A month later, Uungluk had left the other three ships behind and was sailing his ship steadily along the coast. They did happen to come across the occasional other ship sailing the opposite direction, but there were no confrontations or unfriendly meetings. After two months, they neared the narrow entrance to the lagoon. To either side was a steep hill covered with thick jungle growth, and Wet Zet said that was probably where they would encounter the monster. Rather than stand at his usual pedestal at the stern, Uungluk stood at the bow of his ship with several spears beside him. “Full sail, straight and steady,” he ordered. “Put every oar in motion and speed us to this monster.”
The crew ran to their oars and began to row. Their pace quickened and the ship raced toward the entrance of the lagoon. Soon they could hear a low growling in the distance that increased in volume as they sailed closer.
“Captain Uungluk, look,” Wet Zet shouted from the rigging. Uungluk looked to see where Wet Zet was pointing and followed his gaze to the starboard hill. The trees on the hill were moving as something large ambled through them on its way down toward the water. The trees blocked the view of the monster, but he had occasional glimpses of the massive creature’s grey-brown hide. The growl changed to a loud roar that filled the air and shook the ship beneath them. Several of the crew were filled with fear and jumped overboard to swim away.
Uungluk picked up a spear. “UUNGLUK THE MIGHTY,” he shouted. “Take us closer and let this foul monster feel the prick of my spear and the sting of our arrows, that we may feast upon its flesh before this day is done.” The man at the rudder directed the ship toward the shore. Wet Zet fitted an arrow to his bow. The crew braced for their certain and inevitable deaths.
Uungluk took aim and threw his spear when they were within range. It flew straight at the beast moving beneath the trees. There was the sound of ripping fabric and the hiss of escaping air. There were shouts from people on the shore, and the roaring abruptly ceased. After a moment, there was no sign of the monster, although they could still hear people moving among the trees.
Wet Zet came down from the mast and walked up beside Uungluk. “I knew you could do it,” he grinned.
“I was hoping for a great victory. I feel like I’ve been ripped off,” Uungluk lamented when he realized there actually was no monster.
“Don’t worry,” Wet Zet consoled him. “Not even Captain Ezrak knew that it was just a massive feat of engineering designed to keep this region free from the Overlord.”
Uungluk turned and faced the stern. “Steer into the lagoon and do not stop until we reach the village at the mouth of the Olo River. Those that abandoned the ship in fright can swim to shore and catch up to us later.”
It was nearly sundown when they reached their destination, a large village on the shore of Kaho Lagoon. Uungluk was dismayed to see a band of hostile natives gathering to meet them.
Wet Zet held his hands in the air. “I am Wet Zet, formerly known in Olo many years ago as Otolomono. I have spoken no words of your secrets, but I have returned, not with a conquering army, but with allies and plans against our common enemy, the Overlord of Irata.”
A man who looked to be a similar age to Wet Zet stepped through the crowd of hostile natives. “Otolomono, you were dead to us when you did not return many years ago, and we have mourned your passing. Prove that you are truly Otolomono and tell me who the chief of the Olo was when you departed.”
“There was no chief,” Wet Zet answered. “I departed ten days after the sonless Chief Onono died of old age, and a new chief had not yet been appointed.”
The man on the shore grinned. “It was only two days after you left that a new chief was selected. Welcome back, Otolomono, or should I call you Wet Zet?”
“Wet Zet is fine,” he answered.
Another man walked toward the ship, but the crowd of no-longer-hostile natives divided to let him pass through their midst. “I am Oholohono, chief of the Olo,” he announced. “I will always welcome a returning son of our tribe, but I must know who you bring with you.”
“I sail under a captain who goes by the name Uungluk the Mighty,” Wet Zet answered. “He is no servant of the Overlord and has come looking for a place to assemble a fleet as we plan to overthrow the Overlord and free the rest of this great land from his evil clutches.”
“Then come to shore,” Oholohono said. “Let us feast tonight and hear your plans tomorrow.”
The crew let down the gangway and Wet Zet led Captain Uungluk to the shore. The rest of the crew followed behind. Chief Oholohono led them into a wide open area in the center of the village. A number of people were already cooking food and several of them recognized and greeted Wet Zet.
“There have been a few changes since you departed,” the Chief explained. “I am the third chief the Olo have had in that time, your parents are both dead, and I am married to Ro’Ana, the sister you never knew you had since she was born two years after you left. We also have a daughter, Jo’Ana.”
