The Dragon And The Lost Princess


wf_bao-wei_icon.gif wf_valerie_icon.gif

Scene Title The Dragon and The Lost Princess
Synopsis It's not the story one might expect in a wasted world.
Date November 15, 2017

Shooter's Island, Newark Bay

It’s not quite cold enough for the snow to be falling and the ice to form along the edges of the river lapping at the island— but the frost is palpable. Where the moisture pools on the edges of the island it hardens and cracks, covering the rusted, hollow shells that creak and groan in the setting sunlight. It’s the creature that lurks on this island that chills the air even more than the end of fall and the coming winter.

As the sun sets, the glow on the horizon is taken over by a blueish, artificial color— the Outer District, not quite in view, but a source of light that burns brighter than the waning moonlight. A few birds still remain on the island, though a majority have flown south for the coming winter by this point. A handful of crows caw and pick at dead things in the water. The husks of old boats would have made an artificial reef— if they hadn’t poisoned the water.

Standing on the edge of a haggard and broken dock, a young woman in a dress looks off into the distance, blonde hair flowing behind her in the wind. It’s unnatural, the way her hair moves, just as her dress and bare feet and skin are all unnaturally clean. But she’s not physically there, after all. A mental projection, looking out into the cold distance, waiting patiently.

The various constructs that litter the shores are craft both old and new, shaped into a craggy barrier between much of the Kills and the rest of the world. Reef it isn’t, but armor it is. Some creatures make homes in the deeper water, avoiding the isle with quiet deterrence. Trees drop the last scraggly leaves behind that half-constructed barrier, the silhouette haphazard against the light. Somewhere in the belly of the trees is a deeper place, hidden from all but those who know it is there.

Crows bray and scatter into the air, flapping up and away from an incoming chill, circling out above the water and following a rippling wake with beady eyes. As they watch, the surface splinters over with a film of ice, thickening around the rise and bob of a jagged spine. The wake of ice spreads out from a point, leaving chunks to float away into the harbor.

Tiny nails click-click-click against the dock around the woman’s feet, as a few crows alight, wings half open as they crackle and caw.

A patchy brown shape comes breaching out of the water, held aloft by the flat, elongated shape leaving tiny glaciers behind; whatever crocodilian shape it was snaps and pops, ice spreading in a bloom of shapes and overtaking it, rising from the shallows. The cold is there, but mitigated.


A waterproof bag slops against the dock, glittering in frost and water as it falls from the maw of an icy, spiny serpentine head.

A single bold corvid comes hopping closer, landing on the bag and prodding at it ineffectively.

Bao-Wei lowers that giant, toothy muzzle and snaps, sending it flapping and landing defiantly down the length of the dock with the others. Bright circles of gold blink in his cranium, one stark eye framed by many reflections in the ice.

The young blonde woman, who doesn’t seem to be bothered by the cold, steps forward and gives a cursory wave at the bird. “Shoo.” But that shoo did not do nearly what the snapping of teeth had done to it. After all, while the bird was able to see her, just like the toothy giant, it also knew something was off about her presence. Something that seemed less real, less whole. Because Valerie Ray wasn’t actually there at the docks.

Still, the figure kneels down by the bag, looking up at the large cold beast that she doesn’t seem the least bit afraid of. She never had. And not just because he could not actually hurt her. She didn’t look at him with the same eyes that most did. The first thing she had asked is what had happened to him.

“What did you find?” she asks, curious more than anything.

The serpent watches the gathering of birds from afar, a wheeze of air passing out of the funnel that serves as a throat. As the girl moves to kneel, his head tips to follow her while the rest of him clambers onto the creaky dock. The coiling body is not quite as artful, a rudimentary set of paddling limbs and the rudder of his back.

A dead harvester.” an answer comes in a deep, grating voice, golden lights swiveling around the source in his skull. “Parts. I should be able to salvage from them.” Practical as ever, yet—

Bao-Wei lowers a set of claws to the bag, fingers shifting shape to do more delicate work. The beast produces a single black disc, text dulled but in one piece. He seems to anticipate her response, even before he continues, the hollow sounds easing from his tension. “I stopped along the junkyard…I cannot tell you what would play.” The label is missing.

The dragon does so love his rarities.

The mention of the harvester earns a wrinkle of her nose. The parts could be useful, surely, but they both known all too well what the harvesters do and what they can do. But Valerie’s eyes brighten when he shows the second thing. The text dulled, the lack of a label. It was a mystery waiting to be unlocked. Her favorite kind. “Let’s find out!” She exclaims with excitement, sounding younger than her actual years. But then she often did. She had spent so much of her childhood in hospitals off and on, it had stunted her social growth in many ways.

