~ Chapter 110: Rumors and whispers (Part 1) ~
[Alkelios' point of view]
The following day, Ildea greeted us with a smile and acted as though yesterday’s events didn’t have any effects on her. I didn’t know if she was putting up a strong front right now or if she had really taken into consideration Coshun’s words and wasn’t letting the words of the knights get to her. For now, we just had to wait and see.
Not long after we had our breakfasts, we returned to our rooms and packed our bags. We said our thanks and goodbyes to the innkeeper and then headed towards the gates. Our next stop was going to be at Olfango Village. There, we had in plan to get some supplies and maybe see if there were any interesting some passing rumors. This whole matter with the Queen's Sympathizers was definitely an interesting topic, but one which spelled troubled with a capital T.
Ildea didn't talk about what happened yesterdays, and we didn’t bring it up either. Unlike before, though, Coshun decided to stay closer to her. Just like a real gentleman, he made sure to help her out at every turn, but when looking at them, I was beginning to wonder why he was acting so friendly with someone who technically was part of the enemy's force. No, Ildea wasn't our enemy, but her kingdom definitely didn't like us dragons too much. They weren’t too fond of Human Heroes either.
I was honestly expecting her to end up staying quiet about this whole thing with the knights for the rest of our journey, but not long after we left the gates of Grinjar Trade City, she walked up to me and pulled my sleeve.
Looking back at her, I asked if there was something wrong, and this was what she replied:
“Alkelios, I thought a lot about what happened yesterday, about what you told me and about what it means to be the one to decide whether someone lives or not. To be honest, I never thought about it until now, and I never really gave it any thought when I was at the palace either. For a Princess, she just needs to make herself pretty so that her possible suitor would be charmed by her, however, after what Coshun told me, I began to wonder about what I would do if I did have more power...” she stopped and then looked down.
The dragon in question walked up to her and placed his hand on her shoulder, encouraging her to continue although he said no word.
“Thank you...” she told him with a gentle gaze and then turned looked back at me and said “I want to make a change, Alkelios.”
“What sort of change?” I asked her and narrowed my eyes at her.
“If we return to the capital, will you... will you help me dethrone father? If he stays in power, I fear for the future of my Kingdom and there's also the chance that he might order an attack on Albeyater as well. It might not seem like a possibility now, but I fear that in the future Akutan will only need to ask and my father will bow his head, considering how things are going... That is, if at that time there will still be a Ten Swords Kingdom at all and not a Akutan Empire Annex.” she said.
“You know that what you are asking of me, a Duke of Albeyater, can be seen as nothing but treason by your father, right?” I asked her.
“Yes. It's treason in his blind eyes and those of the current nobles, however, if we succeed, the history books will regard us as heroes rather than traitors... Besides, for the latter to happen, it would mean that you would need to lose or for I or my mother to somehow die.” she told me.
“Indeed.” I nodded, but when she spoke those words in front of me, I couldn't shake off the feeling that they held a lot of weight in them.
Actually, it wouldn't be so unreasonable to think of this as me getting a premonition of the future, one in which there was no Ildea or Queen of Ten Swords...
If this course of action is indeed for the better future of both this Kingdom and Albeyater Kingdom, then I wish for Ildea and her mother to survive whatever unfortunate events would befall them in the near future. I thought and then let out a sigh “Very well, I'll help you out. If this goes well, then Albeyater and Ten Swords will forge the very first human-dragon alliance in centuries if not millennia.”
“Isn't this the first human-dragon alliance?” Kalderan asked as he pointed at me and then towards the rest of our group.
“If you look at it that way, then yes.” I nodded.
“Alkelios... Thank you.” Ildea said with a soft smile as tears of happiness formed in the corners of her eyes and then rolled down her soft cheeks.
Within this Kingdom, the young princess had no ally and no chance of taking back her Kingdom, so she saw in me that small chance of grasping towards the improbability and impossibility of a better future for herself and her people. It was also the type of alliance which I honestly couldn't just toss off like it was nothing. While Ildea was still very young and inexperienced, I couldn't say I was doing any better either. I was good at fighting and maybe a bit at crafting, but when it came to politics and treachery done behind the scenes, I was a bit out of my element.
Anyway, for now, our current main goal was to reach the Ten Sword Capital, and as much as I would have wanted to just fly off to my wife’s side, I felt like listening to the God-like’s words of advice was better. Taking the scenic route had led me to some rather interesting encounters so far.
The others weren’t in a major hurry either, so while we traveled, we could gather information and hone our skills. Nonetheless, if anything urgent did pop up and Ildea begged me to fly her to the capital, I wouldn't mind spreading my wings for a bit. A high speed flight all the way to her father’s palace would take me no more than a few hours if I had judged the distance right.
Thus, almost two days later, we finally reached the Olfanga Village, where we were met with a rather peculiar sight. Instead of seeing the usual bored and oppressed villagers, these ones looked rather happy and cheerful. The guards were well equipped, having weapons and armors of similar quality as those in a big city, which meant that this settlement was doing quite well when it came to money. As for why this was so, it probably had something to do with the fact that this village was at a very important crossroad.
To the North was the Ten Swords Capital, to the West were the settlements to the North of the Levedar Lone Peak, while to the East was the road that took us to Mondarc Port City. And to the South was Grinjar Town City. In other words, no matter what path you took from here, you would end up in one of the major cities of the Ten Swords Kingdom.
There were a lot of merchant caravans here as well as tired adventurers looking for a place to sleep and dine. Instead of one or two inns, there were a total of six inns. This entire village appeared to have developed around the burning desire the weary travelers to have a resting stop on their way or from one of the big cities. That was why not only security but wealth in general was relatively high here when compared to another place like Orhiga Village for example.
