Rise of the Thrall Lord
The Battle of Fisheye Cove - Part 9
The late morning sun beamed down on the land in waves of glorious heat that lesser creatures may have found discomforting. Indeed, Theria found herself the sole creature on the sparkling white sands of the beach.
A distinct fresh mound of earth in the hill just northwest of the cove marked the spot where Berikarth had burrowed. He claimed to heal faster underground, but Theria suspected the earth dragon just wanted to escape the blazing sun.
Just beyond the hill, if she stretched to her full height, Theria could see the odd shape of the white dome that Irovnia had built. The ice dragon had damned a small stream and used the water to construct an elaborate structure that had a small, but Theria was sure, hellishly cold core.
The black dragon, Yiglelot, had found a pool of stagnant water in the ruined old temple just inland that he was happily fouling more. Most of the temple roof was intact, and the interior was shadowed and cool, a fit place for a swamp dragon of Yiglelot’s sort. Theria was sorely tempted to set the vine covered walls and most of the forest beyond ablaze just to discomfort the black who had been so useless in the morning encounter.
But the Great Master had forbid drawing excess attention from the locals, and for some reason had specifically mentioning her tendency to burn large swathes of countryside. Theria would obey for now; she was not ready to incinerate that bridge yet.
She stood, and stretched her wings lazily up and down the beach which was too narrow to fit her full wingspan widthwise. Earlier, she had flown low, but not too low, out over the deep water near the cove. Then she had sat upon the rock in the center of the cove, hoping to tempt the bronzes back or perhaps to prove to herself she could conquer at least that small part of the water element. But the rock was too small for comfort with annoyingly cool water all around, and no opponents came from the sea to challenge her.
By mid morning, she had taken to sifting through the wreckage and flotsam from the fishing boat that had gathered in an undulating mass, tide driven against the south breakwater.
Theria found various junk amongst the debris, pieces of boat, a left sandal, a large floppy straw hat, various net-floats ridiculously carved to look like fish and a large basket floating in the middle of it. She had a brief image of the old story about the human hero set upon the ocean in a basket as a child because of godly jealousy, who later grows up to be a great dragon slayer.
Of course there wasn’t any such tasty morsel as a human baby in this basket. Her nose told her that long before she hooked one side open with as dainty a claw movement as she could manage. The basket still was nearly rent in half. She carefully set it between two rocks on the dry end of the breakwater. Theria knew what she had to do to examine it properly, and she would save that for later.
With a rush of air, she took to the sky and circled the area. Some of the debris had made it out of the cove and was pulled south by the current to wash on the rocky beaches nearby. She had a sudden thought, and scanned the waters down the coastline. The icy bolder was gone. Either it totally melted, or it was moved. She had no experience with ice, how long it took to melt, or how or why stupid ice dragons made the horrible cold stuff. She could ask Irovnia, but a conversation with the white wouldn’t be likely to give her more than a headache.
As she flew back to the cove, she noticed how out of place it seemed. From the air it was pretty clear when one looked. The cove was the only spot of pure white sand; the rest of the rock strewn beaches in the area were darker and tan colored. The boulders of the two near perfect semicircular breakwaters were a light gray and although rough hewn, the blocks were all of a squared or rectangular shape. The native rocks on the rest of the beaches were much darker, almost black in shade.
Of course she had known it was manmade, but why haul in the special materials for an ocean breakwater? The overgrown buildings near the cove appeared to be an ancient temple complex. Theria wondered if there might be more than meets the eye underground or even underwater. Like all dragons, the thought of treasure intrigued her. What better way to spend the time waiting for the airship?
She had just decided to roust Berikarth to dig around the ruins site, and send Yiglelot down the cove’s center well when she noticed a dark stain on the end of the south breakwater. It was darker than the faint burn marks she had left.
When she approached to examine the stain, she saw the broken ink bottle and the singed remains of a writing quill. The ink stain trailed off into a crevasse between the boulders, the line of ink ending before the bottom, but pointing like a dark finger to the small book caught just above the waterline.
Theria stared at it for a moment. It was no good; any shift of these boulders would send it into the water. And it was small, even for a human tome; her dragon claws could not handle such a thing with out harm, even if she could reach into that small space.
She sighed, looked around to make sure none of the others were nearby and closed her eyes to concentrate. Forming the proper pattern in her mind, she focused on it, and felt her form shift.
She didn’t know many shapes of the lesser races; in fact this was the only one she bothered with. She had already decided that she would never take the form of one of the hated humans. The elf form was practical when riding in the airship, although not as practical as a flying dragon she thought.
Usually it was a good thing that the clothes and minor gear one was last wearing in humanoid form reappeared when returning to that shape; Theria knew that it was rarely acceptable to be naked in humanoid societies. On the airship, they had given up telling Theria how a red ball gown was not practical clothes when she pointed out how impractical the whole small, thin-skinned, humanoid form was and how it would be better if she just remained a dragon. Secretly, she thought that if she had to give up the most beautiful form in the world for a while, she should at least look good in the new shape.
So she stood on the end of the breakwater as a pale, soft, biped, in a beautiful, long, flowing red gown with black roses, multiple buckles, and devious catches in near impossible to reach places. Her long red hair blew in the sea breeze with her gown, and as she pushed it out of her face, she thought how impractical it all was.
Less than an hour later she walked across the breakwater back to shore victorious, her gown back on, the book in her hand and a little wiser about the limitations of the humanoid form. But if the cursed metallic dragons could handle the forms of lesser races, then by the Five Headed Lady, so could she!
She did wonder how the human girl had seemed to fit so easily into the crevasse; was she that much slimmer than this form? Theria supposed the main problems in that narrow space were these large mammal glands in the front; did humanoid young really require such quantities of milk? Also, the extra padding in the tail area didn’t help either. She wondered if she had just not gotten the form right, but the Little Mistress had assured her it was perfect.
As she passed the beach end of the breakwater, she snagged the basket with one hand and the straw hat with the other and then settled on the warm sandy beach. It was time to try the contents of both the basket and the book.