The next morning Izdihar went out onto the balcony. She managed to calm herself down as she stood looking out over the desert. This was what she always did when she was upset and needed some space. It was comforting that that, at least, hadn’t changed.
That was, until she heard footsteps coming round the corner - one of the palace guards. She turned around, nervous suddenly to see Faruq. But instead of cream and blue, like the palace guard, the man on her balcony was wearing the black uniform of Adviser Sayyid’s tower guards.
He bowed to her, smirked slightly at the shocked look on her face, and carried on round to the other side of the tower.
Izdihar’s mouth was open. All the calm she’d managed to regain was gone. She didn’t know what the guard was doing here but she knew she wasn’t going to like it. She went inside, through to the door out of her rooms, where she knew she would find her servant standing just outside. Her heart sank when, instead of Fayez, there was only another stranger in black outside her door.
“Who are you?” she demanded. “Where’s Fayez?”
“He is elsewhere in the palace,” said the man. He was tall and thin, with a hooked nose and beady eyes. “I will be taking over his duties from now on.”
“And the guards?”
“Now that you are engaged, your guard will be taken care of by Adviser Sayyid’s staff.”
“But what’s wrong with the guards I had before?”
“Adviser Sayyid can’t take any chances with his fiancé now, can he?”said the new servant smoothly.
Izdihar opened her mouth to protest, but thought better of it. This had all been about appeasing Adviser Sayyid while her father worked out a plan, and she knew he would not be happy if she made a fuss. Pushing down her anger, she said “Very well,” and went to see her father.
She was relieved to see one of their usual servants outside her father’s door. He waved her through.
King Basir was writing something at his desk. He looked up as she came in, looking wearier than ever.
“Did you know about this? Did you know Adviser Sayyid was going to replace all my guards?”
He sighed. “I only found out this morning. I don’t like it either, Izdihar, but there’s nothing I can do,” he said quietly.
She sat down on his sofa. There’s nothing I can do. She seemed to be hearing that a lot these days. Anger flared up again. “He just wants to spy on me!”
“Exactly! Keep your voice down!” the king hissed. “The walls have ears around here now!”
“Great!” muttered Izdihar. “We’re not even safe in our own palace anymore...”
“I’m sorry, Izdihar. I tried to convince him but he insisted that he only has your safety at heart.”
Izdihar snorted. “I can still leave though, can’t I?” Izdihar knew the answer before she’d finished speaking.
“He wants a bodyguard to escort you outside the tower.”
“Great,” she muttered.
“Just... be careful what you say up here in the tower, ok?”
Izdihar nodded. Her father hugged her, and she returned, feeling utterly miserable, to her rooms. The new servant nodded at her, rather smugly she thought, as she went in. She ignored him.