Samlep

Chapter 6 — Part 2 — Samlep

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Flinn sighed as the town finally came into view beyond a hill. It had taken longer than he had expected to reach Samlep, due in no small part to Asëa’s insistence on walking rather than riding like a normal person. Miithi was much the same, though at least he would ride from time to time. Well, the elf could do what she wanted, but he wanted to reach town sooner rather than later. Tapping Aether’s flank, he set off at a slightly quicker pace. Miithi and Asëa had to jog to keep up, and he reluctantly reined in to match their pace. Bloody elf!

“This is Samlep,” he said, as they reached the first houses. “The city started where the humans from Wengale originally met with the gnomes of Stonexus. It is along one of the major trade routes, as well, so it’s grown to be quite the city.” At least compared to Tinsville, and from what he had gathered, that was about the largest village most of the others had seen.

“Yep yep!” Cherdle chimed in. “We named it after a guy named Sam!”

“Where’d the ‘lep’ part come from?” Flinn asked. He had always wondered that.

“Why not?” Cherdle asked, before stopping. “Oh! Right. It’s from Gnome. It means about the same thing as your ‘ville’ or ‘ton.’ Like, Tinsville. Samlep.”

“Oh, I see,” Flinn said.

“I wonder if anyone in the town can cast Scrying…” Asëa said slowly.

“I should hope so,” Esmeralda said, glancing around curiously.

“Um, excuse me,” a guard said as they walked closer. He did not sound friendly. “Care to explain your….” He trailed off, eyeing Trailblazer and the hippogriff — Asëa said she was called Skybeak — warily.

“I’m Flinn Urvan Kylier,” Flinn said. “Of the Third Royal Cavalry.”

“And Trailblazer is our friend,” Asëa said, pointing at the elemental. “And so is Skybeak,” she added, pointing at the hippogriff.

“They are under my care,” Flinn added hastily. “I won’t let anything happen.” Asëa eyed him quizzically.

“Third Royal Cavalry?” the guard said, before turning to another guardsman behind him. “You there, get the Captain. And tell him what our soldier has brought with him. Quickly, man!” He turned back to face Flinn. “Wait here, please. The Captain should be with you shortly.”

Flinn nodded, and turned to the others. “Well, this situation’s gonna be hard to explain, but we’ll just have to do what we can. I don’t think they’ll turn us away after we meet the captain.” Asëa muttered something under her breath, but Flinn could not hear her. Sometimes he wondered if she tried to provoke people. She had been banished — or worse — from two towns already in under two weeks. Flinn hoped very much it would not soon be three.

After a few minutes, a soldier walked over. He wore fullplate, adorned with the crest of the Stone Dogs, Stonexus’ army. “You there, in the armor! You gave your name as Flinn Urvan Kyler, yes? Of the Third Royal Cavalry?”

“Yes, sir!” Flinn replied. Asëa shifted beside him, before turning her back on the captain and walking toward Skybeak. She must do it on purpose.

“Well, you are wearing the proper crest,” the Captain said slowly, ignoring Asëa. “You’re a new recruit, yes?”

“Yes, sir!”

“Remind me, how did you come to join the Royal Cavalry?”

“I was a former bandit who survived the battle and was given the chance to enlist, sir.”

“Excellent,” the captain said. “Just as your file says. And this is…?” he said, indicating Aether.

“The warhorse I ventured from Karona with, sir. She was listed under the name Glenis back in Karona, but I’ve taken a liking to a different name.”

“Yes, yes. Now, before I let you in…. Care to explain the fire elemental?”

“As I already said, she is our friend!” Asëa said from behind him, still rubbing the hippogriff down.

“Can you be sure that your ‘friend’ will not cause any unwanted fires?” the captain asked her.

“Yes, I think so,” Asëa said absently. “She did not cause any trouble in Tinsville.”

“Yeah, the Succubus got there first,” Boots said, and Flinn stifled a curse.

“Ah, Tinsville,” the captain said, seeming not to have heard. Flinn breathed a sigh of relief. “Yes, that city does have quite a lot more wooden buildings than we do. Hmm… I’ve heard many… Succubus?” Flinn sighed and opened his mouth, but the captain held up a hand, forestalling him. “I… I think you had better come with me, regardless.”

