A Queen's Ascension - Justice: Part Four
King Frezon I stood in front of the crowd of Neopets at the bottom of the great steps for the second time this week, with a much more different announcement. It was a stiflingly hot day and he was still getting used to the intense heat in Sakhmet. Khamtef was much further eastwards, heading towards the sea, and often had a cool breeze in the air to help with the temperature. Sakhmet was a different story. But no matter. This had to be done.
The crowd was smaller than it was for the coronation, but that was to be expected. There were still enough Neopets here to spread the word.
“Thank you for gathering here at such short notice. You must be wondering why I have called you here again to listen to me only two days after my coronation, but I believe it is important for a king to connect with his people. And I have grave news.” He paused for dramatic effect, watching the puzzled looks on their faces mixed with worry. “The traitor, Vyssa, and her accomplice, Tomos, have escaped from their cells.”
There was a collective gasp from the crowd, and Frezon raised his hand for silence. “I am aware of how shocking this must be. They escaped during the coronation, just when almost all of the guards were here. It is awful that they would try to escape punishment, but rest assured I have sent my best guards out to find them. This is where I need your help.” His voice became softer, more welcoming. His head was bent as if truly affected by these events. It was a very convincing act. “If any of you see Tomos or Vyssa, you must let us know immediately their whereabouts. They are dangerous individuals, so unless you feel capable, do not try to catch them yourselves. But if you do…” Frezon stared down at them all. “You will be rewarded. One million neopoints.”
The crowd began talking almost instantly, many scarcely able to believe the sum of money offered as a reward for Vyssa and Tomos’ recapture. People even began looking around at that moment, as though they would be simply standing in the crowd listening to this.
“Thank you for your time, everyone. Do not panic. My guards will keep you all perfectly safe. Now I must press on with trying to find them!” Frezon declared. He was met with cheers, which lasted until he was long back inside the palace. He couldn’t help but grin.
His sister, Sankara, met him in the throne room. Frezon was sat on his throne, contemplating the turn of events and how he was going to solve this. His smile had vanished as he pondered the consequences of their escape.
“What are we going to do about this, Sankara?” He asked her with a frown. “I can’t believe that guard was stupid enough to open the door to them…he has since been dealt with.”
“Well, if they are still in Sakhmet they will definitely be found now with that reward money, or indeed around its outskirts.” Sankara shrugged. “I do not see why you are so worried about this, Frezon. We dealt with the problem of Vyssa being the heir to the throne. She has been stripped of that right. Now that she’s run away, does it all really matter?”
“Tomos has a powerful friend in Queen Nabile.” Frezon commented, crossing his arms. “If Qasala rise up against us…”
“Queen Nabile is not King Jazan.” Sankara said. “And Qasala would never challenge Sakhmet. The Sakhmetian army alone is bigger than Qasala’s, let alone counting Khamtef’s aswell.” She rolled her eyes. “I mean really Frezon, you worry too much. We have much bigger things to concern ourselves with. We tackle the rest of the Lost Desert first, and then we deal with Qasala.”
Frezon still looked concerned. “What if they discover something that incriminates us?”
Sankara laughed. “And what? Deliver it to our senators? The same senators who now have so little power they might as well be civilians? Or our guards, who are working directly for us, not Sakhmet? Or the advisors? Of which there is now only one, me.”
“I suppose you are right.” Frezon conceded reluctantly. “We’ll focus on the rest of the Lost Desert first.”
Sankara rewarded him with a genuine smile, which made her look even more beautiful. It was rare to see her without a more serious expression on her face, or a twisted smirk only for show. “There we go, little brother. It is always better if you listen to me and just follow what I say.”
“You are my Chief Advisor, Sankara.” Frezon said in a low voice. “But you are not Queen of Sakhmet. I am the king. Don’t forget that.”
“Oh, Frezon, how could I ever forget that?” She replied.***
Vyssa couldn’t believe she was doing this walk again so soon. Or rather, that she was even walking it at all again. She remembered how she felt the first time, the uncertainty of what was going to happen but knowing they had to find this Morgana, who they believed was going to help them. If only she could turn back time and shout at her past self, warning her, telling her not to be so het up with emotion and actually think things through rationally. When she flew back to Sakhmet armed with the potions Morgana had given them, she had actually felt happy. Thinking she was coming back to save the day. How wrong she was.
And now she was nothing more than a common criminal. At least before she was still Princess Vyssa. Now she could not even call herself that. The whole situation was bizarre. She imagined trying to go even further back in time, to tell her past self only a couple of months ago what was going to be in store. She had changed so much. Everything had changed so much. Her past self never would have believed her, would have even laughed in her face at her scruffy outfit. She was wearing a white cotton dress and thin sandals with barely any support, and both were scuffed and dirty. Her hooded cloak was large and brown and unflattering, and the hood kept flying off in the sandy breeze, making her hair fly about too, loose and knotty.
