Days in Drakonos feel like the sun travels the surface and the wind circles the sky far above. Seisyll doesn't like it at all. He misses the chill of the wind, the gentle breezes tossing his hair, and the familiar sight of green leaves against dark tree-barks and grey skies. He misses Edenville; he misses the feelings of home. But he had to leave home when he was discovered to be a drakakyn, a dragon lord. Drakakyns are a rarity; especially in the Kingdom of Edenville, where anyone supernatural is executed by order of the human king.
Seisyll’s father was a guard-captain in the Edenville capital before Seisyll was born. Seisyll's father was forced by-law to bring people to their deaths, but when he found out his pregnant wife was a drakakyn, he hid themselves away in a small shepherd town; nestled near a thick forest, that still acts as a natural barrier between the human kingdom and Dragon Canyon, where Drakonos is.
Seisyll’s mother died giving birth to him, but he inherited her power. He was taught to hide his ability, and so he did, because he knew what danger would come to him and his father if he didn’t.
But one day the son of the town’s lord, while out on a hunting trip, saw Seisyll playing with a dragon in the forest. The lord's son tried killing both Seisyll and the dragon on-sight, but Seisyll hid the dragon away and was able to escape. He ran quickly to his father and told him what had happened; and pleaded for his father’s forgiveness and help. His father told him that he had to leave right away, alone, to the Dragon Canyon where the drakakyn masters would take him in and protect him. Seisyll didn’t want to leave, though, because he was worried about his father staying in the town.
Seisyll still doesn’t understand why his father chose to stay behind. He still worries about him, eight years later and in the hot, dry air of the rocky city, he still worries about his father. But he can't go back to Edenville, the Kingdom still isn't safe; executions of supernatural people still happen. And Seisyll's obvious drakakyn tattoos wouldn't help him sneak in safely.
Seisyll is content in Drakonos, though. Even with the terrible weather and the terrible feeling of guilt and worry always around him. The drakakyn masters of the Towers have been good to him, and he enjoys learning about his abilities and the different types of dragons. And even if the scenery isn't really to his taste, he can appreciate the beautiful architecture of the city: A cultural mix of all the Kingdoms carved into the canyon, with houses and stores built into the ancient rocks. And how the drakakyn of ages passed were able to turn such a large natural structure of marble into a hallowed, livable place is amazing to him.
That's why he's okay with this place, he figures. It's nice, though not perfect, and it's safe. Even in the other Kingdoms—Lycaenrir of werewolves, Shia of serpents, Obake of kitsunes, and Cynophinili of weredogs—drakakyns are feared because of their power. A human with the ability to speak to and heal dragons is frightening to others. And with good reason, Seisyll thinks. Dragons are the most dangerous among them.
□ □ □
Seisyll sits at the end of the courtyard of the Towers. He lets his feet dangle over the edge, beneath the low railing. The courtyard overlooks the Dragon Bath dam, the only source of water in the canyon. Seisyll’s favorite dragon legend is that of the Dragon Bath: It’s said the dragon Laung created Dragon Bath because the dragons and drakakyns in the canyon were thirsty, but the werewolves and serpents refused to aid them; so Laung dug a deep hole at the end of the Capital River, right at the edge of the canyon, so the water from the river would pour into the canyon and make an oasis.
The Towers block the water’s path to the rest of the canyon, and the drakakyns maintain the water levels for the city. There’s so much water in Dragon Bath, and so few people living in Drakonos, that the drakakyns and the rest of the populace are actually cleaner and healthier in comparison to others in the Kingdoms.
Seisyll breathes in the wet air of the mist from the falls. It’s such a luxury, since the rest of the air around him is either too hot or too sandy. He closes his eyes and loses himself for a moment, lost in the white-noise of the roaring water. He doesn’t hear Oligar, his fellow greenhorn, come up behind him, and the boy’s voice catches Seisyll by surprise. But Oligar’s voice is so quiet the question is overwhelmed by the sound of the falls.
Oligar sits next to him now, but farther from the railing and with his legs crossing. Seisyll can hear him better now that he’s closer. “Coach is looking for you,” he says. “Have you done something?”
Oligar is basically asking if he’s done any recent damage, so Seisyll laughs at the question. He’s always played pranks on the dakakyn masters since he first arrived.
