A Queen's Ascension - War:Part Nine
“Your Royal Highness, the armies have left to mount their attack on Qasala.”
Queen Sankara was looking out of her balcony, lost in thought when Senator Barca broke into her musings. She ignored him for a moment, continuing to ponder the one factor she couldn’t control. Vyssa and Tomos. Her spies had tracked them each step of their way but had been too late each time, a week late through the Haunted Woods, stumbling upon some bumbling witch fool who had naively told them they were heading to Faerieland. By the time they had reached Faerieland, Vyssa and Tomos were gone again, and no one this time had told them where they went. The next she had heard, Vyssa and Tomos had gone through Kiko Lake, Roo Island and then Meridell and Brightvale. They hadn’t been seen since.
What were they doing, travelling all over Neopia? The thought constantly troubled her. How were they being allowed to pass through each area when she had put out word they were wanted criminals? What were they telling everyone? Had they now gone across the waters to Krawk Island, or climbed the perilous cliffs of Terror Mountain? What exactly was their purpose?
Sankara was an intelligent Aisha. She had deliberated over all of the possibilities, and it didn’t look good. They could be convincing the leaders of each area that it was her all along who had got rid of Amira, and Vyssa, and her own brother. They could be amassing a backup army, much higher in number and with greater strength than her own.
It was why she had to act fast. Defeat Qasala, before they could get any kind of back up.
“Thank you, Senator.” She answered after this long pause. She did not turn around. “I trust that they all understand we cannot lose this, no matter what.”
Barca frowned. “We outnumber the Qasala army immeasurably. What are your concerns?”
“I don’t need to voice my concerns with you,” Sankara snapped, turning to face her. “Is that all?”
“Yes, Your Royal Highness,” Barca replied resignedly.
“For someone who is such a stickler for tradition and what is right, you keep getting my title wrong,” Sankara told her with a vindictive smile. “You should address me as ‘Your Majesty’, for I have been crowned as such both here and in Khamtef.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.” Barca parroted at her, not caring if she sounded petulant. All her years of work for Sakhmet, and this was what she had been reduced to. Not much more than a messenger. Sankara may pretend there was still a Senate in Sakhmet, but their powers had been reduced to almost nothing, just pillars on show in case the people realised their democratic rights were slowly being stripped away before their very eyes. And there was nothing she could do about it.
Queen Nabile led on the top of her bed, eyes on the ceiling. How long had she been here? She’d lost track. She was definitely going stir crazy, spending most of her days remembering her previous memories of Sakhmet and her life as a thief. The freedom she used to have and the exhilaration she felt exploring with Tomos.
She tried hard not to think of Jazan, as that hurt more than she could bear. She missed him more than anything. Was he going to be okay?
She sighed, deeply. There was nothing she could do about it. Nothing but hope.
King Jazan stood at the front of his army, a few hundred yards beyond the city of Qasala in a futile attempt to keep the city safe. Even though he had advised evacuation, his loyal subjects had stayed to the very end, telling him they would not give up their homes and their freedom without a fight of their own. He admired them for that; their bravery and strength were greater than he ever could have imagined. He gazed behind him at the forces that had amassed, and couldn’t help but wince at the small numbers. Did they even have five thousand? He tried to remember the final count, but found his mind preoccupied with their fate instead. Following old traditions, to count the number of his Neopet soldiers, he had them take an arrow from a large barrel of them, which would be returned to the barrel when the battle was over. How many arrows would come back? That was the worse question. Would there even be any?
They didn’t have to wait long. At the head of the Sakhmetian army, which seemed to spread across the horizon and beyond, was General Hadon. Jazan couldn’t help but feel an edge of resentment that Sankara was not leading her own army, but of course he was not surprised. As if she would risk herself; she knew that she would be the obvious target.
The army paused about a hundred metres from Jazan’s, and he could just about hear Hadon’s voice carry across the distance, a loud, booming sound that was made for commanding soldiers.
“Surrender now, and no one has to get hurt!”
Jazan looked around at his army. They stared at him with resolve. He couldn’t do it to them and destroy their pride, however much he wanted to save them.
“I cannot do that, General.” He called across the battlefield. He sighed. Nor could he delay any longer. Vyssa and Tomos clearly were not going to make it in time, if at all. He wouldn’t have blamed them if they had simply run away for good and gotten away from it all.
