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A sad Lostris
"Royal Pain"
Chapter information
Series

Heiress of the Nile

Book

1

Chronicle

Lost and Found

Chapter

8

Written by

Lady Lostris

Editor(s)
Release date

March 23, 2013

Word count

10620

Chronology
Last chapter

"Out of Place, Part 2"

Next chapter

"Friend and Foe"

"Royal Pain" is the eighth chapter of Heiress of the Nile.

Previously on Heiress of the Nile

Lostris was training her agility under Taita's watchful eye when she was summoned to attend an emergency meeting called by Vizier Lord Naja. His sources had alerted him of Lostris' run-in with Tanus by the rived, and used that information to persuade the Council to strip Lostris of her privileges to walk around freely, restricting her to constant supervision of two soldiers. Angrily, she confronted and blamed Tanus for what happened.

Royal Pain

"He's trying to get the board with the rule of seven tiles. However, you can still counter him if you place the last two tiles to execute your four bull maneuver. Move your fire lily tile three places forward and then your panda lily five places back so that they will align with and be flanked by your white jade and white dragon tile. He'll play his white lotus in defense in the center –he always does that– but that is exactly the last one you need to execute the maneuver. By the time he figures it out, he'll be defenseless. There's nothing he can do to counter it at that stage. Trust me, in three steps, your bulls will march right over the board and the game will be yours."

"Are you sure? Wouldn't he see right through that?"

"Not a chance, he taught me that arcane move himself. He hasn't taught it to you yet, though, so he'll never expect you to use it. Oh, shhh, he's back."

Lostris quickly reassumed her leisurely position underneath the protective branches of one of the luscious palm trees in the palace garden. Sheltered from the sun's burning rays, she had been spectating a game of pai sho between Taita and Kori, one of her handmaids. Taita was on the verge of winning the game, but he left at Lostris's suggestion to refill the amphora of juice they had brought with them. She had used his absence to strategize with Kori on how to defeat the intelligent and proud man. The princess smiled innocently at the approaching figure of her unexpecting lifelong friend, but it faltered as her gaze traveled over the forms of the two soldiers of Intef's regiment that stood guard not too far from her. Standing watch twenty-four hours a day was too straining for her personal guard –at least, that had been Naja's excuse to persuade the Phoenix Council into allowing General Intef to delegate a second squad "for extra protection". Lostris still cringed when she thought back to the moment the Council had informed her of the new measures and Naja's victorious smile. The Council had accepted his blatant excuse as easily as a drunk would their next glass of beer. The real reason, Lostris figured, was that Naja distrusted the Red Tigers to thoroughly carry out his new protection order. He knew the princess could count on a lot of respect from the men, and thus they could be persuadable to give her a few hours to herself, something Naja was set on avoiding. For five days, not a moment had gone by where she had been on her own. She was trapped in a golden case, decorated with lapis lazuli and all the luxury articles that she could ever dream of, but it felt more like a sarcophagus than anything else. The confinement and restrictions were eating her alive on the inside.

Her gaze fixated on one of the soldiers, focusing on his amber eyes. Seeing them again, brought a cold rage to her heart as the fresh memory came to mind.

It was a beautiful afternoon in the Fire Nation. The streets of Thebes were bustling with life. The merchants' songs to passersby morphed melodiously with the chirping of wives after a day's worth of shopping, while their husbands enjoyed a cool glass in the nearby tavern, still laughing in ignorant bliss, clueless over all the money that their spouses had transformed into goods they did not need, nor even knew the purpose of.

Fallow land

The fallow land near the Royal Fire Nation Palace.

Not far from the royal palace, the Red Tigers had set up a practice field on the alluvial plain abutting the papyrus swamp of the river. Under the commanding tones of their captain, fifty fully armed men were running relay races through the mud that was waist deep at some points, the afternoon sun blazing down from a cloudless sky on their bronze helmets, hot like the furnace of the smithy. On a fallow land beside the swamp on the far end of the field, the new grass not yet breaking through, a single chariot was speeding through a course of markers and targets. It was one of the scout models, built for speed, rather than endurance and heavy fighting. The spoked wheels and body work of woven bamboo enabled easy maneuvering and swift acceleration. The vehicle was pulled by a pair of majestic horses from the royal stables: Dov and Krus, a bay filly and a black colt. Like a beast with two heads and eight legs, the horses ran quick and true, shoulder to shoulder, their hoofs throwing up lumps of turf high in the air as they spun around the markers at the end of the course and raced back at full gallop. The light chariot bobbed and weaved behind them, following every curve of the ground, every pull of the strong animals.

Taita drove the chariot like he had done nothing else his entire life. The reins were wrapped tightly around his wrists, enabling him to keep perfect control over the pair at any speed, and he leaned forward against the breast of the chariot, ensuring maximum feeling with the vehicle and the horses. Dov and Krus ran a neat line between the markers; Taita corrected the slightest deviation before it could even occur, ensuring the best chances for the archer on the footplate beside him to strike the targets as they flew past.

Tanus looked up from berating the men who were too slow to toil through the swamp toward the slim, straight figure that rode beside Taita. Even from a distant, her royal bearing and dignity were unmistakable. Since Lord Naja already knew everything about her supposed secret training, Princess Lostris had forsaken all mystery about it and joined her guard for their exercise at arms. She was clad in a crimson skirt that fluttered around her muscular, tanned thighs, leaving her knees bare. The speeding wind made her simple, matching top cling tightly to her upper body, showing every womanly curve and tensed muscle like it was sculptured into the fabric. As if kissing a lover, the bright red fletching of the drawn arrow caressed her lips while she held her aim. Taita crossed the rough ground leading up to the first target set atop a pole. Each differing in height, the colorful markers posed a tempting target. Flexing from the knees, Lostris rode the bumps and swayed with every motion, though she never took her focused eye off the target. As they flew past the first marker, the Princess released the arrow which crossed the sky with a deadly grace. Tanus found himself holding his breath for her, though it was not needed. The arrowhead embedded itself with a smack in the center of the green circle. With the focus of a veteran charioteer, Lostris plucked another arrow from the bin attached to the dashboard, notched and drew, as Taita already set course for the next target. Thrice more she shot with the same result, the fletchings standing bright in the sunlight, contrasting vividly with the green of the target.

"She looks like she is really enjoying herself out there, doesn't she?"

"Yes, she sure does look magnificent." Tanus turned, and with a barely concealable shock, he found the speaker to be the Grand Vizier, Naja; his loyal General Intef and a completely armed regiment of twenty men stood in tight formation behind him. "My Lord." Tanus swiftly saluted his superior, an unnerving ball forming in the pit of his stomach. The whiff of Lord Naja's perfume slightly nauseated him, only enhancing his unsettling feeling over the presence of Lostris's regent, especially since he seldom ventured outside of the city walls –unless it was for state affairs.