Seisyll expertly shifts around the railing, slipping his feet in from beneath to land back onto the solid ground. He stretches his arm out, signaling for Fucang, his dragon companion. Greenhorns go through a sort of ‘rite of passage’: first connecting with a young dragon, then getting the dragonlord markings (face tattoos—a terrible fashion choice, but it’s tradition). Seisyll connected with a nature dragon; with blue scales, sharp, black spikes and talons, and yellow eyes.
Fucang flies swiftly to Seisyll, landing on his outstretched arm and crawls up the limb to perch on his shoulder. Seisyll is reminded of the chainmail beneath his shirt. Without it, the dragon talons would easily tear through his flesh and bone.
“Your little meditations aren’t usually so short-lived,” Fucang greets.
“Coach is after me.”
“So you did do something!?” Oligar asks eagerly to find out about the terrible prank his senior has pulled. Too bad Seisyll didn’t actually do anything this time. He flaunts a smile at Oligar, anyway, just to mess with the guy’s interest.
He leaves Oligar and heads into the Towers’ converged hallway. The exterior wall of the hallway is almost all glass windows. The glass of the windows was first cut to into geometric shapes, and then the pieces were fit back as a whole. Decorative marks of shadows fill the interior, and rainbows appear on the wall from where the glasses bend together. Seisyll heads to the High Tower, where Coach and the other drakakyn masters are housed. Greenhorns are housed in the Low Tower, which is also where the kitchen is, and Seisyll can already smell the food being prepared. Ugh, it’s making him so hungry. He can feel Fucang’s hunger too, which is making him feel hungrier. And then Fucang feels his hunger which makes him feel hungrier, and then Seisyll feels his hunger build and that makes him feel hungrier, and then—Yeah, the whole psychic connection thing has major drawbacks.
Coach is rising from his cluttered desk when Seisyll enters the office. The middle-aged master holds a letter in his hand with the royal seal of Lycaenrir (the silhouette/profile of a wolf and a design of the moon). He clutches the paper tightly and uses it to point at Seisyll.
“See this!?” He begins his rant with a shout. Not even a simple greeting of “Hello” to begin this session; although Coach has always been a kind of to-the-point guy, so Seisyll isn’t going to get upset over it, but he does huff in aggravated annoyance.
“This is a letter from the royal Lycaenrirs—the Werewolf Kings—do you get that? And these,” Coach slams his hand on a pile of other sealed letters, “are letters from the royals of North and South Obake, and some upset lords from Shia. Do you understand this situation you’re in at all, Seisyll?”
“Actually, no. Not at all. Care to enlighten me?”
Coach sighs in disappointment. “Dragons have been reported to be terrorizing the bejeez out of citizens. You know the drill, scorching the earth and burning crops and flesh. Anyway, the Collective Court has asked us drakakyn masters for our aid. At first we told them: Follow the basic procedure: lay out gold or sacrifice a goat, etc, etc, etc. But the methods haven’t worked. So now we’re going to need to leave Dragon Canyon and take care of the problems ourselves.”
Seisyll is surprised at Coach’s suggestion, to actually take him outside of the safety of Drakonta. To study in fieldwork would mark Seisyll as a true drakakyn! But he doesn’t want to get his hopes up, maybe he misheard... “And you want me to go?”
Coach nods, and Seisyll’s chest swells with pride.
□ □ □
“I really can’t believe it!” Oligar cheers him at lunch. “You’re in the big leagues! It usually takes longer for a greenhorn to actually get field experience.”
Seisyll smiles coyly. “Well there’s a crisis, so… I’m sort of needed.”
“It sure is a crisis if you’ve been asked to help,” Fucang chirps.
Seisyll rolls his eyes. “Sure, Fucang. It’s not like I’m one of the top students or anything.”
“Right after Huisan,” Oligar pointedly looks over at the girl sitting by the cafeteria windows, the orange sunset softly illuminating her silhouette. She’s reading an old book with archaic characters Seisyll can’t decipher, and eating her dried grapes one at a time. Seisyll smiles and feels the warmth of childhood crushing return in him, if only for an instant.
“It’s so cool that you’ll be going with her.” Oligar cups his head in his hands and sighs. “You’re both so cool...”