“I was not expecting to find any family,” Wet Zet stated.
Uungluk stepped forward. “Chief Olohohonoho, how have you managed to keep the nature of your monster a secret for so long?”
“My name is not Olohohonoho,” the Chief said. “It is Oholohono. The monster was designed over a century ago as a means to keep our village secluded and protected against attacks from the sea. Until you came along, every ship feared inevitable death and turned away before they found out what it was.”
“It almost worked this time too, but I am not one to cower,” Uungluk said. “I was a bit disappointed and felt cheated out of victory when my spear pierced a clever construct rather than an actual foe.”
“There are the giant frogs of this land that can eat a child whole,” Chief Oholohono said, “but those stay in the swamps and would not frighten away a ship filled with vicious enemies. The hills at the entrance to the lagoon are filled with caverns and those allow us to make the growling of the monster. The actual beast is a lightweight frame covered by tar-soaked cloth and filled with hot air. It may not sound like much, but from the deck of a ship it looks like a big hungry monster coming down the hill with the sole purpose of making a meal from the crew.”
“I hope you can repair it easily,” Uungluk said.
“Yes, it would be in the best interest Captain Uungluk’s name if you could repair it,” Wet Zet added.
“Are you wanted men?” the Chief asked.
“Those who have engaged in piracy under the tyranny of the Overlord are all wanted men,” Wet Zet said, “but I am a legend among those who sail the sea, and Captain Uungluk has an undeserved reputation associated with an earlier name of his.”
“What name would this be?” Chief Oholohono asked.
“Ask me in private,” Uungluk said. “One day I may take back my name, but for now I am known as Uungluk.”
“Very well,” the Chief decided. “However, I do not like when secrets are kept from me.”
“You will understand my need for secrecy when you learn my name,” Uungluk replied.
They were soon seated at low tables around the village square. Hot food for them to eat was placed on the tables, and soon Uungluk and the others were sampling the delicacies of the jungle and the lagoon. Uungluk was unable to sample all of the various dishes, but between the roasted frog legs smothered in dela fruit sauce and the polono grub marinated ronka rump that was sprinkled with bofon root slices, he preferred the frog legs.
After the meal, as the rest of the villagers were returning to their homes, a woman sat down across from Wet Zet. “I am Ro’Ana,” she introduced herself. “I’ve heard so much about you, but I never knew you.”
“I did not expect any to ever have any brothers or sisters,” Wet Zet admitted. “If I had, I might not have left.”
“Well you’re here now, so make the most of it,” she said.
“We’re going to be here awhile,” Uungluk interrupted. “You’ll have plenty of time to be acquainted.”
“Two years, at least,” Wet Zet said. “I wouldn’t mind if you showed me around the area. I don’t know this place as well as I used to. How large is the Olo territory now?”
“The tribe has grown considerably, and there are now twenty-seven villages and thirty-one outposts. From here, our most southern border is almost a hundred nura away.”
“You’re no tribe, you’re a nation!” Wet Zet said, astonished at the impressive growth. “When I was last here, there were no more than fifteen villages and twenty outposts, and they were all within fifteen nura from here.”
“It does create a few problems,” Ro’Ana explained. “We now have a border with the Overlord’s territory, and that makes us a target. Just last month we lost ten brave men to one of the Overlord’s raiding parties.”
“We are here to fix that problem,” Wet Zet said, “but it will take a few years.”
Ro’Ana turned to Uungluk. “Captain, how did my brother end up in your service?” she asked.
“It’s a long story,” Uungluk answered, “but basically I was put in command of a ship and he was ordered to keep me safe and make sure I did it right. I’m glad he’s with me, though. He has been a tremendous help.”
“I have been on a number of different ships with different captains,” Wet Zet added. “Out of all of them, Captain Uungluk has been the most interesting.”
“It must be nice being able to sail to new lands,” Ro’Ana said. “How long were you away from shore on your way here?”
“We’ve been sailing about three months since the last port we visited,” Wet Zet said. “We do stop from time to time and replenish water, but we usually avoid contact with people at those times.”
“Then I must tell you the latest news,” Ro’Ana said, excitedly. Wet Zet and Uungluk glanced at each other but did not say anything.
