~ Chapter 94: The Continent of the Dwarfs ~
[Seryanna's point of view]
“Is it just me or does this journey feels a bit longer than it should? King of Hearts.” I said as I place a card on the table.
“It isn't just you, Seryanna, we're all feeling this. Besides, it's raining buckets outside. Three of Hearts.” Kataryna said as she placed a card on the table.
“Do you remember how it was when we arrived at the Dwarf Continent? Queen of Spades.” Princess Elleyzabelle asked.
“Of course I do... Joker. I take half of your armies as my own.” I said as I placed the card on the table.
“Tch! I knew you had something good, but I didn't think it was a Joker, and I even played my Jack of Spades too! Ah~ Give me back my army!” complained Princess Elleyzabelle.
“I would have been fine with you taking my army of peasants.” Kataryna showed me a broad grin.
“It's like you inherited the luck of your husband!” she watched with sorrow as I cut her mighty army in half and added it to my own.
“I don't know, I'm just good at playing Battlefield.” I giggled.
What the princess said a moment ago made me remember the time when we set sail from the Relliar Continent and headed straight for the Dwarf Continent.
That was right after I began to think more seriously about forming my Knight Order, the Searing Blades. Back then, I didn't even had a name for it, I just postponed it for later while I trained the only three knights in it besides myself. I thought and a small smile appeared on my lips.
In my hand I was holding the card of the King of Hearts.
Such a strange dwarf... I thought.
[Two years and three dragon months ago]
[Seryanna's point of view]
The cold wind flowed from the bow and washed over the bridge. Normal humans and weak dragons would have found it unbearable, but those who accompanied us on this journey were all seasoned veterans with high Power Numbers. Right now, Princess Elleyzabelle was having tea with the captain on the deck while wearing what could only be considered as a simple white summer dress of an elegant design suited for a noble lady. The tea wasn't frozen yet because the cups were enchanted to maintain it at a lukewarm temperature.
Three dragons could be seen training their swords skills near the main mast of the ship. Amarondi Shellar and Quran Van were Baron Knights with little combat experience. The third one was called Attrakus, he was a Peasant Knight who participated in the previous war and succeeded in catching the attention of his superiors. These three were supposed to be the first members of my Knight Order, or so his Majesty, King Feryumstark ordered.
Initially, I had little to no interest in training them or commanding an order of my own, but after the events on the Relliar Continent, I began to see the limitation of my own reach. Shelly's kidnapping could have been prevented if I had knights I could order to keep an eye out for anything suspicious.
I was also remembered of the time when I went to battle to fight against the traitorous Draejan's army. Standing among the soldiers who followed not my orders but those of the King allowed me to understand and experience something incredible.
Dragons were beings that were not meant to live alone. They were not meant to fight by themselves on the battlefield. Time and time again, we stood together against the might of the invading forces of the humans or any others who wished to disturb our peace. We worked together, devised strategies, tactics, and raised our strength to keep them from harming our precious ones.
Just thinking about what would have happened if Shelly was my daughter sent a chill down my spine. After all, in a country where you had no allies; in a world where you were the mightiest; you also had no one to look out for you and those whom you found precious and were far weaker than yourself.
The big similarity between all the species was perhaps in this simple truth, that in troubling times, we would stick together to protect both ourselves and those we cared about.
For me, this Knight Order was going to help me take care of this big weakness of mine I had neglected so far. It would help me become stronger in ways I thought not possible before.
“P-Please... spare us!” Attrakus cried.
“Hm? It's just your 100th set for today. You can keep going until you reach 200! See? Sir Quran is already smiling of joy!” I said with a nod as I watched over their training.
“He's not smiling of joy! He's drifting towards insanity from all this harsh training!” cried out Amarondi and Attrakus at the same time.
“You two are acting silly.” I shook my head “Besides, this is just the first part of our easy training!” I showed them a smile and clenched my fist in victory.
“NOOO~!” and so echoed their cries on the empty sea while everyone else on the boat ignored them completely.
Yup! Grandfather's training was the best to rise a weakling's strength!
[Kataryna's point of view]
“Should we do something about... that?” I asked as I pointed at the trio, who right after they finished sword training were made to swim after the boat.
“If you ignore them long enough, they will become simple background noise.” Elleyzabelle replied in a calm tone of voice as she took a sip from her tea.
