A Queen's Ascension - War
Author’s Note: This is the third in my A Queen’s Ascension quartet. To fully understand the plotline, please first read A Queen’s Ascension, followed by A Queen’s Ascension – Justice before beginning this one. Thank you.
Queen Sankara stood on the balcony of her room, feeling the cool breeze whip itself around her, causing her dark hair to dance wildly. It was another beautiful day in Sakhmet. But the days were always beautiful now that she was Sakhmet’s queen. She had not bothered with a fancy coronation – such frivolous activities were not her style. Instead, there had been an announcement of her brother’s death from a previously secret long-term illness, and her immediate succession. She had been crowned privately by one of the senators in the throne room, with only a few witnesses. The whole process had only taken a couple of days, and now her brother was sleeping eternally in the royal tomb, only one room away from Amira. Ironic, really.
She remembered the day like it was yesterday – it was hard to believe she had actually been queen for three months now. She had left her brother’s royal apartments (the ones she now slept in) the night before his death, having had a celebratory feast and drink with him. Well, he ate the feast. Sankara had been very careful to avoid eating, largely because she had poisoned the food. She had had the poison for a while now, given to her by their mother, though certainly not for this purpose.
Her mother, a powerful sorceress and potions mistress, was called Morgana. She had helped Sankara and her brother Frezon to overthrow the Princess Amira of Sakhmet from her throne by tricking her sister Vyssa into poisoning her. Sankara couldn’t help but smile at the continuous irony. She had done precisely what they had tricked Vyssa into. And now Vyssa and that pesky Tomos had enclosed Morgana in her home, an underground cave, along with some kind of binding spell. Not that that particularly bothered her – Morgana knew for sure that Frezon didn’t really have a long-term illness previously unknown to the public, and she would start asking questions and causing a fuss. So really, Vyssa and Tomos did her a favour. Not that she was ever going to tell them that.
After Frezon had eaten the food, Sankara announced that she was tired and was going to bed. She had looked at her brother for the final time whilst he could still look back, but did not move to embrace him. That would have caused suspicion for sure. When she awoke the next morning there was chaos; guards were shouting and the senators were in a panic. That was when she gathered them around with the sad news Frezon had never wanted to tell them: he had been ill, for a very long time, and he knew this day was coming.
She wasn’t sure they all bought her story. She certainly got some bemused looks from a few of the senators and the General of the guards, but there was nothing they could do about it. There was no trace of the poison; she had been very careful about that. Only two guards even knew she had been in Frezon’s room the night before, and they were her own spies she paid very handsomely. After a few days of investigation, where she was questioned by Senator Barca and continued to confirm her story of Frezon’s long-term illness, the investigators had to give up. There was nothing to suggest otherwise. And the following day she was crowned in a private ceremony.
The public did not take the news well. The death of a king immediately made them all think of King Coltzan, and that then transpired into them thinking about how it was Sankara who had caused it. She ordered Senator Palpus to make the announcement, refusing to directly to the crowds herself, hearing their angry cries of protest. She would not bother dealing with the little people personally, she was far too important for that after all.
Now, as she stood on her balcony (which faced the private gardens of the palace), she couldn’t help but feel irritated by the common people. She didn’t know what they were complaining about. King Frezon had been largely nothing but a nightmare to them, causing food shortages and wars in endless places across the Lost Desert. Sure, the Lost Desert was now united apart from Qasala but as the commander of the army she felt like she deserved the credit for that, even if she didn’t get actively involved. The people loved her, they had fallen for her propaganda hook, line and sinker – so why the mourning for her brother? It was ridiculous. She really didn’t understand it. How dare they think about Coltzan at a time like this, her greatest achievement?
All she had to do now was deal with that pesky Jazan and Qasala, and the Lost Desert would be entirely hers. It wasn’t much to ask now, was it? She sighed as she looked out into the gardens. If she was anyone else she might consider herself quite lonely. Sure, she had her guards and her spies, but she was hardly popular, nor did she have any true friends. Frezon was probably the closest she had to that and, well, she had to get rid of him. No matter. She didn’t need company to achieve her dreams. That much was certain.
Sankara, startled, turned and saw Senator Barca standing in the doorway of the balcony. Sankara frowned. She hated the Acara, but she couldn’t get rid of her. Barca had been instrumental in the safe running of Sakhmet for over thirty years, introducing the Safe Drinking Water Act and making great breakthroughs in medicine. Her many awards and close relationship with Coltzan III meant that removing her from office would be a public reaction nightmare for the queen. So she let her carry on, hoping that eventually the old Acara would hurry up and retire and leave her in peace.
“What is it, Barca?” Sankara snapped, a little impatiently. Just because she had to tolerate Senator Barca did not mean she had to like her. “Don’t you ever knock?”
“The people are hoping you would make an appearance…since Frezon’s death there has only been news of your coronation. They have not yet seen you as their new queen and the advisors think it would be a wise move, otherwise it’s as if you don’t exist.” She said crisply.
Sankara rolled her eyes. “You’d think they realise I have much more important things to be getting on with than making a public appearance. Qasala has declared war on us after all.”
“Yes, well, holding their queen as prisoner would certainly do that.” Barca muttered. She sighed. “Perhaps you can make the citizens aware of our current status with Qasala as well, so you do not feel it such a waste. They will need to be made aware.”
“Right, yes, fine!” The queen conceded with a wave of her hand. “Set it up to be done tomorrow morning. Is that everything?”
Barca nodded, then hesitated before moving away. As she did so she stopped suddenly and turned back around. “Your Royal Highness, is it really such a good idea to hold Queen Nabile as a prisoner? We do not need another expensive war…our finances are in difficulty as it is, and it means that the people suffer above all. If we just send out a formal apology and release her –”
“No.” Sankara’s voice was cold, and final. “You seem to have forgotten that Nabile was involved in the events which have seen my mother trapped in her home. She conspired with known traitors Vyssa and Tomos, who were responsible for the death of Princess Amira, and they were planning on usurping my dear late brother, King Frezon, long live the king.”
“Long live the king,” Barca echoed quietly. Put like that, it was difficult to argue with the queen. She knew, despite not wanting to believe it, that Vyssa was responsible for Amira’s death – and that Nabile had worked with her. But it was beginning to bother her. Why would Nabile have worked with Vyssa knowing she had done this? Nabile was a good, kind individual…it didn’t make sense. She silently planned to attempt to have a word with the prisoner.
Sankara, seeming to sense this train of thought, narrowed her eyes at Barca. “Nabile is a traitor. I am sure the princess spun her some likely tale of accident and misfortune rather than a direct attempt at being the next queen. But you should not for one second doubt that it was all Vyssa’s doing. She is the reason I am queen right now.” She smirked. She was going to add, “I ought to thank her,” but thought better of it and kept that to herself. “I’ve added a further twenty guards to Nabile’s prison.” She added to Barca with a smile. “And only I am allowed to meet with her.”
The senator nodded, understanding perfectly what Sankara was saying. “Yes, Your Royal Highness.”
“Now, is that everything?” Sankara asked, brimming with politeness.
“That’s everything.” Barca said, defeated.
“Good. Now if you don’t mind, I was enjoying the view.” Sankara shrugged, turning her back on Barca and continuing to watch the gardens.
Barca turned and walked away.
Hearing the door close far behind her, Sankara chuckled. It really was too easy with this lot. The Lost Desert was putty in her hands.
To be continued…