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  • Dragon Shanty

Episode 3 Transcript


Hanari

Here’s your water, right here on the table.


[pause] You’re very welcome! Always so polite!


Zellera

And such a good gardener. Have I mentioned how happy we are that you’re visiting?


Hanari

Not that you’re here just to help us with the chores, of course, but having an extra set of hands on deck is nice.


Zellera

Speaking of hands on deck…


Hanari

[laughing] Well, you could at least let them get their PJs on first.


Zellera

What? I’m excited! They're excited! We accidentally stowed away on a pirate ship! They want to know how it turns out!


Hanari

Don’t spoil it! Besides, we all know how it turns out. [playful forehead kiss sound] Now have patience, woman.


Zellera

… Ooh, I'll be right back, I’m gonna go get the hand drums.


Hanari

[sighs]



[INTRO TESTIMONY (INSTRUMENTAL) PLAYS]



Hanari

We were in Yenterra, after we’d been chased onboard an unfamiliar cargo ship by Genevieve and Guinevere.


Zellera

Putrid smell… draconic roar… hiding in the crate… ah! We're hereabouts, I think.


The four of us awoke to bickering crew members trying to lift the crate we’d taken refuge in through the night.


Would you care to be Sayaia or Tooth this time around?


Hanari

Sayaia.


Zellera

After you.


Hanari

Alright. [Clears throat]


Hanari as Sayaia

“Lift with ya legs, old girl! You’re gonna pull your last good muscle.”


Zellera as Tooth

“Heh, and how would you know I’m not?”


Hanari as Sayaia

“I know how it feels when you lift proper, and this isn’t it.”


Zellera as Tooth

“Yeah well, maybe that's cuz this damn crate is so heavy on one side.”


Hanari as Sayaia

“Ya, mine, cuz you ain’t lifting right!”


Zellera as Tooth

“You just wait til you’re my age, kiddo, and then you can tell me how to do my job.”


Hanari as Sayaia

[mockingly] “Just wait till you know what it's like to have problems, Sayaia.”


Zellera as Tooth

“Oy! Back and left, left, left! The pole is right behind you, take it easy.”


Hanari as Sayaia

“I can hear you, you know! No need to shout!”


Zellera as Tooth

“Stop, wait, hang on, put her down…put her down… the label on this one…”


Hanari as Sayaia

“What is it?”


Zellera as Tooth

“We already suckered this load onto the Bards in Nauril. Should be an empty crate.”


[long pause, then a smack on the lid of the crate]


Zellera

I “Yeeped!” as the top of the crate was smacked.


Hanari as Sayaia

“I’ll get the captain.”


Zellera as Tooth

“Don’t be daft, get Ponroi!”


Hanari as Sayaia

“Right.”


Hanari

replied the other.


This Ponroi must have been nearby, because we soon heard the first crew member returning with an accompaniment of light footsteps.


Hanari as Sayaia

“It’s over here, ma’am. Tooth should be standing by.”


Zellera as Ponroi

“Indeed she is. You found a suspicious crate?”


Zellera as Tooth

“It yelped like a little girl, but it feels like it’s got two grown men in it.”


Zellera as Ponroi:

“And where is Kuu?”


Hanari as Sayaia

“In his room, do I… need to fetch him?”


Hanari

Sayaia’s voice shook.


Zellera as Ponroi

“No no,”


Zellera

Ponroi replied,


Zellera as Ponroi

“Not yet, anyway. My throat is warm…”


ZELLERA (as TOOTH):

“So when do we pop this puppy open? It’s stuck shut from the inside, but I’ve got my good chompers in.”


Zellera as Ponroi

“Settle down, Tooth. Get Jebul to help you two gently lift it to the brig. We want to be prepared for whatever comes out.”


TOOTH AND SAYAIA IN UNISON:

“Aye, ma’am.”


Zellera

“Ohh, wait!” I released the lid.


Hanari

Grabbing onto Finn, I hissed, “Zellera! what are you doing?”


Zellera as Ponroi

“Stowaways, eh? Show yourselves!”


Zellera

Heavy chains could be heard rattling to the floor in a swift, disciplined movement.


Zellera

[hastily whispering] “Come on, Hanari, we’re busted.”


Hanari

[also whispering] “I know that… but as your Bard, I insist on doing the talking.”


Zellera

[still whispering] “Of course, your Bardliness. Come on, Gull. Attaboy. Up we go.”


Zellera as Ponroi

“I’ll give you five seconds to reveal yourself. Don’t even think of weaponizing your dragon or we will be forced to-“


Zellera

We sprouted up, Gull on my shoulder, sharing the weight of Finn between us. The crate’s lid rattled to the shipmates’ feet as we stood in awe of the luminescent woman looming over us, brandishing a heavy, scythe-headed chain like a whip. She seemed to have a dusting of gold over her dark skin. More unusually, she wore a thick, sealskin cloak, which was draped over a strange mound of shapes on her back. A large bag, perhaps?


Zellera as Ponroi

“Ah, a pair in their… twenties? Both fairly short, one with green hair, a smaller one with red. Avian and aquatic dragons.”


Zellera

She wrenched her wrist, sending a ripple crackling down the chain, and I couldn’t shake the thought of her wielding our spines in much the same way.


