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  • Dragon Shanty

Episode 2 Transcript

Zellera

Hmm, do you remember what page we’re on?


Hanari

21.


Here’s your water, and I’ve got a pot of warm, honeyed tea if you’d like some.


Zellera

[starts reading old, previously heard words…]


Hanari

That’s page 12, dear. We’re past that.


Zellera

Ah, clams. You’re right. One second.


Hanari

It was right after you and Gull retrieved the spyglass from the well.


Zellera

Ah, then that means… are you feeling up for this one tonight? We can always summarize your entry.


Hanari

I feel good about it- the whole thing. Of course, the decision is ultimately theirs.


In this next chapter, I do describe moments of physical and emotional abuse, but please remember it’s ok to stop us if at any point it becomes too distressing. You won’t hurt our feelings.


Zellera

It’s true, please take care of yourself, especially this close to resting.


Shall I?


Hanari

Please do.


Zellera

After Gull and I returned to the cabin, I packed the spyglass into my bag, along with most of my belongings because I- I just hadn’t done it yet- and we slept.


The next day, sleepily soaked in morning sun and hurried to the rhythm of pulsing excitement, I rushed out the door with my things. I gallivanted parallel to the main road, scoping out a good vantage point and waiting.


From behind a shady willow just off the path, I spotted an ornately decorated cart rattling into town... and a flash of red hair through the window.


“I hope you and Finnigan get along alright,” I whispered to Gull, “I hope we all do.”


Looks like that brings us to your entry, Aunt Hanari. Would you care to take over?


Hanari

Delighted! For a little while, anyway… some of us are of fewer words.


Zellera

You’re trouble.


Hanari

And you still haven’t had enough of me.


Zellera

We’re not dead yet, ma’am.


Hanari

Well, I remember when Finnigan and I left Feidelwyn, he was so small he couldn’t see out the window of the carriage on his own- I had to lift his long, noodly body up like this.


Zellera

[laughs]


Hanari

But that trip he sat tall, dozens of spoon-shaped fins crumpled against the window. His seahorsesque snout had lengthened, and though his maw was still tiny for a dragon, he’d graduated from his diet of sardines to whole salmon.


With every rotation of the wheels, I was stretched thinner and thinner between where I was and where I wanted to be. When I saw my family’s manor in the distance, I remembered why.


It was the time of year mother’s garden beds were beaded with green buds. I knew she would eventually grow bored and leave them to fend for themselves until they wilted. Then, for the second movement of her yearly garden sonata, she would buy dozens of lush, fully grown plants and pay a poor man to tend them.


There were these moments when her swinging spring made birds sing, and her daughter proudly flex every muscle in her tiny body. She’d nurtured skinned knees and broken hearts, sturdy and rooted in her maternity like a blossoming tree… but she could also swelter and chill her children at will.


Finnigan and I departed the carriage and entered Peneterre manor. It hadn’t felt like my home in years, but for a young nomadic Bard, the house I’d been raised in was… close enough.


Greeting me as they always had, were the dolls.


Zellera

Oh god…


Hanari

My mother had been collecting them since she was a girl and there were… too many. They lined shelves, propped up books, sat politely on end tables- anywhere their jointed little wooden bodies would fit. The truly sentimental ones were strung up like marionettes, and many more had never even been unpacked.


Their eyes… their eyes were inset orbs of layered glass. Wherever you moved, their gaze seemed to follow, and each room yielded a fresh audience.


Mother was in the study when I found her, reclined with her bare feet propped up. She was thumbing the dog-ear of some Arcanic text like it was her only tether to the world outside the pages. With each moment I stood there, unacknowledged, I felt like a greater fool.


“I’m home, Mother. It’s good to see you.”


Zellera as Councilwoman Peneterre

“Welcome home, dear. I’ll be with you in just a moment.”


Hanari

Her voice dripped with reluctance, like she was savoring every last moment of solitude. I turned to leave.


Finally, she looked up from her reading.


Zellera as Councilwoman Peneterre

“Don’t be dramatic, Hanari. I said just a moment.”

Hanari

“Oh, It sounded like you wanted to be alone.”


Zellera as Councilwoman Peneterre

[Flippantly] “As per the usual, you’ve been home for five minutes and you’re already analyzing me.”