She certainly no longer looked how a princess was supposed to look either. She was a mess, in more ways than just appearance. But, despite everything that had happened, it was an astonishment to her that she did not care what she looked like. Even Vyssa admitted to herself she was somewhat vain – okay, completely vain. Her looks dominated her mornings, making sure everything was just right. And now? With everything in perspective appearance was so low on her priorities it no longer entered her concerns.
Staring ahead at the vast sand in front of her, and knowing there was still at least another hour to go before they reached Qasala, Vyssa suddenly felt very tired. She sat down on the hot sand and wiped the sweat from her face.
Tomos, who had been walking a few feet behind her, stopped next to her and offered her the water. “Here, have as much as you need. We’re not too far now.”
Vyssa drank it gratefully, savouring each cautious sip. Water never tasted better than it did right in the middle of the desert. She gingerly got to her feet and sighed. “I just can’t believe we’re doing this journey again Tomos.” She said, as a way of explanation for her stopping.
The two began walking again as Tomos replied, “Me neither.”
“It’s just…we thought we had solved everything. And everything turned into a disaster of even greater proportions. What if we’re going to do something wrong again?” Vyssa bit her lip. “We haven’t come here through a random, too lucky bit of advice. We’re coming to seek Nabile and Jazan’s help. That’s sensible, right? That’s all we could do?”
“Definitely,” Tomos assured her firmly. “We had no other options. This is the only way we could even conceive of getting rid of Frezon and Sankara. We have to defeat Morgana. And Nabile and Jazan will help us.”
There was a lull in the conversation as the two continued walking, pressing forwards, getting close enough to begin seeing Qasala in the distance as a tiny dot. It was a welcoming sight and spurred them on even further, just as the sun was setting.
“How exactly are we going to defeat Morgana, Tomos?” Vyssa asked after a while. They were much closer to Qasala now and could make out some details of the larger buildings.
Tomos didn’t answer at first, because in all honesty he had no idea. She was powerful, she was a witch, and she was stronger than the two of them. Going in without a plan definitely did not seem like the smartest idea either. “We’ll think of something,” he answered eventually, rather weakly. “Nabile will help us, and Jazan. Jazan is strong and powerful. He could defeat Morgana easily…”
“Yes, but would he actually make such a bold move?” Vyssa wondered. “That would be risking a lot, wouldn’t it? As soon as Frezon and Sankara found out, they’d declare war on Qasala!”
“Okay, maybe not.” Tomos pulled a face. “But something! Something will come up. You’ll see.”
Vyssa was about to murmur something encouraging in response when something ahead of her caught her eye. It was someone coming towards them, at a running speed. “Who’s that?” She said, pointing.
Tomos squinted his eyes at the figure. A sudden breeze blew their hood off and Tomos gasped. “It’s Nabile!” He said, stunned. “What’s she doing all the way out here? And alone?”
They hurried towards one another and finally came together, all three catching their breath from running. Nabile couldn’t believe the sight of them, dressed in prisoner clothes, especially Vyssa. But she was so relieved. Her face broke into a wide smile as she darted forward and grabbed Tomos into a hug. Tomos reciprocated, his smile just as big, feeling comforted at last in Nabile’s arms. He closed his eyes and just breathed the moment, knowing it would be over too soon, not wanting to question why that hurt so much.
“Look at you both!” Nabile said as she broke the embrace, taking a step backwards. “I’m so glad you could escape that place. I wanted to visit you while I was in Sakhmet, but that was when Sankara told me you were both long gone!” She chuckled a little. “I shouldn’t laugh, but I’m so relieved! I was so worried about you, Tomos, and you, Vyssa.”
“I’ve missed you, Nabile.” Tomos said, then blushed. “I mean, it’s just been so crazy…I know I wanted adventure, but this is too much!”
“The situation has extended far beyond you two now.” Nabile said. Her face was serious once more. “I have a lot to talk about with you. But we can’t talk here, we might be seen. Come on.” She began walking sideways, not back to Qasala.
Tomos frowned. “Where are you taking us? Why aren’t we going into Qasala?”
“That’s part of what I have to talk to you about.” Nabile sighed. “There’s somewhere you both can stay though, where no one will find you. Then I’ll explain everything.”
Tomos and Vyssa exchanged worried glances.
“Vyssa…” Nabile seemed to struggle with what she was trying to say. “I am so sorry for your loss. Princess Amira – she didn’t deserve that.”
Vyssa nodded. “Thank you Nabile, but do not apologise. It was Frezon, Sankara and Morgana.”
“I was hoping you’d say Morgana,” Nabile said, “because I have a plan.”
To be continued…