A Queen's Ascension: Part Four
"No thank you, but thank you for your time."
Amira refused suitor after suitor of eligible bachelors from all across Neopia. As a very huffy looking Lord Farnapus from Brightvale stormed out of the room without a glance back, the senators all exchanged worried glances. For the entire morning, Amira hadn't even questioned each suitor about their lives; she merely rejected them in cold voice. Senator Palpus could barely believe it – only yesterday they had spoken to Amira about accepting one to save the throne from being in the wrong hands and she had agreed, albeit reluctantly. The Aisha princess sat in the throne before them now was not the Amira they knew; she was resting her head on her hands propped up by her elbows and had a permanently bored expression on her face. On the side-lines, a smug looking Prince Frezon watched the rejections over and over.
The last suitor, a knight from Faerieland named Yarmey who was a red Draik, entered the room. Barca nodded at Palpus – surely this was the suitor for Amira. He was a knight who had experienced adventure like no civilian could, who endangered his life and lived for the thrill of a quest. For a second, Amira did seem more interested in the prospect of a knight as her suitor. She looked him up and down, opened her mouth, and said:
"No thank you, but thank you for your time."
When Yarmey had left, Barca hurried straight towards the princess. "What is going on with you today, Amira? I thought we agreed you were going to accept someone!"
Vyssa, who was on her way to meet Tomos, heard the commotion and stopped outside the room to listen. A bad feeling was in her stomach but she couldn't place why. From where she was stood she could see Amira surrounded by the senators looking... sort of bored. It was strange. To the left, Frezon observed the scene with his arms folded, his tail flicking excitedly behind him.
"I do not wish to have the throne," Amira stated solemnly. "When the month is up, I shall pass it to Frezon. I am sick of ruling such a kingdom when I was not even the original heir. I long for adventure. Frezon will be a good ruler. A better ruler than I could ever have been."
Everyone gasped, including Vyssa. What was her sister saying? Frezon would immediately welcome Sankara back into Sakhmet and the two of them would create chaos for their own selfish wants. He would be a fierce dictator with no freedom for the people, Vyssa could just sense it. But Amira stood firm despite the senators' protests. Advisor Wessle could not advise her any differently from her decision.
"You realise," he said quietly, "this means you only have thirteen days left as Princess of Sakhmet. Your sister, too, because who knows what Frezon will do once he has the throne. He may strip you both of your titles and send you out into the streets! We cannot trust a brother of Sankara's."
Amira nodded. "I understand the implications, Wessle. Do not insult my intelligence." With this sharp comment, she stood up with a stretch. "I'm retiring to my room. If anyone needs me, do not hesitate to knock."
As she left, the senators and Advisor Wessle all hurried after her, obviously in an attempt to change her mind. They rushed past Vyssa without even noticing her. Some things never change, Vyssa thought with a sigh. She was about to leave when she saw Frezon walking to his room. Without knowing why, she knew she had to follow him.
Careful not to be seen, Vyssa lurked outside his room, her back pressed against the wall and her breathing slow and steady. She could just about overhear him talking out loud to himself. It seemed like he was writing a letter to someone, dictating his words.
"The plan is going extremely well, Sankara. You'll be back in Sakhmet before you know it. Amira was easier than I thought, you know. I thought she'd be a little suspicious of the drink – well, the potion! But I guess she's a little more gullible than I assumed. This works out well for us, at any rate." At this, he began to laugh, a vindictive noise that almost frightened Vyssa with how confident he sounded, how sure he was... but what was he talking about? What potion? What plan?
She didn't know what to do. Go to Amira and confront her about some kind of drink? Confront Frezon? Common sense told Vyssa that would be unwise. But the senators and advisors never listened to her when she talked, so she couldn't go to them. They'd never believe her. So who would? And at that thought, she knew what she had to do, even if it meant revealing herself.
She had to get Tomos' help.
"You're... who?!" Tomos yelped.
"I'm sorry I disguised myself and lied to you... I didn't think you'd be treat me the same if you knew who I really was. But I need your help!" Vyssa removed her hood and revealed herself as the final confirmation she really was Crown Princess Vyssa of Sakhmet.
Tomos, to her surprise, burst out laughing. "I sure have a thing for picking out friends that are royalty." He grinned, but then his smile faded as he realised the rest of what Vyssa said. "What's wrong?" he asked. "You're not ill, are you? Because I know a shortcut to the healing springs which would only take us four days, maximum, to get there."
Vyssa shook her head. "No, nothing like that... well, maybe something like that... I'm not sure... it's Amira, she's acting weird. And I think it is because of Frezon. I don't trust him. We only have thirteen days to make this right!"
"Slow down – who is Frezon? And why would Amira be acting weird because of him? And thirteen days until what? You mean the coronation?" Tomos looked at her in bemusement. His brow was furrowed trying to handle the sudden information overload.