“They don’t look like thieves or spies.”


I looked to Hanari as an anchor of wisdom, but her forehead was dotted with sweat and she was just standing there, frozen and stammering.


Hanari

[Re-enacts stammering, then laughs at herself]


Zellera as Ponroi

“So, what are you? Evangelists? Have to say, I’ve never seen this method…”


Hanari

“We- uh- I’m… we are Bards. Astute observation.”


Zellera

[whispers] “I’m an Honorary.”


[silent pause]


Hanari

[gathering herself] “We… we were attacked by uh… bandits… on the docks. We took refuge on your ship out of desperation, and we are truly sorry for boarding without the proper procedure. We can just see ourselves out now.”


ZELLERA as TOOTH:

[laughs] “We haven’t seen shore for six hours.”


Hanari

[hopelessly] “Alright, fine, just great. At your next port, then, I guess. What’s the fare? We’ll gladly pay it now.”


Zellera

A pitying glance rolled down Ponroi’s nose as she sheathed the scythe-end of her weapon.


Zellera as Ponroi

Yenterra is no place for two fresh Bardlings and their Teethers, especially at night. Couldn’t take the extra hour to Nauril?”


Zellera as Tooth

“What did she say about Teeth?”


Hanari as Saiaya

“Stop cleaning out your ears and pay attention, nobody was talking to you.”


Zellera as Ponroi

“Oi! You two entertain the stowaways. I’ll be right back with the Captain.”


Zellera as Captain Pen

“No need,”


Zellera

Down the stairs strode a lean figure with skin of deep azure, strong-looking even through a thick, colorfully embroidered emerald coat, unfurling a graceful descent from their heavy boots.


Zellera as Captain Pen

“each of you alone are loud enough to wake the dead.


Ponroi dear, why are there Bards on my ship?”


Zellera as Ponroi

“Well we were only just getting acquainted, but they seem to be here by mistake. They’ve offered to pay their way…”


Zellera as Captain Pen

“We are not a ferry, and we don’t bargain with Bards. Tooth, Sayaia, escort them to a cell and keep watch until we can dump them at Messpeak Point.”


Tooth and Saiaya

“Aye, Captain!”


Hanari

“Now just hold on a moment, Sir! Uh-“


Zellera as Captain Pen

“Captain.”


Hanari

“Oh, sorry, I…”


“I uh… I invoke Bardic Law and request to see your credentials for captaining this vessel.”


Zellera as Captain Pen

Request denied.”


Hanari

“Wh- wh- but you can’t do that!”


Zellera as Captain Pen

“Strikingly, I can.”


Hanari

“I mean, if you’re a pirate, perhaps.


Wait… oh, no, no, no.


U-uh… no big deal, no big deal if you are pirates. I suppose that does make sense since women don’t often take up the wheel, so uh, good for you in that respect. I may be a Bard but I uh- I’m actually quite… uh… um… progressive. Very no-judgment-here. I’m not uh… endorsing the piracy, of course… if you are, but…”


Zellera as Captain Pen

“I’m no woman, either.”


Hanari

I was so dumbfounded by that, I almost forgot that the question of piracy still hung unanswered in the air.


“I- look, I’m not going to respond to riddles. Sir, Ma’am, whatever you are. We’re happy to just escort ourselves to the brig. We wouldn’t want to inconvenience you.”


Zellera as Captain Pen

[Yawns] “You’ve already inconvenienced me. Don’t you worry, here aboard The Gravekeeper, we provide only the finest accommodations for our stowaways.”


Zellera

And so, to the brig we went.


Tooth was the first to guard our cell. She seemed at least 60, and spent most of her time smacking her wooden dentures together or humming some old shanty. Occasionally we would hear the garland of assorted teeth tied around her waistline rattle, like a bell giving the cat away. She’d creep up to the bars of our cell, chuckle with grave anticipation and shake her head like we had no idea what we’d gotten ourselves into.


Meanwhile, Finn slithered into a mound of soggy straw in the corner, glaring at Hanari when not resting his sleepy eyes.


Gull paced across the cell, and as much as I could relate to his restlessness, it was starting to drive us all a little bonkers. I committed to watching his every move with fearful diligence, especially as he was the only one small enough to potentially wriggle between the bars.


I finally met Hanari’s eyes over Finn’s brutal gaze and Gull’s fidgety bobbing.

“Should we maybe talk about what we’re going to do?”


Hanari

“There’s nothing to say. We’re going to sit in this cell, then collect ourselves in that rat-trap Messpeak. In the meantime, let’s just pray to Arcan that we make it out alive and with all that’s rightfully ours.”


Zellera as Tooth

Tooth’s humming curled into a chortled, “that’s a good girl.”


Hanari

“Please don’t, miss- uh, do you have a first name?”


Zellera as Tooth

The.”


Hanari

“Right.”


Zellera

The intrinsic need to dispel tension gnawed and gnashed at me, and in its metamorphosis to words, only agitated the situation.


“Are you doing ok down here? Like, being underwater and all?” I asked her.


Hanari

I dug my nails into the floorboards. “What did you just say?”