Hanari

“That’s not what I’m doing.”


Zellera as Councilwoman Peneterre

“Watch your tone.”


Hanari

“What tone? I’m just saying-”


Zellera as Councilwoman Peneterre

[sighs] “It’s fine, I was hoping you would be civil for one afternoon before bickering with me, but so much for that dream.”


Hanari

“I’m just trying to reassure you that I- I didn’t mean to.”


Zellera as Councilwoman Peneterre

“Didn’t mean to do what?”


Hanari

“To… I.... I still don’t really know what I did, honestly.”


Zellera as Councilwoman Peneterre

“Because you’re not really sorry.”


Hanari

“Sorry for what?”


Zellera as Councilwoman Peneterre

“Exactly,”


Hanari

she snapped, slamming the covers together. My spine straightened with the cracking of the book’s. Even from across the room, it felt like I was between those pages.


Mother stood, then pushed past me into the hall.


Zellera as Councilwoman Peneterre

“Forget it, Hanari. It’s always the same disrespect with you, acting like I’m the child and you’re the parent. You obviously don’t want to understand and I don’t have the energy to fight with you today.”


Hanari

“I didn’t mean to offend you.”


Zellera as Councilwoman Peneterre

“Offended by you? I’m not so sensitive.”


Hanari

“Here we go.”


Zellera as Councilwoman Peneterre

“I said forget it. I’d rather talk about what you’ve done to your hair. You look like a boy. Is that what you were going for?”


Hanari

“What? No, I’ve just been feeling warm lately and...”


Zellera as Councilwoman Peneterre

“I’m sure you also cut that beautiful gown at the knees for the same reason?”


Hanari

“Well… yes, actually.”


Zellera as Councilwoman Peneterre

“I sweat over fashioning clothes for you out of the finest cloth we can afford, and you just hack away at them.”


Hanari

“Is that what all this is about? I didn’t hack, it’s even hemmed several times over, see?”


Zellera as Councilwoman Peneterre

“Hanari-”


Hanari

“I love the dress, I swear. The neckline is beautiful and the color is so rich. You did a wonderful job, Mother, it’s just to make travelling in it easier. I’ve received many compliments.”


Zellera as Councilwoman Peneterre

“... really?”


Hanari

“Yes, even in Nauril.”


Zellera as Councilwoman Peneterre

“Well, hopefully you’re doing something useful with all that expensive fabric you removed. At least your hair will grow back.”


Hanari

I wondered with bated breath: was this it? Were we done? Was she content?


But alas, she continued.


Zellera as Councilwoman Peneterre

“If you cared to lose a bit of that weight you’ve been putting on, you’d go back to feeling a little cooler.”

Hanari

“Is that supposed to be funny?”


Zellera as Councilwoman Peneterre

“No dear, it’s not. I’m actually quite sad for you. You don’t have to listen to me, but if you keep it up, Reneer won’t want to marry you, and you won’t have me to cry to because I tried to warn you.”


Hanari

“That’s not even true!”


Zellera as Councilwoman Peneterre

“And how would you know? I know what men are like, you don’t. Unless... you’re hiding something, or someone, from me?”


Hanari

“You know I’m of my word.”


Zellera as Councilwoman Peneterre

“Then stop fooling yourself. We’re the same, Hanari. You’re just like me. I’ve already lived your life, made your mistakes… of course, your father certainly played a role in two of them.”


Hanari

“Why?” I froze before an open window, my anger thawing in the mid-morning sun.


“Why must you always poison everything? Are your children still not broken enough for you?”


Finn slithered between us, and we all trembled together as she raised the back of her hand before my face.

Zellera as Councilwoman Peneterre

“Would you care to insult me again?”


Hanari

I knew the cost when I parroted, “No, I’m just quite sad for you.”


My upper lip was flanked between my teeth and mother’s ringed knuckles, adorned with family gems nobody would appraise for fear of looking foolish, generation after generation.


Finn was livid! He lunged at the back of Mother’s leg, leaving three seeping scratches and nearly sending her off balance.


She waved a glowing hand above her wounds- a spell to stop the bleeding. I dropped to the floor and scooped Finn up, best I could.


