Children of the Dragon Wars

Chapter 16

The next morning Jellal rushed to the town to find Bob and pass on the message that Natsu had asked him to carry. He knew that he should stop to find Erza first, but most importantly he had to let this Bob character know of what Ivan and Duke were planning. He would need Erza's help as well, but he wasn't sure whether he should go see Erza or Bob first. He figured that it would be better to go straight to Bob, the information was far more critical.

He made his way through the tow square until he came to what he suspected was the blacksmith's shop. He walked inside where he found a fairly lit fireplace with a pudgy man standing in front of it. He held a sword in the flame before hammering it out on the anvil that rested nearby. Jellal could see the man was a bit odd, and not because of his size, but he had what appeared to be makeup and eyeliner on, and a coy smile that lined his fat lips.

"Bob?" Jellal asked as he stepped inside the musty interior of the shop. The smell of heated metal swelled in his nostrils making the young noble a bit queasy, hay crinkling under his feet.

Jellal was a bit cautious, this man may have looked rotund, but there was something else about him. He was strange, to Jellal there was no doubt about that, but at the same time he could sense that there was some hint of kindness and friendliness about this man. Natsu was certainly right, he would know the man as soon as he saw him.

"Oh, hello there," Bob greeted Jellal with a wide grin as he continued to hammer away on the sword. "What can I do for you young master? You need some fine tuning or polish on your armor, or perhaps a nice new sword to commemorate the upcoming wedding day of Princess Lucy and King Duke?"

"My name is Jellal," the young noble said as he approached the pudgy old man, "I have a message from Natsu for you."

"Oh, really?" Bob said as he placed the hammer down on the table.

He wiped his hands in his apron as he walked towards the young man. He eyed Jellal a bit skeptically, not sure whether he believed him or not. He wondered why a noble would be carrying a message from a slave boy. He was never one to trust nobles, especially in Konvern, but this was a noble he had never seen before, and he was certain was not one that was from the country. Though that made it more troublesome.

"Yes," Jellal told him, "he needs you to visit him in the dungeons as soon as you possibly can,"

Bob just snorted before going back to his workbench to continue hammering. The boy must be taking him as a fool. Nobody would be stupid enough to go into the dungeons, especially not to see a slave. He didn't know what game this nobleman was playing at. He just went back to his sword, hammering away as chuckling to himself.

"You don't believe me?" Jeallal sighed.

He wanted to know what he could say that would convince the old man that he was in fact on ally. He pondered it over, but then he remembered Lucy telling him about the necklace she wore around her neck. It was a gift from Natsu originally, but according to the princess it was made by a blacksmith. Perhaps Bob was the man she was talking about. If that were the case, maybe he could use it to persuade him.

"I know about Princess Lucy and Natsu," Jellal blurted out without thinking his words over more carefully. Almost immediately on cue, Bob ceased his hammering as he turned and faced the boy with a cautious glanc.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Bob chuckled pretending to just wave it off, but from the corner of his eye Jellal could see that the blacksmith was gripping the hammer close to his body.

"Don't worry, I'm a friend," Jellal said holding up his hand. "Lucy told me about the necklace Natsu gave her as a child. She said that it was made by a blacksmith; a friend of Natsu. You were the one that made it weren't you?"

"Depends," Bob said as he folded his arms across his chest; he still kept his firm grip on the hammer.

"Listen, I know you don't know me, and I know that you don't trust me," Bob scoffed at the obvious statement, "but you have to believe me when I say that you have to see Natsu. It's very important."

"And why is it so important?" Bob asked raising an eyebrow.

"He wouldn't tell me," Jellal admitted, scratching the back of his head. He could see that the blacksmith was becoming more skeptical with him now. "But there is something that I need you to tell him if you do choose to go and see him. Tell him that Ivan and Duke have discovered the whereabouts of a fifth Draconan child that has the ability to transform as they do. Whatever he's planning, we have to make sure that this child does not fall into their hands."

"Well then, is that all?" Bob asked as he turned back to his anvil. Jellal watched him as he went back to hammering the sword.

