Chapter 44: Announcement
The declaration of peace in the town was met with shock and disbelief, as expected. However, we did not get much of a chance to speak to the populace as we were almost immediately whisked away to speak with the civilian management to plan for the future of the two towns under us. We did, however, pause to allow someone to go and make a speech to address some of the concerns on the ground.
Patrols were rostered at once and dispatched to the border, while a new guardhouse was planned to be built right at the border, where the men would stay for their week-long duty shifts. Otherwise, the military side also drew up plans for a proper army camp for the garrisons in each town, as well as training rosters, plus tabled a draft conscription law, pending approval by the civilian management.
Most of the day to day running of the city was handed over to the civilian government, while we basically became the Ministry of Defence. They planned to call out to all that had skills to rebuild our industries and such. There was talk about attempting to build computers too, but that was unlikely. We had the theory, but things like the blueprints themselves were gone, as well as the machinery with the needed precision. However, simple things like assembly lines could be brought back.
My side got drafted to help in the prospecting for raw materials, since Fenek boasted about magic making it much easier. I ended up being put in charge again, despite my mentioning that part of the treaty included me being pulled away at an unstated time for some sort of training...
Eventually, we all went off to have a tea break, and then broke off into two groups; the civilian side and the military side. However, both sides complained that the other's discussion was too noisy, so we ended up separating. I didn't know where the civilians went, but the military side, me included, ended up discussing in Victor's house.
We began planning the basic training program for the new recruits, while others began drawing up plans for a proper army facility in the city, for it had been decided that appropriating houses for our own accommodation would not be acceptable. We would build and maintain our own camp, which would include accommodations, training facilities and possibly a cookhouse. It would also open up another place for us to store our equipment. Maintenance schedules were also planned proper, and classes for weapon maintenance were set to be started as soon as possible. The guns were in need of some serious cleaning, since no one had cleaned them.
However, before we could move on to the next thing on the agenda, a note appeared on top of my heap of papers, for I had been taking notes for the duration of the meeting. The note itself was obviously from Drak'rrth, and simply announced that his staff had arrived, and were ready to be picked up.
I had someone sent over to the civilian side to coordinate with them about which building to allocate as the embassy, while I hurried over to the vehicle park and got into one of the tonners, with Fenek and Flayme in tow.
Flayme looked over the truck for a while before getting in. "Must you use the most uncomfortable one?"
Rolling my eyes, I started the vehicle with the usual rumble. "it's the biggest one, and I don't know how many people he's bringing. Anyway, it's not like the smaller trucks are any better. The 3 Ton one is arguably more bumpy anyway. Besides, it's tradition. Driving a bigger car makes you look richer. It's a chinese thing and my family somewhat subscribed to it."
As I turned out of the car park and drove to the gates, Flayme seemed to be trying to make sense of what I was saying, while Fenek simply pulled the explanation off the top of my head. I ended up explaining why a bigger car was better and such.
The conversation managed to last us till we reached the border, which wasn't that far anyway, to find Drak'rrth lying there waiting, along with seven other dragons. Behind them was a neat stack of their things, and they were by no means small or few. As I parked the truck, I couldn't help but remark, "Eh, he opening shop or opening embassy?"
"Well, they are going to live in the embassy, are they not?" Flayme replied, while Fenek finally relaxed.
I shrugged as I adjusted the truck a bit to be as near to their pile of things as possible before pulling the handbrake and shutting the engine off. The three of us got out to find the entire group of them sniffing the truck suspiciously, while Drak'rrth peered down at me. "I did not request transportation."
I blinked. "Well, I had to drive here anyway. You can fly there on your own if you wish, but I recommend loading all your things into the truck."
The huge dragon looked the vehicle over with a snort, then looked down at me again. "Very well, then. We shall utilise your machine. I believe that we'll be having to get used to it, no?"
I gave him a half smile as the whole group of us began to load things up. "Probably."
I clambered up the truck and started piling everything up at one end, making sure everything was neat, and once that was done, I showed the dragons where to sit, while Flayme offered his seat up front in the cab to Drak'rrth.
