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  • Dragon Shanty

Episode 4 Transcript



Zellera

Ope, coming through, full kettle!


Hanari

[chair squeaks out of the way]


Welcome back, dear!


[sounds of kettle clanging onto stand, fire dulls]


Zellera

There we go. What did I miss?


Hanari

I was just showing off one of my sketches.


Zellera

I see.


Ohhh, The Beast, one of my favorites. It still makes me uneasy to look at after all this time- the subject… just a speck in the frame. And the way you can only see the monstrous jaws far below what she can probably see for herself… It’s a moment in time. It conveys that predator-prey feeling.


Hanari

I’m so glad that comes through! I think we’re ready to change direction, though. Isn’t that right, Sweet One?


Zellera

Alrighty! I’m ready when you are.


Hanari

[Hanari flips through book pages as Zellera hums Galleon melody]


Hanari

[clears throat]


After a restless night swaying in the ship-tossed hammock, I was stirred by the door creaking open.


Then, the sharp clanging of metal hitting the floor cleared whatever remnants of sleep were left in my eyes.


Zellera as C. Berto

“Wake up,”


Hanari

Our necks craned toward the ruckus, shaky with fatigue.


Zellera as C. Berto

“We’re going whale hunting.”


Hanari

“We… what?”


Zellera as C. Berto

“Haul these to the deck when you’re ready.”


Zellera

By the time I fully came to, Captain Berto was already exiting the brig. A pile was left in their wake: a harpoon gun, chained hooks, a large net, rope, and a couple of mincing knives.


Hanari

“Is this some kind of punishment? I don’t even know how to use any of this. What are these hooks supposed to… hook into, exactly?”


Zellera

“Maybe they’re just short on hands. I mean, you saw the mess they were in last night. I wouldn’t sail a galley like this without at least doubling the crew, but then again, I’m not skilled like Captain Berto, either.”


Hanari

“And the hooks?”


Zellera

“The whale… would be my guess.”


Hanari

We dressed, then stumbled up the stairs and through the hold, arms full of all we could bear. We passed Jebul and Tooth among the cargo. They were whispering, pretending to work once spotted.


Hanari as Jebul

“Have fu-un!”


Zellera as Tooth

[chuckles]


Zellera

On deck, Ponroi and Berto were using a pulley to bring up a whaleboat-


Yes, that’s what it’s actually called! It’s not a play on sailboat.


I know it may not sound safe to hunt large game in a small boat, and well, it’s not, but the alternative was having a whale fighting for its life right by your ship and the rest of the crew.


But anywho, they were bringing up the whaleboat, squabbling away,


Zellera as C. Berto

“I refuse to infantilize them. They’re grown women, they make their own choices.”


Zellera as Ponroi

“They’re young women. You remember what it’s like out there.”


Zellera as Berto

“The Honorary seems tolerable, I’ll give you that, but that other girl? I was never so insufferable, so arrogant, so…”


Hanari

[clears throat]


I dropped the whaling supplies… with some force.


Zellera

You practically chucked them, but moving on.


Zellera as Ponroi

“Oh! Good morning, ladies, hope you slept tight. Captain Berto and I were just-“


Zellera as Captain Berto

“-talking about how tiresome you are.”


Zellera as Ponroi

“Don’t mind Berto, they’re not a morning person.”


Zellera as Captain Berto

“The four of you settle in. I‘ll see if our sixth passenger is ready.”


Zellera

Ponroi helped us move our equipment as the smell of sunrise, bright and fresh with a pinch of saltiness, welcomed us to our second dawn.


Hanari

“So uh, Ponroi, are you not going with us?”


Zellera as Ponroi

“Not this time. Got to watch the ship while the Captain and First Mate are frolicking about.”


Hanari

“Oh, I think we… sorry, are you… not the first mate?”


Zellera as Ponroi

“Truthfully? No. The position was already filled by the time I met Berto, but I can be a bit more palatable to newcomers.


Zellera

The door to the lower decks swung open. Captain Berto was making a wide-strided entrance, smug as I’d yet seen them. But once the first mate came into view, the Captain was no longer center stage.


Following behind…


Was Kuu.


And we had already met.


We could feel the sound of his gritty movements in our mouths. Sandy. Earthy. The dark, cold musk of mushrooms wafted over the salty sea air.


The dragon skeleton from the cargo hold could walk, and was even dexterous enough to contort himself through doorways too small for his frame.


Zellera as Berto

“Kuu,”


Zellera

Berto gestured, the dragon’s empty eye sockets fixing upon us,


Zellera as Berto

“This Is Finnigan, of course you met Gulliver last night. And these are their Bards.”


Hanari

“H-h-hello, um… Kuu. We are honored to meet you. I’m uh, I’m Hanari...”


Zellera

“Holy shit.”


Hanari

“Zellera…”


Zellera

“Right. Zellera. I’m… Zellera. Honorary. My Gull. Uh-“


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Alright, ladies and gentledragons. We can make tedium en route. Onto the boat, now.”


