Chapter 38: Reccee
I woke the next morning to have Fenek peering at the laptop what was on the coffee table, in front of me. I must have forgotten to explain the thing to him. Either way, I reluctantly got off the sofa and went to cook breakfast. At least the other dragons would be handling their own food. I could hardly imagine having to cook for so many everyday.
The breakfast with the family went the usual way, before I commandeered one corner of the dinner table to go over the meeting minutes that had been typed into the laptop. I also brought over a stack of paper and a pen.
I was so engrossed with my work that I didn't notice Sythes' presence till he poked his snout over the laptop screen to look at what I was scribbling onto the paper, mostly notes on the situation, along with some speculations on what the opposing force would be.
Hector and gang had also crowded around without my noticing, all staring alternatingly at the laptop, then my scribbling, probably finding it hard to read my handwriting, while trying to figure out what the laptop was doing. Fenek was sniffing at the heat vent, from which the sound of the fan softly whirring could be heard.
Absentmindedly sipping my now cold cup of tea, I remarked, "What?"
Sythes spoke up, while the rest nodded along. " I believe it's time to tell the rest of them what transpired, no? They seem set to be your lieutenants anyway."
Glancing around, I nodded, while glancing back at the laptop to make sure that I had gone through everything. Pausing only to shut the laptop down, I subsequently closed it, while gesturing for the rest to sit. "Point taken. Now, I suppose the rumours are already floating around?"
Fyre nodded. "Some of us overheard a little of what was discussed. We heard talk about an attack?"
I shrugged. "Somewhat true. We're turning the tables because we're the ones attacking. Now, there's this town not too far from here. It's being held by the Council, and the people are being treated quite badly I hear. They're unhappy, of course, and asked for our help. We're going to lay siege on the city of Kuala Lumpur."
Eyes widened, while Hector chuckled, looking at the rest, "Cold feet, my friends?"
I chuckled. "Oh, cut them some slack. We've only been defensive so far. Either way, these people need our help, so we're giving it. Besides, the Council themselves need to learn a thing or two about the human spirit."
To this, Sythes replied extremely pointedly, "You're a dragon."
"Not this again," I rolled my eyes, "I used to be human, remember? Besides, it makes for a pretty funny war cry. Either way, it's time to show those idiots that we're not going to sit around and wait them out, because they're more capable of that than we are. People, I believe in delivery services. Lets deliver the fight to them. Now, all I need is to wait for the planning guys to show up along with a few others."
Fenek shot me a very amused look. "Your motto of delivering things is most amusing. So, what shall we do while we wait?"
I shrugged. "That's why I didn't start the brief so early. You guys can just go and do your own stuff first. I'll call when the time comes. One thing is certain, though, I'll need volunteers who dare to sit in a rover. The actual thing, not the Foresters. Rovers are open top jeeps with mounted guns."
I received nods, though Hector stepped forward, "I'll stay by your side. As for the rest, we will see soon enough. My brother and the rest of my party shall stay behind to watch over this city for you."
I nodded while getting up. "Alright then, everyone is dismissed for now. I have some matters to attend to."
With that, I went off to make myself a jug of tea. I had toyed around with the idea of getting actual coffee powder, but that was very expensive. Besides, I was capable of growing my own beans anyway, but the circumstances didn't exactly allow me to do any gardening. In the end, I found myself having to settle for some very strong tea.
"How is this tea?" Victor popped out of nowhere, glancing at the tea, which I had brewed till the drink was practically black rather than the normal light brown.
I shrugged. "I want my caffene and coffee is expensive. Where're the rest?"
"On the way," He replied, "Should be here shortly."
Dumping five spoons of sugar into the jug of tea, I poured myself a cup, while Victor drank from his bottle. So far, no one had dared to try my tea, probably because of how concentrqated it was. In my own defence, it did go nicely with milk or a generous amount of lemon. Settling down, I watched as people slowly streamed in, till more or less everyone had arrived. The plans were placed in front of me, while I passed the laptop over to the maintenence guys to get it charged. I had found out soon enough that the battery life was somewhat lacklustre, with my light usage chewing up half the battery power. Whoever had used the device before me had obviously not put much thought to taking care of the battery.
