Two days later, the breach in the wall had been cleared of rubble and served as a road between the docks and the rest of Irata. The slaves in the city had been freed, and the slave owners had fled. Captain Ezrak had officially declared an end to the pirate war and taken the title of Overlord. He was releasing the pirates to return to their territories and let the people know they were freed from the former Overlord’s tyranny. The Olo had set up camp south of the ruins of Irata, and Jo’Ana was able to visit her parents. Chief Oholohono was sick, however, and unable to do more than sit up in bed. It was believed that it was a reaction to something he had eaten a few days before. Within a month, most of the damage from the battle had been taken care of. There was a new gate in the wall, and the ruined city was being rebuilt by the former slaves.
On the twentieth day of Falil, an envoy of Barbidons arrived at Irata, bringing with them the attendant that Turos had sent to investigate the royal fleet’s activities in that region almost six months before. They demanded to meet with Prince Turos immediately, and were taken to his ship.
The attendant bowed when he stepped into the captain’s office and saw Turos. “Prince Turos, your father is glad to know you are alive and well,” he began, “but the circumstances bringing him to this land are grim. I have been sent back to request your assistance in a war that is destroying this land.”
One of the Barbidons stepped forward. It appeared as if he was bowing, but he was merely crouching down because the room was not tall enough for a Barbidon to stand straight. “The dark legions of Nazada have been landing on our southern shores and are sweeping across all of the land of Lajolaine.” He took a map from one of the others, and spread it on the table in the room. It was of the entire land and not just the coastline that Turos had seen in the past year. “We have confirmed landings at Barab, Keethan, Bilor, Nev, Wileth, Maja, Tara, Siinor, and at the Barbidon outpost of Don on the Don River,” he said, pointing at the various locations. “There are other unconfirmed landings even further along the coastline at Ilus, Melar, and Jelar. As you can see, this is practically the entire southern coast of this land. I do not know if there have been other landings along the western coast which is populated by your race, but if there are, then those cities and villages are probably destroyed by now. The enemy is moving steadily toward the Lake of Lajolaine at the center of this land, and is destroying everything along the way. By the time I departed from our greatest city, Lajolaine, to find you, they had already crossed the southern mountains, and also moved into the Eshalorivor region to the east.”
“How many strong are they?” Turos asked.
“Too many,” the Barbidon answered. “Their numbers are great enough to present even our largest cities with a grave threat. We are already evacuating as many cities as possible and plan to gather our soldiers to make a final stand at Lajolaine. Even still, the battle will be hard and difficult, and we request the assistance of you and your armies.”
“Your father is at Lajolaine,” the attendant added. “The Great King sent him with twelve brigades to reinforce the Barbidons. As you can see, this is a war of great importance to the Great King, and after learning that you were alive, your father requested that you also assist them.”
For a moment, Turos was silent. “My father never let me go to battle because my brother and I did not have any heirs to the throne. Why would he change that now?”
The Barbidon grinned. “Prince Hifur said you would say that. He also said that since the last official report of you could not prove you were alive, the lack of an heir was no longer a valid reason.”
“There is also one other problem,” Turos said. “At the moment, I do not have any armies. At the most, all I would be able to bring would be a handful of pirates and perhaps half of the Olo army.” He sighed. “Still, the Lunari did tell me to travel south from here, and into the land of the Barbidons to assist another war. I will go with you to Lajolaine, but I cannot guarantee anyone will join me.”
“Every sword will help, even if it is only yours,” the Barbidon replied with an attempted bow. “There are several towns and villages that we will pass on our way to Lajolaine, and I am sure that many brave men will rally to your banner as we travel.”
“Today I will see who will join me, tomorrow we will prepare, and on the third day we will march. How long will it take us to get there?”
“No more than a month at your speed,” the Barbidon answered. “We will travel through Shigshig Pass and then along the Tel River to the Eftan River, and then by road straight to Lajolaine. We are in a race for time since every moment we delay means the enemy is moving closer.”
Turos smiled. “You are welcome to remain on my ship or in the vicinity of Irata, but I now have things to attend to in preparation for your war.” The Barbidons stepped out of the room, leaving Turos with the attendant. “What does my father think of my being a pirate?” he asked.
“I think he was a little apprehensive knowing you were alive and he was unable to do anything to prevent the royal fleet from attacking pirates,” the attendant replied. “However, I did explain that you were staying away from the main shipping lanes and that slightly eased his anxieties.”
“Does he know about Jo’Ana?” Turos asked.
The attendant shook his head. “I decided that issue was for you to deal with.”
“I think he’ll be pleased when he finds out,” Turos said. “How did you know to look for me here in Irata?”
“I didn’t,” the attendant admitted. “I actually came along planning to turn east from here and continue to the Olo territory.”
“Well, I’ve got to go talk to some people. While I’m away, I’d like you to pack my stuff for traveling.” The attendant bowed as Turos left the room.
Turos found Wet Zet lounging in a hammock he had strung up on the deck. “Are you interested in visiting new lands?” Turos asked him.
