Shahrazad was getting more and more angry as she climbed up to the palace entrance for her appointment to see Izdihar the next morning, thinking about the smug guard, but as she got above the tops of most of the towers she noticed something which completely drove him from her mind. There was scaffolding being put up at the top of Adviser Sayyid’s tower.
After staring up at it open-mouthed for a few seconds, Shahrazad shook herself and carried on up the steps around the royal tower until she reached the entrance, where she was almost level with top of Adviser Sayyid’s tower. She could clearly see the men at work there.
It was the same guard and he recognised her. “It’s 9:32,” he said. “You’re late.”
“Oh, come on...”
“This time I’ll let you through. But I’d advise you to turn up on time in the future for royal appointments.”
Shahrazad let out her breath angrily and swept past him, knowing she shouldn’t be getting on the wrong side of someone who could stop her seeing Izdihar, but not being able to help it.
She found another man in black outside Izdihar’s door. Normally servants would just let her pass, or fetch Izdihar for her, but this man held up his hand to stop her.
“Name?” he said. He had a thin, reedy voice.
He nodded and knocked on the door, beckoning her through when Izdihar called “Yes?”
Izdihar was getting up from her seat, relieved to see Shahrazad. Her eyes were puffy and she looked nervy.
“How are you?” asked Shahrazad when the servant shut the door.
“I’m ok.” Izdihar hesitated. She gestured to Shahrazad to follow her into her bedroom. “I don’t feel safe in here anymore... Especially in there,” she said quietly.
“The new guards?” asked Shahrazad darkly. Izdihar nodded.
She told Shahrazad in a low voice everything that had happened on the night of the ball and the following morning, careful not to mention King Basir’s plans or to say anything directly suggesting disloyalty to Adviser Sayyid.
“And now it’s getting even worse!” Izdihar whispered, panic creeping into her voice. “I guess you saw –?”
“The building work?” Shahrazad nodded.
She didn’t need Izdihar’s confirmation to know what was happening, but it made her heart sink all the same. Adviser Sayyid was having another level built onto his tower, to account for the increase in his power that came with his engagement to the kingdom’s princess.
“But how can he be allowed to have his tower as tall as the king’s? Surely that can’t be right?”
“The very top of the tower won’t be as high as ours. But Father said that because I’d be living there once we married, by law it does entitle him to another floor. Then, when Father died, he’d just need to build one more level and...”
They fell into silence.