Fear and Benevolence
Naoise takes time away from the restoration of Alster Island to respond to a distress call from nearby Entre Island, which has reported the appearance of a dangerous monster. What he finds instead is Chulainn, a girl with a dragon's scales, wings, and tail, and her adoptive older brother, Ferdia. They have been traveling from island to island seeking a cure for the sudden appearance of her draconic features. Naoise brings them back to Alster to consult with Scathacha.
True Dragon Deirdre—known to some as Scathacha—has sworn to defend her beloved Alster Island, a place where monsters and people coexist peacefully.
True Dragon Medb, however, considers Deirdre's kindness a stain on the honor of all true dragons—a stain she attacked Alster Island to wipe clean.
(Captain) and the crew helped repel the attack, and now all the residents of Alster are working together to restore their home.
Naoise: Our trade agreement with the Knickknack Shack has gone smoothly thanks to (Captain) handling transportation.
Heles: Not only were we given temporary leave from the crew—now they're helping us with the distribution of supplies. Words of gratitude simply aren't enough.
Heles: We must find some way to thank them properly.
Seruel: I'm afraid that will have to wait until Alster Island is back on its feet. Any extravagant gestures now would cause (Captain) more guilt than pleasure.
Seruel: Honestly, the captain's good nature is a liability—we should be there to make sure no one takes advantage of it. Hopefully we can get things in hand here soon enough.
Naoise: Seruel, I want to speak to you about sending relief to Entre Island.
Naoise: The parliament received a request for assistance with some recent monster attacks there.
Seruel: It appears the time has come to repay the humanitarian aid they rendered us when the Irestill Kingdom fell.
Heles: It may be a stroke of luck that (Captain) and the others aren't here at the moment.
Seruel: Indeed. I doubt we could have stopped them from rushing to Entre Island's aid.
Seruel: But this gesture should come from Alster Island, given how much we owe them.
Seruel: We will send our strongest knight. Naoise, show them that Alster always honors its debts.
Naoise: Understood! I will take a troop of knights and eliminate the monster threat plaguing Entre Island.
And so, while the Grandcypher is away from Alster on another request, Naoise heads to Entre.
Sir Quill: Oof! Finally here. The rocking of an airship is no good for my old back.
Naoise: I know your village's farmlands were badly damaged when True Dragon Medb attacked, Sir Quill. I'm thankful you could spare the time to help me.
Sir Quill: Oh, please. Thanks to Lady Deirdre, we don't have to worry about monster attacks, so the restoration of our fields is well underway.
Sir Quill: There's not a lot an ancient archer like me could do to help there anyhow. The least I can do is offer you my services.
Sir Quill: Although I'm certain you could handle this monster single-handed, so all I'll be doing is riding your coattails to borrowed glory.
Naoise: You're far too modest. It's well-known there is no better commander of archers on Alster Island than you.
Naoise: I'll be counting on you to shore up the deficiencies in my own leadership.
Sir Quill: Pfft. Hahaha!
Naoise: Did I say something odd?
Sir Quill: Forgive me. It's just that you look so much like Miss Eli—that is, it's uncanny how much you resemble your lady mother.
Sir Quill: And yet you sound just like your father, Sir Uisneach. It does my old heart good to speak with you.
Naoise: That's right. You had been serving in the castle guard for some time when my father joined, hadn't you?
Sir Quill: That's right. Sir Uisneach was such a good soldier, he was trusted to guard the rear gates.
Sir Quill: But that didn't stop then-Princess Mugain—gods rest her soul—and her handmaiden, Miss Elisheba, from making merciless sport of him.
Naoise: I'd heard that my mother was such a handful when she was younger that my grandfather sent her to the palace to learn better manners.
Sir Quill: So he did! But Princess Mugain had just lost her younger sister, and Miss Elisheba became a great source of comfort to her.
Sir Quill: Ah, there I go, prattling about the past. We mustn't keep our young companions waiting.
Naoise: I hope you'll share more of your memories with me later.
Naoise: Everyone, follow me! We'll rendezvous with the local guard at their headquarters.
After a briefing from the local guard, Naoise and his knights retire to their lodgings to discuss strategy.
Naoise: They claim this monster appeared out of nowhere, knocked some vendors' stands flying, injured citizens, and then fled to the mountains, attacking the guards who attempted to follow.
Sir Quill: Sounds plausible enough, but there was something about their story that didn't sit quite right. Felt like they were holding something back.
Naoise: If they went so far as to request help from another island, I don't doubt their account of the damage, but...
Sir Quill: I think we'd best take only our own knights into the mountains, and keep our wits about us as far as the local guards' actions are concerned.
Naoise: Yes... I believe you're right. Besides, coordinating with new allies while tackling an unknown foe is a dangerous proposition.
Naoise: There's only one entrance to the caves. What if we surround the mouth, have our archers at the ready, and smoke the monster out?
Sir Quill: That sounds fine to me. I'll head back to the ship to fetch torches and oil.
Naoise: Thank you. We'll march for the mountain at first light.
Splitting the tasks between them, Naoise and Quill prepare the younger knights for the next morning's monster hunt.
Young Knight: Sirs! I've returned from my scouting mission!
Naoise: At ease. What can you tell me about the caves?
Young Knight: Well... Judging by the footprints, it looked like kids had been playing there recently. There were no signs of monsters that we could find.
Sir Quill: Mm... The birds are singing just as usual, and the smaller woodland animals haven't cleared the area. Something definitely doesn't add up.
Naoise: Indeed. If there were a powerful monster in the area, I'd expect the wildlife to be frightened and acting accordingly.
Young Knight: I can't think of any species of monster that would be a threat to people but not animals. When monsters are hungry, they're just as happy to hunt the local wildlife.
