Scarab Queen: Part Eight
When Jazan called for a break, Nabile walked over to where Lord Sarikash was leaning against a pillar. The Kougra looked down at her as she approached. “Yes, Your Majesty?”
Nabile kept her voice fairly low – no one was really paying attention to them, as Jazan was speaking with Kiyaa and wasn’t looking to see what she was doing, but she said, “I think you were right, earlier, and I’d like to help you.”
Sarikash raised his eyebrows delicately. “What do you mean?”
Nabile repeated, “I think you’re right. We’re in this position to rebuild everything because of what Razul did. And we should learn from what happened before, so that we can make it harder for some other nut to do what Razul did. I know I didn’t live through the curse like everyone else here, but I ran into Razul and I’ve got the scars to prove it. But I don’t think everyone else took it that way.”
Sarikash sighed. “It’s a fine line. I thought I was bringing up a rational point, but it is one that is still closely tied to deep emotion. I underestimated the reaction.” He surveyed her critically. “But you can see it rationally, for you did not endure the curse.”
He said it without any noticeable strain or condescension. Nabile added, “And I think your idea about adding the Mages’ College to the constitution is a good idea. They’re involved in the wall, in all sorts of projects – and my cousin Amira complains about dealing with her Mages’ College all the time. Even if we just formally write out that they’re in charge of themselves, that’ll protect them, and in turn maybe protect the rest of Qasala. Kings aren’t the only ones who go crazy – Chief Mages always decide in the stories that they have more power than the king, so they might as well be one. Like the Horus Lord.”
He smiled wryly. “Thank you, Your Majesty, for your introduction of folklore to the discussion.” He added, carefully, “I believe I may have misjudged you in some ways – while you were not raised for this, you have clearly been an able study.”
Nabile went red. “Thank you, Lord Sarikash.” She told him, deciding to be honest, “I’m trying to be an able study. I know I haven’t been doing this for very long. But Qasala deserves anyone who can fight for it.”
Sarikash smirked. “Up to and including striking Lady Isadre?”
Nabile covered her face with a hand. “It was once! And I know I shouldn’t have done it, but even Lord Farouli said she had it coming.”
Sarikash said, “Entirely. Onas repeated the entire conversation for me in excruciating detail. She’s allowed herself to become spoiled – if she’d said that out loud to anyone before the curse, Razul would have thought she was rising above herself, and would have returned her to her place with extreme prejudice. Though I would not make a habit of striking Qasala’s nobles across the face, as some may be more competent fighters than Isadre.”
Nabile muttered, “Wouldn’t be hard to be less competent. She hits like a five-year-old.”
Sarikash asked, slightly stiltedly, “I take it you have… combat experience... then?’
At least he was trying – he said it with the air of someone trying to build a bridge. Nabile said, “Not really – I’ve been in fights before, but they were fistfights and everyone was fighting dirty. Not like what you’ve done. Jazan says you’re a war hero. You fought the warlords in the mountains eastern mountains, he said? I can’t remember what it was about, though.”
The Kougra nodded. “Few people can – it was long ago.” He told her a little about that campaign until Jazan called them all to order. As Nabile retook her seat, Jazan murmured to her, “I’d ask what on Neopia you thought you were doing, but I’m not entirely certain I want to hear the answer.”
She merely gave him a sweet, innocent smile that she knew would do nothing to reassure him. Kiyaa said, before anyone else got the chance to speak, “I believe we ought to consider the question of adding the Mages’ College to the constitution immediately.”
Nabile asked, “May I speak?”
Jazan nodded. She received several slightly askance looks – but not from Sarikash, who merely gave her a small smile. Nabile stood up and said, “I know that I’m Sakhmeti by birth – I didn’t endure Razul’s reign or the curse like the rest of you. But I think that Sarikash had a point. Kiyaa, Jazan, you two send letters back and forth to each other every day discussing plans, and most of those plans are for the good of Qasala as a whole. Kiyaa, you’re even on this committee, and Zann, and Ikata. I don’t think adding the Mages’ College as a body into the document is going to change anything. I think it’s just admitting what’s already there. And even if it just says that everyone else needs to not mess with you, at least it’ll be written down and it’ll make it a little bit harder for someone else to come along later and decide that the mages ought to do whatever he or she says.
