Chapter 2: Recruitment
“Guten tag,” Scott said in his best German, shaking the German representative’s hand firmly. He had met the man twice before and tried to feel out whether or not he supported Ashton, but he had never been able to get a read on him. Now that Jamie was back, he was hoping Jamie and Marisol would be able to give some insight on the man.
“Wie geht es Ihnen?” Scott continued, hoping he got everything correct as he asked the man how he was doing.
Dieter grinned and shook his hand enthusiastically before releasing it.
“I see you have been studying your German,” he said in almost flawless English. “I am doing fine, thank you. And you?”
“I have just returned with the Queen,” Scott said. “We are back to living on the campus full-time.”
“I have excellent timing, then,” Dieter said.
“Jamie has only just arrived, but will be ready to accept visitors soon. Until then, can I offer you anything to eat or drink? You must have had a long flight.”
“I came by jetliner, not dragonback, so I have had all the amenities of travel. However, a home-cooked meal would not be amiss.”
“Of course,” Scott said, gesturing for Dieter to follow him.
Scott had quickly become an expert at navigating the dragon canyon and had been surprised to find out that there was a large cafeteria-like eating area on the ground level of the canyon for anyone who didn’t have time to cook. Since many of the residents of the canyon were students and teachers who had homework to do and papers to grade, it was heavily frequented and the food was excellent. There was also a sit-down area for guests and other visiting dignitaries, and that was where Scott had been brought when the other foreign representatives had arrived. Normally Ashton would be present for a visit from the German representative, but with school starting tomorrow he had too much to prepare and Scott was on his own with no council support. It showed a level of confidence in Scott’s abilities that Ashton was willing to leave him alone with a representative, and perhaps it also showed that Ashton didn’t see him as a threat anymore, which would be ideal.
The cafeteria was filled with excited students at one end of the room and frazzled teachers at the other, and very little mixing going on between them. Occasionally a student would wander over to the teachers, but the teachers were busy planning their first days and weeks and weren’t as interested in helping students as they usually were. Scott spotted Mike in the chaos, sitting by himself in a corner. Scott hesitated, almost tempted to ask Dieter to wait a moment and go over and talk to him.
Mike had changed in the past few months, drawing inward and losing some of the spark that made him so irritating and irresistible. Scott knew it had to do with Ashton, and suspected it had to do specifically with Jamie’s decision to go to the council and try to get Ashton kicked off the council. Mike had shown up a day after that incident with bruises and a limp, and only Ashton could have given them to him. But Mike said nothing, and there was nothing Scott could do if the man refused to ask for help. Scott tore his eyes away from Mike and returned his attention to the task at hand.
They finally arrived at the sit-down area and were promptly seated and given menus. Scott and Dieter ordered from the limited selection and then leaned back and stared at each other.
“I can hardly wait to meet this Queen,” Dieter said. “I’ve heard many things about Jamie, not to mention what I saw during the mating flight.”
Scott flushed on Jamie’s behalf. During Jamie’s mating flight, Jamie had inadvertedly projected an image into the minds of everyone in Tarragon society, male and female, straight and gay, of himself writhing in agonized pleasure, desperate to be touched. Everyone who saw and felt that image had experienced an intense instinct to be the one to touch Jamie and fulfill his need, which was a disturbing experience for the straight men who felt it and made it awkward for Jamie when he met nearly everyone. Time had dulled the experience for most people, but it was seared into their minds and everyone who met Jamie had that image in the back of their minds. It was something Jamie had to live with, and something he was still adapting to. Scott was embarrassed on his boyfriend’s behalf, but also because he suspected Dieter felt some jealousy; after all, when Jamie had summoned the world to chase him in the mating flight, only Scott had been victorious.
“Jamie is young, but he has matured a lot over the past year,” Scott said. “He is already a good leader.”
“But the council does the leading, do they not? Jamie is a figure-head, nothing more.”
Scott was silent. This was dangerous ground because he still didn’t know the man’s feelings about Ashton. He reached out to Narné and asked if Marisol could read the man’s true intentions. There was a silence, then Narné responded that the man could be trusted. Scott let out a sigh of relief. But even with that, there were ears everywhere and he couldn’t speak openly.