Naoise: The monster could have moved to a different part of the mountain, but the smoke will help us determine whether it has.
Naoise: We'll proceed with our initial plan. Start fanning the smoke into the caves, and have the archers standing by.
Young Knight: Yes, sir!
Sir Quill: We'll pen the monster in and leave it to you to pick it off with your longbow, Sir Naoise.
Naoise: I'll do my best not to let it reach you. If necessary, however, I want you to leave me behind and retreat.
Sir Quill: Understood. Please do your utmost to ensure it doesn't come to that.
Naoise: Don't worry. I have no intention of throwing my life away.
The knights gauge the direction of the wind before lighting their fires and funneling the smoke toward the cave mouth.
???: Cough... Hack!
Sir Quill: Fire!
The shadowy figure leaps clear of the arrows loosed at Quill's command. The archers let fly volley after volley.
The figure hazily visible through the smoke strikes arrows out of the air with a swing of its arm. It spots Naoise and barrels toward him.
Naoise: A... child?
Naoise blocks the mysterious figure's blow, but as he is reeling from the shock of their appearance, what turns out to be a child winds up to strike again.
Young Knight: That's no monster!
Sir Quill: Don't be fooled! Many monsters can shift their appearances to beguile attackers! We have to protect Sir Naoise!
Naoise: Sir Quill! Hold your fire!
Sir Quill: ...!
Naoise: Forgive me, child! We were misinformed. Please calm down...
???: Shut up! Get away from me! If you don't, I'm really, really gonna wallop you this time!
Youth's Voice: Cu, stop!
The voice which reined in the furious child belongs to a young man.
???: Stay back, Ferd! They're here to bully us again!
???: I told you... t'stop... Urgh...
The young man staggers a few steps before collapsing, and the child leaves Naoise to run to his side.
Sir Quill: Sir Naoise! Are you all right?
Naoise: Yes, no need to worry on my account. But...
Crouched by the fallen youth, the child, sensing the confused knights' scrutiny, growls at them like a feral beast.
Sir Quill: Leaving those horns aside... that tail... and the ability to land a blow on you, tell me that's no ordinary child.
Naoise: Sir Quill... Will you hold my weapons?
Naoise makes a show of handing over his weapons so the children can see before he slowly approaches them.
Naoise: Once again, please forgive me. We were told a monster attacked the town below, and took you for that monster.
Naoise: Attacking you without confirming your identity was disgraceful, and mere apology cannot possibly suffice.
???: Ngh... Cu...
???: Ferd! I'm right here, Ferd!
Naoise: He seems awfully weak. Would you allow us to treat him?
Naoise: Please. I could not live with myself if we allowed either of you to come to harm.
???: You'll... save him? You promise?
Naoise: I swear it on the name of Alster Island.
???: The name of what? I don't know what you're talking about, but just... just save Ferd, okay?
???: I'm the one who broke those stands... I didn't mean to, but I broke them...
???: The townspeople got mad and chased me away... And Ferd was the one who got hurt.
Naoise: I see... Once we've treated your friend's wounds, why don't you tell me the whole story?
???: All right...
Naoise: Thank you. Follow me, then.
Naoise: Sir Quill!
Sir Quill: I heard everything. First, let's take the lad back to the airship. Best not to risk running into our hosts in town just yet.
Naoise: Just as you say. I'll carry him.
Naoise: And you... Cu, was it? Do you feel strong enough to travel on foot?
Chulainn: Uh... My name's Chulainn. Cu is the nickname my grandpa gave me.
Naoise: Pleased to meet you, Chulainn. Will you walk alongside me then? We have a little ways to go.
Chulainn: Ferd! Ferdia's awake! Oh, thank goodness...
Ferdia: Sorry I worried you, Cu.
And please forgive us for the trouble we've caused, sirs.
Naoise: We're the ones who must apologize. Attacking you without knowing the full story was shameful.
Ferdia: Well, it's our fault for scaring the townspeople in the first place. Cu's strength can get a little out of control.
Naoise: Yes, she said she destroyed some shop stalls.
Ferdia: Yes. Cu... Chulainn looks a little different from most people, so she usually wears a cloak to avoid startling anyone...
Ferdia: It caught on the stand when she broke it though, and came off. And her appearance only scared the townspeople more.
Chulainn: I didn't ask for wings and a tail... They grew on their own...
Naoise: They... grew? Your tail and your wings?
Ferdia: My grandfather found Chulainn when she was a baby. Back then, we just thought she was a Draph.
Ferdia: But one day she started complaining that she was itchy, and all of a sudden, she started growing scales all over one arm... and then she sprouted the tail... and the wings.
Chulainn: My tail just moves on its own. It's kind of a problem...
Ferdia: We've taken her to doctors all over the place, but no one even knows what caused the changes, much less how to cure them.
Naoise: So you came to this island seeking treatment. It must have been a harrowing journey for the two of you to undertake alone.
Chulainn: I don't mind, as long as I've got Ferd with me!
Ferdia: I'm glad you're so blase about it.
Sir Quill: Sir Naoise, I just returned from speaking with the local guard.
Naoise: Thank you for handling that. What did they have to say?
Sir Quill: It seems there were quite a few among them who had reservations about treating Miss Chulainn like a monster.
Sir Quill: They were the ones who seemed so awkward when we spoke to them earlier. Thanks to their support, the guard has agreed to let us take custody of our two young friends here.
Naoise: What a relief. Please tell the townspeople—
Sir Quill: We decided to put it out that the "monster" who'd caused the damage in town was defeated by the Alster knights.
Sir Quill: Seemed best to settle the affair that way, rather than invite any unfortunate speculation on Miss Chulainn's subject.