Zellera

“Your thing with ocean stuff and water, I wasn’t sure if this would be especially hard for you since we’re technically… uh… I mean, the ship doesn't exactly float over the water, and we’re in the lowest part of the ship, so… oh no. I made it worse.”


Hanari

“I wasn’t thinking about it! Oh no. Oh Arcan. Distract me. Distract me right now. I’m breathing. I’m breathing. I’m here. I hear the moaning old ship- oh god. I smell… Zel’s smokebox…”


Zellera

[sniffs] “Mine? Oh, Really?”


Hanari

I feel the… dirty floor. I can see… Zellera. Ugh! None of this is making me feel better! Oh, Arcan, watch over me. I’m breathing. I’m breathing. I’m here.”


Zellera

I reassured Gull and pulled him onto my lap, twiddling the coin before him, “It’s ok, it’s ok! Distractions, um, how’s your mom? Shit, no…”


Hanari

“What, seriously? That’s what you’re going with?”


Zellera

“No, sorry, I just… I just wanted to show I cared, not… make you feel like this.”


Hanari

(pause, then awkwardly,)


“How are your folks?”


Zellera

“They’re good, yeah. Gearing up for harvest again. There’s been a baby goat boom thanks to an enthusiastic new billy, so… it’s been busy.”


Hanari

“… and Lenei?”


Zellera

“She doesn’t talk to us much these days… I think she’s okay though. Last I heard she and Drethaz are Book 3.”


Hanari

“Hm.”


Zellera

“Is this helping?”


Hanari

“A little, I think. I know we’re relatively safe, I do. I’m just hoping this subsides before giving me a headache. K-keep going. Please.”


Zellera

“…How’s Reneer?”


Hanari

“Oh, um... he’s fine. He visited Nauril for a bit last year. Got to show him the city.”


Zellera

“Are you guys still…”


Hanari

“Yeah.”


Zellera

“Cool. Cool, cool. Very cool.”


Hanari

“Zellera,”


As I gradually recovered from gulping down every mouthful of air like it could be my last, one question came bubbling to the surface.


“Why did you keep the spyglass?”


Zellera

“The same reason I keep most of the stuff I have. I guess you could say my memory’s not the best.”


Hanari

“You’re telling me you just… forgot to deal with it?”


Zellera

“Um, not in this case, no…”


I slumped back against the wall, watching the lantern overhead swing to the ship’s sway,


“I kept it because I didn’t want to forget anything from the night we took it. The weight of it in my hand, the cold, brassy smell, the minutiae in the finish… It helps me to relive it with a just a little more clarity.”


Hanari

[scoffs]


“And why would you want to relive a night like that?”


Zellera

“Maybe it wasn’t all good,” my jaw clenched, “but it was still important to me. I learned a lot about myself… and about you.”


Hanari

“And still you know nothing about me at all.”


Zellera as Tooth

“Arcan’s tits!” A jarring laughter erupted from Tooth, “what are you, exes?”


Hanari and Zellera simultaneously

Hanari

“What? No! Of course not!”


Zellera

“Kind of.”


[pause]


Hanari

“Kind of?”


Zellera

“Of course not?”


Hanari

“Uh, maybe we should try a different topic. I’m sure you have a lot of questions about being an Honorary, right?”


Zellera

“Oh, you bet I do.”


Hanari

“By all means.”


Zellera

“Alright. Did the initiation actually do anything?”


Hanari

“Pardon?”


Zellera

“What was the point of embarrassing ourselves on that stage? I sing you a song from the heart, you somewhat acknowledge it, we read a little poem, and there’s some fancy magical illusions with a book. Ok, so what does that actually do for me?”


Hanari

“Illusions? A visible blessing straight from the one true Arcan, blood of all life and magic, literal artisan of our entire world, and what, you think it’s just a party trick?”


Zellera

“Maybe I do.”


Hanari

“Well, I can’t fix your heart. Only Arcan can do that.” Talking in this way, in charge, knowledgeable, this sedated my anxiety. I was back on top, in control of something.


Zellera

“My heart is just fine.”


Hanari

“Even from an apostate worldview, it’s a well-preserved tradition derived from an ancient sonnet. If nothing else, its longevity deserves a bit of reverence, I think.”


Zellera

“Ok, fine, so to you it’s just tradition, but for me, I didn’t grow up with all that. It just was supposed to mark the moment I went from being ‘Zellera the Joke’ or ‘Zellera the Weirdo’ to Zellera the Bard. So when am I supposed to start feeling different?”


Hanari

Before my next attempt to explain the unexplainable could leave my lips, the door creaked open and Sayaia strode through the threshold. She skimmed her surroundings with an ivory cane, checking for any unexpected obstructions in her path, then planted herself in the middle of the room and announced,


Hanari as Sayaia

“Tooth! If you’re still alive down here, Jebul needs your help. I’m taking over.”


Zellera as Tooth

[dozing off] “Jebul can give me another hour.”


Hanari as Sayaia

“Oh no you don’t, I’ve been looking forward to my turn all morning! Also, Ponroi’s orders. We’re slipping into a nasty storm and Captain Berto feels thunder. Now, scoot!”


Zellera as Tooth

“The amount of disrespect in this crew, I tell ya. Not even the Captain…”


Hanari as Sayaia

“Yes, yes, now get gone.”


