Chapter 4:

The Anguish of Dragons

Tales of the Eternal King: The Heretic King Part II: The Springtime of Our Discontent

Katrina woke to the smell of bacon and other breakfast foods cooking. The night before she slept on a futon of some kind more comfortable than her bed back at the palace in Garran City.

She was sharing this bedding with the black skinned woman named Escah, the wife of the spice merchant that saved her the day before. However, she was alone when she woke up.

She rubbed the sleep from her eyes and got up and climbed down from the wagon.

Roe was standing by the fire using a long fork of some kind to move the bacon and sausages in the black cast iron skillet sitting on a grate above the fire.

Escah was sitting by the fire drinking some sort of hot liquid from a black cup.

She turned to Katrina, smiled and said, “Good morning. I hope you slept well. I didn’t toss or turn too much did I?”

“No, you were fine. I haven’t slept this well for the last few months.”

Roe said, “Breakfast should be ready in a jiffy. Do you want some tea?”

“Yes please.” She accepted a cup from Escah then allowed Roe to pour the black liquid from a kettle.

She sipped the tea and exclaimed, “This tea is divine!”

Roe said, “This is among my wears for sale. It’s an herbal black tea that will be sure to get you started in the morning.”

Katrina nodded then asked, “I was wondering if you knew anything about any other survivors from my troops yesterday?”

Roe shook his head and said, “Sorry, but there were no survivors that we know of. It appears that even those who tried to surrender were executed.”

She closed her eyes, and she felt her tears run down her cheeks.

After a couple of minutes, she opened her eyes and said, “I want to thank you again for saving and hiding me. I’m curious as to exactly how you did that.” And she looked at Roe.

“Like I said, we have our ways.”

Escah asked, “So, what are your plans? Do you have any ideas what you’re going to do next?”

She thought about it a moment then said, “I need to get to the territory of the Emerald Kingdom as soon as possible. I’d be happy to pay you if you would help me get there.”

Roe looked to Escah and said something in a language that Katrina didn’t understand.

Escah responded in the same language then they both turned to her and Roe said, “We’d be happy to escort you. But isn’t this Emerald Kingdom lands?”

“Well, it’s supposed to be. But the Ruby King annexed it a few months ago. The same time they took over the city of Stiarra Nor.”

Roe said, “Yes, we heard about it. Isn’t it unusual to march an army in winter?”

“Yes, very unusual. It’s actually considered a military sin to do so. Forage is scarce and the cold is hard on the troops. We even had some nasty winter storms during that time. Yet somehow they were able to pull it off.” She shrugged.

Escah said, “Well, it didn’t pay off in the long run.”

“No, it didn’t. The new king of Tier definitely out maneuvered them. I would love to know how he was able to draw them out from the city into an open battle. It would have behooved them to stay in the city and wait out a siege. No way could a sieging army have survived waiting outside the city. Forage problems and cold would have done them in.”

“What have you heard about the details of the battle?” Roe asked as he took a plate and started putting bacon and sausages on it.

“The details that made it back to us were scant. The one thing that made some sense was there was a dragon involved. Rumor has it that it was a black dragon at that. The famous Duchess Xyarra Swarden no less. I would love to know how they were able to convince her to involve herself in the matters of us mere mortals.”

Roe looked to Escah and their looks appeared to be full of meaning because Escah nodded and then Roe looked back at her and said, “Well, your highness, We will definitely see to it that you get back to the nearest city under the Emerald Kingdom’s control.”

Katrina looked at him stunned, “You know who I am?! How?!”

“Like I said, we have our ways.”

She looked at him suspiciously then nodded, “I see. I would guess that as a merchant, you make it a point to learn all you can about the goings on within a country that you’re visiting.”

“Right. You can say that. Well, the nearest city is the independent Principality of Polk. What I’ve heard is that they are strictly neutral right now.”

“Yes, they are. Yet it wouldn’t be good for them to find out who I am. They would happily turn me over to the Ruby King for the 100,000 Shek reward they are offering for my head.”

“I suspect that you’re worth more alive at this point.”

“Yes, I would think. Anything to convince my mother the Queen to surrender.”

Roe nodded then said, “I’ll tell you what, your Highness, we will see to your getting to the next city under your control, but unfortunately we’re going to have to pass through the lands of Polk to get there.”

“Yes, I know.” And she accepted the plate that Roe handed her.

Escah handed her a couple of warm biscuits too.

