How long do you think it will take Colonel Balvain and the army to get here?” Belgrave asked Naiya’Nal. They were sitting on their horses outside the gates of Norl.
“It should only take them a few more hours, but possibly longer if they stop to rest. It is almost a day’s march from where we were camped before.”
“Well, we might as well relax while we wait for them to arrive,” Belgrave said. He jumped off his horse and sat down under a tree. Naiya’Nal sat down next to him and offered him a piece of bread. As he ate it, he realized he was very hungry. He pulled out his own loaf of bread and broke off some to eat.
“Thank you for coming after me earlier,” Naiya’Nal said. “At times I feel that I need to prove that I am indeed fighting for the prophecies and that can make me act on impulse.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Belgrave replied. “While I don’t excuse Colonel Balvain’s remarks, everything still managed to work out to our advantage. Norl is free and none of the Barbidons have been harmed.”
“I hate this world!” Naiya’Nal cried out after sitting in silence for a few minutes. “Everywhere I go, people look at me with fear and distrust, and many of those that speak to me are often harsh with their words.”
“I’m not thrilled to be here either,” Belgrave said. “The only reason the people follow me is because I give them hope that one day the Dark Wizard will be defeated. I would not worry what other people think of you. Only by helping me can you do your part to help fulfill the prophecies, and I do trust you.”
“What is your world like?” she asked.
“I wish I could take you there,” replied Belgrave. “It is hard to describe the things that you have never seen in such a way that you could envision them. There are great cities with millions of people and towers that are taller than fifty trees. We have machines that we ride that are faster than horses, and some machines that can take us into the sky!” Naiya’Nal was speechless as she tried creating mental pictures of the things that Belgrave described. “We have sent men to the moon, and one day we may send men even farther,” he continued.
“You don’t have a Dark Wizard or someone evil to fight against?” she asked. “I have never heard of a perfect world, but from your description, it sounds like it might be perfect.”
“It is not as good as you would think. We do not fight against a Dark Wizard; we fight amongst ourselves. Men do horrible things and kill each other for reasons no one else can understand.”
“There are sometimes battles between nations in this world also,” she said.
“Wars in my world are horrible,” he replied. “They can start without warning and many innocent lives are ruined. People have made fortunes by making improved weapons. We use weapons that can kill almost instantly from far distances, and have machines that can kill from even farther. The one weapon we try not to use can be used to destroy an entire city from anywhere in the world.”
“Such a weapon could help us defeat the Dark Wizard!” Naiya’Nal stated.
“I would not wish such a weapon to be used in this world,” Belgrave said. “Even with good intentions, bad things happen. The weapon was used twice in my world and it was while the weapon was still in the experimental phase, long before it was perfected. Two cities were reduced to piles of rubble. That war ended, but the long-term effects of the weapon were horrible. The survivors of those cities became sick for the rest of their lives. There is no easy cure against the sickness from the weapon and now no one dares to use it.”
“Then why do they keep those weapons?” she asked.
“They have become more of a deterrent than anything else. No one wants to become a victim of one so no one dares to use one in fear of retaliation. However, I do expect that someday there will be a war of such magnitude that these weapons will be used once again. I hate to say it, but to see the power of this weapon unleashed would be a breathtaking once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
“Now you make your world seem like a horrible place,” Naiya’Nal remarked.
“My world is not so bad!” Belgrave defended. “There are many differences between my world and your world and yet they are still similar. The difference lies mostly in the knowledge our worlds possess. Civilization in my world used to be even more primitive than this one, but we have learned many things and civilizations have grown. Jun Joon told me that the progress of your world was being hindered until the evil is defeated. I believe that when the Dark Wizard is defeated, then over time, your world will eventually become more like mine.”
“I was born in this world, but I no longer call it mine,” Naiya’Nal sadly explained. “There are very few people who will welcome me.”
“I welcome your company,” Belgrave replied. “Not many people can even begin to understand what it is like being unable to return home. Why won’t anyone else welcome you?”
“I was born free,” she began, “but at a young age, the Barbidons attacked my village and my family was captured. My parents were made into slaves and I was trained to be an assassin.”
“So that is how you were able to control the Barbidons the way you did,” Belgrave noted.
“Yes,” she replied. “During that time, I traveled to many places. I learned things that most people have never even heard of. I have ruined many innocent lives without remorse and left a wake of devastation behind me. It was not until just recently, when I saw my parents killed, that I realized just how horrible I had become, that my life had been spent following a lie. Even now, after having turned against everything I once lived for, people still distrust me.”
“So everyone thinks you are still against us?” Belgrave asked.
“There are a few who trust me,” Naiya’Nal said, “Commander Sidrahkir, Jun Joon, and several others. It is because they openly trust me that other people don’t try to kill me.”
“I can see why you do not like this world,” Belgrave said. “You are alone and looking for anyone who will accept you.” He paused and continued when she did not reply. “That is partly why you are drawn to me. I am not from this world so you have not done anything to hurt me and earn my distrust.” He paused again and her silence continued. “All you want is a friend who cares about you and you think that I am the only one who can be that.”
“Do not think I am using you, King Belgrave,” she finally replied. “You are correct, and while you are a handsome man, I am only here because Jun Joon said I must. The two dragons will become one and together they will be unstoppable.”
“So you and Jun Joon think these two dragons in the stars means we need to get married?” asked Belgrave.
“I believe that is what Jun Joon wanted,” she replied. “I do not know if I believe everything he said, but I will do anything to help fulfill the prophecies.”
“There is a lot in common between us, Naiya’Nal,” Belgrave remarked, “but in my world, people usually spend a lot more time getting to know each other before they get married. I can understand your reasoning, but I do not think it will work very well. People should take time to develop a relationship before a marriage is even considered.”