Hanari

With Tooth grumbling away, Sayaia plopped down on the stool and swiveled around in our direction.


Hanari as Sayaia

“Welcome aboard the Gravekeeper! Oh, I’m so glad you’re here. I’ve been absolutely starved for real conversation. Er- Ponroi is always so busy with Captain Berto, and Jebul is going through a siren phase and won’t talk about anything else. Don’t even get me started on the old lady. Her bite is worse than her bark.”


Hanari

“Don’t you mean… nevermind. Sayaia, was it?”


Hanari as Sayaia

“Yes! And you’re… oh my gosh, we didn’t even ask your names, did we? Haha!”


Hanari

[nervous laughter] “No, you sure didn’t.


You’re um… ah, sorry, I don’t want to be rude, but are you…?”


Sayaia

“Blind? Mmhm. Not rude, just is what it is.”


Hanari

“Well, look,I know this is kind of a sensitive question, but… Sayaia, you seem very sweet and… well, young, honestly. Are you a hostage here? Are they taking advantage of you?”


Sayaia had a lovely giggle, bright and airy, as she waved the idea away.


Hanari as Sayaia

“Oh no, they’d be lost without me! I mean, they would literally be lost, since I’m their navigator.”


Zellera

“Respect, I can do landmarks but I wouldn’t know a compass rose from its thorn. I’m Zel, by the way.”


Hanari

“Right. Hanari.”


Sayaia

“Well, thank you kindly, Zel, and well met, Hanari! I’ll show you all my room sometime, I’m sure Captain Berto will lighten up eventually, and then maybe we could-“


Zellera

She was cut short as the door was busted open by a hulking, pink-haired man in a tight, colorful pantsuit. He was tugging on a leash tethered to a creature just out of sight. Oh, but we could hear her.


Hanari as Guinevere

“Unleash me! Genevieve will rip every bone from your flesh, and in their broth she will boil your eyes and your tongue! Genevieve will make fool-stew tonight, rich with your entrails!”


Hanari as Jebul

(sing-song) “Oh Sayaia, aren’t you forgetting someone? You were supposed to bring her down with you. She’s driving Captain Berto mad.”


Hanari as Sayaia

“Ah, yes, I forgot her. That’s definitely what happened. Oopsie.


Oh! Uh, Zel and Hanari, this is Jebul!”


Hanari

“Hanari. Pleasure.”


Zellera

“Zel.”


??? as Jebul

“Nice to meet you. I mean, uh, no it’s not, we’re unhinged and… wildly unrelatable pirates.”


Hanari as Guinevere

“I smell your fear! You’re lucky I am merciful, but Genevieve… oh, Genevieve!”


[gurgling sobs]


??? as Jebul

“Alright, alright, in ya go now,”


Hanari as Guinevere

“It’s you! The witch! The witch! Using that dirty magic to attack Genevieve!”


Hanari

“Silence yourself before I weave your tongue through these bars.”


Zellera

Jebul herded Guinevere into the cell across the room from us. She lashed that unnaturally long tongue at him, but he caught it next to his face and rendered it writhing in his huge hand.


He simply tsk-tsked her, and with Guinevere locked in the cell, Jebul turned to Sayaia and said,


??? as Jebul

The wind out there is getting pretty nasty, Sayaia, we might need you soon if we get too turned around.”


Hanari as Sayaia

“And who’s going to watch all these stowaways?”


Hanari as Jebul

“Well, it'll be the seafloor, if we can’t navigate our way out of this storm with the sails down.”


Also, I thought Ponroi said you were an Honorary…”


Zellera

He narrowed his eyes at me, scanning the floor,


Hanari as Jebul

“So uh, where’s your dragon?”


Zellera

[pause, then exhausted]

“Ah claaaaaaaaams!”


I ripped the coin from my pocket just as I saw Gull cresting the stairwell leading back to the cargo hold.


“Gull, look what I’ve got!” I held the glistening gold up to the lantern, now being whipped about in the fierce storm.


Gull turned back, hesitating for just a moment, shadows swinging through the room. In his jaws was a gold coin. I reached into my bag. The one from the well was gone.


Hanari

I gawked at Gull’s coin, then at the one in Auntie Zel’s hand, and in an absolute fit, I felt for my own. Still there. Three coins.


“What have you done, Zellera?”


Zellera

“Gull! Little baby boy! Don’t leave your old coin behind! Two is better than one, buddy! And can’t the same be said for our friendship?”


Hanari

“Why do you have two coins?!”


Zellera

“I’ll explain that p.later!”


Hanari

“Is that-?”


Zellera

“Come on, Gull, remember how excited you were about this one? This is your gold!”


He dangled between my words and his urges, but turned and scampered out the door, left ajar in Jebul and Guinevere’s wake.


“Gull, no! Come back! Please, buddy!”


I shouted, desperately waving the coin through the bars.


Hanari

Jebul and Sayaia had already sprung to their feet, but it was clear they had more pressing matters to tend to as the ship lurched violently and the voices of frightened sailors howled above us.


Hanari as Sayaia

“That sounded bad. We should go, Jebul. They’ll be fine. Don’t worry, friends, we’ll do our best to return your dragon to you.”


