Dragos Koranyi (Part 2)

Posted by on May 14, 2012 in Blog | 0 comments

Dragos Koranyi (Part 2)

Written by Craig Gallant | Tags:

Dragos Koranyi (Part 1)

Day 7264, Just North of the Cauldron of Silence

I will admit to a certain amount of trepidation upon first boarding the vessel of another race. It is not a question of alien motivations or problems with communication, as my experiences have shown me that most sentient beings are moved by a very similar, and limited, array of stimuli. However, knowing that a man – whether human, elven, or even orc – wishes to be remembered in glorious terms, does not negate the alienating aura of ‘the other’ as one joins a new non-human crew for the first time.

All of these thoughts were churning through my mind as I sighted the Phoenix Battleship, ‘Celestial Dawn’, more than a day after my last reserves of drinking water had drizzled down my parched throat. Trepidation battled with desperation as the vessel drew closer to my fragile raft. I had spent time amongst the elves before, and, whilst I had survived each visit unharmed, the experience was never a pleasant one.

Nevertheless, my alternatives were few, namely drown or die of thirst, and so I resigned to being the lamb amongst the wolves. Besides, the greatest adversity always provides the most memorable tales.

The elves, tall and haughty to the last, stared unfeelingly at me as I clambered with some difficulty onto the gently-sloping lower deck of the large ship, her graceful sails curving above us in the harsh sun. Their armour glinted golden in the light as well, and more than a few elven marines were nearby, hands on the upswept hilts of their sheathed swords, watching me with a mix of suspicion and disdain.

Although I have sailed with elves several times in the past, I cannot pretend to understand their modes of dress and rank designation sufficiently to have picked an officer out of the bunch that stood around me. And of course, with elves, the lowliest deck hand can match the highest ranking Imperial Councillor sneer for sneer when it comes to insufferable snobbery. In the end I sketched a clumsy bow in the general direction of the largest cluster of crewmen and mumbled generic thanks. Of course, the response came from behind me.

“So, human, how come you to be pitching and tossing in your little boat, so far from kith and kin?” The speaker had a touch more gold in his armour, a bit more of an angle to his eyebrow’s high arch, but little else to indicate his command status. I turned smoothly towards him, nevertheless, and bowed again.

“That is a long and tragic tale, your honour.” It is always best to be vague with an honorific reply, I find, until a person shows you their preference, which they almost always do.

“I am Adjo Awan, Lord of the Shanhaar Basin and Master of the Bisi Plains. I am what you would refer to as the first mate of this vessel, Her Most Glorious Majesty’s Battleship, Celestial Dawn. Now, in a short and bland retelling, who are you? And why should we not string you out for the carrion to glut feed from?”

I nodded. Typical Thaniras; a string of titles longer than his elegant neck and the casual malice of the incurably superior. I marshalled the points I had decided upon hours ago when I first sighted the Phoenix. “Well, Lord Awan, I am Dragos Koranyi, an itinerant Chronicler and long-time admirer of the elegance and grace of the Thaniras kindred.” At the word Chronicler many of my listeners stood a little straighter, pointed ears pricking.

Adjo Awan arched an eyebrow even further, defying physics and physiology. “A Chronicler, eh? Might we have heard any of your works?”

“Are you familiar with the lay The Last Stand of Kerinor Deluvial?” Not one of my better works, but I knew it was popular among the Thaniras Elves who had come to the Uncharted Seas decades earlier.

The officer nodded slightly. “A reasonable piece, exhibiting some passing grasp of martial honour, even if the pharyngeal octometer in each quatrain is a tad forced.”

I nodded obsequiously, “I must humbly acquiesce, my lord.” Nothing I had not heard before from other elven pedants of their insufferable Boudiean school of verse.

He grunted at me. “Hmmm. And so, again, how did you find yourself cast adrift upon such a dismal sea?”

I bowed my head. “Sadly, I had taken passage with a less than gifted Imperial officer who ultimately objected to his every failing and shortcoming being witnessed by a Chronicler.” True enough, even if I planned to embellish the rest. “I was given word by some of his repressed crew that the tyrant planned to kill me and toss me overboard before we reached our next port, and with their help I secured a life raft and escaped in the night.” I grinned widely, being sure to show my teeth in a predatory snarl. “It should make quite a pretty little ballad, once I have the time to commit it to paper.”