Zellera

“Aye, Captain!”


Hanari

“Bu- wha- where do you keep Kuu’s coin? His focus?”


Zellera as Captain Berto

“He doesn’t have one.”


Hanari

[confused, choke-like noises]


Zellera

Kuu took to the sky, his bat-like wings unfurling, riveted skin like the underside of a mushroom catching as if it were a kite on the wind.


Berto planted one foot in the boat, their features lifted with impatience.


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Coming?”


Hanari

We hesitated, of course.


Zellera as Captain Berto

“He’s not going to harm you, if that’s your concern.”


Hanari

“It’s not… my only concern.”


Gliding away from The Gravekeeper and onto the open, throbbing waves brought my senses to life. Fear. Excitement. The challenge of keeping my head on straight so I didn’t make a fool of myself in front of Captain Berto.


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Stay sharp, Bard, and keep an eye out for spouts. Zel, teach your friend how to use her harpoon.”


Hanari

I snatched up the projectile staff and propped it upright against my shoulder.


“Rude of you to assume-“


Zellera

[whispering] “Probably best she sticks to the net, Captain.”


Hanari

“Hey! I can handle-“


Fwoosh!


Oh no.


The harpoon gun’s trigger clicked between my hand and shoulder. We all held our breath as the bolt narrowly missed Kuu, and the BANG! It emitted sent a jump through us all.


Captain Berto yanked the harpoon from me, knuckles white, face tight.


Zellera as Captain Berto

“This is not a toy. You can not assume a weapon won’t fire just because you don’t know how to operate it.”


Hanari

And of course, Captain Berto was absolutely right, yes? We never touch a weapon, ever, unless absolutely necessary to survive or if we are being trained under the supervision of an expert.


Hanari

Finn slithered across my lap and stared blankly over the water. Could he tell I was being scolded? That I deserved it? Weak, childish, failing… sinking… long dead and bloated in the saltwater… just fish food.


“I… I’m so, so, so sorry. That was really reckless of me, I should have thought-“


Zellera as Captain Berto

“True enough, but let’s move on.”


Hanari

I flinched as a hand attacked my shoulder… no wait, just Zel, offering a comforting anchor of touch.


Zellera

“Hey so, I once fired a whole cannon by mistake. It didn’t hit anything, but… well, the cannonball was taken out of my wages and is still at the bottom of the bay. Ha! Live and learn, right?”


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Zel, reset the harpoon and keep it at the ready.”


Zellera

“Aye, Captain.”


Zellera as Captain Berto

“And you, Bard,”


Hanari

Berto pushed the oars at me,


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Keep a steady pace, eh? And don’t worry about sneaking up on this one, just make good time.”


Hanari

[sighs] “Sure, or… aye. Whatever.”


Zellera

“So uh, Captain… while we’re waiting, would you… consider regaling a few drifters with the story of how you met Kuu?”


Zellera as Captain

“No.”


Zellera

[disappointed] “Oh, okay. Yeah, sorry."


Hanari

I jabbed the oars into the waves taunting above and around us. The ocean could end us if it wanted. Instead, it bullied, flexing and releasing like we were a bug in the palm of its hand. I was going to tease louder.


“Why don’t you tell us something else, then? Like why that Tooth woman said you’d “suckered gold” onto the Nauril Bards? Those talking drakes even sniffed it out.”


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Neh.”


Hanari

“Okay, fine, perhaps how someone like yourself acquired those kind, hardworking laborers, then? Slave trade, I’m guessing? Why else would they pledge their loyalty to you?”


Zellera

“Oh-kay! How about some sea shanties? I can do a-“


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Later, perhaps.


You. You are firey for a Bard.


I was Kuu’s Honorary. Within a few years, we rejected our teachings and defaulted to piracy, but got… reckless. I was tried as a witch and given a choice between our lives, or the lives of our marks. We are not Bards, but we are… circumstantially employed by them, and all are here willingly.”


Hanari

“What… what do you mean marks?”


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Targets.”


Hanari

“No, I know that…”


Suddenly, Captain Berto stood with such force that it sent the small boat rocking. I flinched. Had they finally had enough of my mouth? Would they strike me or throw me overboard?


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Sh. Shut up. Hear that?”


Hanari

They turned an ear port-side. That means to the left of the ship.


Zellera

I taught you that.


Hanari

Yes, you did!


Zellera

Gull’s raspy chirps mingled with a nearby choir of seagulls. He was warming up his wings, but I caught him before he could fly off.


Sure enough, a flock of them were picking at an unrecognizably carnaged carcass, maybe a touch bigger than our boat, still fresh enough to be bloated and buoyant.


With a sudden urgency, Captain Berto whipped out their mallets.


Zellera as Captain Berto

“They’re circling breakfast. Something else’s breakfast if we’re lucky. Ready the harpoon.”


Zellera

“What kind of whale-?”