“The council leads, true,” Scott said. “But Jamie is their equal.”
“I see,” Dieter said, then looked around. “Perhaps we can discuss this further with Jamie present.”
“That would be best.”
Dieter changed the subject and began talking about the dragons in Germany and how they hid in castles, just like the dragons of old who used to lie on vast heaps of treasure and protect the treasure from wandering knights.
“Only now,” Dieter said, “They sleep atop thumb drives and the entrances to rooms filled with servers. The currency of information is primary now, not gold, but dragons are still used as protection against any prying eyes and ears.”
“How many dragons are in Germany?”
“About two thousand, although some live on borderlands.”
“How do they all stay hidden?”
“The mist hides them, partially. It grew thin for several years, but has recently thickened again. And we are careful where we fly. Life away from Mount Tarragon has its disadvantages, but it is our home.”
“I understand,” Scott said. “I’m lucky that I grew up nearby. I can’t imagine growing up in a foreign country, then being carted off to this school, then having to decide whether to remain here or return home. It must be a difficult decision.”
“It is, but of course there are communities of us everywhere and we all share the same secret. That makes it easier. We live together, hide together, raise our children together. The only requirement that sets our children apart is that they must learn English so that they can do well in school here. Other than that, they are ordinary children.”
They chatted more about Tarragon society in Germany and elsewhere and slowly Scott gleaned more information about the army that he was potentially gaining. When the representative of a country didn’t agree with Ashton, it was likely that many of the other dragons within that country didn’t agree with Ashton, so it was important to find out how many of those two thousand German dragons would join with Jamie in the upcoming war and how many would stay out of the fighting or, worse, join with Ashton. Scott rather suspected that most would side with their representative and Jamie, but it wasn’t a sure thing until Jamie read the situation and Marisol did a deeper examination.
He glanced at his watch. An hour had passed since he had left Jamie’s side. He felt bad about abandoning Jamie like he had, but he had never been called to greet a representative by himself before and he couldn’t refuse the honor, especially with someone like the German representative who was so hard to read. He hoped Jamie would forgive him, and he hoped Narné had warned Jamie that they were coming to the apartment because he and Dieter were finished with their meal and heading to the top level of the dragon canyon where his and Jamie’s room lay.
Jamie must have gotten Narné’s message, however, because just as they approached the door, it opened and Jamie stood on the other side looking beautiful as always, this time in a clean white button-up shirt with a pair of dark jeans. His normally too-white skin was a cheerful tan from his months in the sun and he glowed with health. He extended his hand to Dieter and the other man lifted it to his lips. Jamie covered his surprise well and Scott had to stifle his jealousy. Obviously Dieter, like so many others, still had lingering lust from the mating flight.
“A pleasure to meet you at last, Jamie,” Dieter said.
“This is Dieter Ulmann, representative of Germany,” Scott said, interrupting any romantic scene that might have played out.
“Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Ulmann,” Jamie said.
“Please, call me Dieter.”
“Of course,” Jamie said, blushing as Dieter still held his hand. With a final caress of his thumb against Jamie’s skin, Dieter finally relinquished his hand. Jamie cleared his throat. “The Queen dragon is not here, but you are welcome to come in.”
“I didn’t come to see the dragon,” Dieter said, smiling at Jamie.
Scott huffed to himself, unable to voice his impatience out loud for fear of offending Dieter. He couldn’t afford to lose any allies, even when those allies were hitting on his boyfriend in front of him. Still, a show of possession wouldn’t be amiss. It would remind Dieter that Scott was Jamie’s mate. Scott entered the room and put his hand on Jamie’s back possessively as he gestured for Dieter to enter. Dieter’s mouth quirked as he recognized the possessive display and he dipped his head as if acknowledging Scott’s claim.
