Belgrave opened his eyes and quickly closed them because of the blinding light from the setting sun. He tried to move, but winced because the pain was too great.
“He’s alive!” someone loudly exclaimed. He opened his eyes again and realized a young dark haired woman sitting against a tree was holding him. She was the same woman who had challenged and fought the Dark Witch. Dirt, sweat, and blood were smeared across her face. She was still wearing her armor. Belgrave glanced to the side and saw they were still on the battlefield and many others were also receiving care. Commander Sidrahkir ran over to them.
Belgrave tried to talk. “My head hurts,” he groaned.
“You took a very hard blow from the Dark Witch,” Sidrahkir replied. “I would have been right behind you, but her magic had a greater effect on the rest of us.”
“What happened?” Belgrave asked.
“You defeated the Dark Witch,” the woman explained.
“You have led us to victory,” Sidrahkir added. “I have everything under control. The women we had with the army will return to their homes, but the rest of the army will camp here until we decide what to do next. You need get some rest now.”
The woman propped him up. “Drink this,” she said, taking a cup of water from the Commander and putting it against Belgrave’s lips. “You need to rest. My name is Naiya’Nal and I will take care of you.” He drank some of the water, but was unable to finish before he closed his eyes. “Sleep, Belgrave. I will take care of you,” she whispered in his ear.
Naiya’Nal, that is a pretty name, Belgrave thought as he fell back to sleep.
Belgrave was inside a tent when he awoke and could not tell how long he had slept. His body wasn’t as sore as it had been, but he was still a bit stiff, more from laying immobile than from the stress of battle. As he sat up, he noticed he was clean and dressed in fresh clothes. He felt his head and found it still stung where the Dark Witch had hit him. Belgrave looked around the tent, but no one else was around. His suit of armor was sitting at one side of the tent. Beside it was another suit of armor that was black and made with a crude jagged design. He wondered whose armor it was since he had not seen it before. As he sat thinking, he wondered if he had been missed back home. He knew he had been gone almost a week and possibly longer. Belgrave needed to get home as soon as he could.
The tent flap opened and Naiya’Nal entered. Her bright smile made her face seem to glow. “How are you feeling today?” she asked.
“I’m not sure,” he replied. “Tell me again, what happened?”
“You killed the Dark Witch Narva,” she explained. “A feat which has obtained you more renown than any sword could. However, you did not fully escape her fury and took a strong blow to the head in her final moment. That is why you are here and have been asleep. I think the only reason you survived is because you haven’t fulfilled the end of the prophecies.”
“What would that have to do with it?”
“There is someone old and wise whose life has also been influenced by prophecy, someone who has taken great interest in you ever since you first entered this world. I will let him answer your questions,” she said.
Within moments, Jun Joon entered the tent. He was still wearing his light blue robe with green trim. “How do you feel?” he asked, taking a seat near Belgrave.
“Other than my head, I’m fine,” Belgrave replied. “I am definitely well rested.”
“Belgrave Palafox, you have definitely changed from the insecure man who once entered my home!”
Belgrave smiled. “I remembered how you told me that I would need to lead these people into battle and that is what I did. Now that I have done what needed to be done, how can I get home?”
“Yes, you did what needed to be done and fought one battle, but that is only the beginning,” the old man replied. “The Dark Wizard is still out there and you must defeat him or he will defeat you. One day I hope to have an answer for you, but first I must learn a few more things, and I cannot tell when I will have an answer. Since you are recovering rapidly, I will leave you here with Naiya’Nal and the rest of Tanarad. Just remember to do whatever comes your way for you to do and you will find that you will move closer and closer to fulfilling the prophecies and possibly returning to your own world.”
“I have another question,” Belgrave said. “How has this world been around for thousands of years and still not have the technologies and knowledge which are common in mine?”
“I believe that such progress is being hindered by forces beyond our control,” Jun Joon replied. “It might seem like a curse, but we are blessed to remain at our current technological state until the evil has been defeated. It is a blessing since it keeps the enemy from developing a weapon similar to the one that destroyed the world of the Lunari. I am sorry to cut short my visit, but I have business I must attend to and really must be going.” Jun Joon stood up to leave.
“When will I see you next?” Belgrave asked.
“Do not look for me. I will come to you at the right time. Farewell King Belgrave.”
With that, Jun Joon left the tent. Belgrave was disappointed that he was still unable to return to his own world. Naiya’Nal sat down next to him and put her arm around him. “I know exactly how you feel, King Belgrave. I cannot go home no matter how much I desire it,” she said. “It is the faint hope that someday I will find a new home which keeps me from giving up.”