"Too bad it will soon be over." Naja's face was largely neutral with a sense of sadness over it, though the faint malicious twinkle in his eye betrayed his feigned posture.

"Excuse me?" Tanus looked over the shoulder of the Regent toward his entourage. All the men radiated a promise of no good. Behind him, Meren had seen the approach of Naja's personal regiment and had ordered the Reds to fall in behind their own captain.

Ignoring the two regiments now poised opposite each other, Naja ceremoniously revealed an official scroll from underneath his ornate robe; it bore the seal of the Phoenix Council. Retracting a bejeweled dagger from its scabbard, the Grand Vizier slid open the wax and unrolled the scroll. He started reading with a sonorous voice. "By the power vested in us by Fire Lord Tamose, we, the Phoenix Council, issue an official decree that will forbid the Crown Princess, the Lady Lostris Kenna Tamose, of further practicing any form of armed combat, unless she receives written approval of her legal guardian, the Grand Vizier, Lord Naja Kiafan. This measure is taken with the nation and the Princess's best interest at heart. The order is effective immediately upon recital by a Councilmember and a scion of the House of Tamose." With perverted amusement, Naja lowered the scroll so he could take in Tanus's horrified look.

"With all due respect, Sir, you cannot do that!"

"Oh, on the contrary, my dear boy, we already have. Now execute the order and bring her back here."

Tanus glanced at Meren who had positioned himself to his right, the same thought passing through the minds of the two friends, but there was no solution floating among it. They did not want to bring more hardship to Lostris by taking away something she loved, but they could not ignore a direct order of the Council either. Tanus's knuckles whitened as he balled his fist and clenched his teeth together. "Why? She is not breaking any law. The entire Red Tiger regiment is here to protect her. Nothing will happen to her."

"Ah ... yes." Naja's smooth voice started to irk the Reds. Their weapons rattled against their scabbards and armor as they all fidgeted in place, attempting to remain calm. Tanus raised a hand with forced calmness, immediately silencing the soldiers behind him, his cold gaze fixated onto Naja. "You see, the Princess has certain duties to her nation, duties she cannot forsake for every egocentric whim that passes through her pretty, little head." A sly smirk appeared on Naja's handsome features upon noticing the anger flare on Tanus's face and escape in a laboriously suppressed grunt. "There was a general Council meeting called together this morning to discuss important state affairs. As a member, the Princess was supposed to be there, but no messenger could track her down, and thus the Council decided that such behavior was unfitting for a scion of the royal bloodline. Now it will be your honor to carry out this decree, and bring the Princess's dangerous weapon training to an end."

Without taking his eyes of Naja, Tanus snatched the scroll out of his hands. General Intef moved his hand to the hilt of his sword, ready to punish such disrespect toward the Grand Vizier of the Fire Nation, though was halted by a short nod from Naja. The Reds' captain glanced down on the document; it contained word for word what Naja had read out loud, as well as a complete list of signatures of the Council members –even Lostris had allegedly given her consent through her regent. With a grunt, Tanus clenched the scroll tightly.

"Meren ... signal the Princess."

"But Captain –"

"Do it."

Meren looked from his powerless captain to the Grand Vizier, who had leisurely fished out a fresh moon peach from his pouch and sunk his teeth in the succulent flesh, the juices flowing over his chin. Knowing that their hands were officially bound, Meren bowed shortly in respect to his Captain, but shot a murderous look toward the vizier and his entourage, who only smiled back.

"By Seth's steaming turds that there even was a messenger." Meren muttered under his breath while he took the rhino buffalo horn from his belt and blew hard on it. The sound resonated over the plain, vibrating through every being.

The low hum reached Lostris just as she was about to fire at her last target. She lowered her bow and turned around to the origin of the sound, while Taita reined in the horses.

"What's going on there?" Lostris's voice was loaded with concern and dread as she recognized the plumed helmets of the other regiment to belong to Naja's personal fighters. By a system of signals utilizing two white flags that Tanus had invented, Meren conveyed Naja's order to return immediately. The arrow embedded itself in the bamboo footplate as Lostris dropped it, every thought about making her marker forgotten. "This can't be good. Naja would never leave the comforts of his luxurious rooms ... Unless it is to gloat over something. Please Rairet, don't let it be more restraints ... Though knowing that sleazeball, that will be precisely the reason he's here. He will just be the bringer of more news to spite me. Oh, when I get my hands on that slimy neck of his, I'm going to –"

"Princess, please, compose yourself. The 'sleazeball' is watching."

"I don't care!"

"This is exactly the kind of reaction that he wants to provoke from you. You cannot show that it bothers you." Taita released the reins and placed two calming hands on her shoulders. "Remain regal, strong, dignified. You're better than him, my Princess, show him that."

"But –"

"No buts. There is nothing you can do –yet– to overrule the decisions of your regent. Your time will come in two months. Until then, you have to hang in there and remain calm, my little bird. It's a wretched game, but it is one you will have to play your part in."

Lostris recognized the voice of reason when it spoke to her, but that did not mean it was easy to listen to it. There was only one slight flicker of light that still gave her hope and strength: if Naja was dead set on making her life a living hell, than nothing would aggravate him more than seeing her happy –even if it was just superficial on the outside.

She sighed, before shining a weak smile at Taita. "Fine. As always, you are the voice of wisdom and reason, my friend. I'll be the perfect wall for whatever he will throw at me, standing high and tall like the pyramids –though I will still throw darts at his image later in my room."

"Spoken like the daughter of your parents." Taita gently squeezed her shoulder and winked at her, before grabbing hold of the reins again, spurring on the horses in a mild canter. "Now, let us find out what that vile rat has to tell you."

"Taita!"

"What?" He briefly looked over his shoulder at Lostris, smiling innocently. "I am not the one that needs to remain regal here."

Lostris shoved his arm lovingly, before gripping the sides of the chariot when the vehicle bounced over a rock. As Taita steered toward the waiting soldiers, any amicalities vanished, and Lostris felt her heart grow heavy with every drum of the horses' hooves on the dry land. The presence of Naja and his regiment, as well as the Reds', especially Tanus's, body language did not promise much good, so it was with a dreaded feeling that she descended from the footplate when Taita reined in Dov and Krus.

"My Lords." She politely inclined her head in greeting to the high-ranking citizens. "I was summoned?"