Roe served up a plate to Escah and said, “In the meantime, we eat.”

They all ate quietly. Katrina enjoyed the breakfast much too fine to be standard travel fare. She was really beginning to wonder who these people were that she was traveling with. All she knew was that they were much more than they appeared.

They rescued her from something like thirty or more Ruby Kingdom Legionnaires from their Forth Legion. Yet, she has only seen three of them. Roe, Escah and the mysterious Jade.

She had come to the forgone conclusion that they were not simple spice merchants. Yet she didn’t detect any mana from either Roe or Jade and the power that Escah emanated was maybe that of a tier one mage at best.

Finally, she decided to push the issue, “I am pretty sure that you are indeed agents of Tier. Are you not?”

Roe looked again at Escah and they looked at each other for a few seconds then Escah turned to her and said, “You could say that.”

“Then I have a request for you.”

Roe asked, “And that is?”

“That you send word back to King Rowen of Tier that the Emerald Kingdom wishes to form an alliance with him. Both the Ruby and Amber kings are violating our long-standing traditions and alliances formed over five hundred years ago when the Grand Empress had quintuplets to inherit the throne. They are also dangerously threatening the peace of the lands and the people within.

“So far, the Diamond and Sapphire Kingdoms are staying out of this, but I suspect that Queen Esmerelda, the Sapphire Queen will come to our side soon, but we can’t wait that long to find out.”

Roe looked to Escah again, Katrina suspected that they were communicating somehow because after what seemed a couple of minutes, Escah sighed, shrugged, and then nodded.

Roe then turned back to Katrina and said, “Very well, you will have your alliance.”

Katrina was stunned. She asked, “Isn’t that presumptuous of you to commit to that, being just an agent of the king?”

Roe said, “I never said that I was an agent of the king, we are agents of Tier though. To be precise, as King, I am the chief agent of Tier.”

Rowen sat on the bench of the spice cart as they moved along. They had been harassed by two Ruby Kingdom patrols already that morning.

He looked over at Princess Katrina and Xyarra who were casually chatting. The illusion that Xyarra had cast on Katrina made her skin and hair as black as X’s so that made the interceptions from the patrols go a good deal smoother.

Obviously, Katrina’s facial features and curly hair made her different than Xyarra but, the soldiers apparently didn’t look beyond her skin color. It seemed that dark skin color wasn’t a popular feature for a woman here in the Five Kingdoms.

It was surprising though that Katrina still looked as beautiful as she did before, even with the nearly black skin from the illusion.

Libido, “You know you should add her to your harem?”

Consciousness, “I haven’t heard from you in a while. My four wives are enough, thank you.”

Libido, “What’s wrong with a little variety.”

Consciousness, “You’re kidding me! We have a Foxia, a High Elf, a Greentree Elf and a Dragon no less. All of which are knockouts. What more variety could you want?!”

Logical, “A marriage to her could cement your countries’ relations you know.”

Xyarra, “The four of us should be enough, but you do have a point there about cementing our relations with the Emerald Kingdom.”

Consciousness, “Oh yeah, you’re here.”

Xyarra turned and looked at Rowen and winked.

Rowen remembered the discussion he had with Xyarra the night before after Katrina had gone to bed.

“So, are you going to tell me why you have been acting…jealous lately?”

Xyarra said, “I have the right to be jealous. You dote way too much on Kit. Just because she can give you a pup or two, doesn’t make her more special than the rest of us…than me!”

“So that’s it. Xyarra, I know you told me that you can’t have any children. Do you think that I would value you less, do you think that I’d love you less for that?” his voice mild and loving.

He then went on, “I’m sorry, but Kit is my first true love. So, of course I would be clingier with her. But you’re the first one that I met here, even if it was in our minds. I value you just as much. But there is something else that had occurred to me. After spending time with and talking to the Rias, I’ve realized I have far less time available with Kit than I have with you and the others. She will eventually grow old and die. I want to treasure that time with her. Whatever time that is.”

Xyarra looked stubborn, then thoughtful then said, “I see your point. I’m sorry but this whole mission also has me thinking about my nephew. He was like a son to me, so precious. I wanted to have a child with you as well. Not that they would replace him, but since you remind me of him…it’s so damn frustrating!”

She turned to Rowen and said, “Over 1500 years of life still doesn’t prepare you for loss of those you love.”

“I understand.” And he held her close, “I wish I could take away your pain. Since I can’t do that then please feel free to lean on me and share your pain. I’ll try to help you carry it.”

