Commander Sidrahkir woke Belgrave early the next morning. “King Belgrave, it is time to go!”
“Good morning,” Belgrave muttered sleepily as he sat up. “Is your half of the army all ready to depart?”
“The entire army is ready to march,” the Commander replied. “Colonel Balvain has your soldiers breaking camp. They will be ready to march as soon as you are.”
“Is there anything I need to worry about to get ready?” Belgrave asked.
“Everything is ready. Tytane will bear your standard once again.”
“I thought he was dead!” Belgrave stated.
“He was only wounded,” the Commander replied. “You must remember that the entire army except for some of the archers had fallen to the ground under the spell of Narva and were unable to move.”
“I did not know what had happened,” Belgrave admitted. He started to put on his armor and Sidrahkir helped him fasten some of the pieces. “All I knew was that I was the only one able to stand back up.”
A soldier brought in a plate with several loaves of bread about the same time as Belgrave finished putting on his armor. “Carry some bread with you,” Sidrahkir advised. “You may get hungry during the march.” Belgrave slipped a loaf of bread into his pack and put it on his shoulders.
“Do we still have horses?” Belgrave asked as they left the tent.
“Yes, Colonel Balvain will have one for you,” the Commander replied.
“Well I guess this is goodbye until Tanarad is free,” Belgrave said.
“I will not fail you, King Belgrave,” the Commander said. “You will know Tanarad is free the next time you see the two dragons and the sword of thunder flying from the same pole. Farewell, King Belgrave.” Commander Sidrahkir turned and walked over to a horse. He had ridden the same horse in the previous battle. Belgrave wondered if Aorist had survived, but the animal had lived a long hard life and deserved to finish its time in peace.
He stood watching Commander Sidrahkir ride off, but the sound of hooves behind him disturbed him. “King Belgrave, are you ready to ride?” a woman asked. He turned to face her. It was Naiya’Nal riding on a black horse. She was wearing her black armor over her purple robe and her black cloak hung down behind her. Beside her walked a white horse. “The service of Aorist has ended,” she announced. “Leukos will carry you now.”
Belgrave walked over to the white horse. It was younger than Aorist, but looked as if it bore the same energy and fearlessness. He mounted the horse and situated himself on its back. “Leukos is honored to carry you,” Naiya’Nal said. “Come, Colonel Balvain is waiting for us.”
“You’re coming with us?” Belgrave asked.
“I have nowhere else to go,” she responded harshly.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude,” Belgrave assured. “The same goes for when I walked out of the tent yesterday.”
Naiya’Nal laughed. “Do not worry about it, King Belgrave. A lot has happened to you since you arrived in this world and you are stranded in an unfamiliar place. Come, we can talk more as we ride.” She turned her horse and began to ride away. Belgrave followed on Leukos.
“What is your horse named?” he asked.
“Melas,” She replied, turning to face him. “Commander Sidrahkir let me ride him since I don’t have a horse.”
Colonel Balvain greeted them as they rode up to the army. Tytane was also there, holding the white flag with the two dragons. “We march to Norl today,” the Colonel told Belgrave. “We will arrive in the evening.”
“Who are the Barbidons coming with us?” Belgrave asked, noticing the tall creatures standing among the soldiers.
“Tagwarch and Wulshgar,” the Colonel answered. “Both are high ranking among the captives we took at the Cliff of Rodanth.” Colonel Balvain pause a moment. “Shall I order the army to begin marching?”
“To be honest, Colonel, I’m here, more or less, because I have to be here. I have no idea what all is going on. You do what needs to be done and I’ll try to play along” Belgrave replied.
The Colonel gave the command and the army began to march down the path. Belgrave rode between Colonel Balvain and Naiya’Nal with half of the army marching in front of them and the other half behind them.
They rode in silence for about twenty minutes before Belgrave asked, “Was there ever a capital city over all Tanarad after Atalan was destroyed?”
Colonel Balvain had an answer. “The city of Amehtana is on the coast of the Bay of Anamnesis, just east of the Torudo River. It was second to Atalan, but without a king, it never gained the greatness of the former capital.”
“Build up Amehtana,” Naiya’Nal suggested. “If you make Amehtana your capital, I promise that it will once again shine with the same light as Atalan.”