“It won't take long before this place becomes a Town.” Kalderan pointed out as he looked around at the passing carriages.
“That would be the intent of several nobles around these parts. I heard them talking to father on several occasions, the problem is, they aren't decided yet on who is to rule over this settlement.” said Ildea as she stopped and looked at the welcoming sign of an inn.
“Something the matter?” asked Coshun.
“No, I just remembered that when I fled from the capital, this inn was one of the places where my butler and maid suggested we should rest. It's sad that... they aren't here anymore.” she replied.
“You survived for so long, which means that they did their job as servants.” he told her.
“Thank you.” she nodded.
“Should we stay here?” I asked.
“No... too many memories.” Ildea replied with a sad smile forming on lips.
We left this inn behind and continued to look for a more welcoming one.
Although during our journey we spent our nights at an inn and ate at their tavern, things weren't the same for other adventurers. Among all travelers, the merchants and nobles were the only one who could afford such a lavishing lifestyle. Anyone else either received a spot in the stables or were made to work for a place to sleep in a common room, which was usually rented to anyone willing to spend a coin for it.
As for the caravan guards, they weren’t even allowed to move away from their object of duty. They had to keep a constant eye on the carriages and merchandise of their employers. Only in case of emergency or a noble’s order would they take a step aside. That was why all the carriages in the village had a couple of campfires lit right next to them.
So far, I had yet to see a Black Company caravan here, which was for the best. Considering the sort of wish I made last time I had a scuffle with them, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were on the brink of bankruptcy right now.
Another thing I noticed while walking down these streets was the fact that neither Coshun nor Tamara were receiving as many hateful glares as they did back in Grinjar. Maybe the people here were far more used to the presence of a relliar and a draconian walking among them, or maybe they simply didn’t want to bother with causing trouble to someone here. After all, at this crossroads, chances were we would either travel in the same direction the next morning or never see each other again.
As long as I didn’t bother myself to stand out, they weren’t going to bother themselves to go through the trouble of acting up against us.
In the end, circling the village one more time, the inn where we decided to stop for the night was a modest one located at the far end of the market. It appeared to be built with a type of red wood and while the rooms for renting were located in the adjacent building and at the top floors, the ground floor was transformed into a lively tavern. The strong scent of ale and cooked meats was coming from inside, but it wasn’t so bad. The owner kept clean and the waitresses seemed to be nice.
We had four women in our group, so for them we rented a separate big room, while we stayed in the one next to theirs. The price was a bit spicy, ten silver coins, a lot more expensive than any of the other inns we stayed at until now, but Ildea assured me that the prices were just going to go up the closer we got to the capital. This was a big reason why a lot of commoners left the area for the outskirts, which were cheaper to live in.
Right now, this inn had as extinguished guests a merchant and his close associates. They stayed in the best rooms and received the best table at the tavern. We were told not to bother them, and we had no intention to do so. Their caravan was right outside, and their guards were keeping a close eye on it. An important thing to mention about it though was the fact that it was being pulled by donkeys and not horses.
I found those creatures a bit funny, but at the same time, I couldn't help but wonder if a donkey Khosinni existed somewhere on the Dragon Continent. I did ask Coshun about this, but he didn't seem to be aware of any creature like that. He doubted anyone would find use for a six-legged four-eyed donkey anyway. Those beasts were akin to monsters for the humans here and if one were to charge at a regular farmer, they would turn him into meat paste.
That being said, besides the large number of merchants heading in and out of the Ten Swords Capital, we were also curious about the large number of adventurers here. From my point of view, they were a bit too many when compared to other villages we came across. The various armors made of monster parts and weapons sometimes too big for their own bodies reminded me a lot of the characters in certain video games.
Back then, we all laughed at the prospect of having a warrior with skinny hands wielding a sword ten times heavier than himself or three times bigger, but among the dragons there were a lot of them who could do just that. The idea of not being able to wield something like that was a laughing matter among them.
Still, I found it curious that the vast majority of them were only individuals who appeared to be of European descent among them, or as dragons would say white-scales. There were a few who reminded me of Africans and Asians, but I couldn't remember if there was any actual distinction among them like there was on Earth. Taking a bite at the bullet, after we checked in at the inn, I asked Amadeus about this.
“I can't really say that there are any countries or regions that worry that much about the way their skin looks. In the Akutan Empire there are a lot of both nighters and goldens as well as fireskins and lighters, but I don't remember being told if they come from a specific country or not. They are all just different variants of the human species like there are draconians with different scale colors.” he told me.
“Alkelios, in a world where everyone can become a slave and there are other species vastly superior than the humans from many points of view, the idea of race supremacy is ridiculous, a pure nonsense concept.” Kalderan explained.
“What is race supremacy?” Amadeus asked tilting his head to the left.
“The concept that a human of a certain skin color is superior to another to the point that they unwillingly start to see themselves as different species.” Kalderan replied.
“That sounds like a bad joke.” he replied.
“I wish it was, but on the world where the human heroes come from, this argument sparked countless wars and led to the deaths of many innocents.”
“Maybe simply because humans didn't have a common enemy other than themselves or maybe our ancestors simply loved the idea of killing each other and needed a good reason to wage war. Right now, no one knows for sure, but the effects of their beliefs from that time remained as scars even in our present time.”
“Pardon me for interrupting, but I do believe that what you speak may be similar to something that happened in the long history of our Dragon Continent.” Coshun said.
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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