The Dragon Liberator: Freelander

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POV: Fendrel

Venom had closed his eyes, but his ears were perked as if he wasn’t fully asleep.

Something rustled in the bushes on the other side of the camp.

Fendrel rose from his sitting position and crept toward the movement.

The bushes went still. Muffled breathing sounded from the vegetation.

It doesn’t sound like an animal, and the breathing is too quiet to be a dragon’s. Is this someone from the human kingdom here?

Fendrel plunged his hands down, grabbed fistfuls of clothes, and threw the watcher into the camp.

The new human yelped and rolled in the dirt, landing on his stomach.

Venom stood and bounded toward the newcomer, causing the others to wake up.

Fendrel took a knife out of his bag and pointed it at the human. “Who are you?”

Something crashed through the trees behind Fendrel. He turned and jumped away just as a massive water dragon stomped in with a territorial snarl.

He’s even bigger than Venom!

The water dragon pulled the new human against his chest while Venom bared his fangs and stepped in front of Fendrel. At the sight of Venom, the water dragon calmed down. “Noble Venom.”

“Do I know you?” Venom flicked his ears back.

“We met formerly, but only once.” The water dragon let go of his human and bowed. “You were looking for a human, asking Ammonite about him—” he eyed Fendrel “—and it looks like you found him.”

Venom tilted his head. “…Mar?”

“Yes, sir.” The larger dragon, Mar, smiled.

So Fog was right. Venom had been searching around for me years before I met him.

Fendrel stepped out from behind Venom. He calmed his tone. “Who are you two?”

The new human stood. He wore a cloth over the bottom half of his face. “You mean you don’t recognize me?” His voice was amused.

“No, I’ve never met a Newlander before.” Fendrel stood rigid.

There was a beat of silence.

Fendrel tried to wrack his brain. Green eyes, a hint of freckles, reddish hair, a teasing smile.

Wait, he’s wearing a mask. How do I know what his smile looks like?

“No…” Fendrel’s eyes widened. “You’re…”

“Yes-s-s.” The human nodded slowly.

“You’re supposed to be dead!” Fendrel couldn’t tell if he was overjoyed or extremely confused.

The human checked himself out. “Obviously not.”

“Fendrel?” Venom looked down at Fendrel. “Who is this?”

“This is Frederick.” Fendrel pulled the human’s cloth down. “My brother.”

Frederick pulled a shocked Fendrel into a hug and nodded at the others. “Hey.”

“Frederick?” Ember’s head popped out of the foliage beyond the camp.

“Hey!” Frederick flung his arms up.

“I saw Fog sneaking away from our camp, so I followed her.” Ember used her wing to push aside ferns, revealing a sheepish Fog crouching. She corralled the younger noble into the fire’s light with her.

Charles stepped forward, his face contorting in suspicious disbelief. “Frederick?”

“Charles?” Frederick’s eyes widened. “What are you all doing here?”

“Wait.” Fendrel pushed away from Frederick. “You’ve been here this whole time? Why didn’t you ever come back home?”

Frederick’s smile dropped. “Well, I…I thought after you escaped Sadon’s training you’d want to get as far away as possible. I thought I was following you, but I never did. I thought you had died.”

He was trying to find me?

“But anyway—” Frederick grabbed Fendrel’s shoulders “—how are Mom and Dad? Are they here too?”

“I…can we talk about that later?”

“Hmm…” Frederick gave Fendrel a suspicious look. “Okay…but you’re not keeping any secrets from me.”

Fendrel shook his head. “Never again.”

“But seriously, what are you all doing here?” Frederick looked around at the group. “It’s been awhile since I’ve met anyone friendly besides Mar.”

Mar nodded. “And I him.”

“It’s a jungle out here. I mean—” Frederick gestured at the trees “literally and figuratively. The humans here enslave dragons, and the dragons eat humans.” Fear suddenly overcame his face. “Oh stars, the dragons eat humans and you’re all here. You have to leave! I’ve been able to survive because I’ve had Mar, but there are too many of you here for us to look after.”

“Whoa, wait. Back up.” Thea stood up. “They eat humans, and we’re supposed to get them to help us?”

“Help you with…” Frederick squinted at her.

Fendrel grabbed his bag’s strap. “You’ll want to sit down for a bit. We have a lot to tell you.”

Frederick gave him a skeptical glance but complied. Mar rested directly behind him.

<~><~><~>

Mar had his wing draped over Frederick’s shoulders like a blanket.

“This is a lot to take in.” Frederick’s voice was barely audible.

Fendrel had just told him as much as he could without overloading him, from the last time he saw Frederick to their escape from Sadon’s coup. “Do you want to go somewhere more private to talk a bit more?”

Frederick took a drawn-out breath. “Yeah, but we’ll need supervision in case we’re attacked.”