“She’s right,” the Colonel agreed. “You are the king and you can do what no one else has been able to accomplish.”
“I’ve only done what people have said I needed to do,” Belgrave maintained, “not anything special that anyone else could not have done.”
“That is where you are wrong,” the Colonel insisted. “We have been struggling against the darkness ever since the last great king of Tanarad was lost and it has always been a losing battle. With you, with the return of a king, we will be victorious once again.”
“Why does everything have to revolve around me?” Belgrave asked.
“Things beyond our control place us in situations that may not be to our liking,” Naiya’Nal replied. “Our purpose in life is not to do what we want, but to make the most of the situations we are placed in. No one here wants to risk all and fight as we have been doing since the beginning of the world, yet we must. This is the situation we have been placed in so we do what we need to do.”
“As long as you are doing what you need to do to fulfill the prophecies, then you are doing what you need to do,” the Colonel added.
“I know,” Belgrave responded. “I’m going to do what I need to do. It just gets frustrating that everything comes down to me fulfilling the prophecies. It’s as if all the pressure is on me.”
“No King Belgrave. You are not alone,” Naiya’Nal said. “Jun Joon predicted the double dragons would be chosen as your standard. The dragons in the stars were battling for the night sky when you arrived in our world. However, the smiths did not study the stars the way they should have. There are actually three dragons in the stars. The third would join the first and together they would overcome the second. These two dragons will then become one and move across the sky. Together they will overcome everything in their path.”
“And that is why you told the Dark Witch she could not fight two dragons?” Belgrave asked.
“Yes,” Naiya’Nal replied, “but that was actually meant to get your attention, not hers. Narva has never been the brightest Dark Witch and would never understand metaphors.”
“So you think you are supposed to be that second dragon?” Belgrave asked.
“Jun Joon suggested I take that role,” Naiya’Nal replied. “I have sworn to do everything I can to help fulfill the prophecies. Whether you like it or not, we are in this together.”
“Don’t let her seduce you with her witchcraft,” Colonel Balvain warned jokingly.
Naiya’Nal took offense at the Colonel’s comment. She moved her horse away from the others as she turned to face him. “Do not mock me,” she scolded. “I could convince the Barbidons at Norl to surrender long before you and your army arrived.”
Belgrave noticed some of the soldiers ahead of them looking back to see the commotion. “I think you both should watch how you act in front of the soldiers,” he said. “Colonel, if the prophecy needs me and Naiya’Nal together, there is nothing that can stop it. At the same time, there is nothing else that can make it happen. Do what you are here to do and let the prophecy do its part.”
“I understand, King Belgrave, but I still think that if Naiya’Nal can destroy the Barbidons without us, she should do so and spare us the unnecessary effort.”
“So that is how you would have it,” Naiya’Nal said coldly. “You think I would get killed against such odds, but you think incorrectly. They will line up and die willingly at my command. Norl will be free before you get there and victory will be mine, not yours.” With that, she rode off into the forest.
Both the Colonel and Belgrave were surprised at what Naiya’Nal was riding off to do. Belgrave had planned to use diplomacy to make the Barbidons give up peacefully and Colonel Balvain had just ruined that chance. Naiya’Nal was going to kill every last Barbidon unless someone did something to stop her. “Keep the army marching,” Belgrave commanded. “I’m going after her.”
Colonel Balvain tried to stop him, but King Belgrave was already gone.
Belgrave had never been much of a horse rider, and even though he was starting to get used to it, riding at such high speeds was still hard for him. He hugged the neck of the horse and held on. As the horse entered the forest, he ducked so he would not hit any branches. It would have been easier to stay on the meandering road, but it also would have taken longer. “I hope you know where you’re going,” Belgrave said to Leukos. The horse neighed as if he understood.
It was only about an hour’s gallop to Norl, but Belgrave knew that was more than enough time for Naiya’Nal to do whatever she had in mind. He wanted to make the Barbidons his allies and there was no way he was going to let her ruin his plans.
Why did Colonel Balvain have to call her a witch? Sure, he had heard rumors that she had once served the Dark Wizard, but he was sure Sidrahkir would have already killed her if she was a Dark Witch. Even Jun Joon had ignored her presence and he was probably the one person Belgrave could fully trust on such a matter. Then there was the double dragons business. He wondered if it was just figurative or if Jun Joon meant it more literally. Could Jun Joon really want Belgrave and Naiya’Nal to wed? Belgrave could not see how that would help him fulfill the prophecies, but it had crossed his mind a few times. She was a very attractive young woman and had cared for him after the battle. He would have to see what happened between the two of them and then talk to Jun Joon before he made any decisions.