The offer was accepted and I spent the next five minutes coaxing Fenek, who didn't seem to like Drak'rrth very much, to instruct the ambassador on how to fasten the seat belt and such. Meanwhile, I jumped off the back and put the tailboard up, while instructing the passengers not to stick their heads out too far lest they fall out. Although that was quite unlikely, it would at least discourage them from doing anything else as dumb.
By the time I clambered into the cab, I had already noticed that the sheer weight of the passengers and their mountain of furniture and belongings had actually caused the suspension to sink quite a bit. Hence, when I started the engine, I actually had to spend some time adjusting said suspension via the controls mounted on the ceiling. Drak'rrth watched with mild curiosity, but didn't comment.
Fenek, however, seemed more chatty than usual, and flooded me with questions. I answered what I could before shutting him up when I released the brakes and did a U-turn.
The ride back was uneventful and strangely quiet. I noted the simmering distaste that Fenek had for Drak'rrth, although he refused to tell me why, even though the mental bond where Drak'rrth couldn't hear. I ended up humming songs as I drove back to the town. Drak'rrth only broke the silence once halfway through the journey to remark on how the truck went faster than his flying speed.
With the awkward silence, we rolled into the square, where Victor was waiting. As soon as I drove into view, he began to gesture at me, directing me to a large building, probably a repurposed house a stone's throw from the town hall. He guided me there, and had me reverse park in front.
Once I shut the engine off, two guys went up behind to open the tailboard and start moving all the things in the back, while one of the city officials, who was admittedly quite pale when he saw Drak'rrth, went about showing them around. The signboard in front of the building identified it as the embassy.
However, one could tell that the whole thing had been thrown together in a hurry. The wording on the signboard had obviously been freshly painted, with the paint still wet in some places, while the small lawn in front of the building itself looked to be somewhat trampled, the scent of the grass mingling with the smell of paint. The building had evidently been appropriated only a short while before...
...Not really their fault though. None of this had been expected. They probably expected the treaty to fall through... However, given that things went the way that they did, what we could do was to make the most of it.
Lost in my musings, I didn't quite notice that Drak'rrth had tapped my shoulder till Victor strolled over and pointed it out. I turned to the dragon, apologising for allowing my mind to wonder... "Yes?"
"There is much to discuss. When may we begin?" Came the quick reply.
I shrugged. "Now you don't liase with me. Diplomatic stuff is under the civilian government. Just talk to the guy who helped to show you around. I'll only be called in when military stuff is raised. Good luck."
The dragon seemed taken aback, though at what I couldn't quite tell until he spoke. "You're not in command anymore?"
"I still am, but I don't manage the city itself, just the military." I replied with another shrug as I reached up to open the truck door, intending to return it to the vehicle park. It had been a tiring day, and I wanted no more than a good dinner and nap.
Drak'rrth, however, persisted. "I will speak with no one else."
Sighing, I let go of the door handle. "I'm a sergeant, Drak'rrth, not a diplomat. Besides, the civilian representative will be able to give you a better picture of the circumstances and probably table more relevant issues. I only deal with military matters, like I said."
The Drak'rrth didn't seem too happy about it, but he finally backed down, mentioning about having some matters to discuss with me nonetheless, but at least agreed to liase with the civilian instead.
Beckoning to Fenek, who got in at the passenger's side, I started the truck and drove to the car park, only to be routed to the maintenance, where I had to leave the vehicle with the engine running for the technicians to run some tests. It was good to see that they were making full use of the power that was being provided, and I thanked them for their hard work on the way out.
As Fenek and I began to walk back, it occurred to me to ask him again about why he disliked Drak'rrth so much. "Ey, Fenek, what was with the drama just now?"
The brown dragon stared me in the eye, but said nothing. I sighed, folding my arms. "Whatever it is, I doubt I'll be much help if you keep pouting around like that."
"What will our roles be now?" Came the reply, a very poorly veiled attempt at changing the subject.
I couldn't help but to roll my eyes. "If you're going to avoid the question, you'll have to do better than that."