The plan was simple, since it onlyu covered the reccee phase. Anything else would have to wait till we gathered some information. A small group of us, two, maybe three guys would drive down to the town, hiding the rover somewhere along the way and then either flying or walking in, depending on the composition of the group. All dragons was preferred since that would look less strange.
However, bringing back information would be a problem, since word of mouth was far from reliable. After a while of arguing over whether or not drawing it out would suffice, it dawned on me that I could just smuggle my phone in and use that. They agreed on it, since taking photos would be easier. Besides, they would probably assume that it was some random accessory or something.
The rover itself would be parked in front of my house later, and we would move out in the evening to avoid detection.
With that, the meeting was ended. Fenek insisted on being tghe third person, so the team was assembled. We had to clean off the paint, while I went to draw our weapons. Unfortunately, rifles were out of the question, and although Hector had a rather impressive collection of swords and knives that he somehow pulled out of his deceptively small bag, I hadn't the slightest inkling how to use any of them.
Fenek ended up making my pistol invisible, but directing the energy drain to me, since it would be too tiring for him to maintain it himself. I didn't feel that much different, and the gun was visible only to me, making it even more awkward. Drawing the gun would reveal it. I was told that the fatigue would only manifest later.
With that, we settled down for lunch. I popped over to the barracks to give some lessons, while still carrying the pistol to get used to it. Eventually, nightfall came and we went to have an early dinner before settling off. The effects of the spell were already sinking in as I felt myself tiring slightly faster. However, a cup of super concentrated tea remedied that. I even filled a bottle to bring along. Fenek settled for water, while Hector gave me a disgusted look when he tried it, opting to take water as well.
"I do not understand how you can tolerate that leaf-soup you call tea." he commented as he loaded his bottle into the rover, while Fenek settled down at the back, already belted in and not looking too happy about it.
I shrugged, while glancing at Fenek, holding back a laugh. "Look, if you don't like the car you can always swap out with someone else. I'll be fine, you know."
"No. I'm going." The brown dragon snapped, glaring, "You always manage to get into some sort of trouble, so I'll go and watch your back. If I have to endure being thrown about in this roofless and doorless contraption, then so be it."
"Fine. If anyone attacks, the MG is yours." I replied, buckling my own seat belt and starting the engine, pausing only to make sure Hector was already secured, "Alright, this thing is full manual, it will be jerky because I've not played with a clutch in a very long time. It should be fine after a while, though."
With that, I engaged the first gear and promptly stalled the vehicle. Fenek snorted behind. "Perhaps you should fly instead?"
Rolling my eyes, I started the engine again, remembering at the last minute to clutch in. This time, I got the rover moving, and after a while of playing with the clutch and transmission, we were cruising smoothly to the gates. Smoothly but slowly, though. I was only on second gear, not wanting to go too fast in the city.
Once we were out the gates, I shut off the lights, while driving on the road, knowing full well that no one would be travelling at night, perhaps other than the odd dragon. As Fenek remarked that this was smoother than the truck, I floored the accelerator.
With a roar, the engine revved, and we lurched forward. Fenek nearly screamed while I laughed my head off. Hector looked impressed.
As I took my foot off the accelerator to change the gear, Hector asked, "Is that it? This is only about flying speed..."
I glanced at the speedometer as I shifted up to third gear. Sixty only. "That's cute. This is only second gear. You can't change the gear when the accelerator is down."
Hector snorted, not looking convinced. I shrugged as I completed the gear shift and hit the accelerator again, eliciting another roar from the engine as we lurched forward once again. Hector looked convinced at this, up until he was smacked in the snout by a brunch. He huffed, wiping off the bits of bark and leaves, while I laughed, pausing once again to shift.
Eventually, the town came into view. I paused to take a drink, before turning off the road, and into a rather dense growth of trees. It took a whole lot of swerving and sudden braking, but I managed to get the vehicle into the grove, and covered it with leaves and such to comauflage it.
Once done, we continued on foot, while I paused to take photos of the area in general with my phone, which I had kept in one of the invisible magazine pouches. I even managed to get a few half decent shots of the town walls.
