Yes! At last, I can present to you Peder's story! Well... the first part... It was supposed to be a short story, but it turning into a kind of mini novel... That's my problem with writing: I tend to write TOO much.
It is still under-going some major editing, but I believe the first chapter is ready to share with you. So, without further ado...
All in a Day's Work
Part 1: The Chase Begins
The figure slunk from the shadows, heart racing. In the dark, dead hours of the night, his sharp eyes spotted the castle stables he'd worked in for the past two weeks. A tall, gray stallion stood just inside the doors, waiting.
It was done.
He had succeeded in retrieving what he'd come for. So, why the hesitation? After nearly running over the unsuspecting guard back inside the castle, his nerves were strung thin.
If he was caught...
He didn't want to think about that.
Mentally, he kicked himself for agreeing to do this job. At one point in his recent history, he could have done a job like this with ease and no after-thought. The past was past. Why did trouble always seem to hunt him down? Once again, he glanced both directions, then, with bundle under his arm and a quick breath, he darted for the stables–
Only to run smack into the keeper, who he'd thought was fast asleep with one of his best barrels at hand. Both men were knocked down at the collision, and the figure's hood was thrown back, revealing a shock of dark hair. Scrambling to his feet, the stablemaster's mouth opened wide in alarm and recognition.
“Hey! You–” But the cloaked man was faster. As if by magic, a dagger flashed in his free hand and the hilt connected with the stablemaster's jaw, dropping the unfortunate man like a stone.
The figure wasted no time running to the saddled horse and mounting with the ease of an expert rider. With a click and clatter of hooves, he was gone.
* * *
Peder Grey looked at his Elvish partner in disbelief.
“You can't be serious.”
Jaron's usual, expressionless features was thrown his way, this time with a slightly raised eyebrow, which to Peder meant he was dead serious.
“Well...” Peder said slowly, running a hand through sandy-blonde hair. “What do we do?”
Jaron looked at his young partner, his face taking on a look that could possibly pass as a grin.
“We wait,” he replied, knowing that was exactly what Peder did not want to hear.
“Wait?” the young man repeated. Peder's expression of exasperation almost made the Elf laugh. Almost. Jaron's gray eyes watched as the cadet began pacing, opening his mouth to speak, but shutting it again. He braced himself for a... brief argument.
“Jaron, you're telling me that a thief just escaped with a valuable document, containing information that could bring this kingdom to ruin, and we are lounging about in the forest watching the leaves fall? He's hours ahead of us by now! In fact, he's probably made his trade and is enjoying the luxury of a well-paid job.”
He stopped before Jaron with his hands held out and looked at his Elf friend, who stood against a tree, arms crossed and eyes closed.
Peder sighed, letting his arms fall to his sides.
“Aw, come on, Cap. If there's one thing I lack, it's patience,” he huffed. “There, I said it.”
Jaron opened an eye and glanced his way.
“I dass carnen?” Are you done? he asked in his native tongue. Peder looked away, ashamed of his outburst. He answered in the same language.
“Good.” Jaron nodded. “Now I can tell you why we are waiting.”
“You mean there's a reason for this madness?” he asked sheepishly as he rubbed the nape of his neck.
This time the Elvish man chuckled.
“There usually is.”
Glancing at the rising sun, Jaron noted the time: one hour till dawn.
The bundle had been stolen five hours earlier. It was their job to track down the culprit, recover the bundle, and stop what could result in a war. All considering, this was not a wholly unfamiliar situation. At least, not to Jaron.
They were Guards after all.
Jaron's blank expression changed to an icy glare once Peder's waving hand came into focus before his face. The young man took no notice, however, accustomed as he was to the Elf's stern, quiet ways.
“Hullo? Captain Jaron? You were saying?”
* * *
The dark figure slowed the horse to a walk. He didn't know how far he'd traveled. Hours, obviously, for the gradual light of dawn was nearly visible through the canopy of branches.
His heart still beat at a rapid pace. Urging the tired animal on, he forced his body to relax and looked around the quiet forest, wondering if he was pursued. After colliding with the stablemaster, his only thought was to flee. Now, a barrage of thoughts crowded his mind – the first being the objective of his mission.
A hand went to the black leather vest beneath his cloak, and froze.
