The Old Switcheroo: Part Nine
Hanso had finally overdone it. Jazan's courtiers had caught up to him on the bridge that led to the eastern side of the island, and a few Roo guards led by a Qasalan officer had blocked his escape. He was being restrained by several of them and could not move no matter how hard he struggled.
"Tell us who you are and what you have done with King Jazan," the chamberlain was shouting.
"How dare you treat your king so rudely!" said Hanso in his most regal tone. "Have all of you become unable to recognise my face?"
"Everyone noticed that you were acting like a different person! If you really are King Jazan, why do you not simply list all of your royal titles and the important dates of your rule? That is what he would have done in the first place!"
Hanso hesitated a moment too long. "I shouldn't have to!" he spluttered indignantly. He was snapping his fingers behind his back, desperately trying to trigger Jazan's magic.
Then a familiar voice spoke. "In hot water, are we?"
Hanso looked all around him, but could not see where the voice had come from. It had a strange echo to it, and it felt like it had come from inside him. "Is that you, Jazan?" he thought.
"I managed to escape the spell that keeps me tethered to your body, but I don't have much time, so I won't ask what terrible things you have done to my reputation."
"Where's that Nightsteed when you need him?"
"Sorry, he's watching over Qasala. He gets terribly seasick. I can get us out of here if you let me take over for a while."
"Be my guest."
Hanso wasn't sure what Jazan meant by taking over, but he felt the king's presence in his mind grow clearer, and he naturally stepped to the background of their thoughts. It was like watching his body from a distance, except that his body was different.
With Jazan in control, it was as if a switch had finally been flipped. Pale blue energy crackled around the Kyrii's hands and he threw bolts of light at the soldiers, who let go of him as if they had been burnt. The courtiers stared, having recognised the king's particular style of magic.
"My liege," one asked tentatively, "is that really you?"
"Of course it is I!" Jazan thundered. "You have dared to judge your own king. You have made me terribly angry and wasted much of my precious time!"
The courtiers fell to their knees, stammering a chorus of apologies and excuses.
"Your Majesty, we are confounded," the chamberlain was saying, "after the terrible incident of the ship, we imagined the worst!"
"Well, what are we waiting for? Let us find the rest of our crew! There is not a moment to lose."
Jazan led them away from the bridge, the soldiers shifting hurriedly to let him through before following him.
"Hey, Jazan. That was cool. You won't mind if I've had a little bit of fun, will you, ol' buddy ol' pal?"
"My time is almost up, Hanso. I'll be pulled back into your body any second now. Those courtiers were telling the truth, but I know there was definitely a traitor on the crew. Your change of plans must have confused them. Hanso..."
"Please protect my wife."
"I will, Jazan."
With that, Jazan's presence faded away, and Hanso was back in control of the king's body.
Nabile's luck was running out. She was trapped on a bridge, not unlike Hanso had been moments before. Her pursuers had caught up to her, furious and bruised after the various accidents she had caused them on the pier. Now that they weren't in public anymore, the Lupe drew out his dagger. "No more Sakhmetian filth in our city!" he growled.
Tired as she was, Nabile flinched and immediately threw herself over the guardrail and into the river, her only way out. The cold, dark water closed around her. She couldn't see anything, and for a moment, she wondered if she had fallen too deep. Then she rose like a cork and broke through the surface, gasping for breath. She tried to look around her, but the current was so fast that it was all she could do to keep her head above the water.
Soon, the already loud roar of the river became deafening and Nabile was jerked from side to side, barely avoiding a few sharp rocks. She knew that she was getting closer to some rapids. As soon as she came close enough to a large, rounded rock, she threw her arms around it and hoisted herself up, panting. It was not a moment too soon: right below her was a vertiginous waterfall. There were more rocks forming a broken line at the top. She clambered onto her rock, hoping to reach the bank, then saw that the Lupe and Poogle had caught up with her, one of them waiting on each side.
The Lupe began to crawl over the rocks towards Nabile, holding his dagger between his teeth. There was fire in his eyes as he finally closed in on his prey. On the other side, the Poogle was slowly working his way towards them to cut her retreat. Nabile, soaked and shivering, fought to stay calm. She felt around her feet and found a stone which she threw at the Lupe, nearly slipping as she did so. He dodged it narrowly and continued towards Nabile with a horrible grin.
The exhausted Ixi looked behind her, seeing only the merciless water. There was a rock formation to the side, but it would definitely break her bones if she aimed for it instead. She thought she heard someone calling her name. The end couldn't be that near. She decided that the water would be her best bet.
