The dragon Lydia had captured was still unconscious as they secured him in a special cell in Alaryia’s dungeons and bound him with restraints made of goblin silk. The other prisoners had been confined elsewhere and they weren’t restrained the same way, because according to Alaryia the others were not a frenzy risk.
“Will the ropes stop him frenzying, then?” Lydia asked.
Alaryia shook her head. “No, but they will hem him in and stop him attacking if he does.” She paused and frowned. “Actually that’s not entirely true. They’ll also help him calm down, but only if he retains enough wit to use them.”
Lydia considered this as she watched the dragon. “He thanked me for knocking him out,” she said.
“I heard,” Alaryia said. “He knew it was the only way to stop him frenzying and he didn’t want to frenzy. It’s a good sign. I think he’ll cooperate with us.”
“I hopeâ€“” Lydia looked up as the prisoner stirred and groaned. “Oh, he’s waking up.”
A few moments later, the dragon opened his eyes groggily then stiffened and started thrashing around and sobbing. Sharp surges of hunger and pain came from him and scratched against Lydia’s skin but they seemed muted somehow – the effect of the ropes, she guessed.
“He’s trying not to frenzy,” Alaryia said. “Now if he’ll just — ” She stopped as he stopped thrashing and tugged gently on the ropes instead, which pulsed in response. “If he’ll just do that. Clever boy, he figured out how to use them.” She sounded relieved.
“What are they doing?” Matthias asked.
“It’s what he’s doing that matters, Matthias-idan,” she said. “He’s using the ropes to bleed off some of his pain and emotional upset. It should let him gain control.”
Indeed after several more minutes, the dragon stopped twitching and lay gasping but calm.
“Hal, fetch him some water,” Alaryia said. “He’ll probably be thirsty after that effort.”
“Yes, mother.” Halia slipped out of the room, returning moments later with a goblet and jug. She knelt down by the prisoner and offered him the goblet. “Here.”
“Thank you, Alra,” he said as he pulled himself to his knees and took it. He gulped the water down and held it out to her. “Can I have some more, please?”
As Halia refilled it the prisoner was looking around at them all. Finally his eyes settled on Alaryia and he inclined his head respectfully.
“Alaryia-miria,” he said. “This is an interesting thing you’ve created.” He tugged on the ropes again. “I would never have thought of it.”
“I’ve had a lot of time to think of such things,” she said. “We need to ask you some questions.”
“I know you do,” he replied. “Though I doubt you know why. But there’s something I must do first because there is no way he’ll let me talk to you.” He closed his eyes, sat back on his heels and took a deep breath. After a long moment he flinched and his face twisted. His eyes flew open and he groaned. “I don’t think this is going to be easy; he’s fighting me.”
“Of course he is,” Alaryia said. “I’ve never known him not to, even though it’s useless. He knows that as well he just wants to make it as unpleasant as possible.”
“I wouldn’t say it’s completely useless,” he replied. “I think he hopes people will be disheartened enough to give up.”
“There is that,” she conceded.
“What are you talking about?” Matthias asked.
“Severing,” Alaryia said. “If a dragon wants to leave a court there’s no way for the court’s head to stop them but they can hinder them and make severing slow and painful instead of quick and easy. And if the one trying to leave gives up, they’re still bound. Mitakrian does not like losing people.”
“That mak-” Matthias broke off and flushed slightly. “I see.”
Lydia had to cover her mouth to block her giggles but Alaryia, Lyrrekka and Sonia were not so kind and didn’t bother to mask their laughter.
The dragon prisoner regarded them with a confused frown then shook his head, clearly deciding that whatever it was didn’t matter. Instead he cleared his throat and waited until Alaryia stopped laughing and looked at him.
“Before I start trying to sever again, I should introduce myself, shouldn’t I?” He inclined his head again. “I am Rantalryan, formerly of Erisan’s court, now – unfortunately – of Mitakrian’s, thanks to that bitch Xantaria. Though hopefully not for long.” He closed his eyes again and took another breath. “Let’s do this.”