crossed this time. "Everyone loved the show, in case you hadn't noticed!" Hanso went around the Merry-Go-Round once more.
"That just wasn't right for a diplomatic meeting, Your Majesty," said the chamberlain. "Even though it was fun while it lasted, you won't leave a good impression!"
"I don't see what the fuss is about." Hanso's Uni appeared again. This time he was riding backwards, leaning on the neck of the Uni with his arms behind his head. "King Roo loves a good game and I have established an excellent relationship with him."
"Your Majesty, we all think that your behavior has been extremely -" the chamberlain's sentence was cut by a deafening blast that shook the whole island. Roo Islanders who had been lounging on trim lawns jumped to their feet and some of them ran towards the source of the blast to try and see what had happened. The attendants stared in that direction. Behind them, Hanso was having a hard time seeing anything as he was balancing on one foot on the head of his Uni.
After a tense wait, the Blumaroo who ran the Merry-Go-Round rushed over to them. "The royal Qasalan ship! It exploded!" he exclaimed, and pointed at a column of smoke in the sky.
The attendants turned just in time to see their king disappearing around the other side of the Merry-Go-Round, doing a handstand on his Uni and looking bewildered.
"Conspiracy!" yelled one of them. "The king is an impostor! Don't let him get away!" They all jumped onto the Merry-Go-Round.
There was a knock on the door. It opened and Hanso's face peered through a narrow crack. He frowned when he realised that it wasn't Brynn who had knocked.
"May I help you?"
"I told you he would be here," a young girl squeaked to her friend. They were both fidgeting excitedly and wearing shirts with Hanso's face on them. "Oh my goodness Hanso we love you so much we're like your number one fans! We're tied for first place." She was gripping Hanso's sleeve. He shrugged her off gently.
"Would you kindly not grab my person," he said.
The girls kept squealing. "Could you please sign our T-shirts? Please please pleeaaase."
"Erm... I suppose I could do that. Do you have a pen - oh, thank you. Are you sure about this? I wouldn't want to ruin your clothing." He ended up signing their shirts neatly enough. The second he was finished, they both began to stomp their feet and flap their hands while shrieking at the top of their voices. For a second, he thought that they were having a fit and that he should call for medical help, but it turned out to be a celebratory ritual.
"You're the bestest awesomest hero ever, Hanso! I can't believe we got an autograph from the guy who saved the whole world!!!" With those words, they ran off to shriek in someone else's ears.
Jazan went back into the room. That could have gone worse. He couldn't fathom why the girls would want the irritating rascal's signature on their clothes, but they seemed to admire him so much, for some reason. They would probably change their minds if they had to spend some time with him.
There was a second knock. "It's me, Brynn!" Having thus warned Jazan, the Kougra entered the room and quickly shut the door behind her. "Is everything all right with you? Jazan, I... I have terrible news. Your ship stopped in Roo Island. You, I mean, Hanso was definitely seen on land. But while the ship was anchored in the bay, it exploded. The smoke was visible from far away." She said all this without stopping, preferring to give him all the information in one go and be done with it.
Jazan processed all this with a cold expression. "Nabile," he said. "She was the target all along. She didn't become ill by accident, Brynn. We had just started our first dinner in Tyrannia when I realised something was off, and interrupted the meal just in time. She nearly collapsed. By the time I realised that she had been poisoned, it was too late to investigate. Brynn... do they know if anyone was still on the ship?"
Brynn bit her lip. How she wished that she could reassure him. "We don't know yet." She saw Jazan shudder and took his shoulder to steady him. He dropped onto the couch. "I've asked them to keep me informed, every bit of news we get from the island by express air mail will be delivered straight to me."
Jazan nodded distractedly."I have been studying the spell that keeps me in Hanso's body. If I get back to my meditation, I think I can push past the barrier long enough to see from Hanso's eyes. My eyes. I'll know what's happening on Roo Island, anyway."
Brynn patted him on the shoulder again. "I'll let you concentrate, then."
Nabile had been enjoying a cup of coffee near the Games Room with another Qasalan lady when the blast was heard. The news of her ship's explosion reached the coffee shop in no time. She was about to go back to the rest of the crew when two burly desert pets, a Poogle and a Lupe, appeared and ushered her out.
"Quick, Your Majesty, we must get you to safety!"
They were pulling her firmly and Nabile almost had to run to keep up with them. She didn't remember seeing those two in the Qasalan bodyguards. They had been too fast for her lady-in-waiting to follow. She tried to slow down, but the Poogle was holding her wrist so tightly that she couldn't even move it. He was also pushing her with one hand on her back. No guard, however determined to defend her, had ever dared to treat her royal person in such a rough manner. This was definitely not normal. She glanced around, but the Roo Islanders were still gossiping about the explosion, and she looked like she was simply being guided by bodyguards.
"All right, but first I'd like to grab some ice cream," she told the guards, who didn't react. With her free hand she swiped an ice cream cone from a vendor they were passing, in a smooth gesture that she had never lost since her days as a Desert Scarab. She shoved the ice cream into the small of the Poogle's back. He jumped and let go of Nabile with a high-pitched shriek. The Lupe began to scold him, but Nabile had already vanished. They were nearly at the archways that led from the plaza to the pier, so they split up to cover both sides of the pier. Speakers all over the place were playing 2 Gallon Hatz music.
The Poogle was the first to spot Nabile as she rolled away on a rental skateboard. He ran after her and automatically jumped onto another skateboard to catch up with her. He hadn't thought that it would be so difficult to maneuver on the crowded pier, though. Nabile was weaving her way through the crowd of unassuming tourists. She rolled straight towards a small shaved ice stand, leapt off her skateboard and jumped cleanly over the obstacle. Her skateboard knocked into the Poogle's, and he crashed into the stand.
He got to his feet just in time to see a flash of pink entering a tent. The sign above the entrance read "Fortune Teller". The Poogle rushed into the tent and found a veiled figure.
"Come in, come in, noble traveller," said the lady in a thickly accented voice. "Madame Nabillia shall read your destiny in her magic dice."
The Poogle scoffed. "Please! You thought I would fall for the old fortune teller disguise trick?" He ripped the veil off the fortune teller, revealing a very angry elderly Kau who chased him out of her tent while pelting him with dice and crystal balls.
To Nabile, this was just like running from the guards in Sakhmet. She wasn't in top form, but fatigue didn't register when one was being pursued. Running up the pier, she stopped abruptly when she spotted the Lupe and darted through the nearest door. The Lupe immediately followed her into what turned out to be a mirror maze. He ran in circles for a while, seeing only his reflection on every side he looked. Suddenly, Nabile appeared in front of him. He dived straight towards her, only to crash into a mirror and stumble away dizzily. Behind him, Nabile ran back onto the pier.
Cursing under his breath, the Lupe sprinted after her. They rushed into the Spring Shop. Many odd noises and thumps were heard, as well as the gasps of patrons. When Nabile and her pursuer came out of the shop, both of them were somehow wearing spring shoes. They bounced down the pier. A few passers-by cheered, not sure if this was supposed to be entertainment. Suddenly, Nabile bounced backwards as high as she could, leapt over the startled Lupe's head and landed behind his back. He tried to reverse, but then he realised that she had led him to the edge of the pier. He shrieked and flapped his arms, but couldn't stop bouncing and tumbled into the water. Nabile dusted off her hands and hurried in the direction of the palace, searching for Jazan's party.
To be continued...