Zellera as Councilwoman Peneterre

[pained noises]

“Hanari,”


Hanari

she lowered her voice and glared down at me as I sat, dazed by the sight of her skin sewing itself back together,


Zellera as Councilwoman Peneterre

“this right here, this is your one job as a Bard. This is the exact thing you’re supposed to be training out of him. Put him in his place or he’s going to kill someone.”


Hanari

She waited.


“Wh- right now?” I choked.


Zellera as Councilwoman Peneterre

“You heard me. I’d prefer not to do it for you, but I will if I must.”


Hanari

I lifted my hand as she had, but was petrified by Finn’s eyes. In their reflection I was mimicking my mothers posture, but rather than a dutiful disciplinarian, I saw a fraud. I didn’t belong in this role.


I couldn’t do it. Not again. Was I a failure for being so soft? Maybe, I told myself, but I would figure that out later.


All I have written at the end of this entry is…


Mother made good on her word and took Finn’s discipline upon herself. I scrawled a letter once about how it transpired, but I no longer have it. We’ll get there, though.


[breathes deeply] I’m ok. I’m ok. Your turn, Auntie Zel.


[brief pause as the book changes hands, and Zellera comforts Hanari.]


Zellera

It may have been rude to skulk just outside the open window as it framed the moment Councilwoman Peneterre struck her daughter, but there I was.


So I knocked on the front door.


Footsteps inside.


Ms. Peneterre blurted through the cracked door,


Zellera as Councilwoman Peneterre

“Oh, Miss Orana. You’re supposed to be meeting us at the Clocktower soon!”


Zellera

“I was just swinging by,” I gestured to a road I’d not taken, “um, I saw the carriage and was wondering if I could visit with Hanari for old time’s sake. Catch up a bit before everything gets… formal.”


She stared at me for a long, long, long time.


“A couple gals being pals,” I added for emphasis.


Then, under her breath while shutting the door,


Zellera as Councilwoman Peneterre

“I’m sorry, dear. Hanari just got into town and is already gathering her things to leave again. She needs this time to tend to family matters.”


Zellera

“Can I… ask her? She’s here, right?”


Zellera as Councilwoman Peneterre

“We’ll see you soon, Zellera. Think of it as an opportunity to practice being punctual for something.”


Zellera

The door clicked shut.


“... right,” I spoke into it.


So, feeling defeated, Gull and I lingered until all seemed quiet, then mosied to the Clocktower.


Hanari

I spent the interim packing seasonal clothes into a bag, and the day’s events into a letter to Edwick.


Zellera

It was a few hours before we met at Proscenium Hall for the rites. Through the dizzying passage, your Aunt Hanari emerged like a champion, unphased, and cloaked in forced confidence.


Of course, her mother followed right on her heels. It didn’t matter where Councilwoman Peneterre was in the room that day, I just… it was like I could not shake her gaze.


Hanari

Like those damn dolls.


Zellera

[Affirming] Like those damn dolls.


Hanari

Witnesses of the ceremony included the Council, a few instructors and observing students, Edwick, Zellera’s parents…


Zellera

[sarcastically] Your mom loved that.


Hanari

I think she was mostly upset that they came in late… in the middle of the Golden Sacrament.


Zellera

Oh yeah! I still have our ceremonial robes in a chest somewhere, remind me to show you tomorrow, sweet one.


Hanari

Oh, not those old things! They’re not nearly as sleek as that newfangled design you’ve all got nowadays... they’ll give you a good laugh, I think.


Zellera

In the meantime, just imagine two baggy, silky purple robes fitted only with a yellow sash. Still with the Bardic Eye emblazoned on the buckle, though, just like yours. They kept the oversized hood, too. Turns out you can seamlessly hide eight kittens in one of those hoods... if you can convince them to stay still.


Hanari

That’s a later story.


Zellera

[laughing] indeed!


Hanari

So, I took to the stage with my coin in one hand, and in the other, a copy of Bardic Rites and Rituals Book 1 to bestow upon my new underling.


Then, here comes Auntie Zel, holding the hem of her robes and clomping up the stairs in those bulky old boots, waving to her just-now-arriving parents with her free hand.


Zellera

They waved first!


At last, we were finally standing on that stage together, and I could see all the ways Aunt Hanari had changed in the last several years. I’d never seen her hair so short. It accentuated all the best ways her face had been gently touched by time, more soft and rounded than before.


