After sneaking back through the maze of the ship to the recreation dock, Chevalier, Kellen, and Selene needed a rest. And a snack. Definitely a snack before rest.
They found a man sitting in the corner on the recreation dock selling filets of space jellyfish. The meat had been shaved into thin slices, coated with garlic, oil and other spices and then fried until crispy. It was salty, a little chewy, and utterly delicious. Selene ate an entire skewer by herself, the same amount as Chevalier and Kellen.
She seemed to be taking her capture, captivity and escape well in stride. Despite the woman’s claims that Selene would be unconscious for hours, Selene had been up and crowing for food less than half an hour after being rescued. The only concession to the situation was the fact that she refused to leave Chevalier’s shoulder and dug her claws into his flesh every time he tried to move her away.
Chevalier looked at Kellen. The mercenary had removed his helmet to eat the jellyfish and looked so small once again. He chewed slowly and methodically, but his expression didn’t seem to change much from bite to bite. Maybe he couldn’t actually taste food? Not having to worry about liking or disliking something seemed like the type of “advantage” that Plagtos would have taken for its elite mercenaries, but Chevalier didn’t want to ask.
Instead, he reached over and rapped the chillsword’s pauldron with his fist.
“Thanks for coming and saving the day,” Chevalier said. “I wouldn’t have been able to rescue Selene without your help. How did you realize something was wrong?”
Kellen looked at him and tilted his head ever so slightly. “You’re welcome, though I did it more for Selene’s sake than yours. I noticed two men following you through the crowd when you went looking for Charlottia. No matter how you moved they stayed a fixed distance away from you, and both of them were watching you with a stalker’s intensity. Once Charlottia grabbed your hand they nodded to each other and returned to the crowd. I figured that there had to be something weird, so when she started dragging you away, I decided to follow you.”
“Well, at least you have a brain in that head of yours,” Selene said.
They finished their snack and returned to the Spitfire, and Chevalier felt as if everything was right in the world as he watched Selene collapse into her bed and fall asleep.
He went to do the same but was interrupted by a knock on the spacecraft’s door. He and Kellen made eye contact as he walked toward the sound. Kellen took his blade in his hands and nodded, and Chevalier hoisted his pistol into his free hand as he opened the door.
Standing there was an imperial knight and three regular guards. They all wore the crimson uniforms of the empire, though the accents on the knight’s uniform were gold and those for the guards were silver.
The knight was tall and limber, with light brown skin and bright green eyes. His hair was cut short, and his hand rested comfortably on the pommel of the thin saber he wore on his belt.
“Hello,” he said in a friendly, but firm voice. “Some time ago, there was a bit of disturbance below deck, and our security team is fairly sure that you were involved. Care to come with us so we can talk about things?”
“If talking is all that you want to, we can do it here,” said Chevalier, returning his pistol to its holster and opening the door further.
“Well, that’s true, but I’m afraid that my superiors would like to talk to you as well, and I’m afraid that the demands of their duties means that they can’t come all the way up here to speak with you. Please, we mean you no harm. Would you come with us?”
Kellen started to stand up, but the imperial knight held up his hand and shook his head. “Just Chevalier of Blue Moon, please. We have no questions for you, Kellen Chillsword.”
“I’ll keep an eye on Selene,” Kellen said when he saw Chevalier’s eyes flick back to the spot where the space dragon slept. “She’ll be safe here.”
The knight gestured to the space beside where he stood. “If you’d be so kind.”
Chevalier didn’t want to go and submit to questioning – make no mistake, that’s exactly what this was – but he didn’t really have a choice. The knight was being friendly now, but only a fool would believe that would last. So, despite the exhaustion that plagued his limbs and made the edges of his vision hazy, Chevalier nodded and stepped down the ramp until he was next to the knight.
The knight led the way and the guards followed Chevalier as they went over to a lift on the far side of the docking bay. The knight lifted his hand in front of the scanner next to the door so that the camera there could scan the band he wore around his wrist and the door opened right away.
