Side Story Three
Two Years Ago
The Trap Three
“Welcome to Elapyron City, warriors.” The tall, mail-clad fire haltia who met them at the city gates bowed. “The Council sends its apologies for not being here to greet you personally, but they’ve been in emergency session since the Life Warrior sent us notice that the Core Gate may be the Dragon Knights’ next target. I am Aodh, the city’s warden. I have prepared chambers in the central complex for your use. Please follow me.” He turned and strode back through the gates towards a second wall in the centre of the city.
Though city didn’t seem the right word. From what Karen could see, the entire place was barely larger than a large village. She’d be very surprised if more than a couple of thousand people lived here. Then again, none of the settlements they’d seen had been that big.
“It’s one of the largest,” Kyle whispered. “Though I believe Caerdu and Waldhafen are a little larger. Their diet would make cities like at home impractical.”
“Huh?” Karen blinked at him. How had he known what she was thinking? “Was I leaking?”
Kyle frowned and shook his head. He was rubbing at his arms uncomfortably. “I don’t think so. I think it’s me. I’m picking up all kinds of crap since last night.” He reached out and squeezed her hand. “Not that I’m calling your thoughts crap.”
“You’re getting hypersensitivity?” Sean asked. “That’s probably your age, you know. You’re likely to mature very soon.”
“I hope not.” Kyle winced. “This would be very bad timing. We really don’t need me collapsing in the middle of a fight.”
Sean frowned as if considering something, but nodded. “You’re right, but I don’t think that it’s a thing you’ll have much control of. It’ll happen when it happens and you and I are both around the right age.”
Kyle looked like he might reply to that, but Aodh had led them through the second set of gates and into a compound of beautiful Grecian-like buildings. The entire group paused to gawk. ”
“Your city is beautiful,” Karen said softly.
“Not as lovely as Waldhafen,” he replied. “But we like it. Come, I’ll take you to your rooms and you can rest until the council are ready for you.”
“Who are the walls meant to protect against?” Sean asked. “I mean they’re obviously defensive but they’d be no use against dragons…”
“Few things are any use against dragons. Even Caerdu only held out during its siege because it’s a mountain,” Aodh replied. “No, Elapyron’s defences were built to defend against the outlanders.” He made a strange growling sound.
“Outlanders?” Sean asked. “Like renegades.”
Aodh shook his head. “Even dragons won’t touch outlanders most of the time. They live in the free reaches and being that close to so much mabain drives them crazy. They have trouble breeding and finding enough food out there. We’re the only city in easy reach of the free reaches so they raid us.”
“For recruits?” Kyle asked. “I’d never heard about this problem.”
“That and food. They tend to be cannibals. Honestly, I’m nearly three hundred years old and we have never had a dragon raid in my lifetime, but the outlanders raid us all the time and no one helps.” Aodh’s tone became soft and bitter. “They tell us we’re so lucky not to be attacked by dragons and surely these outlanders aren’t that much trouble. They’re just Speakers after all.” He shook his head angrily. “Dragons do less damage and kill less people. The council are working on some way to contain the outlanders, but I don’t hold out much hope.”
He sighed and stopped outside one of the larger and prettier marble buildings. “I’m sorry, our problems are not yours. You really do only need to worry about the dragons. Here are your chambers. Rest for a while, the council will discuss defending the Core Gate with you over a feast this evening.”