Dragos Koranyi (Part 3)

Posted by on May 21, 2012 in Blog | 0 comments

Dragos Koranyi (Part 3)

Written by Craig Gallant | Tags:

Dragos Koranyi (Part 1)
Dragos Koranyi (Part 2)

Day 7274, West of The Cauldron of Silence

Whenever one is in danger of disbelieving in the gods, they show their ugly faces in the most intriguing of ways. The irony is not lost on me as I look out over the coast of Vyrdam, far from my intended destination.

After Phoskis lost his latest toy to the Ralgard, his company had swiftly grown uncomfortable. With no relish of returning to the frozen wastes to meet up with the rest of the Thaniras fleet, I begged him for a Raven Frigate that might, under a flag of truce, be allowed to approach Captain Garrik’s fleet. The incessant pursuit of the mysterious pirates was growing wearisome, and I knew that Garrik would spare me a vessel to bear me back east. I will admit, still, of being intrigued by these newcomers, the Ralgard, but I had seen two relatively large battles in as many weeks, and that was more than enough excitement for this Chronicler.

Captain-Mage Phoskis was pleased enough with his victory over the strangers, knowing that any work I composed on the event would clearly speak to his excellent tactics and magical mastery of the winds. However, no matter how he cajoled me, he also knew that the sad loss of the Thunderbird and her crew to a mere frigate would make for a sage of its own, and not one he would be glad to hear. Thus, he was eager to provide me with transportation back towards the last known location of the human fleet. Perhaps I would stop at El-Aron and catch a dwarven caravan south, where it was warmer. The Ralgard were said to be more active down there as well, and I believed that to be my best chance to see them.

Azsraan san Nar

Azsraan san Nar

After having spent the last several weeks on battleships and cruisers, I was a little less comfortable on the Swiftwing than I anticipated, but I was glad to be leaving the Cauldron at last, and spent little time thinking about what I was leaving behind. And once again, of course, that is when the gods informed me that my work here was still not finished…

The call of the look-out startled us all. Something was flying far above us, shadowing our movements. In the clear blue sky it was nearly impossible to tell scale, but it did not give off the feeling of one of the Thaniras’ War Dragons, or their larger cousins. There was something about it that tickled the back of my brain, but I could not coax that half-glimpsed memory into the light.

Over the course of the day our unrequested escort maintained his position in the sky. There were times when I thought I glimpsed others off to the north or south, but I could never be sure. I began to formulate a fairly uncomfortable theory, when again the lookout cried out, this time indicating something that had popped threateningly up over the horizon. It was a long, thin ship, a single fin-like sail sweeping back and over its deck. A second and then a third ship appeared, forming a neatly-formed net before us. With cold certainty I looked up, knowing what I would see.

Overhead, a dragon was plunging down upon us down our wake, while two other dragons, one to starboard and one to port, swooped in as well. They were small, bearing riders upon their backs, and it all fell into place. Nogdra Dragons, shadowing our little ship for a squadron that had manoeuvred out in front of us. And now, even for the nimble Swiftwing, there would be no escape.

The elven captain attempted to swing south, the charged arcane orbs along his port flank rippling with continuous fire against the approaching Sunset Frigates. Several of the burning spheres slammed home, igniting the lead enemy frigate and causing it to slew out of formation, but the elves’ excitement was short lived as the Nogdra Dragons stooped down upon us and bathed the small command tower in flame. When the heavy thud of armour-piercing ballista bolts shook the deck beneath my feet, I knew the end was near.

I was fished out of the cold, dark water by the crew of the frigate Tumarati several minutes later, most likely because of my outlandish clothing, as the elven survivors were left to their own devices, bobbing on the waves.

It is always disconcerting to meet Dragon Lord Subasha after a time away. Although human, there are distinct differences between these willing servants of the self-proclaimed Overlords of the Broad Blue and us, their Imperial cousins from the Old World. The first thing that strikes the observer is the nature of their armour; Although only the most high-ranking Subasha warrant full suits of plate and chain, complete with helms in the shapes of many fantastical beasts, even the lower castes of the slave races wear armour that evokes the shapes of the lizard-like creatures.