However, as we neared, I had to put the phone away, as we the draqgons patrolling the walls in biped form came into view. All the guards looked to be dragons, while the town itself was actually quite small, about half the size of ours. I estimated a population of a few hundred.
We backed off a little, and I gave Fenek a crash course on how to take photos on the phone, mostly just telling him which button to press, and assuring him that it would not explode. Subsequently, I got him to fly over the town discretely, while taking photos.
This ended up with him making himself invisible and executing the order, leaving Hector and I alone for a short while.
Hector settled nicely against a random tree, while I stood around, slightly worried. He spoke first, while looking out at the small town. "You'll need a proper name."
"Name? I already have one." I replied, looking over at him.
He snorted, gesturing in the general direction of the sleeping city. "Not a dragon name. They probably already know who you are, so giving your name will most likely lead to your demise. How about Tano'rath?"
I blinked. "Where'd you pull that out from?"
The orange dragon snorted, looking up in the sky. "He was a warrior, like you, but of a different race. They looked like us, though, but had no magic. Like you, he opposed the council with technologuy when they tried to imprison him when he crashed on our former home in a ball of flames and smoke. My ancestors helped him to escape in his machine, back into the cosmos to rejoin his people."
"So basically you're naming me after a space dragon?" I replied, glancing up at the same point in the sky as he did.
Hector nodded, "If you mean the cosmos by 'space'. He told us tales of fantastic worlds and great battles. He fought well too, like you do. I think he would approve. Besides, you resemble him to a very uncanny degree."
I nodded, while glancing back at the city, nodding. The name resonated a bit, but that was more or less it. Either way, it had a nice ring to it. "Tano'rath it is."
As if on cue, Fenek appeared out of nowhere, looking considerably drained. He didn't say anything, but handed me my phone before flopping limply against the tree. I flicked through the photos, satisfied to find that he had taken some really good pictures. They would help quite a bit.
Now, the issue would be going in and getting a general idea of how the patrols and such would work, so that we could factor that in. Perhaps we would also be able to make contact with their resistance...
Hector produced some dry meat out of his small pack, which Fenek took gratefully, and finished it in relatively short order. Meanwhile, I reached for my bottle, only to remember halfway that I had forgotten to bring it with me.
While Fenek rested, I went over the photos, noting that the streets were mostly empty save for the patrols. That obviously meant that there was a curfew in effect, especially since even the pubs were closed. There were also one or two shots of areal patrols, and some on the ground. The entrance was guarded by two pairs of sentries, two inside and two outside. Given what I had, I estimated a force of at least fifty dragons as the garrison. There could be more. It was hard to say, and we had no inside information.
In the end, we ended up going to sleep, since getting in would be a problem given the patrols. It would be much easier to go through the main gate as travellers. Hence, we took turns to keep watch while the other two would sleep.
Luckily for us, nothing of note happened during the night, and all of us managed to get some decent sleep. According to Hector, I even snored.
By the time my shift ended, the Sun had already risen. We picked up our things and made our way to the city gates. I remembered to grab my bottle of slightly stale tea this time. Fenek offered to make it fresh again for me, but I declined, since he still looked somewhat drained from the night's activities. I was also feeling somewhat tired, for the rest didn't quite make up for the energy being siphoned by the spell.
Eventually, we came to the gates and were stopped by the guards. Their armour was polished to a ridiculously high shine, with nigh a scratch nor a dent to be seen. They held their pikes with pride, and radiated arrogance in sickening waves. I had to hold back an impulse to knock the smug look off their snouts.
"Halt! What is your business here? Begone if you bear us ill will!" The one on the left bellowed. If only the latter part of his demand would work like that. I was honestly quite tempted to retort with as much sarcasm as I could churn up, but Hector beat me to it.
"We are travellers, seeking a place to rest for the day, somewhere for weary wanderers to rest. This place is safe, I trust?" The orange dragon replied with a bow, while gesturing to the other two of us. Fenek and I just stood there and kept quiet.
The guard looked us over and grunted. "Travellers huh. Your appearance does match your claim." he then pointed at me, "You there, there's a twig in your mane. Deal with it. We don't tolerate sloppiness in this place!"