Naoise: I can't thank you enough, Sir Quill. Thank goodness you agreed to accompany me. I never could have handled negotiations as adroitly.
Sir Quill: Haha. You needn't excel in every field. You and your father really are two perfectly straight arrows from the same quiver.
Sir Quill: And if your honesty means an old prevaricator like me still has his uses, all the better.
Naoise: I don't know about that... I feel like all I've done on this expedition is reveal the depths of my inadequacy.
Sir Quill: Come now—no man is an island. Learning to depend on others is one way you could even improve on your father's legacy.
Sir Quill: When the kingdom fell, Sir Uisneach had to watch his comrades fall to injury one after the next in a never-ending series of battles.
Sir Quill: I was one of them. In the end, your father ended up marching into battle alone. I'll regret that to the end of my days.
Naoise: I have to believe my father was happy to die fulfilling his duty as a knight.
Sir Quill: I'm sure he was. That's why he lives on as a hero to all of Alster. Forgive an old man for waxing maudlin.
Sir Quill: Here I am talking the young people's ears off again. Sorry to keep you waiting so long, Miss Chulainn. And your brother too.
Chulainn: Uuum... Sure, okay! Thanks, Gramps! Thanks Naoise!
Ferdia: Sir Naoise, Cu! He's a knight!
Chulainn: Ohh. Okay. Thank you for saving us, Sir Naoise and Sir Gramps!
Naoise: Please think nothing of it. And there's someone I believe could advise you on your "condition," Chulainn. Would you be willing to accompany us back to Alster Island?
Ferdia: Wait, you really know someone like that?
Naoise: Indeed. Chulainn's scales and tail greatly resemble those of a dragon. Who better to consult than a true dragon?
Naoise: I'm certain the proud guardian of Alster Island, True Dragon Deirdre, can be of assistance.
Hope kindles in Ferdia's eyes, and he squeezes Chulainn's hand.
Naoise, the knight sworn to serve and protect, turns his eyes homeward, determined to help these children whose futures he almost helped to extinguish.
The Flame That Burns Within
According to Scathacha, Chulainn has both human and dragon blood, the latter of which was recently awakened by some unknown event. Ferdia and Chulainn decide to remain on the island while Scathacha teaches Chulainn to control her new powers.
Chulainn, a girl who one day suddenly sprouted wings, a tail, and scales over one arm, has been traveling with her adoptive brother Ferdia to seek medical advice.
Naoise encounters them on Entre Island and brings them back with him to Alster to consult with Scathacha.
Naoise: Scathacha, may I present Chulainn and Ferdia.
Chulainn: Hi! Uh... Ska... Wait. I thought her name was Deirdre!
Ferdia: Cu—uh, I mean, Chulainn! Don't be rude! You need to greet people politely when you first meet them.
Scathacha: You needn't stand on ceremony with me. I am indeed True Dragon Deirdre. But I am also known by the name Scathacha.
Chulainn: Oh, so you're like me? My name's Chulainn, but my family calls me Cu. Uh. Ma'am. Lady. Ladyma'am.
Scathacha: No doubt the plurality of our names is similar in origin. Why are you called Cu?
Ferdia: It... It means "wild dog" in the old tongue. Grandpa—uh, I mean, our grandfather—gave her that nickname 'cause she's such a handful.
Chulainn: If I gotta have a tail, I wish it was a nice fluffy one, like a dog's, or like yours, Lady Deirdre.
Scathacha: Naoise tells me you haven't always had that tail.
Chulainn: Yeah, one day I just kinda felt... itchy? Sore? Tingly? And then these scales just popped out... and then the wings and tail.
Ferdia: She always had the horns... And when we first found her, she had just one scaly-looking thing on her hip... but we thought it was a scar at the time.
Scathacha: I see... So you have a reverse scale.
Chulainn: Reverse scale?
Scathacha: It's a weak point almost all dragons share, though its location differs from dragon to dragon.
Scathacha: It would appear, young Chulainn, that both the magic of dragons and of mortals flows within you.
Scathacha: I suspect the blood of both ancestries is mingled in your veins.
Ferdia: Mortal and dragon blood... Is that even possible?
Scathacha: It certainly is a rare occurrence, but not unheard of.
Any version of Grea
is a crew member
There is another member of the airship crew to which I belong who is also the issue of those two lineages.
Chulainn: Huh! How about that! Er, I mean... I see! Indeed!
Ferdia: Chulainn, this is very important information about you. We should ask for more details.
Chulainn: I am! But I never knew my dad or my mom, so...
Chulainn: Even if you tell me one of 'em was a dragon, it's just, like... well, okay?
Naoise: Yes... Yes, I can see how it would be difficult to process.
Ferdia: Sir Naoise, you don't need to humor her...
Chulainn: Well, I guess what I wanna know is how I can go back to normal, 'cause Ferd worries about me looking like this!
Scathacha: Back to normal? I'm afraid this is not the answer you sought, but there is no way for you to "go back to normal," as you put it.
Scathacha: My guess is the change in appearance was triggered by a powerful dragon using their powers nearby.
Scathacha: The dormant dragon's blood awakened by its influence has always been a part of you, Chulainn. There is no way to separate you from it.
Chulainn: So I can't turn back, huh... Okay. I understand, Lady Deirdre.
Chulainn: It's okay. The tail and the wings don't bother me!
Chulainn: Ah... But my arm is kind of a problem. Lady Scathacha, see, lately I keep breaking things.
Scathacha: Your body has likely transformed in order to accommodate the sudden evolution of your hereditary magical abilities.
Scathacha: These increases in physical and magical strength are a part of you. You will require training to gain control of both.
Naoise: Yes. Think of it as practice. You need to learn how to use your strength without accidentally breaking anything.
Chulainn: Oh. Okay!