Jamie opened his mouth to speak, but Dieter held up a hand to silence him. Scott frowned. Normally Dieter wasn’t rude, but silencing Jamie was very impolite. Dieter had the glazed look in his eyes that indicated he was speaking to his dragon, however, and great leeway was given to people in that circumstance in Tarragon society. There was a popping sound, then smashing sounds from the corners of the room. Scott leapt up and ran to one of the corners. A small camera, now smashed beyond recognition, had fallen to the ground. Scott looked at Dieter in disbelief.
“I wanted to talk to you without being listened to,” the man explained. “Each of us has dragons with different talents. My dragon’s talent is to destroy electronics in a limited range around me. I use it frequently to get rid of listening devices. You’ll find that your entire chambers are clear except for the dragon sleeping chambers. Those are too large. New devices may be added, of course, but for a time you are safe.”
“Thank you,” Jamie said, sounding a little dazed.
Scott sat next to him on the couch and stared at Dieter in awe. Destroying electronics was an extremely valuable gift.
“So,” Dieter began, nearly spitting out the word. “You have set yourself up as equal to the council. That makes you equal to Ashton. A dangerous position to be in.”
“Tarragon society must change,” Scott began, but Jamie placed a hand on his arm to silence him and Scott fell silent. Scott had been doing all of the recruiting all summer, but perhaps it was time to let Jamie do the speaking, since Jamie would be leading the war. Scott just hoped Jamie knew what he was doing.
“I am equal to Ashton,” Jamie said. “But I should be more than Ashton, according to Tarragon tradition.”
“You both make good points,” Dieter said. “But what is your plan? You hope to bring down Ashton by manipulating the council?”
“No,” Jamie said. “I’ve tried using reason and going through the council. The time for peaceful means is over. Only a war will fix this problem.”
Dieter’s lips went white and he licked them nervously. “A war? Dragon against dragon? Do you have any idea what you’re asking?”
“I’m asking for your allegiance against an evil that is sapping our society of strength and honor. As Scott pointed out, our society must change. Ashton must be killed in order for our way of life to continue and to prosper. You understand this, I know, but do you have the courage to face it?”
Dieter stared at the floor, at the ceiling, at the walls, at anything besides Jamie. Then he took a deep breath. “I’ve known for a long time that Ashton must go, but is a war really necessary?”
“If it were possible to take Ashton down individually, I would do it,” Jamie said with a fierceness that Scott had never seen. “But you know he’s going to call on his allies, and unless we can defend against that, we won’t be able to get near him.”
“We could lose our dragons.”
“You could lose them now.”
“But Arion can sever the link between a dragon and his partner. What’s to stop Arion from severing that link in everyone who opposes him?”
“I’ve spoken to the dragons and they agree that Arion can’t do more than one a day, so if we can keep the battle short, overpower our enemy, and kill Ashton quickly, the casualties will be limited. But I’m not denying that there will be losses.”
Dieter sighed heavily. “Give me time to think. If it were just me, I would be with you in a heartbeat. But I speak for the people of Germany, and I cannot pledge all of our support without further thought.”
“Ashton cannot know about this,” Scott warned. “You cannot ask your people, because they might turn against you and inform Ashton of our plans.”
“I will contemplate in private,” Dieter promised. “I will consider what is best for Germany, and when you are ready to fight, I will summon our dragons and those who listen to me will come to your aid.”
“Thank you, Dieter,” Jamie said.
They stood and escorted Dieter to the door. As they left, Dieter kissed Jamie on the cheek. He surprised Scott by kissing Dieter on his cheek in return. Normally Jamie was shy about shows of affection, even clearly non-sexual ones like this, but perhaps he was doing it to persuade Dieter. Either way, Scott was more than a little jealous as he shut the door on the other man and turned to Jamie.
“You,” he said, “are incredible.”
Jamie flashed a wicked smile.
“I’ve been waiting to get you alone. Do you think the cameras really are gone? Because there’re some things I want to show you.”
Scott grinned as Jamie led him towards the bedroom where, sure enough, there was smashed glass from destroyed cameras in several places around the room. Jamie laughed and leapt in the bed.
“We haven’t been in a bed together in months. You’re not going to run off again, are you?”
“No,” Scott said. “Right now, my only concern is you.”