Dragon on the Bridge
The Schwarzwald is not made for in-atmosphere combat, but we managed to drive them off. Maybe they’ll come back with friends, but by that time we’ll be in orbit. I’m not even sure who they were, but it hardly matters. Local circumstances are not our concern, we were only here to re-stock and re-fuel. And as it turned out, acquire a new crew member.
I look over, still somewhat disbelieving, at the dragon sitting on my bridge. For having taken part in what I assume is their first bout of spaceship combat, they seem remarkably unfazed. Just looking at them, one might not necessarily realise they’re a dragon. In fact, I have some doubts as to whether a dragon in its natural state could fit anywhere outside of maybe the cargo hold. Yet there’s just something about the figure sitting by the communications console.
Now I have always been a tall and imposing figure myself, and while the dragon stands nearly a head shorter than me, there’s just something… striking about them. Perhaps it’s the face, perhaps it’s just the eyes. There’s something there that just grabs your attention. They said to call them Sam, as it was unlikely for mortal races to manage to pronounce their real name without proper training. I naturally saw that as a challenge and told them to ‘try me’, but I only ended up proving their point. I think there was an ‘x’ and some slithering sounds in there… perhaps they were just having me on, and dragons actually have very common and mundane names, but I have no way to prove that.
Dragons aren’t exactly rare across the worlds, but it is still unusual for any of them to take any interest in the so-called ‘mortal races’. Again, we don’t really have proof that dragons really are immortal, but no one has really volunteered to try to find out. Dragons may have a looser societal structure than most, but they are still fiercely protective of their secrets. Even if they weren’t, they probably wouldn’t just sit by and allow anyone to experiment on or research their kind in too intimate a matter.
So you can imagine my surprise when a large bronze landed outside of town, turned into this person and walked right up to me, asking to join my crew. I had an instinct to refuse, but there really is something about those eyes. So instead we went to a bar to have a chat, while all the locals tried to look without appearing to look. Mixed success, I’d call it. Sam is pleasant enough to talk to. If you didn’t know they were a dragon, you might be hard-pressed to spot any signs. But when you do, there are certain hints as to the alien nature of the person you’re talking to.
Everyone knows the stories, of course. Old as they may be, everyone has heard a least a couple, or heard of them. The dragons themselves have been working hard to prove that they are nothing more. Stories borne of fear, misunderstanding and ignorance. And I’d say it has mostly worked. People accept, or at least tolerate, the dragons. It helps that whenever a dragon does do something… er… unacceptable, the others are quick to deal with it. Policing their own, so to speak. And through negotiations, there have been planets ranked as off-limits to non-dragons. Most people assume that’s where they send the ones too unruly to live among other sentient species. Though again, that’s also just stories.
Sam told me how they have been travelling around this world and others, visiting many of the towns. A pilgrimage, they call it. They say that dragons can go on pilgrimages for many reasons, and in Sam’s case it was because they wanted to learn more about the mortal races and maybe help out a little, if possible. There was something about the way they said “if possible” that prompted me to ask a bit more about it.
Each dragon has their own set of powers and abilities, Sam told me. It is fairly common knowledge that different dragons can do different things, so I wasn’t exactly surprised at that. They range from common abilities that you find in a lot of dragons, to rare abilities found only in a few. There are even some unique abilities that only a single dragon is known to possess. Sam had noticed a trend in the vast majority of dragon powers that if they weren’t purely destructive or constructive, they were meant to benefit the dragon using it more than anything else.
Sam offered me an example from earlier on in their pilgrimage. They had arrived at an industrial town which had a problem with bezolene addiction. I had heard of the substance. It is said that long-time use will turn your brains into tar, but I’m not sure if that’s literally or figuratively. The town’s homeless population was growing because the addicts couldn’t manage to keep an apartment, sometimes not even if they still could afford it. The addiction was too all-consuming, and there weren’t proper facilities for treating it in the area. But Sam got an idea.
One of Sam’s powers was a cleansing spell. They had occasionally used it themselves and on other dragons, and it would remove any poisons, toxins, contaminants and even harmful magical effects up to a certain strength. They felt sure this was more than enough to remove a harmful addiction and possibly remove any future desire to ingest any harmful substance. And they were right. It worked. However, as they had never before used to spell on non-dragons, it took a little while before they noticed the side-effects: The cleansed mortal was now a deeply loyal servant of Sam. It was more than just gratitude, it was magical compulsion. And there were nearly a dozen of them.
Now Sam was left with a dilemma. Not really having the required expertise on mortal psychology or anatomy, they weren’t sure what undoing the spell would do. Would they remain cleansed, but free? Would the addiction come back? Would nothing change, and the servant bond remain? Was it possible to remove just the servant bond? Would cutting that bond kill the mortal? They didn’t really feel right turning these people into test subjects, since they would just agree with anything Sam proposed regardless. Sam did admit that a less scrupulous dragon might have exploited the situation, and that they weren’t entirely without temptation themselves, but in the end decided to play it safe. Which by their own dragon-logic meant telling all the servants to stay and lead regular lives. Look for a job, go back to family, try to be the people they were before the addiction as much as possible, etc.. Sam wanted to ask them to be better people, but didn’t know how to quantify that. Hopefully one day they could return with more knowledge and fix their mistake. The idea that there are people out there who would drop anything they’re doing and obey their orders in an instant seems to genuinely make Sam uncomfortable.
I suppose it was partly that regret over one’s own mistakes that finally made me say okay, and let them come onboard. It doesn’t hurt that Sam is well-versed in languages and has some training in diplomacy. After a short talk with the communications officer, they agreed to take on Sam as an assistant. So now I have a dragon on the bridge.
The next destination is Pramdar, which is the end point for most of our cargo. We’ll be picking up some power station components there for the trip back towards the core worlds, though we do still have one more stop after Pramdar, on Sartin. Hopefully Sam finds some of their answers along the way.
…wait… I forgot to ask what dragons eat, and how much…