A Queen's Ascension: Part Three
Amira sat in her room, painting on a large canvas she had bought in the marketplace just outside the palace. Her painting was completely different from the Lost Desert – it detailed green fields, a blue sky and a large, transparent lake in the middle of rolling hills, so clear when painted Amira had also drawn a Jetsam and a Peophin swimming in it, accompanied by a water faerie. This place in Neopia did not exist; it was merely Amira's fantasy. She tried not to think back to her travels before her father was killed, but her mind always brought her back to the freedom she had, the ability to do whatever she pleased, whenever she pleased. Why must she be tormented with such memories? Her eyes stung and she was surprised to find herself fighting tears. She distracted herself by looking outside and saw the sun rising in Sakhmet, pink and drizzling its romantic colour across the dark sky. Then she glanced back at her painting. Without a second's hesitation, she soaked her paintbrush in black paint and covered the canvas in it, ruining her picture.
This painting represented how she really felt, after all. She really felt dark and sad. She stood up wearily; making sure no paint had gotten onto her outfit and reapplied her eyeliner. The suitor yesterday evening was appalling – even her advisors admitted as much – and she was at a loss what to do. Perhaps she would have to pick one at random just to save her kingdom. It made no difference whether or not she herself admired him, it was all for show. She would never have a true companion, it appeared.
There was a knock at the door, two harsh taps. Amira hastily threw a blanket over her canvas, and then opened the door, expecting a servant to tell her it was breakfast. Indeed, there stood an Acara, who bowed to the princess before mumbling that it would be served very soon.
Amira almost chuckled at herself. She didn't know why she wanted a surprise at that moment – a bigger one had already hit her, and she had no idea how to handle it. Before she left her room, the light hit the necklace she had found at her father's shrine. It was a rather peculiar object to have found. She wondered what her father wanted her to do with it. Feeling like she needed some luck today, she fastened it around her neck.
Vyssa became Viola, a Usul who had lived in Sakhmet her whole life and didn't have a family. She knew if she told the truth to Tomos he would completely change around her – he'd start bowing, or withhold his true feelings on a subject matter. She couldn't have that. He was the first true friend she'd made her whole entire life.
They travelled around Sakhmet together, slowly becoming more comfortable with each other and able to say exactly what they thought. It was remarkable in such a short amount of time they had formed this close friendship, but both of them wanted it to remain. Tomos did not question how Viola had a constant supply of neopoints, and Vyssa did not question where Tomos' family were. She took him for what he was; impulsive, adventurous, kind and loyal. He often spoke softly of a friend he'd clearly lost closeness with, never mentioning her by name, and the pain in his voice almost made Vyssa jealous of such a friendship, one she had never experienced. But she wanted to – and she hoped this would be it.
As they walked around the outskirts of Sakhmet together, Vyssa still well-disguised, she found herself thinking aloud about who should truly be the ruler of Sakhmet. That is, should it be Princess Amira or Princess Vyssa.
"Princess Vyssa?" Tomos repeated, puzzled. "Wasn't she the original heir to the throne anyway? But then her sister came back and pushed herself in –"
"Oh no! She didn't do that to me – me favourite princess. Goodness, I sound like a pirate from Krawk Island, do I not?" Vyssa chuckled; glad the hood was covering her embarrassment. Her stumble almost cost her her identity. "What I mean is Princess Amira was forced into becoming the ruler of Sakhmet. She dreams of adventure." As Vyssa said this, she felt sympathy for her sister, trapped in something she didn't want to do. "It is Princess Vyssa that dreams of becoming the Queen of Sakhmet, to make her father proud of her. She doesn't want to be known for her selfish, vain ways anymore."
Tomos blinked at her. "How do you know this much about the Royal Family?" He asked her. "Have you worked in the palace or something? I should probably know more than most, seeing as I used to be so close to Nabile." Her name slipped out so easily Tomos looked a little surprised at himself. Had his friendship with Viola improved his hurtful feelings about Nabile?
"Goodness, Queen Nabile?" Vyssa gasped. "Why, she is your previous friend? Then that must mean..." Vyssa recalled the story Amira had told her about the revival of Qasala and how Nabile became queen. There was indeed some mention of a red Lupe.
"Must mean what?"
"Oh... never mind. We've lost track. I personally feel Princess Vyssa should rule," Vyssa whispered as she heard her heart beating. "Her sister should not have to go through with the coronation."
"Of course, that's why you're discussing this now. There's the coronation in two weeks. Well, I strongly believe that people should follow their dreams!" Tomos grinned, shrugging as if it was as easy as that. "If Princess Vyssa wants to rule, and Princess Amira wants to travel, why can't it be the other way round?"
Why couldn't it be the other way round? Because they thought Vyssa was still an immature child not fit to rule. Amira was the eldest child, the most rational and tactful, beautiful and intelligent. Her sister shone above others as a clear example of a great ruler. Sakhmet had never been so prosperous in the past decade. This stupid law that had dug up these old feelings – was it just a coincidence or was it telling her to make a stand for what she wanted to do?
Vyssa nodded, to herself more than anyone else. "You know what, Tomos," she murmured, "I think you're right. It should be the other way round. I – I have to go now... I need to do something."
"Of course – meet you here again tomorrow at noon?"
"Of course," Vyssa echoed. She quickly embraced the Lupe, and without hesitating handed him fifty neopoints for the rest of the day and the night ahead of him. "Be safe," she whispered.