“Yes, sir…” Flinn said. They all do it on purpose!

“Yes, we ran into some problems in Tinsville,” Asëa said, turning to face the captain at last. “We really need to see someone who can cast Scrying. Do you know of any such person?”

“I’m sure we can find someone,” the Captain said. “However, first there is someone else that I would like you to meet….”


Isadora watched appraisingly as the Captain led the party in. They were quite a ramshackle group. Kylier was nearly too tall for the training she had in mind, but once he was in more appropriate armor, he would be suited perfectly to larger mount. It was a shame the elf was not in the military, her stature was much better suited to flying, though something would have had to be done with her hair. A Raptorian walked in after the elf. Now that was a surprise, they were rare enough, let alone apart from their flock. Now he would make a good rider, and never mind the extra height. She imagined the possibilities, diving from your mount in battle, and able to land safely? The other human followed him in, and though he wore armor, she was certain he had never been in any military. By the sway in his pace, Cloudmail was surprised she did not smell the alcohol on his breath from here. The others seemed to be mostly civilians, though she never could tell with gnomes. Ah, and a cat the human woman carried a cat. Unless she missed her guess, that made the woman either eccentric, or a wizard. Or more likely, both. A motley crew, to be sure, but they had a hippogriff. It was clearly wild. It took a special kind of person to befriend a wild hippogriff.

Kylier was looking at the crest on her armor, confusion etching his face. Very few people outside their order would recognize that insignia, a silver dragon and a white pegasus, flanking a mountain overlooking a lake. The captain dropped to his knees in salute, of course, but Kylier…. Well, he would learn.

“...Sir? Captain?” he asked, looking at the Captain in confusion. The Captain, for his part, glared back, but before he could berate the boy, Cloudmail spoke. “At ease, Captain. He likely has not encountered one of order before.”

“Y-yes, ma’am!” the Captain stuttered, rising.

Cloudmail ignored him. “I am Lady Cloudmail. I have been told that your name is Kylier. Flinn Urvan Kylier, am I correct?”

“Yes, ma’am,” young Kylier replied. Good. His file had worried her slightly.

The drunk human elbowed Kylier, and said in what she assumed he thought was a whisper, “Heh, it’s a chick.” Certainly not military.

“Chick?” the elf asked, confused.

Cloudmail sighed. “Your traveling companion appears to be… slightly intoxicated,” she said at last.

“Shut your hole, you drunkard!” Kylier hissed at him, before turning back to face your. “You’ll have to forgive him, ma’am!” The other human grumbled incoherently.

“Never mind him,” she said. “I see that you do have a hippogriff. Would you care to tell me how this came to be?”

“Yes, ma’am!” Kylier replied. “We came across the hippogriff in the hills about two days’ ride east of Samlep. She was being attacked by ogres, and we intervened.”

“Ah, I see…. Two days ago… Near Tinsville County, then?”

“Yes, there have been reports of a…” the Captain said.

“That can surely wait until we are done here!” Cloudmail said impatiently, before moving towards the hippogriff. She began petting it, inspecting it for sores or ticks or burrs. It was surprisingly well taken care of, for a wild beast. “This… is a wild hippogriff, is it now?” she asked.

“Uhh… hmmm. I have no reason to doubt it is, ma’am,” Kylier said.

“Yes, she is wild,” the elf woman said, looking confused.

“I was hoping that was the case,” Cloudmail said. “She seems quite friendly. Tell me, who among you befriended her?”

“Flinn and I did,” the elf said. “I can speak with her.”

Now that was a surprise. “You can speak with the hippogriff? That is excellent news indeed. However, from her behavior, it seems that you have not trained her yet, have you?”

“Trained? Err… to ride?” Kylier asked. “No, ma’am.”

“Of course not!” the elf said quickly.

Cloudmail looked the elf in the eyes. “Have you asked if she would mind?”

“Umm…. No,” she said at last. “No, I did not even consider it.”

“Do so, please,” Cloudmail said. “When it is convenient.”

“I suppose I can ask her later…” the elf said. She did not sound best pleased.

“Now, Kylier. I have an offer to make for you,” Cloudmail said.

