Chapter 28

Belgrave stood among the ruins of Dezhothokh’s farm and looked down into the icy hole. He could not forget about the many lives that he had just ended. The day had gone from bad to worse, and the magnitude of the ruin caused by his search for the second ring made him nauseous. He dropped to his knees. A moment later, he watched the former contents of his stomach spatter and freeze on the ice below.

Naiya’Nal knelt beside him and put her hand on his shoulder. “Belgrave, what’s wrong?”

He tried to spit the taste from his mouth and choked back some tears. “I hate prophecy!” he sniffed.

Naiya’Nal looked up at Commander Sidrahkir, Captain Haloz and the other soldiers standing around. “The king needs some privacy,” she said. Captain Haloz turned and led the other soldiers away.

Naiya’Nal looked back at Belgrave. “Did you not hear anything Dezhothokh said? Prophecy is not just about a war between the light and dark Lunari; prophecy is part of something greater. We cannot know the reasons behind everything that happens.”

Belgrave leaned forward again, but there was nothing left in his stomach. Naiya’Nal placed her hand on his forehead. “You have a fever,” she stated. “I would try to heal you, but I don’t think there is magic for that.” She pulled him away from the hole and took off his helmet.

“Will he be alright?” Commander Sidrahkir asked.

Naiya’Nal looked up at the Commander and he could see the worried look on her face. “It has been a long day,” she said. “Belgrave has been awake since the attack before dawn and the events of today have been very hard on him. I fear that it may take several days for him to recover.”

The Commander knelt down beside King Belgrave. “We cannot change what has already happened. We just need to learn to overcome the difficulties.”

King Belgrave shook his head. “No! All that prophecy has done is force me to kill more and more people. Nothing good has come of any prophecies that I have fulfilled.” He tried to sit up, but they held him down.

Commander Sidrahkir looked up at Naiya’Nal. “He needs some rest, even if we have to tie him to a bed.”

Belgrave groaned and rolled over. “I don’t need rest. I need to get out of here!”

Commander Sidrahkir held him down again. “I’m sorry, King Belgrave, but you are sick and tired. You badly need to rest.”

“I shouldn’t be here!” Belgrave shouted. He tried to struggle from the Commander’s grasp. “This isn’t my world and no prophecy should make me have to murder people. I hate this place!”

“Be quiet Belgrave,” Naiya’Nal hissed. “You’re acting like a child. Do you want us to treat you as one?” She looked up at Commander Sidrahkir. “I’d hate to have to resort to using magic on him.”

“I’m not fulfilling any more prophecies,” Belgrave declared.

“Do you want to listen to this all night?” the Commander asked Naiya’Nal.

She sighed. “Hold him tight,” she ordered. The Commander held Belgrave as she placed her hands on his head. Moments later, Belgrave was asleep. “I hope I did that right,” she stated.

“Even if you did do it wrong, do you think it would kill him?” the Commander asked. “After all, he is supposed to fulfill the final prophecies.”

She shook her head. “I hope you’re right. The last time I attempted this magic on myself, it gave me horrible hallucinations. That was the same time that I met Dezhothokh a year ago.”

Commander Sidrahkir stood up. “Well, now that he’s calm, let’s get him onto a bed instead of leaving him laying out here in the open. I’ll have a tent erected a short distance from the rest of the camp to provide some privacy until he recovers.” She stood up and helped him carry the body.


The sudden bright light was blinding for Belgrave. The air around him, and the surface on which he lay, also changed. It was similar to the change that he had experienced between Earth and Nebulum, but more instant and without any transition. He slowly rose to his knees and tried to stand. He groped about, completely unable to see in the blinding white. His mood slightly changed as he tried to make sense of what was happening.

A strong arm pushed him back to his knees. “You will bow before the King’s servant,” a low voice adamantly ordered.

Belgrave tried unsuccessfully to resist the unseen being. “I do not bow to servants of kings,” Belgrave growled, “especially when I cannot see who I am bowing too. Where am I?”

“Release him,” another voice ordered. “He too is a servant of the King.”

Belgrave felt the arm let go of him and he stood up again. “I am a king, not a servant of a king,” he corrected.

“Welcome to Ka,” the second voice greeted. “I am Khegoth, leader of all the Lunari at this time. We are both rulers of our people, but we are also servants of the King, the one King who has created all things in all worlds. You wear the white robe worn by all of his servants. In time, your eyes may adjust to the light of our world so that you may see these things for yourself.”