“I don’t know if it’s true,” Ro’Ana continued, “but two months ago we learned that sometime in Hildes last year, Prince Turok was found dead, and everyone says his brother, Prince Turos, murdered him in an attempt to inherit the throne of the Great King. When confronted on the matter, Prince Turos fled and eluded an entire company of the Great King’s soldiers for three days. When they finally cornered him on the top of a great cliff, he was still alive despite having been shot with five arrows. To make it worse, Prince Turos, rather than surrender, decided to jump off the cliff into the sea, only to be dragged away and devoured by a small na’karden. Now there is no heir to the throne of the Great King and no one knows what to do about it.”
Both Uungluk and Wet Zet were laughing by the time Ro’Ana finished telling them the news. “What is funny?” she asked, completely bewildered.
“We heard the news at Kevek,” Uungluk answered, “but what you have heard is very different from what we heard, almost to the point of absurdity.”
Chief Oholohono sat down beside Ro’Ana. “Please, if you know something that we do not, enlighten us.”
Wet Zet looked at Uungluk. “Do you want to tell it or should I?”
“You can,” Uungluk decided.
Wet Zet looked back at the Chief and Ro’Ana. “The truth is, Prince Turos did not murder his brother,” Wet Zet began. “Prince Turok was killed by a springing jeket, a beast not found in these lands, which can jump on its prey from far away. Since the two brothers were hunting alone on Torham’s Point, Prince Turos was left to take his brother’s body back to the camp and the attendants they had left further west along the shore. When Prince Turos neared the camp and the attendants noticed the lifeless body of his brother, they blamed Prince Turos for the incident. Prince Turos immediately fled, but one of the attendants managed to lodge an arrow in the Prince’s shoulder.”
“So they were merely attendants for the princes instead of soldiers?” Oholohono asked.
“Yes,” Uungluk answered, “and there were only four of them. They were left to guard the camp while the two princes explored and hunted together.”
Wet Zet continued the story. “They chased the Prince the entire day, but could not follow him in the night. The next day, they picked up his trail when they found part of the shaft that he had broken off the arrow in his shoulder. On the third day, they cornered Prince Turos at the cliff of Torham’s Point and ordered him to surrender and be taken to Atalan. At that time, Prince Turos claimed his innocence and pointed out the location of his brother’s death. However, he refused to be surrender or be taken and pulled out his sword to defend himself. The attendants, feeling threatened, opened fire. A second arrow struck Prince Turos, this time in the thigh, and he fell over the edge of the cliff.”
“I will agree that surviving two arrows is more believable than surviving five,” Ro’Ana interrupted.
“Yes it is,” Wet Zet agreed. “I’ve had a fair number of arrows in me, but never more than one at a time. Anyway, after Prince Turos fell from the cliff, the attendants saw a bright light, most likely a Lunari, carry his body out to sea until he could not be seen.”
“Now your story sounds absurd!” Ro’Ana laughed.
“It’s the light that makes people wonder if the Prince survived,” Uungluk explained. “He was alive when he fell from the cliff, and if a Lunari carried him away, he most likely survived and was taken to a safe place where he would be safe from accusations of ambition and murder.”
Wet Zet leaned forward. “I was told by a captain in Kevek that he heard a rumor that someone in Derel had overheard someone in Ha suggest that the Lunari were plotting against the Great King and perhaps his entire line. What the Lunari are doing, I have not heard, but the one person who knows for sure is the man who fell off a cliff and into the sea with two arrows sticking from his body.”
“Captain Uungluk, what do you think?” Chief Oholohono asked. “Are the Lunari involved in a conspiracy?”
Uungluk shook his head. “No one can know the purpose of their actions without asking, and I know of no one that has asked them about this matter,” he answered.
The Chief smiled at Uungluk. “That was good answer and an effective means to avoid answering the question.” He turned back to Wet Zet. “How can you be certain that Prince Turos is innocent?”
There was a brief moment of silence before Wet Zet answered. “I know because I found him floating in the sea with an arrow in his shoulder and another in his thigh,” he said softly. “Prince Turos is alive, but he plans to make a new life for himself with hopes to someday be reunited with his family.” Both Oholohono’s and Ro’Ana’s eyes widened in surprise at the announcement. Uungluk breathed a silent sigh of relief that Wet Zet did not say anything revealing.
Chief Oholohono eventually leaned back and started laughing. “That is a fine story,” he said, “but there is no way to know if you speak the truth. Still, if what you say is true, and Prince Turos is alive, he would be welcome to make a new life for himself in Olo.”
