On the fifth day after Belgrave and Naiya’Nal left Rayoj, they mounted their horses and began to ride to Amehtana. It was a cold cloudy day with a light drizzle. Along the road, outside the city, Commander Sidrahkir was waiting for them with Tytane. The Commander greeted them and bowed as King Belgrave and Naiya’Nal slowly rode past. They then followed behind them. Tytane unfurled the white flag with the two dragons.
“The people know their king is coming, but do not know when,” Commander Sidrahkir said. “Colonel Balvain told me you would be coming today. Tytane and I are here to escort you and alert the city when we draw near.”
“What are the people doing?” Belgrave asked.
“The five brothers have assembled as you requested and are leading the people in an effort to make the city worthy of the returning king. A temporary palace has already been built, but the real palace is still under construction.” The Commander paused. “The Barbidons are extremely helpful and construction is much faster than expected.”
“You’ve definitely been busy in my absence,” Belgrave said. “How much resistance did you find among the Barbidons when you liberated this portion of Tanarad?”
“I believe someone managed to spread the word before we arrived at any of the cities,” the Commander replied. “Everywhere we went the Barbidons had already given up and were waiting for us to arrive.”
“Then I think someone went ahead of us both,” King Belgrave said. “We almost had a fight at Norl, but everywhere else they were waiting to surrender. Do you know who it could have been?”
“I could guess, but I cannot say for sure,” Commander Sidrahkir answered. “It could have been a few Barbidons that managed to escape from battle, or it could have been anyone from the five brothers to the Red Exemplars. I doubt that we will ever know who it was, but I am thankful that they did what they did to save so many lives.”
A horn sounded in the city as they neared the gate. The call was going out to tell the people their king was approaching. “The people will stop their work to watch as you pass by,” the Commander said. “We will stay on this road; it leads straight to the palace.”
“Am I expected to give a speech?” King Belgrave asked.
“I have told them that you will need rest when you arrive and that you will talk to them on a later day. If you want, you may wave at them as you pass by.”
“I cannot come this way,” Naiya’Nal suddenly said.
“What do you mean?” Belgrave asked.
“Politics,” Naiya’Nal explained. “The people know you are their king, but they do not know they have a queen. If you are not going to announce it to them today, then it would not be a good idea for me to be seen.” Belgrave tried to interrupt her, but she continued. “Let today be your day. I will enter secretly and you can announce me to the people on another day.” She turned her horse and galloped away before Belgrave could argue.
“So, it is official then?” Sidrahkir asked, watching Naiya’Nal disappear into the distance.
“Official or not,” Belgrave answered, “the final words of Jun Joon pronounced us King and Queen and saviors of this world. He passed away two days ago.”
“Then it was his smoke that we saw pass from the Torudo River into the Bay of Anamnesis,” Sidrahkir replied. “At the time, we did not know who it was, but we did know it was someone of great importance. He now rests in Atalan.”
As they passed through the gates of Amehtana, the people cheered and waved. King Belgrave and Commander Sidrahkir waved back. Belgrave noticed how different the city looked compared to the other villages and cities he had seen. Unlike the others he had visited, most of Amehtana was built with white rock. He had no doubt that it was the largest city in Tanarad and the best choice for a capital.
The temporary palace was just a wooden structure to one side of the road, but Belgrave could see a massive structure under construction between the end of the road and the Bay of Anamnesis. “How long will it take for them to finish building the palace?” he asked.
“The help from the Barbidons will probably speed up construction,” Commander Sidrahkir replied, “so it should be completed by the end of next month. When it is done, we will hold a coronation ceremony for you.”
Several soldiers stood outside the temporary palace and bowed when King Belgrave dismounted from his horse. The first stepped forward to greet the king. “Welcome to Tanarad, King Belgrave. I am Thag, and these are my brothers Theg, Thig, Thog, and Thug. We are yours to command.”
“I have heard great things about the five of you,” King Belgrave replied. “I am honored to finally meet you all.” He glanced at the structure behind them. “We should go inside. There is much to discuss.”