Jazan wasn’t sure, but Hadon seemed genuinely disappointed by his response. Nonetheless, he raised his great sword, ready to give the command to charge.
Suddenly, there was a great rumbling coming from behind Jazan, and all of the soldiers in both armies craned their necks to see what was going on. From the distance, a huge mass of Neopets had appeared and were joining King Jazan’s side, quadrupling the side of his army and dwarfing the size of Hadon’s. A small group came forward to the front of the battlefield. King Altador…Princess Terrana…King Roo…Jeran…and Tomos and Vyssa!
“Jazan, we’re not too late, are we?” Tomos gasped, his breath heaving. Clearly, they had run most of the way. “We did it, Jazan! We spread the word across Neopia…and so many agreed to help or pass on our innocence!”
“First we went to the Haunted Woods, then we went to Faerieland, and although Fyora had to remain neutral she gave us another letter with her signature that indicated she believed our innocence, which helped massively,” Vyssa added, just as breathlessly. “Then we went to Kiko Lake, but they didn’t have the numbers to help us, but gave us safe passage to Roo Island and promised to support us by sending word ahead of our innocence. King Roo was the first to pledge his army to us…” She indicated the Blumaroo, who was dressed in a full, shiny, silver armour, clearly ready for a battle if necessary.
“We may be a small army, but we are tough, Jazan,” King Roo said to him, “and I remember the good deeds you have done in the past and the journey you have had for your own redemption. It spoke to me that Vyssa here wanted to redeem herself.”
Jazan couldn’t believe what was happening. He stood there in shock. “Thank you…” He said slowly. “This is…more than I ever could have imagined.”
“But there’s more!” Vyssa continued eagerly. “Then we went across to Brightvale, but King Hagan insisted that words were more significant than action and so only promised to spread our message. So we went to Meridell, and Tomos told King Skarl a joke that made him howl with laughter, so he allowed us to use his army, led by Jeran himself!”
The blue Lupe nodded his head in acknowledgement, his eyes twinkling. “We have one of the strongest forces in Neopia. I am passionate about ending the injustices of the world, so of course I wanted to lead our army. We met up with King Roo and took refuge in Faerieland until Vyssa and Tomos gave us the order to march.”
Jazan could see why this had taken over three months. Vyssa and Tomos had clearly not stopped since they first left Qasala.
“Meanwhile, we wanted an even bigger army and to spread the word to across the whole of Neopia,” said Tomos. “Kiko Lake had lent us a ship, and we used it to sail to Shenkuu and Altador, who both lent us their armies and sailed back with us. We all met up and rushed here as quick as we could. And we made it just in time!”
Just in time indeed. Hadon’s sword was still raised, but Jazan could see he was hesitating, wondering what was going on. Jazan seized this opportunity, and fast.
“General!” He called, his voice even and calm in comparison to the nerves and trepidation he had been feeling mere minutes before. “I believe I need to ask your own request back at you – surrender and no one needs to get hurt! I have the Qasalan Army, the Meridellian Army, the Roo Army, the Shenkuu Army and the Altadorian Army on my side!” Even just saying those words sounded incredible. “There is no way for you to be beaten now.”
Bravely, he walked forwards towards the middle of the battlefield, indicating for Hadon to do the same. The Grarrl mirrored his actions, and they ended up alone in the middle together, facing one another and being able to converse quietly.
“It’s over,” Jazan said. “It is time for your army to retreat, and for Sankara to be punished for what she has done. I don’t want to fight you, but I will if –”
“Thank goodness for that,” the General chuckled, cutting him off and surprising Jazan into silence. “Your Majesty, do you really think I wanted to continue this despot’s reign of terror? I was under the command of my true king, King Frezon. I believe Queen Sankara had something to do with his death, though I cannot prove it. But with the bigger army, there was no way we could just hand defeat over like that…she would suspect me immediately. But now…well!” He chuckled again. “The only sensible thing is to surrender.”
“I had no idea you felt like this,” Jazan said. “I must say, it’s a bit of a relief.”
Hadon nodded. “And I must say it’s a bit of a relief to know that Sakhmet will be in safe hands with you and Nabile at the helm.”
“No.” Jazan shook his head. “That’s not what is going to happen.”
“What?” Hadon was perplexed. “Then who? You can’t seriously be suggesting that Vyssa return…?”
“Let me explain to you exactly what happened,” Jazan told him, “but on the way back. We have a long journey ahead of us to Sakhmet.”
To be continued…