A Queen's Ascension: Part Five
Tomos stood very still. He had to think on his feet. He was alone in Frezon's room with the Lupe himself and could see how dangerous he was from the scars of ancient battles across his face and the cold look in his eyes that seemed to glare into Tomos' very soul. Protectively, Tomos clutched the parchment tighter but he knew he wasn't getting out of here with it in his possession.
Frezon seemed almost stunned that someone would be in his room. He took a step forward, plastering a smirk on his face. "I'd like that back, please. Just who are you exactly?" The prince held out his paw for the parchment and when Tomos did not give it to him straight away, he snatched it from the red Lupe's grasp and turned it into a ball of parchment. Then he held it above a lit candle, and Tomos could only observe helplessly as his only evidence burned to ashes.
"There, that's that taken care of. I should have done so sooner. Now, I believe I asked you a question," Frezon continued, moving even closer to the Tomos; obviously an intimidation tactic. "If you do not answer me, I shall call the guards. Or my guards, as they will soon be."
"I'm just a servant here! I started yesterday. I did not mean to stumble upon anything I shouldn't have, your highness. Please don't tell the Head Maid, she'll have my hide for this mishap." Tomos put on a bumbling, stuttering act in an attempt to fool Frezon. He made sure he shook with nerves and spoke in a high fearful tone. "I didn't read anything, I swear it, sir, er, your highness. I was just cleaning your room."
"You didn't read anything?" Frezon echoed, relaxing ever so slightly.
"No, no! 'Tis against the servants' code, your highness. I have a reputation to uphold and all."
"Very well. Get out. And don't come back in here ever again – tell your other servant buddies this too," Frezon demanded, then turned away from him and sat down at the desk in his room. It was small in size and made from oak, which was a very rare material in the Lost Desert. He began to write something down, clearly signalling it was time for Tomos to leave.
As Tomos left, relieved beyond belief he had not been found out, he did not notice the second glance Frezon gave him, the frown forming on his face. On the paper, Frezon had written:
Red Lupe, dressed in rags. Not appropriate servant clothing. Likely to be an imposter. Aware of the parchment. Watch him.
Vyssa was waiting for Tomos in the gardens of the palace when he came rushing in, looking flustered and uncomfortable. She stood up instantly, brushing dust off her dress. The sun was burning down today and so she was in the shadows, but another reason for remaining concealed was just in cause Frezon was watching. She did not know what he was up to, however she was determined to find out and from the look on Tomos' face it seemed that they had finally found something.
"Vyssa!" Tomos cried. "He saw me! Frezon saw me!"
"What?" Vyssa gasped. "Tomos, he didn't suspect anything, did he? What did he see you do?"
Tomos frowned. "I'm not sure. He seemed to buy my story about being a servant cleaning his room, but..." He looked worried and shaken up. "He looked very suspicious and I'm not sure whether he was pretending to believe me. He saw me holding a parchment that had secret stuff written on it."
"What parchment?" Vyssa asked, almost greedily. "Did you manage to get it out of there? What did it say?"
"Unfortunately, Frezon burned it in front of my eyes. That parchment is gone. But," Tomos pushed Vyssa more into the shadows of the palace wall and lowered his voice, "it had on it a secret recipe... a potion that Frezon got Amira to drink. Sankara made it for him. He is controlling her, Vyssa! What are we going to do?"
Vyssa leaned against the wall in shock. She had suspected something, yes, but nothing like this. Of course Sankara would be involved. She had wanted control over Sakhmet for so long. Frezon was actually controlling Amira so that he could become king. Well, there was one person he had forgotten and that was her. She was the rightful heir to the throne, not Amira or Frezon, but she had to stop Frezon no matter what. They had to find some other sort of potion that could turn her back to the way she used to be. They didn't have much time left at all.
"Did the parchment say where the potion was made?" Vyssa wondered aloud.
Tomos thought for a moment, concentrating. "I'm not sure; I think it might have done. Ah!" He smiled. "It was made by Jhudora." His smile faded. "I doubt she would ever help us though."
"We'll have to ask around in town about potions and maybe how to please Jhudora," Vyssa murmured. "Come on, we haven't got time to lose! I'll go and put my disguise on and meet you at the front gates in five minutes."
Precisely four minutes later, a minute earlier than specified, Vyssa was at the front gates. She nodded at Tomos, who had been waiting, and they hurried into the town. Tomos looked a little wistful to see the Viola disguise again. He wondered how it was his luck that the two Neopets he had made friends with eventually turned out to be royalty. When would he ever have an ordinary friend?
The town was heaving in this heat, with Neopets scattered everywhere on the stalls trying to buy and sell items. Vyssa and Tomos went straight to the potions stall, where there was a tired looking Krawk standing there. There weren't too many people at this stall, but there were enough and it took a minute of struggling through the crowd to talk to the owner. He was a Desert Krawk and looked very bored, but he perked up slightly when he was questioned by Vyssa.
"Please, sir... I don't know if you can help us, but we desperately need to know. Do you have a potion that can stop someone being controlled by someone else?" Vyssa blurted out in a rush.
"A potion to stop someone being controlled by someone else," the Krawk echoed, clarifying.
"Yes!" Vyssa cried. "Please, we're on a tight time scale here. Do any of these potions do that?"