Several of his men laughed at the thought of a human captain so humiliated, but Awan merely grunted again. “Ballads… A weakness of the human psyche.”

I nodded. “Perhaps so, my lord, but popular with the lower elements, and so quicker to be taken up into the common tastes.” I hesitated to ask for anything from this martinet, but my throat was getting more and more sore as we stood on the warm deck, shaded by the sails or not. “My lord, if it would be possible for me to have some water?”

He shook himself and nodded. “Yes, Chronicler Dragos, Lord Thevan Phoskis instructed me to bring you to him should you prove more… interesting… Than is characteristic of your kind. Follow.”

And so, with an escort of elven marines, I followed the officer across the deck and towards ship’s ladders, stretching high up the sheer walls of the battleship’s hull. Around me the elven crew made quick work of the braided ladder while others jumped down into my boat and poled it along towards the gaping resupply doors that were opening up towards the bow.

Lord Captain Thevan Phoskis

Lord Captain Thevan Phoskis

Lord Captain Thevan Phoskis was an ancient elven noble draped in the heavy purple robes of a high mage rather than the gilded armour of their warrior class. He sat lazily upon a throne that had been placed in the very centre of the ship’s high command tower. The climb had been… Rigorous.

As my guards and I emerged through the access hatch into the open sunlight, a water skin grasped tightly in my hand, I had to blink to clear the light blindness from my eyes. Phoskis rose a little in his throne, but looked at me as if I were a pail of bilge water dumped before him on the freshly scrubbed decking.

“They tell me you are a Chronicler.” His voice was even and steady, with just a touch of the thready vibrato of age.

“I am, my lord.” I averted my eyes. These wizard types often found that appealing.

“The source of that magnum mediocrity, The Last Stand of Kerinor Deluvial?”

That’s Thaniras Elves for you. Every one of them a critic. “Yes, my lord.”

He grunted. At least I knew where Awan had picked up the habit. “Are you aware of the pirate attacks in the local area?”

I nodded. I didn’t want to take the chance of jeopardizing my chance at passage with the elves back into the Cauldron.

“I believe something larger than mere piracy is afoot, Chronicler. I believe that we now feel the churning tide of history dogging our heels, and I believe a commander with the fortitude and talent to see the truth might yet grasp the strands of fate and write his name in the stars.”

I was finding his prose rather grandiose and self-serving, but I would not have expected much else from any elf commanding a battleship, never mind a Captain-Mage. “That sounds promising, my lord. I would be honoured to accompany you into the Cauldron? I do not require much space, although the hospitality of the Phoenix Battleships is known across the Broad Blue… ”

His skeletal grin stretched tighter. “Oh, you may accompany me, Chronicler, your attempts to capture the deeds of the Thaniras in verse should prove most amusing. But we will not be journeying aboard this vessel.”

He gestured with one ancient claw off to starboard where the majority of his fleet was keeping station.

“We will be aboard one of my swiftest cruisers, the better to chase down these dogs as they flee.” He gestured towards the horizon where two long, sleek ships rocked gently at anchor. “And we will be accompanied by our two new arrivals. The Thunderbirds will sear these pirates at their stations before they even know they are in danger.”

I walked quickly to the balustrade and peered into the sun-dappled water. Each of the two ships, about the length of cruisers but with smaller sails, bore a large domed object amidships, snapping and crackling with barely-contained electrical fury. Occasional arcs of heavenly power snapped out and crackled against the ships’ hulls, mast, or the water around them. Suddenly the reason for the wide gap between those two ships and the closest elven vessels became apparent.

“Excellent, my lord.” I turned back to the Captain-Mage trying to conceal my unseemly smile. “It would be my honour to accompany you and your squadrons in your righteous quest for justice.”

“Justice,” Phoskis sneered. “Justice is a cry of the weak. We quest for vengeance and glory, Chronicler. And you will be with us when we find them.”