□ □ □
Seisyll’s arms are completely full, yet he feels the weight of another article of clothing stack on the high pile he tries to carry.
“You’ll be needing this,” Huisan says from somewhere in front of him, “Lycaenrir gets cold in the winter.”
“We won’t be staying that long! Oi, Hui, it’s midsummer!” Seisyll tries to inform her, but he honestly doubts if she’s listening.
“Oh, look! A South Obake merchant shop just opened!”
Yeah, she’s not listening.
“Come on, Seisyll,” she herds him towards the open foreign market. “I need some new perfumes before we go.”
“Is there a cart or something? Hui! I can’t hold all this!” And as if by cue he bumps right in to a stray cart, and some of the clothes he’s held fall into the basket. He rolls his eyes at his dumb-luck, but he fills the cart almost to the brim. How does she even have money to afford all of these? He shakes his head, honestly, would I even want to know…?
He finds Huisan at the front of the new market shop. The shop is decorated with palm leaves and open-cut coconuts, and a line of perfumes and exotic fruits are displayed on the table. Baskets of more fruits and small accessory items aline the front of the shoppe. There are other customers, browsing the baskets and fruits. Huisan is looking through the perfume products; she sprays the products near her and wafts the scent to test their fragrances.
“This one is delightful,” Huisan hums as he stands beside her, cart in-toe.
“Try it,” she gives him the sample bottle.
He attempts to test the scent as she did, but the spray lands too close to his nose and he’s pushed back by his sneeze. Huisan rolls her eyes.
“I-It’s fine, I guess,” he hands her the bottle back.
“It smells like the South’s wild flowers,” she explains. “It’s a lovely smell. Expensive, though,” she places the bottle back.
Well if you hadn’t spent the majority of your budget on shoes... he groans in his head, but doesn’t dare to say this outloud. He might fear Huisan’s wrath more than the wrath of the gods.
“I’d be willing to trade,” the merchantman says from behind his long table. “I’ll take some of the boy’s load off.”
“Great. Every tradesman of the Kingdoms saw her make a fool of me,” Seisyll mutters.
Huisan’s lips purse and she calculates the man. “What do you want for it?”
“See your fine shirts there, just underneath the firsts of the pile in your cart,” the merchantman says. “It’s dragonlord material, you know: thick, strong fibers woven in for protection against dragonfire. It’s too expensive for me to buy here, or in the South, but I’ll trade you for it. I’ll offer a bottle a shirt. Or a fruit if you’d like.
“Shirts like that have been sought-out for since the dragon attacks, and the upper and middle classes are well-guarded, but I’d like to care for my son and myself, we’re poorer than the rest.”
Seisyll frowns in confusion. “But you’re a merchant. Merchants are richer than most common-folk.”
“But I’ve only just begun,” the merchantman says, rather cheery. “That’s why I’m here in Dragon City! It’s more expensive to start a shop in the Kingdoms, even my own. The Court sets higher taxes.
“So, will you accept my trade offer?” He smiles hopefully.
“Of course,” Huisan says with a lovely smile. She picks up the shirts from the pile; and she hands them to the merchantman, who hands her a bottle of the floral-scented perfume.
“Ah, Seisyll!” Her voice rings his name, and he loves her.
“Yes, my dear Hui?”
“Pick out a perfume for yourself.” He loves her less.
Seisyll complains, “Can’t I just do the fruit option? I’ve always wanted to try papaya.”
“It’s very good!” says the merchantman, holding up a basket.
Huisan turns to her fellow greenhorn.
“Seisyll,” she says simply. His name spoken this time is less enjoyably; and her eyes are narrowing and there’s a toughness in her face—which can only mean business. He shivers.
“We’re about to travel to Lycaenrir—by itself being one of the most rich and fashionable of the Kingdoms—and we’re going spend most of our time in the Capital City—the second most populous city, and the most rich and fashionable—and we’ll be guests at the Palace of the Lycaenrir Kings. Royalty, Seisyll. We’ll be dining and sleeping with royalty; being in the same room as royalty; talking with royalty; breathing the same air as royalty. Werewolves have more acute senses than we do, do you want them to smell your stench? Don’t mess this up for me. Pick . . . a damn . . . perfume.”