Zellera

“No no no, wait! Please, you have to let us out of here. He won’t listen to anyone else, and if he flew off on his own and got lost in the storm… I don’t know what I’d do.”


The pirates pondered this as Guinevere… well…


Hanari

[Guinevere wails in the background]


Zellera

“I’m begging you. We can sneak back into our cell after we catch him, your Captain doesn’t even need to know.”


Jebul

”Oh Sayaia, don't give me that face.”


Hanari as Sayaia

“Come on, just this once, please? We need to get up there!”


Jebul

“I can’t give in! I can’t spend the copper!”


Sayaia

“I’ll make an exception on the bet, just do it!”


Hanari

Reluctantly, Jebul pulled an oracle card from his sleeve. Painted on the back was a siren, draped over an agate slab. He viewed it briefly, then deflated with a deep, lamenting sigh.


Jebul

Well, it’s settled. I guess we’re letting the stowaways free, unsupervised, without asking the Captain first. It’s probably fine.” He unlocked our cell door.


Hanari as Guinevere

“You’re inflicting this witch upon your vessel but the merciful Guinevere remains caged like an animal?”


Hanari as Sayaia

“Jebul, did the merciful Guinevere try to harm you in the last ten minutes?”


Jebul

“Mmm-hmmm.”


Hanari

“She gave me a black eye.”


Hanari as Guinevere

[angry deranged snarling]


Zellera

The door clicked open just as the ship jerked us all awry. The lantern jostled from its rope and shattered on the floor, rendering the room dark.

Jebul leapt in front of Sayaia, then went into a frenzy smothering a tiny fire and sweeping a path through the glass with his boots.


Finn came tumbling out of the hay and into Hanari’s beckoning embrace.


I held out my arm as I had the night before.


“Are you sure you’re okay breaking the rules with me?”


Hanari

“I’m more afraid of my mother than I am of pirates,”


Pushing through my pride, we locked arms, again forming a sling for Finn,


“Now let’s go find Gulliver.”


Zellera

And we were running again.


Hanari

Finn became progressively restless and kept lurching forward, but we couldn’t move much faster through the rocking corridor and stay upright.


Zellera

Speak for yourself, I could ride a storm-thrown ship like a dunesled.


Hanari

Not while helping with Finn, you couldn’t.


Zellera

Fair enough, I guess he wasn’t exactly making it easy for us.


I suspected his urgency wasn’t towards Gull’s well-being, though.


Hanari

Likewise. It felt like both dragons were being beckoned to their core by something, or someone, we couldn’t see. Magic? Not that I could pick up. What was I not sensing?


Then, that familiar, festering stench came smashing through our peacefully scented before. It was fishier up close.


We both wretched. I choked out a spell,


“Diffuse Effluvia,”


and a minty cool breeze blew through us, instantly neutralizing the malodor, or at least our awareness of it.


“Before you ask,” I smirked, savoring the fresh air, “that’s Book 1.”


Zellera

We rounded the corner just in time for Gull to glance back at me before ducking under a hefty partition.


I broke from Finn and Hanari and reached for the curtains.


“Gull, baby boy, come on back now. We’re not supposed to be…


in…


here…”


Hanari

I gasped and staggered backwards. Finn strained himself through my grasp and slid to the floor.


Zellera

On the other side, mounds of discarded vegetable skins and rotting meat surrounded a fully articulated skeleton of a mature dragon. Its joints were cushioned with mud, and mushrooms protruded from the cracks in the dirty old bones.


With a soft plink, Gull dropped the coin at the mighty feet of the deceased, and bowed in reverence.


Zellera as C. Berto

“You shouldn’t be in here.”


Zellera

Captain Berto appeared behind us, scaring us clean out of our skins.


Hanari

“You! What’s the meaning of this? Whose dragon is-?”


Zellera as C. Berto

“Mine.”


Hanari

I clutched at my heart, whispering, “Arcan, bless the life once lived by this glorious child.”


Zellera as C. Berto

“He doesn’t need it, I assure you. We, however, need all hands on deck, even yours. Take back your coin and keep a tighter eye on your dragon, Honorary. Report up top posthaste.”


Zellera

“Oh, um, thank you, Captain! I won’t let him out of my sight again! We are at your service!”


Hanari

“Zellera! Don’t thank… them,” I wheezed, “we are not at your service, but you do have our solemn oath to uphold the integrity of-“


Captain Berto turned and began sprinting up the stairs.


“Hey! Ugh, fine!” I followed.


Zellera

As I turned to grab Gulliver and collect the coin, I heard a hollow creak, too intentional, too lifelike for a ship to muster, even while taking a thrashing like this.


For a moment, I found myself staring through the hollows of its eye sockets. There was a healthy little worm wriggling inside, plump and shiny. I could have sworn I saw the dragon’s skull tilt, but the subtlety teased the edges of my perception.


Hanari

“Zellera! What are you doing? Let’s go!”


Zellera

“Right! Sorry!”


Just seeing things, I told myself.


Captain Berto opened the door to the upper deck, only for the howling winds to rip it from their hands and usher a rush of saltwater down the stairs.