Inside the elevator was sleek and silver, clean and efficient. There was plenty of room for the knight, guards, and Chevalier.
“My name is Sir Lenos,” the knight said as the door closed. “I am a member of the 348th Legion, and I’ve been a knight for fifteen standard years. I’ve seen many strange things during my tenure in His Excellency’s service, but just a few hours ago I saw something even weirder. Do you know what that might be, Blue Moon Chevalier?”
Chevalier didn’t bother trying to lie. The ferry was probably full of cameras and staff assigned to watching them. He doubted there was more than a few feet of the ship that was truly invisible to imperial eyes, and so figured that the question was merely a formality. Perhaps he could score some points by being forthright.
“Did you see me chasing down some grynaith thieves to get my friend back?”
Lenos smiled. Unlike the seductive promise of Charlottia in her human form, or the vicious snarl she’d had in her monster body, Lenos’ smile was friendly and genuine.
“Indeed. That’s the reason we wanted to talk to you.”
The elevator slowed to a stop and the doors opened. Lenos and the guards led Chevalier into a hall that, to Chevalier’s great surprise, was not bare and minimalist. Instead, there were paintings hanging from the walls, depicting great moments in imperial history. Chevalier recognized the coronation of Augustian, the triumph of the imperial fleets at Basliarc, and a few other scenes. Next to some of them were small vases of crimson flowers. Chevalier had seen them before but didn’t know their name. They had small, pointed petals and thin stems and from time to time, Chevalier caught a whiff of their fragrance and smiled at the bright, clean scent.
Lenos led him into a spacious, well-lit room with a large table in the center. There were two other knights seated at the table, and six more guards.
The first of these was an older man with an eyepatch and a neatly trimmed silver beard. He was heavy with muscle, and every time he moved his uniform strained.
The other knight was a woman with skin a few shades darker than Lenos and curly hair that wore in a ponytail. Her hands were folded in front of her and resting on the desk, and she smiled at Chevalier as he came into the room.
“Here is Chevalier of Blue Moon,” Lenos said with a bow. “Shall I take my leave while you two talk to him?”
“No need,” the woman said. “It would be good for you to be here as well, since you’re the one who brought this matter to our attention in the first place.”
The muscled man gestured at the seat next to his own. “Go ahead and sit down, Chevalier. I know the look of a man running on fumes.”
Chevalier did so, grateful to be off his feet. The chair’s cushion was soft and comfortable, and he let himself sink into it for a moment, waiting for the nasty bit of the interrogation to start. However, the knights were all perfectly pleasant as the woman reached under the table and drew out a piece of metal. She carefully laid it on the table.
“Do you recognize this?” she asked. When Chevalier didn’t immediately answer, she tapped on it. “This was one of the supports for the catwalks that you cut through during your pursuit of the grynaith.”
“Oh,” said Chevalier, putting his hand to his head and scratching at his ear. “I’m sorry about that. I was in a hurry and didn’t fancy climbing down the stairs.”
“The damage is significant, but our metal workers are already on the job of repairing the catwalks. We will not request any compensation from you if you can answer a question for us.”
So far, this wasn’t turning out as Chevalier had expected it to at all. “Sure. What do you want to know?”
This time, it was Lenos who answered. “Where you got your sword, and what its made of. Those brackets were forged by some of the finest smiths in the galaxies, and they were supposed to be nigh indestructible, but you sliced right through them as if they were nothing but cheap iron links of chain. What sort of weapon do you possess, Chevalier?”
He explained as best he could, but he didn’t know the whole truth of the matter and so only told them the bits and pieces that he’d guessed: that the sword of Blue Moon was forged from the scales of a space dragon, and probably the armor as well. That seemed to sit right with the knights, because all of three of the nodded sagely and didn’t ask any further questions.
“It’s a strange thing,” said the gray-hared knight, whose name was Rollins. “In the last year, I’ve heard rumors of a girl in red armor and a lance that doesn’t break. It’s rumored to be forged of space dragon scales too. Have you ever heard the name Red Sun Lancer?”
