Dragon, 44

Efficient People Use Travel Time to Multitask

Ao3 Link

“Have fun beating people up today,” Gavin said, leaning up and kissing Owen.

“I always do,” Owen promised. “Have fun ordering people around and secretly ruling the world.”

Gavin grinned. “I always do. Love you.”

“Love you too.”

Owen gave Gavin one more goodbye kiss before turning and leaving the room, waving as he shut the door behind him. He stood there a second and sighed. He loved Gavin so much.

The door guard was looking at Owen kind of funny, so he turned and headed out of the castle for the fortress.

He got to go from the love of his life to the best job he could have wanted and back. Owen’s life was perfect.


Owen turned, saw Gavin’s father approaching him down the hallway. “Good morning, sir,” he said, pausing to give a bow.

Gerard smiled, patted Owen’s shoulder as Owen rose. “As a knight, a firm salute is usually acceptable for greeting royalty outside of a formal setting,” he said. “As my son’s fiancé, I think maybe just a hello should do.”

Owen smiled, nodded his head. “I’ll try to remember that, sir.”

“How likely are you to drop that sir?” Gerard asked, looking curious.

Owen gave a bit of a chuckle, shook his head. “My father told me that the parents of anyone I wanted to kiss were sir and ma’am, and that if I forget every other thing about manners, I’d better remember that.”

Dad had put it a bit more basically than that, but that had been the general gist.

Gerard laughed, and started walking in the direction Owen had been. “Sounds like a smart man. Nobody ever taught me that and I still think my wife’s parents thought she could have done better after we’d been married fifteen years.”

Owen laughed, walking alongside the king. Because Owen’s life was perfect, and he lived with the king. “I think she did okay, sir.”

“I sure like to think so as well. Can I ask your opinion on something, Owen?”

“Of course, sir, what is it?” Owen had no idea what the king could possibly want his opinion on, but he was here to help. Or something.


“Piracy?” Owen asked, and Gerard nodded sagely. “I…think it’s bad and we should try not to have it?”

Another sage nod. “Good idea. I think I’ll make that the kingdom’s official position. I shall have to let the navy know.”

“Happy to be of help, sir,” Owen said, assuming that they were joking.

“Others don’t agree.”

“They don’t?”

“There’s a piracy problem on the west coast. A bunch of them have gathered around a leader and they’ve been carrying out daring raids on both sides of the border. It is the opinion of my military advisor that the Kyainese navy should deal with it, not us.”

“That’s stupid,” Owen said, before he could think. Then he heard himself, winced, and swallowed. “Sorry,” he said, when the king looked at him, amused. “What I should have said was, no problem ever got solved by making it someone else’s. I bet they’re saying down south that we should be dealing with it, right?”

“That’s right.”

Owen nodded. “I don’t want to tell your military advisor how to do his job, but what’s the point of a military if you’re not going to use it to help your people?”

“Now, that’s the kind of straightforward argument that I like. I shall have to tell her that. Though I expect she’ll say that the problem originated in the south and they should fix it.”

“Hm,” Owen said, looking at a window. “You asked my opinion, so I think you should just send someone and fix it before more people get hurt. A border is a line on a map.”

“Those lines are very important to some people,” Gerard pointed out.

They weren’t important to Owen. “More important than people’s lives?”

“A good point.” The king smiled at him. “Thank you, Owen.”

Owen shrugged. “I’m sure I didn’t say anything someone smarter than me hasn’t already said.” At least, he hoped he hadn’t. Owen would be very worried if military policy was being written by him in a hallway.

“Maybe not, but I was curious how you’d handle a situation like that.”

“I handle most situations the same way,” Owen told him. This was definitely one of those situations that just needed a sword pointed at it as far as he was concerned.

“Yes, I remember you saying that before. I think this is where we part ways,” Gerard said, gesturing to the large front doors of the palace that they were approaching. “The fortress is a little out of my way.”

Owen nodded. “Right. It was nice talking to you, sir.”

“You as well, Owen. I’ll see you at dinner.”

Owen saluted the king as he left, got a laugh in return. Chuckling to himself, he made his way outside, looking up at the rising sun. He was going to be early again. It was a quiet walk from the doors to the castle gates, and as Owen stood there waiting for the guards to open them, he looked back, surveying the damage to the grounds from the dragon attack. He could only see a very small part of the destroyed tower from here, but rubble fanned out from there, mostly moved into piles for removal. Trees were torn up. Part of the outer wall was collapsed, which they were repairing first.

