Aden of Aden

Chapter Twenty-Four

A storm came into the land as evening fell.  I heard some speak of the weather as not being natural, but none could convince others of why the phenomena was occurring.  Voices tried to state that it was a sign of Belconosk winning, although others spoke of it as a sign the dragon was suffering defeat.  A few whispered that our visit to the fairy shrine had caused the change in the sky even as Princess Turponia spoke with pride of our invitation to commune with the fey.  Whatever the reason for the storm, its presence did have us feel some concern in having certain routines disrupted by the downpour of water and displays of lightning.

Coming into my room, I saw Ludene looking over my jewelry with her exclaiming with shock, “I was not going to steal any, my lady!”

I replied, “I should not have any fear of you doing that.”  Just being curious, I asked, “What would you do with it?  Are people here so callous that they will pawn anything without any sense of ownership?”

“No, my lady, as our land is too poor.  Jewelry is almost worthless, as none can afford it or they fear Belconosk attacking to take what wealth they have.  What I was trying to determine was your preference for color.”

“Lands have color.  I am too young to have jewelry of my own.  A few were chosen by me from the collection of my mothers or other ladies of distinction, but most are simply ornaments to show off my connection to Thiminy, my kingdom, or Serussdal, the duchy where my father has his family.”

She pointed to my outfit while asking, “What about those other gold pieces?”

If she had not pointed, I doubt I would have known what she spoke about.  “Oh, those are to certain gods.  Beskerrin is not only the god that created the dwarves, but also oversees marriage.  Thaenir is his wife, and women seek her comfort during childbirth and other stresses of our lives.  The other is to Havennix.  Some say he is the evil god, but I want someone who honors private endeavors watching over me.”  Wanting to put some weight to any thoughts of actually stealing my jewelry, I added, “If you truly are my slave, I guess you could wear a piece or two.”

“Does your world have slavery?”

“That is not the question, Ludene.  The question is whether life on my world can get so harsh that one has nothing else of value than their lives.  The answer is, ‘yes.’  There are safeguards, and abusing people is wrong no matter what their status.”

“Could you sell me?”

Of course I could speak on the topic.  My father had earned his reputation working to save people who sought to cross the desert to reach the kingdom of my birth.  Not only did they risk their lives, but their freedom in that some would rescue people only to bind them with the hope of repaying the debt incurred from not allowing them to die.  Further, those who committed crimes often found themselves without any method to restore the damage done except by becoming nothing but servants.  Not only did I need to listen to the lectures from my father, but others in authority would speak on the topic to inspire us children to understand what would be expected of us when we reached adulthood.

I had to give Ludene credit for listening.  Actually, she did a lot for me by letting me get something out of my system.  While things were working out for me, I felt a small delicate figure in some grand design.  My only hope at the moment was my training.  Not hearing Ludene speak against things I said in my lecture, I gained a sense that what I had been taught might have enough substance to sustain me.

She however then said, “So, you could sell me, but that was not the understanding in you gaining me.”

I thought back over things before admitting, “I believe you were given to me because no one else trusted you.  Selling something, or someone, I know to be defective is wrong.  You should not fear me selling you, but reducing the quality of your duties.”

“That is something I can understand.”

“I would hope.  Right now you are helping me, but as my property I could assign you more menial duties.”

“But, you do trust me?”

I shrugged my shoulders, then admitted, “I don’t have to trust you.  I am not in a position with enough power, or with enough wealth, that things can be overlooked or ignored.  If you steal or act outside your authority, possibly attempting to abuse my own reputation, it will be noticed.  Once you eventually gain a position where trust is possible, I hope I never have a reason to suspect you of not being trustworthy.”

“I understand.  What should I prepare for tomorrow?”

“I will be riding with Princess Turponia.  None of the religious icons, as we will going to face fairies.”

“Fairies?  What more miracles will you bring to this land?”

While I sensed she was attempting a compliment, I felt the need to keep myself from feeling arrogant.  “I am doing what I can while the men are off risking their lives against a very powerful opponent.”

“It is an honor to serve you, Aden of Aden.”

I did not have any concern for Ludene’s behavior.  While I suspected there was a potential for duplicity with her, there was a feeling it would be true for anyone in this society.  I felt that once the threat of Belconosk was removed and things with the civilization could return to normal, the problems Ludene faced would have her seeking to redeem herself and not continue to think she could change her status otherwise.

