“Why the edor?” said Eggebrecht.

“She liked us edor, said we reminded her of herself,” said Father Zelten. “Rare, and a thing you could only find in this land. It also cut down on the number of people she had to speak to. Not one for small talk, Highclaw.”

“And why gold?” Feris said, eagerly. “Why did she want something she couldn’t spend?”

“Now that, I don’t know. We wild folk didn’t really work much with metal before the easterners came, so soft gold and silver were basically all we had. But Highclaw did say something once, when I was just a boy. She told my cousin that a trinket he had made especially for her was ‘beautiful but worthless.’ It had to be, she said, ‘something used, something worn, something loved, something steeped in the memory and soul of they who wore it.’ It struck me as being awfully poetic when she said it, and I’ve never forgotten.”

Eggebrecht was scribbling furiously in his notebook. “I have many, many questions for you, Father Zelten,” he said. “But I should, I suppose, lead with the obvious one. Why did Highclaw fail to take action on behalf of the wild folk when the settlers first came? He–er, she–could easily have wiped them out. Even the army didn’t have weapons that could take a dragon down back then.”

“Highclaw asked a high price, one we couldn’t pay,” Father Zelten said. “If it were just us, we would surely regret being so cheap! But Highclaw asked for as much tribute as we had ever given in living memory. She said that without such a sum, she could foresee no way forward. Her time was coming to an end either way,and she could not risk her greatest treasure.”

“A curious way of putting it,” said Eggebrecht, still scratching out messy lines of shorthand. “What do you suppose Highclaw meant by it?”

“I think…I think she foresaw that she would perish at the hands of your people,” said Father Zelten. “How, I can’t say, other than some powerful magic known only to her kind.”

“And why, if she could foresee her death, would she go out to meet it anyway?” Feris said.

“Ah, now that is a question,” laughed Zelten. “But I have a solution, or at least a supposition.”

“What’s that?” Eggebrecht said.

“I believe that she was pregnant,” Father Zelten said.

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