“And it’s also good for you, I think. You’ve had to rebuild from nothing. If the structure of the Mages’ College had been written down before Razul, you wouldn’t be in that position. Now someone else won’t need to be in the position of rebuilding from nothing, some other mage down the line. That’s what we’re trying to do, right? Leave something behind for Qasala that will outlast us, that’ll keep anyone else from having to do what we’re doing now.”
She took a breath in the silence that followed. Everyone was staring at her – though Mirzah gave her a thumbs-up and a fierce grin – and her knees were shaking, like she’d just been in a fight or had a close escape from the guards. But, finally, Kiyaa said, “That does make sense, when put that way. Zann, Ikata, what say you?”
Zann nodded immediately – Ikata waited a few moments, but nodded once, slightly. Jazan said, “It shall be done. Kiyaa, you, Zann, and Ikata should draft the proposal for the Mages’ College part of the document. I believe that would be suitable. Let us know when you are ready for it to be presented. Are there any other opinions on the matter? Lord Onas, you seem to wish to say something.”
Lord Onas had turned an interesting shade of purple, and it was all that Nabile could do to keep herself from bursting out laughing. But he merely shook his head, and Jazan asked, “Anyone else? No? Then the matter is closed. Does anyone else have anything to propose?”
As the conversation moved on, Lord Sarikash gave Nabile a very slight nod of appreciation. Farouli and Zara both smiled at her. Nabile smiled back at them, and she felt almost light-headed as she took her seat again.
Nabile did her best to focus on the discussion that followed in the rest of the meeting, but she was thinking about what she’d said – half of it seemed to have passed in a blur. It almost made her laugh a little – no Sakhmeti street thief would have ever called her a coward, and yet a few words to a roomful of nobles had her exhausted and giddy.
But she’d done it. She’d stood up and spoken and people had listened. It felt good. It felt…
Nabile and Jazan went back to the palace wall later that afternoon. Once they were seated atop it, Jazan laughed a little. “You don’t do anything halfway, do you?”
Nabile said, “Well, I thought he was right, and he just could have used some tact in the initial delivery.” She couldn’t get too indignant, though – she was tired, and the heat of the afternoon sun made her feel relaxed and lazy.
Jazan snorted. “That’s one way to put it. But I think you were right to support him, and right to frame it the way you did – as protecting the Mages’ College, rather than giving the king control over them.” He smiled at her. “You did well, my dear.”
She smiled back. “Thanks.”
They were silent a while, looking down at the late-afternoon bustle of the city as people ventured out again after the worst heat of the day. Jazan said softly, “Two hundred years, we dwelt in the darkness. But now – look, Nabile. The city is alive again, and the sun shines once more. Look at all the people. Look at the life down there.”
He added, “I think too many of us forget why we do what we do – we see the work and the alliances and the plans as ends in themselves, instead of at the service of all those people living their lives out there. But I don’t think you’ll forget that. You don’t want power – you just want to help.”
Nabile looked down at her feet, pleased by the compliment. “You do, too.”
He nodded, but said, “I was born to this, though, raised for this. You were not – you came here freely.”
She pointed out to him, trying to lighten the mood, “And because I found out there was such a thing as three meals a day.”
He smiled. “That, too.” He took her hand. “Come, Scarab queen – that third meal you’re so fond of awaits us both. And I may need assistance again in getting down from here.”
She couldn’t help but laugh. “I’ll go first then.”
Scarab queen. She liked that he’d called her that – it seemed to mean that this new life didn’t have to be a complete change from what she’d been before – that she could be Nabile the Scarab, wanted for numerous counts of petty theft, and Queen Nabile of Qasala all at the same time. She could learn how to live in this new world of her queenship and thrive here, without becoming a person that Tomos and the others would laugh themselves silly at.
And she smiled broadly as she began to climb back down the wall.