The men staring down at me from the railing of the Tumarati all wore leather caps that had been appointed with iron rivets and detailing that made it look as if human faces were staring out, wide-eyed, from the mouths of dragons. Every Subasha I have ever met had the same fixed, stare, as if trying to replicate a lizard’s cold, analytical gaze. I don’t know if it is permanent, or merely an affectation, but it is most disconcerting when one is trying to conduct a civilized conversation. And all of this coupled with their tendency to remove every hair from their bodies; you may understand me when I say that to be the guest of Dragon Lord Subasha is mildly disturbing, to say the least.

Once they had pulled me from the waves, the Subasha crew threw me in a storage room below decks. They did not search me, leaving me with my weapons and my writing case, but neither did they feed me, and when they came for me two days later and escorted me to the main deck, I was faint with hunger. The pains in my stomach were forgotten, however, as I came up on deck and looked in wonder at the immense wall of slick grey wood that stretched away to either side of the starboard railing. High overhead I saw an ornate balustrade with crenulations indicating weapon emplacements on the other side, and realized we must have come up beside an enormous Dragon Lords ship of war.

Dragon Lords

Dragon Lords

A large hatchway opened in the hull of the ship at about the height of our upswept mast, and faces, again from within ornate leather helms, looked down before tossing out an elaborately woven ladder. With silent gestures, two of the near Subasha indicated the ladder and one shoved me towards it. I looked around the Tumarati one last time, nodded sardonically to my hosts, and began the nervous task of climbing the writhing ladder up the side of the massive ship. I knew not to look down, but I did nonetheless. Beneath me a strip of white water, slapping back and forth between the two hulls, waited to break my fall and pull me under. With a deep breath I continued to climb, resolutely focusing on the slick grey wood swaying a foot before my eyes.

Rough hands helped me over the combing of the hatch and into the cool shade, away from the yawning, foam-filled chasm. Forgetting my situation, I nodded my thanks and rubbed my numb hands together before looking up with a smile upon my face… Into a ring of wide, dead eyes staring at me without expression. Subasha. I forgot.

Very seldom am I at a loss for words, but there, in the vast inner spaces of a Dragon Lords ship, surrounded by the most alien humans in existence, I was at a loss as to what I was supposed to say.

“I was told to climb up here?” Not my best work, but under the circumstances I was not going to berate myself too soundly. The expressions did not change so, in the absence of a better plan, I took a moment to look about me. My already staggered mind stopped near-entirely.

All around me rose the hull of the great ship, bathed in a deep turquoise blue that streamed in through a massive domed ceiling of stained glass. A harsh cry drew my attention towards the aft spaces, and I gasped involuntarily as I saw a dragon being coaxed back to a series of stalls along the starboard bulkhead by a gang of heavily armoured Subasha. A real, live Nogdra Dragon. That would mean that…

“Greetings, human.” The voice was harsh and gravelly, with an unfamiliar accent that bordered on a speech impediment, as if spoken from a mouth not designed for the language. I schooled my face, knowing that any extensive expression would be seen as weakness, and turned slowly towards the voice.

The creature standing before me was nearly seven feet tall and completely ensconced in ornate armour, gilded in what looked like red gold. It carried an intricately carved lion’s head helmet casually under one long arm and regarded me with curiosity from its narrow, vertically slit, pupils. The flesh of the face was a greyish tone, with sharp, hard features that bore no expression that I could decipher. Thin black hair was pulled back into a topknot bound with barbed golden wire.

“I am Wing Lord Snaga Jacina Veer, and I have been bidden to convey you to his most puissant lord, Azsrann san Nar, Prince of Traal and Master of Sea and Sky, and commander of this Eyrie Dragon Carrier, Winged Fury.”

I know my eyes glazed over at that. A race with a stronger penchant for names and titles than even the Thaniras – I could hardly believe my ears.