Ro’Ana looked at Uungluk. “Captain, if Wet Zet has been on your ship, weren’t you also there when he was found?”
Uungluk glanced around the area and noticed that no one else was nearby. The sun had gone down while they were talking and the night was cool. “I was there,” he answered, “but it was Wet Zet who spotted him. It is getting late and we should be returning to our ship. Tomorrow we will discuss our plans with you.”
The four of them stood up and Uungluk gave a small bow before the chief before he turned and started to walk back to the ship. Wet Zet walked beside him. “That was close,” Uungluk said. “I seriously thought about telling them who I am when they asked that last question.”
“Someday you will have to,” Wet Zet said, “but today is not that day.”
The next day, Uungluk and Wet Zet stood before Chief Oholohono and the Olo elders to discuss their plans. There they met Onoromo, the Commander of the Olo army, who was not at all thrilled with assisting pirates. “We may be openly engaged against the Overlord, but allying ourselves with his minions, despite their claims of turning against him, is outrageous and counterproductive,” he argued. “What’s to prove this is not a ruse to lure us into lowering our guard?”
“Why should I have to prove what I have already stated I have come to do?” Uungluk asked. “My resolve to stand my ground against your monster that has kept every other pirate at bay for years should be more than enough to convince you of the seriousness of my intentions. All I am asking is a safe place to gather forces and plan to overthrow the Overlord. Is that too much to ask?”
Commander Onoromo frowned. “Any man could stand against the monster if they dared,” he said. “Perhaps Otolomono, or Wet Zet as you call him, told you it was fake.”
Chief Oholohono stood up. “Otolomono has already sworn that our secrets were never revealed by him. If Captain Uungluk knew beforehand that there was no real monster, then his information came from another source.” He looked at Onoromo. “Commander, if you begin to distrust one son of the Olo without reasonable cause, then all of them can be suspect, including you.”
One of the other elders spoke up. “Captain Uungluk, how many others are involved in this plot?”
“There are two other captains currently involved,” he answered. “They are meeting with the other pirates and building support among the other captains. There is a risk that someone may inform the Overlord of our plans, but there is no way we could make a successful assault with only three ships against an entire fortress. They plan to gather here within two years and then launch the assault.”
“Why were you chosen to meet with us instead of one of the others involved in this plot?” Chief Oholohono asked.
“I can answer that one,” Wet Zet interrupted before Uungluk could answer. “They drew straws and Captain Uungluk had the short one.”
Commander Onoromo snorted in disgust. “That’s hardly believable.”
“The truth is,” Captain Uungluk began, “I had never heard of your monster or its reputation so I agreed to be the one to defeat it. I must say, I still feel cheated out of victory.”
“I see no reason not to believe them,” one of the elders said. “If their plans are sincere, then they will work to our benefit. If they are found false, then even in our village here we greatly outnumber them. Let them stay and work their plans to fruition and prove their intent.”
“A good decision,” Chief Oholohono said. “Captain Uungluk, you may use our lagoon for your fleet assembly. The peninsula and island on the other side of the Olo River should make a fine location for a port. If you should require assistance, feel free to ask us. I also request that you coordinate any military matters with Commander Onoromo. He may seem perturbed by your presence, but it is little more than an outward show. I am sure that over time the two of you will become quite acquainted.”
“Indeed!” Commander Onoromo growled between clenched teeth.
Uungluk gave Chief Oholohono a slight bow. “I am grateful for your assistance,” he said. “I would like to meet with the Commander on my ship as soon as possible to coordinate for guard posts to keep this area a secret and free from the Overlord’s spies.”
“There are no spies in our lands,” Commander Onoromo said, “but I will meet with you regardless.”
“Then the purpose of this meeting is satisfied,” Chief Oholohono said. “You are all dismissed.”
The elders began to shuffle out of the room and the Chief walked up to Uungluk. “Captain, I would like to thank you for correcting our misinformation last night,” he said. “Our only source of news is what our spies overhear when they watch the enemy.”
“I am glad to have helped,” Uungluk said. “Perhaps there will be more truth in future news as we have more ships joining us in the lagoon.”
“Perhaps,” Chief Oholohono agreed, “but I do not want to keep you from your work.” Uungluk bowed once more and left to return to the ship with Wet Zet beside him.