Seisyll acts fast and picks out a random bottle from the sample display. Huisan smiles (though he can’t tell if she’s pleased or pissed), and spins on-point away from him and back into the crowd. Seisyll collects the perfumes into the cart and follows after her.
“We need new shirts,” she says as if all was well and she didn’t just scare Seisyll into buying freakin’ perfume. “There’s a shop over there!”
Seisyll sighs. He hopes this won’t take too long; they have to wake up at an ungodly hour next morning.
□ □ □
Seisyll heads downstairs to the cafeteria, where a breakfast of oatmeal and toast, with a drink of ginger tea, is provided. Huisan is already ready for the trip, dressed in a flowy green shirt and matching skirt, and her traveling bags lay on the table near the entrance with the other dragonlords’. Coach is sitting beside her, also dressed and ready to go, and he’s woofing down his breakfast.
Seisyll is briefly aware of his own attire, his tattered night-robes—but he shakes his head. He’ll just have a little breakfast before getting properly ready. There’s enough time for that, surely.
“So good of you to finally join us,” Huisan greets him when he sits down across from her.
“I thought that beauty would never wake up,” Coach says with his mouth full of food.
Seisyll winces. “For that sight I wish I hadn’t,” he says. Coach glares at him, but he keeps his mouth closed now as he eats.
One of the maids serves Seisyll his breakfast and pours his tea, and he smiles in thanks to her. He isn’t very hungry, since dinner was really only some hours ago, but the nights and early mornings in the canyon are very cold, and the warmth of the meal will be much appreciated once they start moving outside. Seisyll begins to eat, but he notices Huisan eyeing him.
“Where are your clothes,” she demands what should have been a question.
Seisyll stops chewing his meal; he blushes. “I just woke up,” he tries to explain, but there’s still food in his mouth.
“Hypocrite,” Coach mutters.
“Seisyll! We have to meet the queen of Lycaenrir by nightfall tonight! It’s a full-day’s journey to the Capital! Get moving--” she smacks his forehead.
“Ouch—Ah! I’m moving, okay!?” Seisyll rubs his poor forehead. He mumbles as he makes his way out of the cafeteria and back to his dorm room.
Greenhorn dorm rooms are simplistic in design, with the same set-up in every room; a small table with a chair set by the windows, a bed with wool covers, a wardrobe to the back, and small powder table with a basin.
Seisyll heads to the wardrobe to change out of his night-robes. He first slips on his chainmail and then he chooses a maroon colored shirt and dark jeans.
Beside the basin on the powder table are the elements of his greenhorn uniform: a hood and a headbrace. The greenhorn hoods are a circular design; the top of the hood is rounded, and the ends are aligned by small, curved edges. Seisyll’s hood is a green Edenville color to represent his home-kingdom. (Huisan’s hood is Shia’s beautiful golden color, but she refuses to wear it because it covers her hair.) The headbrace is made of pure gold, with geometric patterns carved into the metal. A crystal colored to match a dragon’s power is set in the center of the band, so it aligns at the wearer’s forehead.
Seisyll wraps the headbrace around, and clicks the connecting locks in place, before he puts on his hood.
He already packed the night before, so all he needs to do is carry his bags to the table with the others.
“That was fast,” Coach says when Seisyll sits down again.
Huisan crosses her arms. “Let’s see if he can eat faster,” she suggests.
“Oh, I can help him out!”
“... Wow.” Seisyll deadpans. He watches with scorn at the overgrown lizard who’s munching on his toast. “Thanks so much, buddy, that’s real nice. I’m so glad I connected with you and not some-other dragon.”
Fucang stops eating his stolen meal, annoyed by the amount of crumbs littering his scaley muzzle. The crumbs are caked with honey and butter, and they stick to his scales. The dragon tries licking at the crumbs; his long, black tongue awkwardly moving about; and Seisyll laughs. He really can’t stay mad at his companion for too long.
An older drakakyn appears from the cafeteria's doorway. “The sun is breaking on the horizon sooner than we expected,” she announces. “We’ll have to leave now if we’re to make it to our destinations.”
Seisyll looks down at his uneaten breakfast. “Can I get a to-go box?” he jokes.
“Just eat the toast Fucang didn’t get to,” Huisan says as she stands from the table. Her dragon-companion Huang flies to her shoulder, and Huisan walks away to collect her bags.
