Note: Part of an ongoing novel. Please see here for the earlier parts.
Zerjerik hesitated. He liked the young one, liked his spirit in standing up to his father. But Zerjerik’s honor as a knight of the Mungeera dragons was at stake. Jeric was leading them all into trouble, and Zerjerik knew it. He sighed and set off to tell Christalos. Before he got three steps, a human hand came down in front of him.
“Stop right there, Sir Dragon.” The soft voice took him by surprise. He looked up to see the woman who had joined them with Jeric’s father. He had not heard her speak since they had met in the woods. The voice continued. “I must speak with you. Will you come with me?”
He tipped his head to the side. He wasn’t about to climb in her hand. That was just plain undignified. He looked up again.
“It’s alright. Climb in. I know you are far too intelligent to like it, but we must have privacy for what I want to tell you. It is far too exposed here. The others could come along at any minute.”
He hesitated again, then climbed in. The woman carried him carefully through the forest, to an area they had not explored in their search for firewood. She sat down on a fallen log and set her hand down. “We will not be disturbed here.” She smiled at him. “Please forgive me for the abrupt introduction, but you were about to jeopardize all my plans. Allow me to introduce myself properly. I am Seer Syma.”
Zerjerik bowed. “I am Captain Zerjerik of the Mungeera.”
“Good. Now that we are on even footing, let me explain. I have come here from the city, your capital city, with Prince Sohata, to find his son and return him to the capital.”
Zerjerik drew breath, but before he could speak, the woman lifted her hand and spoke again. “I know. We have found Jeric, and a plot against the Empire. We have stayed to eliminate that plot. You have been scouting, and fear that we are being led into a trap. Jeric doesn’t realize it, but I do. You are right. There is a trap. The leader of the plot didn’t forget about Jeric when he disappeared. She remembered, and has set plans in place in case we return.”
Zerjerik drew breath again, and this time she let him speak. “If you know all this, Seer, why will you let us walk into the trap? We must free the clan, and we cannot do that if we are captured. I cannot let disputes between humans hide the need to free the dragons.”
Syma nodded. “You are right. But the problem here is larger than the dragons. I am sorry, but we are not here just to free your archinhata*.”
Zerjerik glared at her. “Then what are we here for? This had better be good.”
“This is not just about this time, or this place, or these dragons, or even these humans for that matter. This is an ongoing threat to the Empire. Ten human generations ago, almost two hundred years, this Empire was founded. It was founded in blood and glory by a Prince. He survived the winged women, he subdued the dragons, he united the kingdoms, he made himself Emperor.”
Zerjerik nodded impatiently.
“Yes, you know the story I see,” Syma went on. “What most people don’t know, is that before the Prince accomplished all those noble deeds, he was attacked by a rebel leader, a bandit woman. She dreamed of uniting the kingdoms under her leadership. In her vainglorious striving for power, she forgot to be humble. She captured the Prince, and tortured him. He was rescued by his lieutenant and the men under his command. They fired the castle she had made her headquarters, and believed her to have died in the fire. She did not. She went into hiding, and bore a daughter. That daughter had a daughter, and taught her to nurse the hatred. Down the generations it has come, daughter after daughter taught the hatred. It is still strong, and has come out at last. Your dragons are the latest victims. This isn’t about a single farm, or a single dragon clan. This is about a mortal danger to the Empire. We must kill the leader, or the Empire will be forever under threat.”
Zerjerik stared. “And how do you plan to accomplish this?”
“We are going to walk into the trap. Prince Sohata will never agree to this, nor will Jeric. So we won’t tell them. Once we are in the trap, you will kill the leader. She will have the antidote to your dragons’ poisoning somewhere in her tent. Once she is dead, seize the antidote and save your dragons.”
The little dragon nodded. “It could be done. I agree.”