Belgrave shook his head. “I thought Ka had been destroyed thousands of years ago,” he said.

“Ka was destroyed long before your lifetime,” Khegoth explained, “but now you are on Ka long before your lifetime. You are visiting your past from our future through the effects of an obscure magic that is permitted in the world you came from. You are not the first to visit us through this magic.”

“Why should I trust you?” Belgrave asked. “If I haven’t been born yet, then you seem to know much more about me than you should be able to know.”

“I am sorry,” Khegoth said, “We are completely different beings from you and I did not explain in a manner you would have understood. You are not fully here. Your physical self remains in the time and place where it belongs, but your light, what you would call a shadow of yourself, is the part of you that has come to this place. Your light contains the essence of everything that you have ever experienced, everything you have heard and seen, and even some things that may not yet have happened. That is how I can know so much about you. I know that it must make you feel vulnerable, but there is almost nothing that you can hide from us.”

Belgrave was silent for a moment before he responded. “How do you know that your world will be destroyed if everyone who comes back here like me did not experience its destruction?”

“You are different from the others,” Khegoth answered. “The others had only heard about the destruction. However, you are different from the others. You are here with experiences from four worlds. You were born on the first world, sent to the second, given memories from one of the Lunari about the destruction of the third, and recently visited and destroyed the fourth. Before you came, I found it difficult to believe the warnings seen in the others, but now I find it difficult to speak of the proof that you bring. The light of a Lunari that survived the destruction of my world has left a mark upon you and I can see the day and the hour when my world will be destroyed.”

Belgrave lowered his head. “I am sorry that I had to bring you the bad news.”

“No,” Khegoth replied. “You may bring bad news for my world, but you also bring good news. I can see in you that the end of this war is near. We are no longer fighting for an uncertain future, but for the victory that we can see in your future.”

Belgrave frowned and shook his head. “I do not want to cause the loss of innocent lives. I have already seen my actions to end your war kill too many people. I refuse to be the reason for anyone else’s death.”

There was a brief silence before Khegoth replied. “I do not blame you for how you feel concerning the position in which you have been placed, but I assure you, all worlds were meant to end at a specific time for a specific purpose, and these reasons may be beyond our understanding. I know it does not change what you have done, but it may be easier to live with destroying a world by learning that you were the final judgment sent by the Creator against a world that rejected his authority.” Khegoth paused. “Is the light still too bright for your eyes?” he asked.

“Yes,” Belgrave nodded.

“Then I will take you to a dimmer area,” the Lunari said. “Hold out your hand and I will lead you. The way is flat and you will not stumble.”

Belgrave held out his hand and was soon following Khegoth through the blinding white. Soon Khegoth had him hold tight to a pole as the floor beneath him began to accelerate. “Where are we going?” he yelled over the rush of the wind.

“You cannot see light without dark and you cannot see dark without light,” was the reply. “We are going to the border; a place where both light and dark mingles; a place where you will see firsthand the war that you will end.”

The light was beginning to dim and Belgrave could start to make out the bright silhouettes of several figures standing around him. They were on a flying platform that seemed to be made of light and all of them held a tube that also seemed to be made of light. Behind them, the sun was beginning to take shape as the sky around it seemed to dim. “How do you know that the enemy wouldn’t try to kill me and change the future?” Belgrave asked.

“They may very well try,” Khegoth answered. “However, I doubt that they would be successful. Unlike us, you are a dual creation. They would have to kill your body before they could kill your light.”

“Then I am invincible,” Belgrave said. “My body is safe on another world.”

“Due to the nature of travel between worlds, that may or may not be true,” Khegoth said. “You and I can only be taken between worlds; we cannot travel between them alone. To us, the time in the destination world will always seem to be a natural progression from the time in the world we left whether it truly is that way or not. However, for the Creator and the beings that he created capable of traveling between worlds, the time between worlds may or may not coincide.”

“Like a timeline of timelines?” Belgrave asked.

“That would be the easiest way to describe it, but the nature of existence really isn’t quite so linear and it is impossible to fully describe or understand,” Khegoth said. “Ultimately, your safety here depends on the deceiver Vygoth not knowing to look for your body.”

