They dismounted, and Ronin retreated to the woods, staying within eyesight of the fortress. Suddenly, a dragon shot out of the top of the fortress and soared into the sky until almost out of sight, then turned and rocketed toward them.
“Do not move,” Kazane said through her teeth.
Goda landed three feet in front of them. He was just as Kazane had described. He has a head of gray hair like an old man, and his long teeth made his mouth into a permanent sneer. His wings seemed to be painted with flames with the body of a serpent arching over them. He wore intricate Samurai type armor on his legs, head, chest and wing bones. His eyes were not visible under the shadow of the armor. Goda lowered his massive head to their eye level.
“Ah, Kazane, how is my favorite Guardian today?” he said in a gruff voice.
Kazane bowed, and Dally and Celia followed suit. “I am well, Master Goda, how are you this fine day?”
“I am well,” he replied. “I was quite surprised to find you were bringing me visitors. The fact that one of them is a long-lost princess is perplexing.”
Dally spoke slowly. “With all due respect, Master Goda, I am no princess. I am a Dragon Lord.”
Goda smiled, which was very unnerving. “Dragon Lord? Because you breed dragons and feed them and they do your bidding? Because you understand them? Everyone understands me, does that make them Dragon Lords?”
Dally sneered in response. “Yes, that is what makes me a Dragon Lord. But there is much more to it, so no, simply understanding you when you actually speak does not make someone a Dragon Lord.”
Goda chuckled and straightened to his full massive height. “What is it that you want from me, Princess Dragon Lord?”
“First, I want to let you know we appreciate you chasing the Blackbloods out of the Ridge,” Dally said. “However, they will be back, and in greater numbers, as I am sure you realize. I would like to propose a collaboration to rid the Ridge of the true Blackbloods for good.”
Goda snorted, puffing fire out of his nostrils. “The true Blackbloods, eh? Are the true ones the evil ones? Or are they the ones who have regained their honor, like the one standing next to you?”
Celia bowed in acknowledgement of the compliment. Dally looked over at her, then back at Goda.
“The Blackblood name is tarnished beyond repair, in my opinion. It will be forever linked with Gustav and Kharnyx and the destruction they wrought.”
“Yes, you may be right,” Goda replied, “but are you not half Blackblood?”
“I am,” Dally replied without hesitating, “but that half does not define me.”
Goda snorted fire again. “We shall see about that.” He lowered his head down to their level. “I will leave it up to my people as to whether or not they want to help you or not. I make no promises there. However, I myself will be there to help. Kazane will keep me updated.”
Kazane bowed. “Of course.”
“Is there anything else you want of me at the moment?” Goda asked, turning slightly to prepare for takeoff.
“No, Master Goda, that is all for now,” Dally replied. “Thank you for your time, and we appreciate your forthcoming assistance with the matter at hand.”
Goda looked back at her and smiled. “You are very much not a ‘true Blackblood’, Princess. Gustav was not smart enough to pronounce such big words.” With that he rocketed into the sky and dove head first into the center of the fortress.
Ronin emerged from the forest and the trio turned to meet him. Celia let out a loud breath and a nervous laugh.
“Well, I think that went well, yes?”