"So, are you going to deliver the message or not?" Jellal asked raising an eyebrow. He sounded a bit agitated but the old man just hummed away with each and every strike. The clanging of metal the only sound that echoed in that dark, musky shop.

"That remains to be seen," Bob told him.

"Please," Jellal sighed before leaving, "if you do decide to see Natsu, give him that message for me."

"Just answer me one question," Bob said before Jellal took another step outside the door. "Why do all this? Why do you care to help out a slave boy like Natsu? You're a noble, and more likely than not, one from Junelle, what do you have to gain from all this?"

"Honor," Jellal told him. "My father sacrificed his life for the sake of protecting Junelle and keeping peace within the realms. I cannot simply stand by and watch as Duke destroys it and brings about ruin to the entire island."

"You are not your father," Bob said, pounding the sword one more time, eyeing Jellal carefully. "You are who you are, and your father was who he was. His fight was his, not yours. Most men claim that they wish to carry out the legacy of their fathers, but rarely is it a cause for treason. What is it that truly compels you young lord? What is it that you would be willing to risk everything for? Honor is always such a simple answer, but treason would only bring about dishonor. There is something else that compels yous."

Jellal sighed to himself, taking in a deep breath before turning back to the strange elderly man. "There is somebody that I care deeply about. She is a close friend of mine, somebody that I would give my life for. She doesn't know it yet, and I would do anything to protect her. I know that with the way things are now, I may never get to show her how much I care. I will do anything to protect her, and if that means committing treason, I will gladly do it."

"You would overthrow your own king, all for the sake of some girl?" Bob asked gravely.

"Yes," Jellal answered with a serious gaze.

"Good answer," Bob chuckled with a wide grin.

Jellal watched him for a bit while longer, seeing him strike away on the same sword he had been working on ever since he walked into the shop. The man was odd, the young noble had to admit that, but there was something else about him. A gentle demeanor and a trusting spirit. He could see why the slave boy put so much trust in this man.

When he took a couple of steps outside it dawned on him that he had just admitted that he was willing to commit treason. He turned back to stare at the old man, perplexed that he had just told a complete stranger his feelings; feelings that he had never told anyone before. 'How did he do that?' Jellal wondered.

"Jellal there you are!" Erza growled as Jellal snapped back to reality. "Where have you been? Do you know how long I've been waiting for you?"

He noticed that she wasn't wearing the peasant girl costume, instead she was dressed with a armored breastplate, and a long cobalt dress with her sword fastened to her hip. She glared at him with her arms crossed over her chest; the leather gloves that covered her hands draped under her armpits. The young man sighed to himself as he saw her standing there knowing that he was definitely going to hear her rant about it as the day progressed.

"Sorry," Jellal apologized.

"Well did you at least find this Bob man you were looking for?" she asked sternly.

"Yeah," Jellal said gesturing behind him. "I just delivered the message, but there is something else that we need to talk about, something important."

Erza eyed him skeptically; she wasn't one to get over things easily. She looked more agitated than anything. Jellal took a guess and assumed that she must be suffering from a hangover, since she did seem a little tipsy last night. But the thing that worried him the most was the outfit she decided to dress in. He hadn't seen her wear it before, except for maybe the breastplate, but that was back when she fought in the tournament. How could she have possibly snuck it in?

That's when he noticed that wondering eyes fell on the two of them. He could hear the sound of the townspeople's murmurs as they watched the two of them, occasionally looking away pretending weren't. Sounds of who this "girl" could be and why on Earth she was wearing armor. He began to worry, hoping that these rumors wouldn't find their way to the castle but he couldn't be too sure.

"Come on," he said taking Erza by the hand; a gesture that at first startled the red head, as she could feel him pulling her away to a more secure location.

As the two of them walked away, Bob had been watching the entire thing, giggling to himself. He placed his chin on his hand as he gazed out at them, the young noble and the crazy looking girl. He smiled to himself, deciding that he would deliver the message to Natsu. The dungeons wouldn't be too bad, especially if one knew their way around down there, and fortunately for him he knew it all too well himself.