Scathacha: Although you cannot return to your previous form, with time and toil, it is possible you could gain yet another new one.
Scathacha: Like this one, for example.
Ferdia: Wha... Huh?
Naoise: When she visits the town, Deirdre takes this form and calls herself Scathacha.
Chulainn: Wooow! That's so cool! You're amazing, Lady Deirdre! Can I learn to do that?
Scathacha: If you are willing to put in the effort. Are you, Chulainn?
Chulainn: Yes! I'll work really hard!
Ferdia: Thank you, Lady Deirdre. And thank you, Sir Naoise. I don't know how we can ever repay your kindness.
Scathacha: Don't trouble yourselves—this was destiny. I will help with Chulainn's training myself.
Naoise: I wish to thank you too, Scathacha. There probably isn't much I could have done for them on my own.
Scathacha: There's that overly altruistic side you share with (Captain). Not that it's necessarily a bad thing.
Elisheba: Have you finished speaking to your visitors, Deirdre?
Scathacha: Yes, we were just wrapping up. Are the preparations complete?
Elisheba: Yes. A hot bath, a good meal, and new clothes await each of our guests.
Ferdia: Oh! No! We couldn't possibly—
Scathacha: It would reflect poorly on the parliament to have the two of you wandering about in your current attire. Wouldn't you agree, Naoise?
Naoise: Oh, I'm sure they... wouldn't...
Naoise: Ah, er, that is. Yes. We shouldn't let their generosity go to waste now, should we, Ferdia?
Chulainn: Ferd, I'm hungry...
Ferdia: Urgh... Fine... We accept. Sorry... for the trouble.
Naoise: You said her dormant blood was awakened... Could it be...
Scathacha: It's possible that Medb cast a curse over the island to turn any dragons living there into her thralls.
Scathacha: But let's not jump to the conclusion. It could also be caused by a true dragon using their powers in proximity to those children's home.
Scathacha: At a glance, those two don't appear to have anyone else's magic on them. The changes must have been triggered by the most trivial amount of magic.
Naoise: I don't know that you should use the word trivial to describe something that irrevocably changed the course of that family's lives.
Scathacha: Well, the changes certainly could be seen as a fearful thing, but that depends on how Chulainn herself feels about them.
Scathacha: We'll simply have to do our best to ensure she doesn't come to think that way.
Naoise: Yes... You're completely right.
Chulainn's Voice: Now, are we done, Lady Elisheba?
Elisheba's Voice: Be patient for me. I'm not finished with your hair.
Heles's Voice: With her hair color, I think clipping it to this side would be more flattering. Here, let me...
Elisheba's Voice: Thank you, Heles.
Now, let's just fix your collar... And there we are. You're ready.
Chulainn's Voice: Yaaay!
Chulainn: Ferd! Ferd, check out my outfit! The cloth is so soft! And it's so swishy!
Ferdia: Cu! Say thank you to Lady Elisheba and Lady Heles!
Chulainn: Oh, right! Thank you very much, Lady Elisheba and Lady Heles!
Heles: Haha, I'm glad you like your outfit. You look lovely in it.
Chulainn: Hehehe... Oh, that's right! Ferd, did you take a bath? The tub was amazing! It was the size of a lake!
Ferdia: Settle down! They were nice enough to give you clothes fit for a princess, and you're going to—
Chulainn: Ferd, you look so cool! Ooh, yours are all soft too!
Ferdia: Hngh... Cu, I keep telling you not to launch yourself headfirst when you hug me...
Naoise: Haha, I'm pleased the baths and new clothes were to your liking.
Elisheba: Looks like those fit you all right, Ferdia. Does anything feel too tight?
Ferdia: No, it's perfect! Really, you took so much trouble with everything...
Ferdia: Please, there must be something I can do for all of you. We can't simply take all these gifts without doing anything in return.
Naoise: There's truly no need. I almost feel as if I spirited you both away to Alster Island, so this is the very least we could do.
Ferdia: Sir Naoise, I was raised to believe that people should work for their keep. Chulainn needs to learn the same lesson...
Elisheba: You know, Ferdia? You're absolutely right.
What a good example your brother is, Chulainn.
Chulainn: I know! He's smart too! As long as I have him by my side, I know everything'll be all right!
Elisheba: I can see that.
Well, Ferdia, what would you say to working at the Great Court during your stay?
Elisheba: The men of the island are working to restore our farmlands, so all the courtiers here are women. We could use a strong young man like you to do some heavy lifting.
Ferdia: I can handle that! My grandfather was a woodcutter, and I used to work with him, so I can lift whatever you want!
Chulainn: I'm strong too! Let me help!
Elisheba: Haha, then it's settled. I'll be counting on the two of you.
Ferdia & Chulainn: Yes, ma'am!
Heles: Hehe... Elisheba stands alone.
Naoise: Yes... My mother has skills I will never possess.
The Flame That Burns Within: Scene 2
Ferdia and Chulainn do chores around the Great Court to thank their hosts, but Chulainn's uncontrolled strength results in accidents which end up injuring Ferdia. Naoise comforts the crestfallen Chulainn with his own story of sin and redemption. Chulainn takes responsibility for her mistakes, impressing her brother with her growth.
Chulainn: Clean-up time! Clean-up time!
Naoise: Oops! Careful, Chulainn. If you run with your bucket, you'll spill water everywhere.
Chulainn: Oh, you're right... I had a lot more water in this bucket to start with...
Naoise: Ah, so that's what Ferdia's doing with the mop—cleaning up the spilled water.
Ferdia: For goodness' sake, Chulainn, we're never going to finish our work if you keep creating new chores for us.
Chulainn: Sorry, Ferd! I'll wipe it up!
