This is the 2nd part to the post Red Dragon - Part 1
rowd waited with disbelief at the royal grounds overlooking the dark palace. It was an extraordinary sight to see civilians and military forces come together for this occasion. Civilians were mostly in ragged clothes and looked a bit upset at the recent developments. If what they had heard was correct then it would be really tough for them to survive. The soldiers were more of skirmishers and almost all of them were in full gear although there had been no war signals. They had been waiting there for almost three hours in the sweltering heat of May. It was almost as if that the sun had suddenly found its lost energy and was emitting in full glow. One look at the dark orange dot in the sky could tell that it might have been angry at something. But like everyone else it was also waiting for the moment. If it got delayed anymore then it might as well go behind the mountains to its abode and send its assistant Mr. Moon to keep a tap. They would meet the next morning and would share the information.
As the Sun was having its second thoughts about its stay and was starting to diminish itself it suddenly stopped in its tracks. There was some activity behind the gates and a lot of people could be seen running around near the main entrance. Before the audience could make out what was happening the emperor came out on the main balcony and gazed at the millions who had gathered there at his disposal. He was wearing a black robe which was typical of his regime. He had made new changes to his emblem and it now had a fire breathing dragon in the centre and an athletic man who was perched on the back of the ferocious figure and closely resembled the emperor himself. It was this emblem that confirmed the various rumours that were doing rounds till the last week. A huge figure slowly came out from around the back of the castle flanked by at least a hundred soldiers that had been carefully handpicked for this ceremony. The dragon was jet red in colour but wore a royal black dress and had the same mark on the chest as that of the flag on the palace.
Some stirred; some hid themselves while others felt their pants go wet. Children and women had not been allowed to come to the event and as such there were only those ladies who were the clan heads or were chieftains. As the noise subsided the emperor stepped on the raised podium just in front of the palace and cleared his throat. He had been waiting for this moment for a long time and was very nervous. He had been practicing his speech secretly without others knowledge. Still he was uncomfortable speaking in front of such a huge gathering and just waited for the right moment when his nerves would calm down and he can begin the legendary speech. He was going to inform these people about the new alliance and what changes he was planning to bring forth in the regime. It would be more of a message than a request and he had to deliver it without any sense of guilt or remorse. In fact he was advised to accompany his speech with dirty laughter and smug smiles but faking these laughs were never his forte so he had made a mental note not to go overboard. He was concentrating more on his words and wanted to deliver an astounding speech that would shake the souls of even the strongest of warriors standing there in the crowd. He could not afford any goof-ups at this point of time and wanted to instil some much needed fear amongst his followers. This was the reason he had gone ahead with the rebranding activity and had waited a full week before conducting the ceremony.
As he stood on the podium and scanned the blank faces he felt a certain sense of satisfaction which was eluding him since he had made the alliance with the dragon. He felt the fear in the minds of the people and thought of trying a few tricks which he had his sleeve to stamp his authority. He signalled to the dragon who promptly roared loudly almost making a few faint hearted drop to the ground. It was followed by a red ball of fire which came out of the dragon’s mouth and reached till the top of the tallest tree in the vicinity. When the emperor was satisfied he turned back to the audience and started speaking. Initially he fumbled a bit on his words despite his confidence but he slowly picked a very nice flow. He had constructed a very cunningly devised story on how he had captured the dragon although he had to take prior permission from the dragon for the same. The crowd listened without letting even a word go unheard. They were left dumb struck at the prowess of the emperor and were equally bothered at their underestimation of such a great figure.
The emperor soon announced himself as the most powerful and gave himself the tag of “Dragon Emperor”. Then he started briefing everyone about the further plan of action. It was really chilling to know that the great emperor had already sent its troops to all the neighbouring villages to finish off the rebels. But the most disturbing part was when he started mentioning about his visions of world domination and how he was going to tame the other races in the region. For the time being the king wanted to consolidate his empire and would use the dragon only when needed desperately. He would be using the dragon for a quest which he was willing to take along with a team of twelve odd men who had to master specific traits to be eligible in the team. It was more of a recruitment speech which was really effective and generated a lot of interest amongst the courageous soldiers. But the secrecy of the quest worried them and they would have been able to take a better decision if it was revealed before hand. The emperor did not deem it fit to reveal further details in full public view as he feared spies from other kingdoms could be infiltrating them.
As the emperor finished his speech the kingdom had got a hint that a great wave of injustice and terror was going to be unleashed on them. The emperor was known to be a bit eccentric and his dark plans only left people terrified. As the emperor stepped down from the podium he almost missed a step but quickly hopped and swayed his robe in a manner of elegance. Some people found it elegant while the others found it a bit over the top.
The dragon was watching the action all this time and had obediently followed the extravagant emperor in his theatrics. He was feeling a bit stupid to be partners with the madman but he had decided to hold on as he saw potential in the man’s claims. He had the highest number of soldiers at his disposal in the region and was even considered a powerful force amongst the dangerous Ogres and dumb Giants in the region. There were other races of elves and dwarves who were at loggerheads with the regime but they were not much of a problem to him as he really liked to devour on dwarf meat. He preferred plump dwarves over the skinny elves who more often than not used to trick the dragon and get away. He had tried fighting off the traps in the region but lately he had been observing that all the races were beginning to attack him in an organized fashion. It was really worrying him till the emperor had came forth with the proposal to join hands. The dragon did not really cared for world domination as long as he got proper meal and his daily dose of sleep. So far he had been well fed with delicious food from the King’s kitchen and was provided a huge private clearing of lush green grass to sleep peacefully.
He had been tipped by his personal human bodyguards (bah!) that he was going to play a part in the selection of the warriors. He was not looking forward to any expeditions nor any sparring contests between the pathetic humans and just lazed around the royal grounds humming. He would soon be called upon by the emperor and was making the most of his time at the palace.
A lone bird was watching the dragon and his movements intently.