Empress of Sand - A Visual Novel

A Visual Novel Script-in-Progress.

Aisha, heir to the Asakhara Empire, is exiled by her brother. Now she plots revenge, gathering allies and enemies alike in order to shed the blood of one...or the blood of all that live under the Sun.

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2. Prologue - 1

Dawn breaks over the Great Sand.

A rider approaches from the east with the rising sun at her back.

In her haste she has lost both scarf and veil, and her long auburn hair is peppered with sand.

AISHA: ‘Please, wait for me, wait for me father, I’m almost there –’

Cresting a ridge, she sees a pool of green in the distance – an oasis. On the shore of the glittering lake stands a tent of purple and gold. Her father’s tent, all alone.

Where is everyone? Where is the royal legion? It is still dangerous here – remnants of the East is scattered all over the sands, thirsty for water and blood. The Emperor must be protected.

Unless the Emperor is no more.

AISHA: ‘No, don’t think like that, it’s only an arrow, one arrow. He’s shrugged them off a dozen times before.

Someone is standing before the entrance: Kael, in a cuirass of carved silver, his hair sweaty and tangled. He looks up as the rider approaches, and hurries forward to meet her.

KAEL: Aisha! You are here! Quickly, he’s been asking for you.

AISHA: How is he? Will he live? Tell me!

Kael: …

AISHA: No…please…

It is boiling hot inside the emperor’s tent. On a bed of bloodstained leathers her father lies feverish and faint, surrounded by physicians and nurses. Greenish pus is seeping through the bandage on his shoulder. 

AISHA: Father!

She could smell the sickening miasma of the wound. The arrow must have been poisoned.

DAARNIK II: Ah…Aisha…you have come.

AISHA: I have him, I have Prince Akai. He was the one who loosed that arrow – he boasted to my face!

DAARNIK II: Aisha…

AISHA: I’ll kill him. I swear it.

The emperor’s eyes become troubled. He tries to raise a hand to hold his daughter’s face, but his strength fails him.

DAARNIK II: No, you mustn’t…he…Prince Akai…must be made Seneschal of the East.

AISHA: What?! Why?

DAARNIK II: For peace. We must have…peace. So long we have warred, conquered. It has brought us nothing but pain and resentment. Leave him be, Aisha. The war is done.

AISHA: …

AISHA: I…I know you are right, father, but I cannot accept that. No daughter would.

DAARNIK II: Then I must command you…as your emperor. Kael. Where is Kael?

At the mention of his name Kael enters, and takes a bow at the foot of the emperor’s bed.

KAEL: I am here, Your Grace.

DAARNIK II: Gather the generals. I must speak to them.

KAEL: At once.

DAARNIK II: And Akai as well. Release him. From his day forth he shall be –

AISHA: No!

DAARNIK II: Akai will be to the East what you are to the West. Go. For the love you bear my daughter, let it be known.

KAEL: …

DAARNIK II: Kael?

KAEL: What of Prince Bashaar? Shall I bring him too?

DAARNIK II: …yes, if he would come.

KAEL: I will do as my emperor commands.

She watches him leave in silence. Until a month ago they were betrothed, but that seems like so long ago.

The emperor begins to cough. Blackened blood is oozing from his mouth and ears. His attendants hurry forward to care for him, but the emperor shakes his head.

DAARNIK II: Leave us. I must speak to my daughter.

AISHA: …

DAARNIK II: No tears, Aisha. An empress does not weep. You must look strong and beautiful, always, even when you are alone. The people will love you for it.

Will they? She wants to tell him that she is ready, but the words would not come. She wants to tell him that her legion calls her ‘little bird behind her back; that the generals only listens to her counsel when the emperor is present…but the words would not come.

AISHA: I…I…

AISHA: …

AISHA: I will be ready.

DAARNIK II: You lie poorly, child…but I am glad for it. Do you know…do you know what your mother said…? She said you were too loved to rule. Nonsense. If only she could see you now, Empress of Asakhara, Protector of All Who Lives Under The Sun…

AISHA: No…no, that’s you father. It’ll be you for another hundred years.

DAARNIK II: …Conqueror of the East, Keeper of the Peace, the most beautiful woman from the Great Sand to the Yellow Sea…

AISHA: Father, stay with me –

DAARNIK II: …and betrothed! How I wept when Kael took your hand. He’ll teach you…he’ll teach you statecraft, diplomacy, everything I should have made you learn. But you were always running off, fighting my…stupid wars. Your mother…your mother…

AISHA: Kael and I are not…anymore. Please, rest awhile –

DAARNIK II: …she said, the palace will smother her, she’ll wilt like a sunflower out of sun…

There is a painful tearing in her chest, and she could hardly breathe.

AISHA: Can you hear me, father?

The emperor meets her eyes, and it’s as if he is seeing her for the first time.

DAARNIK II: Aisha…you have come…

AISHA: Y-yes, I’m here –

DAARNIK II:  Have you seen…old Siegfried…the old sot has a…a throne of dragon skull!

The emperor’s eyes are burning, fever bright.

AISHA: You took me to the North when I was ten. I remember it.

DAARNIK II: And the silk house, the house of the merchant prince, have you seen it?

AISHA: Yes I –

DAARNIK II: Prince, he called himself! To my face! Should’ve…razed his city…but your mother, she loved their gowns…in the sandy silk…how lovely she looks, do you see…

AISHA: …

AISHA: I…I do.

DAARNIK II: Vipers...in the sand…they bite, don’t they? I told her but…never believed…fetch the lotion, quickly…fetch…fetch…

As the ailing emperor drifts into muttering incoherence, she gently takes his hands and folds them beneath her own; they were trembling and hot. She feels her eyes welling with tears and bites her tongue to keep them in check. An empress does not weep.

AISHA: Doctor!

DOCTOR: Milady?

AISHA: Tell me he will live.

DOCTOR: …

Attendants return with fresh herbs and a cold towel for the emperor’s brow, but she quickly realizes that they are only trying to keep him comfortable.

DOCTOR: The wound…we’ve scoured it a dozen times, but we do not know the venom. It corrupts his blood and turns it vile. A frailer man would’ve already succumbed.

AISHA: …

DOCTOR: It…it is only a matter of time before…before…

She wants to yell at them, scream at them for failing at their job. She wants to uncoil her whip and lash them for having given up.

AISHA:

I…I must thank you, for all that you’ve done to help him. I will not forget this service.  Then you must try harder. There must be a way. Find it.   Get out. All of you. Before I cut off your useless heads. 

The attendants leave hurriedly, quailing before the darkness in her voice.

The emperor relaxes somewhat from the herbal brew and sinks into a fitful sleep. She sits at his side, waiting, waiting, her head full of emptiness. It was only two days ago that she broke the legions of the East with herself leading the vanguard…yet now their arrogant prince is going to live while her father is not.

A cruel joke.

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