“Um, Mistress Kataryna, you won't make Tanarotte go through something like that will you?” a certain silver-scaled dragoness asked.
“Hm, training you to death... That does sound like a legal solution of accidentally getting rid of one's underling.” I said as I began to ponder this possibility seriously.
“Princess Elleyzabelle, are you sure you will be alright traveling through the Continent of the Dwarfs with such company?” asked the captain in a worried tone of voice.
“I will be fine.” she replied with a soft smile.
“A SHARK! THERE'S A SHARK BEHIND US!” Attrakus shouted.
“That's the spirit! Now swim faster!” ordered Seryanna.
“WE'LL DIE!” they all shouted at the same time.
“You are not that weak! I trust you will survive... somehow. Maybe? Alright, I'll just have faith in you!” Seryanna told them.
“...” the three fell into silence when they noticed her moment of hesitation.
“Here, use this as a distraction.” I told the three as I grabbed Tanarotte by the tail and tossed her in the water.
“Huh? NOOO! Mistress Kataryna at least give me your underwear to swim in!” she shouted back right before she fell face first in the water.
“I hope the sharks get her.” I said as I dusted off my hands and walked away from the rail.
“Kataryna, don't spoil the shark's appetite with her.” rebuked Seryanna.
“Meh.” I shrugged and ignored the remark.
[Elleyzabelle's point of view]
As we set sail from the Relliar Continent, there was a visible change among the two dragonesses who could make even a mighty general cower in fear behind his mother's wings.
Although Kataryna had gotten used with pestering Tanarotte, I could often see her looking into the horizon and taking deep sighs as if there was something heavy on her heart. When I got the chance to talk with her in private, I found out that she was feeling troubled about meeting Alkelios again. Even if it hasn't been that long since she last saw him, she couldn't help but feel weird when she thought of a life without him in it.
As of now, it was a simple fleeting thought, nothing more and nothing less, or so she claimed. I for one saw it as her beginning to awaken to a new feeling of longing and love. If she was going to embrace it or not was another matter.
This journey, however, I found to have benefited Seryanna the most. She was now actively thinking about training the three knights, although, her methods were not fit for the faint of heart. If she were to gain a full order, I could already envision them as being the strongest in our army. Father would certainly be pleased with it.
Our destination right now was Port Nefer. The dwarfs, however, were a bit of a mystery to me.
They weren't a species who enjoyed cruising on the seas or traveling to far away lands. Although very traditional in their ways, they were a bit xenophobic when it came to outsiders. This was mostly due to the fear of the Royal Family in regard to outsiders.
The current King was supposed to be quite fearful of humans especially and had went through a great deal of effort to keep them away from the continent. On the other hand, I also heard that he wasn't such a capable ruler either, indulging in various expensive pleasures and even abusing the power he held in his hands.
I hoped that upon meeting his Majesty, I would be able to impress him with Alkelios' hammer and maybe interest him in opening a trade route with us. Having him send military help in the form of soldiers was too much for now, but good weapons and armor were always welcomed.
“How long until we reach the Dwarf Continent?” I asked Captain Mathew.
“The journals mentioned a journey of around three weeks, so we shouldn't be that far away from it.” he replied.
This was the first time Captain Mathew sailed these waters, so he couldn't offer me a rough estimate. Since there had been other ships that sailed here from the Dragon Continent or the Relliar Continent, we had enough logs and notes of other captains in order to choose what we believed to be the safest and shortest route.
As I brought to my lips the last drops of tea, I looked up at the sky and began to wonder about what I was going to do after I returned to the Dragon Continent. There weren't that many things I had planned, but there were many books I wanted to read. Mother wanted to prepare me to be a good dragoness who could act from the shadows of a kingdom. She feared that my brother's first choice for a wife might be a bit too much for the Albeyater Kingdom and she needed someone more levelheaded and with a good knowledge about politics. It so happened that I was of the right scale color for this.
“Ah! The shark spat out Tanarotte.” said Kataryna surprised.
I shook my head and then got up from my chair.
“I will be retreating to my room for now.” I told them.
“Very well. Have a pleasant day, your Highness.” said Captain Mathew.
“Want me to go with you?” Kataryna asked.
“No, you can go ahead and fish out your knight.” I told her.
