Scarab Queen: Part Four
"Could you let me in to see the king? I'm certain if you spoke to him..."
Nabile was starting to rethink the idea of getting involved as the baker pleaded with her. She'd come to the Petitioner's Hall to meet the people who were coming to find help at the palace – there were a lot of building disputes that were being settled here. This particular desert Wocky claimed that he'd been robbed and was trying to get justice, but Nabile had heard a few stories about him and his shop, and was pretty sure that if anyone had been doing the robbing, it was him.
But part of the queenship routine was that she couldn't do what a Scarab girl would do, which was tell him to get lost and throw rotten fruit at him. Though she supposed that the meetings Jazan complained about sometimes would be a good deal more interesting if the participants were allowed to throw fruit at each other.
Nabile shook her head. "I'm sorry. The king's busy right now. If you have a concern, please take it to the Guard." She looked around the hall to see if there was anyone else she could foist this baker off upon. Or, if that failed, any overripe fruit.
"Please, milady. They've refused to listen."
Likely because they realized he was a fraud.
Then Mirzah strode across the entry hall. "Sir, why are you wasting Her Majesty's time?"
"I need to see the king..."
"If you have a problem, you take it to the correct authorities. And if you don't leave the queen alone, you'll be looking at a Guard cell. So take a hike." The little apprentice held up a hand with a little sphere of magic in it to make her point, and the baker hurriedly made his retreat.
Nabile frowned at Mirzah. "I was trying to be queenly."
Mirzah said, "That's why you have people like me. You can be gracious and benevolent and queenly, and I can get rid of the idiots. Alzim does that for Kiyaa, too. Of course, the king is perfectly capable of running people off on his own, but that's because his eyes go red when he's doing magic. I wish mine did that. Maybe people would stop patting my head."
Nabile couldn't help but laugh. She liked Mirzah – she reminded her of her Scarab friends. And it was nice to be able to talk with someone her own age. Mirzah said, "I was sent back with some ideas for the king. Want to come with me? I want to hear what he has to say – he doesn't come over to the College much, but Kiyaa says he's even better than her and he could be the head if he didn't think the College ought to have its own leadership."
They started walking back to Jazan's office together – it was close to dinnertime. It had been a long day, it seemed.
Then Mirzah asked carefully, "What was with you and Onas? If Ixis had tails worth noticing, yours would have been bristling when he came in."
Nabile said, "My tail is fine, thank you very much." But she thought – she had confided in Nightsteed and been offered advice. Mirzah, looking several years younger than she was and often dealing with similar issues, was likely to sympathize. "Only if you don't tell anyone else."
Mirzah's ears perked up. "Now I can't resist."
Nabile went ahead and told Mirzah about the conversation she'd overheard between Onas and Sarikash, and the plan that Nightsteed had laid out for her. Mirzah's jaw dropped. "You're kidding. You should tell the king and let him turn them both into Grackle Bugs. Especially Onas."
Nabile shook her head. "That would basically prove their point."
Mirzah said, "Well, I could turn them into Grackle Bugs. They shouldn't be talking about the queen that way at all, let alone a good queen like you. I do like Nightsteed's idea, though. And if you want to show them up, I'm sure Kiyaa would help you – she doesn't like Onas trying to take up her time with the mine project when she's trying to rebuild the city and do the job of three women."
Mirzah was sarcastic, short-tempered, and had absolutely no patience for fools – she probably wouldn't be good at all of Nightsteed's political strategizing. But Nabile was still happy to have the Acara on her side. It was nice to feel like she had a regular friend here, someone who could be a friend like Tomos or Horace or Zina were her friends. Nightsteed was a friend, but he was also kind of like what Nabile imagined a father or an uncle would have been like. And Jazan was Jazan.
They reached the study – there was conversation within. When Nabile opened the door and sidled in, there was Lord Sarikash, sitting in a chair by the desk talking with Jazan. The camouflage Kougra stopped as she entered, and gave her an unamused look. "I do believe that knocking is traditional."
Mirzah snapped back, "The queen shouldn't have to knock when she enters the king's study."
At least he wasn't like Onas, bowing and simpering to her in public after dismissing her in private. Nabile looked at Mirzah and said, "Not the time."
Jazan sighed. "Sarikash, anything you have to say to me you can say in front of Queen Nabile."
Sarikash stood. "I was almost done, anyway. I will see you the day after tomorrow, in the constitution meeting."
That was when Nabile got an idea that she was probably going to regret later. She said, "Jazan, I've been thinking – could I be involved with the constitution meetings?"
Sarikash's tail fur bristled – Jazan couldn't see it from where he sat, but Nabile and Mirzah could, and Mirzah started snickering. Nabile continued, "I think I've been doing enough work lately that I could understand what's going on. And this is important for Qasala. As queen, I think it's important for me to be there, too."