Hanari

And Auntie Zel’s- I was surprised to see her hair so long! I had watched it unravel to this length when wet, but it was dry and bouncy and still down past her shoulders, showcasing all the lighter shades of green in every ringlet.


Zellera

I remember thinking your eyes were lighter, especially the yellow ring around your pupils like a burning star entering a new phase.


Hanari

-And yours were stronger, more confident, but still that shade of bluish-green, like swampy waters. They always made a little nervous about what was below.


And now, our hair is turning gray and our eyes baggy and-


Zellera

-and we are still lovely. And someday, sweet one, when your hair is gray like a storm and your eyes sink into your face like a pile of clean laundry...


Hanari

[laughs]


Zellera

… you will be lovely then, too.


Hanari

Auntie Zel’s right, don’t listen to this old cynic. I think the point is we were both in this momentary awe… momentary.


Zellera

[Laughing]


Councilman Frunicus boomed with arcane resonance,


Zellera (as Councilman Frunicus)

“Please demonstrate your Dawning Melody for your Bard.”


Zellera

I choked. “Wait, my Dawning Melody?”


People shifted nervously in the audience… people who wanted me to succeed and, well, were maybe a bit justified in worrying I’d make a fool of myself.


Councilwoman Peneterre interjected,


Zellera as Councilwoman Peneterre

“Ms. Orana, did you… remember to write your Dawning Melody?”


Zellera

“No no I wrote it, but um, I think I may have misunderstood the uh… order of events… so…”


There was silence, so I continued, “it’s just that, I thought I was supposed to do the song at our first dawn together… like, tomorrow morning or something… when we were on our own…”


Zellera (as Councilman Frunicus)

“This is the dawn of your journey,”


Zellera

The councilman spat,


Zellera (as Councilman Frunicus)

“This ceremony. The rising sun of your imminent success? Does any of that sound familiar?”


Zellera

One of my instructors sunk shamefully into his seat.


Hanari

“It’s symbolic,” I whispered, feeling equally embarrassed for her and for myself, “this, the Golden Sacrament, is the dawn.”


Zellera

And I just… a candle lit in my head.


“Oh hells. I’m sorry this is our first conversation but I may have made a mis-“


Hanari

“It’s ok, just sing what you’ve got.”


Zellera

“I’m so sorry…”


Hanari

“We need to stop talking to each other.”


Zellera

“I’ve heard that one before.”


Hanari

“Hardly the time!”


Zellera

“Fine!”


I don’t know you anymore, but I know who you used to be.

I know you didn’t like dark water, too afraid of diving deep.

Maybe all of that’s behind you now, and maybe so am I.

I don’t fault you for leaving, but you could’ve said goodbye.

You were my friend but put an end to it without a word,

It felt like a shout, it was the loudest thing I never heard,

And I know it’s all behind you now,

But you’re right in front of me, so…

If it’s ok I wanna know you after who you used to be.

I wanna know who we are now, after who we used to be.


“Again, I didn’t realize I would be playing it for, well, everyone… so…”


Hanari

Embarrassment swelled over me as if she was airing out our dirty laundry in front of everyone, though we all know Auntie Zel wouldn’t know what to do with a pile of dirty laundry if her life depended on it.


Zellera

I washed sheets last week, thank you very much.


Hanari

That was two weeks ago, dear.


Zellera

Again? Ah, fine. Tomorrow, then, if the rain lets up. You’ll help me, right, Sweet One?


Hanari

We both will, silly woman, but in the meantime, where were we?


Mm, the song. Well, it’s not like I was going to back out in the middle of the ceremony.


“Honorary, I entrust you with your first spellbook and vow, as your Bard, to be your guide through its pages. Take it, and we will read the first page together,” I instructed.


I placed my Bardic coin on her spellbook, a symbol of trust in my protoge’s magic and eventual mastery. She fumbled pocket to pocket for hers.


Zellera

Because I had one coin in each, of course!


My eyes shot to Aunt Hanari’s book. I couldn’t believe it. She was only on Book 2! I guess I’d been under the impression she was some sort of expert by now and was on book 10 or something!


Hanari and Zellera

“I carry history in my cupped hand,


So all may believe and may behold.


I hearken the hymn of Arcan and


It tumbles godlike from my tongue of gold.”