Ferdia: Wait! That rag is for drying... Oh, well. I brought spares. Go ahead and use that one.
Naoise: Looks like you're earning your keep today, Ferdia. Where are the two of you headed next?
Ferdia: Hello, Sir Naoise. We were asked to clean the big room at the end of the hall.
Naoise: This hall? Oh, the library. Chulainn, be very careful not to spill any water in there, all right?
Chulainn: Eep! 'Kay! I'll be careful!
Ferdia: Come on, Chulainn. We've got other work to get to after this.
Chulainn: Okay! Bye, Sir Naoise!
Chulainn: Wooow! The walls are covered in books!
The children are floored by the sheer number of books lining the library shelves. Ferdia in particular seems fascinated.
Ferdia: I don't think there were more than a dozen books in our entire village. I've never dreamed of seeing this many in one place...
Chulainn: Are we allowed to touch them? Books are super expensive, right?
Ferdia: I... I'm not sure. We're supposed to dust them, but...
Seruel: Of course you should be careful with the books, but this library is open to all residents of the island.
Ferdia: Really? Then they can just read these books whenever they want? Any book?
Seruel: Yes. Educating the citizens is the surest way for our island to grow. Education has been one of our core values since the days of the monarchy.
Ferdia: I see... Alster Island is really advanced...
Chulainn: (Ferd really wants to read... Maybe if we finish our work quickly, he'll have more time for that.)
Chulainn: Get ready, books! It's dustin' time!
Seruel: Just be careful, Chulainn!
Ferdia, are you an avid reader?
Ferdia: Well... We lived in a pretty remote place in the mountains, and there were almost no books in the nearest village, so I haven't had much opportunity.
Ferdia: I don't read very quickly, and I don't think I'm very good at it... But...
Seruel: That desire to improve yourself is admirable. The library is open until sundown, so—
Before Seruel's and Ferdia's horrified eyes, the bookshelves begin to fall like dominoes.
Ferdia: Cu! Are you all right?
Seruel: Looks like she managed to roll between two shelves and wasn't hit when this one fell.
Thank goodness you weren't hurt, Chulainn.
Naoise: What was that noise just now—
Naoise: Seruel! What happened with all the bookshelves? I thought they were securely fastened to the walls...
Seruel: From the looks of it, one of the clasps must have been broken, putting more pressure on the rest of the supports. In the end, they all went down.
Naoise: I see... Well, they are old. They must have been overdue for some repair.
Chulainn: No, they weren't...
Chulainn: I'm sorry... Sir Seruel, Sir Naoise... I... I knocked down the shelves with my duster.
Ferdia: Cu, you dummy! Why would you dust that hard?
Chulainn: I'm sorry, Ferd! I didn't think this would happen...
Ferdia: That's no excuse!
Seruel: I'd heard you had trouble controlling your strength, Chulainn. Let's just be grateful there was no one else in the library.
Seruel: Naoise, please choose some members of the guard to help put things to rights in here. Chulainn, make sure to be more careful in the future.
Chulainn: Y-yes, sir!
Ferdia: You really, really need to watch it, Chulainn! You're so clumsy, and these books are important to the people of this island!
Chulainn: I... I know they're important! I'll be more careful next time!
Naoise: It will take some time to put the books in order. Why don't you two move onto whatever your next task was?
Ferdia: Yes, sir... Come on, Chulainn. We're supposed to wash dishes in the dining hall next.
Chulainn: Okay! Don't worry, I'll be super careful!
Standing side by side at the sink, Ferd deftly washes the plates and hands them off to Chulainn, who carefully wipes them with a cloth.
Chulainn: Carefully, carefully, no breaking...
Ferdia: What'd you do!
Chulainn: Aaah... Oh no... Oh noooo...
Ferdia: Leave it! Step back, or you'll cut yourself!
Chulainn: No, I won't! Not if I use my scaly hand!
As Chulainn gets agitated, her tail swishes through the air, sending a row of drying dishes crashing to the floor. A shard of porcelain wings Ferd's arm.
Chulainn: Oh no, Ferd, you're bleeding!
Ferdia: Calm down, Cu! When you get excited, you just end up breaking more stuff!
Chulainn: B-but you're hurt!
Ferdia: Forget about me! You just broke more things that a lot of people need to use!
Chulainn: Sniff... Whimper...
Elisheba: Chulainn! Ferdia! What happened?
Ferdia: Oh... Lady Elisheba... And Lady Heles...
Elisheba: Dear me... We'd better get this cleaned up.
Chulainn: Um, Lady Elisheba... I, uh...
Elisheba: Don't worry. There are many more dishes where these came from. Can you stand back a little? I don't want you to get hurt too.
Heles: As for you, Ferdia, let's get that cut treated right away. Did any slivers from the dish get into it?
Ferdia: It's okay, I can do it myself...
Heles: It's hard to treat a wound on your own arm. Come along now. You too, Chulainn—
Naoise: Hm? I don't seem to remember the curtains bulging this much just here...
Naoise: Heh. Haha, this takes me back. When Seruel was young, the curtains seemed to exhibit this strange phenomenon quite often.
Chulainn's Voice: No way. Sir Seruel is a perfect prince. He wouldn't run away and hide...
Naoise: I would never lie to you, Chulainn. Everyone was a child once. Even perfect princes have had times they felt like hiding away from the world.
Chulainn's Voice: But... But I'm never going to grow up perfect like him...
Naoise: That may be true. Being like Seruel would be hard for anyone.
Chulainn: That's not true. You're perfect too, Naoise.
Naoise: Not at all. Even after I was grown, I once hid—by leaving this island.
Naoise: When I look back on those days I wandered the skies, calling myself a pilgrim, I can see I was simply running from my own misdeeds. I was hiding, just like you are now.