For this was my first encounter with a live Dragon Lord, you see. They are vanishingly rare, as most experienced sailors will tell you. The vast majority of warriors and sailors encountered upon Dragon Lord vessels are their Subasha slaves. There are various theories as to why this is, but most assume that the Lords feel that they are above putting themselves into danger when there are races more than willing to spill blood on their behalf. And yet, here was just such a one, and he seemed anything but timid.

I nodded and gestured quickly for Lord Veer to lead the way, while I followed, having to skip every few strides to keep pace with his long-legged strides. We moved swiftly through the dappled light, making for a large switchback stairway that snaked up towards a gangway that wrapped around the entirety of this strange space. I almost stumbled when a chance glance to my left, towards the bow of the ship, caught a glimpse of the enormous doors leading out onto what must have been the launching deck. I hurried to catch up to Veer, muttering an apology in case the look he shot over his broad shoulder was one of frustration. I still could not be sure.

Azsraan san Nar, Prince of Traal and lord of all he surveyed, met me on the massive aft deck of the Winged Fury. The climb had been gruelling, and I was sweating and out of breath by the time I reached him. A massive specimen of his species, unless Veer was runt, Azsraan san Nar’s armour was even more intricate and gilded than that of his subordinate, while his face was no more expressive, unfortunately. To our left the massive vane of the huge ship’s arcane sail rose into the sky overhead, dragonhide rippling as if alive or responsive to a breeze I could not feel.

The Prince of Traal was staring out at the shoreline, nearly out of sight to starboard, but when I approached he turned gracefully and regarded me with his expressionless face. We stared at each other for what seemed close to an hour before he nodded, snarled – showing a mouth full of long, jagged teeth – and then growled, “Dragos Koranyi.”

For lack of an informed response, after a moment I nodded back.

“Chronicler.” There was no real way to read meaning into the tone, I just had to hope this was not an indictment. So again, I nodded.

“You have been journeying with the Patuljaak.” The face did not move. The gravelly voice was level.

“Sorry?” I was feeling quite out of my depth.

“Those you call elves.” He did not seem frustrated or angry, but then, he did not seem elated either.

“I journey with many folk.” I figured honesty was the best policy, all things considered. “As a Chronicler—“

“Indeed. No condemnation was inferred.” He turned back to the ornate railing, grasping the grey wood with vicious-looking talons. “You were with the Patuljaak, recently, only leagues away from our present location.” I was still struggling with the tone of the prince’s voice, but this did not seem to be a question, so I stood still waiting for a clearer signal.

“They have dragons with them.” Again, no question that I could hear. “This displeases our dragons.” He thumped on the deck with one armoured talon. If he had been human, or even elven or dwarven, I would categorize his expression as hungry. But then, both Dragon Lords I had met that day looked perpetually hungry, so perhaps that was the natural set of their features.

“I saw no dragons, but they are known to field them at times.” I didn’t want Phoskis to get in trouble with these brutes for something he wasn’t doing. On the other hand, the thought that perhaps the Dragon Lords were the very pirates everyone in the region was hunting had crossed my mind more than once during my journey to the fleet. If they had been sending their dragons out raiding, that could easily account for the lack of evidence. I kept my suspicion to myself, however, as I could not see how voicing it would help my situation at all. Discretion is one of the very first traits learned by good Chroniclers – almost as important as the ability to swim, in fact.

“They have dragons now, Chronicler.” He turned back to me. “But they will not for much longer. The only dragons flying the skies overhead will be of the Azdaja.” I assumed he meant the Dragon Lords, and nodded.

Prince Azsraan stared at me for a few more moments with his unblinking eyes and then turned away. “See him to his quarters,” he growled, and several Subasha moved sinuously forward. Apparently, I was going to be with the fleet for the duration.

“My prince,” I made sure to stand very still and keep my eyes wide. “Do you not search for the mysterious raiders who have been ravaging these waters recently?”

He glanced back at me and I swore he smiled. “No mystery, Chronicler. And there will be plenty of time to deal with them after we have swept the Patuljaak from the waves.”

Nonplussed, I allowed myself to be led down into the interior of the ship.