Chapter 53: Training
I woke to the sound of knocking on the door. Groaning, I rolled around in bed and tried to ignore it, muttering to myself about it still being quite dark out. However, the knocking did not let up, and I ended up getting out of bed to open the door, which slid open to reveal the same dragon from the day before.
“Good morning!” He quipped, obviously full of energy.
I tried to reply but only succeeded in grunting. I needed my caffeine.
I did, however, invite him in as I went to the kitchen and started looking for tea. I was unsuccessful and ended up with water along with a piece of bread. It didn’t smell bad and wasn’t fuzzy, so I figured that it must be safe.
“Perhaps you should wake earlier next time to prepare your breakfast, as we actually have to go now.” He interjected, and motioned to the door. “It’s quite a long walk, but a short flight.”
I put on my belt, slung the rifle and retrieved my pistol. “And an even shorter drive.” I added on, grabbing my keys as the both of us walked out.
“Perhaps you should fly instead? Your…machine will draw much attention.” He remarked, climbing in anyway.
“This is faster. Besides, the whole turning into a dragon package didn’t include flight lessons. I don’t know how to fly, well not properly anyway.” I replied, starting the engine and driving off. It occurred to me to check my cap, only to find that I hadn’t taken it off the day before anyway.
The dragon stared at me for a moment in some really poorly concealed astonishment. His mouth worked for a short while, but nothing came out. I chuckled. “I was a human not too long ago. Humans can’t fly, so yeah. Besides, I’ve been…busy.”
A nod. “I see.”
As we drove down the street, the vehicle turned heads as usual. If I wasn’t so busy trying not to run people over, I would have made funny faces at them. The dragons I could forgive, since they had no idea what the car even was. On the other hand, the humans would also wander all over the place, with no regard for the fact that there was an oncoming vehicle. Yes, it had been some years, but wasn’t the sound of the engine not enough to trigger the old habits?
Of course, as I drove past, some would stop and talk amongst themselves, pointing and then whispering. My reputation obviously preceded me.
Eventually, I was taken to the central building again, and brought to some random room on the fourth floor. Again, I was told to wait, while my chaperone went off. I somewhat regretted not taking some more food along with me, but it was already way too late for that. I toyed with the idea of going back to get some, but thought better of it.
Eventually, humans and dragons began to stream in, all sitting on the floor like me. More or less all of them gave me a wide berth. No surprise, really, since they were most probably subject to some form of propaganda here.
However, out of nowhere popped this rather large-sized human guy, who plonked himself next to me. His black hair was a bird’s nest, along with his eyebrows which were no better. His brown eyes snapped round almost at once and made contact with me. Next to him sat a blue dragon, which looked to be disapproving of his companion’s choice of seat.
“AH! You’re the one!” He wasted no time in trying to start a conversation. Frankly, with that huge voice of his, I found myself becoming extremely self-conscious as everyone snapped round to stare.
Obviously, I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. All I really wanted to do was to clock my time and vanish… “Er, guess so?”
“Hi! My name’s Dany! I’ve heard a lot about you!” He added, completely oblivious to the fact that the entire room was staring at him, “Are the stories about you true?”
I was feeling more and more awkward by the minute. I wondered if this was a ploy to embarrass me or something, but he really didn’t look like the sort. Hence, I decided to entertain him a little. There was nothing to do anyway, and it was not as if I had very much dignity left, considering that everyone was staring at me too.
“Stories? I didn’t even know there were stories.” I replied with a half-smile. Maybe this would even help to get the rest to open up a little, and soften the stares directed at me.
“Oh…OH, I almost forgot, this is Fovahlok!” He added, pointing at the blue dragon, who looked to be none too pleased with being the centre of attention all of a sudden. Dany, however, was still unfazed as he continued, “Oh, everyone’s heard them, about how you took on an entire army and won, and how you steamrolled a city in a day!”
‘Well, the rumour mill must have been working overtime on those…’ I mused, as I nodded to Fovahlok as a way of greeting, while I replied, “Entire army huh. I didn’t know that inflation is so bad these days. It was just a detachment, actually. Plus, I do have help. As for the city thing….eh, I cheated, so it doesn’t really count.”
Fovahlok shot me a withering look for actually entertaining the question, but kept quiet as Dany burst out laughing. “Ah, but you won! That’s what counts, right?”
Well, that got awkward quickly. “Well, yes,” I could practically smell the amount of disapproval swirling around in the room, “But I suggest we talk about things like that another time…in private preferably. Things are getting a wee bit awkward in here.”
