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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5. Prologue - 4

KAEL: …

MOROS: Perhaps it would be better to wait until the wake has concluded before –

BASHAAR: It would be, but I doubt my sister has the patience to wait.  

She is taken aback by the conviction in his voice. The Seneschals are too, judging by their surprise.

KAEL: What do you intend to do?

BASHAAR: A trial. For conspiring against the crown.

MOROS: That is not what we have agreed!

BASHAAR: She will be found innocent, but only after my coronation is done. When everything’s settled you’ll still have her hand in marriage, Seneschal Moros. Nothing changes.

MOROS: …I do not like this.

BASHAAR: How much coin have you lost funding this war? How many millions?

MOROS: ...

BASHAAR: Then it’s done.

She suddenly feels an insane urge to laugh.

AISHA: What about you, Kael? You love your gold too?

KAEL: No, but I know you too well, princess.

AISHA: What’s that supposed to mean?

KAEL: It is better this way.

The urge to laugh turns suddenly to weeping. Once, the two of them had sat under a sycamore tree, debating how many children they wanted to have. Kael had wanted girls, but she had wanted only boys, so they would grow up to be as cunning and wise as her brother, not rash and stupid like her.

A dream – that’s all it was. A beautiful dream that had come to an end.

When she speaks again her voice is much softer.

AISHA: Sieg. Why do you want to get rid of me?

SIEGFRIED: No, I…I never wanted…

MOROS: I am sorry, Aisha, but it was my city that funded your expedition to the dragon isles, my ships that you took and lost in the Jade Sea, and my mercenaries that died storming the castles of the East that didn’t need to be stormed, had we sat down and discussed terms. This string of follies has put great strain on the South. You will always have my love, my princess, but an empress you are not. Please understand.

Moros has a way with words, such that no matter how calm or reasonable they sound they can still make her angry. Yet she knows he’s speaking the truth. In her heart she has always known that she is no more than a mascot of the imperial legion, loved by all in the same sense that a puppy is loved.

Not Bashaar. Bashaar has never truly been a child. He’s lean as a leaf – his arms skinnier than hers – yet he’s attended court since the age of five, and has written a hundred laws so complex she could stare at them all day and not comprehend a word.  

Yet, not once has their father mentioned that he should secede him. It has always been her, even though by all accounts she knows nothing. Stupidly, she has never questioned the decision. Stupidly.

AISHA: I understand well, Moros. None of you want me here. It is kind of you to tell me this at the deathbed of my father, rather than putting a knife to my throat in the dead of night.

BASHAAR: Don’t make it difficult, sister.

AISHA: Brother, oh clever and competent brother, I bear you no ill. You know that.

BASHAAR: …

AISHA: If it is up to me, I’d gladly let you run the place, and you’ll certainly be a wiser ruler than I could ever be.

BASHAAR: Then –

AISHA: But it is not up to me. It is the will of our father for me to rule in his stead, as you have all heard. Whatever his reasons may be, I intend to obey his will, for he was my emperor. So I will not go.

Bashaar’s frown deepens. His look is one of disgust.

BASHAAR: Always so stubborn, so ignorant. I’ll not debate logic with one who refuses to think.

BASHAAR: Kael, take her.

As Kael moves forward, Ehsan draws his blade. Steel rings as others follows suit, Kael with his longsword, Siegfried with his axe, Moros with a needle-like sabre. Bashaar remains unmoved, his arms firmly crossed on his chest as if the sight offends him.

EHSAN: You will not touch the princess.

KAEL: Move aside, old man.

EHSAN: Try me, boy, and you won’t look so pretty no more.

AISHA: Ehsan, don’t.

Ehsan: Princess –

AISHA: Tell me, brother: if I had a sword, would it be I who walk out of this tent, or you?

In the silence everyone could hear Bashaar’s teeth grinding away.

BASHAAR: …

BASHAAR: You.

Her hands move like lightning. Kael has just enough time to cry out in pain as his sword hand was struck on the wrist, hard and fast. She rips the weapon from his grip and swings it around in a wide arc, blade thrumming in the air. The others stumble back in surprise – all except Bashaar, who watches the sword tip move within an inch of his nose and flinches not at all.

AISHA: So?

BASHAAR: Kill me, then.

Are there tears falling down her face? There must be – how else would the world become so blurred?

AISHA: How can I, when our father is watching?

BASHAAR: …

BASHAAR: Then what do you intend to do? Threaten me with a stick until you’re crowned? Hold me hostage until the day I die? No, sister. You’ve nothing to threaten me with, because I am your brother, not some faceless Easterner whom you could run down without a care. Wouldn’t you like that, you sentimental fool?

AISHA: I…I…

BASHAAR: Take your petty sword and leave. You’ve earned that much. Kael, you wouldn’t mind the princess borrowing your weapon?

KAEL: Not at all.

She glances at him. There is no expression on Kael’s face; no shame, no anger, no hesitation. As if he doesn’t care at all whether she lives or dies.

Never has she felt so alone.

Turning to look at her father’s face one last time, she gently wipes the tears from her eyes.

AISHA: I will return to carry out the emperor’s will. When that day comes, Bashaar, you will realize that I am a fool no longer.

 

War horns blare across the desert, signaling the legions to cut off her escape, but her horse is a destrier born and bred in the Great Sand, and Ehsan’s camel has seen more road than she has years. As night deepens, a great wind picks up from the north, shifting the great dunes like ripples in a yellow sea, and wiping out all traces of their tracks.

Even so, a team of seasoned scouts could have tracked them down – the legions of Asakhara did not conquer the known world by luck – but no one came.

Perhaps they were unwilling to put their princess to the sword; perhaps Bashaar only ordered them to put on a show; or perhaps the generals only pretended to listen to his commands, and secretly told their legions to stay put…

As a new dawn washes over the Great Sands, Aisha and Ehsan crest a desolate dune in search of water. They have not stopped to rest since fleeing the emperor’s tent, yet neither of them is particularly tired.

EHSAN: There, princess. I see a patch of green.

AISHA: I see it too.

EHSAN: Our legions could be camped nearby. It might be dangerous to approach.

AISHA: It might be. But we will go anyway.

EHSAN: What if –

AISHA: Would it be too much, Ehsan, if I told you that right now, I would gladly die?

EHSAN: …

AISHA: Yet I cannot, for my father has left me an empire. So I will spend every waking hour reclaiming my birthright or die trying.

EHSAN: I…suppose we could die trying to get a drink of water. That’s not a bad way to go.

AISHA: Making fun of me, old man?

EHSAN: Of course.

AISHA: Good.

------

END OF PROLOGUE

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