Chapter 6 The War Plans
“Arise, Mayor,” Princess Nallah said, and he complied to a degree. He remained stooped so his head was not higher than hers. “I went to seek assistance, and assistance is what I have.”
“Your Highness, your family! I, uh, I...” the mayor could not complete his thought.
“I found out only a short time ago,” Nallah said calmly, in a measured tone lest she break down and sob in public. “I am very upset. I am so upset, in fact, that I fully intend to see Rokko publicly executed.”
An excited murmur traveled through the crowd, those within hearing distance of the ship telling those in the rear, until what seemed to Jen the whole Kingdom of Dool was excited. “Your Highness,” the mayor again addressed her. “We do not want any trouble, either from you or from the Emperor.”
“You do not support the empire, or federation or whatever it is?” Mowbry asked incredulously.
The mayor’s eyes shifted back and forth as he gathered his thoughts to reach a diplomatic answer. “Support, no. But we are a part of the empire. We were conquered.” The last statement trailed off quietly, as he seemed ashamed to admit it.
“Surely you don’t wish to remain a defeated people?” Admiral Tock asked.
“I agreed to work for the Federation, because it was the only way I could continue service at sea,” Admiral Dock admitted. “But I intend to change my lot. Join us to defeat Rokko.”
“You don’t understand,” the mayor pleaded. “As you may know, the generators have been disappearing. Over the last several decades, anyone who displayed any talent for that has simply vanished. When we tried to defend our borders, we were no match for their superior forces.”
“I trained most of those forces,” General Mowbry spoke. “And I trained most of these. And we discovered the fate of at least some of the generators. They were sold into service in the Giant Realm.”
“The Giant Realm!” Mayor Dorf gasped. “That must have been horrendous! We had heard rumors that you, Your Highness, had hosted giants at Tole Castle.”
“Only for a few days. They are here among us now,” she waved her arm to indicate everyone on the ship. “Can you pick them out?”
Mayor Dorf scanned the officers and crew, then shook his head. Jen stepped forward. “I am a giant,” she said, putting her hand out to grasp his.
“You are nothing but a little girl,” Mayor Dorf said, declining to accept her hand.
“But in her own realm, my entire person fits in the palm of her hand,” Princess Nallah explained. “However, she is kind, generous, brave and resourceful. And most of the crew of this ship were liberated from the Giant Realm by this little girl. We also have her father,” Mr. Anderson stepped forward and grasped the mayor’s hand, giving it a quick shake despite the mayor’s reluctance, “and her two friends.” Gina and Julie stepped forward and gave a quick curtsy.
“Giants are not as frightening as I supposed,” the mayor chuckled. “I heard you ate flesh.”
“In their own realm, they are quite formidable,” the Princess emphasized. “And they are all meat eaters.”
“I only eat a little meat,” Gina squeaked. “I’m trying to go vegetarian.”
“We are all vegetarian until we can get back home,” Jen said under her breath.
“So, Mayor Dorf, may I have your permission to recruit for our army?” Mowbry asked.
“I want no trouble. Please do not bring your war into Dool,” the mayor wheedled.
“We are taking the war to Tole, to the very heart of the trouble,” Mowbry explained.
“I believe my son is being held in the dungeon there,” Mr. Anderson said.
“If you would be so kind, do you have a facility to keep prisoners? We have the original crew of the Scoundrel in our hold,” Tock asked.
“Have you heard from my family?” Tula asked.
Everybody looked down at the little girl, so out of place during official negotiations. Princess Nallah picked her up and held her, so she could speak to the mayor face to face. “This little one is from Dool. She was kidnapped and sent to the Giant Realm. We would appreciate your help, Mr. Mayor, in finding her parents.”
The mayor gazed into the big brown eyes of little Tula, and his resolve started to melt. The mayor reached out and Tula put her arms out to transfer over to him. Holding her in his arms, he turned around and stepped over to the gangplank. A hush came over the crowd when they saw their mayor about to deliver a message. “Is anyone missing a child?”
Several hands were raised, as it seems missing children was nothing new in Dool, but from the very back of the crowd came two voices, a man and a woman, who both called out “Tula!”
“Mummy! Daddy!” Tula squealed, wanting to get down. The mayor set her down gently and as soon as her feet touched the gangplank, she was off like a rocket trying to get to her parents. The crowd parted so there was a clear path between them. Tula’s parents got down on their knees to receive her as she approached. It was a joyful reunion.
That was not the only surprise. A group of children, five of them, all screamed “Mummy!” when Maylu appeared on deck.
“Out of the way!” she pushed the mayor roughly aside and strode down the gangplank into the waiting arms of her offspring. Amid the joyful tears, Mr. Anderson heard her ask, “Where’s your father?”
“He went off to look for you,” was the response from the eldest child, a girl roughly the same age as Gina and Princess Nallah. “We’ve been on our own.”
The voices in the crowd got loud enough that he could hear no more of the conversation. The entire atmosphere changed. Where they had once been hopeless and downtrodden, a new energy was taking hold in Dool. An energy of hope and resilience, and the will to fight for families and freedom.
“I think we can take your prisoners,” the mayor said. “But only for a day. It would take about that long to process them through our system.”
“One day would work for us,” Mowbry agreed heartily.
“You realize, of course, that the Federation spies have already sent runners to Tole,” Admiral Dock murmured to Admiral Dock and General Mowbry under his breath.
“We’ve lost the element of surprise, that’s true,” General Mowbry admitted. “But not completely. They will be expecting an army in uniform that is mostly male, mostly tall, and of a certain age. We will be presenting children, parents and grandparents, in all shapes and sizes. They will be stunned by that at least.”