The man paused and finally realised what was going on. “OH. Sorry! Perhaps we’ll have dinner at my place instead?”
Well, it was not as if I could refuse. There was no food at my hostel or whatever I was supposed to call it. I ended up nodding and shaking his proffered hand.
We subsequently ended up talking about more banal topics (The weather is terrible! Yes, it has been so hot!), up until this lanky green dragon strolled in. He had the airs of a teacher, and introduced himself as Althos.
“Alright, all of you runts, I’ll be testing your fighting skills today, so that we can sort you according to your skills and talents. We shall begin now.” Well, this guy seemed to be in a hurry.
He randomly pointed at someone and told them to spar with him. Within a count to three, the stunned human was on the floor, rubbing his head. He was followed by his dragon, the next pair and so on.
Since he was so good at it, I wondered why he bothered to be in such a hurry. I was quite sure no one lasted for longer than half a minute, even those that looked to be martial arts trained, judging from their starting stances and such.
It went on and on, up to the point that it was just plain ridiculous. This guy had people charge him with swords, axes and daggers, but almost without fail, the attacker would end up on the floor. Every time someone fell, I would wince.
Of course, there would be the handful that could floor him, but people of that calibre were few and far between…
Eventually, I was the only one not nursing some bruise, or twisted ankle or some other form of injury.
Althos smirked as he beckoned me over. “Ah, you! The soldier! Let’s see what you can do!” He didn’t seem to care about the fact that I was from the other side of the border. I hoped that that was a good thing.
I nodded and walked up. All I really did was to cock and raise the rifle, without the magazine of course. I depressed the trigger, and as the gun let out a loud metallic click, I added, “Dead.”
“Hah! That doesn’t count! Think fast!” The next thing I knew, he was trying to pull the rifle out of my grasp.
I smirked, and did the exact same thing to him that I had done to Atheros. I allowed him to pull the gun forward, added a little force of my own and jabbed him in the gut. However, his grip tightened and he wretched the rifle out of my grasp. The gun was tossed aside as I dodged a blow. As I ducked, I drew my pistol and slammed the butt onto his exposed shoulder. Althos grunted, and parried, nearly breaking through my guard. As he swung, his flank was exposed. Seeing my opening, I pulled one of his legs out from under him, causing him to lose balance and fall. A lapse of concentration on his end. I was lucky.
Before he could recover, I jabbed him in the snout with the pistol. “At this range, I think it counts.”
Althos broke out laughing. “Yes, I agree. You have a most interesting style.”
“Nah. I was lucky.” I replied with a smirk as I helped him up.
The dragon snorted. “More like I’m getting old, hatchling. Well met. You live up to your reputation as a warrior.”
“I’ll take that as a complement.” I muttered, before retrieving my rifle.
Subsequently, we were broken into three groups, those that couldn’t fight at all, those that could fight a little and those that could fight. I was actually surprised that they elected to teach me this, since I could bring the knowledge back and look for weaknesses, but I wasn’t complaining.
Either way, another three instructors came in and took over the other while Althos himself supervised. The instructor that took my group was this burly orange dragon, who even walked with attitude.
“Alright, all of you good-for-nothings, let’s get started. You there, come forward. I shall demonstrate with you! Come on, charge me!” He was all bravado, trying to be mean and fierce, yet trying not to be? It was a bit annoying, but actually quite funny.
He would scream and shout and put people down, then pick them up seconds later. He would shoot a string of insults at you, then try to complement you a second later. I ended up snickering at the back, while cycling through the stances that were being taught. He seemed so confused, undecided on whether to be the villain or not, and if anything, he made a clown out of himself. It took a phenomenal amount of control to not have myself burst out laughing.
The worst part was that he was still trying to pick on certain people, and didn’t bother to hide it at all. Seeing it as not really my place, I kept quiet.
However, that made him target me. “You! Hat dragon! What’s so funny, eh? I like your hat, though. And your clubs too.”
Well, this guy had obviously not been briefed. Still shaking from my suppressed laughter, I shook my head. “Nothing.”
“Says the one who giggles like an idiot! Tell me, what is your name, runt? Not that you’re very small, or stupid.” He attempted to retort.
I ended up rolling on the floor laughing, unable to reply at all.
While rolling, my pistol must have popped out of its holster, and somehow made its way into the grip of the instructor. I was too busy laughing to notice that, nor did I realise that I was being stared at by everyone. Again.