Later, Bob dressed himself in a brown, moldy cloak, and snuck his way into the dungeons. It wasn't too difficult, most guards were either busy on patrol through the city, or on watch on the walls. Those that were left to guard the dungeons themselves were usually the younger, inexperienced ones who would rather drink wine and gamble than do their jobs. As long as he remained quiet, Bob would slip on by undetected.

He made his way down into the deep parts of the dungeons. There on the floor he saw the pink haired teen, sitting up against the wall sleeping. He saw another teen in the cell adjacent to Natsu's, with a black haired teen lying on the floor snoring loudly. As Bob crept closer, he quelled under some disgusting stench. He covered his nose and pressed on, though he didn't know how much longer he could endure it.

"Natsu," the old man whispered quickly before covering his nose once again.

The pink haired boy didn't budge. Bob sighed to himself as he said the boy's name again, this time a little bit louder. Still the boy did not move, now Bob was becoming a little more desperate. He didn't want to alert any of the guards so again he said the boy's name, a little bit loud, his eyes peering through the other cells and down the hallways to make sure that nobody had overheard him.

This time he got a response, though it was not from Natsu, it was instead the black haired teen who was stirring. Gajeel sat up, blinking his eyes as he looked to see the where the source of the noise was coming from when he saw Bob.

"Uh," Gajeel mumbled as he sat up. "Hey, dumbass, you got another visitor. This time it looks like some fat old man; probably Bob by the looks of him."

Bob scowled at the other young Draconan, who just ignored him and went back to sleep. Though he did manage to awaken Natsu as the other slave boy sat up in his cell, seeing Bob standing on the other side. A wide grin crossed the boy's lips as he leapt to his feet and ran over to the pudgy fat man.

"Good, so Jellal did deliver the message to you," the boy chuckled happily.

"Yes, he did," Bob said nodding his head. "What is it that you wanted to tell me?"

Bob peered both ways to make sure that the two of them were able to speak in private. They couldn't afford to have someone eavesdrop on them, or worse have a guard walk on by and catch the blacksmith in the dungeons. Once it was clear he motioned for Natsu to continue. The boy then proceeded to explain the plan to Bob, who made sure to listen with the utmost intensity.

"Very well," Bob said nodding his head. His eyes darted down the hollow, dark hallways just to make sure that they were still in the clear. "I will do exactly that. Just wait a little while longer, okay?"

"Thank you, Bob," Natsu said breathing a sigh of relief. "You have no idea how much this means to me."

"My boy," Bob said as he reached in to place a comforting hand on the boy's shoulders, "it's a pleasure to help you in your time of need. For all that you have done for me these past several years it's the least I can do. But before I leave there is still something that I must tell you."

"What is it?" Natsu asked him.

"You're new friend, Jellal, has asked me to pass on a message as well," Bob began. "He said to tell you that they have discovered another Draconan child of similar talents out west, or so they suspect. Once you are free you must seek out this child and insure that neither Duke, or Ivan get a hold of her."

"Ivan?" Natsu asked perplexed. "Who is Ivan?"

"Lord Iwan's real name is Ivan," Bob told him. "He's been disguising his name for years now. For what purposes I do not know, but from what I understand he is not someone we can trust."

"No," Natsu said shaking his head, "Not Iwan. Jellal must be mistaken Lord Iwan is my friend, he has been so since I was a child. He must have misheard, or perhaps he's over exaggerating what Iwan must have said, but I know that we can trust Iwan."

"Don't be so certain Natsu," Bob interjected. "I find it hard for us to trust any of the nobles at this point. It is not rare that nobles will turn on their own in order to get a higher position in politics. They may appear to be your friend one day, and the next they can become your greatest enemy. This is why I feel that we cannot trust the young lord Jellal anymore than we can trust Iwan."

"Than that means we can't trust Jellal," Natsu growled. "I thought that he could be a friend, and seeing you here made me think that perhaps he would be, but now I don't know. Iwan is the one who's been trying to help us this whole time, so regardless, I will trust my friends when the time comes."

"Natsu at this current time I don't know if there really is anyone we can trust," he said eyeing the sleeping Gajeel. "Just do me a favor boy, when the time comes for you to escape, take it. Don't let anything stop you from being free. Do you understand me?"

