The Waking Fire (The Draconis Memoria #1) - Anthony Ryan

PROLOGUE

REPORT TO: BOARD OF DIRECTORS

IRONSHIP TRADING SYNDICATE

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FEROS HOLDINGS

Report by: Lodima Bondersil—Acting Director, Carvenport Division, Arradsian Continental Holdings

Date: Settemer 29, 1578 (Day 166 of Company Year 135 by the Corporate Calendar)

Subject: Events surrounding the demise of Mr. Havelic Dunmorn, Director Carvenport Division, Arradsian Continental Holdings

Esteemed Sirs and Ladies,

By the time this report reaches your hands you will, no doubt, have received word via the Blue-trance of the demise of my immediate superior, Mr. Havelic Dunmorn, and an initial estimate of the associated deaths and considerable material destruction accompanying that tragic event. I have compiled this written account in the hope and expectation it will obviate any asinine and ill-informed rumours spread by competitors or Syndicate employees (see addendum for a list of recommended dismissals and contract terminations). It is my intention to provide a clear and unbiased account of events so as to better inform the deliberations of the Board and any subsequent directives they may see fit to issue.

The incident in question took place in and around the Harvesting and Dockside quarters of Carvenport on Settemer 26. The Board will recall Mr. Dunmorn’s Blue-trance communication on 12 Dimester which described the successful capture of a wild Black by the Chainmasters Independent Contractor Company, following a lengthy expedition to the south-western regions of the Arradsian Interior. I also refer the Board to the previous ten quarterly written reports from this Division concerning the increasing attrition rate amongst pen-bred stock, with Blacks proving the most short-lived of all breeds. I am sure the Board requires no reminder of the ever-decreasing potency of product harvested from inbred and youthful stock. Therefore, the capture of a live and healthy wild Black (the first such capture in more than a dozen years) was greeted with considerable excitement throughout the ranks of Syndicate employees, in that it offered the prospect of thickened blood lines and quality product for years to come. Unfortunately such expectations were soon revealed as premature.

The Black, a full-grown male of some sixteen feet in length, proved extremely difficult to handle, perennially unsettled and prone to dangerous lunges even when sedated and its jaws firmly muzzled. Several harvesters were injured in wrangling the beast and one maimed when it contrived to crush him against the walls of its pen after feigning somnolence for several hours. The cunning of the various breeds inhabiting these lands has oft been remarked upon by harvesters and naturalists alike, but I must confess to a considerable personal discomfort at the vicious calculation displayed by this particular animal, traits so far unseen in all my years on this continent.

In addition to its frequent violence the Black also refused to mate with any pen-bred female, reacting with either indifference or aggression whenever one was placed in its proximity. Added to this was the extreme reluctance on the part of the female Blacks to remain anywhere near their wild cousin, all becoming excessively agitated and vocal at the mere sight of him. So after four months, with no prospect of a successful mating and costs of feeding and caring for the specimen increasing, Mr. Dunmorn ordered the beast be harvested. I have attached minutes of my discussion with Mr. Dunmorn which are fulsome in their description of my opinion on the matter and require no repetition here.

Mr. Dunmorn determined to make a celebration of the harvesting, a sop to local morale which has suffered recently due to the dip in markets and consequent reduction in contract terms. It was decreed, therefore, that the harvesting would take place on the same day as the Blood-lot, not often regarded as a day of