Chulainn: So even you want to hide sometimes...
Naoise: Yes. I did something I could not take back.
Naoise: I confused blind obedience with duty, and, rather than using my own judgment, I followed the king's order to attack Deirdre.
Chulainn: You mean you and Lady Deirdre had a fight?
Naoise: We did. And doesn't that seem strange, when she is such a kind dragon? But rather than argue with the king, I simply followed his orders.
Naoise: My foolishness led to the downfall of the kingdom, great losses among the people, and the deaths of both my king and my father...
Naoise: That's why we must always think, and choose our courses of action ourselves, Chulainn.
Naoise: That way, even if we fail, we can move forward without regret. So. Is hiding what you should be doing right now?
Chulainn: But... But... What if they don't forgive me?
Naoise: That is a risk. Some acts in this world are unforgivable.
Naoise: But there are some who will forgive you. Scathacha forgave both me and the people of this island, and now, as before, she is Alster's greatest protector.
Naoise: Before one can be forgiven, however, one must first apologize. It is important to acknowledge your own misdeeds, even if they are not to be forgiven.
Chulainn: Acknowledge them?
Naoise: Yes. I believe that is always the first step.
Chulainn: Yeah... You're right. I did something bad, after all.
Heles: There. I may have used a bit too much gauze, but I wanted to make sure that cut was completely wrapped.
Ferdia: That's all right! Thank you, Lady Heles.
Heles: Sometimes, when we're worried, older siblings can be a little too harsh in scolding our younger siblings.
Ferdia: Lady Heles...
Ferdia: Cu's still little, and she's having to deal with her dragon blood awakening all at once. There are bound to be some problems.
Ferdia: But since my grandfather died, I'm her only family. And I might get hurt or get sick.
Ferdia: I'm scared what might happen to her if she wound up on her own. I don't know what I can do about that...
Ferdia: With how she looks and her trouble controlling her strength, at the very least, I guess, I want her to have good manners, or maybe some skills, so that maybe... maybe...
Heles: I know how important she is to you.
Heles: It's clear to me, and I've only known you a short while. I'm sure Chulainn understands it on a much deeper level.
Ferdia: Do you think so?
Heles: I'm sure of it. But don't take my word for it. Look.
Ferdia turns in the direction Heles is pointing to find Chulainn peeking around the edge of the doorframe.
Ferdia: There you are! Did you cut yourself when you hit those plates? Come show me your tail—
Ferdia: Ngh! Geez, I keep telling you not to jump at me like that...
Chulainn: I'm sorry, Ferd! I'm really sorry! For... for everything!
Chulainn: I'm sorry... You've gotten hurt... so much... 'cause of me...
Ferdia: I told you before, you don't need to worry about that.
Chulainn: But it's my fault!
Ferdia: You're still in training. I'll be here for you the whole way, until you've got it totally under control.
Ferdia: But I'm proud of you for apologizing. Can you say you're sorry to the guards, and the dining hall staff?
Chulainn: Yeah... I'll say sorry...
Hey... Cu? I was happy you wanted to help cleaning up without me asking you to.
Ferdia: And you started dusting in the library because you wanted to give me more time to read, didn't you? Thanks.
Chulainn: You knew?
Ferdia: Of course I did. Sorry I didn't thank you properly. Guess we both had something to apologize for. We square?
Chulainn: Yeah... Square!
Chulainn: I'm gonna go apologize. Be back in a minute, Ferd!
Ferdia: Wait, I'll go with—
Chulainn: It's okay, I got this! I'm the one who needs to apologize for what I did!
Chulainn: Sir Naoise! I'm on my way to talk to the guard now...
Heles: Maybe she's a little more grown-up than you thought.
Ferdia: Yes... Yes, I suppose you're right.
Heles: And she got there because she had your support. You should be proud, Ferdia.
Seruel's Voice: Chulainn! No running in the halls! What if you bump into someone?
Chulainn's Voice: Oooops! Sorry, Sir Seruel!
Ferdia: I think I'll wait a few years before I congratulate myself.
Ahem. I see your point.
The Flame That Burns Within: Scene 3
Some time after Chulainn and Ferdia came to live on Alster Island, reports reach the Great Court of a dragon destroying crops. Naoise heads out to capture the dragon so Scathacha can discover whether it is a minion of Medb. Chulainn stows away in Naoise's luggage and Ferdia follows to retrieve her, so both are present when the stray dragon appears.
Not long after Chulainn and Ferdia install themselves on Alster Island, several reports reach the Great Court of ravaged crops.
Scathacha: Damages to crops... caused by dragons, eh? I've heard some dragon-spottings from monsters as well.
Naoise: There are no reports of attacks in multiple locations on the same day, so it appears to be the work of a single dragon, not a flock.
Scathacha: I suspect we're looking at a dragon blown off-course and separated from its fellows... But we can't ignore the possibility that it could be one of Medb's followers.
Naoise: Which means we shouldn't attempt to kill, but to capture it, and bring it here for you to question.
Naoise: I'm going to suggest to the parliament that Seruel, Heles, and I each take a party of knights and go looking for this dragon.
Scathacha: Yes, do so. I'll ask the monsters to be on the lookout for it as well.
At Naoise's suggestion, the parliament organizes several patrols to search the towns and villages and capture the dragon.
Sir Quill: I didn't expect to have the honor of serving as your adjutant again. I'm not happy about the dragon, of course, but this is a welcome reunion.
Naoise: The honor is mine. There is no one I would rather have with me.
Naoise: I'll be counting on your marksmanship should we have to fight an airborne dragon. Together, I'm sure we can capture it safely.
Ferdia's Voice: Sir Naooooise!
Naoise: Is that... Ferdia?
Ferdia: Huff... Puff... I'm sorry... Sir Naoise...
