Leopold Briar - Into the Midwestern Sea

In the morning, Leopold made a point of making an immediate visit to Elekiel and Sage in the doctor's quarters, to be directed then to Sage's room. The girl, Dina, was sleeping soundly, the various scars around her body well-dressed in bandages. The heaviness in the eyes of her two attenders suggested they wished they were doing likewise.

"Good morning Rosewood, Woodgrave. Our stowaway's sleeping I see. Difficult night, for you both?" he inquired.

Elekiel was still focused on cleaning yet another wound, so Sage answered.

"Yes. I mean aye. Captain. You could say that. She'd wake up now and again, upset, looking around to remind herself about where she was. We were afraid she might turn back, so one of us has been awake throughout."

"Yes, I see." Leopold responded thoughtfully, his hand on his chin. "And how's she doing now?"

Sage shrugged and half-laughed. "Sleeping. Thank mercy."

"These scars run deep." Elekiel said then. "They will take time to heal fully."

"Needless to say, you both did the right thing" Leopold said warmly. "I'll have Sylvester and Michaels relieve you at three should you wish to retire early this evening."

"Thank you captain" Elekiel said for them both.

The following day or so was fairly straightforward. They had been in the air for a short while now, and already he noticed the landscape beneath them grow flatter and tuftier in approach of the ocean -  a quality of the landscape of the Eastern front of the Galabrian continent that Leopold had noticed after some time as Captain. The only commotion came on the second day, when some of the newer recruits were clustered around the telescope, gazing out upon a speck some distance away.

"What's all this?" the captain said, approaching to look into it himself.

"A dragon, cap'n!" This was from James Stalworth, an enthusiastic young man with a keen eye he had picked up from Tiboriel last time they were there. "I spotted it as we came over that last hill-range!"

Leopold saw for himself the aforementioned beast. It was of a middlish-green colour, and was flapping about eagerly above a little rolling forest.

"What do we do, captain?" this was from Hart, an eager new soldier under Moldark, who had joined from Galabria two years hence.

"Nothing" Leopold laughed. "It's a Greitmire - Galabrian forest dragon. Feeble of flight, breath and claw alike, and never more than ten metres in length. You'll find them in some of these farther patches of countryside. Trouble for deer and very lost ramblers, maybe, but certainly not for us."

He pulled away, sighing "But you may as well take a good look for now. With any luck, this little blighter might just be the only one you'll ever see, and any sight of a dragon is rare enough. But afterwards, it's straight back to your duties"

"Aye-aye sir!"s

Drakmor, however, who was one of the company took him aside.

"Ah, Vayr." Leopold nodded at the man, his eyes a little more serious. "What are you making of this world so far? Beautiful enough, yet, to give you reason to live?"

The question, he realised immediately afterwards, was too brash, and was met with no response. He was, however, asked a question in return.

"Do you mean to say, Captain, that there are greater dragons, out there. Dangerous ones?"

Leopold nodded gravely. "I can't say how fortunate or unfortunate we may be, but there is a chance that your desire for mortal danger will be fulfilled. I can't wish it upon my ship of my crew, but there are terrible beasts out there in the world. Some that I've seen, and many I haven't. And worse threats besides."

"Worse threats?" Drakmor's expression was, still, even to the captain, unreadable. He could not guess Drakmor's purpose.

"Well, yes. The dark leviathans of the south. The ship with the flag of the red-hatted man. The..." he stopped himself. "I mean no offence, Vayr, but these are hardly subjects I discuss with the crew. We shall deal with such matters only if we ever come to them, but I'd rather not dwell on the possibilities of such encounters."

Drakmor nodded. "Aye, captain" he said curtly, and returned to his work.

Not long after, The Jackdaw had passed the mainland, and there was only open water miles beneath them. Even this high up, some of the toiling crew thought they could smell the salty sea and hear the squawking of travelling gulls. Some gulls, indeed, had even come high enough to investigate the ship. Having a dislike of seagulls, Leopold suggested to Sage that she practice her archery on them, adding that she take great care to avoid any albatrosses (which would only lead to all kinds of trouble.) Whether she took it for the joke it half-was, or had some empathy for the wretched things, she continued to practice solely on the target in the barracks. He had been told, to pleasant surprise, that her skill with the weapon was ever-growing.

'That'll bode well for inevitable troublesome encounters' he had thought.

He had also asked Sage a couple of times how the stowaway was doing. The response was always to the same effect. 'Dina? She's adapting.' As a matter of point, so was Sage.

Drakmor passed by the captain again that day, as the latter was attending to the steering of the ship.

"Where are we going to, Captain?" he asked.

Though Leopold had already outlined the destination and purpose to the crew, this question was reasonable if you thought about it on imminent terms.

"Over the Midwestern Sea, Vayr. There'll be a few solitary islands, I should imagine, and then we'll reach the Midwestern continent itself. The voyage shouldn't take more than a week of good flying."

This seemed to satisfy Drakmor, or at least he moved away to continue his duties. This left the captain pondering - how often did a planned week of fair sailing actually go to plan?

The End

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