Chapter 1 - Part 1
Flying through the air was all the more exhilarating when you could do it with nothing but magic. I recall having thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of the wind around me during the first year I messed around with flight. Unfortunately, I grew accustomed to it, and it became nothing more than a normal experience for me.
I was thankful that even after a few years, I hadn’t grown tired of a different form of flight – riding Hargen. I was certain to most it would’ve sounded strange, but he was the first to offer. Often, the two of us would fly around the local area on hunts. After some time, we flew even farther, scouting out some of the local populaces nearby.
We made sure to stay away from towns and cities, not that any were close by. There were a few hamlets, and what looked like villages nearby though. I vaguely remembered reading a medieval history textbook that described how most small-populated areas would treat outsiders that weren’t traders, nobles, or religious officials with any kindness. It probably was in full effect for a hermit and his dragon.
I couldn’t help but chuckle aloud as we flew outside the view of one such nearby village.
“See something funny up here?” Hargen asked, craning his neck some to glance at me.
I shook my head and muttered a ‘no’ in response. My mind went adrift as I recalled how long the two of us had been by each other’s side.
Five entire years, huh? I thought.
During that entire time, I didn’t get any letters from Jayde, and had worried that she might’ve perished somewhere.
She’s much sturdier than I gave her credit for, I reminisced.
I felt doubly reassured when the idle thought that I was still alive surfaced. I was soul bonded with Aurias, so that meant if he was so alive, so would I, and that meant that Jayde was also probably still alive.
Five years was a long time from an outside perspective. Had anyone asked me, I would’ve certainly agreed that the first two dragged on. However, after Hargen hatched, time felt like it started to fly by.
None of our conversations never had a dull moment. Due to dragons having the nature of remembering all their past ancestors’ memories with crystal clarity as they grow up, it meant endless topics.
One such thing we talked about was his personality. The two of us were sitting atop the crest of the cave as the sun was setting, creating a cascade of brilliant orange hues across the partially cloudy sky.
He was laying like cat or dog, with his head resting on his legs. Originally, we were discussing the simplicity of human mortality, and how the lives of all other creatures disappears in a flash when comparing it to an ever-aging creature such as himself.
“What do you think of a talkative dragon?” he asked, staring into the distance.
“Good question,” I pondered.
A talking dragon was pretty interesting, sure. A dragon even existing was even more interesting. Neither of those were his question though.
“I think it’s very quirky and unique. I’ve not met another dragon as talkative as yourself,” I spoke honestly.
If he had eyebrows to raise, I think he would have done just that.
“How many other dragons have you met?” he asked inquisitively.
“Oh, you know, at least a handful. You’re all so curious once you get past the whole ‘I’ll melt you with my breath!’” I mocked.
“Just my mother and I, then,” he concluded.
Indeed, that was the case.
“Truth be told, dragons never existed where I was from,” I spoke, gazing at the orange-purple horizon.
I heard him lift his head, probably to look at me. I glanced in his direction just to be sure. His head was tilted in curiosity. It was as though he was waiting for me to continue.
“In my old life, things like this were fiction – a fantasy – and just thinking about it sometimes caused you trouble. The only intelligent race that could advance in technology were humans, and that was all we had,” I continued.
“What of the elves and dwarves?” he inquired.
“Elves didn’t exist. There were technically dwarves in my old life, but we called them midgets,” I chuckled.
He may have raised an eyebrow in an attempt to mimic me as the muscle above his eye rose slightly.
“Humans that were shorter than a certain height. They were called dwarves by scientists, but, no one called them that. I never knew any, personally,” I pursed my lips together in thought.
“I cannot imagine a time where there were not so many races existing at once,” Hargen contemplated with interest.
“A lot of us wished they existed, but that would’ve probably caused other problems … Magic didn’t exist, either. There was this guy from my old life that said this one famous phrase, ‘any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’. I don’t remember his name, but it’s a really good analogy for my life before,” I sighed.
“Do you miss it?”
“I mean, I guess? Everything would be familiar and the unknowns would be far more known. All the time I’ve spent here has definitely been for the better, and I think that I wouldn’t go back if I had the chance,” there was a tinge of melancholy in my voice.
There was a drawn-out silence after. A natural silence. I could feel that Hargen was absorbing the information. Probably adding that to his already vast amount of knowledge that future dragons would know.
The sun had mostly disappeared beyond the horizon. The top-most portion of it still lit the tops of the sky, but the other stars could be seen. Most of the land below was darkened and almost black in the setting night. The torchlight of hamlets and a couple towns could be seen from atop the hill.