Naja's charming smile would have weakened many a woman's knees, making them swoon over his external beauty, though it struck Lostris more as being the smile of a cobra viper keen on an elephant rat–and she felt like the elephant rat. His cold gaze was lit up by an amused twinkle, and his silk voice raised every hair in her neck.

"Ah yes, Crown Princess Lady Lostris Tamose, ankh wedja seneb." He greeted her officially with broad, pompous arm gestures, bowing deeply. "Thank you for meeting me on such short notice."

"It was no trouble at all." Lostris's friendly smile never reached her eyes. His overbearing polite demeanor and usage of her elongated title unsettled her, as she was still in the dark as to his reason to be there. Enjoying his presence about as much as the rabaroo likes being caged, she skipped further honorifics. "What can I help you with, my Lord?"

"I am here on official business, I am afraid. General Intef, would you be so kind as to confiscate her royal highness's bow and arrows?"

"Certainly, my Lord." The General raised two fingers and pointed them at the chariot where Taita was tending to a nervous Krus. Reacting to the unspoken command, two men broke the tight formation behind their superior and marched to Lostris's vehicle. As they passed the Princess, however, they were halted by a hand on their chest.

"Not so fast, gentlemen, hold it right there." Barely able to keep her voice in check, Lostris removed her hands, knowing that she could not hide her shivering limbs otherwise, and directed her attention to her regent. "What is the meaning of this, Naja?"

Blatantly smirking in delight, Naja bowed in feigned apology while presenting the Council's scroll to her. "My deepest apologies, my Princess. I was ..." The Grand Vizier briefly thought about how he gladly volunteered in the Council to bring Lostris the latest meeting consensus and he scraped his throat to hide the bubbling chuckle, "tasked by the Council to carry out the latest decree about a most important issue: your safety and well-being."

Her mood had grown heavy with every word that had passed her regent's lips. The angry shuffling about of the Reds around her had not passed her by, nor the fact that Meren and Tanus looked like they were willing to rip Naja to pieces right then and there, and it all enhanced her undeniable feeling of immanent doom. She snatched the scroll out of Naja's outstretched hands and, without any regal protocol, began reciting it. After the wind had already carried away her words and left them scattered on the fallow land, her eyes still fluttered over the hieroglyphs that took away one of her favorite pastimes, searching for that one loophole that would enable her to get out of her predicament. Eventually, she looked up to face Naja.

"What ... is this? There was no Council meeting scheduled for this morning, and I never heard word of there being a pressing matter at hand that called for an emergency meeting." She slowed down her talking speed, more to prevent her voice from quivering than actually sounding threatening, though she did not resent the sentiment. "But whatever it is you think you've managed to do, you failed. The law states that unless there is a pressing security breach, a threat of war, or an illness, the Council cannot make binding decisions without a member of the royal family present. This decree is void of legality. It cannot be rightfully carried out." The distinct feeling of Taita's eyes on her back helped her to keep her temper in check, though Naja's unfaltering confident smile raised every hair on her neck.

"Oh, you never received word of the meeting?" Deliberately poorly acting surprised, Naja dared Lostris's calmness to its extreme. "Hmm, I guess I must have a word with the messenger I sent then, as he assured me that he had notified you." With a malicious gaze, his eyes floated over the rageful face of Meren, whose curse was drowned out by a well-timed loud cough of Tanus, before focusing again on the Princess. "Regardless, since we were unable to reach you, I executed my guardianship rights to cover your absence during the meeting. As for the implementation of the decision," her eyes fell on the last sentence on the document in her hands, and every muscle in her body tensed up, "I believe the decree is quite clear on that, is it not? 'The order is effective immediately upon recital by a Councilmember and a scion of the House of Tamose.' By reading the document out loud just now, you've given it every legality it needed. So, soldiers, if you please."

The two soldiers glanced over their shoulders to see Naja gesturing at the arrows standing proudly out of Lostris's quiver attached to the side of her chariot. They nodded. One of them made his way through the sea of Red Tigers who were more than reluctant to make way for him; their murmuring of subtle and not-so-subtle insults and voiced opinions buzzed over the area. The other soldier scraped his throat to draw Lostris's attention to him.

"Your bow, if you please."

"You'll address her with, 'Princess', or 'her Majesty', soldier!" Tanus growled at the man while shoving him, angry about how Naja played Lostris and about his own inability to stop the decree from taking effect. His eyes crossed with Lostris's. He could not make sense of the look she was giving him; she appeared completely calm and docile, though perhaps it was exactly that which was unnerving to him.

"I'm sorry, I meant no disrespect, Sir." The soldier exchanged glances with Intef, who whispered something in Naja's ear. The Regent's lips curled upwards, though he subtly turned his head as to decline an offer, before making eye contact with the soldier and share a short nod. The warrior focused on Lostris again. "Please, Princess, would you be so kind as to hand me your bow?"

"Certainly." Without the slightest protest, Lostris removed her bow and offered it to the soldier. Though when he attempted to take it from her, she held it tight. "Be careful with that. Store it well, because I will get it back." Releasing the weapon, she stared deeply into the amber eyes of the soldier who only grinned back at her, making a cold anger rage wildly inside the polite cocoon of her body.

Lostris was startled when her reverie was suddenly breached by a soft hand on her shoulder. She turned her head and was mildly surprised to stare into the gentle, though worried-looking eyes of Kori rather than the deep blue eyes of Taita who had spurred Dov and Krus in her mind's eye to take her away from the fallow land.

"Are you okay, Mistress?"

"Yes, I'm okay, no need to worry. I was just ... distracted for a moment." More a reflex than a heartfelt sentiment, Lostris smiled, dispersing any dark auras that might have been visible on her face. She felt more than she actually noticed that Taita was staring at her. Knowing that she would not be able to hide from his piercing gaze, she decided not to meet it and kept herself fixated on Kori instead.

"Are you sure?" Although her tone was light, there was worry swimming around in Kori's clever eyes.

The events of the past days all flooded her mind in an incoherent mass. Lostris briefly shook her head and combed her fingers through her long hair, combining it all in one thick side-lock that fell over her left shoulder. "I guess I just dreamed off." Unconvinced, Kori kept eying her. "Kori, I'm fine, seriously. I just was distracted for a while, lost in thought. Everyone dozes off now and again. You spend too much time with Taita." She briefly glanced at her old mentor. "You both worry way too much."

Taita met Lostris's genuine-looking smile that would have fooled everyone but him with his own. Deciding that he would let her off the hook for now as she clearly was not in the mood to talk about it, he decided to completely change the subject. "Very well then. Something very interesting occurred, about which I'd like to pick your brain, if you don't mind. Much to my surprise, Kori here managed to defeat my seven tile strate–"

"MISTREEEEEEEESS!" The high-pitched distressed scream for help made Taita freeze midsentence, and the threesome leapt to their feet in alarm.

