“What can you tell me of the drakes?” Ecaf said. “Practical stuff.”

“There’s nothing practial about them,” laughed Kip. “Intelligent and capable of speech, yes, but also alien and inscrutible. They love wealth but never spend a cent of their hoard. They love conversation yet generally shun one another’s company.”

“You and I have very different meanings of ‘practical,'” said Ecaf.

“Look, what do you want?” Kip said. “All we have to go on are those who have spoken with one and lived, people seeing them from a distance, and the occasional carcass.”

“Well, tell me what each of those things teaches us.”

“People who speak to them find they love the sound of their own voice. They love to seem clever, to seem mysterious, to seem impressive, and they seem to love suddenly turning on someone to whom they have been speaking almost as much. There’s no rhyme or reason to who is unscathed and who is crisped.”

“Seeing them from a distance, then,” said Ecaf.

“They grow their whole lives, and they take a while to get really smart–not unlike kids. But they can live a long time. They’ve also got the Touch about them. Some say they can do everything from change their shape to bewitch to soul, but precious few have ever seen either.”

“And their carcasses?”

“None have ever been found,” said Kip. “Ever. Even when one is killed in front of witnesses, it just…evaporates.”

“Why call it a carcass at all, then?”

“A few things survive. Whatever it had in its stomach, for one.”

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