Almost two months later, on the second day of Jurthe, a number of other ships were spotted in the distance. Wet Zet hurried up the mast to get a better view. “I think they’re friendly,” he finally confirmed. “I see the flag of the Fasara Ru in the midst of them.”
They sailed closer, armed as a precaution, and arrived to find one of the ships sinking. Captain Ezrak hailed them from the Fasara Ru. “Uungluk, it’s about time you arrived!” he shouted. He was wearing a wide-brimmed black hat cocked to the side with a number of feathers sticking from it.
They sailed the two ships side by side and lashed them together so the two captains could meet. “I hadn’t expected to see you again so soon,” Uungluk said. “Why is that other ship sinking?”
Captain Ezrak stepped aboard Uungluk’s ship. “Captain Jor suddenly had second thoughts about our plans and was about to leave and warn the Overlord,” he explained. “We had to sink the Sun Maiden in order to keep our plans secret until the last moment.”
Uungluk frowned. “How many others have joined us?”
“Eighteen,” the Captain answered. “Some of them only have their normal crew, but some of us had the time to visit our territories and draft soldiers. We’re a formidable force now, but I still doubt we are much of a match for the Overlord.”
Wet Zet walked up beside Uungluk. “Where is Captain Ayjon? I don’t see his ship.”
“He was two days behind us,” Captain Ezrak said. “We arrived here yesterday and he should arrive tomorrow.”
“Have the ships tie up together,” Uungluk ordered. “We should spend the time getting to know the other captains. Captain, would you agree to let us meet in on the Fasara Ru?”
“I don’t mind,” Captain Ezrak said, “but isn’t your ship just as good?”
Uungluk leaned closer. “I’ve got my future wife living in my office,” he whispered.
“I understand your concern,” Captain Ezrak said. “My ship will be fine.”
“Good,” Uungluk said. He took a step back. “I see you took my advice and finally found a hat,” he noted.
“The Overlord was pleased when I brought him two quotas and offered to reward my efforts,” Captain Ezrak explained. “When I told him that you said I’d look better wearing a hat, he agreed and had it made for me.”
“Did he say anything about Captain Uungluk?” Wet Zet asked.
Captain Ezrak nodded. “He was not very pleased that I sent you away before he met you,” he answered, “especially when he found out you were going to try killing the monster. Speaking of that, I am curious, how did you kill it?”
“I’m Uungluk the Mighty and my spear and sword will not be stopped.”
Wet Zet smiled. “It was a glorious victory, but I think it had offspring since we heard some roaring as we sailed away.”
“At least you survived,” Captain Ezrak said. “Why Wet Zet’s people would choose to live near such a dangerous beast is beyond me.” He put his hand on Captain Uungluk’s shoulder. “Zhethou said she would tell you it was time to go. How did you like getting to meet her again? She came to see every captain here.”
“It was awkward,” he decided. He frowned. “I think there is more going on with this than just overthrowing the Overlord. Zhethou specifically mentioned that we were going to war at Irata, not just battle. She also ordered Wet Zet’s people to form an army and launch a counterassault against Irata. Overthrowing the Overlord is one thing, but carefully planning the complete destruction of Irata for that purpose seems excessive. There has to be more involved here than just a simple takeover.”
“I agreed,” Captain Ezrak said. “While I was in Irata to deliver the quotas, I noticed that they were building lots of ships. These weren’t normal ships like you or I have, but massive juggernauts that could easily transport a thousand soldiers. Since then, they have been sailing half-crewed from Irata, past Lorak, and instead of rounding the cape and turning east, they continue south without anyone knowing their final destination or purpose.”
“That is grave news,” Wet Zet said. “The only destination directly south from the cape would be Nazada.”
There was a brief silence as the three men contemplated the horrible implications of the revelation. “The Overlord must be under the influence of Nazada,” Uungluk finally decided. “I now fear for the safety of this entire land.”
“It may be bad, but we still have the Lunari on our side,” Wet Zet reassured. “In the meantime, let us enjoy the moment, and Captain Ezrak, let me introduce you to Captain Uungluk’s woman.”
The next morning, the Goldhammer appeared on the horizon and sailed toward them at full sail. By the time it had reached them and tied up with the others, everyone could see that Captain Ayjon was visibly upset. “There is a problem,” he said bluntly as he stepped onto the Fasara Ru. “I was intercepted yesterday, and given a package.” He tossed a dirty bundle to the deck in front of the other captains. Uungluk stepped forward and picked up the bundle. “Open it,” Captain Ayjon ordered.
Uungluk pulled at the string tied around the bundle and pulled it off. The cloth dropped away to reveal a rotting severed hand grasping a round stone with intricate markings carved on it. Several of the captains gasped when they saw it.
“The stone of Irata!” one of them said.
“The Overlord knows we are coming,” Captain Ayjon said. “Our whole plan has been anticipated.”
“Not the whole plan,” Uungluk said. “Even as we speak, there is an army marching toward Irata in a counterassault. We have allies and are not alone in this war against this evil tyrant.”
One of the other captains stepped forward. “How would you, a captain I have never heard of until yesterday, know more than I about what is happening?”
Uungluk remembered the captain from the night before. The man was Captain Bill, although he claimed it was short for Billitangokangdumong. “You know me as Captain Uungluk the Mighty,” Uungluk replied, “but now is the time for you to know me as Prince Turos. I have the arrows that pierced my body and the scars on my shoulder and thigh. I will not cower from the orders given me by the Lunari and ask you all to sail with me to victory.” He turned toward his ship. “Wet Zet,” he shouted, “raise the flag!”
The white flag began to rise up the mast. It had the image of an arrow with red feathers and an intricately crafted barb, crossed with the image of the barb and partial shaft of the broken arrow.
“The Overlord will not be expecting an attack led by Prince Turos,” another of the captains admitted. “I will accept that you are Prince Turos and sail with you to Irata.”
Captain Bill dropped to his knees and bowed. “Prince Turos, forgive my hesitation. It was done in ignorance.”
“Stand tall and proud,” Turos replied. “You are a captain fighting to free your land and for a chance to live as honest men instead of pirates.” He looked around at the others. “I am honored to be standing side by side with some of the most influential men that sail the seas. I will not criticize or frown upon those with questions.” The captain stood up.
“We may have an ally launching a counterassault,” Captain Ezrak said, “but now that our attack is expected, speed is vital to our success. Captain Uung... I mean Prince Turos, I would like the Fasara Ru to be second, only behind yours.”
Turos grinned. “Captain Uungluk or Prince Turos, you may call me either and I will answer the same. I will lead the attack and the Fasara Ru will go second, followed by the Goldhammer.”
Captain Bill stepped forward. “My two ships, the White Javelin and the Rum Bucket will follow behind the Goldhammer.”
Turos nodded his agreement. “The rest of the ships can follow behind in whatever order you wish.” He looked at the severed hand holding the stone. “We should embark immediately, and may the breath of the Lunari fill our sails.” He pried the stone from the hand and tossed the hand off the ship. “We will reach for Irata,” he said, holding the stone high in the air, “and we will succeed!”