"=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-"

"Nice speech, Master."

"You sound surprised, Sitek."

The servant nearly stumbled and quickly bowed his head to Naja while the party of three people continued down the hall toward the Vizier's quarters. "Oh no, never, Master. You are a superb orator. Every one of your speeches is a masterpiece on its own. I was just marveled by the brilliance of this one in particular. Being surprised by your excellence is like being surprised that we breathe. I would never think that –"

Arriving at his quarters, Naja waived his hand in annoyance as if swatting away a pesky glowfly, instantly silencing his servant. "That's enough, Sitek. Now, if you could please remove your nose out of my ass and leave us, Intef and I have business to discuss. I do not wish to be disturbed by anyone unless it is of the utmost importance."

"Yes, Master, of course." Sitek extended a deep bow, and hastily made his way out of the hallway, relieved that he could leave his master's side.

Naja opened the door to the luxuriously decorated room that made up his study. Even though there was a large window giving access to a balcony at the opposite site of the door, the room still looked gloomy. A big, mahogany desk stood before a fireplace, a chair for guests in front of it. Next to the fireplace was a bookcase filled with a wide collection of rare scrolls and other literary treasures. As Naja poured himself a glass of red wine, Intef closed the door, sealing it shut with the firebending lock.

"Without sucking up, it was indeed an excellent speech, my Lord. The people are starting to love you more and more every day –at the expense of the Princess's popularity, a princess that they never see in public anymore and thus have lost faith in."

"Haha, thank you, my friend." Naja took his glass and sat down behind his desk, gesturing at Intef to do the same with the chair opposite him. "Peasants are so simple, so gullible; they have absolutely no vision. They complain about the theft of their crops and their burned down houses. If you then reach out to them, tell them you'll help them rebuild –with inferior materials of course to make good profit out of it– they'll eat right out of your hand. And the beauty of it all, they won't even stop to consider that you might've had something do to with their misfortune in the first place." Naja sipped his wine. "Then of course, it doesn't hurt our cause either to let the Shrikes get blamed for all of that."

Intef smiled pleased. "Indeed. Who knew that those scavengers could come in handy so much? One little feather on our uniforms is all that it takes to plant the seed of discord and distrust among the people. They get the heat of the people's hate while you reap the rewards; a very profitable endeavor."

Naja raised his glass at his companion in salutation. "While we reap the rewards, old friend. We have come far together, and I wouldn't be sitting her if it wasn't for your help."

Intef inclined his head. "It was and is my pleasure. We have always stuck together; I'd follow you to the end. When the accident happened, I just ..." The General stared at his clenched fist, his white knuckles standing out.

"I know how much she meant to you, how much you loved her."

"How much I still do. She is my wife, even though she does not recognize me anymore ... How is she?" The question was nearly begging, radiating with hope. The General who had the reputation of being ruthless –it was said that he once ripped someone's head off with just his bare hands– was now reduced to the tender, concerned, and hurt lover.

Naja sighed. "She is still the same." Intef averted his eyes and stared fiercely at the ground, every trace of tenderness disappearing, once again donning his more dangerous attitude. The Vizier walked over to his wine cabinet and poured another glass; he handed it to Intef and raised his own glass with determined anger swimming over his face. "To Elaina. To justice. To the fall of the House of Tamose." They clunked their glasses together and drunk to their vengeance. "Speaking of which, how is our darling princess, my precious protégé?"

Intef looked at his friend and downed his glass before answering. "She's ... doing well, so it would seem." A silence befell them.

"What do you mean, 'she's doing well'?" Naja's voice was calm, though it came off more threatening than any outburst ever would.

"None of the restrictions seem to bother her. She grew up with a firebending restriction; we prevented her from practicing bōjutsu; we took away her beloved archery;" Intef gestured at the weapon that now hung opposite Naja's desk, "we prohibited any form of physical fighting; we made sure she would hardly ever be alone. As a last measure, you made sure that she could not attend Rairet's Festival by ordering your soldiers to remain on the palace grounds. She has nothing left; no friends, no hobbies, no freedom. Yet ... she still takes it all with a smile and refuses to fight back."

Naja violently swirled the wine in his glass, not noticing the drops spilling on his desk, which immediately spread out to form dark, bloodlike patches in the wood that would never come out again. Without warning, he hurled the glass at the wall next to the door, though shattered it with a well-aimed fire blast before it could hit the wall; the cindering hot pieces rained down on the large, decorative plant standing there. Behind it, unbeknownst to the two friends, a woman in her early twenties hunched down in fright, pressing her hand against her mouth to prevent herself from whimpering. Covering her head with her other arm, the sharp glass left cauterized wounds in her skin, bringing tears to her eyes.

Excellent idea, Sabah! "I'll quickly go in, grab Mistress's bow, replace it, and then slip out. No one will notice." Stupid, stupid, stupid! Sure, it would've brought her some comfort so she wouldn't cry at night when she believes she is alone, but this is too dangerous. I really need to get out of here and fast!

"We are running out of time, Intef! If she doesn't react, doesn't act out, doesn't breach the rules, all our efforts will have been for none! We have to break her before her coronation or we will be back where we started: on the streets, and I for one do not care to go back there, not after all we've been through, not now we are so close!" Naja paced back and forth behind his desk, followed closely by Intef's gaze. The Vizier stopped and slammed his hand on the desktop. "Damn it! What are we missing, Intef? There must still be something that we can do to push her over the line. What is she doing now?"

"Playing pai sho."

Naja pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes. "Useless. Not even I can come up with a sensible reason to take that away from her ... Who's she with?"

"Taita and Kori."

"Taita ..." Naja lowered his hand again and sighed. "If only we could separate them."

"You want me to arrange an ... accident?"

Naja looked pensive at his friend, pondering over the suggestion. "No. He's too valuable. His medical skills and knowledge of the mystic arts may still be usefu– what is it, Intef? What are you thinking?"

The General stood up and strolled over to the wine cabinet to replace Naja's destroyed glass and handed it to the Vizier before elaborating on his plan. "I might have an idea to ensure you will certainly inherit the throne after Lostris's demise. Though, it will require some more serious Council persuasion ... and a sacrifice on your part." Naja drank his wine and looked at his friend in wonder. "How about you arrange a marriage between yourself and the Princess?"

Like red rain, Naja sprayed his wine out over his surroundings, coughing violently. "A marriage? You want to me to marry the daughter of that associate of murderers? The daughter of that lying son of a bitch? After what he and his buddies did to Elaina?! You must be out of your mind!"