Zellera as Captain Berto

“No. No, no, no…


Damn it!”


[drum cue]


Zellera

Captain Berto lowered the rods until they were pointing beneath us.


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Damn, damn, damn! It’s already here! Row back! Row back!”


Hanari

The ocean puckered beneath the boat, preparing to expel a rising island of flesh from the depths.


A whale-sized monster, jaws laced with rows of fangs, launched from the waves, catching us awestruck in its titanic shadow.


Zellera

I had never heard a whale’s song, and I’d certainly never heard… whatever this was. I practically vacated my body when those first shrill tones were sung. It was a haunted song, high, airy, thundering at dietous decibels.


But in the same way Gull’s birdlike vocals had a reptilian edge, something coarse lurked in the throat of those angelic notes. Something dragon-like.


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Launch the harpoon! Steer into the wave! Brace yourselves!”


Zellera

But I hesitated.


This was, undeniably, no whale, though its size and wrinkled, barnacled skin seemed to suggest they were related.


Its jaws engulfed the entire carcass and a slice of sky above it. When they snapped shut, dozens of birds were caged behind rows of spear-like teeth. Many more were instantly impaled, shredded into feathery floss.


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Zel! Kuu! Now!”


Zellera

My hands shook, and so the harpoon’s eye wavered from my target. I didn’t dare fire in that state.


Kuu, unphased, dove to meet the dragon from the deep. We learned this day that he did not have, nor did he need, a fire gland, as fraying ends of roots wriggled wormishly from the cracks in Kuu’s bones.


Hanari

There were actual worms as well.


Zellera

True, but unlike his wormy tenants, the tendrils were moving as one entity. Along his arms, grasping spirals threw themselves into sharp points. Kuu plucked them with care, each being the size of a dagger in his palm.


One by one and with great force, they pierced the aquatic titan’s thick flesh. It toppled back into the sea, singing the pain through its mangled meal.


Hanari

I was still paddling. Never stopped for a moment. My arms were pudding.


Zellera

Was that an accidental haiku?


Hanari

… not exactly, dear. “I-was-still-pad-dl-ing…”


That’s six.


Zellera

“Padd-ling.”


Hanari

No, pad… dl… ing. You’ve never once said “padd-ling” in your life before tonight.


Zellera

No you're right, I got excited, sorry.


Hanari

We’ve talked about this, you’ve gotta stop derailing the action sequences! [laughs]


As the water settled and the beast left sight, my fear was gnawing out of my skin.


“What the hell was that?!”


Zellera as Captain Berto

“A dragon.”


Hanari

Obviously! But what did your dragon do to it?”


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Made it easier to kill once we catch up to it again. Although, with the size of this one, it likely wasn’t enough.


Zel, find your grip before it resurfaces.”


Hanari

“She will do no such thing! You’re knowingly asking an Honorary, and a soft one at that, to just wake up one morning and kill a dragon for you?


Zellera

“It’s-“


Hanari

“Can’t you see she’s scared?”


Zellera

“I’m-“


Hanari

Bonding with her own dragon? Where’s your sense of decency?


Zellera

“Uh…”


Hanari

Of empathy? You’ve put us all in danger, including these babies, and for what? To teach us some kind of lesson about falling asleep where we shouldn’t have?


Zellera

“It's okay, it’s not-“


Hanari

“Fuck you, witch!”


Zellera

“Okay, that’s… that’s where we are, then.”


Hanari

Sorry for the course language, Sweet One.


Zellera

Eh, they already know we appreciate evocative words here, as long as they’re used well.


The Captain’s face was dripping in apathy, even as Kuu dropped behind them with such force it rocked the boat, shadowing his master like a watchful gargoyle.


Zellera as Captain Berto

“I’ll make this simple for you. Don’t look at me, watch the water and listen.


I don’t know what they teach you these days about mating pairs, but more dragons are born outside the gold than the Councils care to admit.


Cute little baby feral dragons who are still impressionable, like Gull, get bonded with Honoraries.


Big, hungry feral dragons, on the other hand? They must be hunted down. They’ve tasted blood and are past reward and punishment; they know only to feast and hoard. The hands of the priests are so bloodied in curses they’re too slick for battle, so they need sellswords.


Questions?


No?


Excellent.


Now kindly, Zel, hand me the harpoon if you can’t find it within yourself to put down a predator.”


Zellera

“No, I’m sure I can do it.”


Hanari

“You don’t have to.”


Zellera

“I know, but… we knew someone had to be out here doing it, right?”


Hanari

“I just don’t think it’s a good idea so soon...”


Zellera

“It’s ok, I’m not that soft, you know. On the farm, we keep cats and kill cougars. That’s life. That’s the food chain.”


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Name one animal you’ve slaughtered and you can keep the harpoon.”


Zellera

“I’ve butchered just about every kind of meat on Cloverisle…”


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Doesn’t count if they were already slain by your parents.”


