Read Chapter 5 First

Or read up through Chapter 5 first, if you're not caught up. Don't say I didn't warn you. Spoilers beyond this point.

This was the original opening to Chapter Six that I wrote. I ended up cutting it and starting over from scratch, but there are several things I like that I wrote here. Iorneste gets to run and be analytical and banter like crazy with Mourne, and Mourne gets to lecture and get a bit of a stinging slap from Iorneste at the end.

But there are several problems with it, and at this point in the story, several contradictions. There may be spoilers here, assuming I use any of this later on. I'm not confident that Iorneste could safely go out onto the bowsprit without breaking it, or dipping the whole ship forward. At this point, I haven't included the note from Iorneste that dragons are invulnerable to 'unenchanted weapons' in the story, especially when enchanted ones are so rare, because it's a bit too close to D&D for my comfort.

In short, according to canon: They are harder to injure, you need a pretty direct hit and not a glancing blow (thrusts are better than slashes), but normal swords can kill a dragon.

They were sitting together on the bowsprit, Mourne and Iorneste, looking out past the boat, as if riding on the very sea itself, towards a black cloud-ridden sky in the distance, sharing silence.

It was Mourne who spoke first, breaking the moment of introspection.

"We have not even had time to discuss this, but I would ask you: What do you think is the purpose of the First Exile?"

Iorneste did not respond immediately, for this was the kind of deep philosophical question he had often been asked by Rrachma. He considered that it did not bear a rash answer.

"I do not think it has a single purpose."

"You are such a dragon. A bit pedantic, my friend."

"On the contrary, just nuanced. It would be pedantic of me to not answer your true question about purposes, and your implied desire for a full accounting of my thoughts on the matter, by asking you to restate the question. I do not intend to do that, and so I am not being pedantic."

"So then tell me."

"I was about to do so."

"This has already taken more time than it would if you had just told me, or simply asked me to restate the question to begin with. Or just...restated it yourself."

"But I'm having fun. Besides, you could not possibly know the duration of the answer I plan to give you."

"Cut to the joint of it, that's what I'm saying."

"Cut to the joint of it?"

Mourne let out a sound of irritation, jaws clenched tightly while a whine escaped through his teeth. "It's an expression. You've noticed the storm, no matter how much you might be enjoying this banter right now, there are things we should discuss, and we have a limited time in which to do it."

Iorneste blinked, feeling as though the elaborate painting he'd just been drawing was suddenly interrupted by a small mosquito demanding that he instead draw a stick figure. "You'd like me to make my point."

"Yes, get to the point. Or to one of your many points you still haven't told me about. Thinking like a dragon is going to get you killed someday."

"But I actually am a dragon, you know."

"And now you're deflecting. You're still not answering the question."

"Oh you're good at this."

"I was arguing with Rrachma about the source of all conflict while you were still learning to fly."

"Point taken."

"I've made several points already, and you still have yet to make one. If this were a battle, you'd be bleeding to death right now."

"In battle, I have nearly impervious skin. We both know that your sword could not have pierced my hide in that fight of ours, and it remains to be seen if your wit can pierce mine, either."

"If it were a real battle, I could have aimed for your eye."

"A hard target, but the point being that if it were serious, it would have been a different fight from the beginning."

"You're saying you weren't really trying?"

"No, I still didn't know what I was doing with a sword. That was necessary instruction. What I'm saying is that you could not even begin to imagine how much I've been holding back."

Mourne let out a mighty humph. "The scar on your face says otherwise."

"I was foolish. Her boots were made of drakescale, I realized too late. Had she hit me with a bare fist instead of a boot, my nose might have broken her hand."

"You didn't have to be a fighter at all. This would all have been a lot easier, you know, if you'd chosen a different profession."

Iorneste smiled and looked upward at the sun, staring into its rays with unblinking eyes. "But there was no other choice. The profession I choose should be about who I am. I don't want to hide out and pretend I'm someone ordinary when I'm out in the world. I want to do something."

"Being a dragonslayer is who you are?"

"Now you're being pedantic. It's a means to an end. A good dragonslayer will have an encyclopedic knowledge of dragons, and dragon lore. This means I'm allowed to utilize my knowledge of dragons, without it being suspicious. It is good to keep a false story closer to the truth, so that it is easier to remember."