“I’m always going to new places, the more exotic the better,” Wet Zet answered. “The strangest place I’ve ever been was a tiny island in the middle of the sea. It was inhabited by some little folk no taller than my knee. They claimed they were from a land called Noemis. Have you ever heard of Noemis?”
Turos shook his head. “I know of no such land,” he answered.
“That’s too bad. The ingenuity of Noemis brought us the dinner fork. So, where are you off to now?” Wet Zet asked.
“War is calling me to Lajolaine,” Turos answered. “I’d like you to join me if you’re interested and physically well enough to travel.”
“My rear is still a bit sore, but if I didn’t go, who would be there to protect you?” Wet Zet grinned. “I’m definitely going, but I’d still like to know the magnitude of this war.”
“It’s big,” Turos answered. “It’s big enough that this entire land will be destroyed if the enemy is not stopped.”
Wet Zet sat up. “That’s something I’d have to see to believe! Who else are you going to ask to join you?”
Turos thought for a moment. “I’ll ask Overlord Ezrak to sail the coast and assist any places that have already been invaded, and I’ll ask Chief Oholohono if he’d be willing to send any of the Olo to Lajolaine with me.”
“I’ll go with you,” Wet Zet said, standing up.
The two men walked through Irata to the Olo camp and found the Chief. His health was still poor, but he stood up and bowed when he saw Turos. “My Prince, what can I do for you today?”
“I am off to fight in another war in Lajolaine,” Turos replied. “I came to see if the Olo would care to assist the Barbidons in their final stand against the dark legions bent on destroying this entire land.”
Chief Oholohono frowned. “I will go with you, but I cannot speak for my soldiers. Many will desire to stay to guard our homes and families against impossible odds rather than die alone on a foreign field.”
“Leave Commander Onoromo behind,” Turos said. “He is a capable commander and will see to the election of a new chief. If we survive the coming battle, I will take your family with me to Atalan.”
“That is an honor,” Chief Oholohono replied. “I will gather the Olo and ask every man to decide for himself if he will travel with us to Lajolaine.”
“Be quick about it,” Turos ordered. “Tomorrow we prepare and the next day we march.”
When it was time to leave, the soldiers gathered beneath the white banner with the two arrows. Chief Oholohono brought two hundred Olo soldiers, and about fifty random pirates also decided to join the group. They travelled south through Shigshig Pass, out of the land of the pirates and into the realm of the Barbidons. Everywhere they went, Turos was cheered as a champion, and the local Barbidon males flocked to join the small army. By the time they reached the Lower Lajolaine River, the army had grown to a size of several thousand. What they were not prepared for was the size of the Barbidon army waiting for them when they crossed the river and the impressiveness of the city when they entered Lajolaine on the sixteenth of Solil.
The city was built on a terraced hill south of where the Lower River of Lajolaine connected with the Lake of Lajolaine. The grand architecture was massive and most of the structures were built with a tan marble.
They were escorted to the top of the hill and introduced to the Barbidon leader, Tawg Tishatov, an imposing creature in both age and size. “Welcome to Lajolaine, Prince Turos,” the Tawg greeted. “I wish these were better times and you could enjoy the pleasantries of the Barbidon realm, but war and hardship is upon us, and it is only a matter of time before we make our final stand.”
Turos glanced around. “I did not see any Barbidons in this area who were not soldiers. Where are all the females and children?”
“Everyone else has been evacuated down the river to Lamarjolaine,” the Tawg explained. “The enemy is less than a week away from here, so we are preparing for battle. I plan to keep your soldiers here at the top of the hill to guard the palace, and suggest that in the meantime, you head down the south side of the city to meet your father. He will be glad to be reunited with you and will explain the rest of our battle plans.”
“Perhaps it would be best if he came to me,” Turos countered. “I am currently a wanted man so it would not be good for me to wander through the camps of his valiant soldiers or they may try to apprehend me.”
“Very well,” Tawg Tishatov agreed. “I will have him brought up to see you. In the meantime, I suggest you take the chance to look around our city before it is destroyed by the enemy. “I doubt you will ever find anything similar to many of the wonders we have here.”
Turos thanked the Tawg. “Even the things I have seen as we were brought here have been impressive,” he said. “But first, all I request is an area where my soldiers and I can set up camp.”
Tawg Tishatov smiled and pointed to one of the younger Barbidons in the area. “Tawgjug Rushalot will be your escort while you remain in Lajolaine. He will provide you with everything you need.”
The Barbidon stepped forward. “Come with me. I will show you where to set up camp.” He led Turos and the others partway back down the hill and showed them where to find everything, including food and water.
That evening, Turos was sitting around a fire with Wet Zet, Chief Oholohono, Ro’Ana, and Jo’Ana, when a man suddenly joined them. “I was wondering when you’d arrive here, Turos” the man said.
Turos stood up. “Father, it has been quite some time since I last saw you! How is my mother?”
“She is concerned for you,” Hifur answered ,sitting down, “but I was only able to return to Atalan for several days before the Great King sent me here by the orders of the Lunari.” He looked around at the others. “You should introduce me to your friends, especially the pretty girl sitting beside you.”