Water splashed on Belgrave’s face as Leukos crossed a stream. They were getting close to Norl. He could see where the forest ended, and a field began. The horse galloped across the field and soon was back on the road. A bell was ringing in the distance and Belgrave knew he must hurry. “Run Leukos!” he said. “The lives of many depend on us.” The horse ran faster. The land seemed deserted. It was as if something had scared the people into hiding and he knew Naiya’Nal must have come this way. Soon he could see the village wall. The Barbidons were standing in a long line in front of the wall. Several more Barbidons were running out of the village to join the others.
Naiya’Nal, in her black armor and purple cloak, was sitting on Melas and watching the Barbidons line up. She was giving out commands to the Barbidons and they obeyed her every word. “Ichwarth levjorwilgel,” she yelled. “Ichwarth!”
Belgrave realized she was using the language of the Barbidons and he could not understand what she was saying. He urged his horse to go faster. He did not know what Naiya’Nal was saying, but he definitely had to stop her.
“Hojwilgel char elgwith.” The Barbidons all pulled out their daggers and held them to their throats.
“Stop!” Belgrave yelled.
Naiya’Nal looked at Belgrave racing towards her and turned back to the Barbidons. “Hojwilgel!” she yelled, raising her hand.
The Barbidons started chanting with her. “Hojwel! Hojwel! Hojwel!”
Belgrave jumped from his horse and tackled Naiya’Nal, pulling her off her horse to the ground. The Barbidons were instantly silent. Naiya’Nal struggled weakly to get out of Belgrave’s grasp. “I want to liberate them, not kill them,” he told her. She stopped struggling and Belgrave loosened his grip. “Naiya’Nal, I need you to stay by my side,” he pleaded to her softly. “You cannot help me when you go off alone. If Jun Joon was right about the two dragons, we must stick together.”
She rolled over and looked at his face. “No, Belgrave, there is more in what he said which you do not understand,” she said. “He did not merely suggest I stay near you, but suggested something far more intimate. If you are to be the king, he wishes that I be your queen.”
For a moment, Belgrave was speechless. Here was a woman he had only known a few days telling him they needed to get married. “We can discuss this later,” he replied. “There are many things we will have to ask Jun Joon to clarify, but first, we need to deal with these Barbidons.”
“Well, you’re the king and the Barbidons are already lined up. Talk to them. I’m sure you’ll find them ready to listen to anything you have to say,” she replied with a faint smile.
King Belgrave stood up and faced the long line of Barbidons. “I am King Belgrave,” he said loudly. “I am now the ruler of Tanarad and all its citizens. You have two options. You can submit to my authority. Those who submit will have all offenses they have committed against the people of Tanarad forgotten and you will serve to rebuild this nation to its former greatness. All others will be killed.”
“We are servants of the Dark Wizard,” one of the Barbidons growled. “The Dark Witch Narva...”
“Silence!” Belgrave yelled, pulling out his sword and holding it up for them to see. “The Dark Witch Narva is dead and the army of Tanarad is marching here.” Even though the Barbidons were twice his size, he was no longer afraid of them. “The sword has been discovered. I am the king who has returned. The prophecies are being fulfilled and you must decide who you will follow.”
The Barbidon knew there was no arguing against King Belgrave. “If the Dark Witch Narva is dead, then we are free!” the Barbidon announced, dropping to its knees and bowing before King Belgrave. The other Barbidons followed its example.
“Every day, you make more willing servants,” Naiya’Nal softly mumbled behind him. He turned and looked at her. For some reason she looked more attractive every time he saw her. Perhaps it was her smile, but he could not be sure.
“We must ride into the city,” Belgrave told her. “The people still need to know what is happening.” They mounted their horses and started to ride towards the city gate. Before the entered, Belgrave ordered the Barbidons to stay outside the city until he returned for them.
