Home For the Wandering Soal
Eldwist, despite my insisting that I would be fine, decided to accompany me on the rest of my journey home. He was, I must say, a wonderful companion. Most of the time he kept quiet and we just walked in silence. On the second day, Eldwist stopped mid-stride, turned to me, and asked; “Where did you say we were headed?”
“I didn’t.” I said, without breaking stride. There were storm clouds on the horizon, and I wanted to find some form of shelter before they hit.
“Well,” he said as he jogged after me, “where are we headed then?”
“The burning steppes. I live in a cottage at the edge, about three hour’s brisk walk from the town of Vorra, just outside of Shady Vale.”
“The Burning Steppes?” he asked, as though trying to be sure he had heard correctly.
“Isn’t that a well known place to find dragon’s?”
“Why on earth would you want to live there?”
“There’s no better place to raise a dragon.” He didn’t speak for some time after that. I assumed he was debating whether he should continue to inquire deeper, or simply let it go and just continue to accompany me and see for himself.
In the end, his curiosity seemed to get the better of him, because he asked “How did you manage to get a dragon young enough to raise?”
“A green dragon killed his mother just before he hatched. I had been watching her for some time from afar, and when she lost the fight I went and found the egg before the green dragon could, hid it in my home, killed the green dragon, and then kept the egg safe until it hatched.” He snorted softly but didn’t inquire any further until we found a large, overhanging, rock to camp under for the night. No sooner had we made camp than the storm, which had been angrily glowering behind us, finally caught up. Winds and rain howled but the space beneath stayed warm and dry.
Over a dinner of nuts, jerky, and some hardening bread, we talked of our adventures and of people we had met along the way. I told him about Azmodeas and my family, and he told me about the Nidhogg. Though he wouldn’t say what happened to them or why he was traveling by himself. Soon we had finished our meal, and began to settle in for the night. The storm continued to rage and a lightning bolt struck, causing me to jump slightly and cower in on myself. Eldwist turned to me, raising a brow ridge and said, “I didn’t think a mighty wizard such as yourself would be scared of lightning.”
“Just a little.” I said, fiddling with my hair “I’m just not all that useful in the rain. Elemental spells don’t work very well in the wrong climate, especially fire. I don’t like feeling vulnerable.”
“Don’t worry,” he said, placing a reasuring hand on my shoulder “As long as I’m here, you have nothing to worry about.” We had agreed that he would take first watch again, and so I gave him a smile and nodded before closing my eyes. Not long after, I began to shiver and was about to find a blanket when I felt something drape over my shoulders. I opened my eyes to find a mass of fur had been placed over me, and the Bashti settling back in at the mouth of the overhang, humming to himself as he did so. I smiled to myself and closed my eyes once more, not to open them again for about an hour.
When I did open my eyes again, it was to the sounds of thunder. The storm seemed to have picked up, and the sky was alight with arcs of lightning. I looked around to be sure everything was still in place, noting that nothing had moved; but Eldwist was nowhere to be found. I began to panic, standing up quickly and hitting my head on the rock above me. I felt the sting of the cold rock on my scalp, but didn’t register it entirely; I was too focused on finding my companion. I ran as quickly as my slightly dazed state would allow into the storm, only to find myself connecting with something large and somewhat hard.
Years of training and travel had me reaching for my staff, that in my panicked state I had forgotten to pick up from the floor of the camp. I froze where I stood, waiting for my mistake to backfire, when I felt an arm drape over my shoulders. “Did I frighten you?” said the deep baritone that I had begun to be all too familiar with. I simply nodded my head, and looked up into Eldwist’s ever calm features. The constant lightning flashes illuminating him. “Sit with me a while? The storm is proving to be a beautiful one.” I nodded again, seemingly lost for words, and sat down next to him in the grass as the storm went on. After a moment I heard him grumble and felt a hand on my head “You’re bleeding. Hold still for a moment.” I felt a warm tingling sensation as he muttered an incantation and the pain, that I had only just begun to notice, faded away.