There was a large room inside, with a table in the center, and a throne at the far end. A hallway at the back of the room led to several smaller rooms in the back of the structure. Commander Sidrahkir gave them a quick tour of the building.
When they finally sat down at the table, King Belgrave remained standing. “I am sure you are wondering why I demanded that you meet me here in Amehtana,” he said.
Thig spoke up. “The question has crossed our minds, but speculation and rumors are for the common people. We will humbly accept whatever purpose you may have for us.”
“I actually have a difficult task for the five of you,” King Belgrave replied. “As king of Tanarad, it is my duty to rule this country. However, I have only been a king for about a month now, and know little about leading a country. I have been informed that Tanarad has already been divided into five regions and I want each region to have its own governor.” Commander Sidrahkir unrolled a map on the table.
King Belgrave looked around at the five brothers and continued. “With the advice of Commander Sidrahkir and Neaji of Gorraf, I have decided to appoint the five of you to be governors over the five regions. Thag is to be governor of Gadella. Theg is to be governor of Otopo. Thig is to be governor of Wekined. Thog is to be governor of Duhobrek. Thug is to be governor of Heroabe. As governors, you are to appoint a regional council to assist you with regional affairs. Cities and villages within your region will also be free to create their own local governments to deal with more localized affairs.”
“This is more than we had expected,” Thog said, “but we will live up to your expectations.”
King Belgrave smiled and continued. “While this leaves the regions in capable hands, it still leaves me as an inexperienced king in charge of a country that is still new to me. I want each region to appoint one person to serve on my own personal council to advise me in matters concerning Tanarad as a whole.”
“How soon must we have our regions choose this person?” Theg asked.
“If possible, I want these men to be here in Amehtana within a month,” King Belgrave replied. “The five of you now have many duties and I do not want to keep you from them. I am confident that you will perform above my expectations and I look forward to rewarding your abilities.” The five brothers then bowed and left the building.
Commander Sidrahkir had some food brought in and he and Belgrave spent most of the afternoon sitting at the table and discussing various things.
Belgrave was wondering when Naiya’Nal would arrive when he heard her soft voice behind him. She had come in through the back of the building. “How did you get through the city undetected?” he asked.
“I can remain hidden if necessary,” she replied. “It is just another of my abilities.”
“Commander Sidrahkir has told me that the palace will be completed by the end of next month and that is when they will hold my coronation ceremony,” Belgrave told her. “I think that would be a good time to announce that you are my queen.”
“That would be a good time,” she replied. “Is all of Tanarad invited?”
“They will be,” Belgrave replied. “I promised the citizens of Eema that one day I would host a feast for all of Tanarad. I feel this occasion is a good enough justification for such an event.”
She smiled and ran her fingers through his hair. “I will remain hidden from the people until then.” She then left and went into one of the back rooms.
The light drizzle continued for the next few days and Naiya’Nal told Belgrave that autumn had begun.
Despite the poor weather, construction on the palace continued at a rapid pace and soon Belgrave could see how it would look when completed. The front of the palace had a wide set of stairs leading up to the wide-open throne room.
The throne room was rectangular, twice as long as it was wide, and open at the two far ends. One end faced the Bay of Anamnesis and the other faced the city. On hot days, the open ends would allow the breeze to flow unimpeded, but on cool days, both ends would be closed by four large white banners that hung down from the ceiling and could either spin on a vertical axis or roll up to make an opening.
There was an elevated platform in the center of the throne room for the thrones. There was a table surrounded by chairs in front of the thrones. It was to be used for advisors and guests. Another set of stairs leading down into the bay was at the back of the throne room. Several stone docks would allow ships to dock.
The two closed sides of the throne room were lined with twelve pillars and five rectangular pits. In the summer, the pits would be filled with water, but in the winter they would hold fires to provide heat. Between each of the pits, doors opened into hallways that led to other rooms of the palace. These other rooms were completely enclosed, but still had enough windows to provide the necessary light.