The drunk human chuckled, and Kylier looked at him, clearly confused. “Tell me, how attached are you to riding… on the ground?” The other man laughed loudly, and Cloudmail shot him an icy glare.

“Well, the Third Royal Cavalry is aptly named, ma’am,” Kylier responded. “I’ve been trained for mounted combat from day one.”

“Yes, that is what I had hoped,” she said. “You see, it was not the riding I was questioning, so much as the bit about staying on the ground.”

“What do you mean, ma’am?” he asked, looking confused. Then he glanced at the hippogriff. That’s right. “You mean the hippogriff? Wait, how? What?”

“You see, I am an officer of the Silver Order of Aerial Riders. Or as we like to call it, ‘SOAR.’ We soar the skies from stone to sea.”

“Wow! Flying knights!” the gnome said cheerfully. “How wonderful!”

“Amazing. I’ve never heard of a Knight order like that,” Kylier said.

“I would not have expected you to,” Cloudmail said. “Especially after you did not seem to recognize my rank. But you have shown great promise, young Kylier, both in your training and now by bringing a hippogriff willingly into town.

“If I may be so bold as to ask…” Kylier started, before trailing off.

“Yes?”

“Your rank, this order I’ve never heard of…. There’s actually quite a bit to ask.”

“Yes, it is a bit sudden. Do go on.”

“I suppose the first question is, why is this Knight order practically hidden from the rest of the orders?”

“We are a very small order, smaller even than the King’s shield,” she replied.

“The king’s shield?” the elf muttered quietly, glancing at Flinn’s shield. Not the brightest star in the sky, is she?

“Tell me, have you received knighthood yet, young Kylier?”

“No, ma’am, I am currently undergoing my initiation.”

“Hah! Squire boy!” the drunk human said. He was starting to annoy Cloudmail, but no matter.

“As I thought,” Cloudmail said. “I do not think that many outside of the knights really know us. Are there any other concerns that you have?”

“You mentioned that I did not recognize your rank. In truth, I do not,” Kylier said cautiously. “Just who are you, ma’am?”

“I am a high-ranking officer in SOAR. I believe that I would outrank most of the knights in the Seventh Battalion that you are likely to see. This here is a young initiate to our order, Lady Primrose,” she added. She doubted the others had even noticed her, clad as she was in simple leather armor. Most people ignored her in her humanoid form. Often to their detriment. Primrose bowed briefly. “We also try not to attract to much attention to our order. Flying knights tend to draw the public’s attention, and there are few enough of us that we cannot rely on force of numbers to win our fights.” Of course, Primrose and her kind meant they rarely needed numbers to win their fights. “Besides, for the few of us that have the honor of riding dragons, it is probably best that the general public does not know about us. We would not want one of our knights’ dragons to be attacked.”

“Oh, we are looking for a dragon!” the elf said suddenly.

“Asëa, wait!” Kylier said. “I… think I should explain that one. In private.”

“Dragon?” Cloudmail said, at the same time as Primrose.

“Aside from Cherdle and the captain,” the wizard said, “who would you need to hide that information from?”

“A dragon? Really?!” the gnome said shrilly. “I would love to see a dragon! Love it love it love it! Oh, the stories I could tell! Where is the dragon?”

Cloudmail sighed. That voice would carry through the open door easily. “Yes, perhaps you had best leave us alone for the moment, captain,” she said at last. Kylier was rubbing his temples.

“He is our friend!” the elf woman — Asëa? That meant ‘leaf’ in elvish. An odd name. Perhaps she was a ranger? That would certainly explain the eagle — said. “I am sure they will understand!”

“Friend?” Primrose asked, smiling

“Kylier, you are probably the best judge of your own traveling companions,” Cloudmail continued.

“Ugh… In my file,” Kylier said, “did they mention anyone else? A traveling companion from my days as a bandit?” He was surprisingly willing to speak of his past. Most people in his position would have hid that fact as much as possible.

“Yes, I believe… a fellow former bandit, ‘Dice,’ as I recall. Your file said that he seemed to want to tag along with you, although he constantly resisted attempts to conscript — or arrest — him.”

“Well…” Kylier said slowly, sadly. “He perished not long ago.”

