The Dark Empire, Page 199-203 by Wolfenshire ()
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The Dark Empire, Page 199-203
The student Robin Hood looked up at the tower. "I come for you, foul Sheriff, to free this day the people of Nottingham.
Santi turned away from the mock battle below and walked to a table worn and stained from long use. He ran his hand across the stacks of books he had collected from around the castle where students had carelessly lost or discarded the many tombs of fantastic stories played out in their training towards the hope of one day being chosen to command a seed ship.
“Dragon Berwol and Visare are…”
Dragon Berwol pushed past Sifer. “Get out of my way, you idiot.”
Sifer, the dragon that had attempted to kidnap Santi, scrambled out of the way and retreated away from the door. Sifer was now the prisoner, unable to leave the castle. A team of Shield Dragons waited outside to arrest him, but Santi had prevented them from entering the castle.
“Why won’t you allow the Shield Dragons to arrest this moron?” demanded Berwol.
Santi spread his arms dramatically. “Thus died Robin Hood, with mercy in his heart toward those that had been his undoing, for thus he showed mercy for the erring, and pity for the weak,” replied Santi.
“I know the story, I’ve been teaching it for two thousand years,” snapped Berwol.
Santi sighed. “I need Dragon Sifer, he has the most excellent penmanship. I think I’ll keep him.”
Berwol pointed an angry finger at Santi. “Governor, do you have any idea what an Inclusionist is?”
“A foolish dragon that thought to abduct me?” Santa replied with a quirky grin. Dragon Berwol’s expression made it clear he wasn’t amused. Santi shrugged. “The Inclusionists believe that an extended crew should be added to the Seed Ships, which typically only consist of a Seed Ship Dragon and a Shield Dragon.”
“And you’re aligning yourself with this nonsense?” asked Berwol.
Santi sat down on a barrel pressed into service as a chair behind the old wooden table. “I don’t believe so, no.”
“I’ve had enough of this.” Berwol turned back to the door. “Arrest Dragon Sifer.”
Two Shield Dragons waiting outside the door took a step into the room. Santi held up a finger. “Ah, nope, shoo now, both of you.”
The two Shield Dragons stepped back out of the room. Berwol spun around, his face purple and contorted with rage and fear. “You found the fail-safe and are using it against us,” screamed Berwol.
Santi leaned forward and rested his elbows on the table. “Of course I found it, it was never lost. Your own Great Dragons knew where it was the entire time. But, neither I, nor the Great Dragons, know who to use it. The reason your Shield Dragons won't obey your orders is because according to your own laws, a visiting dignitary is authorized to select any suitable building as a temporary embassy, providing there is no security risk to the Dragon World. I filed intent to use this building yesterday evening with your Council of Great Dragons. Welcome to the sovereign territory of the Santi Nation of New Aiden.”
Berwol turned an even deeper shade of purple and started choking. The dragon next to him pounded on his back and guided him to the door and motioned for the Shield Dragons to take him away. Once Berwol was out in the hall, she returned to the table where Santi was waiting. Visare glanced down at a game of Dragon already several moves into the game. The Dragon board was old and faded, most likely an old board left behind by some student. The game was played on a checkered board of eight equal blocks of alternating colors both length and width. The sixty-four positions of the board allowed for nearly infinite variations of play.
“Is this side your game, Sifer?” asked Visare.
“Yes, ma’am,” replied Sifer.
Visare’s eyes flicked up to Santi. “How long have you played Dragon?”
“Sifer showed me the game last night.”
Visare looked back down at the board. “Sifer, you lose your Queen Dragon in the next move, in which you’ll be forced to move your Snow Dragon to protect the King Dragon. Governor Santi will then check-mate you with his Shield Dragon.” Visare reached down and moved a Sky Dragon in front of the Queen Dragon. “I’m Dragon Visare, Senior Instructor of the Seed Ship Schools. Will you discuss the fail-safe with me?”
“No, there is a reason the Council of Great Dragons kept the knowledge of the fail-safe code out of the general population’s knowledge.” Santi picked up a small square metal plate and held it out. “This is a message from the Council of the Great Dragons.” Santi moved a Snow Dragon laterally across the board and blocked Visare’s Queen Dragon.
