Wet Zet returned with Captain Ayjon before Captain Ezrak returned from the Fasara Ru. As he stepped into the office, the pompous Captain Ayjon bowed deeply before Uungluk. “I am sorry if I caused any anxiety while telling you the news earlier,” he apologized. “Where is Captain Ezrak?”
“It is a dark night,” Wet Zet said, “but even on the darkest of nights can a plot be overheard and ruined. Captain Ezrak is gathering his most trusted crewmembers to guard our discussions. He will be returning shortly.”
“It was wise to choose this ship over the Fasara Ru,” Captain Ayjon admitted. He looked at Uungluk. “Captain Uungluk, do you understand the implications of the issues we will be discussing?”
“I only know about the importance of keeping Uungluk as my name,” he replied. “What else would be involved?”
Captain Ayjon grinned. He took a chair from beside the wall and sat in it next to the desk. “Fasara ru,” he half whispered, “the overthrow of the Overlord. What you want cannot be had as long as the Overlord remains in power.”
Uungluk’s eyes widened in fear. “What you speak of is conspiracy,” he protested. “What happens when we all get caught?”
“We’d each have a choice to make,” Captain Ayjon answered, “but fasara ru has been long awaited and expected by many. There are many pirates who would much rather engage in honest trade than piracy, but the iron fist of the Overlord will crush them if they do not maintain a reputation of vicious bloodshed. It is an evil system established almost two hundred years ago by the notorious Tikang the Terrible. He overpowered the merchants of the sea and forced them under his reign. Now the Overlord maintains a powerful army and a strong fortress, paid for entirely by the quotas collected from those beneath him.”
“What does fasara ru have to do with hiding my real name?” Uungluk asked.
“Have you ever heard of the incident at Cott?” Wet Zet asked.
Uungluk shook his head. “I’ve never heard of Cott.”
Captain Ezrak opened the door and stepped into the room. “I am sorry if I am late, but I had to take the time to ensure we were not being followed. I have my strongest and most trustworthy keeping a watch for us now.”
Captain Ayjon greeted Captain Ezrak. “I received your summons,” he said. “I am with you, and there are many others that could be convinced to join. I was just explaining to your boy here the significance of what is happening. I was there too, but perhaps you would like to tell him about the incident at Cott.”
Captain Ezrak pulled up a chair and sat down with the others. “The incident at Cott was tragic,” he began, “but it is also one of the greatest secrets among our kind. Everyone has heard of it, but there were only three who know what truly happened. If your name could be made as the incident at Cott, then everyone would assume your presence here was only a rumor except for the few who know the truth.”
“But what happened at Cott?” Uungluk asked.
“Cott is a large island three to four months northwest of here,” Captain Ezrak began. “Twelve years ago, the Overlord was visiting a large city on the island, also named Cott, when a massive firestorm raged through the city, killing almost everyone there. Depending on who’s telling the story, the cause may vary, but then most who tell it do not know what happened.”
“You were there and know what happened?” Uungluk asked.
“I said there were three who knew what happened and I am one of them. Captain Ayjon is another, and the third was killed in battle by the royal fleet four years ago. There are others that survived, but I have yet to hear of any of them that truly know why it happened.”
“It was treachery,” Captain Ayjon said. “Only days before the firestorm, a number of young sailors were enjoying the comforts of a tavern near the port when a Lunari suddenly appeared in their midst.”
“It was Zhethou,” Captain Ezrak continued. “Many of the sailors were paralyzed with fear at her sudden appearance, others jumped through the windows to escape, and a small handful bowed to show their reverence to her greatness. She spoke of many things, most specifically of things pertaining to the future demise of the Overlord at the hands of one of the young sailors present. However, news of the Lunari’s words reached the ears of the Overlord. He secretly evacuated his soldiers out of the city and through the forest to the east. In his attempt to rid himself of a future threat, he started the forest on fire and let the wind fan the flames through the forest and into the city. Many innocent people were killed that day, but the three individuals mentioned by the Lunari escaped.”
