Later that day, Commander Onoromo boarded Uungluk’s ship to meet with him. He was escorted to the captain’s office and entered to find Uungluk leaning back in his chair with his feet on the desk. “Have a seat, Commander,” he said, pointing at one of the chairs against the wall.
The Commander stood still. His mouth opened, but it took him a moment before he could find the right words to speak. “Could you be a little more informal?” he asked.
Uungluk frowned. “If I were a citizen of Olo, then perhaps I would be more inclined formalities. However, I am the captain of this ship, and despite my age, I am in command here.” He watched as the Commander sat down. “Besides, how would you know what is or is not formal among pirates?”
“I have been fighting scum like you my entire life,” the Commander said. “You are all nothing more than...”
“Not like me, you haven’t,” Uungluk interrupted. He took his feet off the desk and leaned forward toward the Commander. “What would it take for me to make you trust me?” he asked.
“More than you could ever offer,” the Commander answered.
“Very well,” Uungluk decided. “Anyway, the matter I wanted to discuss with you is of a secretive nature. Can I trust you to keep a secret so long as it does not interfere with the safety of Olo?”
“I see the predicament you have,” the Commander said. “If I will not trust you, then how can you trust me? The matter is simple; we must earn each other’s trust. So far I have made the first move by coming aboard your ship, trusting there would be no treachery, and now you must reciprocate and trust me.”
“I then let you enter my office and trusted there would be no treachery,” Uungluk replied. “Therefore it would be back on you to reciprocate. However, neither of us will get anywhere in this manner.” He stood up and leaned forward with his hands on the desk. “I will swear by the Lunari, that they may strike me down if I cannot be trusted by you. Would you be willing to make the same oath?”
“The Lunari would not take such words lightly,” the Commander warned. “Such an oath is likely to invite their wrath.”
“Are you implying that you cannot be trusted?” Uungluk asked.
“No, Captain, that is not what I meant,” the Commander replied. “I merely meant that it would not be wise to rush into such an oath.”
“Knowing the potential consequences, I will make such an oath,” Uungluk said. “Can you do the same?
“Yes,” the Commander slowly answered. “I will swear by the Lunari, that they may strike me down if you cannot trust me.”
“Good,” Uungluk replied. He sat down and leaned back in his chair. “What I wanted to discuss is a matter of the utmost secrecy. What we discuss in my office stays in my office.”
“I can agree to that,” the Commander said.
Uungluk put his feet back on the desk. “As you have probably heard, Prince Turos is alive,” he said.
“Is he coming here?” Commander Onoromo asked. “Did you come to prepare for him?”
Uungluk reached and pulled something out from beneath the desk. He set the two arrows on the desk in front of the Commander. “I am Prince Turos,” he announced. “I have the scars where I was shot on the shoulder and the thigh.”
Commander Onoromo slid from his seat and dropped to his knees. “Forgive my distrust, my Prince. I did not know it was you.”
“Get up, Commander,” Uungluk ordered. “You will continue to know me as Captain Uungluk the Mighty.”
The Commander looked up. “It is difficult to maintain such a ruse in my profession, but I assure you, I will not willingly divulge your true name.”
“Now that we trust each other, we have business to discuss,” Uungluk said. “I do not know this land, so any maps and charts you may have will be appreciated. I also have a very limited number of men. They are hard workers, but we will still require assistance in the form of shelter and food, and any other help would be appreciated. How well is this lagoon guarded?”
Commander Onoromo returned to his seat. “We have sentries on both sides of the lagoon entrance, but there is usually a delay of a day for any messages to travel between here and there. Before now, we were never threatened because the monster frightened everyone away. Depending on how fast we can repair any damage you did to it, we may be vulnerable for awhile.”
“Make its repair a priority,” Uungluk said. “The Overlord will know I went to attack it and it would be best for him to assume I did not survive. Also, I would like you to devise a way to increase the speed of communication between here and the outposts you have at the lagoon entrance. If a ship sails this way, we need to know soon enough to respond if necessary.”
“I will consult with my engineers,” the Commander said. “The monster should be able to be repaired, and I am sure there will be several communication solutions we will attempt. How else can the Olo be of service?”
“Commander, I may be the captain of a ship, but I have relied heavily on Wet Zet in order to overcome my own inexperience with sailing. Now that I am planning an assault, I will need to rely on you to overcome my inexperience in this area as well. I have no doubt there are many things that I have overlooked or would not even consider, and I need you to take care of those issues.”
“You will have my counsel, but I will allow you to make your own decisions. Is there anything else you wish to discuss?”
“There is one more thing, actually,” Uungluk said, rising from his chair. “I think you should take Wet Zet and I hunting sometime, perhaps next week, so we can begin to learn the area.”