Seisyll looks down at Fucang, who's still busy with removing the crumbs, now trying to rub them off with his claws. Seisyll grabs the remaining toast, and the distraught dragon, and follows Huisan out of the Towers doors.
They can see the line of carriages below from where they stand at the Towers’ entrance. The Towers rests at the top of the small rock wall, and they have to walk down a steep curl of steps to get to the bottom. The wind from the canyon’s night is still sharp as it blows against them, but once the sun rises its full way the canyon will warm and the cold will be gone to the shadows. Seisyll shivers against it, and he feels Fucang in his arms shiver too. He holds his companion closer against him.
Seisyll, Huisan, and the other drakakyn traveling, begin to walk down the steps. There are turns on the path going back-and-forth against the rock wall’s side, and at each turn they’re hit with a gust of cold air. When they make it to the carriages, the sun has almost made its way above the horizon. Seisyll looks out to it, but he can barely see it above the canyon walls. Only a small, golden stream of light which highlights the outlines of the red rocks enclosing the city around them. The rays of the sun that reach the canyon floor are so faint the party can barely see ahead of them, and Seisyll is sure they would be lost without the lanterns they hold.
“Huisan and Seisyll!” The drakakyn who spoke earlier addresses them. “Your carriage is here.” She leads the two to the first carriage of the line.
Theirs is only slightly bigger than the others, Seisyll guesses it’s to accommodate the two passengers besides the just one. It’s made of a nice, polished dark wood. Seisyll opens the door of the carriage, and notices the soft cushioning on the seats, and the velvet curtains hanging on each window at both sides. There’s even a small table stuck in the middle of the carriage’s room, and an electric lighting unit hangs on the ceiling. Rupert wrinkles his nose. The carriage is much too nice for it to have made birth in Drakonos.
“They must have sent the carriage for us,” Huisan says, like she’s read his thoughts. She might have, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if she could do uncanny stuff like that.
“The werewolves, I mean,” she covers. “They’ve been waiting for us for a while, so I’m surprised they’d be so courteous...”
She grumbles; Seisyll looks at her, and there’s an expression of exasperation clear across her features. “Idiot Coach. He’s made them wait around. Making royalty wait around like that! I just can’t stand him. He should have moved with this embarkment sooner.”
She pushes her bags onto Seisyll—making him drop his own—and makes her way inside the carriage. Seisyll watches her sit down on the back seat and admire the fabric of the cushioning, sliding her nimble fingers against it.
Huisan’s fingers brush against something set on the seat they hadn’t noticed in the darkness. Seisyll moves into the room, dropping the bags on the front seat, and powers on the electric light. The brightness of the artificial light blinds them both for a second, but when their eyes adjust they’re able to see a wrapped package laying on the seat. Huisan holds the package in her lap, and she begins to open it. Rupert notices a sealed envelope was left beneath the package. He opens the envelope and reads from the card inside:
Thank You, Coach Drakakyn For your Agreement in Helping Us.
I heard this Drink was your Favorite.
- Prince Septimosu Lycaenrir of Kingdom Lycaenrir
Seisyll quirks his eyebrow. Not only had Coach not informed the queen he wouldn’t be the one she’d be meeting, but it was her son who sent them the carriage and the gift inside.
Speaking of which, Seisyll looks back to Huisan with the box. She’s torn the fancy paper off, revealing a pretty wooden box with gold painted as small flowers blooming around the edges. She opens the detaching lid, and they see inside is a bottle laying on a bed of ice. Huisan picks up the bottle, and turns it in her hand to read the label.
“Brandy,” she smiles. “They’re too kind.”
□ □ □
Huisan refused they drink the brandy, since apparently for her it was too early for drinking. But around lunchtime Seisyll was able to persuade her. They had found a glass—a glass, as in only one glass, since the carriage was prepared for Coach alone. They shared the one glass to keep their drinking measured, each taking a turn for sips; but when Huisan started getting tipsy she began stealing turns and drinking as much as she wanted. Seisyll didn’t really mind, because she would be laughing so hard when she did, and Huisan’s real laugh is contagious and wonderful.
