Camilla walked with long strides, giving Willis some trouble to keep up. His heart was fluttering, his palms sweating, his balls trying to get as deep inside him as they could to hide. He was such an idiot. Why had he lied? To avoid being passed around the camp as a sex slave, yes. But his lie had been foolish and he would be quickly found out. He didn't even know what Baron Heidenbach's banner looked like, how could he claim to have been a knight in his service?
Unless that banner was the standard that those horsemen had been carrying when they were led to that mill. Maybe it was. Would the Valkyrie know? Of course she would. Bad. Not good. Oh no, they'd know right away he was no knight. But Rhea was there, walking right behind him. Maybe she could help him out.
They entered a pavilion. Not a tent, but an actual pavilion, so high that Rhea didn't have to bow her head at the entrance. There were pelts of bears and wolves at the walls and the ground, and at the middle was a heavy table made of dark, polished wood, surrounded by sturdy chairs. Seated in three of these were men in impressive get-ups, one in heavy steel plate ornamented with various chains of gold and silver, and a heavy medallion of office, marking him as an important man. He had a similarly ridiculous moustache as Willis, but he was getting on in years, his hair had turned grey at his temples. The other two men were less impressive, one was in heavy plate as well but lacked the signs of high status, though he looked quite a bit like the first man, and Willis assumed them to be father and son, and the last man was dressed in neat clothing with no armour, and had an open book in his lap, a bottle of ink hanging from his neck and a variety of quills stuck into his hat, with one in his hand.
"Sorry to keep you, gentlemen" said Camilla as she entered, nodding to them. "You came to see my Dragon, and I've brought her"
All three men stiffened up at this. Their eyes swept past Willis without paying any attention to him at all, eagerly wolfing down the sight that followed him.
After that stint in the woods, Rhea wasn't at her most impressive. She'd bathed, sure, but still wasn't anywhere near as neat as she could have been, and her clothes looked like little more than rags tied around her as sashes. Still, her scales were black and shining, her wings were wide, her tail long, her horns fearsome, her eyes piercing, her claws clearly deadly, her muscular frame enough to put each and every one of the men to shame.
"Good sirs, this is Rhea, my Black Dragon. As you can see, she's still young and frail, so I will ask you to take that into consideration when it comes to your offers. Rhea, these gentlemen are here as representatives of the esteemed Count Lindon, Viscount Sebastian Lindon, the count's younger brother, his son, Sir Emmanuel Lindon, and their scribe, Norman of the Lakeside. Sirs, the gentleman accompanying us is Sir Willis Drygrass, one of Baron Heidenbach's knights, whom we found lost in the woods"
Willis had been listening to the introductions while trying to figure whether he knew anything of these man or not, and had not expected to be introduced to them, as he was not a knight himself. Of course he then remembered that he WAS a knight, or else he would be a dead peon.
"How'd do, good sirs" said he with a courteous bow, done by the rules of no etiquette or protocol, as Willis knew none.
"Sir... Drygrass, was it?" asked the Viscount, seeming mostly disinterested. "Pleasure" he added, minding his manners, and returning his gaze to the Dragon, who was staring at the pelts on the walls with feigned interest rather than meeting the eyes of the gawkers.
The Viscount's son seemed likewise completely absorbed in the form of Rhea, but the scribe regarded Willis with suspicious eyes.
"I don't believe I've ever heard of such a man in the service of the Baron" he said.
His companions cared little of this remark, but Willis felt his stomach churn, and felt Camilla fix her gaze on him as well, to see how he'd handle the situation.
"I do admit to having been a hedge knight until recently" he said, trying to sound embarrassed rather than scared to die.
"Indeed? And how is it that you came to be lost in the woods and chanced upon this... Dragon? On this side of the border, no less!"
Having heard these reasonable points being raised, the Lindons also diverted some attention from the Dragon, and even Rhea began to stare at him. If he could save his own skin here, it'd save her skin too. Figuratively in her case, literally in his.
"Well, it was about two months back that some of us boys got together for some... diversion, that is, a change of pace, and so we went into the woods to cut down this... cluster of Matango we had learned about" he quickly said. This even had taken place for real, after all. Only after he'd said it he realized that one or maybe all of these three might have been there. But he'd said it, and none of them showed any sign of thinking he'd lied.