Zellera

I relinquished the harpoon gun, and a small slice of my pride, over to Captain Berto. They tucked their drumsticks away and began rectifying the harpoon I had, apparently, misloaded.


Zellera as Captain Berto

“The only thing more frustrating than one being incompetent is when one is stubbornly so. That goes for both of you.”


Hanari

We recoiled from the scolding as the sun pinched us between the sky and its reflection off the water. I was overdressed and fearful that I would soon overheat. Nevermind that when Berto shared their water with everyone else, I politely declined.


Zellera

I scooted closer to Hanari, “is it okay if I take the oars for a bit? I could use something else to do with my hands… and it looks like you could use a break.”


Hanari

“Uh… sure, actually. Thanks.”


We traded places.


When I looked up again, she was remarking on how warm it was getting and peeling off her sweater. With her arms bare and churning the oars, I noticed how strong sailing had made her.


Zellera

I mean, my back was not at its best after a lousy nights sleep, but at least I was good at looking strong.


Hanari

You can’t fake biceps like that. Well, not without an illusion spell.


[chuckles]


But it’s a good reminder that bodies are infinite in their nuances and complexities. To say Auntie Zel was “fit” or “unfit” did no justice to the vessel she manned. She could row but not lift, dance but not run, and countless other things and not-things that would change countless times over the years.


Zellera

I love that. Thank you, dear.


A very sweet way to say your Aunt Hanari spent a lot more time looking my muscles than she let on.


Hanari

[laughs] Shush.


My heart was still pounding, and I was proud of that. I sometimes wondered if I was a defective person for feeling so calm in the face of death, but like I was dying in the face of trivialities, so fearing appropriately for my life was a nice change for once.


Finn was in a rare state, afraid of the water he usually longed for. I think he knew the monster was never far. Still, leashing him by the neck to the boat… it made me feel better, just in case.


“Captain,” I offered my most tender tone this time, one they probably didn’t know I was capable of, “I don’t mean to interrupt you, but may I ask a question?”


Zellera as Captain Berto

“If you stay sharp and make it quick.”


Hanari

“Why didn’t Ponroi come with us? She can speak the tongue of dragons and sense their presence.”


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Typically, she does join these expeditions, but it’s taxing on her. Extra hands like yours means she can finally catch a break.”


Hanari

“Is it painful for her? Using her Welkin magic?”


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Not physically, but the dragons with stories and shanties haunt her. She suffers many scars in this way.”


Zellera

“Have you and Ponroi been close for a while?”


Zellera as Captain Berto

“She’s like a sister to me.”


Zellera

“It’s kind of amazing how you work so well together, but if you don’t mind me saying, you seem to disagree on everything.”


Zellera as Captain

“Don’t you have a sister? Surely you know that’s not uncommon.”


Zellera

“I do, yeah…


But that’s… a long story.


I don’t know much about Welkin, Netherkin, Human… but one thing I’ve noticed, that I think is obvious- it’s easy even for an outsider to see Ponroi cares deeply about you, and you care about her, too.”


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Eyes on the water, Honorary.”


Zellera

“Aye, sorry, Captain.”


[pause]


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Isn’t it exhausting trying to loosen everyone else’s knots all the time?”


Zellera

“Not yet, but I have plenty of time to get old and jaded like you.”


Berto snickered and seemed ready to retort, but they never had the chance.


Kuu clamped his claws entirely around Berto’s waist and stole them away into the sky.


Zellera

“Captain!”


Hanari

Finn was still secured to the boat, fleeing to the edge of his taut rope as I clamored to untie him.


Then, we were struck from below, which launched the boat airborne before dumping us into the thrashing expanse.


Like a bag of sand, I sank. Swimming upward was futile, as the skirt of my dress was entombing me in heavy, tangled frills. Every inch of surf might as well have been another layer of dirt on my grave, severing me from the yet living. My salt-stricken eyes blurred, senses constricting until my path was fixed.


Only one thing fosforesced in that abyssal frontier: I was going to fight.


And that meant I couldn’t afford another moment taming that casket of a gown.


The ripping began with my petticoat, and from there, I went feral. Shredding and peeling, I escaped the dress.


All was still, empty as far as I could see. But how far out could I really see in water like this? How could I know?


And where in the blurred blue was the beast?


Beneath me, I could sense the water rouse. The chaotic currents whispered that it was near, but I couldn’t see it…


…until one sucking current threw me, frenzied, toward…


…a forest of bony teeth, melting out of the dark.


Zellera

When the whaleboat flipped and started to hold water, I was relieved Gull could fly to safety alongside Kuu and Berto.


I noticed aunt Hanari’s bag caught around the bench and grabbed it as I made my way to Finn.


I reached him fine, but damn, Aunt Hanari could tie a knot better than most sailors, and that boat was going down… with one little grumpy green dragon attached.


“No no no! Shit! Hang on, little guy!”


The ship slipped into the water until nothing but the bulwark… oh, good question!


Hanari

A bulwark is a protective barrier- in this case, the wall and railing of the ship.