"Yes," Natsu said nodding his head. Just then they heard the sound of a door slamming somewhere farther down the dungeon halls.

"I must go," Bob said as he covered his head in his cloak once more. As he turned to leave Natsu grabbed onto his sleeve.

"Bob if you do see Jellal again, please pass on another message for me," Natsu said. He could hear the sound of footsteps approaching, the echo of metal on stone clanging echoed throughout the dungeon halls.

"Make it quick, we haven't much time boy," Bob whispered as he peered back at Natsu. He was growing even more nervous as the sounds of the footsteps grew louder, Natsu could sense the jitteriness in the older man's movements.

"Tell him to let Lucy know what's going on, that we plan to do all of this on the day of her wedding," Natsu whispered to him.

"I will boy," Bob said as he jerked his cloak away, disappearing into the darkness.

Natsu watched him go as he walked back to his original spot and sat down again. When he sat down the footstep were only a few meters away as three prison guards appeared in front of the cell. They eyed him and Gajeel carefully, during their attention down the hallway where Bob had just vanished. When they saw nothing, they continued moving on without uttering a word to the boy. Natsu just smiled to himself as he laid back and closed his eyes.

Meanwhile, at the castle King Jude was busy prepping for the wedding. Slaves and servants ran about with decorations, setting up tables and insuring everything was in place. The dinning hall was being cleaned while tables were set up for guests. Above the tall windows servants hung silk white curtains in place of the usual red ones for the wedding. The outside lawn was being trimmed, fresh flowers were being planted while the regular ones were trimmed.

Jude barked the orders as he moved about to a fro from the outside of the castle to the gardens, back to the dinning hall. He began to get a bit flustered as he yelled at the slaves who complied to his every demand. He was anxious about it, after all, the wedding was to be held on Princess Lucy's birthday, which was only a days away at this point and he wanted to make sure everything was perfect for the occasion.

"Your Grace," King Duke said as he glided toward the worried Jude, "how are you?"

The king attempted to be friendly, offering the boy a courteous grin, but he was withdrawn in his own panic about making sure everything was set up properly that he practically ignored the other king. King Duke stood next to him, and even followed him about as he paced around the castle frantically. The young man got some king of sick pleasure seeing the king all hyped up. But it was for his wedding day after all.

"I am—" he couldn't finish his sentence before he heard the loud creak of glass shattering on the stone floor. The sound caused him to flinch as King Duke watched him with a raised eyebrow. "Not doing all that well young Lord. It seems like it is impossible for any of the servants to do their jobs properly and make sure everything is prepped for your wedding."

"There is no need to overstress yourself your Grace," King Duke told him. "All will be well in time."

"My Lords," a voice called out from down the hall, as Ivan rushed towards the two of them, Jean-Luc followed behind him.

"Lord Iwan," King Jude called out to him, "Jean-Luc, what can I do for you two? Can't you see that I am very busy at the moment?"

"I know, I know," Ivan said as he waved it off. "You see I have something that I think we need to discus," he said holding up a piece of parchment.

"What's this?" King Jude asked as he took it away from him.

Ivan watched as the king looked the parchment over, examining it closely. Jean-Luc finally managed to catch up to the three of them, a little winded, but carried a glower on his lips. Ivan made sure that the other two kings were looking at him or Duke when he turned to King Duke and nodded. The young king returned it with one of his own, the two of them smirking scarily to one another.

"It's the treaty between the three nations my Lord," Ivan answered him as he took the piece of paper back from Jude.

"Why are you brining this to my attention now?" King Jude growled irritably. "Can't you see that I'm busy prepping for the wedding? And besides, I thought we all agreed to sign the treaty after the wedding was finalized?"

"That's what I thought too," Jean-Luc grumbled as he folded his arms across his chest, scolding Ivan.

"Yes, my Lord," Ivan began, "but than I got to thinking. We don't want to interrupt King Duke on his wedding day as he spends it with Princess Lucy. Neither do we want to interrupt them on their honeymoon either. And since we know that Duke and Lucy are to be wed, than wouldn't it just make more sense for the three of you to do this now?"

