* This is the very first installment for WHERE DRAGONS GO TO DIE, a serial that will be posted every Friday morning. Please check back next week to find out what happens next!
Her claws dug deep, white lines, screeching as they went. Cringing people surrounded her, but she ignored them, calmly focusing on the doors across the room. The carving was intricate. When you viewed it as a whole the doors depicted the ship itself, but she kept her gaze on the swirls that formed the breaking waves.
“Bring them in.” The sound of her voice could barely be heard under the high-pitched squeal of her nails. The men ran to follow her command.
Darya marched through the double doors with her burned face held high. She paced her steps carefully next to her limping companion, as though if she walked with enough purpose it could disguise Vera’s injuries. Even if her gait wasn’t distracting, and even if the fresh blood pouring down from the deep gash on her arm wasn’t staining her white uniform, the smell of them would have filled any size room. The source of the smell seemed obvious: both of their pant legs were full of holes exposing melted, red, flesh. The sight of them made clear one thing: defeat. In light of that, nothing else much mattered, but there was protocol to be followed. Once down the aisle, Darya pulled Vera’s shoulders back, straightening her posture and worsening the bleeding from her arm.
“I see you were unsuccessful,” she whispered.
“With apologies, Commodore. We attempted to retrieve the bones several times, but in the end were unable to complete the mission.” Darya stared straight forward as she spoke, careful not to look directly at the Commodore.
“Maybe it shouldn’t have been the end. Why did you return empty-handed?”
“We didn’t come empty-handed, Commodore,” Vera croaked. “We brought you a baby.”
One side of the Commodore’s face rose into a smirk, splaying the many scars across her cheeks into something even more difficult to look at. “And what, pray tell, do you suggest I do with one of those? I trust you’ve heard they breathe fire?”
The women’s jaws fell slack as they searched their tired minds for a response. The Commodore regained her business face first, to their dismay.
“I have no use for dragons, only their bones. I should think that would be quite clear to you, but it seems you need help understanding. What to do, what to do…” She lifted her hand to brush the chalky pile away before resting her palm firmly on the skull. Her nails ran light circles around the sockets until finding purchase and digging in once again.
“Seeing as I can no longer trust you, sending you back to shore to finish your mission will do us no good. Of course, now we have a baby dragon to contend with.”
Vera cleared her throat. “With all due respect, sir, couldn’t we clean the bones for you?”
Darya grimaced. They’d agreed Darya would do the talking. She’d been under the Commodore’s command for almost a year, and had more experience in restraining her tongue.
“Oh, dear! Why didn’t I think of that?” The Commodore leaned forward, a smile slowly filling her face. “The baby will have bones, of course! Except, that’s not what I asked you to do, now, was it Vera?” She leaned back into her bony throne. Pouting her lips and shaking her head, she continued, “No, no it wasn’t. I told you, what again?” She pointed a clawed finger at Vera, who was gradually tipping over. Darya struggled to prop her up.
“Dry, old, dragon bones,” Vera answered. “Deep in the Western caves at Kindred Mountain.”
“If you knew this, why are we here now? Lack of respect, I suppose. For your failure, you shall deal with your mistake: the dragon. TO BE CLEAR!” Those in the room who had fallen to a slouch jolted upright. In her signature whisper, she said, “We do not kill dragons. You are to take care of your kidnap victim and restore the creature to its home.”
She raised one talon, silencing Vera’s stammered question. “Maybe you should have thought about the ‘but hows’ before you brought a fire breather onto a wooden ship. Maybe next time, before you fail to fetch my bones, you’ll think about this. Assuming you survive, of course.” She looked to the men at the door and raised her voice slightly. “I’m done with them. Now, bring me their sisters. I still need my dragon bones.”
Horror widened the women’s eyes and they looked about to speak, but Darya thought better of it. She grabbed Vera’s left side to help her limp from the room.
“And someone, air it out in here. If I wanted it to smell like burnt flesh, you’d all be on fire right now.” She picked up the skull, now veiled in the same detailed markings covering her own face, and placed it at her feet before choosing another from the pile. She dug her claws deeply into the unmarked forehead, filling the room with the screeching.
* This is the very first installment for WHERE DRAGONS GO TO DIE, a serial that will be posted every Friday morning. Continue onto the second installment.