“Sss-eee-sylll,” she slurs out his name. “You haven’t had anything in hours~,” she teases him in singsong, moving the glass around in front of him. Seisyll reaches for it, but Huisan yanks back, and some of the drink spills onto the seat cushions. She gasps at the spill, and looks at Seisyll with widened eyes. Seisyll looks back with an equal expression, he’s sure she’ll snap out of her drunken state and snap at him for the stain. But Huisan rolls back in a fit of laughter, spilling more of the drink.
Seisyll quirks his eyebrow and chuckles. “Okay,” he moves the near-empty glass out of her shaking hand, “I think that’s enough drinking for now.” He places the glass back in the seat’s cupboard where they’d found it.
“Seesylll!” She reaches out for him. “You baarly draanked!”
“You’ve probably ‘draanked’ enough for the both of us, Hui,” he holds her outstretched hand.
Suddenly the carriage is jerking, pushing the two passengers inside with a great force, back-and-forth as the wheels run through a poor road. Seisyll’s grip on Huisan tightens as he tries to hold the tipsy girl steady against the swaying of the carriage.
The carriage stops.
Seisyll reluctantly lets go of his friend and stands to the carriage-room’s window, drawing back a velvet curtain to see a green field outside. The field seems to stretch for miles, untouched, but Seisyll can see a town in the near distance to the north of them. He can’t observe details of the town, but from what he sees he guesses it’s a relatively nice, populous place. On a hill there’s a small brick mansion, which Seisyll knows to be the home of this town’s lord.
The carriage driver blocks Seisyll’s view when he opens the door. “There’s some mess on the road,” he explains. “Debris from a dragon attack last night.”
“Let me see.”
The driver steps aside, allowing Seisyll to move out of the carriage. Seisyll steps onto a broken ground, and looking he sees they’ve stopped on what might have been a small building, maybe a shed or an outhouse. Wood of the building is crisp and burnt, charred and breaking beneath his feet.
“Dragon fire alright,” he assures himself. He looks back at the driver, who's still standing by the door and watching him; and he sees Huisan also watching him, with confusion and worry in her glossed eyes.
“Watch her for me!” he calls to the driver. “I’m going to head into town!”
□ □ □
Seisyll was right about the town being populous. Citizens of the Lycaenrir outskirt walk fast through the crowded streets of the downtown, busy with their errands and fixings after the dragon attack. Seisyll tries to stop people to ask questions, but no one seems to pay any attention to him despite his dragonlord appearance. You’d think they’d be willing to help me, he grumbles in thought, since I can help them.
He decides to turn away from the hurried townsfolk and to observe the damage which still remains done to the farmlands. As Seisyll heads down the road, he sees a few farmers ahead are standing around discussing their burnt properties. He sighs in relief when he sees they’re not as occupied with themselves as the people downtown.
He walks up to them. “Hey,” he greets. The farmers turn around and face him with their supernatural eyes piercing against the midday sun. Seisyll stops moving, taken aback by their aggression. He hold out his hands in surrender. “I hold no weapons!”
“Of course he don’t,” huffs the youngest farmer in the group. His skin color is similar to Seisyll’s, but a shade darker, which emphasises the yellow glint staring down at Seisyll. “What’re you gonna kill a dragon with if you got no weapons?”
Seisyll frowns. “I’m not here to kill the dragon,” he says. “I’m here to stop it.”
“Well that’s how you’re gonna stop it,” the young farmer combats. He opens his mouth to say more, but one of his older comrades quiets him; another man of Seisyll’s color. Most of the farmers show tanned lightskin, the most common skin color in Lycaenrir. But it’s not only the skin Seisyll is drawn to: The man is human; a remarkable stand-out amongst the werewolves looming behind him. Unlike noble werewolves, these farmers cannot as easily hone-in their wolfesque features, like the sheathed claws and the fur growing around their jaws and arms.
“What do you need from us, greenhorn?” The human farmer asks.
“I just need some answers.”
The farmers decide to listen to him, but Seisyll knows they are still wary.
“Look, it’s not normal for dragons to attack towns. I don’t care what fairytales and legends you’ve heard say, it’s not normal dragon behavior. I need to know exactly what happened here last night so I can see if there’re any clues to what caused the dragon to behave like this, and,” he sighs, “If witness testimony isn’t enough, I might need to look around the... wreckage of your homes.”