"More of your reading on manipulation and guile, I see."

"And good common sense. The dragonslayer would often spend a lot of time in strange company, far away from the world, making it easier to explain an ignorance of local customs."

Mourne found himself smiling in spite of himself, but Iorneste wasn't finished.

"He travels without restriction, since anyone with a monster problem is going to want to talk to a dragonslayer, and one with a reputation will be begged to his kingdom."

Mourned chuckled, enjoying watching the justification for Iorneste's decision unraveled before him.

"Not to mention that wealthy lords would be very grateful to dragonslayers, and provide them with much coin. Many are treasure hunters, which would explain an affinity for gold and treasure."

"Go on, I can already tell there's more."

"Raiding a dragon's hoard would net a dragonslayer certain enchanted treasures that could explain certain things that people see that are unusual. Take Yrmbane, for instance. It's just a very sharp, light sword that is very easy to wield, that won't rust or break, because of a few simple dragon runes. But I have also convinced everyone that it also holds a subduing power over dragons."

"Allowing you to use your aura on other dragons without suspicion."


"Magic is fascinating to everyone, even the Drac. It both creates and explains mysteries, often simultaneously. It is instantly recognizable, yet never truly knowable."

"Rrachma would disagree with you on that topic."

"He already has. Several times. That point being that to the uninitiated, magic explains everything, and people instantly stop caring that it doesn't make sense."

"Rather apt, I'd say."

"Another advantage to being a dragonslayer is that I get to kill wyverns."

"You're really looking forward to that?"

"Yes! I can't even imagine how many of the stinking things have bred since we abandoned most of Runea! I'm not sure humans even know how to kill them."

"They mostly throw men at the problem."

"How many of them die?"

"I honestly don't know, but I'd guess most of them."

"Shocking! And yet they persist in doing what doesn't work? Is this a common foible of theirs?"

Mourne shook his head. "You're looking at it the wrong way."

"Then explain the right way."

Mourne rubbed the bridge of his nose while he pondered. "Very well. There's a storm coming on the horizon. Something happens. You have to think fast. Is your decision the right one? Did you make the wrong one? You don't have time to think, so you act. Your action turns out to be the wrong one, but you don't even have time to consider it, because suddenly there's another problem. So you turn your attention to that problem, fix it, and then the original problem presents itself again. You try to handle it the same way, and this time the formerly-wrong action turns out to be the right one. So you think to yourself that this proves that your course of action with regards to this problem is always correct, which saves you time worrying about how to handle it later, and you focus on other matters instead."

"Why do you say you? I don't think this way."

"No, but humans do. Put yourself in their position. They don't have time to ponder, they don't have the luxury to let the world pass them by, most don't even have any kind of training in how to think. Things are just happening. All the time. Constantly. Things they didn't even expect to happen, they just do, and everyone is trying to do what they think works in any situation. There's some deliberation, there's some discussion, but ultimately there is work to be done and someone has to make a decision, even if it's the wrong one. It might be inefficient, it might not be the best way, but if it's worked in the past, they can't afford to take chances and try something else when the next crisis arises."

"I see." Iorneste took the words inside himself, trying them on, attempting to put his mind into that of a human, using Mourne's description as a guide. The clouds began to rush closer, now beginning to pass overhead, and the winds began to build, whipping his clothing up and sending his hair swirling around his head. "You really are good at this, Mourne."

"I don't even know what this was."

"All the same, you're very good at it."

"So all of this...this, does it have anything to do with what you think the purpose of the First Exile is?"

"To cut to the joint of it, yes."

"And yet you don't even know what it means to be human yet. Not really. You're still thinking like a dragon."

Iorneste rose from the bowsprit, raising his arms to catch the winds, as if feeling them under invisible wings, and he looked down at Mourne with a sad smile. "All this time, Mourne," he said, "All this time mentoring dragons on the First Exile, and you never considered the obvious?"

"Never considered what?"

"I don't think they send us on the First Exile so we can learn how to be human. They send us on the First Exile so we can learn to be Drac."

The peal of thunder overhead suddenly made further conversation impossible, but Mourne was uncertain of what he would have had to say.