Dragon, 42

The First Day of Work at Your Dream Job Is a Fun Experience

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Owen hummed to himself as he made his way to the fortress. It was only the early autumn but already it was brisk in the mornings, which he certainly liked more than the awful heat from the summer, even if part of him was just slightly worried about another endless winter.

He’d already done that once, and Owen wasn’t really sure he could be bothered to kill another wizard in another floating ice castle. Or the same one. They really should have gotten rid of the one from before; that had been shortsighted of them.

Maybe they should have tried lighting it on fire.

Anyway, Owen liked that it was brisk. It helped him wake up, though Gavin had also done that earlier. He was so considerate and perfect. Owen was a little daunted—ha—at the fact that someday they’d be married and wake up every day like that.

But he was up to the challenge.

The gates to the fortress were open, so Owen wandered up to them, peering around for guards. There were two up there on the wall, watching Owen warily. He waved at them.

“There you are.”

Owen looked up, smiled at Sir Devin, standing there in the entrance. “I hope I’m not late.”

“You’re ten minutes early. I expected you to be earlier, eager as I figured you were.”

Owen had been eager for other things first. “Do you always leave the fortress gates open like this?”

Devin looked at him, something like a smile playing on his face. “Often.”

“Seems dangerous.”

“Maybe, but who’s like to attack a fortress full of knights?” Devin frowned, looked up at the gates. “Who’s like to attack us that’s deterred by doors, that is.”

They’d been attacked, apparently, by a demon during the dragon attack. “You lost a lot of people, I hear.”

Devin nodded. “Thirty-eight. Sir Byron and his Harvey among them, and Sir Graham as well. Sir Simon the master-at-arms, Sir Deborah, who was supposed to replace the knight commander when he retired. Nine squires, just kids.” Shaking his head now. “We’re a mess.”

“I’m sorry.” They would all have been people Devin knew and worked with, he knew. Owen wondered if Aria knew about Sir Graham. He wondered how Evan was doing.

Devin shook his head. “We’re lucky Edwin showed up when he did.”

“Edwin did?” Owen hadn’t heard that part.

“Magic sword and all. Killed all the damned things with it.”

“Hm.” Owen wouldn’t have expected that. But on the other hand, Edwin seemed pretty competent to him. When he wasn’t letting assassins sneak into the castle so he could get off. “Didn’t have him pegged for the ‘magic sword’ type.”

“None of us did. What matters now is putting back together what’s still here,” Devin said, leading Owen into the courtyard. “Which brings us to you, Sir Owen.”

Owen tried not to smile at the title. “What do you need me to do?”

“I’m in the process of putting Gabrielle’s retinue back together, what with half of us dying in the attack. I’ve also been tasked with putting one together for Gavin.”

Devin paused there, as if expecting Owen to protest. But Owen just nodded. “That’s a good idea. I can’t always be there to protect him.” As much as he wanted to be. “More swords never hurt. Or rather, they do hurt, but the people we don’t like.”

“Our thinking as well,” Devin said with a nod. “You’ll be part of that retinue, of course.” Devin gave him a bit of a smile. “Though, as prince-consort, you technically need protection too. Congratulations, by the way.”

Owen grinned now, giddy all over again. “Thanks. We won’t be doing anything for a while—it’s apparently bad form for us to get married before Gabrielle does.” Which Owen thought was stupid, but there were traditions to be obeyed and Gavin hadn’t moved on that.

“Good,” Devin grunted. “For the time being, you’ll lead Gavin’s retinue, but ultimately someone senior to you will take command, at least until you’re off probation.”

“Probation?” Owen hadn’t heard about this.

Devin nodded. “Your commission was merit-based, but luck can earn merit. You show us killing that dragon wasn’t a fluke, and you’ll lose probationary status.”

Owen snorted. “Two dragons aren’t luck, but sure. Point me at some more and I’ll prove it as many times as you want.”