“Gull!” I plead over the commotion, “see these coins? See them? You’ll fly free soon, please stay with me.I then tucked them both deep into my brassiere. Never waste a good pocket, I always say.


Hanari

[laughing]

The water stung my ankles as if the ocean had always been laden with glass, a fact forgotten as quickly as it cut. We pushed through the wind, barely escaping the belly of the ship.


Zellera

The deck was in chaos. The flag which had lured us aboard with its Bardic Eye was already down, as were all the sails but one.


Ponroi ran past us with what I could tell to be a storm sail, disappearing into the fray.


Tooth, Sayaia, and Jebul were drenched. Pelting rain streamed over their shouting lips. A wild, snapping sail flailed against their attempts to take it down. It looked like a losing battle, but a hand at the fourth corner…


“Captain! I’m a sailor, I can help them!”


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Go, without trust!”


Zellera

It was an old phrase among sailors and dockhands. No redemption or gratitude guaranteed.


“Thank you, Captain!”


Gull was nearly blown off my shoulder several times, but I witnessed how strong his wings were already. He wasn’t about to let this storm toss him around like some fragile seabird. As frustrated as I was with this naughty little chicken for escaping, I was even more inspired by him.


Hanari

Auntie Zel and Gull hurried across the tumultuous deck as my mind throbbed with thoughts of restraint- what if Gull was blown off into the storm and struck by lightning? What if Finn slithered overboard in pursuit of a better life, only to be passively ingested by some titan from the deep?


Maybe we needed to tie them down or put them away somewhere. It was too late to secure Gulliver, but at least I could protect Finn. I huddled over him and fell to my hands and knees.


Someone should pray over us all anyway, I decided, so I closed my eyes. I didn’t want to see the wave that might wash us all away if it came.


Zellera as Captain Berto

“What in Skydeep are you doing? Get up!”


Hanari

“Great, panoptic Arcan, I live to tell your story. Please don’t end ours in this storm. Hear the lament of your faithful Bard!”


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Hear this, Bard! Stand and brace yourself against the waves or you’ll die where you kneel!”


Hanari

“And please, forgive this lost witch who doesn’t understand the volume of your strength. Please bless their ship and their soul as if both were of your own fleet.”


Zellera as Captain Berto

“So be it, you’re not a child! Perish in your stubbornness, if you like!”


Hanari

“Live or die, may my words someday pass over the tongue of your child, Finnigan. I have done my best.”


Zellera as Ponroi

“Captain!”


Hanari

A voice neared at high speed, and Ponroi landed somewhere nearby. I was clenching my eyes shut with every muscle in my face.


Zellera as Ponroi

“The storm sail took a fluttering and ripped at the seam. Tooth and the Honorary are headed to the helm to steer into the waves.”


Hanari

A ripped seam, I thought. I could do that.


No, I was no Zellera, if I were tossed into the ocean after abandoning my post of prayer… Arcan wouldn’t look fondly upon my legacy if I were to die like that.


I peeked up at both of them and was stunned. Ponroi’s robes were soaked, her cloak absent to free dragonian wings of gold held tightly against her back in the wind. Her hair was weighed down in the rain, revealing several rows of golden horns protruding from her scalp.


Hanari as Jebul

“Lightning! Mainmast!”


Hanari

Before they could dash into action, Jebul ran up to us, too winded and waterlogged to speak freely.


He didn’t need to. He flashed us a card, and it told Ponroi and the Captain all they needed to know. A red mast against a black, inky sky, split by a white whip of lightning.


Wiping saltwater from their brow, the Captain bolted to the back of the ship. Jebul followed at a safe distance, shuffling his deck as they ran.


Ponroi and I looked at each other. Behind her, a cold wave was reaching high over the bough of the ship.


“Look out!”


She was quick. Ponroi leapt forward, and I struggled to keep my slippery dragon in my arms. I refused to let the ocean steal him from me.


Zellera

Now that the main sail was down, Tooth and I together were barely muscling the wheel of the ship. I followed her lead, adding force to her direction, just as I had with my sailing teacher. Gull clung to the helm and rocked in the direction of our momentum. Bless him, I think he was mimicking us. Trying to help.


Captain Berto frantically leapt to the stern of the ship where we were manning the helm. Stone-faced, they pulled a pair of metal mallets from their cloak and pointed them both to the angry sky.


Zellera as Tooth

“Uh oh! Ready your ears for a loud noise, lass!”


Zellera

Tooth grunted.


Hanari as Jebul

“Here it comes!”


Zellera

Jebul warned.


A bolt of lightning climbed down the mallets before stitching itself through Captain Berto’s jerking muscles.


Then, the blast passed through us all, like that jolt when awakened from a falling dream.


Hanari

I couldn’t hear or see the crash of the lightning, just that of the cold, dark ocean filling my ears. My feet left the surface of the deck, and I was certain that all my fears about the ocean sweeping me into its depths had been messages from Arcan all this time. He knew this would happen.


“I’m so sorry I didn’t listen. I failed you,” I prayed, flailing every limb, still fighting to regain my footing.


I felt a rough tug at the strings of my corset, which had been a familiar feeling since my teen years. Then, from behind, I was collected into a strong embrace and lifted into the sky.


