Atop the ridge ten elves scanned the surrounding plains, calmly awaiting their final arrivals beneath a pale grey flag. Lounging amongst their mounts, they chatted to one another quietly, some sharpened their blades or waxed their bows, and glanced regularly at the horizon. Two sat side-by-side, drawing as another gently played a small harp. Only one stood. Two the untrained eye, they seemed a group of layabouts, but in truth each and every one of them was fine tuned to their surroundings, but none so much as Huld, however.
Resting his hand on the hilt of his sword, Huld watched the sea of tall grass sway all around them. The wind caught in his salt and pepper hair, sparing his short, bristly beard. His hard, brown eyes missed nothing, from the grazing rabbit to the watchful owl. One ear twitching, he heard the leathery beat of giant wings.
"They have almost arrived." He stated. The others fell silent instantly, looking in the same direction as Huld. One of the younger elves, a black haired boy with deep, dark, inquisitive eyes who had been drawing twitched his left ear.
"Should we ready ourselves in case it is not him?" He enquired, worried for the others' safety, most likely.
"No, Vicenjr. We are safe from the other generals right now. Only once he joins us we will be truly outcast." A lanky spearman steadily picked himself up.
"Man, about time he arrived! We've been waiting way too long already, my ass feels as if it's ready to fall off. What about you Kyn?" The other spearman yawned, black rings around his dull blue eyes.
"With all this watching and waiting, I feel ready for a nap, Yol." He sighed, also standing along with another, this one armed with a halberd.
"Should we stand to attention for the ex-general, Uncle?" he asked in a husky voice. Huld nodded.
"Yes, Skald, we should. Everyone on your feet. General Morvin selected you all personally. We should show this man that her choice is sound, if not unquestionable."
The five remaining elves stood, all of which were scouts, armed with swords and bows like Huld. One of the scouts stretched, tilting left and then right, before putting away her harp and standing in line with the others. Another ground her teeth, before asking directly.
"Sir, how strong is this no-longer-a-general? Can we actually rely on him? Dyora didn't say anything about him in the letter she sent me." She fidgeted some more as she stood in line, rubbing a lock of thick black hair between her thumb and index finger roughly.
"Strong enough. He has fought against Eamin several times alongside the young General Morvin. Despite this, Lorenya, we are needed here to keep him alive until he is no longer exiled."
"You can't be serious!" Yol exclaims. "He was that type of general!? He didn't just sit about all day?" One of the girls snorted, this one shorter than the rest in the group but lithe and sharp looking as her sword.
"Who'd have thought it? A general who could lift a sword? Of course he can fight, idiot. How else would he get exiled? By signing the wrong requisition form?" she sneered at him. That was unusually harsh for her, from what Dyora had told Huld. Li was a relaxed but attentive girl, with a dark sense of humour, but not typically stinging.
"Stop arguing already you two, you're going to make us look bad." The harpist, Tyca, added. They both quietened down. A long moment of silence passed, and still the former general had not appeared yet. Huld frowned and decided to distract himself for once.
"Harlow, boy, you're being awfully quiet for once." He said, getting a snigger or two from some of the others.
"Figured I'd just wait and see what he's like. Can't say I recognise the name. Vindril. Never heard of it." he replied.
"Huh," added Yol. "weird name. Wonder where that's from."
"No idea." Harlow said. "Vicenjr, Tyca, you know your noble families, ever heard of it?" Both negative.
"Don't suppose Karrick would know." Yol chuckled, getting a snigger from Kyn.
"Cut it. Now." Huld stepped in. "You are not to provoke him, understood?" The final elf stood silent, ignoring their jibes, looking straight ahead. Dark hair, dark eyes, dark skin. Everything about the boy was dark. Then again, they were all Iukan, dark was their look. This boy simply had an overdose of it, mixed with some silence and an intimidating calm. He pointed towards the horizon and everyone turned to look, seeing a green dragon heading towards them. Steadily it grew larger and larger before coming in to land in front of them. The elves all stared in awe and Huld stepped forward. Everyone snapped to attention.
"The Independent Reconnaissance Platoon awaits your orders, sir!" He stated in his best Sergeant's voice. For some time there was no reply, the dragon simply looked back and forth between them and behind her. She didn't give an impression of apprehension so much as amusement. Eventually a seemingly in-elven sound came from behind her and a young elf slid down her side to land face first on the ground.
"Guhhhhhhh...." The younger elves all peered at him with a mixture of amusement, curiosity and disbelief.
"That's an ex-general?" said Kyn.
"Nah, that's just his attendant I bet." Li.