As they rode into the city, Belgrave could see the frightened citizens peeking through their windows. They were curious to know what was happening that would cause the Barbidons to abandon the city in such a rush. Here was a king they had never seen before, carrying a sword they recognized, and riding beside him was a woman dressed as a Dark Witch. Naiya’Nal removed the armor from her left arm to show her red armband. Belgrave, however, did not think anything of it.
A short way down the street, Belgrave dismounted. These people were going to stay inside until they were sure it was safe. He walked up to one of the houses. A frightened man cracked open the door.
“Please don’t hurt us,” the man whimpered.
Belgrave smiled. “If I had come slow enough to bring my army, then you would have seen the colors of Tanarad flying in the sky above me. I am King Belgrave and I have come to free your city.”
The man stood in awe for a moment. He tried to say something, but could not get more than an unintelligent stammer.
“You’re free!” King Belgrave proclaimed. He stepped away from the door and mounted his horse as the man ran back into his house shouting in joy. The man soon came back out followed by his wife and two children. More citizens began emerging from their houses as they realized what was going on. By the time Belgrave and Naiya’Nal had reached the village center, it seemed as if everyone had come out to celebrate and see their new king.
King Belgrave faced the people and raised his hand. The noise died down so they could hear him speak. “Citizens of Norl, People of Tanarad,” he began, “I am King Belgrave. I have defeated the Dark Witch Narva and overthrown her rule. The sword that was lost has been discovered and the king has returned!” He paused as they cheered his announcement. “Who are the leaders of this village?” he asked the crowd. “I must speak with them.”
Three men came forward. “I am Inimpli,” said one man. “And these are Narmste and Crandoli,” he said, pointing to the two men beside him. “We are the only village elders to survive the Barbidons.”
“I must speak with you alone,” King Belgrave ordered. Narmste led them to his house since it was the closest. King Belgrave had Naiya’Nal stand watch at the door as he discussed various issues with the three village leaders.
“I only have a few issues of business for you right now,” King Belgrave said, “but I assure you, I will be counting on you three to carry out my orders. First, the entire garrison of Barbidons is standing outside the village gates awaiting my command. They surrendered and will help you rebuild the country they destroyed. However, you must treat them as equals. While they will be working for us, they are also living along side us and I want them treated as guests. Second, Tanarad is not yet free. I am actually still awaiting the arrival of my army. From here, we march to Eema and then on to the other towns and villages. Once Tanarad is completely free, I will organize my kingdom. If any of the five brothers Thag, Theg, Thig, Thog, or Thug show themselves in my absence, they are to go to Amehtana immediately and await my arrival there. Finally, you three are now responsible for this village and its people. Rebuild the city with the help of the Barbidons so that Tanarad may once again flourish.”
“But the Barbidons are murderers!” Crandoli objected.
“You would commit the same crimes if you were a slave of the Dark Wizard,” Belgrave replied. “I have granted them freedom and forgiven their past behavior. Since you represent my authority here, you will do as I command you.”
“It is hard, but it can be done,” Inimpli decided.
“Very well,” King Belgrave remarked. “I will speak to the Barbidons. They will remain outside the city until tomorrow. I will appoint three Barbidons to be in charge of them. They will meet you at the gate tomorrow to receive your orders as you start to rebuild.”
The men bowed as King Belgrave left the house. The crowd was still outside and grew loud as they saw King Belgrave once again. “I have left instructions with your village leaders,” he told them. “Tomorrow you will start to rebuild your village.” He and Naiya’Nal then mounted their horses and rode out of the city. The citizens followed them, but stopped suddenly as they noticed the Barbidons still alive just outside the wall. King Belgrave turned to face the citizens once again. “Do not be afraid, the Barbidons are no longer servants of evil, but workers of Tanarad. They will help rebuild the land they destroyed.”
King Belgrave rode over to the Barbidons. “Who are the three highest ranking among you?” he asked.
The Barbidon who had defied Belgrave earlier stepped forward. “I am Za’Vashoj and command all of those here,” he said. “Under me are Gitchvar and Shogwar.”
“You will remain in command, Za’Vashoj, along with Gitchvar and Shogwar. Tonight, all Barbidons must stay outside the village and tomorrow you three will wait at the city gate for your orders. You will be working with Inimpli, Crandoli, and Narmste to rebuild this city.”
The Barbidon bowed and began to give orders to the other Barbidons in their native tongue. Soon they were setting up a camp along the side of the road.