It was not until I saw the Instructor staring down the barrel of the pistol that I stopped. Not only that, he had his finger on the trigger too. If it was cocked…
I snatched the gun out of his hands and holstered it, fuming at his obvious lack of regard for safety. “Eh, fuck you, understand!? You cock or you cock?! You don’t take a bloody weapon and stare down the barrel! Nevermind barrel, you don’t do that with a sword either! Chibai!”
The dragon growled. “Show some respect, Runt!”
“Respect?! You’re talking to me about respect?! If you don’t respect others, why the hell should I respect you!?”
Snarling, the dragon threw a clumsy punch, and I dodged it with ease. “You call that a punch?! My grandmother can do better than that, and she’s dead!” I snapped, growling involuntarily.
At this point, Althos stepped in and pulled the two of us apart. “ENOUGH!” He roared, staring the both of us down.
The both of us fell silent, together with the rest, who had gathered to watch.
“Get out, the both of you, and do not return until you’ve settled your dispute.” He snapped, pushing the two of us to the door.
We ended up standing outside in the corridor, looking awkwardly at each other. Knowing that I had been in the wrong for shouting at him in the first place, I decided to break the silence once he looked to have cooled off. “Sorry about shouting at you back there.”
The instructor huffed. “It was just a club. Why did you make such a fuss over it?”
“They didn’t brief you, did they? Were you supposed to take the class today?”
“No, they did not tell me that this class would be any different, and no, I’m standing in as the original teacher is unwell.” He replied, “How is this relevant?”
No wonder. I pulled the magazine out of the pistol and showed him the rounds. “Relevant because you almost painted the wall with your brains just now.”
“This is a-“
“Gun, yes,” I filled in the blank for him. “I guess you know who I am now?”
“They didn’t tell me that you would be here today. I thought you would only be here seven days for now.” He replied, his tone substantially different. Was that fear I smelt? “Perhaps I over reacted just now.”
I shrugged. “Perhaps.”
“But why do you think that I give others no respect?”
“Well, you pick on people, be it conscious or not. It shows a lack of respect. I saw it, as did the rest of the class. You might want to work on that.” I replied flatly, bracing myself for another outburst.
Surprisingly, the dragon nodded. “Ah, that. It has been pointed out more than once. I’m trying to address the problem, and to soften my words. Perhaps the effect is uneven in the class.”
That explained the bipolar statements. “Don’t try too hard. If you want to be fierce, just be fierce to everyone. You’re a fighting instructor. No one is going to fault you for that.”
“Perhaps, but there have been many complaints.”
“Doesn’t matter. Aggression is part and parcel of fighting. Besides, some people really can’t take that kind of thing. That’s normal.” I replied, scratching my head.
“You speak like an instructor yourself, but I hear that you’re a leader.” He replied, sounding confused.
“My role in the army was an instructor for my men, and it continues to be up till now. I don’t lead. The whole thing is run by a committee.” I replied with another shrug, “What is it with you people? Why do you guys all think that I singlehandedly lead an army and two cities?”
“That is what the council tells us,” Came the reply, “and I must say that they painted a very different picture of you. My name is Aurak, Tano’rath, and it has been a surprising honour to meet you. Perhaps one day we shall meet in battle.”
I smirked, “Preferably on the same side of the battle.”
“Hah! Perhaps! The future is unpredictable! But for now, let us resume our training.” He replied with a laugh, before leading me back into the room. He stopped to explain it all to Althos, before resuming sparring with me.
He was actually quite good, pointing out here and there the errors in my stance and form, how I over depended on my weapons, and of course, how to use my extra appendages. Perhaps I would come out of this with something useful after all, as I ended up being taught the dragon equivalent of kung fu.
Once the class was done, I thanked Aurak before going off with the chaperone, who brought me to another room. This one was filled with chairs and tables, all obviously designed with dragons in mind. There was even a hole at the bottom of the back rest for my tail, and indentations on the backrest itself for my wings.
I was asked to sit at one of the tables and was given a stack of papers. “You are to be tested.”
I looked at the rather thick sheets of paper, and the spidery handwriting with which the questions were written down in. “Tested on what?”
“Everything.” He replied, as he passed me a quill, “Don’t worry, the test is rather simple, and this quill will not run out of ink.”
I shot him a withering look as I flipped through the test paper. Other than some really basic math, the rest of the questions were about magic, or the dragons’ history. I left all of them blank, and handed in the paper after ten minutes.
