Captain Helias had been present at the crowded Lord’s Meeting when Dragon King Vanentin excused himself from the stately room in the same breath as his ruling, resulting in a tumultuous stir among the attending lords and nobles.
Vanentin’s sudden exit alarmed Helias. Where are you going? Something’s happened. He straightened from where he leaned on the wall in the back of the echoing domed chamber.
While the noblemen and women expostulated loudly among themselves, Helias slipped from the room through the main arched entrance. He had no interest in crowd control of that nature. Modern noblemen were rotters. The lot of them. His primary concern was his king.
With silver scales that glittered like broken glass, Helias cut a menacing 7.5 ft figure in black garments with a cobalt blue cloak that signified rank. Quill-like bristles swept back from the crown of his head and trailed down his back. A sword adorned his hip. Pink eyes like rose quartz peered from a flat face.
Those gold rotters must be up to something again, Helias thought as his long strides quickly traced his king’s steps. Rounding a distant corner, he was confronted by four golden lizard men in white-and-gold robes scurrying in single file from the direction of the Judgement Hall.
Well, hello, gold rotters.
The leading golden lizard man locked eyes with Helias and stopped short, causing his companions to crash into his back.
Helias stopped, too.
A dragon of humble birth, Helias was renowned for his steadfastness to the king and inability to be bought, influenced, or intimidated. As a result, he became a figure of particularly unsavory repute among those with power who were accustomed to getting their way. To lords and nobles, he presented as uncontrollable which, for someone with rank and the king’s ears, made Helias dangerous.
Helias said nothing as the golden lizard men skittered past timorously with their heads ducked low as though they were afraid that, if they walked tall, their heads might be ripped from their shoulders. Helias waited until the irritating scamper of their stupid feet faded into the sounds of the massive marble tiled corridor. He exhaled to settle himself. Words couldn’t express how much he enjoyed being hated by the golds.
And now to see from what or whom they’re fleeing.
Helias burst through the side door of the Judgement Hall to find the king well and speaking with the green-scaled jailer who was climbing to his feet from kneeling. Cayn’s quick brown eyes spotted the captain first.
Cool relief washed down Helias’ quills. Ahh, this is more like it.
King Vanentin followed the jailer’s diverted attention. “Captain,” said the king. “Excellent timing.”
Helias bowed his head to the king as he joined them. “Domin.” Turning to Cayn, he added brusquely, “Jailer.” Back to Vanentin, he said, “They’ve done it again, haven’t they?” When Vanentin sighed wearily, he swelled with rage. “Those over-stepping golds! Please, Domin, let me do something about them. They bend laws for their own purposes and it can’t go on. One of these days—.”
Helias squeaked at the sudden appearance of a human. He didn’t notice the creature in the ungainly shackles until Vanentin and Cayn both held out arms to stop him from inadvertently trampling the prisoner during his raving monologue.
“Oh! A small thing!” Helias blinked wide pink eyes. “My apologies, small thing. You surprised me.”
The human gaped up at the silver-scaled captain with much less shock than he would’ve excepted. Rather, the human wasn’t shocked at all. Instead, he seemed unabashedly inquisitive.
Helias liked the human instantly.
“Helias,” said Vanentin. “See to it that Cayn and this slave Zickmund arrive into Nathan’s care without incident.”
“To Nathan?” Helias tilted his head with interest. Not the commander?
Vanentin read his expression easily. “Zickmund needs to be interviewed.”
Bowing his head, Helias thumped a fist over his heart. “At once, my Domin.”
“So tell me, Caya.” Helias purposely bumped Cayn’s shoulder with his as they departed the Judgment Hall through the deserted main entryway. He pointed down at the human walking in front of them. “What’s the story with this one?”
Cyan glanced down at Mario who marveled at the towering architecture without the need to lower his eyes. “The king suspects he’s unsanctioned collateral.”
Helias chortled bitterly with the gaping white maw of a water moccasin. “The golds have become too audacious,” he said. “This makes the fourth this season.”
“It’s frightening.” Cayn ushered his shackled ward down the corridor on the right instead of guiding him by pulling on the chains.
“It’s underhanded in an atrociously selfish and nonlethal way, for sure. Although ‘frightening’ is a bit dramatic.” When Cayn’s expression remained tense and he didn’t agree, Helias arched a thick brow ridge. “Are you implying I may get to kill something soon?”
A procession of sapphire blue lizard men in white-and-viridian robes approached from the opposite direction. They walked in two single file lines. Their height varied around 5 ft.
Cayn moved briskly to walk between his prisoner and the procession.
Most of the blue lizards didn’t glance toward the trio, however three pompous individuals near the rear sneered at the jailer and whatever unworthy creature he was protecting this time.
Helias hissed stridently, startling the blue lizard men into minding their own business. “Don’t worry, brother,” he said to Cayn once the blue buffoons were out of earshot. There was a jest in his voice. “I’ll protect you.”
“Excuse me,” whispered the human, and Cayn bent to lend his ear. “He’s okay to talk around, right?”
Cayn glanced at Helias who was clearly amused. “He is.”
The human became comfortable instantly. “Okay, cool,” he said in a fearless, conversational tone. “What’s the difference between universal and special servitude?”
“Oh, that,” said Cayn. He was prepared to explain in the tactful manner he used with all of his prisoners. Oftentimes humans who hailed from the other world—those who had been illegally claimed as a debtor’s collateral and then later abducted and subsequently forfeit at no loss to the debtor (hence “unsanctioned collateral”) and who often faced lives of servitude—required particular delicacy.
Helias beat him to it. “Special servitude declares you property of the king, whereas a slave under universal servitude becomes property of the kingdom itself, which is lorded over by the wealthy lords and nobles and irksome little golds that I’d like to SQUASH—”
The human’s face bore guileless curiosity. “We don’t like the gold guys?”
Helias grinned approvingly. “No, we do not.”
[to be continued…]