“Lord Stilicho, the dragon has hatched.”
These were the softly spoken words that woke me up during the night. It was Suulin who spoke them, after Quorra let her into our cabin after several knocks in the dead of night. She had been sent by the others of the Unchained to summon me.
I had been recovering from my battle with the Horror known as The Abomination and I was still not quite back to my normal self yet. I had slept right through her knocking, which was unusual for me as I normally woke up to any sound that was out of place.
Suulin explained that Skram was woken in tonight to sounds of cracking. He eventually discovered the egg was opening, and not long after a dragon had hatched. A female one.
I took a deep breath. I had been hoping for more time to figure out how to handle this dragon question. Now, the dragon itself would force the issue. I shook my head to clear it and threw on some leather pants and a loose cotton shirt that Quorra had bought for me in Haven. I would go see this dragon for myself.
When I got below the others of the Unchained were standing around while Skram held the thing like a mother would hold a newborn babe. There was a nest of straw upon the floor. The dragon baby was colored a soft green, so light that it was nearly white. I surveyed the room, and took note of the different expressions held by my companions. Suulin’s face was the unreadable mask that it normally was. Skram And Dremnin both were smiling as though they were witnessing their wives holding their own first born child for the first time. Urgral looked on with his usual scowl. Vridich had a thoughtful look that betrayed no emotion.
After a few moments we began to discuss how we would handle this creature to get through the night and the next day. It was decided to keep it in my companions shared quarters where any unusual noises would likely be written off as more acts of diabolical magic by the rather intimidating Nethermancer. The others would all take their turn tending to the beast with Skram as it’s primary caretaker, which was fitting since T’Skrang believe they are descended from dragons. Perhaps they are, but clearly Skram was the most devoted to this creature, as he had been from the beginning, so he made the most sense.
I gave them a word of caution that was probably not needed. This was a beast of great intelligence and power, a beast whose ancestors were likely to have killed thousands of name givers during their time. My friend Skram shot me a look at those words, but I felt they should be said anyway. The last thing I wanted was to have anyone treat it like a lost puppy and for someone to get hurt.
As if to prove my point about the creature’s intelligence, it began to speak our names to us having apparently picked them up right out of our conversation. We were dumbfounded, we did not realize it could even talk.
After a few more minutes of discussion, and looking on in wonder, the group began to break up and head back to their bunks. I did the same, expecting not to sleep well. I did anyway though. If there was any plus side to the wounds I was recovering from, it was that they were making me sleep hard.
The next day after morning drills with the crew we met one again to discuss the issue of the dragon. Skram looked exhausted, and told us that over night the creature had woken up shrieking and had only calmed down after Skram fed it a couple of pounds of raw meat from the kitchen. After some discussion, we decided to tell Kerick and Eldwulf who were both already aware of the egg’s presence on the ship.
When Kerick arrived he nodded solemnly and stated that he had been afraid this would happen ever sense he first heard about the egg before we left The Reach. When I asked him, he indicated that he felt the crew should be informed. His reasoning was that big secrets on a small ship seldom stay secrets for long. I agreed. It would be better for them to hear it from their leaders than to discover it for themselves, or worse, speculate about the strange and terrible noises coming from the Unchained’s quarters.
We decided the best course of action was to wait for Roinak to show up with his group and then to tell the men before we left for Bartertown. We would free any man from his oath who would no longer want to serve on the vessel with such a creature on board. I would assemble the crew on deck and and give them a speech. My father was good at giving speeches but it was something I’d never really done or had to do. Suulin offered to prepare the men with an introduction for me prior to my speech, and for that I was grateful. Though an introduction hardly seemed necessary, I had faith that any contribution she would make would be for the better.
I was right.
Later that day Womax kocked on my cabin door. I was resting, still recovering. The weakness was just starting to wear off and my head was clearing. I got out of bed and responded, trying to hide the weariness in my voice. "Enter."
Womax opened the door followed by Wheeler. Womax nodded to me. "Lord, Roinak has returned, lord, and would like to speak to you." His face looked grave, and I knew something was wrong. I noticed he did not say anything about Roinak’s companions.
“His men?” I asked.
Womax frowned, met my gaze, and shook his head. I grimaced and looked to Wheeler; "Help me into my armor, I will meet him properly dressed."
Then to Womax; “Have Roinak come aboard and tell him I’ll be right out.”
Womax left and then Wheeler helped me get into my heavy armor. As always it was polished to a high shine. Wheeler was a good squire and pupil. Then we went out to greet Roinak.
He was standing by the plank and looked haggard, clearly suffering from some bad wounds. He had a bloody bandage around his shoulder, and another on his leg. Both were soaked through and drawing flies. He carried a large sack over hos shoulder with lumpy contents. I recognized them, and knew what they were… I had carried a similar object in a bag before, when I dumped the assassin Calamon’s severed head before the gates of Koingsberg.
Roinak stood tall, like me trying not to show weakness in spite of his wounds.
“Lord Stilicho,” he began; “I am afraid that I will not be going back with you to Bartertown. I would however like you to bring my companion’s remains back to the monastery for proper burial. Would you do that? I would pay whatever your asking price for their safe return.”
I nodded. “Very well. No need for payment Roinak. It is the least I can do.” I was taken aback, Roinak’s companions had been good men and hard warriors.
He handed the bag to Wheeler with a grim look on his face. "I thank you lord, good luck to you and yours." Then he turned on his heel to go.
I was momentarily stunned by his news, and it was Suulin, the ever watchful Suulin, who stepped forward. I had scarcely been aware of her being there.
“May I ask, good Roinak, what you will do now?” She asked.
He stopped. Then slowly turned to face her. His face was masking anger.
“I have a horror to kill, girl. It is my duty and now a point of retribution.” He said those words flatly, as though they explained everything she would need to know.
I took a closer look at his wounds as he stood there. He was in bad shape, and certainly not in shape to be charging back out into Parlinth on his own, let alone to face a horror that had killed three other hardened veterans of The Hand. It would be nothing short of suicide.
Suulin and I talked him into getting his wounds looked at and then we guided him to a healer in town. After she worked her magic on his considerable wounds, we took him to the inn for a bite to eat and some quiet talk. He tried more than once to shrug us off, but Suulin seemed to always say just the right thing to keep him going how wanted.
Once we got to the inn and began to eat, I tried to talk him into going back to Bartertown with us instead of going after the horror that had killed his comrades. I told him a tale of one my ancestors from prior to the Scourge, a great swordmaster who was so hell bent on revenge that he attacked his enemies by himself and was eventually killed without ever getting retribution. After his death, our family heard of his plight and our forces joined together and got justice for him. If only he had waited and come to his allies for support, he not only would have gotten his vengeance, but he would have lived to tell about it.
Regardless of my tale, at first he refused to listen to reason, that was until Suulin stepped in and with her subtle but effective words, he finally began to listen to reason. At last he agreed to return to Bartertown to consult with his monastic order before making any emotionally driven decisions.
That was a great relief for me, and I appreciated Suulin’s help. Without her intervention, it is likely that Roinak, a good warrior and my trainer, would have died in Haven. Instead, he healed up and made his way to Bartertown to link up with his monastic order and fight another day.