“I think it’s safe to say that I’m going to fail this.” I remarked, leaning back as he flipped through the paper.
“No. This will determine what class you will have to go for from now on. It seems that your mathematics is passable, but your studies and magical knowledge are moot. Are you sure?”
“Yup.” I replied, giving him the biggest smile that I could. “I’m one dragon who cannot fly, doesn’t know how to use magic, and knows nothing about history.”
The awkward response was, “…then perhaps you’re not a very good dragon?”
“That’s probably why Drak’rrth sent me here.” I replied with a sigh.
“You address the High Mage by his name?!”
“He told me that he was Drak’rrth, and not that he was your high mage.” I replied bluntly. “So, that’s all for today?”
“Did you not hear me? You have classes to attend!” The dragon protested, thrashing his tail a little for emphasis.
“Don’t you have to plan a timetable or something?”
“It is already done. Your next class begins soon. We should go.” He replied, gesturing to the door for emphasis.
“What?!...oh right, magic. Fine.” I grumbled, and followed him.
“The lesson we’re going for is specially catered for you.” He remarked, bringing me up so many flights of stairs that I lost count, “Today, you’ll learn to do what all of us learn when we’re hatchlings.”
“How to walk and fly?”
“More or less. Many have already noticed that the way you walk is strange, and it isn’t good for your legs if you keep walking like that.” He added, still bringing me up what could have been the millionth flight of stairs for all I knew.
“Point taken. One thing I don’t understand, though.” I replied, yawning.
He seemed confused by my random question. “What is there not to understand?”
“Why are you people going out of your way to help anyway? I’m technically an enemy of the state, you know.”
He paused to regard me. “Ah, that. You’re one of us. That is a good enough reason.”
“One of you?” I replied, confused.
“You forget that you are a dragon both in body and spirit now, not to mention the fact that you’re the companion of another. We care for our own. They actually discussed sending a teacher to you, but we feared that our intentions would be misunderstood.” He replied, finally bringing me off the stairs and into a rather large room, which had a ridiculously high ceiling.
“So you got me to come here. Makes sense. Convey my gratitude to the relevant people I guess.” I added, half-smiling. I actually hoped that this was actually the truth, but knowing the Council, there was probably some ulterior motive in play…
He nodded before going off. I ended up fiddling with my pistol again, until a shadow fell over me.
“Ah, so you’re the one the Director has been going on and on about.” A voice floated down from above.
I looked up at the large blue dragon that loomed over me. As usual, the dragon in his quad form made me feel tiny. “Seems like the whole world has been going on and on about me.”
He snorted, “Perhaps. You’re quite famous, given what the Council has been saying about you. I just find it amusing that you’re a dragon who doesn’t know how to use his own wings.”
I shrugged. “Didn’t come with the package I guess, and I’ve been more than a bit busy, mind you. To whom am I speaking?”
The blue smirked. “You lack manners and have attitude. I like you already. I am Faelius, and I’ve been tasked with making a dragon out of you.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “As long as I don’t end up going home in a cardboard box. When do we start?”
“Ha! Finally, a student with a sense of humour!” He added as he pointed to a random table, “You’ll have to put your things there first, though. Flying without weight is easier.”
I glanced pointedly at my rifle, then my pistol. “Er, these are weapons. I don’t want to come back and find them missing; or worse, to find that someone blew their brains out while fiddling with one…”
Faelius scoffed. “The others know better than to touch the belongings of a fellow student. Theft carries a very heavy punishment here. Fear not for your items, Tano’rath.”
Unloading the pistol anyway, I dumped everything on the table, and walked over to the huge blue dragon, who gave me an amused look.
“Aren’t you forgetting something, young one?”
I had already dumped everything onto the table, including my cap. “I don’t think so?”
“Look at me, then look at yourself, then think again.” He replied, laughing to himself.
“I don’t-… Oh, right.”
Faelius sat himself on his haunches and regarded me, his blue eyes twinkling. “To change your form, focus on your desired configuration. To revert to your true size, simply focus on changing.”
I found myself scratching my head absentmindedly. “So, I just focus on changing back?”
“Yes, and don’t take all day about it!”
I did as instructed and focused on going back to the natural form. At first, I didn’t notice anything, but a moment later, I found myself standing on all fours, slightly disorientated. On top of that, everything in the room looked tiny. I guessed that I was larger than a house at this size…
Faelius padded over beside me. He still seemed to be bigger. “Very good!”
