Shahrazad, who knew all about the planned events of the day through Izdihar, was wishing she could be with her while they waited. She had tried to help Tommy practice his reading, but as the time when the attack on Adviser Sayyid’s tower was due to start approached she found herself unable to concentrate on the words, so that she missed it when he stumbled or paused, waiting for her to fill in the gap. In the end Tommy climbed onto her lap and put his arms round her. They sat like that for a long time.
When a horn sounded out high above Shahrazad jumped up. What did that mean? Had Adviser Sayyid’s body been discovered already? The horn sounded again, and again. Shahrazad heard curious voices passing her door. She ran to the door and saw quite a few people heading upwards. She set off and Tommy followed her. As they got higher she started to hear shouts and gasps from above.
She rounded a corner and Adviser Sayyid’s large balcony came into view. She gasped, and, grabbing Tommy’s hand, broke into a run, pushing through the crowds that were starting to gather to get a better view.
There on the platform was Adviser Sayyid, very much alive and gazing at the scene below with satisfaction, accompanied by two guards who were clutching King Basir by the arms. And opposite, on the stairs around the outside of the royal tower, was Izdihar, looking absolutely terrified. Shahrazad struggled to get to her.
“What’s going on?” “Let the king go!” shouted some of the people lining the stairs and bridges surrounding the tower.
“Silence!” roared Adviser Sayyid. “Your beloved king was apprehended in an attempt to murder me.” He shot Basir a contemptuous look. A few people cried out in disbelief. The king said nothing. He was looking down gravely at the people.
There were gasps and the air seemed to fill with hissing whispers. The crowd emptied out as Shahrazad and Tommy started to draw level with the king and the adviser. They reached Izdihar, who clutched Shahrazad’s arm and continued to gaze, stricken, at the scene on the balcony.
“He sent his men to distract my guards and entered my quarters with this.” He held up a knife. “The great King Basir, sneaking around, trying to turn on his own adviser!” There were more scandalised gasps from the audience. Adviser Sayyid smiled smugly. He seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the reaction. “If I hadn’t been warned of his plan I would have been killed.”
Shahrazad was dimly aware that Izdihar’s fingers were digging into her arm. She was hanging on like her life depended on it.
“The men involved in this treacherous plot have also been apprehended and are being taken to jail as we speak,” continued Adviser Sayyid.
“No!” said Izdihar in a choking gasp.
“As for him...” he nodded towards King Basir “Do you have anything to say for yourself?”
The king stood up as straight as he could with Sayyid’s men holding him. Looking down at the audience below, he said, loudly and clearly “People, the time for pretence is over. You all know of Adviser Sayyid’s intentions. He wants the kingdom for himself.”
There were a few cries of agreement but most people just watched silently.
“The kingdom is mine!” said Adviser Sayyid. “There can be no question. You have no choice but to denounce the throne. People, will you allow this treachery?”
There was little response but a few angry mutters.
“I will not denounce the throne. You talk of treacherous plots, Sayyid, but you know I see through you. I know you would murder me in a heartbeat. It’s time to be honest.”
“Then you leave me no choice but to declare war on you and your supporters,” said Adviser Sayyid, angry now. “We cannot have such a cowardly traitor as a king! I will not allow it!”
Izdihar and Shahrazad looked at each other in horror. Shahrazad could only imagine the bloodbath that might follow.
“Cowardly?” said King Basir, turning to face his adversary. “Then I challenge you, one on one. The winner takes the kingdom.”
The whole audience seemed to be holding their breath.
Adviser Sayyid studied the king for a few moments, and then smiled. “As you wish. Tonight. Sunset. Central Square.” He turned to his men. “Take him away.”
The two men led Basir back into the tower, and it was only then that Shahrazad saw that he was limping. He must have been hurt in the struggle when he was captured.
Izdihar turned to her, speechless. She looked as though she might faint.