Dragon

 

Chapter 21

How to meet a dragon

 

Well, how to tell this? We roamed around in the city that day – looked at what we should bring back home with us, making deals, and I visited a temple with the Captain and had an eerie experience there. He showed me the crystal-thing that the old man that showed us the way through the Strait of Dolphins had given him. If one looked through the stone at the statue of the god in the temple, you could see that the statue was alive – the god come to life! Breathing and … well, present somehow. We discussed magic for a bit, and I told him about my childhood’s Mamba, and he asked if I would introduce them. I readily agreed to. I was pleasantly surprised that the Captain showed such a keen interest in the magic I had grown up with. Magic which I knew Jean Luc would frown at, being a logical and sensible fellow with – I must believe – a limited sense of imagination. Well, he made up for that lack in other ways…

 

About that time Lucios found us in the market – he had searched for us everywhere; we were wanted at the palace. We were shown to Esha’s throne-room where the counsel was also gathered. She made a pretty violent show there, promptly cutting the head of a stubborn counsel-member, who had disagreed with her propositions. We failed to act upon it. In discussion later we agreed that we would and could not meddle in her ways of ruling, not completely knowing and understanding the way of conduct of these people. But I must admit that I was quite disgusted with her show of power, however necessary she must have felt it was. She dismissed the rest of them and sent them home – she would later gather a new counsel of her own choice (one who agreed with her, I presume). Then she invited us to have tea with her in her private parlour…

 

Well, the thing was, that she and her advisors – some priests and nehru’s amongst them – had decided that someone should go and consult the Dragon at the end of the River Ganges. And the ‘someone’ everyone agreed should be us…We had already had some kind of warning about this, so we agreed to go, especially because Esha promised us exclusive trading rights and Lucios’ freedom on top of it. She told us that the rumour was that the maharadja was now sold to the Sultan of Serengabve, and that our quest was to ask the dragon what to do. We were warned that the dragon was a moody sort of creature (and that was the understatement of the Decade!).

 

So off we went: to the City of Dolphins and onto the Pilgrim-trail and the strangest journey I have ever been on had begun…It was like crossing the threshold to a completely different place. I wager that had we turned around right at the outset to look over our shoulders, the Dolphin City wouldn’t even have been there. We had been moved to a different place all together.

 

We passed dry plains and green rivers, lush valleys and impassable jungles all in what seemed a heartbeat. The sun, the moon and the stars whirled over our heads – days passed in minutes. My recollections of the place are vague and muddled – only a few events stood out, and they were some events! We had passed through the jungle, the Captain up front, when suddenly the way before us disappeared and the Captain stepped into clear air! He fell, oh, he fell so far! Far, far below us we could see him lying crushed and mangled, and my heart I think stopped beating for a few minutes. We made a rope of lianas and I climbed down as fast as I possibly could. But once down there was no sign of the Captain. The others came down too with our baggage, and suddenly these giant birds attacked us from the air. It was big predator birds, larger that anything I had ever seen before. And then we saw him – the Captain – almost incased in a gigantic termite-dwelling. We hacked and chopped at the earthe and finally got him out, but too late: he was already dead... ‘. (At this place in the story she wept… Big silent tears streamed down her face. It was strange to see the notorious pirate cry, and I’m afraid she won’t appreciate me mentioning it. But it is important, I think, to show my readers that no matter how tough Fiona’s reputation is, she is also a human woman with emotions. She won’t appreciate me saying that either… (Note to self: strike the above 5 lines so that I can hope to survive Fiona learning of this). (At this point she faltered in her story, and I had to serve her a lot more rum to get her to carry on. J.W. Note to self: much better – that’s a keeper).

 

‘I don’t remember much of the next days. We fought fearsome beasts, walked and ran and dragged ourselves and the Captains body further than you can believe, saw sceneries more beautiful and terrible than you can imagine! And all along the sun raced across the sky with the moon and the stars right on its tail. If you told me a year had passed by then, I would believe you. I would have believed five minutes as well. A very strange journey indeed…

 

We found the Ganges River, and followed it to its beginning. There we found the tiniest nehru I had yet seen. He spoke to us in gibberish and pointed towards a mountain with a ring of white rocks around it. We crossed the ring of stones and suddenly we were on a plain, dry grass all around us and no mountain… Jean Luc and Hawk stood naked beside me, and I was dressed in a puritan dress with bonnet and corset and all, I had slave-chains on my hands and feet and… shudder… a wedding-band on my right ring finger! All the chains I could possibly imagine! We never saw the dragon, but we heard it! It was loud and angry, filling up the air around us, larger than life, shook our inner beings, shook the ground under our feet with its voice. It seemed to focus all its attention on me and asked me soul-ripping questions: why was I afraid to be a woman? Why did I try so hard to be a man? Did I really think that my mother would love me better, if I had been born a boy? I protested – what did it think it knew about me? I have never been afraid of anything! I am proud of being a woman! I am a better son to my father than any boy could ever be! And my mother can go to Hell for all I care! Why should I want her love, when my father always loved me so much better? Without conditions, without question, but with pride and … and… ‘. (Even more rum was needed now – I don’t think I could ever have gotten Fiona to telle me this part of her story, had she not been up to her eyeballs in rum… She had allways refused to talk about it earlier, and never said a word about it ever again. But oh! That rum was the best investment I ever made! J.W.). “…And unconditional love! I am not ashamed to be a woman, but I loathe the chains loaded onto women. All I ever wanted was to be free… I told the dragon so, and it let me be – left me battered like by a hailstorm, pounded to my knees.

 

The dragon then turned on Hawk and Jean Luc in turn – asked them questions as heartwrecking as the ones it put to me. And no matter how much rum you pour down my throat will I ever betray what I heard then. Those are not my secrets to share, and I tell you this: those two… Hawk and my Jean Luc’ (She said ‘MY Jean Luc’ – the closest thing I ever got to a confession! J.W.) ‘I will fight for them to my dyin’ day, I will! And I’ll never – ever! – betray them!’ (At this point she paused, and needed a little more coaxing to telle the last bit of the meeting with the dragon. J. W). ‘But it answered our questions, it did, the dragon: the enemy would attack, and we should cut off its head… But it claimed a price… For our answers and our torture we paid a price – it took the Captain’s soul, saying he was already halfway into the Realm beyond and he might as well dwell there forever…It took the Captain’s soul…’

 

She would tell me no more of this. She left shortly after. When I saw her the next day, I asked what had happened next. All she would tell me was that they had returned to the Dolphin City with what seemed like a snap of their fingers. The Captains body was with them. He was buried at sea near Punjab. When they returned they helped free the maharaja. They followed the dragon’s advise to chop the head of the snake, before it bit – meaning they should assassin the sultan that had imprisoned the maharaja before he ordered an attack on Punjab. And they had done so. She would not embellish on the subject, though I’m sure it’s a tale worth hearing. They returned here to Brest with amazing riches and a trade deal in the queen Elizabeth’s name, only to discover that she had died in their absence and their sworn enemy, the former lord Greystoke, had taken the crown for him self. As they had no intentions of handing vast riches and a formidable trade deal over to him, they would leave everything behind and return to the Island Kingdom to seek out Mr. Baird and find out if any resistance against lord Greystoke was being organized.