I tried to shrug, but given my now quadruped stance and the sheer size of my shoulders, it looked ridiculous. “Er, thanks?”
“Do you know how to launch yourself?” He added, glancing at the far side of the otherwise empty room.
“Well, I can…run? Like ten steps, I think?” I replied rather sheepishly, realising that I hadn’t spent any time trying to figure anything out.
“Well, I could use magic to pass you the knowledge, young one, but that would be no fun, and way too easy for someone like you. Come, we shall run till you can outrun me!” With that, Faelius bolted towards the other end of the room.
I managed to get maybe five steps in before faceplanting. Meanwhile, Faelius zoomed past, already on his second lap. “Your technique is there. Just watch your balance!”
I tried again, and managed to get off to a shaky start, while Faelius zoomed past me again. This was starting to look like some looney tunes cartoon, and I was feeling well and truly embarrassed.
However, for what felt like hours, I ran after the blue dragon, with him egging me on, while giving me tips on how to use my tail, and how to throw myself forward.
The moment I caught up with him, his wings snapped open. With a mighty leap, he sailed upwards, and started wheeling around lazily, circling me as I ran. “Now, you launch yourself. Open your wings, flap and jump!”
I tried and rammed head first into a wall. Shaking my head amidst the laughing from the dragon, I muttered, “Easier said than done.”
“No one manages to fly on their first try, friend. Go, run and try again!” His voice echoed up from above as he wheeled around.
Muttering to myself about preferring to drive, I sprinted again. At least, this time, I managed to get it mostly right, and with a fell flaps, I was off the ground, wobbling in the air.
“Keep moving! Follow me and go in circles.”
I complied, and although I had the appropriate instincts there to guide me, I couldn’t wheel properly. I would wobble all over the place, turn too much then turn too little.
“You’re too tense. Relax! Don’t overthink!” The blue shouted down as he kept pace beside me.
I tried relaxing, noting an absence of a fear of heights. Being a dragon did have its privileges. I found my path stabilise into a nice circle, and I wheeled with Faelius, who nodded in approval.
I was subsequently taught how to stop, how to make sudden turns, and how to hunt, though I doubted if I would have to do the latter. I even had time to note that the paint on my arm had been scaled up together with the rest of me. The quadruped form did have its elegance, and I began to understand why the dragons favoured this form.
Eventually, after going through a few more advanced techniques, and some more practice that left me pretty flat out, we stopped for lunch… Even that, became a lesson, since Lunch was raw meat, intended to be cooked with one’s own flame breath, or with magic, neither of which I knew how to use.
Flame breath seemed to be easy enough, but all I managed to do was to burp, much to Faelius’ amusement. It took a while, but I managed to get it after a few tries. I plopped myself down and started chewing on the slightly singed meat. I actually almost asked for utensils, but stopped myself.
Faelius pointed at the chevrons on my foreleg. “Why have you been painted on?”
I glanced at it, “Oh, that? It’s my rank.”
Faelius nodded, “And what would your rank be, young one?”
“Second sergeant. Basically middle management.” I replied, still chewing on the meat. My appetite was really voracious. It must have been all the physical activity, coupled with the fact that the food actually wasn’t half bad.
Of course, I was subsequently drawn into the ‘don’t you command the whole resistance’ conversation again, and ended up explaining again that I did not. However, at least Faelius seemed to be quite sensible about it, pointing out that the Council tended to exaggerate sometimes.
“Sometimes is an understatement, I’d think.” I replied with a huff.
The dragon chuckled. “Perhaps, but they have their reasons.”
I smirked. “Don’t we all.”
“True. Some might even agree with yours instead of theirs.” He interjected, his tone changing completely.
I paused, narrowing my eyes. ”You know, if this is a trick, you’re going to have to do much better than that. Besides, I’m not supposed to go around recruiting people.”
“Perhaps, but what if people approach you, hmm?”
“Then it becomes your problem.” I replied flatly, “I can’t stop you if you want to follow me back, but Drak’rrth will have my head for it, probably.”
“…have your head?”
“Metaphorically. He’ll probably kick up a huge fuss about it or something.” I replied with a sigh.
“It is surprising that you don’t fear the High Mage. You’ll do well to fear his power.” Faelius replied with a slight cringe.
“Yeah, I know. My side has heard a little.” I replied with a sigh, “Eh, but we have our own tricks up our sleeves.”
“Ah! Your machines, no doubt! But I’ve heard little about them. The Council is not very generous with information about your…faction.”
