A few hours after leaving Jun Joon’s shack, Belgrave stopped to eat some of the food he had been given. There was shredded dried meat and some bread. The bread tasted normal to Belgrave, but the meat, with its faint cinnamon taste, was very different from what he was accustomed to. He wondered if this was its natural flavor or if it was a spice. After eating, he continued along the path. In a short bit, he noticed some trees in the distance and the swamp grass began to thin out. The path slanted uphill and eventually Belgrave found himself walking in the shade under the trees. They were well spaced and soft grass was growing between them. There were some yellow berries growing on the trees. He would have picked some to eat, but he did not know if they were edible. The path led him through fields and past several empty houses until it finally widened into a road. It was not until he saw the village in the distance that he realized why there was no one at their homes. Everyone was around the village! He walked toward a group of soldiers standing guard along the road.
“Halt!” one of the soldiers commanded, stepping in front of him. “By your clothing I know you are not from Tanarad. Who are you and what brings you to Gorraf?”
“I am not from this world,” Belgrave replied. “I was told to go to the village today.”
The soldier looked him over and his eyes widened as he noticed the sword. “A sword discovered, a king returns,” he gasped, dropping to his knee. “I am sorry. I should have recognized our only hope.” The other two soldiers also bowed to Belgrave.
This was the first time anyone had ever bowed to Belgrave and he felt awkward. “Can you take me to where I need to go?” he asked.
“Come with me,” of the solders replied, motioning to him. “My name is Nellac, and I will take you before the village council.”
As they walked, Belgrave looked around at all the people in the area. They would stop to stare at Belgrave as he passed by them. From a distance, they could not see his sword, but they could see that he wore strange clothes.
“We are preparing for battle,” Nellac explained, motioning toward the people going about their business. “We have been warned that the Barbidons are heading this way.”
“It seems as if everyone is a soldier or at least supporting them,” Belgrave said. “Where are the people who do everyday work such as farming?”
“The soldiers are the people,” Nellac answered. “I am a fisherman, but I have left my boat. If we are to survive, we need everyone who is able.”
As they entered the village, Belgrave could not keep from noticing the many people staring at him. He was dressed differently and carried a sword they had thought lost to the ages. Could he be real; could he be an imposter? Rumors were flying fast among the people and Belgrave felt out of place with everyone watching him. He tried not to stare back, but was fascinated since everything was so different from what he had expected. Their buildings reminded him of an ancient civilization. Many of the people wore robes and a few wore an ancient variant of pants. The soldiers wore armor over their clothing.
In the center of the village, the road turned uphill. At the top was a large building. Nellac introduced Belgrave to the guards and they let them enter. Inside was a large room lit by small braziers along the walls. In the center of the room was a large table and despite the chairs for ten, only four men sat around it. One of the guards ran to the man at the far end and whispered in his ear.
The man’s eyes widened and he stood up facing Belgrave. “The fulfillment of prophecy, you have come in our time of greatest need. Welcome, King Belgrave!” The other three stood up and bowed. They were all wearing white robes and armed with swords even though they were not wearing armor. “I am Luscoi,” the first man said, introducing himself. “These others are Neaji, Tiklala, and Wintfar. We on this council are overseeing the preparations for battle. Gorraf is the last unconquered village left in this land. Unfortunately, the Barbidons are heading here now, and will be here tomorrow. Before you arrived just now, we had no hope of survival. Now I look forward to fighting under your command.”
Belgrave was not ready for a battle. Sure, he had spent a few years in the military, but he had never gone to war and did not want to. Besides, now that he was in another world, he did not have a country or family to defend. “I don’t think I want to fight,” he slowly remarked.
“Neither do I,” Luscoi countered. “While I completely understand your hesitation to fight in a strange world with little notice, our purpose in time was written before the creation of the world. You cannot choose or change who you are.” Luscoi led Belgrave back outside where, apparently, everyone had gathered hoping to get a glimpse of the new king. They cheered as Belgrave and Luscoi stepped out.
“Everyone is counting on you,” Luscoi said. He looked out over the crowd. “A sword discovered, a king returns. Hail, King Belgrave!” the village leader shouted and the crowd cheered even louder. He looked at Belgrave. “The people will follow you further than they will follow me. You are our king now and nothing can change that.”
Belgrave looked around. The people were chanting his name. He remembered Jun Joon saying he would have to be ready to lead them. He decided he would at least play along for a while. Maybe he would wake up in his own world if he died here. He smiled and looked at Luscoi. “I know nothing about leading an army, but I will go with you,” he told the village leader.