Rowen was brought back to the present as he saw that they were approaching a set of gates that had a line of carts and other people waiting to be allowed entry.

He said, “Well, this looks like this will take some time. X, put your contacts back in…you know, just in case.”


“Yeah, yeah, I just don’t want us to have to make a mess here if they find out that you’re a dragon.” He said that in his mind.

The gate was an entry and customs gate to the lands of Polk. The City of Polk was still a ways off. Apparently, there were soldiers there checking carts and people more thoroughly. On the outside of the gate were Ruby Kingdom Legionnaires and on the other side were the black liveried soldiers of Polk.

Xyarra said to Rowen’s mind, “That officer over there. Wasn’t he the one who checked us yesterday?”

Rowen looked and nodded. He thought to her, “He seemed a decent enough fellow. I don’t think he’ll be a problem.”

Xyarra, “But he’ll know that you only had one wife yesterday. Now you have two.”

Rowen looked thoughtful and said, “I think that that won’t be a problem. I’m going to try a trick that the Rias taught me.”

He then said to Katrina, “Keep your veil on. Stay quiet and we should be fine.”

She nodded.

Finally, they made their way to the checkpoint outside the gate and the officer looked up at Rowen and said, “Ah, Master Roe, we meet again.”

He then looked at Xyarra and Katrina. He squinted his eyes as if in scrutinizing them.

Rowen projected his memory of their encounter the day before into the officers mind, but instead of the actual memory he added Katrina in the memory.

The officer said, “I trust your…” he coughed, “lovely wives are doing well?”

“As always, Subaltern. They are truly my blessing.”

The subaltern said dryly, “Yes, quite.”

He turned to the other soldiers and said, “They are alright. Let them through.”

Rowen smiled and said, “Thank you very much, sir. May you have many blessings in your future.”

Rowen clucked his tongue and moved Baldy who was pulling the cart along.

Then they entered the gate and a black clad soldier said, “State your business in the City of Polk?”

“We’re spice merchants, and we have some exotic spices from the south and far east.”

The soldier motioned for two other soldiers to search the cart and he said, “So, you know that Ruby bastard of an officer?”

“His patrol checked us yesterday, sir.”

The soldier, obviously a Sargent or equivalent just grunted and nodded. Then he said, “Seems someone got away from them yesterday because they were camped out on the other side of the gate first light this morning.”

“Ah, I see. Well, there was some kind of battle yesterday. We weren’t close enough to see it but we sure heard it.”

The soldiers finished searching the cart and said to the Sargent, “Nothing unusual Sargent.”

He nodded and said, “That’ll be one Shek per person, one for the cart and another for the horse.”

Rowen nodded and reached into his purse hanging from his belt and fished out five Shek.

After clearing the gate, the traffic was slow, so they weren’t making any quick headway. Katrina and Xyarra let out a breath as if they were holding it and Xyarra asked, “How did you pull that off?”

“I just projected the memory of both of you being there yesterday into his head.”


Katrina looked puzzled.

Xyarra said, “Row here not only can use runes but also psionics.”

Katrina looked stunned then, “Really?”

“Yes, he can…” Xyarra turned her head and then she let out a guttural growl that sounded like it came out of her dragon form.

Rowen looked to see where she was looking and saw a woman and two men. The woman dressed in red leather armor with a long red cloak, the men dressed in green leather.

Xyarra said to Rowen’s mind, “Take the princess somewhere safe. Those were the three that burned me those months ago.”

“Right!” and he jumped up and grabbed Katrina by her shoulders and pulled her into the back of the cart.

Katrina said, “Hey!” surprised.

Rowen then took his ring out and “unpacked” the mirror, activated it and shoved Katrina through it saying, “Stay there until I come get you!”

Katrina found herself laying on the floor of an ornate looking office. There was a Foxia woman sitting behind the desk looking at her surprised.

Katrina looked back the way she came and saw only her reflection in a large mirror.

Suddenly she found herself surrounded by guards. The leader of which was a Hassen woman with a sword.

The Foxia woman said, “Wait! She wouldn’t have been able to travel the mirror gate unless King Rowen sent her. Let’s hear what she has to say.”

The Road outside of Polk:

Xyarra saw the trio of disguised dragons waiting by the side of the road and growled. She knew them as the rogue dragons that attacked her those many months ago. She knew that they wouldn’t have hurt her had she not been distracted with Row that time.

