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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3. Prologue - 2

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AISHA: We’ve not sat together like this since I was a little girl, father. Do you remember King Todd And The Illiterate Sphinx? You must’ve told Junior that story a hundred times by now. I’ve…not met him yet. Bashaar says that he scowls all the time, just like you…which can’t be right, because he is the one who scowls all the time.

AISHA: Do you really scowl, father? Everyone at court says so but…I don’t know what you are like there; how long has it been since I was last in the palace? Years. Not since Kael and I…

AISHA: I should’ve married him, shouldn’t I? It’s what an empress would have done. But I didn’t think…this…I thought you would live forever. But that’s stupid, isn’t it?

The day passes with dreadful slowness. From dawn to dusk she sits at the emperor’s side, watching the doctors come and go, eating whatever is put in her hand, responding only when they shake her by the shoulder. As the tent darkens, great candles are lit all around the bed, casting twisted shadows upon the canvas.

There is commotion outside. Kael enters with the other generals in tow. Siegfried the Younger still has blood in his beard, and Moros is spotlessly clean as always. Strangely, her man-at-arms is with them, standing at the entrance with a sabre on his hip.

AISHA: Ehsan? Why’re you here? I told you to watch the prisoner.

EHSAN: Akai is gone, princess. Master Kael said –

AISHA: Gone?! What right does he have –

KAEL: I’m right here.

AISHA: Yes you are. That viper poisoned your emperor and you let him go.

KAEL: He is to be Seneschal of the East, as the emperor commanded.

AISHA: I was not done with him.

KAEL: Then I’m glad it was not up to you.

AISHA:

If it was your father in this predicament you would not be so careless. How dare you?! He was my prisoner! [Hit him]

EHSAN: Calm, princess! I don’t like it any better, but we watched him sign the treaty and what’s done is done. The emperor willed it, did he not?

AISHA: Tell me how I can be calm. Tell me.

Siegfried steps forward, rudely shoving Kael aside. His leather cuirass is thick with dried blood, and the silver axe hanging on his belt is badly notched, as if it had been swung repeatedly against a rock. Moros wrinkles his nose as he passes.

KAEL: Watch it Northling –

SIEGFRIED: Ignore these fools, princess. They know nothing.

KAEL: What did you say?

Siegfried ignores him. He kneels at the foot of the bed and lays the silver axe at the emperor’s feet.

SIEGFRIED: Princess.

AISHA: Y-yes, Sieg?

SIEGFRIED: Will he live?

AISHA: He…I…the doctors are doing everything they can…

SIEGFRIED: I see. Do not worry. My pa will wait for him on the golden road to Valhalla. They will drink and boast all the way to the gilded halls of the ancestors, and they will feast as they have feasted in life, in the company of the gods.

AISHA: Are you saying…

SIEGFRIED: I told him he was too old, but he dressed as a common foot and snuck into the first wave. Old Sieg died the way he wanted: in battle, with axe in hand.

AISHA: I…I did not know that. I am sorry for your loss.

SIEGFRIED: Do not be. He had not laughed that hard for years.

From the shadows, Moros clears his throat pointedly.

MOROS: You’re troubling the princess with your nihilism, my friend. I’ve sent for my alchemists. They know every venom from the Enders to the Jade Sea. The emperor will be cured in no time. You have my word on that, Aisha.

AISHA: Thank you. I hope you’re right.

She is all too familiar with Moros’ promises to be hopeful. Remembering why the generals have gathered, she returns to the emperor’s side.

AISHA: Father. Father wake up.

The emperor stirs slowly, too slowly. His eyes drift open without strength, showing only whites. He tries to turn toward his daughter’s voice, but even the soft cushions prove too much resistance.

In the span of a day his skin has gone from feverishly red to deadly pale, with black tinges on the cheeks. In the candlelight it looks as if all the flesh has fallen from his face.

DAARNIK II: Run…Aisha…

AISHA: What? The generals are here. They came at your behest.

DAARNIK II: Oh…yes…Old Sieg, where are you? Let me see your bloody beard.

SIEGFRIED: My pa is dead, Your Grace. I am here in his stead.

DAARNIK II: Ah…look at us. Lame old dogs we are.

SIEGFRIED: No, I’m –

DAARNIK II: Take care of Aisha. Treat her like a daughter. I know you would.

SIEGFRIED: Your Grace, I’m Young Sieg.

DAARNIK II: Pledge…your fealty. Pledge. All of you. I must…see…kneel before your empress…say the words.

AISHA: …

She turns toward the gathered throng, awkward but sure. Their shadows quiver on the canvas; seconds pass. Kael picks at the cuffs of his gauntlet, staring at the floor; Siegfried makes to kneel but Moros, silently, puts a hand on his shoulder; Ehsan looks from one man to another in confusion, his braided locks whipping back and forth.

SIEGFRIED: Touch me again, silken fool, and you’ll cut cheese with elbows for the rest of your life.  

MOROS: We have an accord. You don’t intend to break it, surely?

SIEGFRIED: I’ve changed my mind.

MOROS: You would defy your father’s will?

SIEGFRIED: …

AISHA: What…what are you talking about?

KAEL: Aisha, listen –

The tent flaps fly open. Prince Bashaar strides in amidst a whirlwind of sand. Though two years younger than his sister, his hair has already begun to recede, and the lines across his forehead would not look out of place on a middle-aged man. As always, he is frowning.

BASHAAR: What is this? I told you all to stay with your legions.

AISHA: Where have you been? Have you not heard?!

Slowly, Bashaar walks to the emperor’s bed. His frown deepens at the sight of the tattered axe lying on the sheets. His hands, gloved in tanned leather, grip the bedpost so hard the wood begins to splinter. For a long while he stands, cast in shadow, swaying on the balls of his feet.

BASHAAR: I heard.

A sudden gust rushes through the tent, extinguishing two of the great candles. A cold dread creeps into Aisha’s throat like a supple dagger.

No. Please.

BASHAAR: …

BASHAAR: He has passed.

It feels as if she is a drifting pair of eyes, watching from afar. She sees herself stagger to the emperor’s side, putting a hand on his face, his neck, feeling for a pulse that was there only a moment ago. She hears herself yell her father’s name, the name that she was told not to say since the age of three, when the emperor was crowned. No, she wants to tell this hysterical woman, you mustn’t lose yourself, they’re looking at you, all looking at you, and an empress does not weep…

but hot tears are falling down her cheeks, onto her father’s hand, which she has clasped to her face if only to feel its warmth one last time. His wiry-strong fingers are limp and yielding, all their strength having fled, yet she holds onto them all the same, hoping, praying.

An eternity passes before she could regain a semblance of composure. It is shameful to act this way. She has to stand and breathe, slowly, surely. There are words that need to be said, and they need to come from her.

AISHA: The emperor is –

BASHAAR: The emperor is dead. May he watch over us from the Throne of the Dawn. All who live under the sun shall bask in his glory, now and forever.

KAEL, SIEGFRIED, MOROS: Now and forever.

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