Chapter 9: The Zivarian Bazaar
Two days of absolute nothing and she can’t help but feel mad as hell. Rania utters something between a groan and growl as she lays upon her bed with her head hanging off the edge. She’s been mindlessly staring at the doors for the last hour as though her father would appear from beyond it at any minute. Her face is twisted up in an angry scowl that’s been present even when Ahti came to bring her breakfast three hours ago. The woman made no effort to utter a word to Rania, probably because she thinks herself lower than the princess of Zivaria. Not that Rania cares either way. The only other person she’s interacted with beside Ahti is Hasani. He checks on her every few hours as if she’ll spring a prison break while he isn’t looking.
The man has made every effort to teach her about Zivaria and the use of her tail, but after her fallout with King Aharon, Rania is less than receptive to the efforts. No doubt her father isn’t too pleased with her refusals either, but Rania figures that if she has to be angry then so should he. So, she’s been trying to be the biggest pain in the ass to King Aharon with little success. But then when you’re a king, I guess you have to have a lot of patience… She huffs. Granted she’s somewhat angry with her mother as well since she all but wrapped Rania up and shipped her to her father like an unwanted gift.
A knock sounds at her doors, drawing her forth from her musings. She gives no response and after waiting a minute, the doors open. And low and behold, it’s Hasani.
“I hope you’re not here to try and shove another damn history lesson down my throat,” Rania mutters disdainfully as she occupies herself with waving her tail about. Simply watching the way the tail fin flutters back and forth with the gentle current.
Hasani releases a sigh as the doors close behind him, courtesy of the guards stationed there by her father to ensure she doesn’t leave.
Then he smiles helplessly. “I’ve come to free the princess from her lonely metaphorical tower.” Rania snorts with a bit of laughter at the sentence. She is indeed like those fairy tale princesses locked in towers, and King Aharon is the angry dragon keeping her locked up.
She can’t help but ask, “And you’re my knight in shining armor?”
A small genuine smile appears on his face then as he continues the charade. “Indeed. Hearken to me now sweet princess, and I shall spirit you away to a world of wonders.”
At this point she bursts out laughing. “First of all, there ain’t nothin sweet about me! But I’ll play along.” She pauses for a minute to quiet her laughter, a sound that Hasani finds to be much more pleasant than her angry yelling. “So, oh brave knight, where is it you shall be spiriting me away to?” She stands from her bed to come before Hasani with some difficulty.
“I thought you might enjoy the Zivarian bazaar. It’s one of the few places that is still held by the royal family.”
Rania’s ear fins seem to perk up in interest as she stares at Hasani intently. “The bazaar? You mean some kind of marketplace with a bunch of strange things?”
Hasani nods with another smile. “But first we really should take a lesson in swimming, otherwise you won’t be able to get there.”
Rania blows a raspberry as she crosses her arms over her chest and turns away. “I feel like you’re trying to bribe me into a lesson.”
Hasani places a hand over his heart with a small bow. “I would never dream of bribing my Princess!”
Rania narrows her eyes at him. “Is that right? Then why are you sitting over there smirking?”
Hasani says nothing as he lets loose a brief chuckle before offering his arm. “Your Highness.”
“Yeah, yeah. Let’s go,” Rania mutters with a roll of her eyes as she grasps a hold of Hasani’s proffered arm.
“Quick lesson my ass,” Rania grumbles as she follows Hasani to god knows where. “That was a damned hour!”
Hasani chuckles softly. “Language, princess,” he replies in a chiding tone, but Rania simply rolls her eyes exaggeratedly.
“I’ve been talkin like this for too long to be watchin my mouth now. I will say whatever the hell I want! You lied about that being a quick lesson,” she says loudly as some servants happen to glance at her upon hearing her raised voice. She doesn’t care in the least.
Hasani shrugs. “That was quick all things considered. An actual lesson meticulously tailored to your level would be three full days at the least.”
Rania’s eyes widen. “Three what? You know what? I no longer care.” She sighs as she takes a moment to glance around. “Where are we going?”
Hasani glances back at her as he points to a rather luxurious looking building that isn’t quite as large as the rest of the palace.
“And I’m supposed to know what that is?” She questions expectantly with a sarcastic undertone.
“Those are the stables.”
Rania dons a confused expression. “That’s a stable? It looks like one of those rich people houses I see on TV! And what kinda horses are we talkin here? I’ve never ridden a horse!”
Again, he laughs at her and she finds herself bristling at it. “We do not have horses. We have hippocampi.”
But Rania draws a blank. “What the hell is a hippocampi?”
“Hippocampi are half fish and half horse. The singular form is “hippocampus” and they are our main source of transportation under the sea.” Then he adds, “And worry not, for I shall be right beside you the whole time to ensure you do not fall off.”
Rania rolls her eyes. Well that’s reassuring. But she wordlessly follows him along the rest of the way into the building.
As they approach, the scent of some kind of strange thing fills her nose. It’s nothing like she’s ever smelled before, and she briefly muses that it wouldn’t be so out of place in her mother’s shop.
No sooner does she smell it, does she find herself standing in the stables amongst an array of scaly creatures crossed between a fish and a horse.