"My friend, think about it. I know it is not the most appealing suggestion in the world, but if you'd marry the princess, you would become a member of the royal House of Tamose and automatically be next in line for the throne if ... let's say, a tragedy befalls the young Tamose-brat right after your wedding. You'd be crowned Fire Lord without having to persuade the Council. They will not be able to touch you."

Naja's pacing lessened; he stopped before his window, crossing his hands behind his back, and stared out over the Nile that crossed the lands not far from the palace, lost in thought. After a few minutes, he turned around to face Intef.

"I despise your suggestion ... Though it does come with reason. And I admit, if Lostris would feel as good as she looks, then our honeymoon wouldn't completely suck ... or perhaps it literally would."

Intef burst out laughing at the obscene joke at the Princess's expense and raised his wine glass high. "To a royal marriage!"

Naja duplicated the gesture. "To royalty."

A short knock on the door interrupted the festivities and made Sabah cower deeper behind her green hiding place. Annoyed, Naja set down his glass and yelled at the closed door. "Who dares to interrupt me? For your sake, this better be important."

A muffled voice made its way through the wooden separation. "I'm sorry, my Lord. It's Captain Didu. I just returned with news over the whereabouts of the main Shrike army, and as instructed by General Intef, I came directly to report."

"Ah, very well, Didu, we'll be right out." He lowered his voice and turned his attention to Intef, who had risen from his seat. "I guess there is no respite for even a newly-engaged man." Naja winked at his friend, and both men made their way to exit the chamber.

Sabah listened to the footsteps of the three men slowly disappear from the hallway. She remained frozen for a minute more, though to her terrified mind, it was a minute that lasted a lifetime.

Sweet Isis, what have I gotten myself into? I must warn my mistress!

Cautiously, she dared to move from behind her impromptu hiding place and glance around the doorframe into an empty hallway. All right, Sabah, it's now or never. Got to get out before they return!

As Lostris's handmaid exited the study, three of Intef's patrol men, who were on their way to stand watch by the entrance to Naja's study, turned round the corner, right in front of Sabah. Caught completely off guard, both parties froze still; Sabah was the first to recover. She instantly turned on her heels and dashed down the hallway in the opposite direction, a movement that roused the guards from their stupor.

"Hey, you! Halt!"

Much to their surprise, Sabah seemed to heed their order and skidded to a stop, though it was only then that they saw General Intef standing in front of her. He looked from the frightened girl that was already backtracking her steps to his patrol on the other side of the corridor.

"What's going on here?"

"We saw her exciting the Grand Vizier's chambers, General."

Intef's eyes grew wide, recognizing the girl to be Lostris's former hand-to-hand sparring partner with whom she used to train and realizing that she must have witnessed his entire conversation with Naja; he stared at Sabah who instantly knew that her only option left was to flee, as playing dumb would have no effect. Without wasting another breath, she made a break for it again, racing towards the three upcoming guards, accompanied by Intef's bellowing order for her death.

Though severely outnumbered, the close confinement of the hallway was to her advantage, as the guards had to come at her one at a time. Sliding over the floor, she easily evaded the wide swing of the first soldier's sword that would have cut open her abdomen. Using her momentum, she kicked out, swiping the legs from underneath the next man. She quickly retracted her own legs to her chest before the downed man could crush her with his weight, and as he toppled on her, she caught him with both her hands and legs and pushed him with great force over her head, right into the incoming first soldier who had turned around, intending to attack her in the back, downing them both. With a smooth twirling motion, she spun around on her back and pushed herself onto her feet again, facing the mildly baffled last soldier standing. His amazement did not last very long, however, as his bronze blade whizzed upwards and Sabah only narrowly managed to avoid losing an arm.

Her senses sharpened by the adrenaline coursing through her veins, she picked up on the distinct crackle of a fire blast. Ducking out of its path, Intef's attack scorched the plaster on the wall where her head had been not a second before. Sabah knew that her window of escape was closing with every thundering footstep a running Intef produced.

The closer soldier demanded her full attention, however, as he swung his sword in a powerful and violent arc. Flipping backwards out of its way, the bronze blade hit the back of her linen clothing, slicing superficially into the young woman's flesh. Screaming, Sabah landed and staggered backwards, momentarily losing her balance. Her unpredictable movements saved her, as she barely avoided the blade as it swung down and slammed into the floor where she had just been. She probed the neat slash across her back, dipping into the blood that leaked slowly from it, but was brought back to focus by Intef's fire blasts that whizzed around her head. Using the bodies of the first two downed soldiers as a hold, she pushed herself off without any further ado, launching herself toward the soldier who was still trying to wrench his sword free. Noticing that he anticipated a blow to the head and was preparing accordingly, Sabah leaped up, grabbed his shoulders with her hands, and pushed herself off, roughly pushing him down. She neatly flipped through the air, leaving the soldier to smack with his chin on the hilt of his sword; he sagged down and blocked the way of an incoming Intef.

"Get out their way; get out their way; get out their way!" Sabah said the words as a mantra to urge herself to speed faster through various halls of the palace.

Storming through the door that granted her access to a broad hallway leading to the garden, she was caught by surprise with a blow to the shoulder with the shaft of a spear. The force of the impact pushed her aside, slamming hard against a pillar. Sabah rolled right, sliding into a prepared crouch, hands on the floor, one leg stretched out, ready to lash out and attack or push and evade. Her head still spinning from the crash, the adrenaline forced every black star from her vision to focus completely on the responsible soldier, who came at her with the sharp end of his weapon this time, and she was forced to evade it by flipping out of the way. Wasting no time, the soldier violently thrust at her midsection. Sabah fell back, letting the weapon whiz her by. She spun around her own axis, building up speed to land a powerful blow with her right leg on the spear; the strength of the kick forced the point to be driven deep in the floor, cracking the stone. Balancing on the shaft, preventing the soldier from retracting it and using it again, her left leg snapped out in a kick that connected roughly with the man's face, the crack of the impact echoing through the spacious hall.

Having won the little skirmish, it had come at a price: she had lost her lead. Panting, Sabah glanced around at her three pursuers who had caught up, now standing between her and the protection of Lostris in the garden, fists blazing and swords drawn; she grinned, her body singing from adrenaline. "O–kay, this is a mild setback."

"Surrender and your death will be painless ... more or less." Intef walked through the door, accompanied by two firebenders who joined the other three soldiers already present, his order leaving little to the imagination of what would happen to her. Sabah knew of his reputation and of Lord Naja's, knowing very well that both men had invented a new level of pain for their victims; she had heard the rumors buzzing through the palace halls of the dire fate that befell Tod. She needed to buy herself some time to come up with a plan.