Jazan smiled. "I think that would be good. I always like hearing your take on things. And if you argue with me, you won't try couching it with flattery."
Sarikash turned to Nabile. "I say this with all the respect due to you as Queen of Qasala. But you have had little experience with politics, and this is delicate work. Men and women like the king, who have trained their whole lives for their roles, are spending hours reading and researching to prepare for this project. You have only been queen for a matter of months, with no experience before that to prepare you for this role."
That was actually more reasonable than Nabile had expected the man to be. She said, "I'm not going to try and pretend to understand anything I don't. I want to watch, and listen, and learn. And if I have an idea I want to put forward, I'll probably check it somewhere else to make sure it makes sense, and I'll be glad to listen to other opinions. Isn't that why there are so many people working on this? To make sure that different opinions are aired and different voices are heard?"
Well, the phrase that Nightsteed had actually used was "mitigating individual idiocy," but that wouldn't sound as good.
Sarikash gave Nabile a very slight nod. "Very well, then. Good eve, milord. Good eve, milady."
The door shut. Then Jazan asked, fixing her with his golden eyes, "Nabile, what was that? And don't tell me 'nothing,' because I won't believe you."
Mirzah said tentatively, "Uh, sir... message from Kiyaa? And then I'll leave. Quickly."
Nightsteed mused, "I'll have to tell Kiyaa that it seems you are capable of a certain level of discretion."
Mirzah flushed. "Jimai had it coming!"
Nightsteed reminded her, "That's not the point. The point Kiyaa wished to make was that it was not your job to call her a 'mangy old Meowclops' or inform her that 'she ought to be turned into a Grackle Bug for even letting that idiocy escape her mouth'."
Nabile couldn't help but giggle. Jazan merely raised his eyebrows at her. Mirzah put the notes from Kiyaa on his desk and fled. Then Jazan said, "Nabile, let's go for a walk. You've gotten to be out and about more than I lately - I will let you lead."
He probably thought he was giving her time to collect her thoughts. Nabile viewed it more as giving her time to stew. But the sun was setting, and she thought of the wall she'd been sitting on earlier, looking out at the city before all this mess happened today – he'd like that view, she thought.
So she walked with him through the Palace, asking him a few questions about his reading while they went until they came to the section of wall Nabile had in mind. She looked down at him once she'd climbed it easily. He looked up at her drily in return. "I'm not built for that."
He really wasn't. Tomos was the biggest Scarab, and he wasn't even close to Jazan's size. Her Kyrii king had was definitely built for strength rather than agility. Jazan paused, shut his eyes, and with a gust of wind he was propelled up to grasp the walltop by Nabile's side. He said as he panted and adjusted himself into a sitting position, "Please don't tell Nightsteed about this. It's a flippant use of magic that is entirely beneath the king."
She smiled. "Of course not."
Then he laid his hand over hers, meeting her eyes. "Please, Nabile – tell me what's happened."
He did deserve to know, she supposed. It was his court, Sarikash and Onas were his courtiers – and Nabile was making her own bid for power with his constitution. So she told him about what she'd heard, what Nightsteed had suggested, and the scene at Kiyaa's office. He listened without saying a word, merely nodding acknowledgement. He took a deep breath when she finished. "You and Nightsteed are right, though I hate to admit it. There's nothing I can do to help without confirming just what Sarikash and that rodent Onas think – not that I care what Onas thinks, mind you. But Sarikash is a worthy councilor, and his good opinion is worth pursuing."
Nabile said, "I really would like the good opinion of your councilors. I want to be able to help Qasala, and have people believe that I can actually do it."
He merely looked out at the city from their perch – his eyes were a brighter gold than ever in the light of the evening sun. Finally, he said softly, "I love this city. I'm glad you love it, too. And I trust you. Completely."
She leaned her head against his shoulder. "Me, too."
They sat there in silence for a while, as the sun gradually dipped below the sands. Finally, Jazan said, "I like this. But I believe my main reason for remaining up here as long as we have is that I am not entirely sure how I will get down – that's more delicate work than propelling myself upwards, and I ought not to waste the power on it."
Nabile laughed. "Let me go first. I'll coach you."
He did manage to make it down, although they nearly discovered the hard way that he couldn't use some of the handholds and footholds that Nabile did. He offered her his arm like a gentleman. Nabile hadn't been entirely sure what he was doing the first time he'd done so – she'd wondered why he was pointing his elbow at her – but now it was second nature to take his arm and follow his lead. He asked, "Dinner?"
Nabile was now a devotee of the concept of regular meals, as she was certain any street thief would be if given the opportunity. "Dinner."
And they walked through the dusk back into the light of the Qasalan palace.
To be continued...