I smirked. “Rightly so, since we proved to them that some of the things that they say are complete bullshit.”
“An example is in order, I believe.”
I gave him my best salesman’s smile. “Join us and find out!”
I spent the next few minutes rolling around laughing at the dragon’s confused expression. I simply couldn’t resist putting that in.
However, when I stopped, I found that Faelius had actually seriously considered what I had said, as he replied, “Perhaps I will. This remains between the both of us, yes?”
I glanced over, stomach aching a little from laughing too much. “Yup.”
“I want your word and your honour. Dragons do not lie.” He pressed on, staring me in the eye.
“Fine, though the Council…”
“They believe themselves above the code. That is a different matter. You are a most intriguing individual.” He replied, flicking his tail.
“No, I meant they might come after you for saying that.” I added, slightly annoyed at being interrupted.
“I doubt it. I am but a commoner, and I have chosen not to join in the sea of minds. I chose not to start a clan either, so I believe that I shall not be missed.” He replied with a chuckle, “Besides, I don’t want to be locked away here teaching the same thing over and over again when I could be on the battlefield, fighting against the deceivers!”
He obviously didn’t like the council very much, and I wondered if there was actually a movement out there by the dragons themselves to overthrow the Council. However, I still found this highly suspect. If he did choose to defect, I would have to put him under watch for a long time.
“Ach, time has been wasted!” He bellowed, “We must resume training! You will be a master flier by sundown, and tomorrow, I will show you how to speak like a dragon! You will be a dragon yet!”
Despite what he said about teaching, I found that the role actually quite suited him. He was obviously enjoying himself as he got me to practice, then taught me more techniques. Of course, he seemed to get a kick out of poking fun at my being ‘not a very good dragon’, as he put it. Couldn’t fault him for that. In a crowd of dragons, I would probably stick out like a sore thumb, though he did get round to getting me to walk and run properly.
By the end of the day, I could walk around both as a biped and as a quad without looking like I had severe psychomotor problems. I was even able to keep up with the blue dragon as he ran or flew. He pronounced me fit to walk and fly as a dragon by the time we were done.
“Ah, tomorrow will be harder, friend. I will be teaching you for the whole day. Don’t be late, lest I have to appropriate your dinner time to finish my lesson!” He added, as I went off with the chaperone. I almost forgot to take my stuff as I left.
Of course, I thought that I was done with it all for the day, only to have him turn up at the exit, looking at my vehicle. The chaperone himself went off, after confirming that I knew the way back. He mentioned something about my building having been stocked with food for the week.
“I see why you don’t fly, Tano’rath. You’re lazy!” He burst out laughing, “Why fly, when you can sit, no?”
I couldn’t help but to smirk. “Yup. Want a ride?”
“I will sit with you till you reach your dwelling, it is on the way.” He replied and clambered in. Already, he was inspecting the interior, even tapping the glass that covered the speedometer.
I showed him how to put the seatbelt on, before starting the vehicle. There was a whole lot of noise as the engine just flat out refused to start. I had to get off and open the bonnet, to find a rock jammed into the engine block, along with a few others scattered around. How they got there eluded me, but when out of the corner of my eye, I saw two snickering dragons skitter off, I got my suspects.
Faelius laughed. “Hatchlings! They can be so mischievous sometimes! They replaced my scale polish with oil on one occasion. Don’t mind them!”
I nodded, before shutting the bonnet. “Eh, no harm done.”
Instead of staring at the speedometer as the dragons I knew tended to do, Faelius was more engrossed in watching the tachometer, and he almost immediately picked up on why I changed the gears. “You can’t let the needle point to a number that is too big, yes?”
“Yeah, something like that. It’s the RPM of the engine. It’s not supposed to exceed a certain amount. Besides, if you keep within a certain range, you get better fuel efficiency.” I replied, giving the vehicle a little more gas to emphasise my point.
Faelius cocked his head. “RPM? What is a RPM? Perhaps you forget who you’re talking to, Tano’rath.”
“…yeah, I tend to go heavy on the technical words. RPM is rotations per minute. The engine has an axle that rotates, and when you give it more fuel, it rotates faster, but there is a design maximum, so to combat that, we play with the gears to get more speed, or more power.” I replied, “However, I am not supposed to be talking about this. It’s against your laws….so yeah. Spinning things that can’t spin too fast, so we cheat.”