Zellera

And I taught you that, too!


Hanari

[laughing] You did!


Zellera

Ahem…


And nothing but the bulwark was visible!


I had given up on salvaging the boat in my pursuit of Finn, but Berto sure hadn’t.


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Watch your head! Tie it off as it comes!”


Zellera

Shouted the airborne Captain, aiming the harpoon gun directly at the boat. Berto cocked it back, then let it fly. The tip lodged itself into the banister, barely a foot from my throat.


Tie it off, they had said.


I threaded the harpoon line and carefully mapped the twists and turns of the knot tying Finn to the ship.


My own wasn’t so perfect, but I doubled it over and it seemed to be holding. I could have sworn I saw it glow like it was reciprocating sunbeams.


It looked like her.


“All good, Captain!”


Kuu’s fingers crackled as they locked like rigor mortis around the shaft of the harpoon. He released Berto from his grasp, and the Captain fell feet first into the waves, nose plugged and frills flapping.


It was nonsense how Kuu, lacking muscle, could tug the rope with such force that it caused the boat to swivel, wrapping poor Finn about it like a yo-yo. I tried my best to cushion him and steady the vessel, but it wasn’t until Captain Berto reached us that we found our strength, corrected the boat, and cut Finn loose together.


“Hanari hasn’t surfaced, something is wrong! Don’t let the dragons follow me, whatever you do!”


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Zel, wait!”


Zellera

I was prepared to dive through the waves, hold my eyes open against the stinging surf until I could find Hanari and pull her to safety, aflex with heroism. I never even had the chance.


Hanari

As the beast’s jaws flew up, I cracked open my corset and thrust it out before me like a shield. One fang, about the length of my arm, pierced through the fabric a few inches from my beating chest.


As more teeth closed in from behind, I used the leverage and swung my entire body outward. I stamped my bare feet into the beast’s slimy lip and looked up.


I searched for shapes in the vague watery vast, only to realize that I was in the crosshairs of the interlocking teeth.


There was no way out. No time. No sewing box with which to fetch. No needle with which to fix. No voice with which to free any of the useless spells I knew. No air.


I was going to die after all.


“What the hell, Arcan?!” curses flooded the cathedral of my mind, “maybe I have been acting like a witch, but I don’t deserve this!”


Six teeth jabbed into my skin. I wrenched back, tugging on the corset, and there was a hair-raising crack of bone.


[with reverb and depth] I do not deserve this!”


A flash of heat coated me, and at first I assumed it was my body’s way of saying farewell, nerves firing.


It was then that I finally felt the ground, and it… was made of soggy… wood?


I was flush with sputtering chokes before I could even open my eyes, but once I did, I saw that I was back on the whaleboat. Everyone, even Finn and Gull, were all giving me these looks… like I was a ghost.


Zellera

From our side, Berto and I had only just gotten our bearings about us when there was a sheet of light along the floorboards. You know when the sun hits the choppy sea just right that a wave seems to disappear for a moment? So bright, so empty, you can’t hold its gaze?


It was like that, but instead of a wave, it was Hanari who swelled from the glow, materializing, sprawled across the ship in her bloomers.


Hanari

Cold, confused, I stammered out, “how did you-“


Zellera

“How did you?!“


Hanari

“I’m not dead?”


Zellera

“I don’t think so, but you do look like you could use some help up.”


Hanari

I took her hand in mine, grunting as I rose, aching where the teeth had bore down.


“I’m… I was just… did you save me?”


Zellera

“No, but I was getting around to it.” [chuckles nervously but relieved]


Hanari

[nervous gay chuckling] “Procrastinating as usual?”


Zellera

“I’m not the one who decided to go for a swim.”


Hanari

“You should. It was refreshing.”


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Gods’ sake, children! Can you two focus please?”


Zellera

“Right, we’re still being attacked, so…”


Captain Berto reclaimed the line and harpoon, spitting salty hair from their face as they crammed it back into the barrel.


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Kuu, prepare to hit it again!


I’m not losing this one.”


Hanari

The creature’s shadow staggered like a phantom below the surface.


“It looks clumsier, maybe he slowed it down.”


Zellera as Captain Berto

“A cornered animal is the most vicious of all. Don’t drop your guard.”


Hanari

“Where are the rest of the weapons?”


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Overboard.”


Hanari

“Well, shit.”


Zellera

“Your bag, though… I managed to snag it for you. It’s kinda damp, but…”


Hanari

“Oh, you wonderful, sticky-fingered woman!”


The surface of the water caved.


Zellera

That creature's ghostly song returned with raging cadence as it rose, tall as a tree, next to the boat.


Zellera as Captain Berto

“On my word, we roll!”


Zellera

Berto gripped the railing and dropped into a low squat. We followed their lead, tightly securing our belongings and lining up beside them.


“Gull, Finn, go to Kuu!”


