The camel was much slower than her stallion so it took four days to reach the outskirts of Pyropolis. The sand gradually turned to rocks and then solid ground. Helen saw more and more palm trees as she reached the end of the desert and trampled tufts of yellow grass. It was mid morning when she arrived but already blisteringly hot. At the edge of the border of the city was a stable where she traded her camel for a white mare.
“Two thousand rand,” said the owner of the stable, furiously writing a slip of payment. “we will trade you back a camel when you bring back the horse and then we will return the thousand rand deposit.”
It seemed a bit expensive but she was not in a mood to haggle. She had used up most of her supplies and left almost all of her belongings at the stable. She only took her curved blade with her. She rode through the slums and into the town. As she passed houses, streets and shops people stared at her and assumed from her clothing that she was a stranger from the desert. The markets she passed were loud and busy despite the heat. She had been in the desert for over a year, and now the people and buildings Pyropolis seemed familiar but also foreign. Helen drank the last of her water as she reached the outer palace walls. The sun had now reached its highest point.
“Hey! What is you business here?” shouted the guards but she ignored them and passed through the gates into the palace. She ignored all the guards and rode to the palace stables and left the horse in one of the empty quarters. She walked passed the fountains and gardens and entered the palace through the front entrance. The servants and guards looked horrified as a dirty, dusty desert person walked through the immaculate palace halls and corridors.
“You!” shouted a tall guard, and grabbed Helen’s arm tightly. “What do you think you are doing here?” he shouted spraying spit everywhere.
“Don’t touch me,” growled Helen with the fury of a man eating tiger. The guard immediately let go. “Princess Helen?” whimpered the guard backing away.
“Tell my brother I have arrived. Tell the servants to draw me a bath and prepare my clothing.” Helen glared at the guard and continued to walk to her room.