The Ogre Wars

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CHAPTER 13 CAP IN HAND

By the time the newly formed force arrived in Clonakilly, Tyler, with the help of Mayor Gearold, had not only recruited enough sailors to sail the ship, but had also gathered sufficient provisions for months at sea.

The sailors had taken up their posts aboard the ship, and Tyler informed Niamh that they would be ready to set sail as soon as an ogre ship was sighted.

After Niamh had finished her discussions with Tyler, she went to visit the mayor to thank him for all the work he had done. As she walked the tree-lined lane towards his house, loud bells began to sound. All around her the docks suddenly teemed with activity, as fairies, old and young, ran nervously towards the water.

She looked over to see what was causing the commotion, and noticed a large warship entering the harbour. Even from the distance, Niamh could tell the ship closely resembled the one they had stolen from the follet admiral.

‘Niamh!’ Tyler was running frantically towards her. ’Without the artillerymen on board, our ship doesn’t stand a chance!’ He drew a spyglass from his belt to study the ship in more detail.

‘Are they preparing to attack?’ Niamh asked, with some urgency.

‘No. They haven’t prepared their weapons for firing, and they are flying a white flag.’ As Tyler studied the decks of the approaching ship, he momentarily froze when he saw a familiar man standing on the bridge. ‘Navarre!’

‘Drop the anchor,’ ordered Navarre, brushing a speck of white cotton off his otherwise spotless uniform. If he was going to have to grovel to the wretched fairy who had stolen his pride and joy, he would at least do so at his dashing best.

At first, he had considered refusing to obey the king’s order and instead sending a lesser-ranking officer to carry out this mission. However, he quickly decided against this, realising it would be better to have his neck attached firmly to his head, rather than keeping his dignity.

’First Lieutenant Arago,’ he snapped. The poor lieutenant cringed. As Navarre’s second in command, he had borne the brunt of his current bad humour, and instantly wondered what new dilemma he would now find himself in.

He almost sighed in relief when his commander said, ‘Have my shore boat prepared.’

’Aye aye, sir,’ replied Arago, saluting as he hurried away to perform his duty.

Niamh and Tyler watched in silence as a longboat was lowered into the frothy waves of the harbour. The oarsmen were the first to climb into the boat and take their positions, followed by Admiral Navarre, and then another officer.

Niamh, they are coming ashore,’ Tyler said.

‘I’ll get the others,’ she replied. ‘You summon the mayor and meet us at the dock. If we hurry, we should beat the longboat to the beach.’

As Tyler sprinted towards the mayor’s chambers, Niamh closed her eyes and brought Derry’s image into her mind. When she had done this, she spoke out loud. ‘Derry, who is with you?’

‘Everyone,’ replied Derry’s image as it penetrated Niamh’sthoughts.

‘Good. I need you all at the beach where we landed so you can greet an old friend.’

‘Who?’

‘You’ll see when you get here. I’m hoping Izzy’s curiosity will add to your haste.’

‘I’m sure it will,’ laughed Derry, before her image disappeared.

Niamh turned her attention back to the approaching longboat, quietly pondering what this meant.

The fairy wizard was standing alone on the shore, intently watching the approaching rowing boat, when she heard Izzy yell, ‘It’s Navarre!’

Niamh turned around and wasn’t surprised to see the brownie, and only the brownie, running towards her.

Izzy stopped to take a deep breath; her breathing was heavy from her run. ‘That’s got to be the smallest invasion force I’ve ever seen.’

Niamh laughed. ‘What do you think they want?’

‘If it’s this,’ Izzy replied, pulling a small leather purse from one of her many pockets, ‘he’s come an awfully long way for a few dozen pieces of gold.’

‘You do realise that, as a rule, princesses don’t pick pockets?’

‘It’s just as well I don’t consider myself a princess, then, isn’t it? And I don’t believe you berated Dougal for stealing the poor admiral’s ship, or even the prince’s priceless sword for that matter. And while I think about it, I don’t remember you turning down the lobster I gave you recently, either.’

‘All fair points,’ conceded Niamh, smiling. ‘But if you don’t intend on returning it, it might be best if you at least keep it out of sight.’

Minutes later, Niamh and Izzy were joined by Mayor Gearold and the others.

‘Admiral, it would appear we have a welcoming committee,’ Lieutenant Arago stated.

Navarre looked at Arago with obvious contempt. ‘What did you expect?’ His expression softened. ’Do you know who it is that welcomes us, lieutenant?’

‘No, sir. Although two of the three giants could be the heroes from the fairy–pixie war from a couple of years ago.’

’The male in the lead is Dougal O’Shea. He led the attack that cost me my ship. I dream of roasting him on a spit – that is, if Prince Gaston doesn’t beat me to it. The female that looks like him is his twin sister, she is a wizard; they are indeed the heroes of which you speak. I have no idea who the other giants are, and I don’t really care. Of the others, the one you have to watch out for is the red-headed fairy: she’s Niamh Donegal.’ Navarre could tell by the look of both awe and fear on the lieutenant’s face that he had heard of the wizard. ‘And the blonde brownie is Isabella Wallace, a cousin of the Caledonian king.’