Gull cocked his head and took a few wary steps back. I don’t think he fully understood what I was saying, but Kuu seemed to, because he swept the two of them up in his talons and to the safety of the sky.


The beast wavered higher and higher until it began to tilt.


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Ready!


… now!”


Zellera

As the whale-dragon toppled beside us, we kicked our weight into the ship, flipping against the wave and through the water until we had reclaimed our footing.


We rooted ourselves and turned to face the beast. It was resorting to a new tactic now- mouth splitting agape as it charged straight at us.


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Again, Kuu!”


Hanari

This time, when Kuu hurled the mycelial missiles, he landed several hits to the tongue, and one which disappeared down the back of its throat.


The beast snapped its mouth closed and gagged, but whatever effect the darts were supposed to be having, it wasn’t yet enough to stop its desperate thrashes.


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Again! Damn it, again! It’s suffering far too long! We need more!


Zellera

It was then we saw the Captain, silently weeping, as they raised the harpoon.


And we wondered, when they said it would make the dragon easier to kill, whose ease Berto had been referring to.

Kuu flung his fungal knives, again and again, ripping ripples into the creature’s blubber. The roots crept just below the skin in bulging webs, finally dooming the great beast’s agility to a rigid, corpse-like paralysis.


The dragon seized up, teetering onto its side. Berto’s tears were enough to raise the sea level without trembling a lip, as they aimed the harpoon gun at the beast’s spine.


I set my fingers to the strings of my Corscilla.


Zellera

“Captain, wait-“


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Not now, Honorary!”


Zellera

“Please… I just want to try… to let it sleep first.”


Berto did not drop their aim… but, their finger did ease off the trigger.


Zellera as Captain Berto

[stoic] “Just hurry up!”


[fade to desperate] “… please.”


[Gullaby begins]


Zellera

Something inside my throat was cracking open, scrambling to be born. I needed to purge the mounting pressure.


Hanari

My hand drifted to Zel’s shoulder as I realized my fight was over. Now, it was this sweet, sappy little Honorary who needed to know she wasn’t alone. That she was heard.


Zellera

I opened my mouth and returned the dragon’s song, best my tiny lungs would allow.


[harmonizing, ethereal, wordless vocals appear to Gullaby]


It was like a conversation. No… more of a… prayer, in tandem. Mutual worship and respect.


That dragon taught me the depths at which my voice could plummet, and how I could split my sounds into echoes and harmonies.


A spell that was first born of a dirge.


At long last, the whale-dragon shut its eyes.


No sooner or later did Captain Berto launch the harpoon into its spine… and kill it.


Hanari

Then came the long, arduous task of hauling the carcass back to the Gravekeeper. Berto sent Kuu to retrieve the crew, which made our return trip shorter, and oh, were we grateful for that!


As Jebul hoisted us back up to the deck, everyone sprung into action to secure our prize to the ship. I took the time to look over Finn, and it was then I saw the rope burn around his neck. Some of his scales were torn, and he had several rings of bruises.


I reached out to touch it, to see if he even knew. Of course he did. He dodged my hand and snarled, but after a moment of staring into my eyes, nuzzled his face into my palm.


“Never again,”


I said, wondering if I’d ever struggled so hard as this to breathe,


“I will never, ever tie you down like that again. I promise.”


[beat]


Zellera as Tooth

“Yoooooo-ee! Ha ha! Oh, now this is beautiful! Maybe there is a god down there after all!”


Sayaia

“Better make peace with him quick at your ripe age, then!”


Zellera as Tooth

“Kiddo, you are- nah, you know what? Nothing's gonna muck up this moment for me. This is the biggest god dang fang I’ve ever nabbed in my life!


Whew, and this pretty lady had good taste, too! Hey, where’s that prissy Bard with the designer wardrobe? I think she’s missing something!”


Hanari

The work hadn’t stopped after the hunt. The rest of the day had been stickily spent harvesting anything Kuu couldn’t eat- except for the fire gland, which Berto stored away as evidence of a job well done.


I leaned over the bulwark next to Sayaia to see Tooth knee-deep in viscera, gleefully presenting the fang that almost ended my life above her head. My corset still held it, cracked and jagged, busted from the gum line.


“The Tooth has summoned me?”


Zellera as Tooth

“You want your gut smuggler back? You could turn this hole into a handy little pocket with your magic needles or somethin.”


Hanari

“I think I’m good. Thanks, though.”


Tooth wound her arm to discard the fabric into the sea, but something compelled me to stop her.


“Wait! Actually… yeah, I’m sure I can do something with it. Bring it back up for me?”


Hanari as Sayaia

“I’ll be sure she gets it to ya, don’t worry.”


Hanari

“Thank you. Um, quick question. So where do we… bathe and such?”


Hanari as Sayaia

[beat]


“What kind of fancy ships are they sending you Bards out on these days?”


[laughs]


“Where do we bathe? Don’t you see we’ve got the biggest tub in all the land right in front of us? Should I fetch you a robe?“


[laughs harder]


“‘Where do we bathe?’ she asks.”