“I’m going to hope that you’re right about that,” Belgrave replied. He sat watching the world pass beneath him before he asked another question. “You said that I was a dual creation and you are not,” he began. “If that is true, then how did one of the Lunari that I met separate his light from his body?”

“I cannot know,” Khegoth answered. “On Ka there is light and darkness. On Nebulum there is light and darkness and form. I am sure that those who survive the destruction of my world will study such things when they are there.”

The further they flew, the more the ground began to darken and become more visible. Soon Belgrave could see large groups of light Lunari marching across the expansive lands toward the quickly darkening horizon. Other flying platforms were also moving in the sky around them. “What are you expecting me to see at the battle?” he asked.

“A world destroyed, a world created. I expect you to see why you must continue to strive for victory against the enemy. I also expect the enemy to single you out while we are there.” Khegoth handed Belgrave one of the tubes. “This is your weapon. All you need to do is point it at the enemy and it will emit a beam of light to kill them. However, you must take care to get past their shields. Only a direct illumination of their darkness will meet with success.”

“I thought you said that I would be well protected,” Belgrave reminded the Lunari.

“While several have come from other worlds, only once was there a short ceasefire because of it,” Khegoth explained. “That was about a year ago when a future individual similar to you was discovered between the two sides on the battlefield. It was evident that, should she live, her actions would ultimately determine the victor of this war. We healed her during the short truce, and both sides hoped that she would choose to join them. Interestingly, you bear signs of interaction with her, but the full extent and purpose remains hidden.”

“I have heard of this before from a Lunari named Dezhothokh,” Belgrave said. “The woman informed him that her decision had already been made. As for her interactions with me, she is my...”

“I do not need to know,” Khegoth interrupted. “There is a reason why parts of your light remain hidden from us. Our war is not only light against shadow. This war is greater than my world. This war encompasses all worlds ever created. Among the created are those who have declared themselves greater than the Creator and seek to destroy all creation. It is against these that the Creator battles against in all worlds. Regardless of the magnitude of the war in my world, this is only another battle of the real war. Our hope is that the Creator will eventually reveal his perfect plan for victory. Despite the coming destruction of our world, your arrival shows that we do not have much longer to wait. You have renewed our hope.”

“But there are thousands of years between the time when your world ends and the time when I live,” Belgrave said.

“A few tens of centuries are nothing when compared to the twenty-seven thousand centuries of war that we have known.”

Several of the other Lunari suddenly pointed their tubes toward something below the platform and Belgrave could see several other flying platforms suddenly dive down and shoot beams of light at something just out of sight. Two beams of shadow flew into the sky and dissipated in the light. “Get down,” Khegoth ordered, pushing Belgrave to the floor of the platform. “We have entered contested territory.”

Belgrave knelt on the floor, holding the pole with one hand and his light tube in the other. “Why do I have a feeling that you hiding something from me?”

There was chuckle from one of the Lunari behind him. “I find it interesting that this is the first time that I have met you, but you have already seen and killed me.”

“Dezhothokh?” Belgrave asked, turning around as he recognized the voice.

“The one and only,” the Lunari answered. “Look around while you still can. Some of us around you now will be among those who survive the destruction of our world. We are taking you with us as we gather the others.”

The platform suddenly swerved and tilted to the left as a spattering of shadow shots strafed across the front of the platform and killed the pilots. Khegoth stumbled past Belgrave and fell off the side with a yell. Belgrave held on tight, but still managed to get a good look at the ground far below. It was a chaotic mess of light and dark soldiers fighting in desperate combat. When killed, the light or darkness of the Lunari dissipated into nothing.

Dezhothokh climbed past Belgrave and took control of the console. Soon the platform was flying level once again. More shadow beams flew past them into the sky. Belgrave could feel the platform shake as some of them struck the underside. The other Lunari were all leaning over the sides and firing their tubes at targets on the ground. The noise of battle filled the air. Eventually, Dezhothokh stopped the platform and they hovered over the battle. He turned to face Belgrave. “This is a good location to watch the future unfold,” he yelled over the noise.

“You could have picked a better spot!” one of the other Lunari yelled back. “At the rate we’re taking fire, they will darken us before it happens!” As if on cue, another bolt of shadow struck the bottom of the platform and the floor became a bit dimmer.

