Chapter 24 - True Intentions

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Redport

Tamara entered her father's study hand in hand with Byron. She looked around. The room had hardly changed since her childhood. Tall shelves of aging books, a large fireplace, plush rugs beneath her feet, glowing oil lamps, and the smell of wood and paper were some of the many familiar memories that resurfaced as nostalgia washed over her. When she was a child, she had visited her father often. As the years passed, she and her father grew apart. Even now she could not recall the last time she had entered this room in his castle.

Her father sat at a large polished oak desk, stained dark to showcase the wood's rich grainlines. Upon their entry, he stood. "Please, come and take a seat." He motioned for them to take the two chairs already positioned before his desk.

Byron offered her hand a gentle squeeze before they both took a seat. Once in her lap, her hands fidgeted out of nervousness. Her eyes did not know what to do either, so her gaze settled upon the sparce trinkets on her father's desk: writing supplies, a small stack of parchment, and a little wooden boat her brother Jonah had carved when he was a boy.

She had anxiously anticipated this meeting for days, ever since Byron informed her of it. In no way could she predict the reason for her father's invitation. The nervousness in her tummy left her with a bad feeling.

"Thank you for inviting us to meet with you," Byron said. The moment he spoke, she was taken aback by his frosty tone. She knew him well enough to pick up on the strained formality in his voice. "At first I considered myself honored that you would seek an invitation to meet with us."

"The honor is all mine, sir, as you—"

"I said 'at first.'" Byron's eyes narrowed. "I no longer consider myself honored: I know the reason for this meeting. Your men like to talk. I am a superb listener. I make it my business to be."

Creases appeared on Lord Redwynn's forehead as he scowled. "And why should the reason for this meeting upset you?"

"I should think that would be obvious."

Tamara's eyebrows pulled together. It was not obvious to her. She quickly hid her confusion. She did not wish to appear ignorant, however she failed to understand the meaning behind such vague words. One thing was obvious to her: Byron was not happy.

Lord Redwynn dropped the act and said, "Then you must know that I have as good a right as any, for such a request. Better even: that is my daughter you're stealing away."

"Oh-ho! Stealing? Is that what you call it? Forgive me, my lord, but perhaps you fail to realize that Drengr customs are steeped in tradition, and we certainly do not see it that way. Your daughter has chosen her path. She was never forced into it."

"Tradition?! Bah! Times change. Traditions change."

"Clearly, since you are reckless enough demand that the fort hand over its most precious resource."

Lord Redwynn's face grew redder. "Ten Drengr and their Riders—that is all I request."

"All?"

"Gods above! That is my daughter you've got. This is the least you can do. Fly to your father and insist upon it."

"You are too brazen, my lord. Too brazen indeed! What of the other strongholds? What of the other Dragondoms? Have we enough to afford them the same...luxuries? Or do you feel yourself above the rest?"

"Damn the other strongholds! War is coming. I have villages to prepare. I can cut the preparation time in half with the assistance of your kind."

"And how is my kind supposed to assist you?"

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