Belgrave looked at her and shook his head. There was no way she could know exactly how he felt after finding out he still couldn’t return to his own world. Here he was, somehow thrust into another world, forced to be king of people he did not know, forced to fight battles against an enemy he had no reason to fight, and was now being told that she knew exactly how he felt. “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said and stood up. He grabbed his sword, and walked out, letting the tent flap shut behind him.
It was cloudy and cool outside, and the army was camped near the battlefield instead of returning to Gorraf. Tents stretched in every direction. The tent Belgrave had just left was obviously the largest tent and the center of the camp. Across the road was another large tent. He made his way across the street and paused outside the tent. He heard voices from inside and wanted to be sure who it was before he entered.
“The ones that survived claim they are free and no longer serve him,” the first voice said.
“I don’t believe it,” another voice argued. Belgrave knew this was Commander Sidrahkir speaking. “They have been enslaved for centuries, how can they suddenly change?”
“They surrender fast once they hear the news,” someone else replied, who Belgrave guessed was Colonel Balvain. “The problem is what we will do with them all while we take back Tanarad.”
“Lock them up,” Commander Sidrahkir suggested. “The Barbidons have endured harsh conditions under the enslaving rule of the Dark Wizard. They will be used to it and we won’t need as many guards then we do keeping them tied up out in the open.”
Belgrave took this time to enter the tent. The four men inside stood up and bowed. “King Belgrave,” the Commander greeted. “You seem to be recovering nicely.”
“I feel well rested, although I am a bit stiff,” Belgrave admitted. “Is there hard work that needs done?” he asked them. “I couldn’t help overhearing your discussion before I entered. If the Barbidons make the claim that they are free, then give them a chance to prove it. I am sure there are things they can do for Tanarad.”
“Are you suggesting manual labor?” the Commander asked.
“Yes,” Belgrave replied. “I have been told that this used to be a great land. Let them help rebuild it to prove their claims.”
“It can be done,” Sidrahkir agreed. “Now that we have that settled, there are other matters we must deal with.” One of the men from Gorraf’s village council pulled up a seat for Belgrave. “There are two matters of business you need to attend to right away. We have defeated the Dark Witch and the Barbidons, but the rest of Tanarad needs liberated. In addition, you are now the King of Tanarad and you must reorganize the kingdom to encompass the entire land and unite the individual villages. Luscoi, the most influential member of the council, is gone, and can no longer help us.”
The man from the village council interrupted Sidrahkir. “King Belgrave, it was good that you had the support of Luscoi when you first came. I am Neaji, and I speak for the entire council when I say that while we are willing to work with you, we will find it hard to step down from the positions we currently hold. The leaders of the other towns of Tanarad will have the same feelings.”
“I have never been a king before,” Belgrave said. “I will need a council to help me know what I am doing. Villages, of course, would retain their councils to deal with local affairs; but I think there should be a separate council to help me rule the entire country.”
“How would you decide those worthy of such a promotion?” Commander Sidrahkir asked Belgrave.
“I would suggest an election,” Neaji responded before Belgrave could answer. “Then the people of the village could decide.”
“Gorraf is not the sole city and cannot speak for all of Tanarad,” the Commander objected. “The members of the council would have to be elected from among all the villages of Tanarad. I have a suggestion that would go along with this idea. Five regions make up Tanarad. Belgrave can appoint five men, each to govern a region under him. As we liberate each region, that man can take control and the individual villages under him can then vote on whom among them to send to be on the King’s council.”
“How would King Belgrave be able to choose these governors since he has not been among us very long?” Neaji asked.
Belgrave was growing tired of the two men countering each other’s suggestions and stood up. He placed his hands on the table and leaned forward. “Obviously there are differing opinions between the politicians and the military that has kept them safe. If you want my opinion, I would appoint governors from among the military and elect council members from among the politicians. Then the governors and the councils will always keep the other from gaining too much influence and power.” Belgrave sat back down. “I have not been in this world long enough to know who would be the best governors. Are there five people you could both agree on?”
Commander Sidrahkir and Neaji looked at each other. The Commander started to say something, but Neaji interrupted him. “The five brothers?”
“My suggestion exactly,” Sidrahkir replied. “I am not sure what possessed their mother to name them Thag, Theg, Thig, Thog, and Thug; but they have more than shown their ability to lead the people.”
“Where are they now?” Belgrave asked.
“They have no village,” Neaji stated.
“But they roam across Tanarad helping all in need,” Commander Sidrahkir added. “I do not know where they are now, but they will come to us when they hear about King Belgrave.”
“Then that settles the issue of reorganizing the government. Now how are we going to be liberating the rest of Tanarad?” Belgrave asked.