As he finished speaking, the rowers lowered their oars, standing gingerly as they clambered out of the boat, dragging it onto the shore. Navarre remained seated until the boat was well ashore; he had no intention of getting his perfectly polished boots wet.

Lieutenant Arago, come with me,’ he said, stepping out of the boat and onto the soft golden sand.

Dougal watched as the officers approached. As his eyes met Navarre’s, a flicker of absolute hatred flashed across the admiral’s face.

‘You sure know how to make friends, don’t you?’ whispered Izzy as she elbowed Dougal.

Dougal looked at Izzy and smiled, and then turned his attention back to Navarre, whose focus was now on Niamh. The admiral stopped half a dozen paces in front of the wizard, and then dropped to one knee. ‘I bring a dispatch from my king.’

‘I gather it’s not for me?’ replied Niamh, a little more sarcastically than she meant.

Izzy sniggered.

‘No, milady,’ replied Navarre, ignoring the wizard’s tone. ‘It is intended for your king. My king asked me to pass on his personal apology for your treatment at the hands of some of his subjects.’

‘Thank you for passing on your king’s kind words,’ Niamh said politely. ‘Now, if you let me have your dispatch, I will personally take it to King Strahan.’

‘King Louis insisted I deliver it personally.’

You have my word, good admiral: if I deliver it, you will receive your answer far sooner.’

The admiral was about to argue but decided against it, knowing it was pointless. She could easily cast a spell or simply take the missive. He reluctantly handed the fairy wizard the dispatch.

Navarre nearly fainted as Niamh shimmered into a haze and disappeared before his very eyes.

Izzy looked at the rather pale admiral, taking great satisfaction at his discomfort, and said, ‘Just one of her many spells.’

Niamh materialised outside of King Strahan’s council chambers. The fairy wizard could now transport herself to the fairy capital from any point and even return to the exact spot from which she had left. Unfortunately, though, she only had the physical strength to perform the spell twice a day and could not yet take anyone with her.

She walked into the chambers and found Strahan and Finn listening to a pair of farmers who were arguing over the ownership of a horse. When Finn saw Niamh, he quickly dismissed them, telling them they would have his decision the next morning.

‘I gather you’re not here to tell us the ogre menace has passed,’ Finn said to Niamh, once they were alone.

‘No. I bring King Strahan a letter from the King of Auvergne.’ As she said this, she handed the letter to the king, who had an absolute look of surprise on his face.

’You have told me everything you did while you were in Auvergne, haven’t you? I’m not going to read something I’m not expecting, I hope.’ Strahan opened and read the missive, his expression turning serious. ’The ogres have begun raiding the coastal villages of the follet kingdoms, and they are doing so in far greater numbers than even we have seen. King Louis proposes a meeting between the follet kings, the pixies, Izzy’s cousin, and us.’

‘He has the nerve to ask for an alliance?’ Finn was aghast at such a request.

‘We have to hear him out,’ said Niamh.

‘After the way he treated you and the others?’

‘He apologises for that,’ interjected Strahan. ’Apparently, De Medicis was acting to further his own interests, and has been arrested for crimes against the state. King Louis has offered to hand him over to us if we doubt he will be punished sufficiently. The good king has also offered me the ship used in your escape as reparation for the actions of his subjects.’

Niamh looked at both Finn and Strahan. ‘We have to give him the benefit of the doubt. If we are going to defeat these ogres, we’re going to need all the help we can get.’

Finn was quiet for a moment, and then reluctantly agreed. ’You’re right. I think we should also send a dispatch to Gwyllion, and ask an ellyllon representative to attend.’

’I agree. We will meet in Clonakilly one month from today,’ Strahan replied, and then sat down at a large maple desk where he took a quill, dipped the nib into some black ink, and began writing a reply.

When he was finished, he took a small block of forest green wax and held it over the candle that was quietly flickering at the top of the desk. He let the hot wax drip onto the folded parchment until a thick pool formed, sealing the missive. Then, while the wax was still warm, he pressed the head of the ring he wore on the index finger of his right hand into the wax, leaving the image of a harp.

He stood and handed the missive to Niamh. ‘I believe the sooner King Louis receives this, the better.’

Niamh reappeared before Navarre, unnerving him as much, if not more, than when she had first disappeared.

‘Admiral Navarre, I have an urgent reply for your king. I suggest you take it to him as soon as possible,’ she said, handing him the sealed letter.

Navarre took the dispatch, checked the seal, and nodded. Then, without another word, he turned and headed back to his longboat.

As the friends watched the boat row back towards the ship, Niamh explained what was in both letters.

‘Navarre must have really upset his king to be sent on such a demeaning mission.’ Izzy couldn’t help but smile.

‘I think it’s King Louis’ way of punishing him for the way he treated us,’ Niamh replied.

‘I still don’t trust him,’ said Adam. ‘And, for that matter, how do we know we can trust King Louis?’

‘It’s amazing how easily two nations can forget their differences when they are confronted by a mutual foe. I would have signed a pact with a troll raiding party if they had agreed to help me defeat Rupert and his army.’

Niamh looked at the brownie. ‘Your reasoning is sound, Izzy, but there was hatred in Navarre’s eyes when he saw Dougal. I think it would be wise to keep an eye on the good admiral.’

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