"Any chance we can talk about a third option of ... let's say, we laugh and forget about this?" Come on, Sabah, think. Only thirty meters more ... But it's five against one, and even if I manage to defeat them, I will never get passed Intef, there is no way ... I am so screwed.

"Kill her." Intef's command instantly halted her train of thoughts and focused every fiber in her being.

Sabah dropped down like a stone, her legs sliding along the marble into a perfect split in a desperate attempt to avoid the crossfire of fireballs. "So that's a no, I guess." As she slid to her feet, three soldiers, the maximum the width of the hallway would allow at a time, ran at her with their swords drawn, while the firebenders kept forcing her on the defense. Beads of sweat dripped off her face; Sabah was unsure whether they came from the effort keeping her own, or from the heat of the flames that singed her clothing and burned her thigh. This sucks! I only have one option left ... Let's just hope that she hears me ... and that I can actually hold on long enough to make her hear me. The first soldier to reach her got a fist smashed into his solar plexus, and as he crumpled in agony, a footed lashed out, kicking his head. The second one, trying to get behind Sabah, met the same foot as it reversed its direction to catch him in the crotch. His head met her hand as she spun, her nails scratching ragged lines across his cheek. The movement of the fight brought Sabah closer and closer to the door she was so desperate to reach. The third incoming soldier was gripped by his arm as Sabah avoided another wide swing; she slid her hand around his right arm, forcing him to twist around and shield her from a precise fire blast that engulfed his face, burning his vocal chords to ash before he could emit the slightest peep of pain. Oh, I hate what I'm about to do, but it certainly beats dying. Pushing the burned body at the attacking firebenders, she leapt out of the door and into the garden; tightening her stomach muscles, broadening her diaphragm, she inhaled deeply and called out with everything she had.

"MISTREEEEEEEESS!"

While screaming her lungs out, Sabah rolled over the grass, flipped up, turning 180 degrees midair, and slid into a smooth martial arts pose; she stood sideways, her body bent slightly, all muscles relaxed, and her feet poised in a stance from which she could lash out or resist an attack. She faced the door, ready to hold her ground until Lostris would come to her aid, ready to face her pursuers, ready for ... everything but the scene that took place before her. Completely baffled, Sabah relinquished her pose and erected herself, staring inside in disbelief.

"=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-"

"My Lord, I don't understand. Why did you call us all back? We had her, now she'll tell that little brat everything she heard, and –"

Naja raised a finger, smoke bubbling from it, instantly cutting off Intef's remarks. "One little girl. One little handmaid got the better of your soldiers. You call that 'we had her'?!" The smoke erupted into a single fire stream that scorched the sealing, and Intef shrunk visibly at Naja's outburst. "A disgrace! That's what I call it! A disgrace and an insult to our reputation!"

Intef bowed. Even though he and Naja were friends, he knew that Naja was not above 'disciplining' his allies; caution was always in order when dealing with a tiger leopard. "I am sorry for their inadequacy, but I still don't understa–"

"I want those men dealt with. They can show their virtue as a practice-object for my nerve-impaling technique. You may count yourself lucky that I am obliged to attend Rairet's Festival later on, so I will have no need for a sixth man." Naja stared coldly at his general, who could not completely suppress his relief. The Grand Vizier snorted in disgust upon witnessing such a sign of weakness on his trustee, and started pacing before the window in his study to calm himself, his hands behind his back. "Anyway, I called you back because neither you, nor your men could be seen by the Princess. The little vixen is undoubtedly being told by now by that slut of hers about what she heard. However, if Lostris just has the slightest ounce of brain cells in that head of hers, she will not do anything with that information; she simply can't."

"I'm sorry, my Lord, but I still don't understand." Intef timidly dared to ask for more information, cautiously probing the limits of Naja's patience.

Naja turned and snapped at his General. "Of course you don't, but that's also the reason why I went for the position of power and you are my muscle-man!" Intef shuffled uncomfortably, offended by Naja's remark about his intelligence. However, not daring to test his friend's patience enough to react on it, he settled with averting his eyes. Naja smiled at that sign of submission. "By retreating, Lostris did not personally lay eyes on you, thus whatever her slave tells her, she can only believe her word on it. If she would try to act on the given information, take it before the Council, it would be the word of a slave against the word of the Grand Vizier and a general. Who do you think those old fools will believe? A Princess who places all her trust in an uneducated slave and incriminates the regent she had already openly disrespected before ... or us, with our spotless reputations as far as they know? Besides, then she would also have to explain why her handmaid was in my office in the first place, an offense that could not be left unpunished. The risk for her servant's life will be too real for our little princess to take. She has no other choice than to do nothing."

Noticing the change of tone in Naja's voice, the calmer demeanor it had, Intef dared to stand upright again. "What about our future plans? The marriage arrangement?"

Naja turned round and gazed out of his window, looking down on Sabah who was talking to Lostris, visibly upsetting the Princess with every word that she said; he laughed cruelly. "That may actually play out to our advantage. Lostris now knows what her future entails, and the beauty of it is: she will be powerless to stop it. Unless she's willing to sacrifice her subordinate, she does not have the power to do anything, so now she just knows what is going to happen to her. And the knowledge will drive her mad. Perhaps her knowing will already be enough to finally break her."

Naja witnessed how Lostris backed a few steps from Sabah, violently shaking her head. Taita and Kori, who had run inside to investigate whoever had assaulted Sabah, approached the two women, not knowing what was going on. Taita attempted to give a comforting hug to an obviously distraught Lostris, who was on the verge of bursting out in tears. However, as he placed his hands around her, she pushed him away and ran off. Taita called after her, though was halted from any further action by Sabah.

Intef looked pleased upon hearing how the failure of his men could still turn out positive and sighed in relief, a sentiment that did not pass Naja by. "You are one lucky man, General, cause even though you are my brother-in-law, I would've done the same to you as I'm about to do to your men." The menacing glint that shone in Naja's yellow eyes needlessly emphasized that he was not outing false threats. "Now go, get those shameful excuses of soldiers and meet me in five."

Intef nodded and made his salutations, before walking out of the room as fast as he could without breaking into a run.

"=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-"

Sunset over the Nile

A Nile sunset.

The sun sank low and seemed the quench itself in the Nile, leaving a coppery sheen on the waters, as if a ball of paint had been rinsed, and leaving a smoky glow in the sky, as if it had set fire to the papyrus beds.