“I think we’ll try to find something a little less extreme for you to do. In the meantime you’ll be assigned duties common to all of us. Street patrol, guard duty at the castle, that sort of thing. You seem to like beating on the squires and we’re short a master-at-arms, so until we’re assigned a new one you may find yourself doing a lot of training.”

That worked just fine for Owen. “Anything you need me to do,” he repeated. “Sir Owen the Probationary is here to help.”

Devin smiled a little. “Keep an eye out for anyone you think would be a good fit for Gavin’s retinue. I’ve got some ideas, I know who’s competent. But there’s also the matter of who he’ll be able to put up with. He’ll be seeing them a lot, and you know better than I do who he’ll be able to be around without getting annoyed.”

Gavin would damn well be around whoever he had to be in order to keep himself safe. But Owen understood, and he nodded. “I’ll keep my eye out.”

“Do that,” Devin agreed, waving Owen into the fortress. “The knight commander’s tasked me with showing you around the fortress first off.”

“Babysitting again? You must be too busy for that shit,” Owen observed.

“I am. But I offered to do it. I’m proud of you.”

Owen coloured a little, looked at his feet. “Thanks.”

In the doorway of the fortress proper, Devin nearly collided with Sir Erik, Edwin in tow. “Excuse me,” Erik said, moving to the side with Edwin.

“Not at all.” Moved past him, taking them both in. Erik and Edwin were both lightly armoured, weapons belted on. Edwin was wearing a longsword, which Owen hadn’t seen him with before. “You’re up for training early today.”

“Edwin insisted.”

Owen guessed by the look on Edwin’s face that Erik had insisted, but he smiled. “I heard you’ve got a magic sword,” he said to Edwin.

Giving him a suspicious look, Edwin nodded. “Heard you killed a dragon.”

Owen shrugged. “They’re not as scary as they seem.” They were scarier, but there was the whole bravado thing.

“Obviously,” Edwin muttered quietly, looking away. “Seems like you’re overcompensating for something.”

“You’re the one who started using a bigger sword,” Owen reminded him, politely. “Size doesn’t really matter, Edwin.”

Face staining with red, Edwin opened his mouth, closed it, and looked away. “Well, you seem like you’d know. Sir Erik and I have training to do, excuse us.”

Owen stepped aside and let them move out into the courtyard. Sir Erik looked amused as he followed Edwin out, and Owen refrained from chuckling until they were gone.

“You would have been within rights to reprimand him for speaking that way to you,” Devin reminded him as they started walking again. “Probation or no, you are his superior officer.”

“I know.” Owen smiled. “But on the other hand, it’s going to be hilarious when he figures that out later on, don’t you think?”

Devin looked at Owen for a minute, then shook his head. “You’re insufferable. We never should have let you out of that cage.”

“Probably not,” Owen admitted. “But then you’d have to rely on Edwin to fight dragons for you, and it seems kind of unfair to expect him to kill those and demons, no?”

“A good point,” Devin admitted, shaking his head. “Gabrielle is considering putting the two of them on Gavin’s retinue.”

Owen looked over his shoulder, kind of surprised. “He’d like Edwin. I don’t have much of a read on Sir Erik.”

“He’s young, but he’s competent. Both of them are. There’s already talk of giving Edwin his commission after his performance during the attack.”

Owen wasn’t surprised. “But they didn’t do it.”

“He’s not fully trained yet.”

That didn’t sound like a real reason to Owen. He wondered if there was something else going on. “I’m sure Gavin wouldn’t object to the two of them.”

“Good, I’ll keep them on the list. This hall leads to the main mess,” Devin said, pointing. “Where the food is. Head this way and it’s quarters. Every knight gets a room here, even if they don’t live here full time.”

“Even probationary knights?”

“That’s right. I’ll show you yours, though I’m sure it’s not as impressive as the castle.”

“When I was a kid,” Owen said, following after Devin. “All I wanted was to live here.”

“Me too,” Devin said quietly. “We’re happy to have you, Sir Owen.”

Owen looked around at the stone walls of the fortress, cold, imposing. “I’m happy to be here, Sir Devin.”

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