A tower above the throne room was the final section of the palace. It was from the top of this tower that the flag of Tanarad would fly.
Three weeks after King Belgrave had given the five brothers their instructions, the first members of King Belgrave’s new council began to arrive. Neaji came from Gadella. Belgrave did not know how Neaji had managed to convince the entire region to elect him and wondered what strings he must have pulled, but he did not question it. The next day, Rodroz arrived from Heroabe. Two days later, Kylaren and Saman arrived from Otopo and Duhobrek. Three days after that, Eukil arrived from Wekined. When they had all arrived, King Belgrave called them together for their first meeting. It was mostly to bring them together and inform them of how they would be helping him.
Several days before the ceremony when Belgrave was to be crowned, Naiya’Nal’s armor caught his attention. She had her black armor sitting to one side of the room and he noticed how crude and dull it looked. The overall design of the armor was impressive, but the metal was old and bent. Even though she claimed to have made it herself, Belgrave did not think it looked acceptable next to his. He decided to have a new suit crafted for her and went looking for the Commander to ask how to go about it.
King Belgrave found Sidrahkir outside the temporary palace. He stopped talking to the guards and saluted when he saw Belgrave. “What do you need?” he asked.
“I have an idea I need help with,” Belgrave explained. They walked towards the almost-completed palace. “My armor is bright and shiny, but Naiya’Nal’s armor looks old and well used. The black goes well with her purple robes and the design is well planned, but her armor is not as nice as mine. Would it be possible for the smiths that forged my armor to forge armor with the same color and design she currently has, but also as smooth and polished as mine?”
“It can be done,” Sidrahkir replied. “However, you will need to give them her current armor so they can get her measurements and duplicate her design.”
“So it is possible for them to make blackened armor as smooth and shiny as mine?” Belgrave asked.
The Commander laughed. “You are underestimating the skills of our smiths,” he said. “They made your suit in a day and can do the same with hers. By the time they’re done, I’d expect her suit would be complimentary to yours so you look like you belong side by side.”
Belgrave liked the idea. “Get the smiths and let me know when they are ready to forge the armor. Then I will distract Naiya’Nal by taking her sailing through the ruins of Atalan. Also, be quick about it. I want us to wear our armor during the ceremony.”
Sidrahkir bowed. “It will be done,” he promised. “The smiths will probably be here by tomorrow evening. I will have a building set aside for them to work in.” He turned and gave a set of orders to a soldier who went to carry them out.
They walked through the new palace watching the construction. It was almost finished and the workers were now attending to the small details. “They are on schedule,” the Commander noted. “The palace will be finished tomorrow and then they will clean up all the debris left over from their work.”
“Then we can still have the ceremony as planned on the thirtieth day of Soldes,” King Belgrave replied. “Did you send out messengers inviting all Tanarad?”
“They went out so long ago that people are already beginning to arrive,” Sidrahkir replied. “Soon Amehtana will be noticeably more crowded.”
The next day, the smiths arrived from Gorraf. They spent the evening setting up their equipment in the building that Commander Sidrahkir had provided for them.
The following morning, only a day before the ceremony, Belgrave and Naiya’Nal went sailing on the Bay of Anamnesis. The day was sunny and a cool breeze blew across the bay.
When they had reached the ruins of Atalan, Naiya’Nal suggested that they swim among the ruins since the water was still warm from summer. She removed her robe and dived into the bay. Belgrave followed her. The water was warm and refreshing. It was seawater, but it was not salty enough to sting the eyes. The ruins were even clearer now that they did not have to look through the ripples on the surface.
The ruins of Atalan stretched as far as they could see underwater. Belgrave was not much of a swimmer, but he could hold his breath long enough for Naiya’Nal to point out things that might interest him. Most of the ancient buildings had collapsed completely, but there were a few with almost no damage. Most of the artifacts of value had already been salvaged many years before, but Belgrave swam down when he saw a small item of interest; an item he had not yet seen in Nebulum, but would have expected it to be very common. He picked up the item and swam back to the surface to hand it to Naiya’Nal. “Have you ever seen one of these?” he asked her.