“Everything takes time,” she said, “but there are ways to cheat. We have a common goal and earlier today you said you need me by your side.”
“I did say that, and meant it,” Belgrave said. “Together we defeated the Dark Witch. Today, the two of us liberated a village. You are an attractive woman, and even if I did want to marry you today, there are questions that I want answered first. We must seek Jun Joon when we are done liberating Tanarad and ask for his guidance.” There was a brief moment of silence before Belgrave finished. “Don’t worry. If prophecy wants it to happen, then it will happen.”
They were still there, sitting under the tree, when Colonel Balvain found them. He halted the army outside the city. From the white flag of Tanarad fluttering over the city, it was evident that the Barbidons no longer ruled. “Where are the Barbidons?” he asked King Belgrave.
“I offered them new employment and the offer was accepted,” King Belgrave replied. “Walk with me, we must talk.”
They walked out of earshot of everyone before either said anything. “I accept responsibility for what happened earlier,” the Colonel finally stated.
“And for Naiya’Nal’s sake, I hope you are truly sorry,” King Belgrave added. “However, it worked out good in the end. The entire Barbidon garrison stood ready to kill themselves and watched as I spared their lives.”
Colonel Balvain looked at King Belgrave. “Why would they kill themselves?” he asked.
“It doesn’t matter how it happened,” King Belgrave replied. “I just never want to hear you say anything negative about Naiya’Nal. Now, have the soldiers set up camp across the road from the Barbidon encampment. Tomorrow we will march to Eema.” King Belgrave turned and started walking away as the Colonel stood there with his mouth open. Belgrave looked back. “That goes for the rest of the soldiers as well,” he shouted.
Belgrave sat back down next to Naiya’Nal. “If anyone talks bad about you, just let me know,” he instructed. They sat awhile longer before Belgrave decided to check on Colonel Balvain and the army.
That night, the citizens of Norl held a feast in honor of King Belgrave and the liberation of their city. There was music, dancing, and lots of food that Belgrave had never tasted before. He was unable to try all of it, but he did try what he could. During most of the festivities he wondered where Naiya’Nal had gone, but was constantly distracted by the village leaders and the many others who came to greet him.
Later that night, as the festivities were beginning to slow, Naiya’Nal approached Belgrave with a cup with some dark liquid. “Try this,” she suggested. “It’s called worret, and is the strongest drink made by the Barbidons. It’s very hard to get outside of Sarda.”
“Where have you been?” he asked her.
“Don’t worry, I haven’t been far,” she answered with a smile.
He took the cup. The liquid smelled nice as he began to sip the beverage. “I like this,” he announced, drinking some more.
Naiya’Nal sat down next to him. “You had better be careful, King Belgrave; it’s more potent than you’d think.”
“I think we have stronger drinks in my own world,” Belgrave replied, emptying most of the cup. “They just don’t taste as good. Can I have some more?”
Naiya’Nal took the cup. “You forgot some,” she said, finishing it. “Most people are afraid to drink worret, but follow me; I’ll show you where I found it.”
Belgrave stood up and took a few steps. He could tell the drink was starting to affect his movement, but it was not yet outwardly evident. It also seemed to clear his mind. He felt more alert and more energetic than he had felt the rest of the day. Naiya’Nal led him through the crowd and finally into a small structure filled with barrels. “There’s enough in here to supply us for a year! We need to take this back with us,” Belgrave exclaimed. She refilled his cup and handed it back to him.
“This is all I’ll let you have tonight,” she said. “You’re new to this world so you aren’t used to our beverages.” She led Belgrave back outside and back to the table.
Belgrave sat down at the table. The worret was starting to affect him worse than before so he barely sipped from the cup in front of him. The alertness caused by the worret seemed to intensify every moment. Everything, from the largest house in the village to the finest details weaved into the tablecloth, caught his eye. Nothing was missing and he did not think his mind could handle so much. With the many people stopping to pay their respects to their new king and liberator, it was not long until Belgrave began to feel dizzy from the constant motion in front of him. His mind was racing faster than he had thought possible “I think I need to lie down,” he finally told Naiya’Nal.
She called Colonel Balvain. “King Belgrave needs to return to the camp,” she said. “I think he had a bit much worret.”
“He had worret?” the Colonel questioned, looking at Naiya’Nal and the cup she was holding. He thought she looked a bit unsteady herself, but he kept himself from saying anything rude. “I’ll go get his horse.” He soon returned with Leukos, Melas, and several soldiers. “We have a tent set up for you. These soldiers will escort the king. I no longer think we’re marching to Eema tomorrow.” The soldiers helped King Belgrave onto his horse and began to lead him away.
Are you sure it was worret?” the Colonel asked Naiya’Nal. “Why did you give it to King Belgrave?”
“Best stuff I’ve had in a long time.” Naiya’Nal mischievously grinned. She finished the contents of her cup, mounted her horse with some difficulty, and rode off after Belgrave, leaving the extremely upset Colonel Balvain unsure of what to do.
At the tent, Naiya’Nal and the soldiers helped King Belgrave inside, although it took some time since the worret was affecting her also. By now things seemed to blur around King Belgrave and even though his eyes did not miss a thing, he could only focus on what was directly ahead of him, Naiya’Nal. The two of them were now focused so intently on each other that nothing else mattered.
Colonel Balvain did not know what to do. There was a reason why some people referred to worret as a love potion. The intense experience affected people so strongly that afterwards they had a permanent affection to whatever had been the longest focus of their attention. The Barbidons had utilized the affect in their ancient mass marriage ritual, and now King Belgrave and Naiya’Nal were both under the influence of the drink. What will Commander Sidrahkir think when he hears I let them drink it?, he thought. I’ll have to blame it on prophecy!