“Then tomorrow I will fight by your side and together we will lead the army,” the village leader replied. “Come, we must prepare you for battle.”
They stepped back inside. “How does it feel to be carrying the sword carried by great kings so long ago?” Luscoi asked.
“To be honest, I don’t even know how I got here,” Belgrave replied. “I was minding my own business when I suddenly found myself in this world. I actually picked up the sword before I knew what it was.”
“Well I don’t know your origins, but I do know you are the fulfillment of the prophecy. By the way, how good are your sword skills anyway?” Luscoi asked.
“Well, I can swing a sword, or anything else, with no problem, but if you mean actual fighting skills, I’ve never used one of these. In my world I did spend some time in the military, but our weapons were very different.”
“I will get you some training with the sword later. First we will get you some armor.” Luscoi led Belgrave down some stairs and through a hallway. At the very end, they turned left and entered another large room. It was full of suits of armor. Some of them were ornate and some of them were simple. At the far end of the room, several smiths were forging even more armor. This is our main armory,” Luscoi stated. “Our smiths can make anything you would want.”
“I don’t know anything about armor,” Belgrave admitted. He was serious too. Never in his life had he been close to a suit of armor outside of a museum, and he did not know how to put it on.
“Very well,” Luscoi replied. “I will let them decide how to make it for you.” He called over one of the smiths. “Do you have any star metal in stock?”
“I believe there is enough for two suits,” the smith answered with a bow. “However, I would advise against using such a valuable metal. Such a commodity could ransom all of Tanarad if the Dark Wizard could be negotiated with.”
Luscoi chuckled. “Unfortunately for the Dark Wizard, he does not negotiate and that will be his downfall when he meets the Great King destined to defeat him. I bring before you King Belgrave who will lead us into battle tomorrow. Take his measurements and make him a suit of armor worthy of being worn by a king. Start with the shield so he can learn to use that later today.”
The smiths quickly took Belgrave’s measurements and sat down to design his armor on parchment. They worked quickly and were soon working with metal and fire. Belgrave was growing fascinated at their speed and precision. He could not stay and watch though. “We must go and leave them to their work,” Luscoi said, leading Belgrave away. “We have much more to do before battle.”
Luscoi led Belgrave back down the hallway. They did not go all the way. Instead, they turned into another room. A window on the far wall let in the mid-afternoon sun. Inside the room was a bed with a stack of clean clothes. A smaller room to the side had a bath. “Take some time to clean up and put on fresh clothes. I will send someone to assist you.” With that, Luscoi left Belgrave alone and closed the door behind him.
Belgrave walked over to the window and looked out. There was a garden outside and Belgrave thought it would be a nice place to relax if given the chance. Belgrave now realized that that building was actually several structures built on the hill with connecting tunnels and the room he was now in was somewhere on the back side of the hill.
He walked into the adjacent room. The bath water was warm and he could relax. The bathtub was round like a large bowl, but Belgrave still felt comfortable as he lowered himself into the water. There was no faucet or drain so he felt sorry for whoever had to take the time to fill and empty it. He decided that one of the first things he would do as king would be to show them how to design plumbing, but that would have to wait for another day; today he was still trying to figure out what was going on. The people had never seen him before, but now they adamantly declared that he was their king. Tomorrow they expected him to lead them into battle. He used the provided soap and scrub pad to clean before he stepped out. After drying himself, he attempted to put on the clean robes.
Belgrave had been trying to get the robe on for about five minutes when there was a knock on the door. “Luscoi?” Belgrave questioned, trying to untangle himself from the robe.
“No, my king.” The man Luscoi had sent entered the room and chuckled as he noticed Belgrave’s problem with the robe. “My name is Joha. Let’s get that on you properly.” Within moments, Belgrave was wearing the robe and Joha was making it fit. When he was finished, Belgrave was not sure what to think. It definitely fit him, but it was unlike anything he had ever worn before. It was white with red and silver trim. Joha then took him down the hall and back into the council room.
Luscoi was studying a map with two soldiers. He looked up as Belgrave entered the room. “The robe looks much better than the strange garments you were wearing earlier,” he joked.
“It’s definitely not what I’m used to, but give me some time and I may begin to like it,” Belgrave replied with a smile.