“There were not any clerics in Tinsville with the skill to revive him,” Kylier continued, “so we went into the forest south of the town.”

“Ah, I see. To find the druids?”

“Yes,” the elf said. “It is where I grew up, you see. You know about us?”

“It is a part of my job to know about the kingdom’s inhabitants. I did not know there were druids in that particular forest, but it seems to be what I would be searching for in your position. Tell me, were you successful?”

“Yes, but not in the best way,” Kylier said cryptically.

“Go on,” Cloudmail said. She had heard that when a druid revived someone, they rarely came back the same race. She supposed something like a dwarf or bugbear might be rather inconvenient for someone used to being a half-elf.

“Yávëel was mad when she was casting the spell…” the elf said slowly. “He was reincarnated as a dragon.” Kylier nodded.

“Oh, I see. That’s splendid!” Primrose said. “What kind of dragon, if I might ask?”

“Young,” the elf said. “He is very small, for a dragon. Perhaps only the size of a wolf.” Small indeed.

Kylier took a deep breath, as if steeling himself for something. “Red,” he said at last. Cloudmail cursed under her breath.

“A RED?!” Primrose shouted, and Cloudmail cursed louder. “ONE OF TIAMAT’S SCUM?!” Primrose roared, and Cloudmail pressed her eyes shut for a moment. So much for keeping secrets.

“He is our friend!” the elf insisted, as Primrose transformed into her true form, a silver dragon.

“Oh Gods!” Kylier exclaimed. “Wait! It’s still my friend Dice!”

“The color has nothing to do with who he is!” the elf said, seemingly unperturbed by Primrose’s sudden transformation. Cloudmail glanced at Primrose. She looked… furious. This was getting out of hand, rapidly.

“Please, Primrose!” she said at last. “Control yourself!” You can control your temper better than that, Primrose!

“It is no different than being reincarnated as an elf, or a wolf,” the elf continued, still seeming to be as calm as when she entered. Perhaps she had underestimated her? That or she was crazy.

Primrose breathed out a blast of icy air, thankfully away from anything that could be damaged by it, and seemed to calm down very slightly. “I… I… I suppose you might have a point,” she said at last.

“It is as Asëa says,” Kylier continued. “It’s Dice in the wrong skin.”

“Do you expect him to behave like a true red dragon?” Primrose continued.

“I doubt even his silver tongue will save him from hunters,” Kylier said, “which is why I’m chasing after him.”

“I doubt it,” the elf said. “He should not act any different than he usually would.”

“Not at all!” Kylier added. “I know him! He’s rough around the edges, but he’d never harm innocents! Not now! Well, I’d like to say we’re chasing him right now, but….”

Cloudmail nodded, before turning to Primrose. “Primrose, we are in a city….”

“Well, I suppose…” Primrose said slowly. “Would you mind averting your eyes briefly?”

“Hmm?” The elf woman asked.

“Of course, ma’am!” Kylier said, perhaps a little too enthusiastically, as he turned his back.

Everyone in the group turned, except the elf and the drunk human. After a moment, even the elf turned, but the human…. Primrose reached over and turned him around roughly, growling all the while, before transforming back and dressing hastily.

“You may turn back now,” she said primly.

“So, my original goal of finding Dice has been pushed aside by more urgent matters, I’m afraid,” Kylier said, just as if nothing had happened.

“Yes, before we get into that…” Cloudmail said. “Are you interested in joining our order?”

“What are the conditions?” Kylier asked. “I’m not even a full Knight yet.”

“Oh, don’t worry,” Cloudmail said, smiling. “We will provide all the necessary training.” And some more suitable armor! “We will also take care of any obligations that you might have with your previous orders.”

“Alright…” Kylier said at last. “I’d like to join the Silver Order of Aerial Knights.”

“Excellent,” Cloudmail said, before turning to the elf woman. “I’m sorry, I did not get your name, miss…?”

“Oh, my name is Asëa,” she said. Leaf?

“Ay, yes, miss Asëa, then. Would you be so kind as to ask the hippogriff if she would permit me to train her for this?”

“Yes, I guess it will not hurt to ask,” Asëa said, before casting a spell and turning to the hippogriff.


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Samlep

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