"He looks exhausted. I wouldn't be surprised if he just had to escape the military..." came Vicenjr's concerned voice.
"Silence!" Huld fumed. Dyora had said this man was competent. What was he doing presenting himself like this? How did he expect to gain the soldiers' respect? He looked to the dragon. "What is the meaning of this?" The dragon looked him in the eyes. They held his own and he found himself unable to look away from their yellow glow.
"You had best watch your tongue with your superiors, sergeant. Ios is exhausted after numerous fights with those far stronger than yourselves. One even more so than perhaps the greatest of Generals." A level but still scolding female voice rung out in all of their minds. The dragon's frills stood partially up, indicating some anger. The boy picked himself up groggily and wiped himself down before stretching, a few bones and joints popping and crunching. There was a number of small, fresh cuts on him.
"Ugh, I knew I was going to feel that wind magic when I woke up. Bloody sorceress." He looked at them all mid stretch with a vacant expression. "Oh, we're here already? Hey, team!" Beaming at them all, his face would have seemed innocent, if it weren't for the four scars and various cuts. He was strange looking too, with long white hair and bright white eyes.
"Uh.. Kyn asked a good question a moment ago..." Yol added his say as usual.
"I was expecting something more..." Harlow mused.
"Impressive." Skald said what everyone thought in one word, his speciality.
"Me? Unimpressive?" The boy smirked, a harsh glint in his eye as he looked over each team member individually. "Pff, subordinates. Bet none of you've even stabbed a minotaur in the eye with an arrow yet. Anyone got some food going? I'd kill for some noodles." The dragon threw him what looked like a concerned look. Or maybe it was unimpressed. Huld couldn't tell for certain, her face didn't move at all, only her eyes and the frills.
"With that, I apologise for his eccentricity, Sergeant. The fatigue gets to his head and he tends to bite back at criticism." The strange voice rang out in his head again.
"Enough of that, Iilah." The boy said. "So... yeah. Food? Happening? Tonight? Tomorrow? Anyone?" He looked back and forth at the various members. One or two of the others set about getting food ready, exchanging uncertain glances. The young former general either didn't notice or simply ignored them. It wasn't unusual for some younger generals to be flippant, detached or even a bit ahead of themselves, but this outright arrogance was unusual, especially from someone with such an unrecognisable name.
"Sir, we really should be moving on, we have been here too long as it is." Huld told him. He expected an impudent response, maybe even to be reprimanded. Instead the boy seemed to think.
"Hmm... Does anyone have any food already made?" He asked. Vicenjr nodded and held out some bread. He politely took it, a completely different person from a few moments ago.
"Thank you. Assuming all of you are fed and rested, it would be intelligent to move. Now that Iilah and I have joined you, the danger has increased significantly and we are much more visible. I intend to move toward the coast for now, since the Iukans and Nameless tend to steer clear of it. We can recuperate and begin working our way to Eyrden over time. Everyone on board?" Once again, everyone was quiet. His attitude was hard to make sense of. One moment he was sneering and arrogant, the next he was agreeable and showed some semblance of leadership. This was concerning, if his capabilities were fickle and changeable he could be a liability.
"We have already eaten and are prepared to move. As Dyora wished, we are at your command...?" Huld asked, not having been introduced properly yet.
"Ios. As Iilah, my bonded, said. Your own name?" He replied.
"Huld. The others are Vicenjr, our medic. Yol and Kyn are our spearmen. My nephew, Skald, is our third pole-arm user with a halberd. Harlow, my son, helps lead our scouts who are; Lorenya, Li, Karrick and Tyca." One after the other they either nodded, waved or, if they were more confident, gave a 'Hey'. Ios took his time giving them all a good look over as they were introduced. He watched Huld the longest, which made sense to him, he had challenged the dragon, not a move most sergeants were bold enough to make. After a while he nodded.
"Excellent. Mount up. We need to move." Everyone did as instructed and Huld handed the reins of a spare horse to Ios. Hopping up onto the back of the horse, he patted its neck, a look of recognition in his eye.
"Hm, she even had you bring my old horse. It has been a while..." He stared at the horse for a moment, seemingly lost in thought, before gently directing it forward, setting off quickly for the coast. Iilah followed him, staying on land to avoid being seen. It was strange to see a dragon so large walk alongside a trotting horse, but then again, everything about the conversation had been strange. It was likely to get even stranger as well. Huld didn't like strange. Strange was unpredictable.
Looking to Harlow and Skald, he nodded. The two nodded back, but their concern was apparent. Some of the others shared the same look. Evidently, the young man had a lot of convincing to do. Facing forward once again, the elves set off after the young dragon rider.