"I conquer," King Duke said as he stepped forward gazing over at Jude and Jean-Luc. "Lord Ivan speaks the truth. I think that it would be better for us to get the treaty over with now and not have it strain on our minds when the big day arrives. Plus, I would like to focus on my marriage during my honeymoon instead of politics. And what's the point of waiting several weeks for something we are already assured is going to happen?"

"Very well," King Jude sighed in agitation. "Someone bring us a quill and some ink! And someone else bring me wax with a candle!" he roared out to the servants.

The four of them made their way to the dining table as a slave rushed over with an ink jar and several quills. King Jude sat down in the chair, his eyes skimming the document. Once the jar was set in front of him, he dipped the tip of the quill in the ink and proceeded to sign his name.

"My Lord," Jean-Luc interrupted him before the king had laid down his signature, "don't you think you should read it over first? Make sure that you understand everything that it says?"

"This is the treaty that I wrote though, right?" he asked, but soon realizing he wasn't too sure, not all the articles of it were the same, though for the most part it looked nearly identical. He turned to face Ivan who gazed at him with eager eyes, he bit his lips in restraint.

"Of course my Lord," he answered. "But to be honest King Duke and I looked over your treaty and we took the liberty to make some modifications to the document."

"What kind of modifications?" King Jude asked sternly. He scowled gravely at the two of them.

"I decided to add in King Duke as your heir, which I would assumed would take place after the union between he and your daughter. I did it as a premeditated means to avoid any potential confusion in the future. This way, the treaty proves that Duke is not only rightfully your heir, but lawfully as well. I hope that is okay with you my Lord."

"And I added in a part where the council will also be granted certain authority if they do not see the ruler fit for his title, and therefore they would pass the rule on to the person who is next in line," King Duke said.

"Lucy," King Jude said with a deep breath.

He leaned back in his chair as he thought their words over. He looked up to Jean-Luc, who didn't appear to be all that comfortable with the entire notion. He then gazed up at the other two, seeing that they nodded at him silently telling him that he should sign the treaty. It was in that moment a slave walked up with a candle and a bowl of already melted red wax, which he set down near the king before taking his leave.

The king was growing impatient as he could hear the rustle of slaves working as they walked by. It made it difficult to read, but after skimming it over he saw that the majority of the treaty was the exact same as the one that he originally drawn up earlier. For the most part it was what he wanted, and it appeared that Duke and Iwan did not add in too much that would change it drastically. Growing impatient King Jude did not waste another moment as he quickly signed his signature at the bottom of the parchment. After he had done that, he dripped some of the hot red wax next to his name, and with a ring that bore his mark he pressed hard against it sealing the deal.

"Are you sure my Lord?" Jean-Luc asked once King Jude had finished signing his name.

"It looks like the exact same treaty we already agreed to Jean-Luc, word for word. I glanced at the new addition and everything appears in order," King Jude answered as he walked back towards the crowd of working servants.

"Very well," Jean-Luc sighed as he too signed his name and pressed his mark onto the document. "I'll trust your judgment on this my friend.

"Very good my Lord," Ivan said with a wide smirk. "I think that you are right to trust in King Jude's judgment."

"Let us hope," Jean-Luc grumbled. He did not waste a moment more before he took his leave, disappearing down the corridor.

Once he was gone Ivan and Duke turned to one another, both as equally pleased and excited. Ivan rolled up the parchment and tucked it neatly away in his violet robe as the two of them made their way down the hallway. The two walked side by side, their plan coming together almost perfectly, the same thought passing through the their minds.

"So, we're close now aren't we?" King Duke said as a sly grin crossed his lips. "It is only a matter of time until the plan comes together. I guess I'm getting too anxious to wait any longer."

"Patience young king," Ivan told him. "In a matter of time you will become the ruler of three kingdoms, with a beautiful young queen in your bed, as well as the most powerful army on the entire continent. Just endure it a little bit longer and everything you could want will be at your disposal."

"And what of the Draconan boys?" King Duke asked gazing at the older lord with troublesome eyes.

"Where their loyalty will fall I do not know," Ivan sighed. "But rest assured that even without them, you will still get what you want. Nobody will be able to stop us."

"I certainly hope you're right, Ivan," Duke grumbled.

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