That, and the four years of her life displaced due to time travelling forward. Not that most people know about that. The dragon does, if only from her rambling.

“I’ll be back at the camp,” she adds, before that form that seemed to defy the laws of the universe just… vanishes. And not very far away, wrapped in warm blankets inside a large tent-like thing constructed to keep the heat and damp out for the most part, the blonde opens her eyes. She groans in memory of pains she didn’t have while outside of her body, and pushes herself outside, where they have a small camp made, dug into the ground of the island, lined with metal sheets and other makeshift protections.

It gives off no light to any drones that fly overhead, any smoke vented to where it spreads out and slinks off into the mists of the sea and wrecked ships. The wrecked ships themselves protect them from other boats, protecting them from raiders.

The blonde woman sits heavily back down on what had once been something else, but now acted as a stool. She could never get very far, after all, missing a leg and one of her arms below the elbow.

Items get filed away when the figure of the girl vanishes from sight, and despite the circle and caw of crows wanting whatever food is in the pack, Bao-Wei is undisturbed as he eases off of the dock and over beach. His frame picks up some debris, the shape cracking and snapping quietly, reassembling into something smaller.

By the time he arrives at the camp, the hulk of ice is a tall but manageable size, trailing crystals of frost in his wake.

Here. Have at.” A rumble before the pack is deposited at the feet of Valerie’s stool. As much as she is crippled, being of use is better than feeling useless- - and he treats her that way. He knows her limits. The cold is contained largely to him, misting at the edges of her breath. Bao-Wei’s gaze edges down to give a quick examination, broad shoulders hunching.

How is your arm?

While Valerie doesn’t have much in the way of combat ability— she didn’t even seem to know how to handle a gun when handed to her, but she does seem to have a proficiency for certain things. She used the car batteries that he fetched to power what little they need that uses electricity. When he brings her pieces of robots, she pulls out what had once powered them and has found a way to recycle it. She’s not her brother, but she learned things from him. Until she lost him. He had been the last one that she lost. The last she found, as well. But what she did know kept the soft electric lights burning, it keeps the heater running when she needs it, even though she usually just bundles up. Cause heat isn’t as good on the dragon as it did for her.

Even if he made himself slightly less freezing when around her. “It’s fine,” she simply says, ignoring the twinge of pain from the dead nerves. Part of her could still feel her leg, her arm, felt like she were moving. If the dragon hadn’t frozen the stumps and stopping the bleeding and killing the nerves, she probably would have died. As it was, she was able to recover as much as she could without real medical attention.

First she checks the harvester pieces, looking for what might be salvaged. Wires, energy cells, cpu components long sense removed. They knew better by now. “Oh, good, another energy cell. I’m going to need that come winter.” The dragon, not so much. But winter was definitely already there, even if not to the point that it would be in a month.

She also cooked, entertained, told stories. There was a chess board not too far away, though the pieces weren’t technically chess pieces. They had a few here and there, and some extra white pieces had been filled in with a black marker. Some were plastic figurines, like a kid might have gotten from a kid’s meal at a fast food place. But they worked.

After that, she reached for the unlabeled black disk, shuffling over to grab the appropriate device for it, so they could see what it is that will play.

When she says it is fine, he knows it isn’t. Not really. He has not forgotten who he was before all of this, and in his various treatments of her, it shows. Amputation may have saved her, but it is an unkind world all the same. He stoops lower, leaning in to watch her sort through some of the components. The crag of his back and head blots in her peripheral, jaw slightly askew in its usual jagged way when he is being attentive.

No breath comes from him, naturally, but the glisten of roving golden iris shows what life is there. Of the things that the young woman has discarded, Bao-Wei lowers a set of claws towards it, crouching onto the trailing tripod of a tail, balanced as his fingers extend into delicate points. The piece is plucked up as if by a pair of tweezers, examined while held to the nearness of his eye socket, deep and hollow.

A new white rook.” He rumbles, gravel and echo.

When Valerie sets the vinyl to the repaired player, it crackles and spits a little before grinding to life. She has others in better shape than this one, but when the voice comes through it is easily recognizable as Jim Morrison and The Doors.

Bao-Wei focuses a somewhat hopeful glint on Val’s back, waiting to see whether or not she approves of the surprise result.

The new white rook is met with an even larger smile, one that brightens her eyes even before the music starts to play. Valerie reaches over, plucking the old white rook on the king side which had been a Megatron of Transformers fame, an old happy meal toy as most of the random ones were. But they were slowly finding chess pieces to replace them, to make the board complete. She doesn’t throw away the ‘not Rook’, instead putting it aside in case they find a use for it later.

