Shahrazad couldn’t keep still. She was hopping up and down, desperately trying to see over the heads of the people in front of her, being jostled this way and that by the crowd whose attention had been grabbed by the arrival of no-longer-a-princess Izdihar, who was about to become Queen. Shahrazad was near the back. She had spent what seemed like ages trying to shove her way further forward but when she looked back she saw that she had only managed to go a few paces in. Why hadn’t she come sooner? She almost hadn’t wanted to come at all – this was not something she wanted to see – but she knew she had to. There was no way she would have been able to stay at home knowing that this was going on. When she’d got there a crowd had already formed to wait, and had grown until she thought the whole city must be there. Guards had even escorted the children there from the tower to watch from a nearby rooftop.
She caught her first glimpse of Izdihar. She had such an empty expression on her face. Shahrazad wondered how Sayyid had got her to agree to this. But she supposed there was not much Izdihar could have done. After all, she couldn’t escape from him. She was completely in his power. Shahrazad blinked away tears thinking of what her friend must have gone through, all alone. Someone moved in front of her, and Izdihar was lost from view again.
From here, at the edge of the square, she could barely hear the wedding ceremony going on. She got just the odd glimpse of the two figures of Sayyid, proud and self-assured, and Izdihar, looking like she wanted to shrink into herself.
Suddenly, she became aware of other noises, apart from the crowd, coming from behind her. She turned around; other people were looking too, staring open-mouthed, nudging their neighbours. She moved forward to see what they were looking at and stopped dead. There, coming towards them through a wide street leading into the square, was an army of men dressed in green uniforms, skin as pale as Tommy’s. And at their head was Basir, also in a green uniform, looking strong and healthy, holding a sword and radiating calm power.
As the army drew closer, a few people screamed. The two guards who had been standing where the street met the square were running back towards their master. More and more people were facing their way now. Basir put up his hand to silence those close enough to see him. But suddenly Shahrazad wasn’t looking at Basir. She had seen a little figure emerge from behind some of the green-clad men. Tommy was running towards her. She ran to greet him, full of amazement. She picked him up – he was scarily light – and held him tight, before putting him down and asking “Tommy – what’s going on? How did you get here?”
Tommy just pointed over her shoulder, grinning, and said “I found the king!”
Shahrazad turned around. Soldiers were going past them into the square. The crowd had started to clear a path for their former king and these strange white men. Sayyid had gathered his guards around him and was watching Basir approach with fury on his face.