Iacaus & Cindar

From the future book, Aerandora


 

The assignment

“Cindar, I cannot just tell them I do not want to do it because the person is foolish,” Iacaus said in exasperation with his long time friend.

“Why not? If you know that the person has no sense, and that they are very likely to need more than one person with them, why not tell Mikaia that?” Cindar was equally exasperated about the whole situation.

Mikaia was the chief of the diplomatic security force. Anyone entering Aerandora was escorted the entire time they visited. Any time one of the royal family or their representatives went out of the country they were escorted as well. In most cases, in-country at least, only one highly trained man went with a guest or protectee as they traveled. The in-country escorts were given to the lower ranked, but Iacaus had been outside several times as a second when there was more than one to guard. Now it was just one. Seemingly a simple duty, but this woman was known to be busy, curious, and to not take advice from those who knew better. The rumor was that she had already asked for and gotten access to a zone in another country that was patrolled by fierce wolves. When the wolves attacked several of them were killed and the party retreated. Had there been only one person with her then that would not have been the result. Iacaus felt sorry for the wolves. It had been the people who had caused the aggression originally. If they had only been left alone…

“Well?” Cindar asked, the big dragon standing to his full height as if to bully Iacaus into doing things his way. His copper-red coat looked almost like flames in the sunlight. “Tell them they need more than one person. Tell them they need a squad. Tell them you are too ill to go. You are too ill if you take this assignment by yourself. Say ‘no’.”

Iacaus knew that dragons simply did not lie. For Cindar to make up an excuse that bordered on a lie meant that his friend was concerned beyond caring about lying. “No. I cannot do that. It is my assignment and I will not back down. If I did then I would be assigned to the bowyer the rest of my service. I might even be removed. What would you do?”

It seemed like Cindar was ready for that question. “I would ask my friends to discreetly accompany me. I would not have so much pride as to do at least that.”

Iacaus shrugged, “That’s easy for you to say, you have lots of friends.”

“What about those fellows you join to play music with in the atrium? You are with them nearly every night.”

“They are not friends. That is almost like a professional acquaintance. We play together, we better our skills, we even make up some of our own songs in the hope of being invited to one of the balls. There are a couple I play with more often. I do not know their name, just the instrument they play. You are my only friend.”

“And the soldiers you train with once a week? They even ask about you if you do not show up.”

“That is for duty. They are soldiers, they would not stop polishing their swords if a puny diplomatic escort asked anything. They would laugh if it was for help.”

Cindar glowered, Iacaus shrugged. As he stared at the big dragon, his thought went back to the day they met and later became bond…

 
Iacaus rushed through a street in Euphica that did not much look like where he had came before. His horse had shied twice at some rather unseeming people standing along the street. Why had he not gone back the way he came? Just because this looked shorter and he wanted to explore. Now here he was on a horse with the trappings of Aerandora, if not his appearance as well. He was dressed in the uniform of the Queen and escorting Her Representative. Well, he and Tima were. Tima told him to go and explore and to come back at sunset for his shift. Now he was lost and sunset had come and left. In a wide place where four streets came together he halted. Carefully he looked as listened for signs of the direction to the castle. At this rate he would not be there until dawn. As he stood he saw some movement in the alley to his right. His horse snorted at the silent men as they came into the street. “If only I had listed to you before, horse.” Iacaus thought as he stepped off of the horse to better use his sword. The odds were not in his favor at all.
Three of the five rushed him, the other two staying back as watchmen. His horse panicked and bolted and the distraction nearly cost him his life. Recovering, he parried and dropped, using every trick the Queen’s Guardsmen had taught him. Bouncing back up he struck the first man so that he would not rise again. Iacaus swung around to meet the next, acutely aware of the third and unsure how to defend from both. Suddenly a noise and a gust of air made the eyes of the man in front of him widen with fear. A peculiar snap noise made Iacaus forget the man he was facing and swing around, coming face to face with a sight that stories are made of. A giant red dragon, his coat looking like it was on fire, had neatly snapped the neck of the man who was about to attack from behind. He then turned and reached for one of the men who had been standing watch. His mate, and the one Iacaus had been fighting, turned and fled. This man met the same fate as the first who encountered the dragon. Iacaus would remember that sound until the end of his life.
The street was now quiet, Iacaus continued to face the dragon. “Thank you.”
In his mind a voice responded, “You are very welcome. I could not stand to watch someone die. Especially one whose only sin was being lost.”
“Sin? Stupidly, misfortune, pride. I never would have thought ‘sin’”
“It is a common fault of men, sin is. I think that everything that goes wrong in their lives can be traced to it.”
Iacaus was fascinated with the dragon’s philosophy, but he still had his obligation. “Could I bother you just a little longer? Could you show me which way I am to go to get to the castle?”
The dragon roared, laughing in the dragon way. “I will do one better than that, as you have fought so valiantly for a man who was where he should not be.” The dragon kneeled, lowering his shoulder and presenting his arm as a stepping stool. “Climb up, I will take you.”
Iacaus could not believe his fate. Not only was he speaking to a being that he did not think was true. He was being trusted to travel with him. “Thank you ever so much. My name is Iacaus,” he said, waiting for the normal response.
“Only those who are the most trusted friends know the name of a dragon. You may call me what you wish.”…

