Captain Helias dragged Cayn by the arm until he walked on his own, however once his arm was free, he began to hang back immediately.
“I’m supposed to remain with the humans,” Cayn insisted, “until the King sends Celia for me. ”
“We’re not going far.” Helias stopped midway down the corridor in a spot far enough away from any junction or door from where someone might eavesdrop, and waited for Cayn to join him. He reduced his booming voice to a soft hiss of air. “There have been developments in our investigation.”
Cayn’s round twig-brown eyes grew. He leaned in eagerly, whispering, “Do we finally have names?”
“We do. We’ve confirmed that at least two council members are responsible for altering the documents about royal rulings regarding the upper class restrictions. We have yet to determine if they are also those behind manipulating the Domin’s schedule to prevent his attendance to select lesser meetings and hearings.”
Cayn was antsy with excitement. “Who are the council members?”
Helias watched for the jailer’s reaction. “Lord Ferrin Abbott and Lady Russet-Morah.”
Cayn wasn’t nearly as surprised as Helias was hoping. In fact, he hardly appeared surprised at all. Cayn said, “Look more closely at Lady Noah, Lord Xandia, and the Lords of the Emerald House.” She smiled at Helias’ surprised expression. “Since the quarter moon, I’ve repeatedly crossed Lady Russet-Morah meeting with those individuals in the tunnels beyond the dungeon at times when I was expected to be elsewhere in an official capacity. Something is happening.”
Ah, green rotters, too. “Which Lords of the Emerald House?”
Cayn’s joy abated. “I’m unsure. They all dress alike and they turned their faces away from me when I approached. One of the others always addressed me, namely Lady Noah and Lady Russet-Morah. ”
“Ha!” cried Helias. “What excuse could they possibly give for their presence?”
He meant it as a rhetorical question, but Cayn answered him anyway.
“None,” said Cayn. “They accosted me for not minding my own business and threatened repercussions if it continued in any way.” He proceeded to explain how he recently crossed the nobles meeting secretly in pairs, sometimes in groups of three but rarely more than four. Upon his unexpected appearances, their conversation ceased. No smiles, no greetings, only insulted stares as though he had no business being there when, in fact, he was the only one who had any business being there.
Helias stared at him. He was partly unsurprised, partly impressed, and entirely horrified.
King Vanentin had entrusted the secret investigation into the nobles and lords to a select few whose loyalty to him was without question. Cayn, the lowest ranking dragon among them, didn’t enjoy the protection of earned rank or noble status by birth as the other dragons involved and, therefore, was considered expendable among the gentry. If a noble decided someone like Cayn crossed a line, punishment by fines, lashings, banishment, or even execution were well within the archaic laws that the king was struggling to change.
“Caya, Caya.” Helias placed hands on both of Cayn’s shoulders and looked him earnestly in the face. “As I’ve told you many times, please, please, please. Observe but do not interact.” He shook him gently. “I beg you. Now, I’ll report to the Domin and you go back inside with Nathan and the new small one until your nanny comes for you.”
Cayn’s expression soured. “I’ll tell Celia you said that.”
Helias laughed richly and stepped back. “I appreciate the challenge!” He thumped the jailer’s back. “Also, be a friend and give me about a day’s head start, yes?”
Snorting, Cayn turned. “Coward.”
Smiling fondly after him, Helias waited until the jailer had gone and ducked back through the human-sized door, with the door secured, and then allowed his mirth to freeze over like stone.
Cayn served as King Vanentin’s eyes and ears in the less traveled parts of the castle however, due to his unprotected status, it also placed the jailer in the most danger. Such was that, when not dealing with prisoners in his jail, Cayn was to be escorted at all times to prevent any member of the gentry from making a false claim against him when there were no witnesses of sufficient status or rank to defend him.
Captain Celia, a bright green dragon born to a family of well-to-do intellectuals, had embraced military service early in life and presently acted as Cayn’s protector on most days. However, the mysterious interference and changing of times and locations of debtor hearings made it particularly difficult to ensure Celia was always where she was needed.