Terry was up just before sunrise in her devotionals and prayer when she heard a knock on the door. It was Darlene.

“We’ve got to talk,” Darlene said with an urgent tone.

“About what?”

“Military strategy. George explained their war plans—they won’t work,” Darlene said, as she came on into the room.

Terry looked at Her Highness in astonishment. “Didn’t you and George have anything better to do last night than to talk about military strategy?”

“We did, but then I started to ask him questions about the meetings the two of you were in on. I didn’t like what I heard.”

“OK, let’s sit down and figure this out,” signed Terry. They first went over what was discussed. Then they rehashed the Drahlan independence war, going over every campaign that Ronald and Max had done. Then they cried because Ronald and Max were gone. Finally they got to the bottom of the matter.

“When I was a teenager,” Darlene said, “we used to play these war games at home—the board kind, not the ones in the swamp they use to train the troops. I usually played with my father, but sometimes Ronald and Edward would play too—that’s when things got really exciting. Our favourite one was one that Ronald had mail ordered from the mainland about Beran and Verecunda—like it was a hundred years ago. The only way Beran won was to go straight from about where we’re sitting right down past or through Uranus and into Verecunda.”

“What’s your point?”

“Don’t some of the Aloxan generals want to start by taking all of the territory of Uranus first, and then take Verecunda?”

“Some of them do—some want to do it the way you just described.”

“So we’ve got to convince them to go straight for Verecunda—otherwise, by the time they get around to taking the city, they won’t be able to.”

Terry thought for a minute. “Max would have done it that way.”

“So would Ronald,” Darlene replied.

“That’s the way they ran their last campaigns—the only reason they didn’t work was because they were outnumbered when they got where they were going. Based on what the Aloxans are telling us, that’s not a problem here—they’ll outnumber the Verecundans anywhere from two to four to one.”

“So we’ve got to go in front of them and tell them the truth,” Darlene said. At that point there was another knock on the door. Terry opened it to find George standing there, in sleepy bewilderment.

“What are you girls taking about?” he asked.

“The war,” Darlene said. “The Aloxans have got it all wrong.”

“Some of them do,” Terry said.

“I hate to tell you this, but it’s their war,” George said. At that both of the girls—but especially Darlene—started in by rehashing the conversation they had just had, both about the Drahlan war and the one in front of them. George listened in amazement at all of this.

“So what makes you think that the Aloxans will listen to you two?” George asked.

“Because we’re all that’s left!” Darlene exclaimed.

“The men killed each other off,” Terry added.

“This is what we should have been doing instead of butchering each other!” Darlene came back. “Besides, we now have the girl version of Genghis Khan to lead us to victory!”

“The what of what?” George asked, totally puzzled.

“The girl version of Genghis Khan!” Darlene exclaimed. “She has Mongols in her background. No wonder we lost the war!”

The room suddenly fell silent as they looked at each other. George finally regained his wits enough to speak.

“OK, their General Staff is meeting at 0900 to finalise plans. We’ll present this to them then. Perhaps it will make a difference—even they were divided on the issue.”

The General Staff meeting came and so did all three of the travellers. George asked King Leslie and the Staff if they would indulge Her Highness and Her Excellency in a few minutes of observations about the war. When they said they would, they got a frenetic presentation—again mostly from Darlene—on why they needed to attack Verecunda directly and not spend so much time taking territory in Uranus. At the end of all of this there was silence. Some of the Aloxans were uncomfortable at having their strategy “dictated” to them, but Leslie was not intimidated by this display of impulse.

“So what is your feeling on this matter, gentlemen?” he asked his generals.

After a minute of silence, one said, “I think that Her Highness and Her Excellency are right.”

“You didn’t yesterday,” Leslie observed.

“I think they have made a compelling case—after all, they have been at war lately.”

“So what about the rest of you?” Leslie asked. They all gave signs of assent. “I’m glad to see it. I’m not sure if Her Highness is aware of it, but about fifteen years before the revolt her great-grandfather Theodore went before King Hiram and proposed basically the same plan—and that’s when Verecunda had a real army in Uranus. His plan included a naval assault on Verecunda also, and I trust my admirals will include this as well. But Hiram was too timid to try it—had he done so, we might not be sitting here.”

“But they were our slave masters!” exclaimed one of the generals.

“Yes, and Beran was swept away. If we don’t do this, we might suffer the same fate.” They then proceeded to finalise their plans.

About 1300 the Royal Caravan pulled out towards the border. It included Leslie, George and Darlene, most of the General Staff and others of the King’s officials. The caravan was just one small part of the war effort; Aloxan troops from all over the southern half of the country were funnelling through Aloxa on their way to the front. Concentrating the army made mobilisation much simpler. Having just been through a war, the trio were impressed by the efficiency of their mobilisation and their general organisation. As the troops from the south went to the front, those from the north came into Aloxa. Terry had stayed behind to act as their honorary chaplain, so she and the Queen went into town to watch as one group of regiments moved out and another moved in.

“Bring back memories?” Arlene asked Terry.

“Yes and no,” Terry replied. “No, we were never this organised. I don’t think the Serelians were either. Yes, but they’re painful ones—too many of these men who go off won’t come back. Mine didn’t.”

“I find it amazing that you get along so well with Her Highness.”

“So do I,” Terry replied. “I’ve always preached that forgiveness was powerful. I had no idea of how much until I had to live it.”

“Always the Christian…you are very solicitous about His Majesty on that account.”

“Someday I would like to see him join some of his subjects you see before you.”

“I already have.” Terry looked at Arlene in amazement. “Some of the children and their families also. Don’t worry—he’ll come around. It’s not an easy decision for a man in his position. You know that from your country—and now Serelia. Perhaps their challenge is greater than ours.”


Even though it was only around 15 km from the city of Aloxa to the border, the Royal Caravan seemed to take forever. For one thing, the roads were clogged with troops, mostly from the central and southern parts of the country. For another, the king did not force everyone else to stand aside while he whisked his way to the border, but stopped frequently to greet troops and their commanders along the road. This was to reassure them that Leslie would follow another Island tradition—one all too familiar to George and Darlene—that expected the commanding general to be with his troops as they went into battle.

Aloxa had demarcated a 1 kilometre deep “greenbelt” at its border with Uranus and Collina, not for environmental reasons but for security ones. The caravan made camp just inside this greenbelt along the main road. The hectic pace of war preparation continued unabated. George and Darlene became quiet spectators of a process that involved more men in the field than both Serelia and Drahla put there combined during their civil war.

As the sun set and everyone started to get into their battle stations, the chaplains began their work to assure those going into battle. For those units composed of men from the southern and eastern parts of the country—and that was most of them surrounding the royal encampment—the shamans made up most of these, going about with their various ceremonies. Some of the royal family joined in these, but Leslie used his duties at the encampment to avoid them.

For those troops in Aloxa who had come from the north, the situation was mostly reversed; the preponderance of the chaplains were Christians, and both the Christian chaplains and Terry moved amongst these. The forces at the border were forced to pitch camp the best they could; those in Aloxa used the main square between the palace and the lake. Queen Arlene opened up parts of the palace grounds to centralise the forces as much as possible, some of the men even got to sleep in the foyer and outer throne room of the palace itself. As the weather was seasonable, camping was not difficult. Once all of the forces were in place, they attempted to get some sleep in anticipation of the largest military operation the Island had ever seen.