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“I am the monarch of the seas, living the dream that I’ve always dreamed…” The cheery tune approached them from around the corner, and they were greeted by a gentleman who appeared very merry to meet them. He was dressed Foshani, in a loose shirt of loud seaweed floral print, linen trousers that went partway down the legs, and rope sandals.

“Greetings! I am Arjun Woollibee, of the firm Woollibee & Woollibee. I am the head abyssal inverse dwelling designer. Around here, they call me First AIDD. Yes – I created my own job title. If you have an injury, then you talk to medical.”

The First AIDD made a courteously staged bow and continued. “We have a little time before the tide current brings us under again. There is no defying the tides here on Foshan. Now, they bear us as we have asked. Soon, they will draw us in as we intend.”

“First orders,” and with that the host promptly ignored the General as he focused on the dragon. “I have looked forward to this meeting for some time, Arkuda. And the setting, in every respect, is stranger and more fantastic than I could even have guessed, though I created it.”

“Arjun.” The dragon, er white scales gleaming gold, lowered er bulk into an almost-kneeling launch stance. In handed-headed-torso-bipedal-winged form, Arkuda held er ornamentally ornate wings like a lifted cape. Formal golden jeweled raiment trailed from shoulders and horns. ‘E pointed er horns at Arjun Woollibee and huffed.

The human stepped forward to the dangerous assembly of horns at chest height. He laid his hands on them and began to murmur a stream of indistinguishable language. His eyes alternately widened and narrowed as though reading, a smile flitting to and from his face. Arkuda’s breath was audible and controlled. This stretched on for minutes, as Woollibee made permutations of alignment contact with Arkuda’s horns. The man stood back, wiping sweat off his brow, then mirrored the dragon’s stance in front of em. They lifted their eyes to look into each other’s.

Then they sat, still facing each other; quietly, for equally as long, eyes opening and closing. A seeking was generally about something, but Claymore couldn’t make a guess as to this case. From where he waited to one side while this took precedence, Draig realized he’d been holding his breath. He recalled a visual memory of a small bird doing something very similar, hopping amongst Arkuda’s horns like they were branches. That hadn’t seemed unusual, but then, that was the only time he’d ever seen it. Do birds seek dragons for their own reasons?

He thought back to his first official meeting with Arkuda, part of the very complex process of becoming General Alisandre. It seemed casual in comparison. He wondered at the difference, then acknowledged there was no reason the meetings should be at all alike.

The General’s reverie ended when they stood. Their host went to him directly. “If you can stand a little vertigo, we can move to the end room further ahead, where we can view the descent.” Claymore nodded with surety.

Woollibee talked as they moved. “In here, gravity works more like a spaceship than a watercraft. Don’t assume you know up or down as we go, or that there is an up or down – it’s easier on the constitution. It takes more training to live here than it does to visit. Just know: your feet are on the ground and will remain so.”

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