The message on Dally's screen flashed, “We’ve taken over Fort Ashengard!”. She smiled, let out a quick cheer and ran to the Dragon’s Den to travel to the fort and help with the preparations for defense. Timur and Ryder mounted their dragons and carried the barricades she had to add to the fort and they hurried on their way.
Renard landed gracefully in front of Fort Ashengard. He gently folded his wings against his body and sat slowly, allowing Dallyah time to adjust her position on his back so she didn’t fall. She heard Timur and Ryder land behind Renard and turned to wave at them. She patted Renard’s neck and he held his head high as she gently slid down his wing to the ground. She tapped his shoulder twice, and he bent his head to her so she could scratch his chin. “Good boy Renard, good boy,” she cooed. The dragon seemed to smile as he held his head high once again, regally glaring at the other dragons as he smirked. Dally patted his chest as she walked toward the recently overtaken fort.
Several of her team mates had gotten there ahead of her and were hard at work reinforcing the battlements. They waved or called out a quick “hello” as she strode into the castle. They knew Gustav was not there, as did she, but she’d need to see for herself. Timur and Ryder placed the supplies they’d brought next to the others and jumped in to help. Timur paused and watched Dally walk into the fort and frowned, concerned she’d actually find something or someone inside.
Dally walked briskly down the main corridor toward Gustav’s war room. She tried not to notice all the familiar furnishings that had been there last time she’d visited. That was a long time ago, and things like childhood memories had no place in her mind now. She stopped at the slightly ajar door of the war room, closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She entered slowly, one hand on the hilt of her sword and the other on her dagger, just in case…
The room was empty.
No table, no chairs, even the rugs had been taken up. The room was not very large, and the wall at the far end had a small balcony jutting out a few feet. She scanned the shadows under the balcony and turned to survey the rest of the room.
There were two windows on either side of the room that stretched to inches below the high ceiling. The curtains had been removed, the rods that held them hanging by one end from the fasteners that held them to the wall. Only the family portraits remained, lined up on the walls in order of age, oldest to youngest. Gustav had taken his own, of course. Dally looked reverently from one to another. Her great-great grandfather, her great grandfather, to her grandfather, to her father…
“That son of a…” Dally snarled, curling her hands into fists. How DARE HE KEEP THAT UP!” she screamed.
“Would you rather he destroyed it?” a deep voice queried from the shadows under the balcony in the far corner of the room.
Dally whirled around and drew her sword with one hand and palmed her dagger with the other. “Oh I don’t know Titan,” she replied slyly, “he destroyed the man, why not the painting?”
The large man emerged slowly from the shadows and shrugged as he cautiously stepped forward. “No one dared ask him why. He never seemed to notice the paintings anyway.” He held his hands in front of him, palms facing her. “I’m not here to hurt you or any of your friends out there. Thorne asked me to make sure you and your team were safe, in case Gustav left any traps. I searched but didn’t find any.”
Dally sheathed her weapons and sighed. “Do you know where he is?” she asked flatly.
Titan shook his head. “South, that’s all I know.”
“Thorne and Laria?”
“Not south,” Titan replied with a smile.
Dally nodded slowly. She looked over her shoulder at her father’s portrait and sighed. Titan moved beside her and grinned down at her.
“Would you like me to help you get it down?”
Dally grinned back. “Yes, yes I would. Thank you.”