 

Now Iacaus was riding out to escort the ambassador to a range far above the capitol. They were to look at a place where a rock formation might remind her of the ones she knew were good for forging and to follow them down towards the valley below. The purpose was they might find a vein to harvest and trade. After they would stop at a village below the mountain. The pair would take supper there before riding back along a ridge trail. It was the ridge trail that Iacaus worried about. Steep, with plenty of cover for enemies to hide in. Recently there had been multiple sightings but little activity. The groups that had seen the trolls were squads, not a pair of humans. One was not even carrying a sword.

The day went well, their hosts went beyond what was considered hospitable, and they were starting out in time to be back to the capitol by dusk. As they were astride a village elder motioned Iacaus quietly aside.

“I want you to know I admire your spirit. They should not have sent anyone to travel alone along that road. We only make the journey in groups. Please be careful.”

Iacaus sighed, Cindar’s words echoing in his mind. “I can but make the journey and hope that Corellon will guide me.”

“May Corellon guide and protect you young friend.” The man bowed and stepped away.

Looking up the trail as it climbed ever northward, Iacaus reviewed in his mind every nook, cranny, and boulder. It was a straight trail, making a steady climb to where it leveled to approach the city. At that point the ride was easy and quick. And there the ground was set for an ambush. Anywhere else the fighting would be dangerous for both parties. The steep sides both uphill and down made it so the mountain would win any battle. There on the flat all sides had room. The party with the most numbers would win.

Over the next few hours the ride was tortuous. They stopped often to rest their horses and admire the view. Iacaus wanted the horses restored as much as possible before the last leg. They would make it as quickly as their tired beasts would stand. His protectee insisted on riding her own horse rather than the elven one that was offered. Her horse was strong and had shown good heart, but it was obvious to both that it was tired. Iacaus’ horse was tough and strong, he had hardly shown sign of the climb.

Just as they entered the clearing the sound of an arrow being loosed was followed by the equally sickening sound of it finding its mark. Iacaus whirled his horse to see the ambassador’s falling. Riding forward he pulled her onto his horse and turned toward Aerandora. His horse squealed but continued to run as an arrow buried deep into his rump. Iacaus spun in the saddle and brought the archer down with one arrow. Soon there were others, Iacaus answering each. He could feel his faithful steed stumble so he stepped off, pulling the woman off with him. With a swat he sent the poor beast flying hoping that it would get to the city and others would come before it was too late.

Pushing the woman ahead of him, he backed down the trail, carefully marking his targets so that it took one, and only one, arrow to do the job. As he shot he counted, his heart dropped as the number reached the limit. Throwing his bow to the ground he pulled his sword while he looked to see who among them was nearest. As he prepared to charge a roar covered the mountainside as a red dragon landed in the middle of them, summarily snapping the necks of two of the enemy.

“Run!” Cindar shouted, Iacaus mind rang with the order. “Run!” he said again as he caught up three this time.

“I cannot leave you,” cried Iacaus.

“You must. I did not come to watch you die with me.”

With one backwards glance Iacaus drug the startled woman with him, cursing her and all womankind as he left the only friend he knew to certain death. A mile down the trail he met the others as they rode past, but he already knew the outcome. The terrible roars had ceased and the enemy had probably retreated. He knew in his heart that he was alone.

 

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