The voice echoed dimly in her ears and she looked behind her again. Suddenly, she threw herself at the jagged rocks. The Lupe saw her fall off and disappear into the thick cloud of water droplets that rose from the waterfall.
Then Jazan's arms closed around her and it was finally over.
Hanso had been dashing up the river bank when he spotted Nabile at the top of the waterfall. Immediately, Jazan's thoughts had come back, so agitated that Hanso had almost fallen several times as he was climbing up the rocks next to the fall. Once he had reached the top, Jazan had taken over completely and shouted up at Nabile.
When he finally caught her, he squeezed her tightly in his arms. "You're safe," he whispered. Then the spell yanked him away for good and a slightly embarrassed Hanso was left to climb down the rocks carefully, supporting Nabile.
King Roo dispatched a squad of his own guards to help his new friend catch the conspirators. With help from Nabile and the courtiers, Hanso questioned the traitors. It turned out that they had no other allies in the crew. They had been sent to poison Nabile and frame the Tyrannian elders, getting rid of Qasala's alliances with Sakhmet and Tyrannia at the same time. They had not foreseen that Jazan would join the trip and ruin their dinner plans.
Their plan B had been to blow up the ship while Jazan was on Roo Island and Nabile was supposed to stay in her cabin, but Hanso had foiled that plot by insisting that the whole crew come with him. In the end, only a few people had been caught in the explosion. They had been blasted into the sea and picked up by a Roo Island boat, injured but safe. At last, the royal Qasalan party was able to sail away on a ship kindly lent by King Roo.
Jazan was meditating again, focusing on the teapot in front of him. He opened his eyes. "It's fading away," he said. "Thank you for everything, Brynn."
The Kougra stepped closer to him. Hanso's body was glowing with an unearthly light. It would have looked rather pretty if she didn't know what an annoying spell was causing it. Hanso opened his eyes, looking surprised. He tried to get up, but stumbled, dizzy.
"Welcome back," said Brynn.
"Brynn! It's so... I mean, I didn't expect... you're going to kill me, aren't you."
She sighed. "I'm torn, Hanso. I should be furious at you, but your foolishness saved quite a few lives."
"So... you're not going to be mad at me?"
"Only on one condition: you can't talk until we're back in Faerieland."
"But you know I'm allergic to silence mmf-" Hanso took a breath, choked, gasped and held his mouth, struggling to contain the endless flow of wisecracks that was trying to rush out. Brynn grinned, enjoying the moment.
"You weren't expecting the spell to end so soon, is that right? Jazan said that the teapot's reserve of magic was being depleted. Each swap lasts shorter than the previous. He also mentioned that you were surprisingly well attuned to faerie magic, perhaps as a result of Queen Fyora's blessing." Hanso's eyes widened and he nearly spoke, but caught himself in time and took a heroic pose instead.
"That might explain why you were knocked out for a shorter time than him after the swap occurred," Brynn continued. "Now, we're going to put the shiny toy away in MY luggage, and we're going to get ready to go back to Faerieland. I can't believe such a big mess happened only because you wanted to steal a teapot."
"I can't believe you didn't let me use it on Skarl and Hagan," Hanso was grumbling as they walked up a corridor in Faerieland Castle, "they were in the same room! I'll never get such an opportunity again."
The Queen stepped out of her chambers and went to meet them. "Welcome back, faithful agents. Thank you for coming so promptly."
Brynn handed her the container with a bow. "Here is our latest finding, Your Majesty. I advise you not to touch it at the same time as someone else."
"You have done well. You can give me your report over dinner, but for now, I'll let you rest. Celandra, please take them to the guest rooms."
Brynn and Hanso were ushered out by the Queen's maid.
Fyora took the container back to her study. She unhooked the fastenings, lifted the lid and gasped at the sight within.
"Hello, old friend," she whispered to the teapot, taking it out to inspect it in the light. "I never expected you to come back to me in such a fashion!"
Back when Fyora was a young Faerie, this had been the most ingenious of all her April Fool's Day pranks. Oh, all the laughs she had caused with it! She thought she had lost it forever while giving a quest to a Tyrannian neopet.
The Faerie Queen tapped her artefact, making it flicker between its various shapes. Noticing that it was running out of power, she filled it with her magic again, a mischievous smile on her regal face.
She remembered that amazing tea party with Jhudora and Illusen. She simply must invite them again.