“Do I really have to?” she sounded like a child complaining.
“Yes.” I nodded and then left.
The dragoness clicked her tongue.
[Seryanna's point of view]
On the mourning of the fourth day of the third week since we left the Relliar Continent, the sailor in the crow's nest shouted as loud as he could “Land Ahoy!”
I looked up at him and then towards the horizon, where he was pointing at. There was a bit of a fog at this level, so I opened my wings and flew up into the sky until I was at two hundred meters above the ship.
There, I looked again towards the horizon.
The Dwarf Continent was barely visible, but it was impossible to confuse the spread of land with anything less. Unlike the Relliar Continent, this one was covered with a thick snow and had swirling gray clouds looming above it in the sky. A mountain peak could be seen in the middle, but no signs of forests or plains, just jagged steep cliffs were there to welcome us.
It was impressive in a way, but at the same time, it gave me a rather uncomfortable feeling.
I flew back to the ship and told the others what I saw.
“I heard that the waters around this continent were rather tricky to sail on, but the logs tells us that as long as we sail towards Port Nefer, we shouldn't have any problems.” Captain Mathew said as he stroked his chin with his two fingers.
“We could always just drop anchor away from the port and then fly over to the pier.” Princess Elleyzabelle suggested.
“If it proves to be too dangerous to get close, we'll do just that, but for now I wish to see if we can drop anchor in the port rather than out in the open sea. Besides, I would prefer it if we didn't do anything to anger the local dwarfs.” he nodded.
“Very well, Captain, I'll leave the decision to you. Meanwhile, we'll prepare for the long journey ahead of us. No dragon had visited their Capital in centuries. I don't even know if they will receive us properly...” she said with a bit of worry in the tone of her voice as she looked towards the bow, where the strip of land was coming into view.
“Let us hope that Alkelios' gift and our own armors and weapons are enough to impress the dwarfs and make them rethink if we are worthy or not of an audience with their King.” I said as I looked at the [Purse] ring which contained this gift as well as many other things we thought might be useful in our negotiations on these foreign lands.
Ever since we left the Relliar Continent and headed South-West towards the Dwarf Continent, the temperature had been dropping little by little. Right now it was a little under the freezing temperature, but we had the feeling that it was going to be far colder once we dropped anchor in the port.
Unlike humans or relliars, we dragons didn't feel the need to wear extra clothing. None of the sailors changed their uniforms and even Princess Elleyzabelle continued to wear her white dress. Our affinity to the elements and natural strength was all we needed to protect ourselves from the biting colds and smoldering heats. For me and Kataryna temperature control was mere child's play. We also had Alkelios' armors, so even if walked through a desert or on the tip of an icy mountain, we would literally feel no change in temperature.
On the other hand, although the dwarfs fared well with the cold, they still needed cozy coats to keep themselves warm in the snow.
As we approached Port Nefer, there were countless of them walking up to the pier, looking at us with curious eyes. It was then when I noticed how different were the dwarfs I knew from those found on this continent.
George, the bartender at the inn outside of Toros in Albeyater, was someone with a cheerful attitude who was opened to strangers and always eager to lend a helping hand. Thus, I always imagined dwarfs as being a cheerful people, but the dwarfs I was seeing now were looking as though they were struggling between fear and doubt.
“Are these people really the dwarfs?” I asked as I saw the guards approaching us.
“Dwarfs are kind when they know you, but in general, they are a fearful bunch who live under the scrutiny of their laws and traditions. As you can see, there are numerous totems filling this port, and their garbs make them look as if they are trying to embody the spirit of the animal they worship.” Princess Elleyzabelle.
“They are quite xenophobic as well. Back when I was little, I heard about a dragon who got beaten to death for stepping on the docks before the King allowed him to do so.” Kataryna said.
“Yes. Of this law I am aware as well. We will wait on board of the ship until a representative of their nation arrives to speak with us. If they continue to ignore us, we'll attempt to force our way in just in case those found here sent the wrong message to his Majesty.” she ordered.
“Yes, your Highness!” the captain obeyed.
“How long do you think that will take?” I asked as I looked up and noticed the first snow flakes falling from the sky.
“Who knows?” Kataryna replied with a shrug.
Note from the author: Thank you for reading this chapter, I hope you enjoyed it! Oh, and be sure to check out my other stories too!
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