“I’d like to introduce you to these fine soldiers.” Luscoi pointed to the first one. “This is Commander Sidrahkir, the leader of our army. He has fought in many battles and his experience is invaluable. The other is Colonel Balvain. These two will ride alongside us tomorrow.”
Luscoi turned back to the map. “We have been going over scout reports. If the Barbidons march through the night, we will fight them tomorrow shortly before midday. If they camp, we will be waiting until nightfall.” Luscoi pointed to the map. “They are heading to our village, but we hope to catch them as they pass this cliff about a two hour’s march northwest of here. We will have archers positioned on top of the cliff and the rest of the army will be in the clearing below it.”
“But why did you build the defenses around the village?” Belgrave asked.
“They are a last resort if we must retreat,” Commander Sidrahkir replied. “Considering our planned location, we should be able to use our archers long before they come in range of our swords.”
“Speaking of swords,” Luscoi interrupted, “where is yours, Belgrave?”
Belgrave paused with a puzzled look on his face, but then remembered. “I left it in the other room.”
Commander Sidrahkir gave Luscoi a look that meant more than Belgrave could figure out. Luscoi however knew what Commander Sidrahkir was communicating and gave a quick nod. “King Belgrave,” the Commander started, “you of all people should never be without your sword. The Dark Wizard wants you dead so you must always be on your guard. Come with me and we will retrieve your sword.” Commander Sidrahkir started towards the hallway, but paused and turned back around. “Luscoi, with your permission, I would like to instruct King Belgrave how to use his sword.”
“Very well, Commander. No one is more qualified to teach him than you are. Still, there is too much for him to learn in one day. Stick to defense and cover more than just swordsmanship. He needs to learn how to stay alive before he can learn to fight. We eat at sunset.”
They went and found Belgrave’s sword in his room. Commander Sidrahkir then led him out into the garden. He cut down two sword-length branches from a tree and handed one to Belgrave. “King Belgrave, this is your sword.”
“Alright, Commander, how do I use this sword?”
Sidrahkir then instructed Belgrave how to hold his sword. He showed Belgrave how to block and parry an opponent’s sword. He then showed Belgrave some attacking moves. Sidrahkir knew Belgrave would not be able to remember a lot of what he was showing him that day, but it was the best he could do in such a short time. Finally, Sidrahkir stopped the lessons. “Let us see if the smiths have finished making your shield.”
The Commander led Belgrave back to the armory. Sure enough, the smiths had already completed the shield and were working on some other pieces of the suit. The shield was ovoid in shape with notches in the top and bottom. It had silver edging surrounding a white face with two red dragons fighting each other in the center. “Very fitting,” Sidrahkir noted. “Like the dragons, you and the Dark Wizard will always be trying to kill each other until one of you succeeds.” He then showed Belgrave how to carry it both on his arm and slung over his shoulder so it rested against his back. Sidrahkir then led Belgrave back to the garden. Sidrahkir now began showing Belgrave how to use his sword and shield together.
“While your use of the sword determines how long your enemy will live, your use of the shield determines how long you will live,” he explained. “In a battle, it is not a matter of using only the sword or only the shield, but a balance of both. You must focus on both offense and defense at the same time.” Sidrahkir then demonstrated how to use the shield to block an enemy’s attack. “Always remain focused on your enemy’s sword,” he instructed, letting Belgrave attempt to block his attacks.
“When your enemy is unable to get past your shield, you must then attack. Block with your left and attack with your right.” Belgrave then used his shield to block Sidrahkir’s attacks and swung at the Commander with his sword. Sidrahkir easily avoided the stroke and started laughing. “You will have to attack faster than that if you want to actually defeat your enemy!” he teased. “It is also much faster to stab than to slash. Try again.” This time Belgrave just barely touched the Commander with his stick. “Much better!” Sidrahkir exclaimed. “Stick to the basics until you know them well. Only then will I teach you more advanced techniques.”
Sidrahkir kept Belgrave practicing until Belgrave was too tired to continue the vigorous training. “It is almost sundown,” Sidrahkir announced. “We must clean up for dinner. You are doing better than I did when I held my first sword. I am confident that you will do well in battle.”
“I may have learned a lot, but I don’t know how well I’d do in a real battle,” Belgrave replied.
“Don’t worry,” the Commander encouraged. “I will fight beside you and nothing will pass my sword. Barbidons may look fierce, but they are no match for a soldier with a clear mind. Tomorrow you will see exactly what I mean and we will defeat them. Come, you must eat and get some rest before tomorrow.”