The young farmer stiffens defensively, but the others only look down at their feet, or in the direction of their burnt homes.
“Very well,” says the older farmer. “We hadn’t seen much of the attack, but my daughter saw most of it. She’s out in the field now. I’ll take you to her.”
Seisyll follows the man down one of the dirt roads, which leads to his farmhouse. He admires the quaint scenery of the dirt road. Red clay sports wild flowers and pretty weeds around wood fences. It faintly reminds him of his small shepherd town in Edenville, but there the dirt was grey and the leaves had always been a deep color green. Seisyll pulls his attention back on the case when the farmer stops walking and shows him a small farmhouse. The house wasn’t hit as hard as the ones Seisyll saw before, closer to downtown, but, still, most of it was chewed by the dragon-flames.
“Heather!” The farmer calls for his daughter at the fence around his land. In a short time, there’s a girl around Seisyll’s age running up to the fence to the farmer; her dirty-blonde hair flowing in the wind like the toasted field of wheat around her.
“There’s a dragonlord here to ask you a few questions about last night,” the farmer explains to her softly, and he grips her shoulder reassuringly.
Seisyll walks to her, and he smiles awkwardly in greeting. She smiles in return, brighter than Seisyll expected she would considering the circumstances. But she might be better at hiding her grief than the other farmers.
“You didn’t say he’d be so cute, Pop,” Heather grins flirtatiously and winks.
He blushes. Or maybe she’s just superficial.
“So, you’re asking me about what happened,” Heather walks to Seisyll from behind the fence. Her unusual hair blows across her face, and as she pulls down the strands she reveals a widened grin. “I don’t know if I really remember too much.”
“Heather, dear, this is important; please take this seriously,” Pop, the farmer, says.
Heather sighs. “I am, Pop. I really don’t remember much.” She returns to Seisyll, “ I mean, I know I’ve seen more than these guys,” she waves her hand in the direction of her father, and Seisyll guesses of the other farmers down the road, “but it still wasn’t too much. It happened real early in the morning, earlier than we usually wake up to tend the land and animals. I heard a strange noise which woke me up, and I went outside to check on what it was. That’s when I saw the dragon—Well, it didn’t really look like a dragon then since it was so far away and it’s real dark out, right? But I know now it was the dragon. So I woke up Mom and Pop and we all went outside. That’s when the dragon began to attack. I guess it’s lucky I’m a light sleeper, since we were up we were able to warn everyone here. I mean, downtown wasn’t so lucky, but at least the crops and livestock are fine.”
Seisyll is silent for a while, digesting the farmgirl’s story. After thinking it through, he finds the clues he’ll need. “What did the noise sound like, what woke you up?”
“I…” She frowns. “It was really odd, I… I don’t know how to describe it.”
“Can you try? Please?”
Heather looks to her father, and Pop squeezes her shoulder again. “It… There was this sharp, piercing sound,” Heather says after a while of thinking. “But it was distant, faint, but I still heard it. And… When I went outside, the noise was louder, and it was like I could feel it in the air.”
Magic, Seisyll thinks. That’s definitely magic. Someone must be controlling the dragons to act this way. I knew it couldn’t be natural. But Seisyll feels unnerved by that idea; whoever is controlling the dragons must have powerful dark-magic, and Seisyll doesn’t want to believe the sorcerer could be a fellow dragonlord.
He sighs, distraught by the finding, but he needs to ask Heather this last question: “Heather, do you know which direction you saw the dragon coming from?”
Heather nods, more confident this time. “It came northeast of here,” she points in that direction, “from Mount Dragon.”
□ □ □
With Heather’s testimony there’s no need to search for anything the dragon might have been after, but there’s now the question of what the sorcerer could be after. Seisyll had searched through some of the wreckage of the farmers’ homes- but he had found nothing, and he and Huisan would be late to see the Queen if he stayed any longer. So he told Pop—whose real name is Barely—to keep a look out for anything suspicious, especially any foreign magic tokens or items, that might help his investigation, and to send word of any findings, no matter how small, immediately and directly to him at the Castle.
As Seisyll heads back to the carriage, he wonders if any of the other dragonlords have been lead to the same theory about the attacks as him- or if Heather has been the only strong-witness in the Kingdoms.