Zellera

As the final word dripped from our lips, the titular text of our spellbooks radiated with a golden glimmer. The letters erupted into a vortex enveloping the four of us, returning to the covers they’d left once their dance was done. My book had acquired a freshly emblazoned “H”.


I was an Honorary Bard.


Hanari

And I was her protector, whether I liked it or not. With the ceremony over, everyone slowly filed out of Proscenium Hall, down the stairs, and on to the sunny lawn of the Clocktower.


Zellera

I hugged my parents farewell offering up Gull to them for pats and well-wishes.


Hanari

And I hugged Edwick, deeply, taking in the familiarity of his embrace, then handed him the letter about mother’s behavior that morning. He quickly and knowingly stuffed it into his pocket as she approached us.


Zellera as Councilwoman Peneterre

“All my best, dear. I’m so proud of the Bard you’ve become. Be safe. You’re my good girl.”


Hanari

Mother wrapped me in her arms before I could get away, and honestly, I didn’t really want to. I held her tightly until she receded. Finn snarled.


Zellera

After Hanari Sr. moved on from her children, I approached and thanked Edwick for all his help.


Hanari as Edwick

“You four just be safe. Look out for each other.”


Zellera

As he departed, I smiled as widely as I could at Aunt Hanari and said, “Uh, hey.”


Hanari

“Hey.”


Zellera

“I guess I should probably apologize again for the song.”


Hanari

“No need, it was… well arranged.”


Zellera

“Okay...”


Hanari

“Shall we, then?”


Zellera

“Yeah, sure.”


Hanari

So we walked out of Feidelwyn. I was admittedly a bit jealous of how Gull rested on Auntie Zel’s shoulders, so small and trusting, as Fin bitterly lagged behind me on foot.


Zellera

At some point, I reached out to pet Fin’s head, saying, “You have grown so much since I saw you last!”


He shied his face from me, snarling, daunted by the potential of the human hand.


I recoiled, but assured him, “That’s ok buddy, it’s been a while since we’ve seen each other.”


Hanari

“I’m so sorry,” I pled, tossing a disappointed glare at Finn, “please don’t say anything, he’s just had a really hard day.”


Zellera

“I know…”


Hanari

“Yep, quite the journey we took. Pretty tired, actually. Looking forward to a cozy Nauril bed, some good old fashioned northern hospitality.”


Zellera

“About that,” I countered, realizing I was now reflexively holding Gull high and away from Finn, “I kind of told your mom my sailing instructor had a connection in Nauril, but it’s actually just a little jump south.”


Hanari

I stopped in the middle of the quiet road and looked her dead in the eyes.


“Zellera … if you’re taking us where I think you are…”


Zellera

“My beloved, trustworthy sailing instructor knows the captain personally…”


Hanari

“...And rather than charting a reputable ship from the Bardic metropolis of Nauril…”


Zellera

“At three times the cost!”


Hanari

“...We’re going to be trapped on a tiny,”


Zellera

“Humble...”


Hanari

“Dingey,”


Zellera

“Rustic!”


Hanari

“...ship captained by someone you’ve never even met? Do you even know how many pirates pass through Yenterra every night?”


Zellera

“Do you?”


Hanari

“Like... I know it’s a lot!”


Zellera

“I’ve been to Yenterra multiple times! If we mind our own business, nobody will bother us.”


Hanari

“You haven’t been there while also a Bard, though. Do you even know for sure that this captain-for-hire isn’t a pirate?”


Zellera

There she is, the Hanari I knew so well! I’m really trying to start us off on the right foot here, but that’s a pretty unfair judgement.”


Hanari

“It’s my job to keep Finnigan and Gulliver- and you- safe. I have every right to question whose boat we’ll be taking. Wake up, Zel. You have gold and a dragon now, and there are people who want to take them from you. The innocent farm-girl thing isn’t going to protect you out here.”


Zellera

“Out here, what, in Hanari’s world?” I scoffed and perched Gull on my shoulder to free up my ranting hands, “The only reason I’m out here is to help you get shipped up and out because you can’t find your sea legs.”


Hanari

My temperature rose, my face reddened. “You have no idea what you’re talking about.”


Zellera

“Hanari… did you ever even leave Cloverisle?”