Hanari

[scoffs]


“Alright, alright. Yes, okay. I’ve had enough seawater for one day, I guess I’ll just pass for now.”


Zellera

At least we had the brig in which to change into cozier garb, and aside from Guinevere, it was a private space to recuperate.


But it was way too quiet. I noticed Guinevere was squeezing herself into the furthest shadowy corner of her cell.


“Have you heard anything?” I inquired, running my fingers through my salt-frizzed curls, “About… I mean, do you know how Guinevere is doing?”


Hanari as Guinevere

“Sad.”


Zellera

[pause]


“Wait, I think I meant Genevieve, sorry.”


Hanari as Guinevere

“…


Genevieve left me here.”


Zellera

“Oh my god, she died?”


Hanari as Guinevere

“Genevieve did not die! Genevieve wouldn’t perish in this moldy bread box of a ship, nor would she ever be defeated by one of you reeking ship-troglodytes!


Genevieve… left me behind.”


Hanari

[flippantly] “Maybe she shouldn’t have stolen Zel’s bag and gotten us all into this mess.”


Zellera

“Hanari-“


Hanari

“Sorry, it’s… been a long day so I’m a bit…”


Hanari as Guinevere

“Snippy, haughty, heretical-“


Hanari

“If you have it in you to sling tailored insults, tell us why you speak in the first place.”


Guinevere

“Why do you speak, witch?”


Zellera

[chuckles]


Hanari

“Hey, don’t encourage her!”


Zellera

“Sorry, she was just so fast with it.”


Hanari

[somewhat annoyed] “Fine, don’t tell us. I’m just going to finish cleaning the wound Guinevere gave me yesterday, then curl into my hammock with a book and not bother anyone else for the rest of the night. I hope you two enjoy your blossoming kinship.”


Zellera

There was a delicate, polite rapping on the door.


On the other side, bearing a wealth of warmth in her eyes, was Ponroi.


Zellera as Ponroi

“Ladies, my apologies for the late visit. Hope you didn’t think we’d forgotten about your meal, we’ve only just got everything sorted for the night.”


Zellera

Ponroi unlocked Guinevere’s cage, then knelt to her level.


Zellera as Ponroi

“You can join us, too, under one condition. If you inflict any pain or disruption, you will be thrown right back, half-portioned for the rest of the voyage, and we will sell you and your tongue at Messpeak. Separately. Clear enough?”


Hanari as Guinevere

[disgruntled, contemplative noises]


“Without trust.”


Zellera as Ponroi

“Both ways.”


Hanari as Guinevere

“I accept your conditions in exchange for your watered down, leftover chowder and boiled egg.”


Zellera as Ponroi

“That’s amazing! With a keen sniffer like that, Kuu’s chamber must drive you mad!”


Hanari as Guinevere

”Also… there is tea. Cloverweed, honeycomb, and oakspice. A Cloverisle import typically served with milk, but your perishable supply smells low, so I i Imagine you’re serving it clean.”


Zellera as Ponroi

“Aw, well that’s a surprise well spoiled, but you can still mark me down as impressed!”


Hanari

“We’re… welcome on deck for dinner?”


Zellera

“You prepared Clover tea?”


Zellera as Ponroi

“Yes, and yes! We can certainly spare a bit of it with the bounty you helped us earn today.”


Zellera

Hanari, the dragons, Guinevere and I followed Ponroi toward the deck.


“Was it difficult to convince the Captain to let us up?”


Zellera as Ponroi

“I can only take credit for the tea, love. Your invitation is straight from Captain Berto themself.”


Hanari

Ponroi led us into the summer night. I remember being entranced by the field of stars that wrapped us in a chilling, cosmic hug the instant we stepped onto the deck.


Then came the joyful salute of raised cups and greetings from the crew.


Zellera as Tooth

“There they are, the mighty hunters!”


Hanari

Guinevere had the audacity to look flattered as if she’d done anything worthy of their favor, but I held my tongue about that.


Zellera

The crew, missing only Kuu, were lounging near the biggest candle I’d ever seen. A metal apparatus was fixed to a cauldron of Chowder and a pot of hard boiling eggs bubbled beneath. A kettle of tea sat warming against the fire.


Surrounding the flame were layers of stones and gems. None seemed to be of monetary value, but they emanated significance anyway, like an altar.


Hanari

“What… what is all this?”


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Ritual sacrifice.”


Hanari

“Very funny.”


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Or maybe a witch burning would be more appropriate?”


Hanari as Sayaia

“Sounds fun, I’ll go get the teeny tiny stakes!”


Hanari as Jebul

“[laughs] Only if we open a fresh keg. Remember how long the last victim took over this thing?”


Zellera as Tooth

“I thought we needed pure, chaste maidens for that? We might have to look elsewhere.”


Zellera as Ponroi

[playfully] “Wicked, every last one of you. Rot in Skydeep where you belong.”