Vaguely, he remembered the soft thud of an object as it fell to the dirt of the royal stables. In the following scuffle, he remembered kicking something further into the shadows of the stone walls. He sighed and signaled to the horse to move on.
A phrase entered his mind and he nearly laughed despite himself.
Well, there goes my reputation.
* * *
“It is important to answer a dragon with the utmost respect, being, as they are, one of the High Kynds. I needn't explain to you the consequences of getting on their bad side, do I?” Peder shook his head, visibly nervous at actually meeting one of these revered creatures, much less ride one, as Jaron had mentioned earlier. He'd heard of them before, of course, but they weren't usually known to associate with Men. At least not in Gondoa.
“Cap? Have you ever ridden a dragon before?”
After a moment's hesitation, the Elf answered.
“Yes,” he said, pulling on the reigns of his horse. Both horses stopped. “In my home country, dragon riding is as common as horse-back.”
With a flick of his wrist, Jaron started his horse once more. Peder had never heard the Elf mention a home. He'd always assumed his friend had been raised here, in Gondoa, or at least in the neighboring kingdom of Ardos. But now that he thought about it, Jaron was different from the few other Elves he'd met. His dark-brown hair, pulled into a small ponytail at the nape of his neck, blended well with the Gondian Men and Elves who lived there, but his skin shone as ivory-bronze, rich and deep in color – rivaling that of the fairer-skinned Elves native to Gondoa's forests.
“Your home country?” He clicked his tongue to the stubborn horse and moved to catch up with Jaron.
“Ná. Yes, Aranarth Nerisiir, or in your tongue: the realm of Neris.” This time Peder stared anew at his mentor. Neris? Neris was a legend. The Unreachable Kingdom.
He pushed aside the onslaught of questions and followed Jaron into the large, open clearing that had been scouted as their place of meeting, about five miles from the Castle Gond. The hour was a quarter past dawn.
Dismounting a good distance from the creatures, Peder had difficulty keeping the look of awe from his face when they approached the massive beasts. Only two dragons rested on their haunches in the mid-morning sun. Peder's sense of adventure had him thinking there would be a whole squadron of the creatures, but that was absurd. It was just one man. Another thought entered his mind: Why would we need dragons, of all creatures, to run down one man?
Following Jaron, he found himself before the larger of the two dragons. His name was Keighvyn, a magnificent white dragon of impressive size. Valtiiramir was the name of the second – a crimson female, whose slight, delicate build seemed quite the opposite of her companion's, though there was no doubt of her strength.
“Hail, Lord Keighvyn and Lady Valtiramiir, mellon nîn, my friends. May your wings never feel an ill wind. Welcome to the realm of Gondoa.” Jaron finished this greeting with a low bow and dropped to one knee. Peder did the same, and to his surprise Jaron actually moved and embraced the dragon Keighvyn, in a kind of forehead to forehead greeting.
“Greetings, Elvin-son and Man-son of Gondoa,” spoke the white dragon, raising his large head to look at them both. Addressing the Elf, he said, “It is good to see you once more, young Jaron Wandersong, son of Jeremiel. We have answered your call. Is there someway we may be of service?” As Keighvyn spoke, his large mouth barely moved, yet his words were as clear to Peder as if the dragon had said them into his ear. Jaron introduced Peder, then explained the situation and asked respectfully if they would agree to assist. Both dragons eagerly accepted the challenge. Within moments, plans were made to leave at once. Nervous, Peder moved to where Valtiramiir waited.
“Well met, young Peder,” greeted the she-dragon, her voice smooth and silky. She chuckled softly, “Have you ever ridden dragon-kynd before?” Rubbing his neck, Peder shook his head as he climbed astride her golden-red form, but quickly answered.
“No, my lady. This will be a first.”
“Well then, we shall make it one to remember. The saddle you see is rather simple. Your queer little feet fit into – what do you call them? horse steer-ups? – yes, like so. Next, comes the belt.” This was a leather strap that went about a rider's waist and was connected to the saddle by another strap. Used only as a precaution should the rider somehow lose his seat while flying mid-air. After a few more common-sense instructions and with a loud swoosh, both dragons leapt into the air and were soon above the heights of the great trees.
Thanks for reading! Don't forget to check back for the next part!!