The next morning I went down to have breakfast with Queen Tiolotha and Princess Turponia.  There were others present, but I allowed the two to handle official business.  Just being present I felt handled my job of being a symbol of hope.  As the two noble ladies discussed business I at my breakfast while considering things that might help my own plans for the day.

I cannot say why I thought it important, but as I changed from an elaborate dress to a more functional outfit I considered what problems might develop going away from civilization.  I could not say that I trusted the fairies at all.  While I did not consider them malicious, there was a mischievous nature to them that I accepted did work to harm certain people.  With there also being a concern for the return of dragons, I thought to check Dumourl’s room for something that might be important.

The bow caught my attention, and seeing it present I felt certain what I sought would be present.  He had wrapped the special arrows back up and placed them in a protected location, but I was glad to see them.  I brought them from the room certain that things should not go completely bad on our journey.

Moving from the room a fairy, clearly a tiny female form, flew in front of me, acted as if to perform a curtsey, then darted through a window.  The sight actually scared me.  I rushed back to my room to see what other items I might need to place on my person before leaving.

Coming down I found Later to be saddled, but I checked the straps while securing the bow and arrows.  Princess Turponia also looked over her horse.  As she checked her saddle, she however mentioned something to me.

“I don’t believe the fairies will treat it kindly if we go to them with our minds on hunting.”

I replied, “I am not going to have anyone, even fairies, think I am unaware of the situation.  There are other concerns on our minds than a quantity of meat on our tables.”

“Since they actually invited you, I will trust you.  However, I do know the way.”

It was a pleasant day for a ride across the terrain.  There were not the mountains of Thiminy or even around the home of Queen Debbish.  Enjoying riding a horse and being away from the duties of civilization, I stopped a few times to simply look at the scenery.  My pleasant experience however came to an end as I saw something appear on the road, then the grand form of a dragon crawled through a portal to begin moving to town.

Without any expression I dropped from the saddle and strung the bow, although I heard Princess Turponia ask, “Tell me that you did not know, Aden.”

I replied, “I did not know, but when I claimed the arrows a fairy flew in front of me and let me know that I had not done wrong.”

“So, why had you grabbed them in the first place?”

“Because there were more dragons our men fought than just Belconosk.  It was very probably that one, possibly one wounded, moved into the forest or could otherwise be met along the way.”

Princess Turponia had moved to look at the dragon that arrived, and after a moment of silence assured her that I had said all I intended she commented, “That is Belconosk.  It is seriously hurt.”

I drew back on the bowstring as I said, “Not hurt enough.”

Neither one of us spoke as I took aim.  Honestly, I cannot say that either of breathed.  Dumourl had not fussed at me for using an arrow on Belconosk before, and I doubted he would do so this time if I hit the dragon.  I repeated every lesson I had ever been given as I took aim, then prayed as I released the string.

Hearing the dragon roar in pain, then collapse as its front leg on my side no longer operated, Princess Turponia mounted her horse while saying, “Assure the fairies that I brought my sword in case of brigands, Aden of Aden.”

I watched as she rode toward the monster with her weapon held high and screaming for the people to make their attacks good.  Why no one had run I could not say.  The sudden horror probably froze them in place.  With Princess Turponia riding forward declaring all to attack while the dragon roared in pain, I watched as a swarm of soldiers and regular citizens rushed to make good on the kill.

The fact that I heard no threats spoken by Belconosk had me understand that my earlier shot did indeed harm the throat of the dragon.  It could not breathe its foul breath.  The wings were broken as was a back leg.  Gashes that still seeped inner fluids covered the body.  Belconosk had not come to claim victory, but to make a last act of terror upon those who had caused it serious harm.

In harming another leg, the dragon had trouble moving and was unable to make an attack upon anyone wise enough to keep a distance.  The scaly hide was impossible to penetrate with normal weapons, but I saw some come from the city unwrapping what I could tell were treasured heirlooms understanding that once again it was time for them to be put into service.  Soldiers readied lances, and with the power of their mounts found some points sinking into the flesh of the monster.  Most I believe worked at wounds to harm flesh and organs not protected by the outer skin.  Wondering what my father would say about this tale of the killing of a dragon, I watched from a distance.

The cheer of victory at the death of the monster stopped as another roar sounded.  This however was not the voice of a dragon, but that of a number of men.  The people stood in pride as many of those who had left to fight Belconosk knelt in recognition of the ones who had finally brought about its death.

I did not go to find out who had survived to return.  Understanding that I had a promise to keep, I unstrung the bow.  Securing it and the remaining arrows on Later, I went to find out what the fairies wanted to discuss.

And now the meeting with the fairies will happen.