The Viridian Guard came for me the next morning. Not an auspicious start to a revolution.
Kelly and I arrived for work as normal at Brunswick’s Bicycle Shop. She dealt with customers at the front counter, while I repaired and maintained the bikes. It’s a good arrangement. I’d buy a bicycle from her in a second. Except that I already had one, even if I did wreck it last week. If I had time today, maybe I could fix it, but I had paying customers waiting on their bikes.
Mr. Brunswick didn’t tolerate any nonsense. He wanted everything to run smooth and efficient. When two members of the Viridian Guard showed up at the front of his store, he was instantly cooperative. Anything less might get someone hauled off to jail for a few days, though Mr. Brunswick would be more upset about the lost work time than he would the jail itself.
“Beryl! You have someone here to see you!”
I emerged from the back, wiping grease off my hands, suspecting nothing. When I saw the Guard, I kept my face stoic, but my insides seized up. They weren’t carrying shockspears, which was a good sign, but they were fully uniformed in the brilliant green. One had dark hair, while the other had dyed his forest green. He looked ridiculous.
“If you don’t mind, Mr. Brunswick, we need to take him with us,” the green-haired one said. “My superior very much wants to talk with him about something he might have witnessed last night.”
Mr. Brunswick shot me a stern look. Regardless of how things turned out, I wondered if I would have a job after this. He offered our full cooperation with the Guard, suggesting that if the interview were short, I should hurry back. “The bikes aren’t going to repair themselves,” he ended with a fake chuckle.
I followed the Guard outside where we met two more of their number. These two carried shockspears. So much for optimism. The green-haired guard turned on me. “I don’t know who you are, kid, but Troilus Green wants to speak with you. Don’t give us any trouble. You don’t want me telling a draconic that you resisted arrest.”
A draconic? I swallowed. It couldn’t have seen me last night. I didn’t even see it until Rick and I were both hidden.
My mind ran through different options of conversation with the Guard as we started down the street. I considered acting either confused, rebellious and sarcastic, or facetiously pleasant. In the end, the lead Guard’s stern face silenced pretty much anything I might say.
The walk to the Guard station wasn’t very far, but felt like it took at least an hour. Being escorted by no less than four Viridian Guard members made me extremely self-conscious. I kept glancing around to see if anyone I knew saw us. I’m not sure if that made me look more suspicious or just nervous. Besides, my legs still ached from yesterday’s exertion.
The Guard station had little to distinguish it from the other concrete buildings around it. A bright green awning that matched their uniforms stretched out over the front door. “Viridian Guard Station 4” was inscribed on the large window, tinted to prevent anyone from watching what took place inside.
Once there, they took me to an empty interrogation room and ordered me to sit. I obeyed, sitting on one of the two chairs facing each other across a bare table. I’d seen one of these rooms before, but… the interrogator I would be seeing was something else.
While I waited, I thought about the draconics. No one knew much about them. They were larger than humans and walked upright, but were otherwise like dragons: scales, claws, and teeth. Did they have tails? I couldn’t remember. They were said to have the same powers as dragons, to a lesser extent. So with the greens, that meant they had some kind of venom ability, like the dragon himself. Some people called them half-dragons, which was ridiculous. If challenged, old storytellers would trot out some ancient tale about dragons taking on human form and seducing women… Yeah, right. The draconics were just another race. New ones showed up now and then, and you didn’t see any human dragons walking around seducing anyone. Fairy tales. Whatever.
The door opened, and the draconic entered. No tail. Huh.
I felt a blast of warm air as it took the seat across from me. None of the stories mentioned that. They also didn’t mention the odd smell: kind of a sickly-sweet decay. Death encapsulated in odor form. I blinked and swallowed.
Like yesterday, the draconic wore dark green robes with purple edging. It kept its hood up this time, but I could see the outline of its snout and the gleam of white teeth. It inclined its head to the side and seemed to stare at me. I waited.