The carriage is still where he left it a few hours before, sitting on the dirt road covered in rubble. The driver assures him Huisan is alright. Apparently he gave her something which would work quickly to rid of the alcohol content in her blood, but it made her drowsy. He says she’s been napping in the carriage-room; and sure enough, Seisyll sees Huisan sleeping on the back seat when he gets inside. A small quilt has been draped over her—a rough and tattered thing which looks out of place among the richness of the room and the beauty it covers. He guesses it must belong to the driver, which it’s nice of him to loan his own quilt to her. Seisyll smiles at her gentle expression; soft and pure, comforted in repose. Sleep might be the only time Huisan shows her true face, behind the mask of superiority she wears once awake.
The carriage begins to move then, and Huisan wakes up with a start as the wheels start bumping over the rubble. “What is that,” she groans out. Rupert notices her vision cleared, and her slurring words have stopped, though they’re now heavy from her nap.
“Seisyll,” Huisan hisses at him. She winces from a pain in her head, and rubs her temples. “Oh, why did I allow you to get me drunk?”
He laughs, “What’s a road-trip without a little drinking game?”
“This isn’t a road-trip, Seisyll! This is business! We have to—” she winces again.
“Are you okay, Hui?” He reaches out to her, but she moves away.
“Fine... I’m fine…” She moves into a sitting position, the quilt falling into a sad lump beside her. She sighs.
Seisyll watches her for the rest of their ride to the Capital City. Her headache loosens its grip soon enough, but she’s still dozing off. If it weren’t for the medicine’s such strong effects on her, Huisan would surely be actively furious at this point and willing them away. But alas, modern medicine is more powerful than a human’s will.
Seisyll is almost grateful for it, though; with Huisan in such a state, she can’t yell at him for running out to the town. He’s able to tell her about what he might have found: “I believe a sorcerer is responsible for the dragon attacks,” he says as the carriage crosses a bridge over the Capital River, the light of the late sun is softly reflecting off the water.
Huisan attempts to frown, but her muscles are so weak it turns out more like a slight twitch of eyebrows. “What makes... you… say that?” she’s able to mumble out in reply.
“I asked a farmgirl about the attack on the town we were in. She told me she heard a sound, and that woke her up, and she says she saw the dragon coming towards and was able to alert some others,” he says. “She described the sound as a piercing feeling- which we both know is how witnesses describe magic. But it doesn’t stop there- she says the dragon was flying from the direction of Media Drakon.”
“Huh. I thought you… didn’t-” the sentence is cut off by a yawn, but Seisyll understands what she would mean.
“Well, I guess I’m re-thinking the probability, then.”
Media Drakon, or “Mount Dragon” as most common-folk call it, is known to be a sort of sanctuary for dragons. Every century, dragons from all over migrate to the giant, dead volcano to bread and relax. It’s a spiritual place for dragonlords, too; the volcano is said to have a serious amount of magic energy, and some even believe it’s the gateway to the Underworld.
But Seisyll and his class had traveled there once on a pilgrimage, and he remembers it as an annoyingly long climb with the endgame not being as great as was promised. It’s a giant dead volcano. And the dragons go there because every hundred years the Glaciers of the north move in, and the climate gets too cold for dragons to survive, and the volcano acts like a giant sauna.
At first Seisyll thought that was the end of that; he dismissed any claims of magic-hotspot as wishful thinking. There’s nothing magic about that dead piece of rock.
But Heather saying the dragon came from Media Drakon, and her description of a powerful magic spell, has Seisyll second-guessing himself. Not that he was completely wrong before, the volcano is dead, and in cold climates it is like a giant sauna. It’s just maybe he dismissed claims of magic too easily.
“I’m not… going to… exclude your little… conclusion,” Huisan manages after a while. “So, do you think… there’s only… one sorcerer… or there may be… more?”
Seisyll frowns. The idea of more than one sorcerer working to destroy the Kingdoms is not one that sits well with him. He shakes his head, “We’ll have to see if the coaches have found any of the same conclusions. But we’ll wait on word from them,” he tells her. “I want to see if they notice anything on their own, because if so…” Because if so, then there must be more than one. Then there must be a terrorist attack on the Kingdoms.
But he doesn’t want to say that outloud.