“The deck will hold for a bit longer,” Dezhothokh replied. “Zhethou, send Tathel a communication and tell him to move the White Exemplars into position below us.”

A shadow bolt struck and killed another of the Lunari on the platform.

“Tathel is ready for the future,” a female Lunari voice announced. “He says that his troops are moving into position.”

Dezhothokh turned his head and looked back. “We just need to hold out until then. Belgrave, stop kneeling there and put that tube to work!”

Belgrave leaned over the side and tried to point his tube at the points of darkness moving along the ground far below. “I don’t think this thing is working!” he soon announced.

The Lunari beside him took Belgrave’s tube and placed a smaller mechanism on it. “This should help you,” he said. “Look for the dot on the ground. That should make it easier to aim.” He tapped Belgrave on the top of the head as he moved to the other side of the deck.

Belgrave returned to his post and pointed the weapon at the ground. Now he could see a bright dot on the ground where the weapon was pointing. He slowly passed the dot over a shadow and watched in satisfaction as a beam of light finally shot from the weapon and struck his target. It was easy now. He just needed to make sure he would not fall off the platform if any more shadow beams struck it.

Zhethou moved from the back of the deck and knelt beside Belgrave. “You’re doing better than I had expected,” she encouraged, leaning over the side and blasting the enemy with her tube.

“How did you talk to Tathel just now without actually talking to him?” Belgrave asked. He began to light up a large group of shadows to the right.

“We can communicate with our minds if we need to,” she answered. “It’s a Lunari trait, not something you would be able to do.”

“What if our races mixed?” Belgrave asked. “I have experienced it once before and it did not involve a Lunari,” he said, remembering his ordeal at the top of the Lunari temple.

“It is hard to speculate about minor details of the future, but it might be interesting to try it sometime,” she answered, shaking her head. “I just wanted to say that if we survive the next seventy centuries, then we may be able to fight by your side once more.”

“How likely are you to survive that long?”

“The future has already been written,” another Lunari interrupted. “Unless something bad happens to us after you kill Dezhothokh, we will be there.”

“Kathiv, can’t you ever allow a bit of suspense?” Zhethou protested.

“Where will you be?” Belgrave asked.

“The future will be cold compared to what we are accustomed to,” Zhethou explained. “As time goes on, one will remain as a guardian while the rest survive in hidden warmth.”

“Well I guess I’ll have to wait to find out when and where you finally emerge,” Belgrave said. “What’s going on? The battle lines are beginning to separate!”

“Look to the front,” Dezhothokh said. “I think the enemy has become aware of your arrival.” Belgrave left the side of the platform and went to stand beside Dezhothokh. His eyes widened as he took in the scene before him. A large shadow platform followed by a dense cloud of darkness stretching to either side as far as he could see was flying toward them. The soldiers on the ground had become motionless as they watched the phenomenon. Belgrave pointed his tube and fired a single shot at the shadow platform.

“Shields!” Dezhothokh yelled. He immediately pulled Belgrave to the floor. The other Lunari were suddenly kneeling beside him and holding shields of light toward the front of the platform. “Brace for impact,” Dezhothokh warned. “This platform will not hold against their barrage.” Moments later the platform violently shook and quickly dimmed as the many beams of shadow struck it.

“Oops,” Belgrave muttered under his breath as the platform tipped backward and began to spiral down out of control. Several more beams of shadow struck the platform and it finally faded away.

Zhethou held on to Belgrave as they fell. “You will be protected as we fall. The White Exemplars are below, waiting to catch us.”

Belgrave could see the other Lunari holding their shields toward the enemy as they fell. Several shadow beams struck and killed a few of them, but the shields absorbed most of the darkness.

Belgrave closed his eyes as they neared the ground, but opened them when he felt strong arms trying to set him down on his feet. They had fallen onto a hilltop and were surrounded by Lunari. “The White Exemplars will protect you,” one of the Lunari who had caught him proudly announced.

Belgrave grinned as he recognized the voice as that of the Lunari he had met at the top of the temple in the Dark Forest. “White to red, you guys are always the same!”

“I am Tathel and I will meet you again,” the Lunari replied.

“Look to the cloud,” Kathiv shouted, pointing into the sky. “The darkness has brought the deceiver, Vygoth himself, to this battle!”