“Thank you.” I muttered, touching the place the cut had been. It was still warm and tingling from the spell. A small smile graced my lips as we sat at the mouth of the overhang, watching the storm. It was peaceful, and beautiful. As we sat, I drifted back into meditation the lightning arcs feeding into the trance. We didn’t move for the next two hours.
The next morning was a quiet one. Whilst Eldwist slept I sat on top of the overhang and watched the sun rise. The storm clouds had cleared through the night and so the remaining clouds turned a vibrant gold as the sun’s rays made their first appearance of the day. I heard a stir from below, followed by quick movement and Eldwist’s voice calling out “Andraste?”
“Up here!” I answered, “The sunrise is beautiful this morning.”
“Do me a favor,” he growled, his bronze head appearing over the side; eyes glinting in the sun’s early rays “don’t ever do that to me again.” I said nothing, but nodded and climbed down to help him pack up.
After that evening, we spent every night the same. I would meditate next to him as he kept watch, and while he slept I would simply sit quietly near him and just listen to the steady sound of his breathing. Our days were not much different, except for conversation here and there. We fell into an easy pattern, and grew quite comfortable with each other. I came to find that Eldwist was in many ways the perfect person to have in my life; quiet, well mannered, but commanding. Like a quiet thunderstorm on a horizon.
By the last day of our journey, I had made up my mind. Black clouds and flakes of ash filled the sky as we cleared a gnollock, I saw the outline of my home against streaks of bloody red of the setting sun, and turned to Eldwist with a grin “Would you like to meet Azmodeas?”
“You’re asking me to meet your pet dragon?” he asked with a chuckle, his scaly brow raised in both amusement and mild disbelief.
“Mhm. Although, I wouldn’t call him a pet. More of a ward. He’s a wonderful conversationalist, I think you’ll like him.”
“I’ll admit, you’ve peaked my interest. Lead on.” I nodded and picked up the pace, bringing us to the cottage by twilight. The fertile soil allowed for me to have an immaculate garden, filled with bleeding hearts, bluebells, fuchsia, roses, orchids, and snapdragons. There was a small pond near the low garden wall, fed by a stream that ran beneath it. Water Lilies and cattails adorned the surface and sides, while brightly colored fish swam in the shallows. As soon as we opened the gate, a low chuffing sound could be heard from the cave at the edge of the wall, signalling that Azmodeas had either heard, or sensed our arrival.
“Hello dear one.” I called out to him in Draconic, “Come out, I have someone for you to meet.” Shuffling in the cave told me that the curious young dragon was coming into the open, and soon his head emerged. The last rays of sun glinted off of the fins that adorned his spiky head, and his tapered green wings spread out in excitement for company. Unlike most types of dragons, brass dragons crave interaction. They love conversation, even more than gold. Which is why when I’m away, I have one of the town’s folk come to stay with him.
Two strokes of his great wings had him gliding the rest of the way towards us, where he landed with a loud ‘thud’. At the shoulder he stood roughly the height of a war-horse at six feet, while his neck added about three more. From nose to tail-tip he was nearly the length of a horse and carriage, with a wingspan to match. His eyes were beginning to change from a dull brown to a glowing red, and his scales were turning from the wyrmling brown to a more shiny copper color; which would eventually turn to brass. He gave my shoulder a gentle nudge with the flat of his head, a sign of affection and whispered “Who is the Bashti?”
I smiled at his curious, but causious tone, and nodded towards my companion “Azmodeas,” I said softly, “This is Eldwist Thunderfist, the cleric. He has been a protector, and companion for me on my journey home.”
Azmodeas moved so that he was partially wrapped around me and inclined his head towards Eldwist “A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Cleric. Will you be staying long?”
“The pleasure is mine.” Eldwist rumbled, “I am not sure as to the duration of my stay, but rest assured, I will not outstay my welcome.” The dragon nodded and proceeded to inquire about my latest escapade, and the journey home. He listened quietly to our story, growling at some parts, and chuckling at others, until the sun had fully set. At which point he made his way back to his cave with a yawn, and we retired to the house.
