Despite their doubts and frustrations the traders and their cargo safely arrived at the oasis a few days late. ‘We had trouble gathering supplies’ ‘we got lost along the way’ ‘our horses got sick’ claimed the traders trying to justify their lateness. Fortunately the leader of the scouts had other things on their mind and only replied to the excuses with an icy glared. Once everything had been settled Helen began to pack her things and ready a camel for the trek across the desert. The chief of the oasis met Helen as she was giving detailed instructions to the stable hand on how to correctly care for her horse. She was surprised to see him as the chief despised the scorching afternoon sun and preferred to stay in the tents until evening. As he approached her she saw the crumbs on his beard and smelled the thick smoke that clung to his clothing but made no acknowledgement of him nor his appearance.
“when are you leaving Helen?”
“Soon, I should at least go back for my brother’s funeral.”
“Before you go, there is something I need to tell you.”
“well what is it?” demanded Helen. She was always very abrupt with everyone and was often very rude to people she liked and trusted and to people she disliked.
“I know you do not want to involve yourself in the politics of your kingdom but I would advice you to tell your father and the court to keep your brother’s death a secret for as long as possible. Any weakness and instability will make your kingdom a target.”
“And why is that?”
“The kingdoms surrounding the desert are rather volatile at the moment. In the Habi to the south the aging king has yet to choose an heir from his sons and they are all itching to spread their country borders or to start a war to prove themselves. The sunken city east of Apophis has been eyeing the oasis and has been expanding their military. If they control the oasis they control trade and travel in the desert. I have no intention of picking sides or making enemies. As long as you can maintain the facade of a strong leadership Habi and the sunken city will not risk starting a war soon. But war is imminent, maybe not now but in a year or two surely.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“This oasis cannot handle another war. We need more time and unfortunately it was Castor that was the likable, trusted diplomat, if he is gone your proud brother and stubborn father will not hesitate to jump into battle.”
“I have no intention of taking my brother’s place.”
“Please Helen. You are the only one who can stop it now. The people of the oasis need you, I need you.”