"Indeed, I've heard of this" said the younger Lindon, nodding. He betrayed some disappointment he had not been there himself.
Norman of the Lakeside looked at the young man with a look of disapproval, he had hoped this story to have been proven wrong right away.
"And then?" asked he.
"Well, that is, we did make merry, and I, being unaccustomed to stronger drink, found myself a little under the influence, as it were, and while giving chase to one we had managed to blind but not kill, I fell off my horse. It didn't even occur to me to call for help or try to calm my horse, rather, I stumbled after the escaping mushroom, and then, somehow, ended up losing my way from my companions. I was in that cursed forest until I quite sobered up and found myself going in circles and such, as if the place was haunted. Indeed, it took me most of the time between then and now to get anywhere at all, and only after finding myself at the camp of the Dragoness here and her companions that I learned there were Fairies in that neck of the woods. Of course it was the enchantment of these that had left me lost. So I joined up with this lot, and together we captured the Fairies, but of that I would rather not speak until I've wet my throat"
He was pleased with himself. He had spoken to these noblemen as they were his peers, he had told lies that were in most part truthful, and especially that last bit of demanding a drink had made him seem like someone used to command. Yes, he was a knightly knight.
"And where was your squire in all this?" asked Norman.
"Why, I didn't have one with me, most of us didn't. Our little escapade wasn't one any of us took pride in, what with the drinking and whatnot" Willis replied as he sat down at the table.
Camilla clapped her hands loudly, and from behind a partition at the back of the pavilion came a young, slender boy with blue eyes and long light hair, clearly one of the Nordic types.
"Karl, the guests will have something to drink now, and so will we!" she snapped a command, and the boy bowed his head before disappearing back where he came from. With surprising swiftness he returned with a tray on which was a jug, four clay cups and two hollowed out horns. The two non-humans picked up these horns and were served first. The jug apparently contained mead, which, when Willis tasted it, was sweet and thick. A very pleasant drink, he thought.
"Now then, Sir Drygrass, would you care to regale us with your story?" asked Norman, fixing his intense gaze once again into his face. Willis felt uncomfortable to be stared at so.
"Oh I don't know" he said, clicking his tongue. "I may embarrass this Dragoness of ours, and to shame a lady is unbecoming. I'd rather she tell the tale, so she may omit any details she wishes" he said.
Norman grinned as if he had won some personal victory.
"Then let's hear it from her then!" he said.
"Norman, please. We're here for a demonstration of the Dragon's abilities in combat, not to hear how she and an errant knight captured some oversized insects" the Viscount rebuked his scribe, who sat up anxiously.
"Are Fairies not powerful beings? Their magic is enough to make a knight wander lost in the woods for... two months was it? Then would this not prove to us..."
"You want a demonstration?" Rhea asked suddenly, having downed two hornfuls of the mead, standing up herself.
She brought her thumb to her mouth and wet it with her saliva, then reached for Norman, and, before he had time to reach, brushed his cheek.
The screams began immediately, but none of them had time to observe what effect her acid had had on him, as Norman of the Lakeside ran out of the pavilion, clutching his face and screaming bloody murder.
"There is to be no more idle talk of Fairies or of lost knights" said Rhea, smoke escaping her nostrils. "You want me to devour a bull next, perhaps? Or roast a dozen knights until their armour becomes one with their flesh? Or maybe sprout a spiky cock and rape a princess?"
The Viscount Lindon swallowed and shook his head. His son was shaking and perspiring profusely, not looking directly at her. Willis was suddenly very conscious of the fact that Rhea was not only a Dragon, the apex predator, but a BLACK Dragon, which meant she was the most evil of all the creatures that dwelled on Earth without the aid of magic. The only one who didn't seem to mind her outburst was Camilla, who remained calmly seated and sipping at her mead. She gestured with her hand, and Rhea sat down.
"Now then sirs, I apologize for her indiscretion, but as you can see, my Dragon is quite capable. Your scribe will live. Shall we discuss business?"