The useless moat had lowered its water level by a good amount, making it significantly less useless now that the spikes were at the surface of the water. Apparently, nobody could figure out why that had happened, or where the water had gone. Owen was planning on talking them into leaving it like that rather than filling it back up and letting it be theoretically swimmable. Actually, he’d talk to Gabrielle about it today. Getting her on his side would be a good first step.

Having decided that, Owen nodded to himself and turned to leave through the mostly open gates, headed for the fortress like he did most days now.


Owen wondered when people had stopped saying hello and just started calling his name at him. He turned to face Aria. “Aria,” he said back, waiting for her to catch up. “Where have you been? I hardly see you anymore and when I do, someone’s dying. Nobody’s dying, right?”

“Someone is somewhere,” Aria told him. “But not anyone we know. I assume.”

“That’s comforting,” Owen told her, trying to decide if it was. “I’m on my way to the fortress, want to come?”

“I’ll walk with you. I’ve got errands to run.”

“Are you working?” Owen asked, curious. “Or personal errands?”

“A combination of both. I’m unemployed at the moment, but the personal errands take the form of work. I’m centipede hunting.”

That got Owen’s attention. “Any luck?”

“Not as such. I’m mostly collecting information. From what I can gather, they’ve been seen all over.” Aria said it casually, as if it were nothing to be concerned about.

“All over the city?” Owen asked. “That’s a problem.”

“All over the country.”

“That’s a bigger problem.”

“Yes it is,” Aria agreed, nodding. “An attack on the academy has finally convinced the mages to do something about Cleo’s father Solomon, however. So there’s hope.”

“What the fuck is he doing spreading centipedes all over the world?” Owen asked. “Aside from like, trying to freeze us all to death in eternal winter. He’s not going to pull that again, is he? I’ll kill him if he does. We should have burned that ice castle down.”

“It was an ice castle,” Aria reminded him.

“I’d have figured something out,” Owen grumbled.

“He’s after some collection of magical bullshit for God knows what reason,” Aria said with a sigh. “Your typical evil overlord type from what Cleo tells me. She ran away as a teenager to escape his crazy.”

“And now she’ll go back home to kick his ass?” Owen asked, hopeful.

“Something like that. When we do, you should come. You’d have fun. Assuming you can get permission from the boss.” Aria smirked.

“Gavin’s not the boss of me,” Owen said, puffing out his chest.

“Yes, he is.”

“Yes, he is,” Owen admitted, deflating. “I’d love to help, but do you need me? How hard can one guy and a lot of centipedes be to kill?”

“He lives on the Fury Plateau. You have to trek through the Roe Range, which is full of dragons.”

Owen perked up. “I’ll be there.”

“I had a feeling that would get you,” Aria said, patting Owen on the shoulder. “You’re predictable.”

“I try,” Owen laughed. “Hey, you’re unemployed.”

“And you’re not. Don’t rub it in.”

Owen shook his head. “I’m putting together Gavin’s formal retinue. Want a job?”

Aria made a bit of a face, looked at Owen for a good while. “I don’t know, I’d have to spend a lot of time with you and Gavin, and you’re really annoying.”

“But annoying in a fun way, right?”

The face continued. “No. You know Graham died in that attack?”

Owen’s smile faded. “Yeah. Sorry.”

Aria shrugged. “It happens. People you care about die. It…it’s the worst feeling ever. I’ll take the job, but on a short contract and with knowledge that I have to leave to go fight centipedes someday when the mages get their collective shit together.”

“So in thirty years?” Owen didn’t know much about mages and their timetables, but the way Aria said it was enough.

“Thereabouts, yes.” She sighed. “I’ll come by the castle sometime and talk to you about it. I want a lot of money.”

“I think I can swing that,” Owen told her, smiling.

“Didn’t expect to get to you hiring me this quickly, to be honest,” Aria said. She smiled. “Go to work. I’ll see you.”

“Glad to see you, Aria.”

“You too, Owen.”

They parted ways, and Owen continued on his way to the fortress. There were some difficult things in his life, some hard moments and bad people. But he had no complaints.

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