Chevalier’s mind went back to the girl on Junkheap. Kind of looked like your blue moon get up, except that she had a big lance instead of a sword, Rivi had said. “I have not, but I’m not familiar with all of the old legends.”
Rollins laughed. “Well, I’m not either, but that’s apparently what this girl has been calling herself. Rumors are saying that she’s nigh unkillable, and she’s dueled some seriously nasty folks that we’re all better off without. I would say that the naming convention she’s chosen is awfully similar to yours to be a coincidence, so I was just curious as to if you two knew each other.”
“We don’t,” Chevalier said. “But I might have some business with her on behalf of a friend.”
Rollins seemed to understand what he meant, because he smiled and clapped his hand on the table. “Now that’s something I’d like to see,” he said. “Though, if the rumors are to believed you might find yourself having bitten off more than you can chew.”
Chevalier agreed. He couldn’t help but think about how tough it’d been to deal with Charlottia and the grynaith. Not to mention Kellen and his brother back on Junkheap. He definitely needed to get stronger if he was going to stay alive on the hunt for the Calypso Templar. Maybe he should start sparring with Kellen.
Sir Lenos leaned forward. “Say, would you be interested in a deal?”
Chevalier felt himself grow wary. “What sort of deal?”
“While we would never dream of trying to take your dragon from you, we would be interested in obtaining some of her scales. We know that she’s yet too small to really have big enough scales to forge armor and weapons like your own, but would you be interested in selling us some number of scales once she gets bigger?”
So this was the underlying hook they wanted to sink into him. The idea was somewhat appealing, to be honest. Chevalier was pretty sure that Selene would naturally shed some scales as she grew, and selling them to the empire would be both lucrative and help him stay in their good graces. It was a good thing to have friends in the depths of space, and the Aguelots were an especially good friend to have.
But still, he didn’t think it was a good idea to commit to selling Selene’s scales without her permission, and he told the knights as much. They seemed surprised that he was so concerned about the opinion of a dragon, but didn’t push the matter any further and let him go without issue.
Lenos led him back to the Spitfire without his guards. The entire process had taken less than an hour, and Kellen seemed visibly relieved when Chevalier boarded the ship once again.
“Selene hasn’t even woken up yet,” he said as the hatch slid closed and Chevalier went to pour himself a stiff drink from the vessel’s small bar.
“What’d they want?” the taurolk asked as Chevalier finished his first and went for a second, and then a third after that. Chevalier explained their questions about his sword and then the request for Selene’s scales. The mercenary nodded sagely at the end of the explanation as if he’d expected something like that.
“The Aguelot Empire is famous for constantly seeking out new sources of materials. Their researchers are every bit as good as the ones that Plagtos employs, but they’re much more moralistic. I’m surprised they didn’t just try to take Selene for themselves.”
“Me too, though I’ve never heard anything about the empire being like that. Augustus is a right bastard, but he’s not evil.”
“That’s true,” Kellen said.
The two were silent for a few minutes and then Chevalier stood up. “Hey, would you be willing to spar with me once we get out of here?” he asked.
Kellen’s eyes narrowed. “Why do you want to do such a thing? Aren’t you plenty of good at fighting already?”
Chevalier shook his head. “I thought I was, but after fighting you back on Junkheap and the grynaith I’m realizing that I’ve been relying too much on the boon that comes with my armor and weapon. I need to be stronger. I don’t ever want to risk losing Selene again.”
Kellen smiled. “I thought she drove you nuts. You two are always snipping at each other.”
“She does but that doesn’t change anything that I said. That’s just how we are,” Chevalier said.
Kellen laughed. “Well, it’d do me some good to spar as well. So I’ll help you train so long as we’re shipmates.”
“Good,” said Chevalier. And without another word he stumbled down to his cramped quarters, fell onto his bed and promptly fell asleep.
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