Naoise: What in the skies brought you running this far after me? Don't tell me the dragon has attacked the Great Court?
The out-of-breath Ferdia turns to the wagon carrying the knights' supplies and wrenches open Naoise's bag, spilling out the contents.
Naoise: What are you—
Naoise: Chulainn! What were you doing in my luggage!
Ferdia: I knew it! You'd been insisting on going with Naoise for days, and then suddenly you were so quiet this morning...
Chulainn: They're gonna beat up the bad dragon that's bothering everybody! I can help!
Sir Quill: Haha... So you stowed away in his luggage, eh? Well, I have to admire your gumption, if nothing else.
Ferdia: Now, look! We're getting in everyone's way! Come on, we're going home!
Chulainn: No way! I wanna help! I'm gonna show 'em I can be useful on this island!
Naoise: I'm sorry, you two, but we don't have time to waste here.
Ferdia: Ah! Sorry!
Naoise: If you headed back to the Great Court alone, there's no guarantee you wouldn't encounter the dragon on your way.
Naoise: I'm afraid you'll have to come along with us. All right?
Chulainn: Woohoo! You're the best, Sir Naoise!
Ferdia: Cu, stop that!
Naoise: Chulainn. While you are with this party, I expect you to listen to me, Ferdia, Sir Quill, and the other soldiers, and follow our orders to the letter. Is that understood?
Chulainn: Yesss, siiir! Tooo theee letterrr!
Ferdia: I'm so sorry about this. I won't take my eyes off her, I promise.
With two unexpected additions, the patrol resumes its course toward the village in question.
Village Elder: Oh, sir knight! All of you! Thank you for coming!
Naoise: Thank you for coming to meet us. I've heard that the fields of several villages in the area have been attacked, and that a dragon was seen nearby.
Village Elder: That's right. Our fields were attacked seven days ago, then again five days ago. The first time, we assumed it was the work of some sort of boar, but there were no hoofprints.
Naoise: Did the people who witnessed the second attack happen to see which way the dragon went?
Village Elder: I'll gather the witnesses so that you can ask them. Please come this way. We've prepared lodgings for you all. I'll bring the witnesses there.
Naoise: Thank you for your cooperation. I'm sure the damage to your fields is disheartening, but if we work together, we'll soon solve this problem.
Village Elder: Oh, please. We're the ones who should be thanking you. Of course, we'll do everything we can to help.
Chulainn: Excuse me, mister? Mister! Sir Naoise and Grandpa Quill are both super-strong knights!
Chulainn: So don't worry! The knights will fix everything! Promise!
Village Elder: Haha. I'm sure you're right, young lady. The knights of this island have always been there for us.
Naoise: (With Medb's attack fresh in their memories, the appearance of another dragon must have the people terrified.)
Naoise: (For their sake, I have to capture this creature. Not to mention—I can't disappoint Chulainn.)
At that very moment, Seruel and his party are in battle with that selfsame dragon.
Seruel: We can't let it into the village! Use your arrows to drive it away from the populated areas!
Young Knight: Yes, sir! Archers, draw! Fire!
Stray Dragon: Gruwaaarrr!
Stray Dragon: Graaaahhh!
Seruel: Now! Seize—
Young Knight: Waugh!
The dragon loses altitude for a moment, but then it stretches its wings, and with a mighty flap, sends itself soaring away from its pursuers.
Seruel: (If simple arrows caused it to flee, perhaps it's not very strong...)
Seruel: (It looks like it's headed for the village Naoise's unit was planning to investigate.)
Seruel: It's up to you, Naoise.
From the villagers' accounts, Naoise and his unit determine the direction in which the dragon fled, and decide to head that way on the following day.
Naoise: We'll set out early tomorrow morning. Ferdia and Chulainn, you can stay here at the inn.
Ferdia: No, we'd like to accompany you. We were raised in the mountains, so we'll be useful in the hunt.
Sir Quill: And Miss Chulainn's talents don't lie in patient waiting.
Naoise: Haha... I can't argue with that. Well then, Chulainn, you should get to bed early to be prepared for... Chulainn?
Ferdia: Chulainn? Cu! What is it? Why are you staring at the wall?
Chulainn: I sense something weird. From that direction. It's coming this way fast!
Ferdia: What do you mean, you "sense" it?
Chulainn: My scales are all tingly... It doesn't feel nice... It's kinda... Uh...
Ferdia: Your scales... Like when you first got your powers?
Ferdia: Oh no!
Naoise: Maybe Chulainn's sensed the dragon we're looking for. Sir Quill, please alert the soldiers. We'll investigate in the direction Chulainn sensed that presence.
Chulainn: I wanna go too, Sir Naoise!
Naoise: In the dark of night, someone as small as you could easily be lost from sight, and I wouldn't want you hit by a stray arrow.
Naoise: I want you and Ferdia to alert the villagers that the dragon may be headed this way.
Chulainn: Oh! Okay! Ferd and me will let everyone know!
Naoise: That will be a great help, Chulainn. Thank you. You too, Ferdia.
Ferdia: Understood! Please be careful, sir!
Naoise assembles his soldiers and they set out in haste in the direction Chulainn indicated. Soon enough, that instinct is borne out.
Naoise: There it is!
Stray Dragon: Graaooohhh!
Sir Quill: Seems to be in quite the temper, doesn't it? Do you think it's coming to us fresh from another battle elsewhere?
Naoise: If it's already exhausted, that's something to be thankful for. Sir Quill, please join the other soldiers to spread the net! I'll drive the beast toward you!
Sir Quill: Understood!
Naoise leaps out to draw the dragon's attention.
Naoise: You there! Dragon! My name is Naoise, and I'll be your opponent!
