Finished with his meal, Thomas checked to see that Aeden and Gregory were done. “Gregory, you mentioned that we needed to talk. Let’s do that now, if you’re ready,” Thomas said. “Lady Aeden, could you also come with us? I’ve got some questions I need answered.”
“Of course, my lord,” Gregory responded. Lady Aeden nodded in agreement. Following them from the great hall, Thomas looked furtively at the others who remained. Several of the men-at-arms were staring steadily at Aeden as she and Gregory left the room. He frowned.
HellReaver, can you keep watch on those men? They feel off.
Of course, the Sword of Light responded. Lady Aeden frightens them. They are afraid that she will see into their hearts or read their minds. Fear holds them prisoner, but they plan nothing right now. HellReaver told him.
I didn’t think to ask you about Owen. I don’t understand what is going on with him. Why is he so…prickly? Thomas asked the sword.
There was silence as Thomas walked toward Gregory’s office. I’m not sure. He is very confused and angry about something. He is very good at keeping that hidden. He needs a task.
Thomas’s eyes widened in surprise and narrowed thoughtfully as he walked. “Hmm.”
He turned into the door to Gregory’s office and stopped abruptly. Gregory and Aeden stood at the window looking out on the Lady Tower garden, staring in disbelief at what sat at its heart.
A huge black Dragon, twice as large as Lady Aeden in her Dragon form, sat precisely in the middle of the garden. Tail curled neatly around its feet, enormous head tilted to bring shining black eyes level with the window, it stared calmly into the room.
“Oh...my…gods,” Thomas whispered in shock.
Aeden strode forward and unlatching the window, pushed it open into the frosty evening twilight. She gave a slight bow to the massive figure.
Straightening, she shook her head in bemusement. “My lord, what brings you to Red Dragon’s Keep?”
With a toss of its head, a whirlwind obscured the glittering black eyes and glistening black scales, scarcely stirred the branches of the fruit trees that grew in the garden. When the whirlwind died into stillness, a man stood in the Dragon’s place. He was clothed in supple black leather, black knee-high riding boots, and a midnight cape seemingly sprinkled with starlight and trimmed with the white fur of mountain dire cats.
I sensed the wards breaking when the Claiomh Solas’ woke. I have come to test the binding.
Thomas and Gregory jerked in surprise at the thunderous voice in their minds. Thomas’s hand drifted to HellReaver’s hilt and grasped it firmly. He started to pull the Sword of Light from its scabbard.
Thomas, you stand before the Arach Ri, the Dragon King. He it was who set the warding to keep your family safe. There is no danger here. HellReaver spoke quietly in his mind. Be calm and listen.
The creature in the garden shifted to face Thomas. His black eyes, set above a large prominent nose on a long saturnine face, gleamed as he caught Thomas’s eyes with his. Thomas felt as if his mind was under attack. Without thought, he slammed his shields into place. He took a step back, away.
A slow smile stretched thin lips on the creature’s face. Well done, Thomas Arach. You are worthy of HellReaver.
Anger at the intrusion into his mind flared as Thomas glared at this fabulous beast out of legend, a creature of magic created by the first mages. Thomas turned his head toward Lady Aeden, his eyes still captured by the Dragon.
“Lady, I assume this is your father,” he said with rigid politeness. “Would you be so kind as to introduce us? Although, perhaps we don’t need introductions, after he’s been rummaging in my mind!”
The Dragon King broke eye contact with Thomas, threw his head back and gave a shout of laughter.
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