(2 of 2. Originally posted on March 31, 2023 for the prompt “Sea breeze.”)
IF YOU HAVE NOT ALREADY, FIRST READ PART 1 HERE.
The call to emergency stations woke Eric from a deep sleep. The angle of the sunlight streaming through the hatch told him it wasn’t yet midday. Assuming they’d stayed on course. Hopefully this would turn out to be a drill, and he could come back for a solid rest before taking his shift on the night crew. He should have had seniority by now, but the captain kept bringing on the sons of rich merchants. The favored son gets fast promotion, and the captain gets lucrative trade deals. The orphan boy spends five years scrubbing the deck in the middle of the night.
Eric’s hope for a drill evaporated the moment his head poked up through the hatch. Chaos ruled the deck. Half the sailors cowered behind barrels or against the gunwale. One man lay curled in a ball in the middle of the deck, shaking and crying. The rest of the crew ran to various places around the deck, some firing random shots into the sky or the sea.
A dark weight settled over Eric’s mind. Shadowy tentacles rose from the waves off the port bow, reaching for the ship. He fought through the panic that squeezed his lungs. Something felt wrong about this. He closed his eyes, and focused his mind. He examined his feeling of panic, found it to be baseless, and decided to ignore it. When he opened his eyes, the encroaching tentacles flickered like a mirage. He walked to the rail to get a closer look. Someone behind him shouted, then something hit him in the back and knocked him over the side.
Eric held his breath by instinct. He oriented himself underwater by the sunlight, and kicked his way to the surface. The shock of the fall and the chill of the water cleared his mind. The murky tentacles had vanished. The feeling of panic evaporated like fog in the sun. But it didn’t take long for the fear to creep back in again, as he watched the ship sail away, leaving him alone in an empty sea. He stayed afloat as long as he could. But nobody can swim forever. Just as he blacked out, something grabbed his arms.
Eric woke flat on his back on a sandy beach, with a dragon standing over him. Covered in scales that shone like polished gold, it stood about five feet high. As its reptilian snout lowered toward him, Eric braced himself to be eaten.
Prrrt. The creature licked Eric’s cheek with a tongue like a giant puppy.
Eric lifted a cautious hand and touched the dragon’s face. It slid its head along his hand, emanating a vibration that sounded a lot like a purr.
“Kaida, what are you doing!? Put that thing back where you got it!”
Eric sat up to see who had spoken. A beautiful woman, covered in iridescent blue-green scales, stalked down the beach toward him.
“You should be hiding, you foolish dragon. Now it’s seen you, so we have to make sure it can’t tell the others. Now put it back, and watch until you’re sure it’s drowned.”
The dragon moved between Eric and the approaching woman, sat on its haunches, and snorted.
Eric looked from the dragon, to the woman, to the wide blue ocean, and then to the jungle at the center of the island. A gentle breeze blew at his back, smelling of salt and clean air. Tropical bird calls sounded from thickets of fruit trees. He cleared his throat. “Excuse me, miss. If you let me stay, I promise I won’t be any trouble. I’ll never try to leave, and never tell anyone about this place. I’d be quite happy to live here the rest of my life, if you’ll allow me.”
Prrrt. The dragon nuzzled his chest, licked his cheek, then looked at the woman and blinked.
The woman rolled her eyes. “Okay, Kaida. I’ll let you keep him for a while. But if he makes a mess, you’re the one who has to clean it up.”