I couldn’t see Finn. That was my first thought. He was gone forever. My second thought was the realization that Ponroi, on wings of gold, had saved my life.


The ship arched beneath us as we ascended into the crackling sky.


“You… I… how are you…?”


Zellera as Ponroi

“We need to take down the storm sail before what’s left of it pulls us deeper into the fray!”


Hanari

“My dragon! He’s-“


Zellera

“We can circle back, he’s faring better than the rest of us! He’s close, I can feel it.”


Hanari

“If… if we fix the sail, we’d get out of this mess sooner, right?”


What was I even saying? There’s no way I’d be able to fix an ivory-colored sail… but from this great height, I could see every spear of lightning piercing the ocean around us. If I concentrated on their light, their heat, I could, for an instant, see yellow in the flash.


Pulling a sewing needle from one of many custom pockets throughout my dress, I held it up and let the flickering light reflect off the metal.


Zellera as Ponroi

“We don’t have time to-“


Hanari

“Remedial Stitch!” I gurgled a scream as a wet gust of wind slapped us wavering into the sky, away from the sail. Ponroi was obviously strong, but her wings were up against the untamable forces of nature.


Aiming true with the needle pinched between my fingers like a dart, I hurled it at the storm sail, losing sight of it instantly in the downpour. Prayer would have to wait, because all my faith was tangled around that little needle in the storm.


Zellera

Once the lightning had released them, Captain Berto stumbled forward. Jebul put out his arm, but the stubborn Captain simply waved him away, smoke still spinning from their skin.


Zellera as Captain Berto

“I’m fine. Are there more?”


Zellera

Jebul pulled a fresh prophecy from the deck, then shook his head.


Zellera as Jebul

“No harm to the ship itself if we stay course.”


Zellera as Captain Berto

“And are we on course?”


Hanari as Sayaia

“That we are, Captain!”


Zellera

Sayaia had snuck up behind us at some point, her fingers skating over the surface of a hollow sphere of concentric copper rings.


Hanari as Sayaia

“But we need to head east at twice the speed if we’re going to stay that way!”


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Ponroi!”


Zellera

Captain Berto’s eyes snapped up to the storm sail, so mine did, too.


I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing.


A ribbon of rich yellow lightning began criss-crossing in a double helix, like the lacing of a corset, along the ripped seam.


Hanari

It was working! The needle had landed where I needed it to, and at least so far, the repair was holding up.


I heard shouts of joy and victory from the crew below.


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Of course she’s a witch,”


Zellera

Berto smirked, then changing tone in a flash, turned to all of us and demanded,


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Enough gawking! Get to the oars!”


Zellera

I was already becoming used to the way Captain Berto would turn heel and run into hell without warning. I watched in awe as they leaned over the edge of the stern, knuckles white around the crackling mallets. Gritting their teeth with the focus of a soldier, Captain Berto began to drum upon unseen forces in the rain-speckled air. The metal heads tapped pops of lightning.


Their arms flew above their head, and when the mallets struck down together…


[drum cue]


A thunderous crash propelled the ship, sending Gull and I lurching forward.


Hanari as Sayaia

“Zel! Are you with us?”


Zellera

Sayaia beckoned.


“Yeah!”


Tooth, Sayaia, Jebul and I each managed an oar. Even in the heft of the rain, Captain Berto’s rhythm at the stern kept everyone rowing at the same bold, steady pace.


Hanari

Ponroi gently planted my feet on the deck below the storm sail. The stitches seemed to be holding up well, until I heard a trumpeting cry from the water. Finn was looking up at the ship, confused and betrayed as the ship shot onward.


“Finn!”


As my focus split between Finnigan and the sail, the seam began to wildly spark.


Zellera as Ponroi

“Give me your coin!”


Hanari

“I… I beg your pardon?!”


Zellera and Ponroi

“Quick, while the wind is in our favor!”


Hanari

The storm sail was bulging out of its sutures as they frayed apart. I knew what she was thinking, and somehow I trusted her, but my fingers hesitated to retrieve it.


Zellera as Ponroi

“I know, I know. I won’t tell a soul, and I will bring him back to you safely.”


Hanari

Reluctantly, I handed my only gold coin to this stranger. She was a pirate, regardless of her apparent birthright. Would she give the coin back or keep it, and Finn as well? Would he end up being an ornamental skeleton like we saw below deck?


Ponroi lunged into the sky, disappearing into the storm just like the needle.


The needle.


I returned my focus to the sail as the ship propelled further and further from Finn and from Ponroi. I caught Auntie Zel looking up at me several times, likely wondering where Finn was at.


Zellera

That was part of the reason, yes.


Hanari

[laughs]


Zellera

She was radiant. Literally, she had a warm glow to her, like a candle, as she held the spell.


The rest of us pressed on, paddling through sore arms, to the Captain’s drum. It sounded like they were getting tired, too, by the end, and the drumming eventually stopped as the roaring rainfall exhausted itself to a whisper. With reverence of the dwindling storm, worship even, each of us slowed our strokes.


We had done it.


How exhausting.


How exhilarating.


Hanari

Just as I began to worry that Ponroi and Finn were lost forever to the sea, we saw a great, glistening wingspan in the distance. As she drew closer, it became clear that she was holding him in her arms like he weighed nothing at all.