Visare took the metal plate and read it. “I see, you’ve been busy making allies. The message explains that you are giving asylum to Dragon Sifer and will be employing him on New Aiden.” Visare reached down and moved her Queen Dragon three spaces to the left. “The message also instructs me not to discuss the Draconia with you. So, if not to discuss the Draconia, why did you ask us to come here? We’ve been pleased with your conduct and assistance in helping our students and have left you alone, why this hostility?”
“I intended to hand you that message and begin a pleasant discussion,” said Santi, moving a Sky Dragon to support his attack on Visare's Queen Dragon.
Visare took a deep breath. “Dragon Berwol can be passionate, especially in that you are harboring a criminal that committed a serious offense.” Visare moved her Queen Dragon in front of one of Santi’s Shield Dragons.
Santi squinted an eye at the board and hesitated. He couldn’t take her Queen Dragon without putting his King Dragon in check. Santi moved a Seed Dragon forward. “I find that a peculiar interpretation of events. I was escorted to the correct train and left there without any stated restrictions as to my travel. I chose to see where the other trains were going and went to inquire about them. There is little doubt as to Dragon Sifer’s criminal intent, though he did ask if I would consent to go with him. The only dispute is the restraining shackles used. It is more likely he committed unlawful detention than kidnapping, and at the border the Shield Dragon did not clearly identify himself. I was only defending myself from what I thought was an attack upon my person.”
“I was warned you were the most intelligent of the three Aidens,” replied Visare, moving her Queen Dragon and capturing one of Santi’s Snow Dragons.
Santi shrugged and moved a Sky Dragon to threaten Visare’s Queen Dragon. “Dragon Visare, I would like to negotiate an equitable trade with the School of the Seed Ships.”
Visare moved her Queen Dragon and captured a Water Dragon. “Check-mate.” Santi’s face went flush and he examined the board. How could he have missed that, it was so simple. Visare took a seat on a barrel opposite Santi. “You over-extended yourself in the game, see to it you don’t repeat that mistake with me in our discussions. Make no mistake, Creator, if I think for even a single moment you are attempting to use the fail-safe on me, a signal will be sent to a ship hovering above this building and four seconds later this building will cease to exist. What is your trade proposition?”
“Your course on mythological literature is flawed,” said Santi, unconcerned by the threat; he had been threatened many times before and knew the best action was to ignore it. “The students are bored using the same mock castle again and again for dozens of lessons, the course has become a joke to them. They are using this course as playtime from their primary studies in seed ship operations. I asked the young lady playing Robin Hood during this cycle what the story of Robin Hood meant. I was given a quoted explanation that Robin Hood is the ideal of righteousness, however, that is not true. Robin Hood is not the champion of virtue, but instead a charity with wealth not his to give. Robin Hood represents the symbol that need, not achievement, is the source of right.”
Visare held a hand up to stop him. “What is your true opinion of the students?”
“I believe they are the finest minds the dragons have to offer. I spent several hours with this current group discussing literature and I was most impressed with their insightfulness. They have the same swiftness of thought as any Aiden, yet I’ve noticed that adult dragons are…”
“…stagnant in thought? Visare finished the sentence. “You’ve grasped a very real problem that we’ve been noticing ourselves. We think it is caused by the lack of interaction with organics during our youth’s formidable years.”
“I have a solution.” Santi grinned and pushed the Dragon board out of the way. He then laid a large parchment across the table. Visare leaned over and scanned the drawing on the parchment.
“A new training site?” asked Visare.
“Not just a new training site, but a very real one,” said Santi. “That drawing is my winter castle, I never use it.”
Visare furrowed her brow. “You want to build a satellite campus on New Aiden?”
“Just keep an open mind and let me explain,” said Santi quickly.
“Alright, I’m listening.”
“I will build three training sites; one at my winter castle, one on the Crystal Isles, and one at Lord Rotathian’s castle. The students will do minor stories here on the Dragon World. Then, each group of students will rotate to New Aiden once per year to study a larger story. The students will no longer be certain of the outcome of the scenarios as they will be interacting with an alien culture in a much more realistic environment. Can you just imagine the anticipation, the excitement, and seriousness the students would have knowing they get to travel to an alien world and work through one of these scenarios.”