Hanari

“Tch, and where have you been, besides sailing circles around the bay and smoking your nights away on your parents’ farm? I took my pilgrimage just like every other Bard in my class, thank you very much!”


Zellera

“Right, that one time with your instructors and a dozen fellow snobs, where you visited all the prettiest Bardic monuments around the world, basking in the light of each others’ generational wealth,”


Hanari

[scoff-gasps]


Zellera

“I meant you and Finn. Where have you been the last two years?”


Hanari

“If I wanted you to know I would’ve written.”


Zellera

“Fine!”


Hanari

“Fine.”


For hours, we walked in as much silence as Auntie Zelle could manage.


The first sun of our adventure was now diving below the ocean, leaving splashes of soft pink and orange in its wake as we neared the coastline.


Zellera

By the time we could see the dusky silhouette of Yenterra, we could hear it; clanging bells, mariners shouting directions, seagulls coordinating, the ocean slapping against ship and shore.


Hanari

It was the kind of shanty-town that looks picturesque for about 10 minutes, then you see all the battered old fisherman forced to work right up until the last drop of sunset is squeezed out of the sky, sometimes after.


Zellera

“Our boat leaves in the morning,” I finally admitted defeat at keeping my mouth shut, “we can get a room at a little place up the road, here.”


Hanari

“Just… the one room?”


Zellera

“Yeah, unless you’re paying for your own. I only have a little silver from fishing...”


Hanari

“No no, that’s fine. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be so ungrateful. I mean, if you want me to-“


Zellera

“You’re what, now? I don’t think I’ve ever heard you apologize before.”


Hanari

“Forget it. Let’s just get to this quaint little tavern you love so much. So, what’s it called?”


Zellera

“Why don’t you guess?”


Hanari

“Now how on earth am I supposed to-“


Zellera

“Just based on your surroundings, what would you expect a tavern here to be called?”


Hanari

“There’s no way I’ll get it right!”


Zellera

“There’s no prize for winning, just humor me.”


Hanari

“Um…”


I spun around, took note of Fin’s impending weariness, stared down a few lookers, dodged a puddle of spilt ale on the ground...


[reluctantly, with jab] “Ok, first guess: The Sticky Rig.”


Zellera

“Ooh, I like it, but nope.”


Hanari

“Goldbeard’s Loo,” I grumbled.


Zellera

[sarcastically] “No, but you are really good at this.”


Hanari

“This is superfluous.”


Zellera

“You’re supler-flourus.”


Hanari

“How about The Hostage Bard? Could that be it?”


Zellera

“See for yourself.”


Hanari

I followed her gesture to the yellow-painted signage just ahead.


“... Honeybee Haven?”


Zellera

“You love honeybees!” I announced, as if she didn’t know.


Hanari

“Y-Yeah, but-”


Zellera

“Don’t worry, there’s more. Here, there’s a little window on the door. Check it out.”


Hanari

The wallpaper was a soft, light yellow, and from the rafters hung the biggest quilts I’d ever seen, at least a dozen. Detailed chaos wrangled into orderly patterns… they must have taken years to make! I was admittedly pretty smitten with them.


Now, seeing Auntie Zel’s smug grin and being uh… well…


Zellera

Petty?


Hanari

I declared, “This should do just fine. I mean, it is only one night.”


Zellera

Before I could quip back, Gull started shrieking an alarm loud enough to wake the dead! A beat after, I felt the tickle of a wet nose on the back of my calf.


Spinning around, I faced a drake about 4 feet long, greenish skin, with six stubby legs and a belly that just barely grazed the ground.


She flared three gaping nostrils in my direction. Each one had flaps of flesh fractaling inward, expanding and contracting independently of each other, capturing every single scent.


“Uh… hi there, that lil sniffer of yours is pretty impressive, isn’t it?”


It happened so fast. A vibrant blue tongue lurched from her mouth, found purchase around the strap of my satchel, and yanked the whole thing clean out of my arms! The drake was quicker than all of our combined reflexes.


Hanari

So I turned to Auntie Zel and demanded, “where’s your coin?”


Zellera

My coin? In my pocket,” I assured her, “Don’t worry, I’d swallow it if I had to.”


Hanari

“That’s the spirit,” I winced.


Zellera

Scooping up Gull and stepping out in pursuit, I insisted, “still, I can’t lose that bag!”