Colonel Balvain laid out a map on the table. “We are here,” the Commander began, pointing at the location on the map. “This land is split in half by the Dark Valley which stretches the entire width from north to south, except for this small area east of here where the Torudo River flows from the Dark Valley and into the Bay of Anamnesis. The Barbidons now control all the land on either side of us. This leaves us with two options. We either focus on one half at a time while leaving a guard along the other front or we split the army and advance through both halves of Tanarad at the same time.”
“Either way, we have the disadvantage,” Neaji added. “The army will have to be split.”
Belgrave pondered the situation for a moment. “How long would it take an army to march across each side of Tanarad?” he asked.
“To ride to the coast usually takes a week, but for an army to march that far it could take up to a month depending on the weather and any substantial resistance along the way. Stopping at every village to deal with any local Barbidon garrisons could take even longer,” the Commander replied.
“Since we have no choice besides dividing the army, I think it would be best to liberate both halves of Tanarad at the same time,” Belgrave said.
Neaji and Commander Sidrahkir both agreed. “That would be a good way to get the people to like you more,” Neaji added. “It should not be difficult since the Dark Witch is dead and all that is left of the Barbidons are the small encampments left behind to enforce her rule.”
“Yes,” Sidrahkir agreed. “Many Barbidons will surrender when they hear they no longer have a master. If we are to be using them to rebuild Tanarad, I suggest we take along the highest ranking Barbidons among the prisoners and use them to negotiate on our behalf.”
“Then all we’re left with is to decide who will lead each half of the army,” Belgrave said.
“King Belgrave, you take one half, and Commander Sidrahkir will take the other,” Neaji advised.
“That can be done,” Belgrave said. “However, I have never commanded an army by myself so I will need someone to help me with that.”
“Colonel Balvain will go with you,” the Commander suggested.
“Then we are left with one more item of business,” Neaji insisted. “There is a King of Tanarad, but there is no queen. Unless King Belgrave chooses a queen soon, the young ladies will flock to try and win his...”
“I did not come here to find a wife!” Belgrave shouted. “I want to get back to my own world, not stay here for the rest of my life.”
“That will be enough for today, Neaji,” the Commander ordered. “King Belgrave has been unconscious for several days and has only recently awakened. Leave such matters for when he is more accustomed to being our king.”
“Very well,” Neaji said, rising to leave. “I will inform the council of King Belgrave’s decisions on these matters.” Neaji paused at the entrance to the tent. “King Belgrave, if you ever desire a queen, I have a daughter you may find to be quite desirable.”
As the man left, Belgrave rolled his eyes and Commander Sidrahkir breathed a sigh of relief. “That’s a politician for you!” the Commander stated. “They’re always pushing their own agenda for their own personal gain.”
“I am really hungry,” Belgrave stated.
Sidrahkir laughed. “All that rest and no food, you must be starving!” He turned to the others in the tent. “Colonel Balvain, bring some food for our king.” The Colonel and the other soldier left the tent to find some food.
“Who is the woman who was taking care of me?” Belgrave asked as soon as the other soldiers had left. “I know her name is Naiya’Nal, but why is she so different from everyone else?”
“Naiya’Nal is a sworn enemy and former servant of the Dark Wizard, but she has changed and will not stop until the Dark Wizard is defeated. However, many people do not trust her because of her questionable origin. In fact, we did not know she was even still alive until she suddenly began fighting alongside our forces in battle shortly before you arrived in our world. I do not talk of who she may have been before we met her since that is the subject of many rumors.”
“So I was right to guess that she is not from Tanarad?”
“No, she was born and raised for four years in Tanarad before the Dark Wizard came and took her away. What happened between then and now, only she knows. Regardless, she has proved herself to be a valuable ally and is more than capable of defending herself in battle. She has dedicated her life to the fulfillment of the prophecy, so I doubt she will ever be far from you. If I were you, I would welcome her presence and not question who she is.”
“I don’t mind her company; I just don’t like when she claims to know how I am feeling. This is not my world. I want to go home, but I still do not know how to. How can she know what that is like?”
“Her training was very extensive and she chooses her words carefully,” Sidrahkir replied. “I have talked to her several times about various issues, and while I may not agree with everything she says, there is a reason behind her words and it is only my misunderstanding that could make me disagree. In your case, you misunderstood her because you did not know her past. She knows what it is like being unable to go home because she has no home and because she cannot find a new home where she can find acceptance. If she can ever find a place where she feels welcome, that will be her new home.”
Colonel Balvain returned with some bread and a plate of meat and set it on the table after he moved the map off to the side. He then left the tent again. Belgrave was very hungry after having not eaten for over a week and ate very fast. The Commander also ate some of the food.
When Belgrave returned to his tent, Naiya’Nal was not there and her armor was gone. He did not pay much attention to it. He was tired and needed to sleep. In the morning, the armies were marching whether she was there or not. Belgrave crawled into bed and fell asleep.