It had been hours since Lostris had run off. Taita had found her hogged up in the stables, tending to her favorite horse, Lemmet. Having found out from Sabah what had upset his little one, he was torn between wanting to be there for her and giving her the space that she so much desired. The choice had been made for him, however, as Lostris had practically begged him to leave her alone. Not able to stomach denying her yet another thing, he had complied with her request and retreated outside, where he had sent Kori to call on the Reds. Tanus had assigned two guards to look over Sabah's wellbeing while she and Kori retreated on Taita's suggestion to the slave quarters. Tanus had also sent Intef's two guards home and had taken their place together with Meren, a move Taita was most thankful for; he could not stand to be in the vicinity of anything that tied Lostris to Naja and Intef too much. Together with the two friends, he had stood outside the stables for well over six hours; he had witnessed them practice their swordfighting and offered his intellectual guidance; they had occupied themselves with playing pai sho; they had conversed about various topics. However, even though they vehemently ignored it, they had all heard Lostris's sobs coming from the stables, and each one of them had plunged into their hearts like a sword-blade, as they each cared deeply for the broken princess in their own special way; as a daughter; as a friend; as a love interest.

"She has been awfully quiet for a while now ... You think she's all right in there?" Tanus's worried question was the first thing said in hours, as they had given up pretending that they cared to keep themselves busy with trivial things.

"Truth be told ... I don't know whether she'll ever be okay again as long as Naja can't be stopped." Taita's honest answer hit home with the two friends.

Meren jumped up from his seat and hurled the branch he had been playing with as far away as he could. "Ragh! It is not fair! How come the Council eats out of his hand like retarded possum chickens? Can't they see what he's doing to her? What he will do to the nation if he gets royal status through marriage? Taita, you're a smart guy, come on, there must be something that we can do to help her." He shook Taita violently by his shoulders, thoroughly shaking the elder man.

"Meren, let him go! Your boisterous self will hurt him." Tanus sounded distracted, as if his mind was a hundred miles away.

"Right, sorry about that, old friend." Meren dusted Taita off.

"It's quite all right, Meren. I'm glad that my Mistress has some good men looking out for her as well." Tanus snorted angrily at that statement, much to surprise of his two companions, who turned to him in wonder. "Something on your mind, Tanus?"

Tanus briskly stood up and gazed at the budding stars that were still only thinly spread in the sky, before deigning to look at his friends. "Are we really going to act all surprised, be angry for a while, and then let it all go again?!" He snapped at them, surprising them once again. "Really, what good are we? What have we, those 'good men looking out for her', done for her so far, eh? Have Naja's actions ever come as a surprise to us? No. Were we ever able to prevent them? No! Have we ever been able to actually do something about them? NO!"

"Tanus, buddy, take it easy. What could we have done? We don't have the power to stand against the Council. Don't blame yourself like this." Meren tried to reason with his friend, though immediately was put in his place.

"You don't get it, do you, Meren? You never did!"

"Hey, that's not fair!"

"You want to know what's not fair?" Tanus gestured at the stable door. "Lostris being hurt, that's not fair. Lostris being punished for my screw ups, that's not fair!"

"Tanus, you can't —"

"Save it, Taita! If it wasn't for me, she wouldn't be in this spirit damned mess and you know it!" He sagged to the ground, sliding along the stable wall. "This is all my fault." His voice had instantly lost every fire it had a mere sentence ago and was now only a faint whisper, though it still carried through clearly. "After my dad died at Gebel Nagara, failing to protect the Queen, people blamed him, blamed my family. Not a day would go by without my mother receiving some sort of threat. We were constantly told that we should be ashamed, that we should move ... I vowed that I would show the world once again that there is no shame in being a 'Harrab'. My father was a hero, and I would prove that to everyone by becoming a soldier myself and protect Amanra's daughter, keep Lostris safe ... Some protector I am. I only made things worse for her!" He slanted his head, thus missing the looks of sympathy shared between Meren and Taita. They both knew Tanus's background, though that did not make him reminiscing about it so dejectedly any easier to hear. Taita motioned to the young man next to him to go talk to his friend.

"Come on ..." Meren scratched the nape of his neck, unsure what to say. "You've been a great friend and protector to her, everyone knows that. You've been friends since forever. And remember that one time when you all went on that picnic and you deliberately swapped at the scorpion bees to piss 'm off so they'd sting you insread of her? You walked around all bloated and sore for over a week. That's some great protective friendship, man!" He laughed encouragingly, though Tanus just snorted it away.

"That was a long time ago, we were still children."

"Right ... still, I think it's noteworthy." A silence fell over them. Meren glanced over his shoulder to Taita who gestured for him to continue. The soldier sighed and sat down beside his captain. "Look, Tanus, if anyone is to blame for this mess, it is me and you know it. You told me what happened by the river in confidence, and I blurted it to the men and made it into a public joke. You did nothing wrong."

Tanus stared out to the orange horizon. "Yeah, that was dumb of you." Uncomfortable with the following silence, Meren shuffled about. "Though that doesn't change that I screwed up in the first place. I shouldn't have told anyone." Tanus stood up and turned his back to Meren and Taita. Without warning, he slammed the stable wall with his fist. "Damn it! If I just could've kept my mouth shut, no one would've ever known and all of this wouldn't have happened!"

"If you really believe that, then you are perhaps not as smart as I gave you credit for, my dear boy." The young captain turned around to gaze at the old slave whose clear blue eyes penetrated deeply into his own. "Do you really believe that Naja is only able to sicken the Princess's life because of your one blabbing mistake?"

"I ... er ..." Tanus had braved many a danger on military campaigns, but the piercing stare of the wise man made him nervous.

"I have known Naja for years, from the moment he appeared in the lives of the royal family. I warned Fire Lord Tamose that there was something off about him. I warned the Queen to be careful around that man, as even then, Naja managed to weasel his way around everything and everyone, easily making his way up the social ladder of power out of nowhere." Taita walked over to Tanus and laid a hand on his shoulder. "You should not blame yourself like this, Tanus. There is nothing you could have done to prevent what Naja has been planning for decades."

"I ... I just ..." Tanus sighed, looking up at the sky again. "I just wished that I could do something for her, make it better, even if it was just for a moment."

The conversation halted again, letting the sounds of the evening wash over them. A cool breeze carried over a whiff of joyous sound from the bustling city as the people were celebrating Rairet's Festival. Meren jolted up as if he was bitten in the behind by a piranha spider.

"That's it! The festival!" He jumped excitedly up and down. "She really wanted to go, she has been talking about it for weeks. Why don't we just take her?"

"Meren ... aren't you forgetting something? Naja ordered all his soldiers to remain on palace grounds." The slither of hope that involuntarily had made its way into Tanus's heart was put out again when he bitterly realized that even that plan was doomed to fail.