“Oh my god, Finn! Finn...Thank Arcan! Um, and, uh, thank you, Ponroi. That was… an extremely kind thing to do.”


Zellera as Ponroi

“You should let him swim more often,”


Hanari

She gently set him on the deck in front of me, patting him on the head,


Zellera as Ponroi

“He couldn’t properly enjoy himself while missing you so much.”


Hanari

Finn looked at her with these big, dazzled eyes…


Zellera

So did you.


Hanari

Ssshh. Behave.


Captain Berto’s face and hair were ragged, but they strode up to us exuding a strange, metallic fragrance I’d never experienced before.


Zellera as C. Berto

“Jebul, start mopping up and replacing the main sails. Tooth, get dinner in the works. Something… cozy. And Sayaia, figure out where the hell we are.”


Jebul, Sayaia

“Aye, Captain!”


Zellera as Tooth

“Chowder it is, then.”


Zellera as C. Berto

“Don’t forget to take food down to the stowaways at some point.”


Zellera as Ponroi

“Oh but, Captain, can’t they stay up top and celebrate with us?“


Zellera

Captain Berto narrowed their sunken eyes at Ponroi.


Zellera as C. Berto

“We. Are not. A ferry.”


Zellera as Ponroi

[taken aback] “Come now, Berto, you saw what she did for the sail.”


Zellera as Captain Berto

“I say she couldn’t possibly have. Using enchanted objects is an affront to Arcan. Isn’t that right, Miss Bard?”


Hanari

Captain Berto held up the sewing needle, and I… held my tongue.


Zellera as C. Berto

“See?”


Hanari

And into their pocket it went.


Zellera as Ponroi

“Berto, honestly! What’s the harm in a little hospitality? Sure, we all got off on the wrong foot, but Kuu probably scared the living daylights out of them.”


Zellera as C. Berto

“are you undermining me in front of Bards?”


Zellera as Ponroi

“Yes.”


Zellera as C. Berto

[pause]


“Evenings are for the crew. Since I’m feeling festive, they’re welcome to sprawl out in the brig, unsupervised, until Messpeak. They can keep an eye on the other drake.”


Zellera as Ponroi

“Oh, you stubborn-“


Zellera as C. Berto

“Now, I trust that if you two have any needs or concerns, you will take them up with first with Ponroi here, since she’s so eager to make you comfortable.”


Zellera as Ponroi

“I quite hope they do! Come on, ladies.”


[pause]

Zellera

Later that night, after drying off, warming up, and filling our bellies with clam chowder, I strung my hammock between the cell bars.


“Hup!” I hoisted myself up, noting how strained my back was after paddling those oars for so long.


“Some day, huh?”


She was silent.


“Hey, you mind if I pick the strings a bit?”


Hanari

“Go ahead.”


Her eyes were dark, looming over her sewing box.


Zellera

[starts plucking corscilla]


“Hey, so… do you want to talk about that needle?”


Hanari as Guinevere

“The cursed needle from that cursed box! The witch’s hoard of enchantments attacked poor Genevieve!”


Hanari

“Can we talk about why you have two coins? Don’t think I’ve forgotten.”


Zellera

“I know, I know, I’ll explain everything tomorrow. Just… don’t change the subject.


I don’t care if you use enchanted stuff. It was still you… at least it… looked like you.”


Hanari

“It looked like me?”


Zellera

“The glow your magic has… it’s yellow like the light from that old lighthouse on the jetty.”


Hanari

“It’s still my favorite color.”


[silent pause]


Hanari as Guinevere

“The color of evil witchery!”


Hanari

“Oh my god, we get it already! I’m an awful, terrible cheater!


[sighs]


I wasn’t faithful enough. I lost Finn. I disregarded Bardic Law right after putting everything in Arcan’s sight. I handed my gold to a pirate. For a while there, I was just…”


Zellera

“Just you, right? You, who held the storm sail together and got to fly around in the arms of a gorgeous dragon-lady.”


Hanari

“Wha- I- what?”


Zellera

“Oh, hush your blush. But it’s true, and it’s a real doozy of a story to tell your grandkids someday.”


Hanari

“My grandchildren will be ashamed of me.”


Zellera

“I mean I guess they could be, depending on what you teach their parents.”


She sunk into another quiet rumination. Even Guinevere’s voice was wearing thin after a day of screeching threats.


I wanted, needed, this space to be filled with a different energy. Something bigger.


[[Big Magic]]

I can feel it, greater than the sum of all its parts.

In the games I used to play, the finest works of art.

Now I think I have the answers, I have so many questions.

Am I a dancer or a marionette?

And how long did it take them to make me forget?

I am not a currency,

The currents of their sea

Will drag me down, see what they took.

I am not a chess piece,

So why is everything

Black and white from my ivory rook?

I miss

Big Magic.



Hanari

“Wrote another song about me, huh?”


Zellera

“No, actually, I wrote it for Lenei. It’s based on something she said to me before she left.”


Hanari

I quietly nuzzled into my warm hammock with Finn, strung up as far from both Auntie Zel and Guinevere as possible.


Zellera

And speaking of Guinevere, she was softly snoring, as if the song had pulled her, finally, into rest.