He was so pompous about it that I wanted to take that stick and shove it up his nose, but for the sake of the mission, I held myself back, and instead tossed the twig aside, matching Hector's bow as I did so. "Thank you. We will keep that in mind."
The guard eyeballed us once more, before nodding. "Very well. The three of you shall be granted entry for the today. You must give me your names."
Hector nodded. "I am Hector, with me is Fenek of brown scales, and Tano'rath of black. We thank you for allowing us entry."
The guard grunted before stepping aside. As I walked past, he smirked. "I've my eye on you. You have the airs of a troublemaker, Tano'rath."
I kept my head down and continued on my way, trying very hard not to laugh. He really had no idea.
The city was barely a city. Most of the better housing had evidently been taken for dragon use, leaving the human populace to stay in slums. Even the town square was empty, save for a few dragons milling about, talking amongst themselves. I discretely took a few photos, which in all honesty, wasn't that hard since the built up areas were very quiet. Most of the buildings were inhabited by dragons, who stayed indoors.
When we wandered to the human areas, however, things were vastly different. Firstly, it was so crowded that I had to put the phone away. Secondly, the amount of outright hostile stares directed towards me was extremely unsettling. I had initially toyed with the idea of going into shops, but scrapped the idea the moment one of the shopkeepers stared daggers at me.
The area basically formed a ring around the city centre, with the marketplace in one small corner, with a pitiful selection of goods up for sale. I didn't dare ask why as we made our way past.
Eventually, we went to a quiet spot to discuss. It was obvious that speaking to anyone would probably either get us arrested, or start a riot. We would receive no help from these guys at the moment. Taking out the guards would be a priority.
Fenek obviously didn't like the smell of the place, though I managed to coax him not to make faces. meanwhile, my thoughts went to the pub.
"Do all dragons have shit alcohol tolerance?" I whispered to Hector, who was still looking around.
The orange dragon shrugged. "Most of us don't even touch spirits, so I think so. Why do you ask?"
I glanced up at the walls, at one of the guards. "It will make our job much easier if they're all drunk or hungover."
"That may work, but how do you propose we do that?" Hector replied, while I brought us into a pub.
I shrugged. "Probably marinate their dinner in it or something. I'll dream something up."
The innkeeper gave me a stare that could eat through steel. "What do you want?"
"I've heard rumours that there's a town that's resisting council rule..." I replied, "Oh, and I'll have five bottles of your strongest brew please."
The man scratched his scruffy beard, eyeing me up and down. "I don't know anything! You can just take the beer and get out! I don't even know what you're going to do with it! None of you come in to drink, and you come in and ask for so much!"
I shrugged, while discretely popping a round out of my spare magazine. Once the man handed the bottles, which Fenek took and shoved into Hector's pack, I placed the bullet on the table. "Here. I trust this sends the right message. I'll be back for it soon."
With that, we got up, ready to leave. However, the scruffy man stopped us. This time, his tone was much better, and his voice was low. "Hold on. I know what that is. Put it away. It's on the house. Besides, it's my turn to feed the guards tomorrow. I get the idea."
I nodded, and had the bottles returned to him, while I replaced my bullet. "Special sauce tomorrow. Got it?"
The man nodded gravely, whispering, "Whatever it is you're planning, it better be good, dragon."
I nodded curtly, before we made our exit. We didn't run into much trouble as we walked around, with me occasionally taking a photo here and there. However, after a while, everything began to look the same, and I stopped.
Eventually, evening came, and we made our way back to the gate, where a different guard let us out. They must have just changed shifts. I heard him grumble about dinner being late to his colleague, and smiled to myself.
We subsequently made our way back to the rover, and I drove us back with the pedal on the floor the entire way. There was much to do...
We screeched to a stop in front of my house, in which the lights were still burning. The planning committee was still inside, talking over tea. When we strolled in, the attention was immediately turned to us.
I recounted the entire adventure, while plugging the phone into the laptop. Once the connection was done, I showed them the photos. The planning began at once, while I told them about the alcohol, hoping that the man would not turn round and collaborate with the dragons...