Chapter 21

King Anou had the ships ready by the tenth day of Solil and they departed the following day. Fortunately, the trip across the sea from Panei was uneventful and King Belgrave was thankful for the calm weather and the lack of na’karden sightings. Commander Sidrahkir explained that the summer months were the best time for sailing. Despite having faster ships than before, the journey still took almost a month since they were traveling against the wind.

Hayve was a small land with a climate similar to that of Tanarad. Patches of forest and grasslands covered the land to the east and several mountains were to the west. One of the mountains was much higher than the others and Commander Sidrahkir said that it was Mount Chozea, the highest mountain in the world. The snow and ice covered summit of Mount Chozea rose higher than the clouds. Belgrave decided the mountain would be a good place to search for the first of the three rings. However, they would first have to set up a base camp and replenish their food supplies.

While waiting for the soldiers to unload provisions from the ships, King Belgrave stood pondering the things that had happened since his arrival in that world. So much had happened that he was beginning to feel he belonged there.

King Belgrave’s thoughts were distracted as someone tapped his shoulder. He turned and found Commander Sidrahkir. “King Belgrave, where do you want us to set up our camp?” the Commander asked.

King Belgrave looked around. “It looks as if Captain Haloz has already found a good location,” he replied, pointed to a group of tents along the side of a forest. “Those trees will provide a good windbreak if the weather turns against us. However, don’t get too comfortable. I want to be able to break camp and move at a moment’s notice.” Commander Sidrahkir nodded and began to give orders to the soldiers.

Belgrave walked around the area. He had begun to develop an interest in the flora and fauna of Nebulum since it was so similar yet so different from that in his own world. The trees of Hayve had three pronged leaves that almost looked like maple except that the edges were smooth instead of jagged. Soft grass grew on the ground between the trees. It would be easy to travel here compared to the thick weeds they had braved at the Dark Forest.

By the following day, they had stowed the ships high on the beach and then moved inland to find a better location for the camp. They found a large open field after marching several hours. As usual, the Red Exemplars were finished long before the rest of the soldiers. What surprised King Belgrave was that the Red Exemplars then dispersed and began to help the others. King Belgrave smiled. They were beginning to mingle and associate with the others.

Shortly after the camp had been set up, Captain Haloz approached King Belgrave along with a mixed group of Red Exemplars and regular soldiers. “King Belgrave, we would be honored if you would join us hunting” the Captain said.

King Belgrave crossed his arms. “Either some of these soldiers aren’t Red Exemplars or today is armband optional day!”

“You know us well,” Captain Haloz laughed, “but they are not Red Exemplars. I see no reasons not to associate with any who are sharing our fate.”

“Very well, Captain, I will join you,” King Belgrave replied.

“We plan to walk through the forests. The soldiers will spread into two wings to flush any animals into the middle where we can kill them.” He handed King Belgrave a bow and a quiver full of arrows. “I hope you know how to use these.”

“Don’t worry about that,” King Belgrave replied. “Commander Sidrahkir has made sure that I know how to use any weapon I can lay my hands on.”

They walked through the forest in silence. Finally, Captain Haloz tugged King Belgrave’s arm and pointed ahead of them. “Two female ticits,” he whispered. “It’s the dark stripes on the back that tells them apart from the males.”

King Belgrave peered through the trees. Sure enough, there were two deer-like animals with dark stripes running the length of their backs. “One for me and one for you,” he told Captain Haloz. He knelt down and fit an arrow to his bowstring.

Captain Haloz also readied his bow. “Wait for them to come closer so we do not miss,” he advised.

The ticits continued to move toward them. They were frightened by the lines of soldiers on either side and they did not notice King Belgrave and Captain Haloz waiting for them. After the two small deer had been killed, several soldiers stayed behind to clean the two animals and take the meat back to camp. The rest continued to search for more.

They came to another grassy field as the sun was beginning to set and the sky was darkening. A large dog stood facing them in the center of the field. It glanced around nervously as if it knew what was happening, but it did not move from its location. As before with the ticits, King Belgrave knelt down and prepared to shoot the animal.

Captain Haloz gasped when he saw what King Belgrave was doing. He tore the bow from King Belgrave’s hands and tossed it to the side. “Never kill a dog,” he warned. “It would be an act of war in this land!”

King Belgrave stood up and looked at the dog. It looked at him before raising its head and giving a few loud barks. Several others answered from deep inside the forest. It then turned and ran away.

“I think I’ve had enough hunting for today,” King Belgrave said. He retrieved his bow. “The two ticits should provide enough meat for tonight’s meal.”

“I will take you back to the camp,” Captain Haloz replied. “The soldiers continue until we have enough meat for several days.”

When they returned to the camp, they could smell the scent of the cooking dinner. The fresh meat was a very welcome meal after the preserved food they had eaten aboard the ships.

The next morning, Commander Sidrahkir awakened King Belgrave. “Emissaries of the Canari have come to speak with you.”

King Belgrave rose from his blanket and put on his armor. “Are they here to ask for my assistance in removing Barbidons from their lands?” he asked.

Commander Sidrahkir laughed and shook his head. “They are not at all what you would expect. Come outside and see them for yourself.”

King Belgrave stepped out of the tent. The sun had not quite peeked above the horizon and a cool breeze was blowing. Three dogs stood in front of his tent. The large dog in the middle briefly bowed its head and then looked King Belgrave in the eye.

“I am Rexorg,” the dog said. King Belgrave flinched in surprise as the dog spoke. “I come on behalf of Vaersheena, queen of the Canari. Our queen wishes to know what purpose an army of men has in our lands, for if you are bent on conquest, you bring far too few soldiers.”

“My only enemies are those who serve the Dark Wizard,” King Belgrave replied. “Even so, I have not come to this land in search of combat, but am searching to fulfill prophecy.” He held out his sword so the dogs could see the markings on the handle. “Tell your queen that I am King Belgrave. The king has returned and the sword has been found. The three rings must be combined so I am here to begin my search for a sun and two moons.”

Rexorg bowed again. “Then you are welcome in our lands. It is known among us that the silver moon you seek is located on the highest spire of Mount Chozea. You may travel across our lands, and if you meet with success upon the mountain, travel toward the north and you will find our lair. I will inform the Queen that the prophecies are nearing completion.”

King Belgrave bowed to the dogs. “Tell your queen that I am grateful for your assistance and that I wish her many pups.” The dogs bowed their heads once more before turning and trotting out of the camp.

“I don’t think that last part about the many pups was necessary,” Commander Sidrahkir whispered to King Belgrave. “We don’t know their customs so I wouldn’t advise saying anything more than needed.”

“Don’t worry,” King Belgrave replied. “I’m sure they will understand my good intentions.”