Fendrel, Cassius, and the nobles stood just outside of Beast-Hunt’s gates while Cloud and Mist circled over the metal nets, breathing puffs of vapor.
Drumming his fingers on his bag, Fendrel looked straight ahead, waiting for a sign of Daichi leaving his borders to meet them.
I hope this gets his attention. Surely a group of dragons near their wall would, right?
Fendrel stood up straighter when he saw Daichi approaching on a horse through the gate’s portcullis.
At least he had the sense to not show up riding a dragon.
Cloud and Mist landed beside the others.
The dragon king rolled his shoulders. “I wonder if the air here is different somehow. I was barely able to produce any vapor.”
Venom had a troubled face. He caught Fendrel staring at him, leaned his head down, and kept his voice low. “For another time.”
Fendrel nodded and looked back at Beast-Hunt’s gate.
Behind Daichi were armored knights also on horses.
Fog’s feathers slowly began to rise.
Cassius pulled at his fingers.
“Oh! I almost forgot.” Fendrel turned to the dragons. “Daichi doesn’t know royal dragons can communicate with humans.”
Fendrel looked at Cassius. “Don’t talk to the dragons. Daichi thinks I’m the only one who can speak to them. As long as we have that advantage, he won’t betray us. And don’t say anything specific. I had to use a few white lies to save our situation, so just act like my friend. It might be too risky to tell him about your lineage.”
Cassius swallowed. “Then why am I here?”
“It’s just easier for you to hear everything here instead of me relaying the conversation to you later.” Fendrel looked back at the approaching forms of Daichi and his knights.
The portcullis rose.
“Greetings, Sharpdaggerans.” Sarcasm laced Daichi’s voice as he and his guards drew nearer.
“I meant for this to be a friendly discussion.” Fendrel gestured at the armored men behind Daichi. “Why are they here?”
“What are they here for?” Daichi jutted his chin at the dragons.
“These are the monarchs and nobles of the Freelands. They’re here to witness us forming our alliance.” Fendrel clutched his hands behind his back to keep them from shaking.
Daichi looked at the dragons with skepticism. He dismounted his horse and stepped forward. “Mhm…So, is this big silver dragon the one who tasked you in coming here for aid?”
“And him?” Daichi pointed at Cassius. “He looks familiar. Is he from the royal family?”
“This is who I want you to train.” Fendrel tried to keep from shaking with nerves.
“What are you doing?” Cassius’ whisper wasn’t very quiet as he gave Fendrel a side glance.
Daichi looked Cassius up and down, a noticeable grimace on his face. “Him?”
“Yes.” Fendrel smiled.
“All right.” Daichi let out a dissatisfied sigh. “I assume you want to talk?”
With a nod, Fendrel recalled what he and the others discussed while on the way to Beast-Hunt. “We have enemies in our homeland that we don’t have the resources to deal with. We lack human troops.”
“Can you be any more vague?” Daichi slapped his leg in exasperation.
“Do you want to hear my demands and avoid Poison’s wrath or not?” Fendrel’s fingers fidgeted behind his back.
He’s cruel to dragons and those who unite with them, but is gaslighting him like this right? Is this really the only way to get them to help us? I guess if Poison thinks this will work then it’s okay, right?
Daichi crossed his arms. “I will have to consult my father about this, but you can assume his answer will be yes.”
Fendrel nodded. “I have a few questions for you.”
“Yes?” Daichi kept his voice monotone.
“Have you healed and released your captive dragons yet?” Fendrel gave him an expectant look.
Daichi clicked his tongue. “It takes a while to release all of them. We managed to get through the first floor of the arena. Some dragons, however, aren’t fit to return to the wild.”
Fendrel scowled. “What do you mean?”
“Conch.” Daichi sighed. “He’s been with us since he was a hatchling, and he hasn’t needed to do anything for himself since he came to live with us. The servants prepare his food for him, clean him, and heal him if he gets sick. How do you expect him to fend for himself out there? He’d starve or get killed by another dragon. He doesn’t even know how to fly.”
“He doesn’t know how to fly?” Fendrel took a few steps toward the prince.
“No.” Daichi stood up taller. “If you haven’t noticed already, the one who raised him doesn’t have wings. He can’t leave us. He’ll die. You care about him, don’t you? So let him live here. He’s happy with us, anyway.”
“He’s brainwashed.” Fendrel gave an incredulous laugh.
Daichi shrugged. “Either way, shouldn’t it be his choice if he wants to leave or not? You want him to have his freedom, yes? So allow him the freedom to choose.”
“Fine. But I want to be there when you give him the proposition.” Fendrel restrained the urge to punch the prince. “Back to the arena, how many of the dragons you released weren’t hybrids?”
“None, so far.” Daichi’s shoulders seemed to relax a bit. “And we haven’t captured any more dragons since our last talk.”
“Good.” Fendrel stepped back a bit. “I need Sear’s body.”
When Daichi’s brow scrunched, Fendrel stared at the sky net. “The fire dragon you killed in the arena.”
Daichi nodded. “We’ll bring him out today.”
Fendrel nodded and turned to walk away.
“Why couldn’t the Sharpdaggerans help you?” Fendrel froze at Daichi’s question.
“The humans are unwilling to help.” Fendrel walked to Fog’s side and turned back around.
“You’re hiding something.” Daichi glared.
“Maybe.” Fendrel grabbed his bag strap to keep his hands from shaking. “Is that all?”
After a few tense moments, Daichi turned and mounted his horse. “I will tell my father of your inquiries and prepare your fire dragon to be brought out.” He led the Beast-Hunt guards back into the city, and the portcullis closed behind them.
“I think I’d rather have Charles train me.” Cassius looked at Fendrel.
“Yeah, I think Daichi would prefer that, too.” Fendrel sighed through his nose.
“That was quite…interesting.” Cloud cleared his throat and relayed the interaction to the nobles.
Mist shuddered. “He is to be our ally then…”
“Could you understand him?” Fendrel looked with surprise at the queen.
She nodded. “Any dragon born or married into the royal family gains the ability to communicate with humans. I didn’t remember until that prince started speaking, since you and all your friends have those enchanted tokens.”
Fendrel raised his brows. “I wish human monarchs shared that ability. We may not even be in this mess if they did.”
Now to wait for Sear…
He sat in the grass and watched the portcullis with intensity, waiting to receive the ex-rogue’s body from his death site.