The Krawk shook his head slowly, eyes narrowing. "That's a very strange potion to ask for. I only sell Healing Potions and Battle Potions here. What you're asking... it sounds like you're trying to counter some very dark magic here."
Vyssa visibly slumped in defeat. Tomos patted her arm kindly then turned to the Krawk. "Do you know of where we could find a potion like we're asking? Perhaps... Jhudora?"
"You'd be a fool to try and convince Jhudora to help you erase some dark magic," the Krawk told him simply. "She may claim to be fighting for good now, but we all know she's a Dark faerie, one of the darkest of all. She'll give you a quest you cannot achieve. And besides, to get a potion from her would require weeks of almost impossible quests, unless you have some kind of personal connection to her." He paused, studying them. "Which I am guessing you don't if you're here asking me for help. I'm sorry, but Jhudora is off limits to you. She won't help."
"Do you know of anyone else that may help?" Tomos asked, sounding almost desperate. "Any sort of potions seller that may have what we're looking for would be an amazing help."
The Krawk sighed. "I'm sorry... selling potions like that is suspicious activity... we don't generally like to mix with –"
"What about Morgana?" A crackly voice broke in.
The three of them turned to find themselves face to face with an elderly-sounding Aisha, dressed in old rags with a scarf tied around her face. She was hunched over slightly, holding a walking stick. The Krawk frowned at her.
"Who is Morgana?" Vyssa asked, perking up slightly and taking a step towards the Aisha. "Does she have the sort of potion we're looking for?"
"But of course," the Aisha croaked. The others couldn't see because of the scarf, but a sly smile was on her lips. "She sells all sorts of potions and will definitely have what you're looking for."
"Hang on a second; you were listening to our conversation?" Tomos interrupted. "How do we know you're not just someone looking to trick us?"
"What benefit would that bring me? It's not like I'm asking for anything." The Aisha shrugged and began to turn away. "If you don't want to know where to find her, that's fine by me. I was only trying to help you two out."
"Wait!" Vyssa shouted. She nudged Tomos. "Leave her alone," she hissed, "she's only trying to help." She raised her voice and beamed at the Aisha. "Please tell us where to find her."
The Krawk, who had been silent watching this scene, gave a sigh now. "If this Morgana does have such a potion, she is not the sort of person you want to be dealing with. I'm getting out of this situation while I can. Good luck to you both." As he turned to carry on with his stall, he murmured, "Because you'll need it."
"Where do we find her?" Vyssa demanded impatiently, ignoring the Krawk and focusing on the Aisha. She wanted the information as quickly as possible.
"She lies on the edge of Qasala, by the old well." The Aisha said.
"Where is the old well?" Tomos whispered, thinking of Nabile in Qasala.
"Ask around for that sort of information. This is all I know. You will find Morgana there. She will give the potion to you. Now good luck on your journey. Hadn't you better leave straight away if you're on such a strict time limit?"
Tomos didn't like this Aisha. She had listened to too much of their conversation. He didn't know whether she was telling the truth or whether this was all some big game for her. But it was the only lead that they had. Plus, Nabile was in Qasala. They could ask for help, if he could bring himself to confront her once more. King Jazan surely knew of Morgana if he controlled the city. So, he held his own reservations about this Aisha in his own head and nodded appreciatively when Vyssa commented on how nice that Aisha was.
They left straight away, as the Aisha had suggested. The day was still very hot, but they had plenty of water on them. It would only take them two days if they were fast to get to Qasala. And of course they were going to be fast, because it was only thirteen days until the coronation.
And the way things were going, it looked like Sakhmet was going to be under control of Prince Frezon if they failed.
As they walked away, the old Aisha was watching. Only she wasn't old at all. Once they were a safe distance away, she smirked and removed the scarf from her head. Standing there was none other than Queen Sankara.
On the way, they walked past Coltzan's Shrine. There was no one there at that moment and it made Vyssa stop and look up at the Shrine dedicated to her father. She knew he helped out Neopets when he could. Did he know what was going on? She placed a paw onto the shrine and closed her eyes. Tomos was stood behind her, but turned away to allow her some privacy. Please, she thought, begging her father, please let me save Amira and keep the throne in our family. Help me, father.
For a moment, nothing happened. She thought her father was telling her it was futile, there was nothing they could do. Either that or he simply did not want to hear her again. Vyssa rarely visited the Shrine, but she knew Amira did, often. Part of the reason she did not visit was because she was still hurting, even after all this time. If only Coltzan was still alive, she would not have to worry about all of this.
She waited for something to happen. Then, a cool breeze fluttered through her, making her hair fly wildly around her. There was no breeze today. She wondered if that was her father talking to her, or just a fluke coincidence.
"Tomos," she murmured, "can you try? Please?"
The Lupe looked hesitant, but nodded and placed a paw onto the shrine. He wished for an answer of what to do next. When he opened his eyes, he was sure he heard a whisper of a name he knew well.
"Well?" Vyssa asked. "Did you get anything?"
"A name... I got a name."
"Nabile. Queen Nabile."
Vyssa looked distant all of a sudden. "I wonder why."
"I think we should go to her and ask if she knows anything about Morgana. It can't hurt to try, right?" Tomos said.
"I'm not sure if that's why my father wants you to see her," Vyssa smiled, "but let's do it."
"What other reason could there possibly be?" Tomos mused, but didn't push it.
They walked along, leaving Coltzan behind.
To be continued...