Belgrave could see a dark figure standing on the large shadow platform that he had shot at moments before. The figure looked darker than the shadow Lunari standing beside it, and wore a black cloak. Belgrave realized this was Vygoth. “So it was the deception and lies of Vygoth that turned the shadows of your kind against the Creator,” Belgrave said. “This Vygoth must be the same deceiver that has corrupted all other worlds, including my own.”

“The Creator’s battle plans for your world are hidden from us,” one of the nearby Lunari said. “It is a part of your light that is hidden from us.”

“You wouldn’t believe it even if I told you,” Belgrave replied, “but I will tell you that at the end of my world, the Creator will cast the deceiver into the Lake of Fire for all eternity.”

They looked back into the sky. Vygoth raised his arms into the air, and with a loud rumble, a large megalithic structure surrounded by a myriad of smaller shadow platforms floated out from the cloud. It stopped behind the first shadow platform and hung in the air, stretching high into the sky.

“There is no purpose for light except to be darkened,” a loud voice shouted from the darkness. “There is no purpose for shadow except to be brightened. The time has come for Ka to be merged into a new understanding of true purpose.”

“Blasphemy against the true Creator!” one of the nearby Lunari shouted. The armies surged toward each other, but Belgrave and the light Lunari with him on the hill stood still, easily deflecting any stray bolts with their shields. Beams of light and shadow flew through the air in all directions everywhere that Belgrave could look. The great structure began to descend in the background.

The scene began to blur for Belgrave. “You’re fading back to your own time and place,” Zhethou announced, just before he lost sight of her.

“Now I know why I must stay on the path set before me,” Belgrave replied. The view before him seemed to shrink into the distance. Soon it seemed that he was standing on a beach looking at a skyscraper far across the water.

“You’re home now,” Naiya’Nal said beside him.

He looked at her and smiled, but she directed his gaze back to the skyscraper. Belgrave’s eyes widened in horror as a bright flash of light burst from the skyscraper and the city dissolved in a large cloud of fire. “What good could possibly come from such a future?” he asked as the scene once again began to fade away.


For a moment, everything faded to black and then Belgrave opened his eyes. He was no longer in Lunari world and was on a bed inside a tent. His sheets were damp with sweat and he felt exhausted. He rolled over and noticed Naiya’Nal standing in the entrance of the tent. “What did you do to me?” he asked her.

Naiya’Nal sighed. “I only did enough to end your tantrum. You look tired. Get some rest.”

Belgrave smiled weakly. “I might be tired, but you have no idea what I just went through!”

She walked toward him and sat on the edge of the bed. “I have an idea of what you saw,” she said. “Get some sleep. You can tell me about it later.”

He yawned and shut his eyes. “I’ll do that,” he said. Moments later, Belgrave was sleeping normally and Naiya’Nal stood up and left the tent.

Commander Sidrahkir was outside. “How is King Belgrave?” he asked.

“He’s back, but it will take him at least another day before he is properly rested,” she answered. “I don’t know what he may have seen the last three days, but the magic has a side effect that makes the person extremely tired when they awake.”

The Commander raised his eyebrows. “Did you once use this magic on yourself?”

“Only once,” she replied. “I still do not understand what happened, but that was the time that I saw the Lunari as they saved me from death.”

“So that’s what Dezhothokh was talking about,” the Commander noted. “Except that he said the magic did not work on your dying body.”

“I was trying to see if it was possible to heal myself with magic,” she said. “Apparently I was mistaken and it does something else instead. Still, I did get to see the Lunari and a brief glimpse of the future before I awoke three days later. All that really matters is that I was healed when I should have died.”

“I have never seen anything that posed much of a threat to you,” the Commander said. “What could possibly have almost killed you?”

She sat down and grinned. “They were the claws of a shapeless creature,” she said. “I overestimated my abilities before I knew what it was.” She uncovered her shoulder and showed him the three thin scars. “My arm and shoulder were badly cut and I almost bled to death before the Lunari saved me.”

“Those tiny scars were deep cuts!?” he exclaimed. “That is some very good healing! All of my scars are too large to miss; especially the one where I was bitten by a dragon.”

She started to laugh. “I find it hard to imagine you fighting dragons,” she replied. “I find it even harder to imagine you surviving one’s bite!”