However, Hasani simply doesn’t stop at any one like she thought he would. He, instead, keeps leading her to the back where the stalls grow a little more luxurious. Stable hands bow as they pass, and Rania is of a mind to question Hasani when she closes her mouth shut.
She finds herself staring into the prettiest dark eyes belonging to a magnificent creature possessed of tiny silver scales. The hippocampus looks smooth and its scales shine brilliantly. It overall bares the appearance of being made of crystal and Rania gapes at it in awe.
Hasani chuckles, effectively breaking her out of her moment of silence. “He is your hippocampus. A gift from the Pharaoh.”
Rania rolls her eyes at this, finally tearing her gaze from the magnificent creature. “What? His way of trying to dampen my anger?” Rania releases a sneer. “He’ll find that such a feat is impossible as time goes on!” Hasani says nothing as he takes to assisting Rania onto the stallion. He nickers softly as he adjusts to the added weight of Rania atop the extravagant saddle he wears.
“What shall you call him?” Hasani asks softly as he adjusts the reins on the stallion’s neck before handing them to Rania.
Rania’s face is thoughtful for a moment. “Hm… I think I’ll call him Ra,” she mutters as her gaze runs over the brightly golden fins of the stallion’s legs, ears and tail. His dorsal fin-mane is of the same color and sits atop his head and neck like the headdress of an Egyptian king.
She briefly strokes the length of Ra’s neck whilst Hasani mounts a mare possessed of a beautiful onyx color with scales that appear quite like Ra’s. Except her mane, or dorsal fin, is flared and more of a turquoise color.
Her temperament seems to be significantly wilder compared to the serene calm of Ra’s visage. Her eyes flash with something untamed, yet for Hasani she acts as little more than a docile kitten.
Rania jolts out of her thoughts at the sudden vibration that rips through her when Ra snorts.
“I…don’t know about this,” she mutters unsurely as she subconsciously grips a little tighter onto the reins. This results in Ra becoming just the slightest bit restless.
Hasani has his hippocampus come up to sidle Ra as he gently places a hand on Rania’s tightly balled fists to ease her grip.
“Gently. He is completely attuned to you now, so if you’re nervous then so is he,” he murmurs softly as Rania loosens her grip a little nervously. “And gripping the reins as tightly as you did only unsettles him more so I would advise caution in the future.”
She nods as her eyes follow Hasani as he moves his mare forward. Ra immediately begins to follow without prompt, surprising Rania in the process at the sudden movement.
Hasani chuckles. “He’s aware that you’re a beginner. So, for the time being he’ll follow Suma.” Hasani gestures to the mare with a gentle stroke of his hand along her neck. She gives a pleased nicker as she eagerly continues forward out of the stables.
Ra keeps close to her side, moving with the knowledge of where he needs to go.
Before long, they clear the palace gates and finally enter the streets of Zivaria. Rania takes the opportunity to look around at everything she can since she didn’t get to the first time.
This part of the city is resplendent in its beauty. Every building is made of a pretty silver marble or some such precious stone. Blue coral adorns each building in intricate designs that almost seem like veins with the way they’re embedded into the buildings. There are people milling about the street, all of varying dark complexions, and ornate in their appearances. Everyone is garbed in pretty cream garments that are trimmed or embroidered with one color or another. The peoples’ tails in Zivaria seem to range from various shades of grey, but she hasn’t seen anyone save her father with a white tail like her own. Each person they pass, slips into a bow as a myriad of eyes observe their every move.
Hasani watches her from the corner of his eyes as he also keeps a lookout for insurgents. Though the chances of them being present here are less than likely given the armored warriors that patrol the streets with spears in hand.
However, there’s no doubt that word has gotten out about the Zivarian princess’s return. And it’s highly likely that at some point in the future, the rebels will attempt to abduct her in order to fulfill their goals.
Rania briefly takes notice of the frown pulling at Hasani’s lips but chooses not to say anything as they continue along through the streets.
“Welcome to the bazaar, Princess,” Hasani says with a soft smile as he gestures to the street filled with shops and people.
Raina’s eyes are as wide as saucers as they dart this way and that to look at everything there is to see.
This area is even more colorful than the rest of the city that she’s seen so far. Every color ever brought into existence can be found here from various shades of pink to an array of greens. The best word to explain the scene would be nothing short of exotic, and Rania finds herself already browsing through the various trinkets and accessories lining every shop keep.
Ra seems perfectly content to glide by the stalls at his rider’s leisure, only taking interest when some fruits catch his eye.
Hasani keeps Suma behind Ra at a slightly slower pace as he watches the rapidly changing expressions on Rania’s face.
To say that he’s pleased would be an understatement. For in all the time that he’s known the princess, she has not once smiled or laughed in his presence. But now, she looks about the bizarre with a gleeful smile on her face as she indulges in childlike curiosity. Her laughter is infectious when she watches the display put on by the passing entertainers.
He finds himself emitting a sigh. At last, she’s finally found some semblance of relaxation. A sort of peace that will remain only until they return to the palace and she’s confronted with her father once more.
For now, he simply indulges her. Producing a coin purse and purchasing whatever it is she expresses a desire for.
And yet, in the shadows of the bazaar lurk unseen forces. Forces that watch the Princess Naunet with singular intent.
But Zivaria’s princess continues on, blissfully unaware of the dangers lurking around her…