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PostPosted: Mon Oct 24, '11, 4:07 pm
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I woke up to find myself beneath many layers of warm blankets, all filled with the down of the most powerful and most beautiful of birds. For a few moments, I felt as if I had died and gone up to the seventh heaven and desired not to leave my sublime resting place, for fear that I would never feel so warm and comfortable again. However, when my eyes fell upon that ethereal blonde beauty, yea, the intense stare of Queen Layla herself, I quickly remembered my mission and sat up quickly.

“Not so fast,” said Layla calmly, reaching over taking my hand in her hers, warming it with her warm breath. “You have not been well, Princess. You must not overexert yourself.” The Queen’s voice, the same voice which could command armies of djinn, was full of firm, motherly tenderness.

“How long have I been asleep?” I asked, still a little groggy, but ready to jump back onto Foren and brave those cursed winter winds again if need be.

“Two days,” said Layla calmly.

My heart filled with dread when those two harmless words found their way into my ears. My blood ran colder than the air which had buffeted me so much upon my arrival. “Two days!” I shrieked. “It might be too late!”

The queen tilted her head curiously. “Whatever is it that you mean?”

I quickly recounted the story of the visit of the mysterious visit of Oraki’s brother, Ruh al-Akir and his claim that Oraki had deigned to carry her off and force her to be his consort. I explained to her that Ahun, my brother, had taken such story as a declaration of war and was prepared to wipe Oraki and his people from the face of the earth. I described my flight from Dali-e to Landani and then here, that I may request her presence beside Oraki to convince Ahun to call of his attack.

“Your story is indeed a strange one,” responded Layla quietly, shaking her head.

I nodded and awaited further comment from her.

“Most strange,” she continued, “For Ruh al-Akir died not six months ago.”

I gasped in surprise, but was speechless.

“It is true. Oraki sent word of his passing as soon as it happened. I sent him my condolences and invited him to my palace that he may not mourn alone.”

“Impossible? I saw him with my own eyes!” I exclaimed in disbelief.

“Impostor. It is the work of dark demons…of evil afrit! Oraki has been framed by the powers of darkness, if you are indeed telling the truth.”

“Then why did not my brother know of the king’s passing? He might have been able to detect the ruse had he known?” I asked desperately.

“It had been the final wish of Ruh al-Akir. You see, he was Oraki’s brother and had endured a lot of ridicule by the people before he took over the kingdom of Lashkhutan. When he died, he had desired for it to be in obscurity, so that the mouths of naysayers in the Northern Country would not speak evil of him anew.”

I threw off the thick blankets which had warmed me during my deep sleep and jumped to my feet, ignoring the protestations of Sayyida Layla. “We must make haste!” I pleaded. “Oraki is but easy prey before Ahun’s armies. Come, Layla my queen!”

Layla stood up, towering above me with her matchless majesty. She beckoned for me to wait for her. I paced nervously around the room for several minutes until she returned, followed by an automaton that looked much like the Foren who had brought me to her sanctum. The queen herself carried an exquisite bow on her shoulders and a quiver filled with arrows. No archer in all of Landani, or in the entire mortal world, could match her skills. She could split a meseta coin in half from several hundred rods away with but a single arrow.

“Follow me,” she said simply.

I obeyed my queen and followed her through the labyrinthine corridors of the palace until we reached the stale, cold dungeons. It was in one of the cells that she uncovered a secret door that led into the bowels of the earth. The three of us—Layla, the automaton, and I—journeyed down the nearly endless staircase of sculpted basalt with only the eerie red light that emanated from the ruby that adorned my queen’s forehead to show the way.

We at least reached solid ground and I became aware of a two thin, metal rods that ran parallel to each other far into the darkness. Layla bid me step aside, which she did. She gave an obscure command to the automaton, which nodded its head and stepped between the two rods. In the same miraculous way that Foren had become a carpet before my eyes, the automaton that Layla had brought with her changed into a horseless chariot, its wheels fitting onto the two metal rods. We stepped onto the chariot, which soon began to race into the darkness, its course being guided by the metal rods upon which the wheels rolled.

Within less than two hours we had arrived at the end of the tunnel, which took us into the tunnel that joined the desert plains of Aridia with Frigidia above. The chariot continued its course down the inclined rocky plane until we had burst into broad daylight. The automaton carried us smoothly over the sands in the direction of what was now Hazatak.

As we drew closer to our destination, the sands of the desert off to the west grew dark in color. We turned to face the strange phenomenon and soon realized that it wasn’t sand in front of us: it was Ahun’s army. Thousands upon thousands of djinn, their green, red, and blue-skinned bodies glistening with sweat against the harsh Aridian sun, their scimitars drawn and read to spill innocent blood, were in hot pursuit of a small group of men. It was Oraki and his remaining guards.
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