The mayor disembarked, as did much of the crew. Many of the Doolish soldiers and sailors immediately started running about and acting Doolish. The other members of the fleet also enjoyed being home, and of the soldiers, many had not been in the Fairy Realm for years, or even decades.
A spontaneous festival was held in their honor, with music and light shows, and wonderful food appearing out of mid-air, quite literally. Mead flowed freely with flagons of it being passed around. Mr. Anderson told the girls they could have the fruit punch, after he had tasted it first, but the honey wine was not for them.
“Sir Dave,” Princess Nallah said, approaching him at a small table in the village square. “We could use your help in planning the invasion of Tole.”
“I don’t know why you would need my help,” Mr. Anderson responded quizzically. “This is your realm and I know very little of it.”
“Because you have the outside perspective,” Mowbry answered, also sitting down at the table. “You may see things that we can’t just because you are an outsider.”
“Well, as someone who is missing a child, I can plainly see that we can’t take Tula away from her parents again. She will have to stay behind.”
“No concerns at all,” Tock said, also sitting down simultaneously with Dock. “You can take her place.”
“Me, take her place? How could I? I have no talent.”
“Tula shared her talent with you,” Budrick said from right behind him. “You will have to learn to use it.”
“I don’t know,” Mr. Anderson faltered. “I really don’t feel any different.”
“You’ve got her talent,” Mowbry insisted. “Remember I told you no more excuses? Now glow.”
“How do I glow?” Mr. Anderson asked.
“You just will it, and it will happen,” Princess Nallah said, and a yellowish white aura appeared around her, her face lighting up like a candle on Christmas Eve. Then Budrick, Mowbry, Tock, Dock, and even Bucspat who had just wandered up all started glowing, as if each one were turning on a light switch.
Mr. Anderson will himself to glow, and he completely failed to do so. “I can’t,” he said, after a few attempts.
“That square-ish wand in your pocket, the one that glows for you,” Mowbry said. “Does it have energy?”
“I doubt it. I haven’t charged it in weeks.”
“Check it,” Tock insisted.
“What do you know? It has a full charge. How is that even possible?”
Jen, Julie and Gina wandered up at that point. “Mind if we join you? The Dools are fun, and they have a neat little Doolhouse that we were exploring, but we want to be around people we know.”
“We are having a war council,” Mr. Anderson explained. “This is no place for children right now.”
“Nonsense,” Princess Nallah said. “My mother always said that there is something magical about a child’s mind. I am still a child, but I am losing my perspective. We can use as much perspective as we can get.”
“Truer words were never spoken, Your Highness,” Tock took another deep swig of mead.
“I see you have your phone out,” Gina said. “Did you get any messages from Eric?”
“The phone wouldn’t work as a phone here,” Mr. Anderson explained, checking his messages anyway. “There is no infrastructure. It is very complicated technology that relies on a network of towers, a series of computers, and a whole lot of other stuff to work, and none of it exists here.” He paused, confused, opening the new message from Eric. “It says, ‘Help. I am in the obelisk.’ What does that mean? Do you have an obelisk?”
“No, not a single one,” Princess Nallah replied.
“What’s an obelisk?” Jen asked.
“A tall monument. Like the Washington Monument,” Mr. Anderson explained.
“Could he have been confused? Might he not be in an oubliette?” Mowbry suggested.
“Of course, the auto-correct function!” Mr. Anderson smiled, then his smile turned to a frown, “He’s in the oubliette!”
“What’s an oubliette?” Jen asked.
“It’s a hole in the ground where particularly dangerous prisoners are kept,” Dock explained. “I was in the oubliette until I agreed to work for the emperor. It’s a terrible place! You can’t climb out, and it’s too small to lay down and stretch out. They throw food down once a day.”
“H-e-l-p is on the way,” Mr. Anderson tediously typed into his phone in reply to Eric’s message. “I don’t know how it works. It shouldn’t work. There is no possible way it could work without towers and infrastructure and networking.”
“There are a lot of things that don’t make sense,” Jen said. “Just go with it. It’s a magical place.”
“Now, to the task at hand,” Mowbry said. “We have our sailors and soldiers out there recruiting. In the morning we will start our march to Tole. The Federation knows we are in Dool, they just don’t know what we are going to do. I say we go the shortest route, and the shortest way between two points is a straight line.”
“Not necessarily,” Tock said. “We may be able to pick up more allies if we get back on our boats and sail further upriver to Dalrimple.”
“Would it not be a wise choice to march to the border of Dalrimple and Tole. We can cross there. Maybe the empire would be mildly confused,” Budrick suggested.
“Is Dalrimple also conquered?” Mr. Anderson asked.
The mayor happened to be dancing by, heard the question and offered a response, “No, they are not.”
Tock beamed with pride, while Dock scowled. “They were not deemed worthy of the joining the Federation, so they were allowed to keep their own sovereignty,” the mayor further explained. Tock’s smile crashed.
“How far is the border?” Mr. Anderson asked. “The one between Tole and Dool and Dalrimple?”
“Marching overland, we should be able to make it in three days,” Mowbry assessed.
“Why don’t you send the fleet upriver to Dalrimple, and maybe that will confuse the Federation.”
“We could do with a skeleton crew,” Tock said.
“Aye, and I have a little talent for creating phantoms. I could make it look like we have the whole combined army aboard,” Dock suggested.
“Yes!” Princess Nallah exclaimed. “That will do nicely!”
“The Federation would definitely believe we are arriving with overwhelming force. They may throw down their wands in defeat before we arrive,” Mr. Anderson beamed.
“Daddy?” Jen said, tugging on his shirt sleeve.
“Yes, Jen?” he smiled.
“I’m happy with the plan.”
“No, you are glowing. You are making light.”
The others looked at him and laughed. He was glowing the way the fairies did.