The Usul took a deep breath. She realised she had to start at the beginning if Tomos had any hope at all of understanding the situation she was in. So she sat him down and explained it all to him, every last detail, from Amira's dreams to Vyssa wanting to be queen to the ancient law to Sankara to Frezon to the suspicious activity of Amira. "Now she won't even look at a suitor!" Vyssa finished with a sigh. "She at least considered them before and was realising her time was running out. She's always liked to live her life as some kind of lone Aisha, even though she's supposed to be the Queen of Sakhmet! Well –" Here, Vyssa broke off suddenly. "I was supposed to be. But this just isn't like her. Frezon talked about some kind of plan in his room – that must involve Amira in some way."
Tomos nodded, and despite the situation felt excited. This was an opportunity for an adventure like the ones he had enjoyed with Nabile, except this time he'd be with Vyssa. He realised he actually had a lot more in common with both Amira and Vyssa than he thought.
"Well, there's only one thing for it. We've got to sneak into his room and see if there is anything in there relating to that potion he was talking about." Tomos suggested. "I'll go in there, and pretend to be servant, whilst you lurk around. It won't be abnormal for you to be in the palace, of course. You should go and talk to Amira. If I find anything, I'll meet you in a designated spot straight away. Now," he looked a little hesitant for a second before shrugging nonchalantly, "I haven't sneaked into the Sakhmetian palace in a while, but I think I remember the layout. Where's his room?"
"Oh, thank you Tomos!" Vyssa breathed. "I knew I could count on you to come up with something. I am not one for such... tomfoolery, as one might say."
He put an arm around her in a friendly fashion. "I'll make an adventurer out of you yet, Viola – er, Vyssa!" He laughed at his mistake; then his face grew serious. "Now, tell me where to go."
Vyssa confronted her elder sister a little nervously. Amira was sat on a chair in her bedroom endlessly painting a landscape of what looked like Maraqua, the complete opposite of the Lost Desert. She still looked the same – effortlessly beautiful Amira, elegant and reserved, but there was a half-glazed look in her dark eyes that Vyssa knew meant something was off about her sister. She tapped her on the shoulder to address her, and Amira turned around so fast it startled the Usul.
"What do you want, Vyssa?" Amira asked tiredly. "If the senators have tried to get you to convince me to change my mind, I'm not going to. Frezon shall have the throne, and I shall be happy."
"What about me, Amira? Do you ever think about that?" Vyssa snapped. "What will happen to me after all of this? Your own sister? Let alone what will happen to Sakhmet itself. You're making a huge mistake and I have to ask why you are doing this."
Amira frowned; she seemed put out by Vyssa's outburst and seemed to be fighting an inner force. "I – you will be happy, Vyssa. We will all be happier when Frezon is king. Who knows what will happen to Sakhmet? All I know is that I do not want to be the one ruling it."
"How dare you be so selfish!" Vyssa cried. "I don't know what is going on but I know this isn't you, Amira. And I'm going to get to the bottom of this, don't you worry."
Tomos had searched the room top to bottom. He had almost given up any hope of finding anything when he stood on the rug that stretched from one side of the room to the other and felt a very slight raise in level compared to the rest of the floor. Immediately, he lifted it up and found a curled up piece of parchment, flattened by the velvet rug. He opened it up slowly; the parchment was yellowing and crinkled, it was obviously very old. He knew he had to be careful. Then he began to read it.
TOP SECRET: DESTROY THIS ONCE YOU HAVE FINISHED. – SANKARA
MIX CARNAPEPPER JUICE WITH THE POTION I GAVE YOU. JHUDORA ONLY MADE ME THE ONE SO DON'T YOU DARE LOSE IT. THE JUICE WILL DISGUISE THE FOUL TASTE AND MAKE IT TASTE UNBELIEVABLY DELICIOUS. MAKE SURE AMIRA DRINKS AT LEAST ONE FULL GLASS – SHE WILL FEEL DIZZY AND AS SOON AS SHE DOES WHATEVER YOU SAY SHE WILL DO FROM THEN ON. THIS POTION ALTERS HOW PEOPLE BEHAVE TO SUIT THE COMMANDS OF ANOTHER.
Tomos gasped. Frezon had given Amira a potion that meant he could control how she behaved! That explained why she was suddenly so adamant not to find a suitor and give Frezon the throne. Well, he couldn't get away with this. He rolled up the parchment and put the rug as it had been before. He'd find Vyssa and they'd go straight to the –
"I believe, though of course I may be mistaken, that the parchment you are holding in your hands is mine."
Without even looking up, Tomos knew who to expect. Vyssa had told him of the hypnotic, mocking and oily voice the Lupe before him had.
It was Prince Frezon.
To be continued...