Turos smiled and sat down again. “This is Jo’Ana,” he said. “When we first met, she thought I was nothing more than a common pirate and was hesitant to respond to my invitation to dance. Here with us, is her father, Former Chief Oholohono of the Olo, and her mother, Ro’Ana. The other man is named Wet Zet, and has proved to be the best bodyguard and friend a man could ever want.”
Prince Hifur thought for a moment. “The name Wet Zet sounds familiar, like someone I’ve overheard people on my ship mention.”
“There aren’t too many men of the sea who have not at least heard of me,” Wet Zet admitted. “I’ve been through my share of fights with the royal fleet and have earned a bit of a reputation for my eccentric ways.”
Prince Hifur shook his head. “No, there was something else, something more important awhile back. You would have been a young man at the time.”
“I did initiate the Atalan-Noemis Trade Agreement,” Wet Zet said, “but that was supposed to be kept a secret known only to a few select individuals.”
“Then forget I mentioned it,” the Prince said, “but I will say the dinner fork is an impressive invention that we got out of it.” He turned to face Chief Oholohono. “Former Chief Olohonoho, I’ve never heard of the Olo. Where do they live?”
“My name is Oholohono, not Olohonoho,” the Chief replied. “The Olo live about two hundred nura northeast from here. We began as a tribe, but we have expanded to control a large territory. We have been pleased to know your son for most of the past year. I must say, I was a bit infuriated when he first approached my daughter since no one knew who he really was.”
Prince Hifur smiled. “I can only begin to imagine what all Turos has done since we last were together.”
“I go by Turos the Mighty now,” Turos said. “Turok heard me shout it when I was killing the cats that killed him, and he said he liked the sound of it.”
“I like it too,” Prince Hifur agreed. “How did you come up with that? Your mother and I never told you that the Lunari called you that at your birth.”
“I was told by a Lunari,” Turos answered. “She came to see me just before Turok was killed, and she was the one that told me to flee.”
“I do have good news about that,” Prince Hifur said. “You no longer need to stand before the Great King and answer for your brother’s death. When he heard the report of what happened, he consulted the Lunari and they told him the truth of the matter. The only issue now is that most of the world still wonders if you are dead or alive.”
Turos frowned. “Then why would the Lunari have told me to flee?”
“You would have to ask the Lunari if you want to know their answer, but I believe they wanted you to become a great warrior, someone capable of both fighting and instilling courage in the hearts of the men around him. I heard about the stand you made at Irata, and it is much more than I would have been willing to do. It may be that you were being prepared for the battle we are about to fight.”
“What is so special about this battle?” Turos asked. “Everyone speaks as if we are all doomed to fail, and yet there are Barbidon soldiers everywhere I look. The enemy will need to advance uphill, and I haven’t even seen them.”
“This is one of the few battles that will directly influence the power of the Lunari in this world. The Dark Lunari Mathol is sending his legions north from Nazada to take this land, and we must defend and protect it for the Light Lunari. If we lose this battle, the Light Lunari will no longer control the people of this land and will lose some of their power.”
“Why don’t the Lunari just fight amongst themselves and leave us out of it?” Ro’Ana asked.
“If you were to ask one of them, they would merely say the time for that had not yet come,” Prince Hifur answered. “The truth is, if the Lunari were to be more directly involved, then there is a greater potential for the Light Lunari to be destroyed. I cannot pretend to understand the complexities, but they apparently know what they will do in the future, and that would be altered if they were killed now. Instead they stand back and watch while we struggle for their power.”
“I don’t like the idea of being a slave, even for a Lunari,” Wet Zet admitted, “but I do know that anything the Lunari have told me to do has been met with success. The difficult part is seeing that success without also seeing the failures, the loss of men, the scars, and the difficulties that go along with it.”
Chief Oholohono frowned. “If what I’ve heard is true, then the loss of men in this war is going to be very great, even if we do successfully defeat the enemy.”
“I hope this will be the last war I need to fight in,” Turos said.
“I agree,” the other men around the fire all said at the same time.
“It’s not that I don’t like war, although I do admit I don’t like it,” Turos continued, “but it’s because I’d rather go on to do other things besides constant battle. I’ve struggled, I’ve bled, and all this time I’d much rather have shook hands with my opponent rather than fight them.”
“Unfortunately, that only happens in a friendly fight,” Wet Zet said. “When this enemy arrives, they’re going to butcher us unless we butcher them first.”
“I don’t like having to clean up the mess,” Jo’Ana said. “You go out and swing around your weapons, and then come back expecting someone else to clean your wounds and clean up any blood you’re dripping.”
“Consider yourself fortunate to be so close behind the man you love when he goes to battle,” Prince Hifur said. “My wife sits at home in Atalan and wonders from the moment I leave until the moment I return if I’ve survived, and if I have survived, if I’ve been horribly maimed. Waiting as long as she does is hard on her, and I know it’s hard on the wives of every soldier that goes with me to battle.” He looked at Turos. “Enough talk of war, I want to hear about your exploits as a pirate!”
Turos grinned. “It all started when they pulled me out of the sea, cared for my wounds, and asked my name. From then on, I was known as Uungluk!”
They continued talking awhile longer before going to get some rest for the next day.