Hanari

They may have been a band of grungy, blubber-splattered pirates, but they were also the clergy of this midnight tabernacle.


Captain Berto finished off their wine, then began twirling those metal mallets through their fingers.


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Come. Sit at the fire, Bards. Dragons. Genevieve.”


Hanari as Guinevere

“It’s Guinevere, you bumptious bobber!


Zellera as Captain Berto

“My apologies, Guinevere. I’ll do better to remember.”


Zellera

Her stomach grumbled.


Hanari as Guinevere

“I suppose I… would not reject an egg.”


Hanari

Recycled or otherwise, I had to admit that Tooth’s cooking was unmatched, though she did have a knack for bringing up her collections and ruining our appetites.


Jebul showed us his enchanted inks and paints, which seeped into a showing of Sayaia’s favorite maps. Blending his artistic enchantments and her astronomical expertise, Jebul had, under Sayaia’s instruction, painted an atlas unlike anything I’d ever seen. Unrolling the parchment sent mind boggling details bloating across the map, allowing Sayaia to feel her way around the world like a gentle, affectionate god.


And that medallion of concentric circles she had chained to her cane? A map of the heavens with a needle that stayed pointing north so that she could point us in the direction of her favorite constellations.


Zellera

Sayaia’s hands could also find their keen way around a pipeflute, we came to find, and Jebul danced with a grace that could have only been born from grueling, muscle-ripping practice.


Unwilling to be left out of anything, Tooth brought out a couple of musical shakers. In morbid curiosity, I asked what she filled them with.


Zellera as Tooth

“I think you already know.”


Zellera

Even Ponroi jumped in, propping a fiddle adorned in gold-painted leaves upon her shoulder.


The brief sparks of sound congealed in and out of music like a drunken tavern band until Berto agreed to join them. They were all great soloists, but Berto made them an ensemble and kept them on tempo, just like in the storm.


Ponroi must have seen the way I kept reaching gingerly for my corscilla, then reverting back to a less presumptuous position.


Ponroi

“Zel, love, you should pop in. Do you play anything, Hanari?”


Hanari

“Nothing I have on hand, but she’s right, you should definitely join them.”


Zellera

“Oh I can only pick out a few chords here and there, I probably couldn’t keep up with all of you!”


Hanari as Sayaia

“Well, then don’t worry about keeping up.”


Hanari as Jebul

“Yeah, just relax with us.”


Zellera as Tooth

“Come on kiddo, we won’t bite.”


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Permission to be imperfect granted.”


Zellera

“Oh, I don’t know…”


Hanari

“Just do it. And don’t pretend you’re not enjoying the attention.”


Zellera

“You’re right. Okay, start me off!“


[Crewsong begins with Sayaia’s flute, Ponroi’s fiddle, Berto’s drums, Tooth’s shakers]


My blood throbbed, not from fear, but a visit from a rare guest; euphoria. Could I be admired, appreciated, maybe even loved by these strangers? I had tingles all over as I made sure my strings were tuned…


And then…


[Zel joins Crewsong]


Most of the time people can tell the difference between joy and anxiety- between reward and danger…


So why do they both make my hands shake like this?


[Crewsong ends]


Hanari

Zellera and Ponroi overshot the end of the song by a measure, but shared a sweet, hearty laugh over it.


Zellera as Ponroi

“That was some fast finger-thinking for an Honorary. Where’d you learn to play like that?”


Zellera

“My sister taught me. She’s an amazing Bard, never met an instrument she couldn’t play!”


Zellera as Ponroi

“Well I’m sure she’d be proud.”


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Zel is a singer, too.”


Zellera

“I wouldn’t say that…”


Hanari as Sayaia

“Ooh! What do you sing?”


Zellera

“Just little shanties, mostly… just for fun… I write a song here and there, but I’m sure you’d all much rather hear something familiar you can sing along to.”


Zellera as Tooth

“I say we let Jebul pop that fresh keg and let you entertain us for your keep.”


Zellera as Captain Berto

“Exactly.”


Zellera

“Oh! Uh, I guess… but only if you’re really sure. I really don’t have to...”


Zellera as Ponroi

“Go on, love.”


Zellera

“I do have one little song I’ve been working on…”


Hanari

“If it’s half as good as the one you played me last night, I’m sure they’ll love it.”


Zellera

“You… I didn’t realize you liked it so much.”


Hanari

“I… was… being a jerk. My attitude has nothing to do with your abilities. Everyone wants to hear it, including me.”


Zellera

[audibly smiling] “Really? O-okay, then. Thank you. Um… whew, deep breaths, deep breaths.


[plucks a bad note, nervously laughs it off, then starts playing for real]


[Galleon plays, Zellera’s voice has newly acquired layers of harmony like in the whale song]


"Well I come from poor farmers,

Who adore their daughters,

We know how to care for the land,

We fish from the sea letting all troubles be,

We are guided by their loving hands,

And I see the tears roll in like storms on the ocean,