The blue dragon snorted, “Ah, yes, the ban on the disciplines. It is a shame, really, but who am I to question the Council, yes?”
I shrugged as I parked outside the house. “Eh. Governments, and bureaucrats. Not like human politics was much better anyway. On some days it was arguably worse.”
Faelius shot me an amused look. “Perhaps. I’ve wanted to speak to people about the old days, but most of the time, when I enter a town, the humans either grovel, flee or try to kill me. It is difficult to make friends. I shan’t comment on the Riders here, though. I think you’ve seen for yourself what they’re like.”
I shrugged as I helped him to undo the seatbelt, “Hard to say, no one has been talking to me, save for this one loud guy.”
“Well, it gets tiresome to hear people blowing the Council’s horn all the time, suffice to say. I will consider my options. Expect words from me soon about the matter.” He replied.
“Let me know, I guess.”
“Of course I will! I suppose I should inform you that the news of your arrival has spread to…other groups as well, including people like me. Don’t be surprised if others approach you as well.” He remarked, shooting me a huge smile as he took off. Was that hope I saw in his eyes?
That was something worth investigating. I made a mental note to send a message to the skinwalkers to validate the presence of such groups. Only problem was that it would have to wait till the end of the week.
I strolled into my house and dumped everything onto the table, half remembering a dinner appointment, but the problem was that the other party hadn’t given me an address or anything, and it was not like I could google it…
As if on cue, five minutes later, as I was looking through the cupboard to find some meat, a bit of rice and bread, there was a knock on the door. I opened it to reveal Dany together with Fovahlok.
Dany flashed a huge smile, holding up a plate that was covered with another plate. “AH! There you are! I realised that I forgot to tell you where I was staying, so I decided to come and look for you! Very easy, since you have a car!”
“Yeah, I know. Come in, then.” I replied, stepping aside.
Fovahlok looked me over for a moment and nodded in greeting. He seemed to want to say something, but kept quiet in the end.
Dany paused to glare at the dragon as he put the plate down. “Folly! That’s not nice!”
“Eh, what’d he say?”
“I said that he shouldn’t be mixing with you, considering where your allegiance lies.” The dragon replied flatly.
“Pft. No one should be mixing with me at all, in that case. They shouldn’t have sent me here either, but what the hell, right, here I am.” I replied with a smirk, and gave him the finger. “Suck on it bitch.”
Dany came and prodded me in the chest. “That’s not very nice either! Give it a rest, guys, and let’s have dinner.”
As he sat, Fovahlok sighed. “I have no argument with you, Tano’rath. I fear for the safety of my companion. Should he be seen mixing around with you, I worry that the powers that be will be unkind.”
I went about giving everyone cutlery and plates before sitting down. “Understandable. If these powers that be give you any trouble, let me know. I’ll shoot them, and they’ll not give you any more trouble.” I got another withering look, but raised my hand as I continued, “On a serious note, I’m here on request from someone who is apparently the High Mage, so I wouldn’t worry about mixing with people. It’s understood that by sending someone somewhere, that person is going to end up socialising, like it or not. If they give you trouble over it, I’ll take it up with that mage myself.”
The dragon’s eyes went as wide as dinner plates. “The High Mage? You have his ear?”
“I guess you could say that. The whole peace thing was his idea, and he’s the ambassador to my town.” I added, cutting into the meat that Dany had brought. “And is probably up to no good since I’m away.”
Dany seemed too busy demolishing his food to eat, while Fovahlok paused to mull over what I said. “So, the rumours are true.”
“You’ll have to be more specific than that.” I added, chewing on the meat. “Hey, this actually isn’t half bad! Who cooked?”
“My companion, whose stomach is a bottomless pit.” Fovahlok replied, smiling, as Dany waved. “It has been said that the High Mage left his post to handle some matters personally.”
“Well, I guess him moving in is as personal as it gets.” I replied with a shrug. “Then the first thing he goes and does is to threaten to start a war, till I shoved it in his face that the whole thing was his idea.”
Both paused to stare at me over my latter comment, while I cut myself another piece. “Well, that’s politics for you.”
“AH! Politics! Makes no sense to me!” Dany boomed, laughing.
I shrugged. “Not to me either. I usually try to stay out of it, but as testified by my being here, I haven’t been very successful.”
Eventually, dinner went the way it did, with Fovahlok opening up to me a bit more, while Dany was just being…best described as himself. It was hard to say whether I had made a friend or not, but I was quite sure I did.