“Have we met before?” I jumped. A reaction to the abrupt sound. I’m not sure how to describe the voice. It didn’t move its enormous mouth the way we do (no lips, either). The voice came from further down its throat. It added a bit of a rasp to the intonations, but also made it deeper.
“I—think I’d remember that.”
The draconic chuckled. “Yes, I suppose you would. It’s just… I have a feeling about you. It really seems like we might have encountered one another, perhaps some years ago. Perhaps yesterday.”
I shrugged. “Feelings don’t change reality.”
“Oh, that’s where you’re wrong.” The draconic reached up and pushed its hood back. Despite knowing what to expect, I couldn’t stop staring at the face looking down at me. The jade scales glimmered in the light and seemed to ripple as it turned its head. Its teeth were razor sharp, like nothing I’d ever seen before, even in pictures. But its eyes drew my attention most of all. The draconic had jet-black eyes with flecks of green. I couldn’t make out a pupil at all, as if its entire eye were the pupil. What kind of vision did that create?
“My name is Troilus Green. I serve the great Viridia, lord and master of us all, god of this city.” It leaned forward, placing both clawed hands on the table. “And his feelings do change reality.”
Troilus Green stood and towered over me. “When Viridia feels happy, this city prospers. When Viridia feels contentment, the people rejoice.” It chuckled again. “And when Viridia feels anger… this city suffers. Feelings are vitally important.”
“W-what do you want from me?”
Troilus Green gestured in the air. “As one of Viridia’s chosen, I communicate his feelings. Right now… Viridia is annoyed. Do you know why he is annoyed, little man?”
I swallowed again. “I—I would not presume to understand the emotions of one so great as the green dragon.”
“Ha! Well said.” Troilus Green bent down and leaned on the table again. “But I do understand them. Viridia and I are connected in ways you could never understand. And right now, Viridia is annoyed because things are not as they should be.”
I waited. I didn’t know whether to say anything else.
“There is a stranger in our city. A wanderer who does not belong. We have heard that he comes from Atramentous, but even that may not be entirely true. He is here, when he should not be here. This is a violation of our laws, and our laws are Viridia’s will. Yesterday, on Viridia’s very birthday, I pursued this wanderer and nearly caught him.”
I tried to look like someone hearing this for the first time. An unsettled feeling roiled my stomach. This thing wanted Rick, wanted him bad. For the first time, I couldn’t help wondering if I had done the wrong thing. The thought almost made the unsettled feeling in my stomach rise up.
Troilus Green curled its left hand into a fist. The claws scraped across the metal tabletop, leaving furrows. “Someone spotted you in the vicinity of where this wanderer escaped. Perhaps you saw something?”
“I’m not sure what you’re talking about. I haven’t seen any strangers.”
“Perhaps not.” Those massive dark eyes looked down at me, and I tried to look back. The heat radiating off the creature seemed to be growing stronger. The smell grew as well. I resisted the urge to wipe at my nose.
The draconic sat down again. “If you do see him, you must inform us,” it said, looking away. “This wanderer seems to incite trouble wherever he goes. He must be found.” It waved its right hand in the air. Two of the claws reflected the light. Cybernetic prosthetics? “You are free to go, little man. But we may call you in again at any time.”
For a moment, I didn’t realize what it had said. Then it struck me and I scrambled to my feet. I might have seemed too eager to get out of the draconic’s presence, but I suspected anyone in my position would behave the same, regardless of guilt. I took a step toward the door.
“What was your name again, little man?” The question stopped me. I glanced back, but Troilus Green still looked away.
“Beryl.” Troilus Green said the name as if it were tasting it. “A good name. Honorable to your god. We may meet again, Beryl.”
I didn’t answer, and the door opened for me. I hurried out. Since the draconic had dismissed me, the rest of the Viridian Guard no longer seemed to care about my presence. I resisted the urge to sprint, but still made it out much faster than I had come in.
What had Rick gotten me into?
On to Chapter Four…