Commander Onoromo stood up and smiled. “I would be delighted to take you hunting,” he said. “Let’s just hope that all three of us return and not just you again.”
“Then there is nothing left for us to discuss today,” Uungluk said. “I look forward to hunting with you next week.”
The Commander bowed and left the room.
The next day, they sailed the ship across Kaho Lagoon to the area designated for their base. They started by burning away the grass and weeds in the area, and then began to fell and shape trees. The first thing they built was a small area on shore where they could keep their ship dry and out of the water. They then built a small stockade around the area, designed more to keep out the wild animals than warding away people. The next week, they began construction of a few shelters and a dock.
The day soon came when Uungluk, Wet Zet, and Commander Onoromo went hunting. Uungluk carried his spear, and Wet Zet and the Commander carried bows. They walked southwest along the bank of the Olo River. They passed a number of fields being tilled and the Commander explained that they were preparing for the third planting cycle of the year.
When they entered the jungle, the first thing the Commander showed them was a tree with smooth bark and offshoots from the trunk that were stiff and thick. He pulled off one of the offshoots and held it for Uungluk and Wet Zet to see. “The sap of the malinoa tree is extremely poisonous,” he said as a ball of liquid began to form on the torn end of the offshoot. “The smallest amount will stop the heart of any man or beast in seconds.” He pulled out an arrow and wiped the sap on the tip. “This is the secret of our military prowess and has kept the Overlord from pushing back our borders and conquering our land.”
“Is it safe to eat any beast that has been killed in this manner?” Uungluk asked.
“It does not spread throughout the body because the heart stops beating,” Commander Onoromo said. “I have heard that cooking will remove the poison, but it’s usually advisable just to cut out the section of the beast that the arrow pierced.” He dropped the offshoot beside the tree and put the arrow to his bowstring. “I will demonstrate the stopping power of this poison when we find our first prey.”
They continued through the thick jungle. By midday, the air was thick and humid. The noises of birds and insects were almost deafening. Eventually the Commander motioned for them to stop. As the crouched down, Uungluk saw that a little ways ahead of them was a very large snake hanging coiled around the low thick branch of a tree. The skin was a bright green color with a diamond-outline pattern in a darker shade of green. Inside each diamond was a bright red splotch of color.
“It’s a vuyan diamondback,” Commander Onoromo said. He aimed his bow and shot. Upon being struck, the snake constricted its coils and poised to attack. Seconds later, the snake’s coils loosened and the snake slid to the ground into a motionless pile.
“This will make good eating,” the Commander explained as he walked toward the dead snake. “I would have preferred a nice deer, but these snakes taste just as good. We can either take this back now, or we can continue on and come back for this.”
“I would like to get my own prey,” Uungluk said. “You said there were deer around here?”
The Commander nodded as he picked the snake off the ground and draped it back over the branch to help keep off some of the bugs. “There are deer in the forest, and practically anything else you might want to hunt.”
“I think Captain Uungluk wants a challenge,” Wet Zet said. “Perhaps you should take us back to the river and let him try killing a gokdok.”
“I don’t think so,” Commander Onoromo said. “That would go against my better judgment.”
“What is a gokdok?” Uungluk wondered.
“A formidable river lizard,” Wet Zet answered in a voice as ominous as possible for him. “The gokdok has a mouth as long as a man’s arm and teeth longer than your fingers. It runs on four legs, but turns with the agility of a snake. Its skin is thick and cannot be pierced by arrows. It swims in the river, and when its prey nears the water, it lunges out and grabs it between its massive jaws, pulling it under to drown.”
“And you don’t think I can kill this?” Uungluk asked.
The Commander shook his head. “I have seen too many brave warriors try to test their abilities against a gokdok and fail. The few who survive are usually missing a limb or two.”
“I would like to at least see one of these creatures,” Uungluk decided. “Lead the way, Commander.”
Commander Onoromo took the dead snake back out of the tree and put it on his shoulders. “We’ll head for the river and then back to the village. Feel free to kill any easy prey along the way, but do not approach the gokdok if we see one.” They tramped through the jungle, and while no one was looking, Uungluk tore a small branch off a malinoa tree and smeared the sap on the tip of his spear, hoping he would get a chance to use it against a gokdok.
It was late afternoon by the time they reached the river. “There are three gokdoks sunning on the far shore,” the Commander said, pointing across the river.
“They’re too far out of range for my spear,” Uungluk noted.
“I’m sure we will come across some on this side of the river as we follow it back to the village,” the Commander said.
They began to walk along the river on their way back. However, they never encountered any more gokdoks and Uungluk was disappointed. He did, however, manage to spear a large crane, and carried it back with him.