~ Chapter 40: Drakaria (Part 1) ~
[Alkelios' point of view]
Two days after we left the inn at the edge of the Great Chasm, we finally saw the giant walls of Drakaria.
This moment strongly reminded me of a Fantasy movie where the hero arrived at the top of the hill and in the far reaches saw the dazzling city which marked the end of his long journey. A few streaks of sunlight passed through the clouded sky, offering a beautiful touch, while the cold wind rustled our clothes. A single neigh escaped the tired Khosinni, and Kataryna stretched her back.
“WOW!” I said as I looked at the breathtaking scene.
“To see Drakaria like this for the first time, you are indeed lucky Alkelios.” pointed out Kleo and then let out a sigh.
I blinked surprised and looked back at her.
“Don't mind her. The first time she arrived here, it was scorching hot and she was gasping for water.” Seryanna said with a giggle.
“What about you?” I asked her.
“Hm, it was during winter, right before a big storm, so... it was the same as when looking at it during a normal day of autumn?” she tilted her head to the left.
On the Dragon Continent, the weather around Dragon Kingdom Albeyater was mostly temperate, but temperatures were lower to the North and higher to the south, but you would have to travel a really long distance to notice the change. As for the duration of each season, it appeared as though Spring, Summer, and Autumn were all of about two to three months long each, with the Winter season being the only one spanning over three months. They didn't mark a certain day when one season began and the other ended, they used the change of the climate itself.
Thus, when the first snow fell, Winter began, and when Spring flowers showed their heads, it ended. Summer was marked by the apparition of the Dios fruit, which were similar to cherries, but grew in shrubs. Autumn began with the fall of the first leaf. Overall, they had about 10 months. At least by how the Dragons counted them.
The humans apparently had 12 months, while the Dwarfs had 6 months, one for each time the two moons in the sky were aligned, with the biggest one standing behind the smallest one. To be fair, I only recently noticed that this world had two moons... Up until now, I honestly believed it had only one. For some reason, I simply felt that it SHOULD resemble Earth in this aspect, so I never actually bothered to... check.
Similar to the Dwarfs, the Elves didn't measure the months in days but seasons. Thus, their years only had 4 months, while the Relliar had two months: mating and non-mating.
As for how I came across this information, I just thought I should ask... After all, so many weeks had already passed by.
The end of the current year and the beginning of the new one was something all sapient species agreed on because it was something given to them by the Gods apparently. That day coincided with the end of the 6th month of the Dwarfs, so the alignment of the two moons was always a good marker for this.
Well, leaving this complicated thing aside, we were now approaching the city's gate at a moderate pace. The main road we were on was connected with others that came from the north, from this side of the Great Chasm.
Drakaria was a city surrounded by tall white walls, reaching up to almost 30 meters in height if not more. It looked heavily fortified and more centered towards repelling aerial assaults rather than ground ones. Considering the ability of the dragon kind to shift between one form to another, it was natural to think about building the capital this way.
The palace was located on a higher ground than the first wall, with another one separating it from the rest of the city. From outside, or rather atop the hill we were on, I noticed that despite showing off an exquisite craftsmanship and beauty of design, the palace was heavily protected by four large towers placed on all four corners.
From the North, a river flowed towards the city, splitting into two as soon as it reached the outer walls. One arm flowed around the outside wall, acting like a moat and ending with a small lake, while the other arm went south, following a parallel line to the Great Chasm.
Unfortunately, I couldn't see any more details than that, but I had a feeling it was separated into parts similar to how the ancient cities of Europe were, meaning into a Noble Area, Merchant Area, and a Commoners Area. At least, that was what I presumed. Once inside, I was going to ask Seryanna more details about it, for now, we just had to get past the gates.
“Eijeer Nayus Nerver Il.” the redhead dragoness said and a glowing yellow light formed around her body, emanating from her armor.
This took me by surprise, especially since I was riding behind her. A little warning would have been nice, but once it was over, something changed.
“What just happened?” I asked surprised.
“I released the Illusion Spell that hid the emblems on my armor. They represent my rank, status, as well as affiliation to the Third Princess, whom I serve.” she replied.
Pulling back a bit, I was able to see it more clearly.
It was a gray shield with a white lily flower on top of it. Four green leafs were at its base, and a single sword pointing upwards was hidden behind the shield, leaving only the tip and hilt to be seen. A rather interesting designs, but very hard to draw in my opinion.
“Why is the sword hidden?” I asked.
“To represent what the Princess stands for, which is Defense over Offense.” the dragoness explained.
I asked nothing more of it as of now, but I was guessing that by revealing this emblem, she was now declaring to the world that she was back in active duty. The guards at the gate would probably not give us trouble in regard to letting us pass. With a bit of Luck, they wouldn't even question my species.
