The troll army marched back to Relna. Joseph rode towards the front along with Selene.
“What will you tell the citizens?” Selene inquired. “They’ll want to know why the war is over.”
“They will be curious,” Joseph admitted. “And when they are, I’ll tell them the truth. That Larick advised me to stop the fighting and that I saw no benefit to them in continued conflict. I think most of them will accept it without any trouble. It’s the aristocracy I’m concerned about.”
“I would be cautious about what I eat, where I go and what I do for a while,” Selene stated. “Don’t worry, I’ll guard you personally.”
“You will?” Joseph asked.
Selene nodded. “Call it an old woman’s fancy, but I’ve started thinking you ay be just the person we need to wear the crown. That maybe our children and grandchildren will have a brighter future because of you.” She trained her eye on him.
“Then I will gladly accept your service,” Joseph said. “But I will have to guard myself for a while. I would like you to be my representative to the elves.”
“Me?” Selene asked. “Why me?”
“Because I could see how much you agreed when I told their Royal that I would not see our people sacrificed for the sake of the aristocracy,” Joseph answered. “You may be one of the few people from a noble background who that message resonates with. And, as much as I may not care for the nobility in general, I know it would be folly to not heed them at all. If I send you, it will show the aristocracy that I will listen to their concerns as well. That I am not simply the king of the commoners. Besides, you are one of the few people I have complete faith in.”
“Very well,” Selene agreed. “I think you’re over-estimating my importance, but I’ll go. You’d better promise not to get into anything dangerous while I’m gone.”
I’d never been to Orontios before. I knew of its reputation, a place where warriors came to beat one another senseless for the entertainment of visitors & citizens alike. A city where the economy was based off of these self-styled gladiators and betting on their bouts.
Like most human-created cities, it was wasteful. A dead, paved ground dotted with lifeless buildings and refuse left to the wind until someone came along to clean it.
“Are you sure a draconian would be fighting in the arena?” Callie wondered. She looked at Michael. “No offence intended, but aren’t most of your people known for being peaceful?”
“We were always a race that valued diplomacy and a lack of conflict,” Michael confirmed. “However, circumstances have changed that for me. If another draconian did survive, they would have found themselves experiencing a similar dilemma.”
A feline feralial child ran towards us. She stopped right in front of Michael. “Can I have your autograph? Is Aiko nice in person? What’s she doing right now? Is she your girlfriend? How does your human friend manage to figure out what’s going on in the arena? Is she just faking the blindness?” Her questions were quick and with barely a breath between them. She looked up at him, expectantly.
Michael didn’t seem to know how to respond. “Hey there, Kiddo,” Tynan said, leaning down to look into her eyes. “I get the enthusiasm. Really, I do. But we have to go with our friend to the arena right now. Maybe we’ll see you later, okay?”
She looked a little deflated, but still seemed excited. “Oh, okay,” she said. “I’ll be rooting for you. The Pteropus trio is the bestest now and forever!”
Tynan and I both waved to her as we left.
“Pteropus?” I asked.
Callie shrugged her shoulders.
“It is a genus of bat,” Michael stated. “They are colloquially referred to as ‘flying foxes’.”
“Oh yeah,” I said. “I remember learning about them during my studies. I kind of forgot the technical name though.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Callie laughed, putting an arm around me. “Not everyone has a perfect memory like our draconian friend here.”
“It’s strange,” Gabriel muttered. “She talked as though you were the draconian fighting in the arena.”
“She is young,” Michael stated. “Perhaps she can not tell the difference between one draconian and another.”
“Children aren’t stupid,” Tynan stated. “I’d say it’s more likely the two of you look a lot alike.”
“Perhaps,” Michael stated. “In any case, we will find out when we arrive.”
We made our way to the arena and secured some seats. Michael got some weird looks from the staff as well.
We took our seats and waited while the arena filled.
“Welcome, Ladies and Gentlemen,” the voice was unnecessarily loud & bombastic. “In the black corner, our former champions looking to get their way back to the top. You know them and love them, they’re the Rowdy Rascals!” The light shined on a muscular human, a troll with a broken tusk and a stern looking elf. The three waved to the crowd.
“And in the pink corner, an up and coming team that seems destined for greatness, the Pteropus Trio!” The light shined on the second group. I couldn’t believe it. It was Michael. I looked over at him sitting in the stands. I quickly noticed that Callie, Tynan & Gabriel had all turned as well. They were mirror images! Michael stared down at his doppelgänger. His eyes were filled with disbelief.
I forced myself to look at the other two. One was a vulpine feralial. The other one I recognised. She was the blind woman Michael had talked to using magic. Why was she with this identical looking Michael? Had she been deceived? An unpleasant thought struck me, maybe I had.