“It happened the night I stood beside a friend as we tried to defend his daughter from the Dark Wizard,” Sidrahkir said. “Voth had his dragon carry me to Amehtana as the only witness of the destruction of Latan and I never learned the fate of your father.”

Naiya’Nal looked off into the distance as painful memories flooded her mind. “I am sure that my parents were thankful to have you with them in Latan,” she said. “As for their fate, they were kept as slaves and hidden deep in the dungeons of Voth. The only memories that I have of them is the day when I watched Voth kill them.”

“I am sorry,” Commander Sidrahkir said. “I should not have mentioned them.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Naiya’Nal said. “The past cannot be changed.”

They sat in silence awhile longer before the Commander left to check on the soldiers. Naiya’Nal continued to sit there and finally entered the tent an hour after nightfall. She would eagerly wait for Belgrave to wake up in a few days so she could hear what he had to say about the things he must have seen.

It was dark when Belgrave finally awoke. Naiya’Nal was asleep beside him with her arm wrapped over him. He gently pushed her arm aside and sat up.

“There are soldiers outside who can bring you food and water,” Naiya’Nal yawned, rolling over

“See you in the morning,” he whispered. He stood up and made his way out of the tent. The soldiers were standing just outside the tent as Naiya’Nal had said. They jumped to their feet and bowed as he stepped out. “Is Commander Sidrahkir or Captain Haloz awake?” he asked them.

“I can go wake them,” one of the soldiers suggested.

King Belgrave shook his head. “Let them sleep,” he ordered, “but I would like you to bring me some food and water. The soldier bowed and ran off into the shadows. He soon returned carrying a plate with a sandwich and a jug of water. King Belgrave sat down to eat and drink. The water was very refreshing as it soaked his dry mouth and throat. He took a few bites of his sandwich. He noticed a sudden movement in the darkness to his left and turned his head to see Commander Sidrahkir and Captain Haloz running toward him.

“King Belgrave!” the Commander gasped, trying to be quiet enough not to wake people as he dropped to his knees and slid the last short distance to King Belgrave. “It is so good to see you back with us!”

King Belgrave laughed. “And I had told the soldiers to let you sleep!”

“You should know better than to think we would allow that,” Captain Haloz replied, sitting down beside the Commander. “It has been four days of anxious waiting.”

King Belgrave put his hands on their shoulders. “No other king has ever had such good men leading his soldiers,” he said. “I am sorry about my outburst after taking the second ring.” He looked down at his hand. The two rings had fused together into one. “The events of that day were...” He paused. “I cannot think of a word to describe how I felt about the things that happened that day.”

“I think we are all sorry about that day,” the Commander replied. “I am just relieved to see you better!” Captain Haloz nodded to show his agreement.

King Belgrave nodded and took a few more bites of his sandwich. “How many days has it been?” he finally asked.

The Commander looked up at the stars. “In a few more hours, the fifth day will begin.”

“Are we ready to continue or do you all want to rest another day?” King Belgrave asked. “I am anxious to continue our search for the final ring.”

Naiya’Nal stepped out of the tent. “Belgrave, while I do not like you talking so loud while I’m trying to sleep, it is good to see that you have returned to your old self.”

King Belgrave grinned and shook his head. “I will never be my old self,” he stated. “There is something about the Lunari that has a way of changing people.”

“Long ago, I saw your face as I slept from this magic,” Naiya’Nal said. “What did you see?”

Belgrave sat silent for a moment before he gave his answer. “Hope,” he replied. “I saw hope that prophecy will be fulfilled.”

The others smiled. “I always knew that there was hope,” Captain Haloz said. “The hard part was trying to see it through the haze of despair that covers the world.”

“The hope is only that prophecy will be fulfilled,” King Belgrave clarified. “I do not know how it happens or the events leading up to it, I just know that prophecy will be fulfilled.”

“Then you did not see the future of this world,” Naiya’Nal observed. “You had to have seen something else that could only have happened if the prophecies are fulfilled.”

King Belgrave sighed and shrugged his shoulders. “Some things cannot be described,” he said. “You just have to see them for yourselves.”

Naiya’Nal wrapped her arms around him. “Whatever it is, I plan to be there with you,” she said.

“Your company makes the future worth enduring,” Belgrave replied. He took the last few bites of his sandwich and stood up. “I think we should pack up and march toward Tayve at sunrise. I want that third ring as soon as possible.”