Hanari

Knowing Finn wouldn’t be able to keep up on his own, I summoned all my strength, lifted with my legs, and did my best to carry him.


Zellera

We followed the sound of the thieving drake’s six feet slip-slapping in the night, leading us deeper into the back alleys of town.


Our visibility was slight, but the bay lapping over rotting wood and a chorus of barking sea lions told me we were running towards the docks.


Hanari

Finn was only getting heavier with every step. [running] “Zel, stop! This isn’t worth it! Whatever is in that bag, we can replace it or-“


Zellera

[fragmented by wheezing breaths] “No… we can’t! That bag… the spyglass… is…”


Hanari

“Wait, the spyglass? Why is it-? Zellera! I told you to take care of it!” Faster, faster, frustration thundered at my heels.


Zellera

[increasingly winded, slowing down] “I did! …I took care of it… for over a decade!”


Hanari

“I meant take care of it off the side of a ship or something! I can’t believe it’s still-! Ugh!”


Suddenly, no sign of the drake, no more footsteps to follow the sound of.


“I lost track of it,” I announced.


Zellera

We creeped out onto the soft, slick planks of the dock. The tide gurgled beneath our feet.


I looked left. I looked right. I couldn’t see anything through all the blasted fog.


Then, those loud, slapping footsteps resumed. Slowly, louder and louder.


“I don’t think it lost track of us. You hear that?”


Hanari

“What direction is it coming from?”


Zellera

“Can't tell. Both?”


Hanari

“Be serious.”


Zellera

“I am!”


Hanari

Sure as sunrise, approaching on either side of us through the mist were not one, but two identical drakes, one of which was wearing Auntie Zel’s satchel on her back in an uncomfortably… humanlike… fashion.


Hanari as Genevieve

“Do you smell it now, Guinevere?”


Hanari

The one with Zel’s bag asked the other.


Hanari as Guinevere

[sharp inhale] “I smell it now, Genevieve. They have more, Genevieve, more! They’re hiding it, Genevieve, but they’re here now. Nowhere to go, Genevieve.”


Zellera

[laughing] Thank you, I do love your Genevieve and Guinevere!


Hanari

They drew nearer, nearer into clarity. I could see their six collective nostrils, their twelve collective feet, their two blue flickering tongues like vines looking for something to grasp onto.


“Something strange is happening here, Zellera. Stay behind me.”


Zellera

What’s happening? How are those drakes talking? Are they dragons? I guess they’d have to be pretty old to speak, but they’re so small! Maybe they-“


Hanari

“Zel, please!” I hissed desperately, setting Finn down and stepping in front of the three of them, “just listen to me and keep hold of our dragons.”


Zellera

“But-“


Hanari

“If you want to learn, watch. I teach by example.”


Zellera

I held Finn back as your Aunt Hanari lifted an old, sewing box from her bag and released the clasp. A familiar song rolled off its cylinder as a tiny wooden dancer sprang forward, poised to spin in a dainty, disciplined display.


Hanari

“Animation Fetch.”


Zellera

From inside, a ruled canvas strip shot forth, knotted itself around the bag, and reclaimed it by force.


For a moment it was like this thing had a life of its own, but as the tape retracted back to the box, it was clear that your Aunt Hanari was the soul behind it.


The one called Genevieve was not expecting this, and the force of the bag being jerked from her back made her lose her footing, too. Her long, toothy jaw bounced off the docks and clamped down on her own tongue.


Hanari as Genevieve

[after biting tongue]Damnable witch!”


Hanari as Guinevere

“They have it all, Genevieve! We need the gold, Genevieve, let’s take it back, and whatever they’ve got in their pockets, too!”


Hanari

We thought we had seen the extent of their tongues. Nope! The tendrily-blue muscles stretched even further, striking and grabbing from at least 15 feet back.


Guinevere’s probed me in the eye.


The pain was searing, but more significantly, it was colorful. Splotches of rainbows splashed across my field of vision.


I squealed with joy, “this is perfect!”


Infinite prismatic ribbons, so fleeting and temporary. Colors. No time to lose.


Focusing only on the yellowest hues, I whispered, “Illumination Disorient.”


Zellera

I recognized it right away- the spell used in Proscenium Hall, which had enraged and nauseated me. So similar, but Hanari’s had a much… warmer tone.