Either way, the fatigue from all the flying and whatnot began to hit as I felt my energy begin to wither away and die. I ended up on the bed within relatively short order, musing that I had been sleeping on a sofa for the past goodness knows how long.
Sleep came quick.
I was woken the next morning by Fenek, of all people. He woke me way before sunrise, and as I rolled around in bed, the brown dragon sat at the foot of the bed looking pleased with himself. He was in his small quad form, with his tail coiled around himself.
“You’re…not supposed to be here.” I remarked, stretching my stiff muscles.
Fenek gave me a huge smile. “I argued with Drak’rrth till he let me join you. It was most lonely with you gone.”
I rubbed him on the head and he purred, leaning in. “Well, I can’t say that this place is exactly very interesting.”
“At least you’re here. You know how the Bond is, yes?” he replied, taking his biped form as he strolled out of the sleeping room. “Oh, and I made breakfast.”
Not a small kid anymore, huh. I chuckled and followed him out to find the table already laid out. He had fried some of the meat and already portioned it out. “Yeah, I know how it is, and thanks.”
He nodded and we started eating.
“Please don’t tell me that you flew overnight or something. I’ll slap you.” I remarked, chewing on the meat, which was quite good, but the sauce could use a little work.
Almost at once, Fenek’s face fell. “You are not happy to have me here?”
I shot him a pointed look. “You can read my mind. You already know that’s not the case, but there’s no point in rushing here and falling asleep later, you know?”
Fenek scoffed. “Of course not! I had Drak’rrth teleport me here! I made him do it after I convinced him that not letting me go with you was causing me distress.”
“So you threw a tantrum?” I replied, amused.
“No. I argued with him the entire evening yesterday.”
I nodded and patted him on the shoulder. “Nice. You’ve grown up, Fenek.”
He beamed at my remark. “I did say that I would mature to match your level. What have they done thus far?”
I summarised the events of the previous day, and lowering my voice accordingly when I was talking about Faelius. I also made it a point to run around a little to show that I actually looked a bit more legitimate now. Fenek found it immensely amusing that Aurak nearly shot himself, for some strange reason.
Eventually, I had to go for my lesson, with Fenek in tow. Carrying everything, it was extremely tempting to drive, but Fenek insisted that I flew with him instead.
As we sailed through the air, bound for the centre building, I couldn’t deny that flying actually felt quite nice, with the wind on my snout, and cutting through the wind with my own two wings. A far cry from the cramped aeroplanes that I used to fly in. There was no claustrophobia here, only me and the endless expanse of the sky. The space was all mine.
“You’re going to hit the wall soon.” Fenek remarked, pointing ahead.
Snapping out of my thoughts, I hurriedly banked, and landed at the entrance with the brown dragon. We subsequently went up to the same room that I had been to the previous day, to find Faelius already there.
He was lying sprawled lazily on the floor, and looked up when I strolled in. “Ah, Tano’rath. Good morning. Who is the brown one?”
“Fenek, my companion.” I replied, nudging Fenek. <Smile!>
Fenek glanced at me. <No! That’s not how one greets a teacher!> He subsequently made eye contact with Faelius and bowed. “It is an honor.”
Faelius bowed and as he straightened, he smiled.
Feeling awkward, I waved to Faelius. “Hi.”
<And that’s how I do it.> I retorted, making a face at Fenek.
“And it is rude to use mind-speak when in the company of others.” He snapped, as the three of us walked to the centre of the room. Faelius didn’t comment, but looked extremely amused.
I made another face.
Ultimately, the rest of the day was used to teach me etiquette, how to carry myself properly in company, the dos and don’ts and so on. It was very dry to say the least, and I fought to stay awake. Fenek did help, though, by occasionally tapping me on the shoulder. However, by the end of the day, I found myself able to pass off somewhat as a generic dragon.
The rest of the week was actually quite slow. It was mostly history lessons, history being their version of it, which translated into thinly veiled propaganda. I honestly wondered how they actually managed to brainwash people so effectively with such a horrible system. They also attempted to teach me maths, but suffice to say that that particular lesson was a joke.
Of course, I spent a good amount of time practicing flying and such too… It was tiring, albeit fun, especially with Fenek around, who would give me pointers here and there.
By the end of the week, I was more than happy to clamber back into the rover and drive back with Fenek in tow. He actually tried to convince me to fly back while carrying the rover, but I would have none of it. Besides, why the blazes would I create more work for myself?
I did note, however, that Faelius never did get back to me…