A Queen's Ascension: Part Eight
"Morgana?" Tomos asked, waiting for confirmation before divulging any more information.
The old Uni chuckled slightly at that. "Yes, dear. Who else would live down here but me?" Her eyes were mesmerising; Vyssa couldn't help but be sucked in by them. They were so dark, so menacing, so wise. "Now. I've been expecting you both, but you did take rather a long time, so I'm afraid we won't have a while to chat..."
Vyssa shook her head. "I'm sorry. We can't. As much as I would like to find out more about you, Morgana, that will have to wait. We're in dire need of your help. It's my sister, Amira."
Morgana waved a hoof at her impatiently. "I know all about it. I don't get the rumours without some true power you know. Amira is currently under some sort of spell from a potion made by Jhudora, if I'm to understand the situation correctly. You think this is so someone can usurp the throne. A... Frezon? Prince Frezon, no less. Brother of Queen Sankara. Quite the dominating family, wouldn't you say? Yes, I remember back in my day, everyone was fearful of their father. Of course, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree."
"Um. Right," Vyssa mumbled, glancing at Tomos anxiously. For someone who had started off sounding so sophisticated and not wanting to waste time, Morgana sure did ramble. The princess ran a hand through her hair, twirling the ends to relieve her stress.
"You need me to make you a potion to snap Amira out of this nonsense, don't you?" Morgana said suddenly.
Vyssa nodded, eagerly. "We were told only you would be able to do it. No faerie would help us you see... there are only a few stronger than Jhudora and we don't want to bother them!" Indeed, when the only good faeries stronger than Jhudora are the Faerie Queen and the Space Faerie who is rarely seen, Morgana was of course the better option.
The Uni was away now, up on her hooves and hurrying to her desk overflowing with bottles and books and old parchment. To Vyssa and Tomos' amazement, they saw her flick through the pages of the books with a mutter under her breath. Vyssa had wondered how a Uni would be able to read such flimsy, old books so well with hooves and now she knew. After what felt like forever, Morgana stopped at a certain page of a certain book. The book looked... well, sinister was the word Vyssa was looking for. It was large, with a black leather covering, and a plain white script on the front simply stating 'Potions'. It was cracked at the edges and the pages were yellowing and stained, as though they had been looked through many times. The particular page Morgana had stopped at was more crumpled than the others. it was as if someone had marked the page to remember its place not long ago, but now the page had attempted to be folded back straight like the other pages in the book. The more Vyssa stared at the book, the more worried she felt inside.
They watched in silence as Morgana studied the page carefully, before nodding at certain ingredients around the room. They floated into the air and fell into a spare pot. Morgana muttered some more unintelligible words and there was a loud bang from within the pot. Thick, crimson smoke drifted from the opening before fading slowly from sight. Some more ingredients were added, then a murky liquid. Without touching it, Morgana stirred the potion with a large wooden spoon. Then she put it over the fire. Every now and then, it made a crackling or sizzling sound.
"Goodness! I've forgotten about my lunch with all of this fuss," Morgana exclaimed, quickly taking the other pot away from the fire. "Stew, you two?" she asked.
"Oh... thank you, but I'm not very hungry," Vyssa replied politely. Truth was she was very hungry. But she didn't want any excuse to stay here any longer than she had to. Tomos, next to her, looked a little disappointed at her answer, but echoed it to Morgana, albeit reluctantly.
"Suit yourselves. I'm having some." Morgana shrugged (an impressive skill for a Uni) and tucked in. "Why don't you tell me what you're going to do when you've got this potion?"
Tomos sighed. "Well, we haven't gotten that far yet. We know we're going to make Amira drink it. But it all depends on whether Amira remembers anything to help catch out Prince Frezon. Otherwise, he'll get the throne anyway if we cannot prove anything. If she doesn't remember... we'll have to find a suitor quicker than ever before in time for the coronation."
"Yes, the journey home alone will take you a few more days. I do hope you make it in time," Morgana murmured.
"We're not walking home," Tomos told her, brightly.
This seemed to surprise her. She looked up, sharply. Maybe there were things Morgana didn't know after all. "How do you suppose you are getting home?" she demanded, almost rudely.
"Jazan offered us some Eyries to fly us back. It'll shorten our journey considerably."
She relaxed. "I see. Friends in high places, of course, Vyssa. Should I call you Princess Vyssa instead?"
"Oh, it wasn't really me," Vyssa admitted. "I am sure King Jazan would have offered them to me anyway, but the whole idea of coming to their palace and seeking their advice came from Tomos' connection with Queen Nabile."