As she walked away, Tomos stared at the neopoints in his hand. He didn't know who Viola was, but he was glad she had come into his life.
As Vyssa hurried into the dining hall, she felt the tense atmosphere so strong she could barely walk through it. She was late for the evening meal, but it had not been served yet without her as that would be considered impolite. Princess Amira was seated at the head of the long table, holding up her drinking glass and absent-mindedly swirling the liquid in it around. Senator Barca sat to her left, and by her was Senator Palpus. The seat to the right of Amira was empty; that was Vyssa's seat, always. Next to Vyssa was Advisor Wessle. Opposite to Amira, a good distance away passing many other unseated chairs, was an empty chair with a plate, cutlery and a drinking glass in front of it on the marble table. Candles had been lit to warm the large up a bit and create light as the sun fell from the sky.
Amira looked breath-taking, as usual. Her hair was tied up into a neat bun at the top of her head with dark chestnut strands falling elegantly around her composed face. Around her wide eyes was black eyeliner and blue eyeshadow and her lips had been painted crimson. She looked her very best. What was the occasion? Vyssa couldn't help but wonder.
"I apologise for my lack of punctuality," Vyssa told everyone as she seated herself. "Is everyone present? I have something which I would like to address."
Amira shook her head. "Not yet. But do continue, Vyssa."
"Hmm?" Vyssa looked around the table in confusion. "Who is missing? Is the General dining with us today? I assumed he was out dealing with that confrontation in the middle of the desert." When she received no reply other than Barca shaking her head, Vyssa frowned and continued. "All right then. While we wait for us mysterious guest, I have a proposition to make." She took a deep breath. "I want to take over the throne come the coronation."
Vyssa had to admit it; she was expecting a more dramatic reaction from this announcement. What she got instead was an Amira looking a little startled and the Senators grumbling about what nonsense such a suggestion was.
"I can't let you do that, Vyssa." Amira shrugged, though she sounded a little... reluctant to say this. "The same law would apply to you anyway."
"Law?" Vyssa stared at her sister blankly.
"You haven't told her?" This question was directed at the senators from Princess Amira in surprise.
"We have barely seen the young princess," Senator Palpus muttered. "We are not aware of where she is going during the day but we weren't able to locate her to tell her the news. Vyssa," he turned to the Usul now, "your sister has to find a suitor in order to become Queen of Sakhmet under an ancient law. If she does not do this, the throne goes to the next eligible heir in the family."
"Me, right?" Vyssa said. She was shocked by this law, but she couldn't help feeling a growing sense of excitement.
"Unfortunately, the same law would apply to you and you would not have the correct amount of time to find a suitor, so it would automatically go to your cousin, Prince Frezon," Senator Barca explained. "He is Queen Sankara's younger brother."
A cool, slimy voice travelled across the room to where they were sat, uttering, "Yes, that is me."
Prince Frezon, for one scary second, reminded Amira of her father before she calmed herself of the shock of seeing a Lupe in the royal dining hall once again. She stared into his brooding eyes and knew she could never let such a selfish being rule Sakhmet. But she did not speak her feelings out loud; rather, she stood up and gave a slight nod of her head to the visitor.
Vyssa, to say the least, was completely astounded by the news and the arrival all in a matter of seconds. She curled her paws into fists but, after earning a glare from Advisor Wessle, relaxed them and kept mutinously quiet. They had never even met the Lupe – he was away fighting in some battle or another when Queen Sankara had been allowed to stay in Sakhmet, or he refused, Vyssa couldn't remember right – but here he was about to take the throne. Her throne.
"It is a pleasure to meet you all. Especially you, dear cousin Amira," Prince Frezon murmured. "I must say I am a little tired from my journey – I shall properly introduce myself tomorrow and have a tour around the palace then. For now, let us eat dinner and then I would like a word with Amira alone."
"Anything you say to Amira will be then said to us anyway," Senator Barca told him, "so you might as well address her now."
Prince Frezon smirked, as if he knew something they all did not. "No, no, I shall save my words for her later. If she tells you afterwards, I cannot stop her."
After dinner, Amira personally showed Frezon his room – the best guest room in the palace. He set about organising his luggage, and brought out a bottle containing a drink of some sort. "Before we begin, let's have a glass, shall we?"
"What is it?" Amira frowned, sniffing it cautiously.
"Merely Carnapepper juice – it's something of a delicacy where I am from. You must try it." He poured the juice into two glasses and handed on to Amira. "Now, I must say I do not want any hatred between us when I take your throne."
"You mean if you take my throne, and you won't," Amira snapped, taking a mouthful of the drink. It did taste delicious; she couldn't help being surprised. She found herself finishing it in three gulps and bluntly asked for more. "You're not getting my throne, Frezon, even though I know you want it so much. I bet Sankara's delighted at this news, she –" A wave of dizziness hit the Aisha, so strong she dropped her glass and it smashed onto the floor. Nothing spilled – she had drunk the glass dry.
Frezon chuckled at the sight. "Be careful, Amira, a servant shall have to clear up that mess now. I think you've had more than enough for this to take effect. Because I will be getting your throne, Amira, even if I have to go about doing so in a less than legal way."
As Amira found her vision blurring and each sense deteriorating but her hearing, all she could listen to were the very persuasive words Frezon was now whispering into her ear...
To be continued...