Fenek glared at me and hissed. "I don't want to talk about it!"
"Hissing at me isn't going to solve it either." I remarked pointedly, "Look, you made a huge ruckus over when i was upset, because I wasn't telling you why, so you have no right to give me attitude. If I have to count to three, then I'll do it, but you'd better open that damn yap of yours before I get to the front door or else."
Fenek remained quiet for around a minute before finally talking. Kudos to him for lasting longer than I expected. However, I still received a glare from Fenek, who seemed indignant about having his actions used against him. "He is not someone that I am fond of."
I held his gaze and added a glare of my own as the house came into view. Deciding that this had gone on long enough, I stepped in front of him, growling under my breath instinctually. I made no move to stop the growl, but deliberately blocked his way. When Fenek tried to sidestep, I flared my wings. "You're going to have to do much better than that."
"I answered your-" He began, returning my growl.
"You call that a bloody answer?! You'd might as well have kept quiet!" I snapped, refusing to move. "Now, are you going to explain yourself properly, or do I have to make you?"
Fenek glared again, trying to convey a warning not to pry further, and attempted to shove me away. I was somewhat expecting him to do something like that, and grabbed his arm the moment he made his move, while I folded my wings. I pulled him as close as I could till I was more or less face to face with him, and made my dissatisfaction plain. "Attitude again, huh. You're really testing my patience, Fenek, and you don't want to be here when I run out of that! Now, either talk, or I'll have you locked out of the bloody house."
I knew that he didn't want to talk about it, but there seemed to be no other choice. For all I knew, it could be something that threatens our safety, or it could be that he simply couldn't get along with the mage. Whatever it was didn't really matter to me at this juncture. Instead, I wanted the brown dragon to open up to me.
Although I had been aware that the Bond allowed him to anticipate my actions, I had not expected him to grab my arm when I tried to push him out of my way. Though, I was grateful for the fact that he had respected my privacy enough not to pry into my thoughts.
I half-thought about trying to push him away again. However, I decided not to. He seemed to be more concerned than anything, though concerned about what I could not tell. It seemed to be a combination of a few things, though what the things were, he did not make plain in his thoughts.
I could tell that he was serious with his threats, and that he seemed to be quite annoyed at my behaviour. However, telling him, or anyone the reason would bring about only sad memories, memories that were so painful that I didn't want them to come to mind. Whether or not he could offer me some comfort, I did not know, but for some reason, I did not want to know.
However, was this really worth pushing my own Rider away?
Fenek seemed ready to struggle, and give me the whole package of kicking, screaming, breaking free and generally making a ruckus, but in the end, he seemed to think better of it and relaxed instead. Sensing that he had come to some sort of a realisation, as well as a decision, I released him. "Well?"
"He was the one who...sent my parents to the front...and he was the one...who dragged them away..." Fenek replied after standing in silence for a while, pain evident in his eyes. I had to throttle the bond in order not to be affected. However, I could tell that he was reliving some sort of memory, and that it was not pretty.
Of course, I felt somewhat bad for making him go through whatever he was going through, but it couldn't be helped. At least now I knew what was going on.
However, my thoughts were interrupted as Fenek continued, "You...must be careful. I do not know what his real intentions are, but they are most definitely not good."
With that, Fenek walked off silently. Common sense told me to go after him and try to offer comfort, but something told me that the brown dragon would rather be left alone at this juncture.
I settled for returning to the house, to find that Atheros was waiting for me, along with the rest. Fenek was nowhere to be seen, and I assumed that he had probably gone to a private spot or something.
Before I could let my mind wander, however, I got pulled in to join them for an early dinner, along with some long overdue family time.
However, it didn't sit well with me to just let Fenek stew in whatever he was stewing in, and it gnawed at me as I told stories about the past few battles, trying to regale them with my rusty linguistics. Still, my concern for the brown dragon dampened my mood enough to spoil it for me.
I ended up excusing myself after a while and going to search for Fenek. It didn't help at all that his emotions were leaking through to my end...