Stray Dragon: Raaaaoooohhh!
The Flame That Burns Within: Scene 4
The dragon evades Naoise's attempt to capture it and heads toward the nearby village. At Ferdia's command, Chulainn leaps onto its back from the village watchtower and wrestles it to the ground where Naoise and his men secure it. Scathacha confirms that Medb does not seem directly responsible for this dragon's appearance. The children are gratified to have defended the island.
Naoise: That's right... This way...
Stray Dragon: Groo...
Naoise: Oh no! Did it notice the net?
Sir Quill: Damn! It's headed for the village!
Naoise: Can we get back in time? Sir Quill! I'm going ahead! Follow me with the rest of the party as soon as possible!
Naoise guesses the dragon must have encountered Seruel and therefore expected the net trap. He sprints toward the village, pursuing the beast.
The dragon sails past the watchtower outside the village and its shadow falls over the houses below. Suddenly, however, it jerks in midair, course interrupted.
Stray Dragon: Graaaooogh!
Chulainn: Geez! You need to settle down!
Naoise: Is that... Chulainn? Did she jump out of the tower onto its back?
Ferdia: Cu! Get its wings! Wrap its wings up with the net I gave you!
Chulainn: Okay! I'll try—
The dragon twists violently through the air, attempting to shake off its tiny rider.
Using her stupendous strength, Chulainn entangles the dragon's wings in her net and begins wrestling it to the ground.
Chulainn: Agh! Whoa! Um, Ferd? Doesn't this mean I'm gonna fall too?
Ferdia: Make sure you land on the dragon!
Chulainn: Ooogh, even with the dragon as a pillow, my tail huuurts...
Stray Dragon: Graoooh!
The enraged dragon flails around on the ground until it can see Chulainn and opens its vicious jaws wide to roar at her.
Chulainn: Ferd, no!
Stray Dragon: Graaaahhh!
Stray Dragon: Gru?
The dragon's sharp talons almost graze Ferdia as she rushes to shield Chulainn. Naoise releases an arrow from his readied bow, striking the dragon down before it can reach Ferdia.
Naoise: Sigh. Aerial combat is not my forte, but I suppose once a dragon is on the ground, even I can be useful.
Chulainn: Sir Naoise!
Naoise: Are the two of you all right?
Chulainn: Oh gosh, Ferd! Are you hurt?
Ferdia: Yeah, it never touched me. Did you hurt yourself in the fall, Cu?
Chulainn: Nope! Thanks for coming to save me, you guys!
Naoise: I'm the one who should be thanking you. Another moment, and the dragon might have been among the villagers' homes.
Chulainn: It was Ferd's idea to get the drop on it from the tower! Isn't he smart?
Naoise: Yes, it was a stroke of genius. I'm lucky you two decided to tag along on this expedition. Thank you.
Sir Quill: Forgive me for arriving so late! Shall we get this dragon chained up, Sir Naoise?
Naoise: Yes, please do. Then let's send word to the Great Court and ask Sca—er, Deirdre—to come meet us.
Thanks in part to the efforts of Chulainn and Ferdia, the stray dragon is captured, and peace returns to Alster Island.
The other patrols join Naoise's to keep watch over the dragon until Deirdre arrives.
Chulainn: And then! And then! I jumped out of the tower, and landed splat right on the dragon's back!
Heles: Haha, how heroic! I wish I could have seen you in action.
Chulainn: Really? I can jump outta the tower again for you!
Seruel: Please don't. You were indeed helpful, Chulainn, but as I recall, you weren't even supposed to be here.
Seruel: I'm sure Elisheba is worried sick back at the Great Court, not knowing where you are.
Chulainn: You're right... I was wrong to leave without permission. Sorry...
Seruel: Your desire to render service to the island is admirable. But you should always consider the feelings of those who care about you.
Chulainn: I'm sorry...
Naoise: She's apologized, Seruel. Don't be too hard on her.
Seruel: If you're too lenient, Naoise, it's going to be Ferdia, rather than we, who suffer.
Seruel: Why is every young girl I know such a handful...
Heles: Whyever are you looking in my direction?
Seruel: Good grief...
Scathacha: Well met, knights.
The assembled knights and soldiers bow their heads to greet True Dragon Deirdre.
Scathacha: You have all done your home a great service by capturing this dragon. You may leave the rest to me.
Seruel: We are grateful for your help.
Scathacha: Naoise, lead me to the dragon.
Naoise: Yes! Right this way.
Scathacha follows Naoise to where the dragon is being held prisoner and conducts her investigation.
Scathacha: I don't sense the vestiges of Medb's power, or that of any other true dragon. It says it was blown astray by the wind and lost control of itself after spending so long wandering.
Scathacha: (But it seems like it was caught by that current because it was already weakened after a wild flight triggered by great magical power...)
Scathacha: (First Chulainn, now this dragon... The influence of elder dragons seems far more likely than mere accidents of nature.)
Naoise: So the dragon was a victim of this as well. I'm glad it was merely an accident.
Scathacha: I'm thinking of allowing our visitor to remain until its strength returns, on condition that it helps restore the fields it ravaged. What do you think?
Naoise: Can dragons farm?
Scathacha: Certainly. It can pull a plough a great deal faster than an ox.
I trust you have no objections to voice?
Stray Dragon: Groo...
Naoise: I... see. Why don't I ask the villagers if they would be comfortable with that arrangement?
Scathacha: Do so. But really, the citizens of this island have learned to work with monsters. Surely they have the bravery to deal with dragons.
Naoise: Haha... Let us hope so.
Scathacha smiles at Naoise, though she harbors misgivings—the sense of an unkind hand at work.
The best she can do for now is nurture the bonds between the people of this island, which transcend both station and species, and hope for the best.