Tanule read his brother’s words over and over as he stood, stunned. Did his brother plan to be gone so long he must leave instructions and treasures to stave off worry? Did he plan, perhaps, not to return? It was not until the quiet cough of the young woman reminded him that she was still standing expectantly that he crumpled the parchment in the claws of his scaled fist.
“Tanule,” she began, “I know that you worry for your brother. I have watched the two of you from the day you came to this village. I know that behind your fangs, beyond your spears and beneath your scales, you care deeply for him.” The woman looked upon the dragonborn for a moment, as if sizing him up, and then took a step bravely closer. “Let me calm your fears, Tanule, and let us see if the fates will bring your brother back to you.”
Who was this human to talk of such things? Who was she to admit so candidly that she had been watching Tanule and his brother and then accuse him of being fearful? The great dragonborn glowered and hunched down to bring his narrowed eyes to stare into hers.
“Tanule,” he said, after a moment of matching her staring gaze, “You say it too much like your human Daniel. It is wrong.” He hesitated and glanced back inside his dwelling. What was polite, in human custom? “Come inside. Please. Tell me of Talon’s fate. I will make you some-”
“Tea, Tanule, if you please,” the woman replied. She was a quick learner, at least of the draconic tongue. “We will need the leaves.” She curtsied before him then stepped daintily past him as he stood bewilderedly and belatedly trying to mimic the gesture.
Awhile later they sat opposite one another at a small, uneven table in the dim light within Tanule’s abode. The woman slowly swirled her nearly empty mug as she stared into the dragonborn’s eyes.
“Tell me of you and your brother,” she asked. Her voice had become a quiet murmur, as though she were speaking in her sleep.
“Many memories of myself in my youth are gone from me,” Tanule answered. “My only tie has been my brother, Talon. He is the brother any dragonborn child could ask for. He leaves, often, for his many hunts, but even so, he has taught me much!
“Our father left us when I was barely older than a hatchling, and Talon has done well to raise me in his stead. We do not bear him ill will; it is often the way of the dragonborn to let their children fend for themselves. We are uncertain for his reasons leaving us, but I know that he was an amazing tactician among our people and I have little doubt it was a crucial, well-formed part of his plans.
“More than a tactician, Talon tells me that our father was a strong and able fighter. He taught my brother all that he knows, and Talon has done well to live up to our father’s example. I hope that one day I too will grow to be called a true dragonborn.
“As far back as I can remember, my brother has taught me to fight, to be strong and to live on our own. Talon has always been a great hunter, but he boasts that his skill with spears was unmatched among our clan. My favorite has been with the longspear and I practice with his every day. I have also taken to learning my brother’s skill with javelins. Talon makes me look like a novice, but one day I will best him with them!”
A boisterous noise thundered from Tanule as he laughed across the table at the woman. She leaned forward and peered into her cup and held it suddenly very still. As the tea leaves finally came to a halt, she studied their pattern carefully. She glanced back up to the dragonborn and gave her head a slow shake.
“Then I will have to settle for being his equal,” Tanule laughed before continuing, “Though his skill and experience with a javelin far surpass my own, my strength and tenacity often make me his equal if I can get him close with a longspear! He tells me that he is not surprised; I was a runt often set upon by other hatchlings in my youth and it has served me well to have grown strong and learned to protect myself.
“I am, after all, Tanule Shasakal of the Razorfang clan, and to carry that name is to carry the burden of fear from others. The Razorfang are known for their ferocity and their skill in battle. Our village was but a small collection of Razorfang dragonborn in the bogs of Malron. We made our lives as hunters and fighters and the men of the nearby lands would often hire our strongest and most cunning to fight for them or guide them through our lands.
“Talon did not trust the paths the men wanted him to guide them through. He did not trust them so close to our village, but others of our clan were more trusting, or perhaps greedy for the men’s gold. My brother and I were spear-fighting in the bog when the men from Malron came.”
Tanule slammed his fist on the table suddenly and snarled defensively, “I am proud of my heritage and have done everything to embody the honor and strength of my clan. We are not cowards, but nor are we fools. Talon and I could not match the numbers of these men’s raid, soft and weak though they were, and so we vanished into the bog.
“So it was that we came to live here in your Khalistaran kingdom. Your men do not hunt us, but we too have learned the lesson of smaller numbers. They would be wise to worry for us gathered as many, for my lust for revenge alone is enough for a village. A dozen of us would surely match the fury of a nation, and an army…
“An army fueled by our wrath might change the world again,” Tanule grinned and his razored teeth shone menacingly in the dim light. The woman paused her swirling cup again and gazed into its depths.
She answered with a meek nod and a nervous gulp. “Your brother will return to you safely this trip, Tanule. But it will not be his last hunt. He will venture on many, and from one, he will not return to this place.”
The dragonborn stared at her wordlessly for a long moment. When at last he looked as though he was ready to speak, she began again.
“When the time comes for you to seek him out, I will come with you. I don’t believe for a second that mere coincidence was responsible for me bringing you this letter,” she set her cup down on the table between them and gestured to the arrangement of the leaves. “It is as plain to see as a crystal ball. As of this day, our fates are intertwined.”