Bursts of yellow light permeated the fog, dizzying the drakes long enough for us to flee.


I desperately skimmed for signs of the ship we’d hired, but having never seen it myself, it was futile.


For a moment, as the lights began to fade, I caught what appeared to be the Bardic Eye on the flag of a nearby ship.


“Come on!” I called, hoisting Gull under one arm and struggling to lift Finn with the other.


Hanari

She seemed so sure of where she was going…


Zellera

I thought I was!


Hanari

Stepping in to help with Finn, linking arms with Auntie Zel allowed us to form a sling. I knew neither of us could escape with him alone, but this… this was so much easier than carrying him myself!


Zellera

Genevieve and Guinevere were recuperating quickly, and soon they were right on our tails. I led us up to the deck.


Even on a strange ship where only silhouettes could be seen through the cloudy air, my sailor-feet found the door to the living quarters, which took us deep into the cargo hold.


Hanari

I knew very little about ships. I was along for the jarring, jerking, dark, dank ride.


But, the bowels of the ship did bless us with sweet, sweet lantern light and a slight diffusal of the fog.


Zellera

We looped around a labyrinth of crates and barrels, ducking into the soonest sizable corner to come along, not even daring to sneak a peek.


But the drakes… their footsteps had slowed. Surely our hiding place wasn’t so great that it had thrown them off the trail, right?


They spoke.


Hanari as Guinevere

“There’s more, Genevieve, more! This way, Genevieve!”


Hanari as Genevieve

“Arcan, I smell it! Leave the witch to her pitiful hoard, there is enough gold here for-“


Zellera

THWACK!


Hanari as Genevieve

[pain noises]


Zellera

There was a brief struggle, punctuated by a mighty roar.



Whatever it was… whatever great beast had emerged from the shadows of that cargo hold, fighting back Genevieve and Guinevere on the unmanned ship’s behalf, we wanted nothing of it. We used the distraction to climb into a large enough empty crate to fit the four of us.


Hanari

Snugly.


Zellera

As the creature neared, our noses were assaulted by a putrid, rotting stench. I could only imagine how Genevieve and Guinevere felt.


Hanari

Stomach churning, my god. I can still recall it.


Zellera

We hid in silence, and even when the smell and footsteps had faded, none of us made a sound for hours.


“Hanari?” I whispered, likely sometime in themiddle of the night, “you should sleep.”


Hanari

You should sleep. I’ll keep watch.”


Zellera

“We should both sleep, oh noble Bard of mine. At least take turns.”


Hanari

I sighed deeply. There was so much I wanted to say, but I was exhausted.


“Alright. We’ll wait for the crew to return and make sure we’re clear of… whatever it was that dealt with those drakes.”


Zellera

“I wonder what happened to them.”


Hanari

“It doesn’t matter now. Wake me if you hear anything.”


Zellera

“I can do that.”


Hanari

She could not, in fact, do that.


I’ve always envied the ease at which Auntie Zel could fall asleep, and stay asleep, through anything.


Zellera

I fought it off valiantly, but unfortunately, I did indeed drift off to sleep in that crate, warmed in the knot the four of us had become.


Hanari

After the day we’d had, not one of us stirred except to burrow deeper into each other as the night rolled on. I even caught Finn’s tail drape over Gull at one point.


Zellera

It wasn’t until the early morning hours, after having slept through the crew’s return, that we were, all at once, startled awake as the crate began to move.


Hanari

I squeezed her shoulder as we heard voices, pressed with tension, as they attempted to lift a crate of accidental stowaways.



Zellera

[yawns] Well, that’s probably a good place to stop for the night if it’s alright. This old voice is starting to crack.


Hanari

Aw! I thought you sounded great!


Zellera

I meant yours.


Hanari

[laughing] Trouble! Well it is a little past our curfew, but it was worth it to spend the time with you.


Anything you need before we hit the hay?


Zellera

Well, if you end up needing anything at all, any time of night, we’ll be right down the stairs. Don’t hesitate to wake us.


Hanari

I would suggest trying me first, since Auntie Zel will be out like a log in two winks.


Zellera

Goodnight, Sweet One. We’re so glad you’re here.


Hanari

We love you.


Zellera

So much.


[END]


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