To my surprise, as soon as they saw us, they saluted and let us pass without even asking a single question. Thus, we passed through the huge gates meant to keep away all the nasty and unwanted folk.
The moment we entered the city, a sea of dragons appeared before us. Normal people who went about their daily lives, many wearing armor, while others casual clothes. There was no tension in the air as there was back in Toros. People didn't shoot a nasty glare at us or more like... they avoided us. The guards saluted as we passed by and the children raised their heads up in curiosity. The power of the emblem was certainly strong, but it made me wonder why she didn't display it until now. It would have made passing through the previous cities much easier.
“Was that OK?” I asked after a few moments, raising an eyebrow.
“What do you mean?” Seryanna asked.
“What happened back there. Weren't they supposed to ask us for some sort of identification or demand an entry fee?” I pointed with my thumb over my shoulder.
“No. As soon as I made my emblem visible, it was clear that I was of a higher rank than those guards. As a knight in the service of royalty, I am exempt from state taxes and can even order City Guards as I desire, but only to a certain extent. However, I have no authority over the Palace Guards, only the Royals do.” she explained.
“Plus many other things, right?” I asked.
“Indeed.” she nodded.
“Usually, the entrance fee in Drakaria is of 5 copper coins for one night, one silver coin for an annual pass, and one gold coin for a permanent residency. Unless you are a noble, then it's half. If you are working in the Palace, then it's free.” Kleo explained.
“But why did we all pass for free?” I asked.
“Because you are with me. The knight and their company may pass for free.” Seryanna said and then pulled the reins of the Khosinni, leading us to a street on the right.
“Where are we going, by the way?” I asked.
“To a good inn I know off in the Adventurer District.” she told me.
“Adventurer District?” I asked.
Today I was full of questions and almost no answers.
“The city of Drakaria is separated to the North in the Adventurer District and the Merchant District. If we went on the other road that led to the left, we would have arrived in the Workshop Area. From there, we could have arrived in the Market Area and then entered the Merchant Living Area. The Workshop Area, Market Area, and Merchant Living Area all form the Merchant District. To the South of here, we can reach a gate that will lead us to the outer Workshop Area, the Slums, and Worker Living Area.” she explained calmly.
“The Royal Palace is surrounded by the Noble Area, where most of the upper classes of nobility live, such as Dukes and Viscounts.” Kleo added to that explanation.
“I think I get the picture.” I nodded.
“The inn were are going to is located in the Adventurer District, and it's right next to the Guild Hall. They have good management.” Seryanna nodded.
“Why are we going here and not the Palace?” I asked.
It was a normal question from my point of view. I honestly, didn't see a reason why we couldn't.
“Because while I can get you past the city's gates, you can't enter the Palace without a summon from one of the nobles or royals working there. Unless the Princess will specifically call out for you, you are not allowed to enter.” Seryanna explained calmly.
I guess I spoke out of term here? I wondered.
For me there wasn't any big difference between nobles and commoners, but those around me certainly didn't see it that way.
“Do not worry. Just stay out of trouble and await my return after my meeting with the Princess is over.” she told me with a small smile.
I nodded in reply.
“By the way, you always need to stay at an inn when you are summoned by the Princess?” I asked.
“No.” she shook her head “Because I am her Knight, I have a proper chamber in the Palace.” she replied.
“Bummer... Guess we won't sleep together tonight?” I asked resting my chin on her shoulder.
“I apologize.” she looked down.
“Don't worry about it! Go and do your job without a care!” I gave her a kiss on the cheek and showed her a smile.
She nodded in reply.
Not that long after our little chat, we finally arrived at the inn. It was filled with adventurers by the looks of it, and they even had a stable too. Speaking of which, these rental Khosinni weren't needed to be returned to their previous place in Toros. Apparently, it didn't matter where we stopped, as long as we specified from where we got the Khosinni and signed the return form, we were good to go to rent another one. Since being attacked by bandits and encountering dangerous monsters was a foreseen thing, we would pay a fine of several silver coins in the case of the loss or death of the Khosinni.
In exchange for all of these fees, we could rent and return the beast to any official stable in the kingdom. But as a result, we couldn't buy one unless it was from a licensed vendor, and we always had to carry the ownership certificate or the moment we stepped into a random stable, it would get confiscated.
We first brought the Khosinni to the stable, and after we signed the return form, we entered the inn. The dragons inside, all Awakened from the looks of things, shot us a quick gaze and then returned to their conversations. They weren't all adventurers. Among them, I spotted a group of four soldiers and even a few people who looked like traveling peddlers.
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