Visare was silent for a long moment before speaking. “It is an intriguing idea, what’s in it for you?”
Santi nodded. “I only have fourteen working Crawlers left, if I lose the Crawlers, my kingdom will fall. I need the skills to build and repair new Crawlers. I propose that your older students rotate to New Aiden for a three month teaching tour.”
Visare waved a hand at the room. “What are you doing with all these books?”
“I do not steal them,” replied Santi. “I found these books scattered about the castle, carelessly discarded by former students. There are three-hundred fourteen books here, I’ve been memorizing them. I intend to return to New Aiden and with Sifer’s help will commit them to paper.” Santi sighed. “I can’t imagine the anger you must feel to see such wealth so callously tossed aside. I’ve asked the Shield Dragon that has been guarding this building to send for crates so I may pack them up for shipment back to your University.”
“I see,” Visare’s expression softened. “You are so intelligent that I forget you are from a medieval society and would consider this collection of infinite value. Do you own any books?”
Santi picked up one of the books and opening it gently ran his finger over the smooth paper. “I have fifty books in my collection, the largest collection of books on New Aiden.” Santi tipped the book for Visare to see. “I don’t know what this book is about, but of all the books here, the drawings in this one I find the most pleasing.”
Visare glanced at the book. “Of course you do, you are a Creator. That is a first year algebra book, the equations appeal to your Aiden mind. Algebra is the first level of mathematical equations meant to solve the equations for unknown quantities. In essence, it is the first step to finding the order of the Universe, the very driving core of an Aiden.”
"I should very much like to be able to understand the knowledge in this book," said Santi.
“I will offer you a trade for the books,” said Vasare. “Turn Dragon Sifer over to me and you may have all the books in this room.”
Santi’s face clouded with anger. “I will not do that. I told you I am not a Creator, I am a descendent of the Creators, the same as you. We have grown beyond what they were, and I will not turn him over to a life of imprisonment for a foolish mistake that had me in no danger at any time.”
Vasare tipped her head. “Very well, perhaps you have changed. I will offer you a different trade. How many Crawlers will you give me for these books?”
Santi sadly shook his head. “This one book I hold must have the value of at least five Crawlers. I’m sorry, I do not have the wealth to purchase this treasury of knowledge. There is enough value in this collection of books to pay the ransom of a hundred Kings. No, I am satisfied to have been their custodian for a short time. I will prepare them for shipment, and I swear that not a single book will be missing.”
Visare stared at Santi for an uncomfortably long time before replying. “I accept your offer to build a satellite university on New Aiden. You will receive a standard shipment of supplies needed to convert your winter castle into a university. You will also receive a shipment of twelve million print books, a little over one million digital books, and 150,000 journal titles. I trust you have a room large enough, perhaps the banquet room of your castle?”
Santi’s mouth fell open and his face turned as white as a snow dragon. He fell back onto the barrel he was using for a seat and clutched the book he was holding to his chest. Dragon Sifer ran to Santi. “Sir, are you okay? Breathe, breathe, put your head between your legs.”
“Should I call for medical personnel? Asked Viscare.
Santi put his head down and shook it. He was panting as if he had run a marathon and kept repeating twelve million…twelve million.
“Very well then, it is done. I will send a skimmer to pick you up and take you back to your ship. You may also keep the books in this room for your personal collection, I would not think to take them from you.” Viscare shifted her gaze to Sifer whom was now pounding on Santi’s back as Santi had gone into a coughing and choking fit. “Dragon Sifer, I have been given the authority to deal with you. I sentence you to serve Governor Santi for the remainder of your life for the crimes you attempted to commit against him. I suggest you care well for the Governor. And give him some water before he passes out.”
Dragon Viscare turned and passed the student Robin Hood at the door to the tower. Robin Hood ran into the room and striking a dramatic pose, raised her wooden sword. "I have come, Sheriff, to give freedom to the people of Nottingham."
Santi lifted his head and looked at the bright eyed young dragon; there had never been a truer statement spoken. Where the Mathers had offered nothing but humiliation, the Dragons had offered salvation to his people.