Now, she was not distracted. She knew Row would take care of the princess and himself. She launched herself from the cart charging directly at the red clad woman, transforming into dragon form as she moved through the air towards her. She roared, “Dalmia you traitor!” and she grappled her.

Dalmia was only able to half transform into dragon form when Xyarra hit her.

Xyarra was able to rip her right wing off in the bud of transformation.

The two green dragons began to transform themselves but suddenly found themselves in much greater peril. The few who hadn't fled yet reported an unearthly howling sound at the same time the two green dragon's heads were slammed to the ground by what they could only describe as some sort of winged shapes striking them from above. One small girl who was almost next to the larger of the two green dragons was heard later to say, "The Angels saved me."

The bladed spears struck their skulls unexpectedly from above, driven at over three hundred miles an hour. the ancient metal forged by master craftsmen; were up to the task, as were their aim. Their scream scattered or stunned all who heard it. The greens were young and never knew what hit them. Even if they had seen them, they wouldn't have believed it.

The civilians along the road started screaming and running, leaving their belongings behind in shear panic. In the major panic of two full-fledged dragons fighting here on the ground, most never noticed two figures slip away from the bodies of the young greens who never made it into the fight, their bladed spears now looking like simple staffs in the hands of fleeing women.

The sisters had to find a space to recover and reset. They had helped Ebon even the odds, but their greatest weapon was surprise and secrecy. Standing in the middle of two mature dragons having a full-fledged fight to the death would only distract Ebon.

"Come sister, we can reset our disguises and move to block any of the Ruby troops from moving in." she looked over at her dark-haired sister. Both their faces were still flushed from their dive and the adrenaline of the sudden attack and strike. The attack was a calculated risk, but they owed Ebon. They reversed their cloaks and shifted their gear around to change their appearance as they crept back around to watch the approach to Ebon's wagon.

Xyarra said, “Dalmia, you have wronged me and my house for the last time. I will now end you!”

“Try it you old black bitch!”

Xyarra used her foreclaw to swipe at Dalmia’s shoulder, drawing a three-pronged gash across it.

She said, “You have haunted my steps for the last time. Reject from the house Roden!”

“Once this is done, I shall be Queen of House Roden! I will see House Swarden burned to the ground!” and Dalmia whipped her tail around with its sharp point towards Xyarra’s eyes.

Though Dalmia was a quarter larger than Xyarra, she wasn’t able to get any leverage to use her extra mass against her.

Xyarra was swift and accurate. She had many centuries of experience fighting. She wasn’t called the Black Terror for nothing.

Dalmia’s tail missed its mark and smashed several carts on the road, killing a team of horses that were not able to flee because of the weight of the cart they were harnessed to.

Xyarra took advantage of her body being extended too far and slammed her jaw onto Dalmia’s spine.

Dalmia fell over sideways and rolled into a river running parallel to the road.

Xyarra, with a single flap of her wings, sprung up and landed on the red dragon’s flank with all four of her sets of claws. She then wrapped her tail around Dalmia’s and used her wings talons to hook into her throat. Then by arching her body she levered her-yard-long claws into the red scales on the other dragon’s flank.

Scales snapped and popped, and the claws began to draw blood from the soft flesh underneath.

Dalmia struggled to break free but Xyarra was too strong and her grip was too great.

Xyarra said, “Now, you will wish you never tried to get me a second time!”

Dalmia said, “Who says that this is about you?! For all we knew, you were rotting in the Dragon Spine mountains.”

Xyarra paused and arched her neck back in surprise.

That shift in her position gave Dalmia the opportunity she needed to break free and finally leverage her extra mass against Xyarra.

Dalmia reversed her position and was now astride Xyarra’s back, pinning her wings down.

Dalmia then arched her head back, opened her jaws. Within her mouth a red glow began to brighten as she prepared her fyre breath.

There was a single report from a rifle then Dalmia’s fire gland on her left side burst open and exploded in her mouth pouring flames down her throat. Then her head exploded fountaining flames upwards to the sky.

Xyarra pushed the dying red dragon’s body off of her and watched as the headless body thrashed about in the river.

Xyarra looked over to the cart to see Rowen with his rifle in his hands, using Jade’s shoulder as a shooting bench.

Xyarra looked around to see that the only living people around were unconscious from fear or injury. She then returned to human shape and walked back to Rowen saying, “Thanks Row.”