“So you and Captain Ayjon were at Cott when it happened?” Uungluk asked.
Captain Ezrak nodded. “We were not captains at the time, but we were two of the three. We survived because Zhethou warned us of the Overlord’s treachery in time for us to escape unnoticed into the hills to the north. Sure, we later told our side of the story, but many believed what the Overlord said about the fire being an attempt to discredit him. We have since decided that it is best to keep from mentioning our involvement at Cott since that would only serve to bring us under greater scrutiny from the Overlord.”
“I still don’t know what this has to do with me,” Uungluk said.
“There were four lines to the prophecy of Zhethou,” Captain Ezrak explained. “One line was directed to me and said I would overthrow the Overlord. Another was directed at Captain Ayjon and said he would become very influential throughout the seas. One line was directed to another man who was destined to bring us Wet Zet, and it is the other line which has kept us sailing the seas and brought us together tonight. ‘Found at sea a man will be. He, you see, will set you free.’ Since the Overlord will also be looking for a man from the sea, and you would fit that role, we must do everything we can to discredit any rumors that you have been found until the time comes when the Overlord will be overthrown.”
“Hiding his name is one matter,” Captain Ayjon interrupted. “The timing and execution of fasara ru is of greater importance. If we moved immediately, we would move ahead of the rumor of his name. If the fasara ru was at a later time, we would have to build up a reputation for his current name and disassociate with him to ward off any suspicion until the proper time.”
“Wet Zet, what do you think?” Captain Ezrak asked.
“Well, Captain, I see at least two problems with an immediate fasara ru,” he said. “First, news of Captain Gorg’s defeat will not have reached the Overlord yet. While you’ve now got two quotas to deliver, the one he is expecting from you is late and the deadline for the other is nearing. The Overlord is going to be wondering where you are, and is probably preparing a small army to find out. There is no way fasara ru could be successful if we sailed into Irata only to find the Overlord preparing his troops. Second, there are only three ships among us, and although we could gather a few more in this port, our numbers would still be too small for any assault on Irata. I suggest we go with what Captain Ayjon said and send Captain Uungluk on his own way to prevent any suspicion until you can unite the other captains.”
“I have an idea,” Captain Ayjon said. “Captain Uungluk is your young protégé that you happened upon so you gave him a ship and a crew so he could have a chance to make a name for himself. You still have two quotas to deliver, but you do not want Captain Uungluk to go before the Overlord until his reputation is known throughout the region. I suggest we work together to deliver your quotas, and send Uungluk off on his own endeavors as soon as we reach Irata Inlet.”
“I can’t do that,” Captain Ezrak growled. “I might trust you with my life, but I would never trust even a part of my quota with anyone.”
“I can buy a second ship and we can put your second quota on that,” Captain Ayjon said. “Together we can tow it to Irata. It would only need a minimal crew, and I’m sure we each have a few crewmembers we could spare to make it work.”
“That would work,” Wet Zet said, “but Captain Ayjon, what pretext do you have to visit the Overlord when your quota is not due?”
“You know how I make my fortune.” Captain Ayjon looked over at Uungluk. “Despite my appearance as a pirate, I make my fortune as an honest merchant. However, I need to keep the Overlord convinced that I’m a bloodthirsty hedonist or I’d probably never leave his stronghold alive. To do so, I keep a vat of alcohol in my hold and use it to store the heads of anyone I may come across that is already dead. I have had to rob graveyards from time to time, but I try to keep that to a minimum.” He looked back at Wet Zet. “I need to visit the Overlord because lately I’ve been a very bloodthirsty pirate and have an abundance of heads to present before him.”
“I can only imagine what your crew must think every time they open that vat,” Captain Ezrak muttered. “Still, you’ve got quite a fortune, so it must be working well for you.”
“You should try it,” Captain Ayjon said. “There’s a fortune waiting to be made, if only the Overlord would permit us to engage in trade rather than piracy. Unfortunately, such things cannot happen openly until after fasara ru brings us a new Overlord that will make changes.”