She examined the item. It looked like a rod, but one end was a widened section that split into four prongs. “I have never seen one of these,” she finally stated.
“I find it odd that I have not yet seen one of these in this world since they are so common in my own world,” Belgrave replied. “It is a dinner fork and we use them for eating. If you remind me when we get back, I will see if we can get some made for us.”
“I have been in a few lands where people use something similar,” she said. “However, they only had two prongs instead of four.”
They swam further into the ruins. Eventually they came to an area where several ancient pillars stuck above the surface of the bay. Naiya’Nal pulled Belgrave under the water and pointed at a large flat area with pillars on either side. At one end was a large stone chair. Belgrave instantly recognized it as the throne of the great kings who had ruled Atalan and led the world so long ago. As they swam closer, Belgrave could see the names of the kings carved into the lengthy staircase leading up to the throne. Only three remained readable: Derkias, Nomolo, and Solihas. Belgrave looked at the throne until he had to surface for air. Here was his history; the names of the great kings carved in the stone were the names of his ancestors.
Eventually, Belgrave decided to return to the boat. He was tired of swimming and wanted to rest. They dried off and ate sandwiches before they began to sail back to shore. “How big are ships in your world?” Belgrave asked.
“Most ships are small, but I have seen some large ones,” Naiya’Nal explained. “Before Narva finished capturing Panei, there were ships from that land that could carry a hundred soldiers in addition to the rowers. Barbidon ships are similar in size, but they only carry seventy-five Barbidons total.”
Belgrave laughed. “Why so small? My world also has small boats, but we also have ships that can hold thousands of men and enough supplies to remain at sea for several years.”
“How do they make them so big?” Naiya’Nal wondered.
“They are made of metal,” Belgrave explained. “They use massive machines to move, but they can still cruise faster than a horse can gallop.”
“Your world is filled with wonders!” Naiya’Nal exclaimed.
“Perhaps I will take you on a ship if we return to my world,” Belgrave added.
The sun was going down as they returned to shore. Belgrave claimed he needed to take care of a few things before the ceremony and left Naiya’Nal at the temporary palace. Belgrave then went looking for Commander Sidrahkir.
The Commander was just down the street. “How is the armor coming along?” King Belgrave asked.
“You really should come see it,” Commander Sidrahkir replied, leading him to the building where the smiths were working. It was hot inside the building and King Belgrave could see the smiths at the far end of the room. They stopped their work and bowed as he came near.
Naiya’Nal’s new armor was being polished and looked much better than what she had been wearing. “She will wear the armor tomorrow for the ceremony. I want it outside our room by morning,” King Belgrave commanded. He thanked the smiths and stepped back out into the cool night. “Tomorrow will be a big day,” he said to Commander Sidrahkir. “Has everything been prepared for the feast?”
“You do not need to question what I have done,” the Commander replied. “I have ensured that everything will be perfect for tomorrow. Thag will be the one to crown you King of Tanarad in front of all the people. I will then mention the need for a queen. That will be your cue to announce that Naiya’Nal is your queen. We have a small tiara for her. You will then sit on the throne and the people will be allowed to file through the palace to pay their respects. Everything will work out unless you aren’t there.”
“I am glad to have you serving me,” King Belgrave replied. “I would not know what to do without you.”
“I am honored to serve you,” Commander Sidrahkir replied. “You should get some rest for tomorrow.”
Belgrave made his way back to the temporary palace. It would be the last night that they would spend there. Naiya’Nal met him at the door. “Where is my armor?” she asked.
Belgrave almost told her about the new suit, but he managed to come up with a quick excuse. “It looked dirty so I told Commander Sidrahkir to have it polished for tomorrow’s ceremony. It will be waiting outside the room in the morning.” he led her into the room. “We need to get some rest before tomorrow.”