Lualla and Tob were granted a special audience with King Mergolech after she showed the castle guards the dolphin ring he had given her as a sign of his vow of protection over their family. As he and his retinue were themselves setting out at once for the Citadel of Kremel across the mountains to the east, it was granted that Lualla, Sol, and Tob would ride along amongst the wagons carrying the provisions for that troop.
Further, Tob informed Mergolech that upon his person, Benda carried objects of priceless value, the thunderstone knife, and never-ending goblet which Banarat had given to Eradus in High Dock Castle, and which Eradus had given to Benda in the Place Below. Mergolech was thereafter able to negotiate with the Knights of the Citadel, as king of this land, and rightful lord of Benda, that these objects be entrusted to his safe-keeping until a determination could be made at the High Council. Thus these items were retrieved, and placed under the care of Lualla, as they were much too large for Tob to carry.
The caravan set out at once, with an advance guard of the Knights of the Citadel riding ahead. They were followed by the special guard, amongst which Benda was allowed to ride without rope or shackle, but not afforded the liberties of a free man. Behind them rode Mergolech’s retinue and supply wagons.
Thanks to the mercies of Mergolech, who was a wise, honest, and just king, Lualla and Sol were allowed to visit Benda – under guard – on several occasions, though only for a few minutes at a time. She introduced Sol to him, and there was a tearful reunion. Benda realized immediately that this was indeed the boy he’d seen in the village, in whom it seemed a spark of recognition had somehow then been kindled too.
Tob, meanwhile, was all too happy to while away the hours on the back of the creaky wagon where he, Lualla, and young Sol rode and bedded. Tob was able, at last, to entertain them with his full suite of tales, which ranged from myths and legends of far off lands, to trumped-up tales of his own bravery and magical prowess, to all the tales Benda had related to him about his own journey to Quatria and back. It served well to pass the time, and Lualla, but especially Sol, listened intently. It reminded Tob of the happy times he spent living with Lam’s family, far, far away. And thus the days passed without incident, and without too much heartache.
They crossed the mountains over the southern pass, and within just under a week the caravan broke out into the open plains to the west of the Citadel of Kremel. The Citadel was a natural fortress, built upon a large circular deposit of some of the hardest stone of that continent, which had been planted there aeons ago when the world began in fire and smoke. From the west, north, and some of the south, it was impassable, as a natural wall of sheer rock rose up protectively. This natural barrier was fortified in turn by successive rings built within by the hands of men, and the main gates faced the sea not far off to the east, with another second gate facing towards the south, and the desert of Ner. Long ago, however, the overland passage to the desert had been sealed against barbarian raiders with a long stout wall at the narrowest part where the continent connected to Ner and the lands beyond. It was by this southern gate, the Ner Gate, that the caravan entered the Citadel itself. Tob gazed in wonder at this marvelous stone city, the likes of which he had never seen in his many travels.
Upon their arrival, they were greeted without fanfare, as preparations were already underway for the convening of the High Council out of season, a most irregular occurrence. Tob, Lualla and Sol were lodged together in adequate accommodations with other members of her king’s retinue. And Lualla, to stave off her own anxiety, and though she were not duty-bound to do so, took to helping the others with whatever chores and tasks came up, and quickly became a valued member of that troop. Tob and Sol, meanwhile, became fast friends and explored as thoroughly as they were allowed the grounds and area where they were lodged while Lualla busied herself with the preparations.
They spent several days thus, waiting for the other kings to arrive. Though they had not seen him, it was known that Murta, the Third King and King of Holmat, had arrived well before them. In the form of an eagle, he traveled swiftly and without retinue. And it was he, Tob suspected, who had informed the King of the Citadel, Consciolus Greppo, in the first place of Benda and his marvelous secret, setting the present events into motion.
Martis Ovnis, the Fourth King of Edebia arrived not long after Mergolech and his retinue. And this left only one king unaccounted for, Eradus, the Fifth King, King of Devera, and close friend and traveling companion of Benda. On the fifth day, however, Eradus rode out of the west, via the same southern passage through the mountains. Having sent his own goleks, Dema and Selef, to find their way home by the northern way, he sat astride the sable golek, Machef, who, though it was not widely known amongst humans, was considered too a king amongst his people. And strapped to the back of Eradus was the harp Eril, which was left behind in Murta’s attack on the Xenarths, and the capture of Benda. Eradus had not long after discovered it in the market stall of an anonymous trader at the tribal settlements of Lake Squamat. He bought it back from the unsuspecting vendor (who had no idea of its provenance or true value), as he would later brag to Benda, for a song.
With this final arrival, the High Council of the Kings of Kremel was ready to commence.