"I am just a slave, so I obviously don't know anything about military affairs." Tanus and Meren gave each other an amused look and rolled their eyes at Taita's pompous and inaccurate modesty. "But you are two soldiers of the Red Tiger regiment, right?" The two friends gawked at him, wondering whether or not the slave was seriously expecting an answer to that obvious question. Meren nodded after Taita kept waiting for an answer. "And aren't the Reds assigned to secure the Princess's wellbeing?"

Meren glanced sideways at Tanus, raising his shoulders and shooting him a questioning look, which Tanus returned, though the captain decided to play the game. "Yes, we are part of the Princess's personal regiment."

The old slave smiled at the two young men. "So, you are part of a regiment that is specifically assigned to the House of Tamose?"

"Again, yes, we are. Taita, you know all this, what is your point?" Tanus was starting to get impatient, not liking being toyed with.

"Correct me if I am wrong, but Naja's order was aimed at his soldiers, right?"

Annoyed, both Meren and Tanus answered simultaneously. "Yes!"

Taita's smile grew wider, an amused twinkle in his eyes. "Okay. Then please answer me this last question. Are you Naja's soldiers?"

"We —" Tanus froze mid-sentence, his mouth still open, and a light went on in his mind. He grabbed hold of Taita and hugged him tightly. "Taita, you're a genius!"

Meren took in the scene before him, a confused look still on his face. "I don't get. Since when does asking redundant questions to which you already know the answer to qualify as being a genius?"

Tanus laughed while releasing Taita from his overexcited death grip, and turned to Meren. "Naja's order was for his soldiers to stay on the palace grounds. But we are not his soldiers; the Reds are Lostris's soldiers!"

A smile crept on the soldier's face. "That means ... Naja's order does not affect us! YES!" Meren jumped forward and kissed Taita on his cheek before twirling him around in the air. "You truly are a genius! Though ..." Meren's excitement lowered a few notches as he set the old slave down, who rubbed his cheek and immediately took a few steps backwards, afraid that he would be the subject of more impromptu celebrations. Meren turned to Tanus, who shot him a questioning look for his sudden change of heart. "I have to say it, interpreting Naja's rule like that is kind of stretching it. If he finds out, and since this is Naja we're talking about, he will found out, there will be consequences ... Severe consequences."

Although he knew his friend spoke with reason, Tanus could just not bring himself to think or care about that. "You're right, but ... think about what attending Rairet's Festival would mean to Lostris." He sounded pleading, as he needed Meren's cooperation to go through with it all. "Please, help me, my friend, as I cannot do this alone due to Naja's 'two soldiers' rule."

Meren laughed. "Oh, don't get me wrong, I am totally in, I just felt like someone needed to be the voice of reason here and point out the dangers of our little endeavor."

Tanus face brightened instantly and he wrapped his arm around Meren's shoulders, pulling him into a bear hug. "Thank you."

"Don't mention it; anything to stick it to Naja. Besides, someone needs to chaperone you from your own terrible temptation; I will not have you bring shame to the Princess's honor." Tanus instantly tightened his hug to a stranglehold at Meren's playful jab at his feelings, though he could not truly put force on his hold, as he could not help but smile at the partial truth of it.

Releasing Meren and pushing him away in faked annoyance, Tanus looked at Taita, his demeanor more serious. "There is only one problem left: how will we convince the Lady Lostris to go? I am not exactly her favorite person at the moment." He rubbed his cheek, reminiscing about the slaps Lostris had bestowed upon him five days prior.

"Leave that part to me. Just meet me below her balcony in half an hour, she'll be there, I assure you." Taita moved to the stable door, though looked back over his shoulder with his hand already on the door handle. "Oh, and Tanus. Bring some wild fire lilies, she loves those." Taita slid open the stable door and entered, melting away into the shadows.

Author's notes

  • I am lazy with names -again- and thus I give thanks to Gene Yang for letting me "borrow" the name of Kori.
  • I also thank Wilbur Smith for providing me with the names of Dov and Krus, as well as with general inspiration.
  • I apologize for taking so long for publishing another chapter. My own busy university schedule and the busy schedule of my editors are to blame. I suggest you all take it up with the Grand Design of Life of you are annoyed by the waiting time ^^.

Fun facts

  • Half this chapter was written while attending some classes "deontology". It is an extremely boring class, though it does seem to be an excellent place to write.
  • The "rule of seven tiles" and the "four bulls maneuver" are two bao boardgame rules that Taita applies in River God. I have no idea what they exactly entail, but they sounded ... knowledgeable, and since no one knows the rules of pai sho anyway, you all will just have to deal ^^.
  • Dov and Krus are the two horses that draw Pharaoh Nefer Seti's chariot in the book Warlock.
    • "Dov" is the Bedouin word for the "north wind", the soft cool wind of the winter season.
    • "Krus" is the Bedouin word for "fire".
  • I had thought about including a Hunger Games-like scene into this chapter, where Lostris would defiantly shoot the arrow that embedded itself in her chariot's bamboo through the moon peach that Naja was eating, though I decided to abandon the idea as it would lead to follow-up issues later on.
    • A minor extract of conversation that would then have ensued between Naja and Tanus (albeit rather cliché, I still found it fitting):
      • Naja: "Too bad she won't be able to practice anymore, her aim is excellent."
      • Tanus: "What are you talking about? She missed."
  • Ankh wedja seneb is an epithetic formula which often appears after the names of Egyptian kings or references to their household. It means "life, prosperity, health".
  • "[Sabah] remained frozen for a minute more, though to her terrified mind, it was a minute that lasted a lifetime." That sentence is a reference to the signature sentence of my Korrasami-rewrite of "Endgame", A Minute: "How a minute can last a lifetime".
  • "Get out their way; get out their way; get out their way!" is a nod to Mulan saying "Get off the roof; get off the roof; get off the roof!"
  • Sabah's move to incapacitate the soldier coming at her with the spear was inspired by Artemis's move against her father to make him see who she is in the episode "Complications" of Young Justice.
  • "Lemmet" means "blade" in Flemish, though I felt like "lemmet" had a more Egyptian feel. In case there would be pronunciation issues: the first "em" is sort of pronounced like the "em" in "them", and the "met" is the same as, well, "met".
  • This chapter counts 10620 words.
Heiress of the Nile
Chapters
Book 1 - Lost and Found
1: Dream of a Distant Past2: Sun Rise, Sons Fall3: Colors of Fire4: Lucky Encounters5: Confrontations6: Out of Place, Part 17: Out of Place, Part 28: Royal Pain9: Friend and Foe10: Betrayal11: Fate and Trust12: A Bad Day
Characters
Hanbao

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