The inside of my home was just as quaint and cheerful as the outside. The main part of the house included the kitchen, dining area, and a small sitting area with doors leading to the back garden, a small store room, and a lavatory. A staircase lead to the second floor where three bedrooms waited. The furniture throughout the house was all well made, beautifully carved and painted with filigree and small floral designs, and cushioned with down-filled silks of deep reds; a set I had commissioned by the local carpenter and seamstress. Pots and pans hung neatly from the ceiling in the kitchen, along with dried herbs from my garden, and framing the fireplace; which showcased the Blueleaf family crest. The table was adorned with fresh flowers from my garden, which the villager I employed to keep Azmodeas company while I was away had kindly replenished. One wall of the room was adorned with a large bookcase, packed to the point of bursting with tomes, scrolls, and stories which I had collected throughout my travels over the years.
After giving him the tour of the main house; which he complemented continuously; I showed Eldwist to the room he would be staying in. It was decorated to match the rest of the house, with a large ornately carved bed, and two more bookcases adorning either side of a large window; which overlooked the front garden. Eldwist sad his rucksack down in the corner, followed me back downstairs, and after a quick supper of bread and cheese, we retired for a much needed rest.
The next morning found me bustling about the kitchen, fixing a wonderful breakfast of eggs and oatmeal, with freshly brewed coffee. Eldwist emerged from the guest room just as I was placing the plates on the table. His eyes widened in surprise “You cook?”
“Of course I cook.” I laughed, and sat myself at the table “I may be the daughter of a noble, but I do know how to take care of myself. Incase you haven’t noticed, I don’t have servants here.”
“Of course,” he bowed his head to show his remorse, “please forgive my assumptions.”
“No need. It was an honest mistake.” I gestured to the chair across from mine, “Now, how about we enjoy a real meal?” He gave a chuckle and sat down, thanking me for the meal, and the two of us tucked into our food. We ate in comfortable silence at first, just enjoying the simple comforts that come with being in one’s own home, until I asked; “Was the room to your liking?”
“Very much so.” he said, taking a sip of his coffee “You have no idea how long it’s been since I’ve slept in such a comfortable bed. Is that down?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact, it is. I’m glad you liked it, because; if you would like; it’s yours.”
He stopped, spoon halfway to his mouth and stared at me for a moment in shock, “Beg pardon?” he finally said, his golden eyes were wide as saucers staring at me as though I was some fantastical creature.
“Well,” I continued, tentatively “I have this spare room, which is never used unless I am out of the house, and even with Azmodeas to talk to, it gets rather lonely here, and since you are without a place to call home... Well, I thought I would offer to share mine.” He was silent for quite some time, causing me to panic. I stood and began to straighten up the kitchen, doing everything in my power not to meet his piercing golden gaze. I began to ramble, “Of course if it’s not something that you would be interested in, that’s fine of course. I’m just offering and you don’t need to feel obligated or anything. I just thought that maybe you might like a place that you can maybe come back to after long journeys and rest but if it’s not something that appeals to you that’s fine I mea-”
“Andraste.” I heard the sound of a chair sliding on the wooden floors along with his soft baritone, and felt his hands on my shoulders, as he stopped me in my tracks. He gently turned my around, and with one clawed finger, lifted my chin so that I was forced to meet his gaze. His eyes were soft as his voice as he smiled at me and said, “Nothing would make me happier.”
My heart skipped a beat and the butterflies returned to my stomach at his words, “Really?!” I almost squealed in glee. He nodded and pulled me in for a hug.
When we broke apart he said, with a twinkle in his eye “Somebody has to keep you out of trouble after all.” He winked and we both laughed. I began to chat animatedly about all the things we could do to make the cottage a more suitable place for two inhabitants, and he listened intently, a small smile gracing his lips. I could tell that he was enjoying this just as much as I was, and nothing could have made me happier.