A Queen's Ascension - War:Part Two
Queen Nabile knew that her prison was not the standard. For starters, it was not down in the cells of Sakhmet, where she knew Tomos and Vyssa had stayed. She knew that she was being treated well in order to send out a message of justice and mercy from Sankara even when faced with such a treacherous enemy. It was all a stunt to her. Nabile had her own apartment which probably held a count or countess on a visit; fancy, but not ridiculously over the top as it would be for royalty or a duke or duchess. In terms of protocol, it was certainly an insult for a queen to be in these rooms. But Nabile was not complaining; she knew it could be far worse. And she knew that Jazan would be worried sick about her, and wished she could let him know that she was in relative comfort.
Well, relative comfort was perhaps an understatement. There was a marble-gold bathroom with a huge bath sitting in its centre at one end of the apartment, the door leading to it next to a small dining area in the open plan lounge, which even included a small kettle and a selection of herbal teas. Her food was delivered to her three times daily, and although she didn’t get a choice, it was something different and satisfying every day. The bedroom was at the other end of the apartment, a red velvet affair with lots of ruffles and pillows, not particularly Nabile’s taste but still appealing. There was another door in the bedroom which led to a balcony, but it had been bolted shut with bars placed across it, as had all the windows other than the tiny bathroom window, not even big enough for Nabile’s head to poke through. The door in the living room led to the rest of the palace, but that too was locked shut. If there was to be any chance of escape, it was through that door, but it would be futile. Nabile knew that four guards stood outside that door, a further four guards stood outside the next door along the hallway at the next possible exist, and a further [i]twelve[/i] guards roamed the surrounding area constantly. They even took their breaks at random, different times and were replaced instantly. After Vyssa and Tomos escaping, Sankara certainly wasn’t taking that chance again.
It had been a long time in this prison. She couldn’t be sure on the exact number of days as they all seemed to roll into one, but it had surely been about three months now. Every day she wondered what Jazan, Tomos, and Vyssa were doing. Had he declared war? Were they in battle? Had Tomos and Vyssa managed to get away and be safe? What were they all doing? It was awful being stuck in here and not knowing what was happening. No one came to see her, the guards were forbidden from speaking to her, other than the update on the new number of guards yesterday, and what it was she was eating. There wasn’t even a clock in here to recognise the passage of time. It was maddening. The last time anyone came to see her was Queen Sankara herself, right when she was first placed in here. She had not come since.
“Oh, Jazan,” she sighed out loud, sitting down on the creamy velvet sofa in the middle of the room. She put her head in her hands and tried not to cry as she thought about her husband. “I hope you are okay. I hate to think of you alone like this.”
She knew it had been dangerous to help Tomos and Vyssa. Jazan had warned her against it, had removed himself from the situation. But this was [i]Tomos[/i], her best friend in all the world. She couldn’t abandon him when he would never do the same to her. It had all gone so well, they had succeeded in finding an incriminating letter from Frezon to his mother, detailing their sordid plan of removing Amira from the throne. But it had gone well for too long. One of her own guards had betrayed her for neopoints, and there was nothing she could do. She was a traitor in the eyes of Sakhmet, and had broken the relationship Qasala and Sakhmet had had by working with their escaped prisoners, rather than handing them in.
But she stood by her decision. And given the choice, she would do it all over again. She took a deep breath, and steadied her threatening tears. She could not give the guards the satisfaction of seeing her cry. If she had to be a prisoner to save Sakhmet, Qasala, and the whole of the Lost Desert, she would do so with a smile on her face.
“It has been a great pleasure to formally introduce myself to you all today. I know you must have been wondering about my absence, but know that it has been for good reason. As you know, I have taken control of all the territories within the Lost Desert aside from Qasala. Qasala has been functioning successfully for a number of years now, and it was only intention to unite the Lost Desert as much as possible in these difficult times in order to provide for a prosperous nation. As Qasala had been doing so well, it felt sensible to leave them alone.”
Sankara paused and surveyed the situation. Initially when she had walked out, the crowds were suspicious; she hadn’t realised the impact of not being a public figure anymore. But after waffling on about her coronation, her charity work and her appreciation for the people, they had warmed to her likes Buzz to honey. It was time now to announce that Sakhmet was at war with Qasala. She was fearful of their reaction in many ways, but her skills at public speaking gave her enough confidence to feel she could handle it well.
“However, it is my duty to announce to you today something quite shocking.” She continued, taking note of the bemused looks which were beginning to spread throughout the crowd. “I am a queen who believes in being open and honest with my subjects, rather than keeping them in the dark. I battled with my councillors for many weeks in order to convince them that telling you was the right thing to do, as they would not hear of it. Of course, they were trying to protect your feelings – but I insisted. No one likes to be hidden from the truth.”
As she said this, she could feel the resentment from her advisors and the senators sizzling behind her out of sight within the palace. No matter. They would have to live with the complete tripe she was feeding the people; they would understand what she had to do as a leader, and if not, she would eventually get rid of them.
Taking a deep breath and pretending to look sincere, she said solemnly, “Queen Nabile, as some of you may have heard from rumours, is currently situated within the palace as a prisoner of Sakhmet and the Lost Desert.”
There was an audible gasp from the crowd, and the noise level began to reach a fever pitch. Sankara had to raise her hands for silence before she could carry on. “I am aware that this will have come as a massive shock to you all. It came as a shock to me too. She has been a prisoner for almost three months now – a prisoner because she helped the traitor Vyssa, and her long-time friend, Tomos, to escape and commit a shocking crime of which I cannot speak, almost as bad as causing the death of Princess Amira.”
She paused to allow the information to sink in. Again, the conversation level was rising and she had to calm it down. “There is irrefutable evidence, and acknowledgment from Queen Nabile herself that she was involved in this. We had no choice but to take her prisoner until we could hold a fair trial for her. However, a fair trial has been prevented, because King Jazan has now – and I stress how significant this is – declared war on Sakhmet and the Lost Desert, on us. And so as he is building his army to attack us, we have been doing the same, despite sending messages of peace offerings and truces.”
Naturally, there had been no messages of the sort, but the people weren’t to know this. After giving them a moment to reflect on this, Sankara gave a great sigh, as if she were truly troubled by the situation.
“I will try my best to make peace with Jazan and give Nabile a fair trial,” she said, which earned supportive nods and words of encouragement from the crowd, “but we will have to prepare ourselves for what looks like the inevitable: a war with Qasala in the near future. Thank you everyone.”
With this, she turned her back to the crowd and walked into the palace without a second glance, muttering to her guards to clear the crowds and get back to work.
She had a war to win after all. She was done buttering up the people.
To be continued…