But it is the music that ends up getting most of her attention. The record player hadn’t been the best, but it still sounded smooth, much smoother than a cassette or CD would sound. She’s surprised the vinyl plays as well as it does, fragile as it seemed. How had another scav not found it? They could keep fed for months by trading it, she imagined, with the right people— but they had advantages that most scavengers didn’t. They were able to keep cool what they found, put things on ice. They weren’t going to starve anytime soon, even with winter approaching.

But music… an uncommon pleasure that she closed her eyes and listened to. It almost let her forget about the pain that she always felt, forget about the worries of the world around them, the losses of the past. Music was, in many ways, magical. Her father had always thought so.

It is not an unusual sight for the golem’s features to venture into something faraway; a distance moves over his reflected eye, the stoop of his frame sinking to the ground, jaw set like a statue’s. His inward moments typically come at relatively quiet times such as this, and even moreso when he simply sits to watch or listen to the young woman who has so unerringly become his charge.

Maybe she keeps him sane, or human, or just makes him remember what both are like- - makes him remember what was taken from him, or left behind.

At some point his mind even wanders from that. Back to the wreckage of the harvester, to the signs of battle which must have been what took it down. It had to have been one of them. Who would even have that sort of power, save for someone like him?

Bao-Wei sits and stares ahead, listening to the crackle of the vinyl, arms slung over knees in his sit, head bowed forward and jagged silhouette blotting out some of the camp. Light peeks through the shadow there, warbling shifts of it through the ice onto the ground. The glimmer coaxes him into moving, lumbering up onto knuckles and heading for where the firepit is dug. For all that he does not need it, Bao-Wei has become a master at flinting up coals for Valerie; when it is daytime he even knows how to turn a piece of ice into a lens under the sun. He has gotten creative.

Smoke ripples against tinder soon enough, steel and flint filed away in exchange for a heavy tarp slung over himself to contain the cold.

Sometimes if he pretends, he can almost feel the fire too.

There’s a grateful glance as she hears the flick of flint and steel, watches the fire begin to crackle in the small firepit. Valerie certainly will feel it, though she does not loosen her heavy coat just yet, with one arm dangling limply at her side. Instead she closes her eyes and goes back to listening. Half of her is tempted to project herself, to dance, projected is one of the only times she doesn’t hurt anymore, but instead she just tries to get comfortable. Comfortable, and listen.

The crackle of fire in the background helps. The vinyl continues to play, through songs she mostly doesn’t know. “This sounds like something my father would have loved— he would sometimes bring me CDs. In the hospital.” Where she practically lived her entire life. When she wasn’t living in the hospital, she usually had a caretaker. Even when her sister rescued her, she lived with the Ferry, as a ward. Now she has what many people probably would have thought was a monster, but she thought of him as a dragon. A guardian, instead of an enemy. A friend. Pretty much her only friend, now. She’s lost far more than her arm and leg, after all.

The songs end, and she reaches to flip it over, knowing that most older vinyls had music on both sides. After a moment, it starts playing. And this song— she recognizes.

People are strange, when you’re a stranger
Faces look ugly, when you’re alone
Women seem wicked, when you’re unwanted
Streets are uneven, when you’re down

For some reason, this song makes her smile more than she would have expected.

The dragon is quiet in his contemplation of flame, the music, tinny as it is, not an unwelcome distraction. There is nothing here to be attracted by it, even so. Valerie’s attempts to find a comfortable place are watched peripherally, the fire glittering its way through Bao-Wei’s hide like a prism.

Mention of the hospital has him lifting his chin, bits of ice flaking from it as he scrubs a set of claws along the line of his jaw. The short nose rankles a touch, a sign of heavier consideration.

When you're strange
Faces come out of the rain
When you're strange
No one remembers your name
When you're strange
When you're strange
When you're strange

Bao-Wei’s head turns, the arches of ice forming from his head scrubbing against tarp and leaving a layer of frost. His eye aligns with the girl as she smiles, shining amber against firelight hard to miss. After a lengthy study of her expression, the shape of him begins to collapse, crackling and splintering with a steady patience; the biped frame loosens, shedding the outer layer of ice like a frozen cicada. The emerging piece is just that— a piece, a chunk of jagged ice pulled in on itself, grinding into the ground with four clawed feet. He buries himself partway in this tortoise-like shape, smaller and better to rest with.

I am glad to see that you like it.

Digging, settling, ice sprawls out in a cakey frost around him. His eye rotates and blinks under the shift of light, dimming closed.

Goodnight, Valerie.

The music does help her forget about the pain, and Valerie smiles softly at his words as she pulls her coat in tighter with her one hand, leaning back against the makeshift cushions that are behind her. They’re lumpy, but better than the cold ground.

“Goodnight, Bao,” she murmurs tiredly.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License