"Of course! You and Nabile were thieves... it's easy to forget when you see Her Royal Highness as she is today." Morgana sighed. "It's interesting that out of everyone to meet, Vyssa, you should meet the one Neopet in Sakhmet who knows the Qasalan Royal Family even better than you do."
Before Vyssa could agree with her that it was a strange occurrence, there was a loud screeching sound from the pot over the fire. Morgana leapt up instantly and waved the pot away, before placing it down on a table-top. With another hoof, she put the fire out. All of a sudden, it grew colder and darker. Morgana poured the solution into two bottles and handed one each to Tomos and Vyssa.
"Having two will come in handy," she said in a serious tone. "You never know what will happen. Not even me."
"What are you exactly?" Tomos wondered out loud. He had kept quiet for the majority of the night, for once being the cautious one. As he looked around, he saw all sorts of trinkets and spells. Why was one Neopet so powerful and knowledgeable? "Where did you come from? Qasala?"
Morgana paused a second before answering. "I'm older than I look, I am sure. I have been here a long time. I remember the day your father ascended to the throne, Vyssa. I was born in Sakhmet. I left when I was young and never returned, but by then I had built up a reputation for being a powerful sorceress."
"Why did you leave?" Tomos persisted.
"Oh, you know. Travelling. Qasala is quite a way from Sakhmet and I decided to reside her after years of... wandering. Anyway," Morgana changed the subject, swiftly, "you both need to leave if you want to get there as soon as possible. Take good care. Good luck to you."
"Thank you for all of your help, Morgana!" Vyssa said. To her surprise, she found herself embracing the Uni gratefully. Had her once tactless attitude disappeared for good? "Come on, Tomos!"
"Wait, Vyssa." Tomos had to grin. "How are we getting out of here exactly? Remember we jumped down a well? There's no way up."
"Oh." Vyssa looked at a loss for a second. She turned to Morgana. "Is there some other way out?"
Morgana nodded. "I'd forgotten about your entrance into here. Come on, there's another entrance hidden behind this bookshelf."
After it was moved, the two of them set off, both calling back words of gratitude to the Uni, who had by now put the bookshelf back. She stood alone in the cave, pondering their future, then remembered her stew and went to eat some more.
Princess Amira did not feel well. Throughout the day, she had remained in her room, refusing to leave. At first she was strong enough to paint and stand out on the balcony, waving to a few Neopets who happened to walk past and glance up at the palace. It was a beautiful day, for once not stifling hot, but a sunny day with a cool breeze. It made her feel better for a short period, but soon she felt very dizzy and had to lie down. There was something wrong. She didn't know what to do. She was too weak to do anything anyway. Servants fluttered in and out, looking worried. At some point in the afternoon, a doctor came in and examined her. She left looking very concerned. The senators even came in and saw her. Amira felt scared. What did this mean? What was wrong with her? Was she going to be okay? Would the throne still go to Frezon?
Prince Frezon visited Amira in the evening. She was fast asleep, breathing deeply. "You sound too relaxed, princess," Frezon whispered in her ear. "Too relaxed for someone that won't be around for long."
Amira stirred slightly, a frown on her stunning face. "What?" she mumbled.
"I'm just making sure the throne will stay mine, my dear cousin." Frezon smiled. He felt her forehead, shaking his head at its temperature. Then he left the room without another word, pacing down the long, dark hallway to his own room. On the way, he stopped by the two guards patrolling the door at the end of the hall. Because Amira was the heir, she had this entire floor of the palace to herself. Frezon couldn't help admiring the rooms as he walked down towards the guards. This will soon be mine, he thought.
There would be no one to stand in his way... well, no one apart from Princess Vyssa, the next heir to the throne before him. Yes, he wouldn't expect her to suddenly return from her mysterious disappearance with a prince in tow, certainly not, but he had to deal with her. She was the only one who could change things now.
"Have you seen Princess Vyssa anywhere?" he asked the guards, one of whom was looking at him very pointedly. Frezon would have to do something about this one's suspicious nature when he became king.
The other one, a desert Kyrii, shook her head. She was wearing a full suit of armour, which Frezon couldn't help thinking was a little over the top for a kingdom not at war. After all, the only danger around here was him! "Sorry, your majesty, it's our job to closely guard Princess Amira. The guards downstairs may be aware of her whereabouts though. When my shift is over, I can go and ask them."
"That's fine," Frezon told her. "Don't worry yourself. I was just wondering." He nodded at them and carried on, hurrying down the stairs with a smirk forming on his face. "I think I'll pay her a visit."
To be continued...