Dragon Haven (Rain Wild Chronicles #2)

by Robin Hobb


The humans were agitated. Sintara sensed their darting, stinging thoughts, as annoying as a swarm of biting insects. The dragon wondered how humans had ever managed to survive when they could not keep their thoughts to themselves. The irony was that despite spraying out every fancy that passed through their small minds, they didn’t have the strength of intellect to sense what their fellows were thinking. They tottered through their brief lives, misunderstanding one another and almost every other creature in the world. It had shocked her the first time she realized that the only way they could communicate with one another was to make noises with their mouths and then to guess what the other human meant by the noises it made in response. “Talking” they called it.

For a moment, she stopped blocking the barrage of squeaking and tried to determine what had agitated the dragon keepers today. As usual, there was no coherence to their concerns. Several were worried about the copper dragon who had fallen ill. It was not as if they could do much about it; she wondered why they were flapping about it instead of tending to their duties for the other dragons. She was hungry, and no one had brought her anything today, not even a fish.

She strolled listlessly down the riverbank. There was little to see here, only a strip of gravel and mud, reeds and a few scrawny saplings. Thin sunlight touched her back but gave small warmth. No game of any size lived here. There might be fish in the river, but the effort of catching one was scarcely worth the small pleasure of eating it. Now, if someone else brought it to her…

She thought about summoning Thymara and insisting the girl go hunting for her. From what she had overheard from the keepers, they’d remain on this forsaken strip of beach until the copper dragon either recovered or died. She considered that for a moment. If the copper died, that would make a substantial meal for whichever dragon got there first. And that, she decided bitterly, would be Mercor. The gold dragon was keeping watch. She sensed that he suspected some danger to the copper, but he was guarding his thoughts now, not letting dragons or keepers know what he was thinking. That alone made her feel wary.

She would have asked him outright what danger he feared if she hadn’t been so angry at him. With no provocation at all, he had given her true name to the keepers. Not just to Thymara and Alise, her own keepers. That would have been bad enough. But no, he had trumpeted her true name out as if it were his to share. That he and most of the other dragons had chosen to share their true names with their keepers meant nothing to her; if they wanted to be foolishly trusting, it was up to them. She didn’t interfere between him and his keeper. Why had he felt so free about unbalancing her relationship with Thymara? Now that the girl knew her true name, Sintara could only hope that she had no idea of how to use it. No dragon could lie to someone who demanded the truth with her true name or used it properly when asking a question. Refuse to answer, of course, but not lie. Nor could a dragon break an agreement if she entered into it under her true name. It was an unconscionable amount of power that he had given to a human with the life span of a fish.

She found an open place on the beach and lowered her body onto the sun-warmed river stones, closed her eyes, and sighed. Should she sleep? No. Resting on the chilly ground did not appeal to her.

Reluctantly, she opened her mind again, to try to get some idea of what the humans had planned. Someone else was whining about blood on his hands. The elder of her keepers was in an emotional storm as to whether she should return home to live in boredom with her husband or mate with the captain of the ship. Sintara made a grumble of disgust. There was not even a decision to ponder there. Alise was agonizing over trivialities. It didn’t matter what she did, any more than it mattered where a fly landed. Humans lived and died in a ridiculously short amount of time. Perhaps that was why they made so much noise when they were alive. Perhaps it was the only way they could convince one another of their significance.

Dragons made sounds, it was true, but they did not depend on those sounds to convey their thoughts. Sound and utterances were useful when one had to blast through the clutter of human thought and attract the attention of another dragon. Sound was useful to make humans in general focus on what a dragon was trying to convey to it. She would not have minded human sounds so much if they did not persist in spouting out their thoughts at the same time they tried to convey them with their squeaking. The dual annoyance sometimes made her wish she could just eat them and be done with them.

She released her frustration as a low rumble. The humans were useless annoyances, and yet fate had forced the dragons to rely on them. When the dragons had hatched from their cases, emerging from their metamorphosis from sea serpent to dragon, they had wakened to a world that did not match their memories of it. Not decades but centuries had passed since dragons had last walked this world. Instead of emerging able to fly, they had come out as badly formed parodies of what a dragon was supposed to be, trapped on a swampy riverbank beside an impenetrable forested wet land. The humans had grudgingly aided them, bringing them carcasses to feed on and tolerating their presence as they waited for them to die off or muster the strength to leave. For years, they had starved and suffered, fed barely enough to keep them alive, trapped between the forest and the river.