The brothers got up, as did Venom and Mar. Frederick led them away from the rest of the group until Fendrel could see the moonlit ocean peeking out behind the trees.

“So, Mom and Dad died…” Frederick had his hands on his hips, facing away from the other three. “Was it at least peaceful?”

Fendrel swallowed. “They went in their sleep.”

Frederick nodded. “That’s all I can ask for, I guess.”

“You don’t want to know why they died?” Fendrel came up beside him.

“No.” Frederick shook his head. “That won’t change anything. Unless they were murdered, in that case we’d have to find the guys who did it.”

Fendrel gave a slight laugh. “They weren’t murdered.”

Frederick crossed his arms and smirked. “Maybe you’re just saying that, so you won’t get in trouble for going on a revenge quest.”

“Are you okay?”

“Mhm.” Frederick grinned at Fendrel. “If you were able to heal, then I will too. So, is there anything else I should know?”

Fendrel tiled his head back as he thought. “Yeah, Ember’s a noble.”

Frederick burst out laughing. “Good one.”

“I wasn’t joking.” Fendrel elbowed him.

“Really? When did she become qualified enough to be a noble? Was it after I left?” Frederick glanced back at the camp.

Fendrel shook his head. “She’s been a noble the whole time.”

“…Why is that more shocking to me than Mom and Dad?” Frederick shook his head.

“Because we thought she was an alcoholic. The whole faction was in on it too, by the way. You know how they loved to prank us.” Fendrel shrugged. “Do you, uh, feel better?”

Frederick nodded and took a deep breath. “Yeah, and as much as I’d hate to see Sadon again, I would love to help you guys take him down. So, don’t exclude me.”

Fendrel felt his stomach drop.

“Don’t make that face at me.” Frederick slung his arm over Fendrel’s shoulders and steered them toward Venom and Mar. “I want to help.”

“We’re okay.” Fendrel smiled at Venom.

“No offense, but I’m surprised you actually made friends without me forcing you out of your room.” Frederick kept walking toward the camp. “I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m proud, and glad, just surprised.”

“Thanks.” Fendrel gave him a deadpan look. “I appreciate your honesty.”

“I don’t think you’re lying to me, but a lot of what you told me sounds made up. You sounded more reckless than me at some points.” Frederick continued on as Mar and Venom walked behind them. “You went on an impromptu mission to save a dragon who might’ve been dead with a bunch of strangers. Sounds like a fun week, besides the ending with Sadon’s master plan and all.”

“So, what have you been up to?” Fendrel saw the firelight bouncing through the leaves.

“I—” Frederick placed his other hand on his chest “—have been exploring the Newlands, kind of. The Scattered Ones are a pain, but thankfully I have Mar.”

“The Scattered Ones?”

Frederick nodded. “The Scattered Ones. They’re the Newlander dragons. As their name suggests, they don’t really have a united government. They really just group together with whoever they find, claim territories, brawl with other clans, and eat any humans they find. The only thing that they have in common is their hate for humans, especially the knights.”

“So you don’t have a map of where they all are?” Fendrel raised an eyebrow.

“Nope. Some of them move around, and Mar decided for the both of us that it was too dangerous to keep exploring. The only place we’re sure no Scattered Ones live is the island in the bay you pass to reach the western shores.” Frederick pointed behind at Mar. “We saw your ships heading in, so we followed you from there. That place has been our home since we stopped traveling.”

“Right…” Fendrel sighed. “I take it there’s no real way to avoid the Scattered Ones, then?”

Frederick shook his head. “Although, the largest group of them is controlled by the previous queen, I think. She may have just appointed herself as queen, but she definitely looks the part. Their base is at the bay on the other side of the Newlands. Pretty much directly across from us.”

“That’s good to know.” Venom’s voice made Frederick look back with a smile.

“I know we’ve already moved on from the subject of your friends, but I just want to say that I pride myself on being your best friend—” Frederick squeezed Fendrel in a side hug “—and I don’t want to be replaced. So who do I have to compete with to earn my previous place?”

Fendrel’s mouth became a thin line. “I think you’re still the top contender. Thea and I have been friends for a few years, but we don’t share much with each other. Charles wants to be closer friends, but every time we share anything about our pasts it just gets depressing. Ember knows me well but never as well as you do, and all my other friends I just met, like less than two weeks ago.”

Frederick sucked air in through his teeth. “Why didn’t that make me feel better? That’s just sad.”

“I don’t see your huge group of friends.” Fendrel laughed.

“I would have a clan’s worth of friends right now if everyone hatched here wasn’t so hostile.” Frederick shivered. “They act like rogues, but slightly less aggressive. I’m starting to think the taste of human blood drives them a bit mad.”

“Let’s hope we don’t run into them, then.” Fendrel couldn’t help but feel elated.

Should I be happy right now? We just lost our home, but I have my brother back. Is it selfish of me to be grateful instead of anxious?

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