“Who would the new Overlord be?” Uungluk asked. “There are four of us here, and while I don’t want it, how could any of us convince every other captain out there that one of us is best suited for the position?”
“It’s simple,” Wet Zet said. “Whoever kills the Overlord becomes the next Overlord. It’s the only way it’s ever happened.”
“And besides, the words of the Lunari specifically mentioned that Captain Ezrak was to defeat the Overlord,” Captain Ayjon added.
Captain Ezrak leaned back in his chair. “Overlord Ezrak... it has a nice ring to it. Still, there is much to do before any such move. Once we send Uungluk off and deliver my quotas, we’ll need to gather ships, crews, and soldiers.”
“I’ll canvass the islands if you do the mainland,” Captain Ayjon said. “While you’ve only engaged in piracy, I happen to have a number of contacts that may be convinced to join us. Perhaps I could even negotiate a meeting with the royal fleet and ask their support.”
“I have a question,” Wet Zet interrupted. “If we’re all going our separate ways, how will we know when it’s time to go? How will anyone that joins us know when it’s time to go?”
The two captains thought about it for a moment. “We definitely need a base,” Captain Ezrak decided, “but it cannot be either of our lands since that would draw too much scrutiny.”
“Wet Zet, has your homeland ever been under the rule of a captain before?” Captain Ayjon asked.
Wet Zet shook his head. “Our villages were always considered too small, and there was also the monster that scared the captains away. Other than that, there would be no reason why we could not have our base there.”
“What kind of monster is it?” Uungluk asked.
“The kind that you should go kill,” Captain Ezrak said. “Wet Zet can help you navigate your way there, and then you can convince the villages in the area to let us use Kaho Lagoon as a base. Two years should be enough time for us to prepare.”
“Then it’s settled,” Captain Ayjon decided. He stood up and returned his chair to its place against the wall. “I need to return to my own ship and buy a second one in the morning. When do you wish to depart?”
“Captain Ezrak, I’ve paid for drinks for both our crews at Chig’s Chigel for two days,” Wet Zet said. “I suggest waiting until that is up.”
“Two days then,” Captain Ezrak decided. He looked up at Captain Ayjon. “If something changes, I’ll send a message.”
Captain Ayjon nodded. He pulled out the two arrows and set them on the desk before stepping out of the room.
Captain Ezrak took the arrows and handed them to Uungluk. “You keep these,” he ordered. “They are your identity.”
Uungluk looked at Captain Ezrak as he took the arrows. “How is all of this going to hide my name?” he asked.
“What name?” the Captain asked. “Everyone else will think you’re just a lunatic trying to get some undeserved fame at the expense of a prince who most likely drowned. That’s why we’re sending you on a quest against a monster that no one else has managed to kill; so we don’t have to be bothered by your antics when you never come back.”
“How can I expect to kill something that no one else has been able to kill?” Uungluk asked. “If this is anything like a na’karden, I know those cannot be killed and are to be avoided at all costs.”
“No other captain has dared to approach it,” Captain Ezrak said, “but I know you’re reckless enough not to flee.”
“I’ve never talked about the monster, but knowing what I do about it makes me wonder how other captains will react to word of its defeat,” Wet Zet said. “Don’t worry, Captain Uungluk, you’ll do fine.”
Captain Ezrak stood up. “I’m returning to my own ship for the rest of the night. What you do from now until we leave Kevek is up to you, but Wet Zet, keep an eye on him. You might also consider finding a use for that man you captured tonight.”
“I’ll think of something,” Uungluk replied.
Captain Ezrak left, leaving Uungluk and Wet Zet. “Chig’s bird did say I’d visit an old land,” Wet Zet said. “I haven’t been there since I ran off adventuring and joined the first ship I could find when I was your age. I never expected I’d go back though.”
“It’s getting late,” Uungluk said. “We should get some rest and tomorrow we can stock up supplies for the rest of our journey.”