“And why should I help you?” the drake said.

“Because we rescued you as a hatchling, protected you against all dangers, and risked our lives to raise you and return you to your rightful kind,” Ecaf said.

Thorn made a disdainful sound. “And did you do it out of that goodness of your heart, or in the knowledge that you might have made yourself a powerful ally?”

“I don’t take your meaning,” said Ecaf.

“Perhaps it was your self-interest all along that made you act as you did, knowing that you’d have something to compel a drake to do your bidding,” Thorn said.

“If you refuse, you refuse,” Ecaf said. “That is your right. But do not try to cast shadows on my past good deeds.”

“So you admit it,” sneered Thorn. “You’re sorry you aren’t able to take advantage of me now that I’m powerful.”

“If I am sorry of anything, it is that anything I had a hand in raising could think such of me.”

The remark drew blood, and Thorn lowered his head. “I am sorry,” he said. “It is in the nature of the drakes to be uncharitable and suspicious.”

“I don’t believe it is in the nature of any being to be thus,” said Ecaf. “It is, perhaps, easily learned, for I know of many men who would take the same position.”

“Perhaps,” said Thorn. “So who are you here as, then, old man? A father? A supplicant? Or something else?”

“I am here simply as myself, and I ask nothing of you that I would not be willing to give of myself.”

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