The mosquitos had come out in earnest as though the setting sun were a signal. They were at least three times larger than any I’d ever seen before, nearly as large as the palm of my hand with their legs.
I conjured a water barrier around me, but that only stemmed to make it worse. I was protected from them biting me all over, but the water only served to attract them to lay eggs, and that was certainly not something I was fond of.
“Seems painful,” Hargen commented.
“Whatever could you mean?” I asked, heavy with sarcasm as I slapped several of the bugs away from my barrier.
“I know a spell that repels bugs. It looks like you could use the assistance,” he responded.
I stopped to glare at him for a moment.
“You’re only just now telling me of this?” I asked in exasperation.
The strangest guttural sounding laugh erupted from his maw. My plight must have been the most amusing thing in the world.
“It did not seem you cared,” he responded.
“I do. I care very much. I would be much happier if I never had to even hear one of these little things in my life again,” I spoke, swatting furiously at another wave of mosquitoes.
Hargen spoke an incantation in a language unbeknownst to me which created a faint, luminescent aura around me. The mosquitos touching the water barrier immediately died, and the rest quickly flew away. He looked to me expectantly, at least, I thought that’s what it was.
“Thanks. I’m not sure how to mimic the spell you cast, though. I’ve never heard that language before,” I chuckled, scratching the back of my head.
“I apologize. I was not aware you could not speak the language of magic,” he replied.
Language of magic, huh? My mind wandered at his words.
This was the first time I became aware of the concept.
“It’s the first I’m hearing of it,” I responded, pursing my lips.
“I see. There is most certainly much I can learn from you. I assumed you were able to, as you possess the ability to communicate directly with The River.”
“Is The River something like the flow of magic in the world?”
“Correct. Dragons like me and my ancestors were created directly from the River by the Dragon King.”
I let out a low ‘hmph’ and contemplated telling him about Thea, but something told me it wasn’t the right time.
“Is the Dragon King still around?” I inquired, stroking my beard with a makeshift comb.
A momentary pause elapsed before he responded.
“I am unsure. My memory is still far too fuzzy to recollect that specific information.”
“Hmm, I see. Maybe you’ll remember it at some point? I think for now, it’s about time to get to sleep,” I spoke, coming to a stand.
I levitated myself wordlessly down to the cave entrance and snapped my fingers, setting alight the standing torches I placed about and entered. During these five years I discovered how to cast my spells without using verbal commands. It took me plenty of trial and error before I identified the unique way in which I had to configure them. Upon learning about The River and its place in everything, things started to click.
I walked over to my bed. It was framed with wood from the tropical trees nearby, and used a lot of leaves to create a buffer to which I laid on. It was more of an open top box with leaves, really, but it was pretty comfortable. One could clearly tell with just a glance that it was shoddy.
I heard the flap of Hargen’s wings as he landed on the ground gently outside the entrance and came in. By the time he came to curl around my bed, I was already lost in thought in it.
If the River was embedded within everything, and people generally have to voice their incantations to cast, what did I do to it to remove that requirement?
It was a question that pressed on my mind, but nevertheless would not be answered anytime soon.
There were other questions that popped into mind, but I found myself falling very rapidly into slumber. I wasn’t quite sure at what point I actually went to sleep, as there was no real transition in my mind. I found that I had reoccurring dreams of Thea for a long while. They were usually vague when I awoke, but it left me with a pleasant feeling when I did. This night was no different.
At the start of the new day, I awoke to Hargen’s face only a few feet from mine. This was a common occurrence. So common, in fact, that his breath stopped bothering me after a point despite its pungent smell. He was staring at me with his large, green, snake-like eyes.
I yawned and sat up, stretching. The sun had risen above the canopy of the forest and shone light brightly outside. I climbed out of my bed and stretched some more, as was my daily routine.
“Say, Hargen,” I spoke mid-stretch.
He tilted his head questioningly.
“How would you like to pay one of the hamlets a visit?”
It wasn’t an impulsive question. I had been contemplating getting some human interaction for a long, long time. Craving it, really.
“A strange inquiry. I do not mind, but the people will be terrified of me,” he responded aptly.
That was to be expected. Afterall, a dragon showing up is a pretty crazy thing.
“I know. There’s no need to make our presence known, so, when we go, we’ll be quiet until arrival. Roaring will set them off, but talking might do just the same … What a conundrum,” I pondered.
I doffed my robes and clothes, setting them on a makeshift clothesline and coated them with a spray of water using one of my PhysX Haste spells. Then, I grabbed some soap I managed to recreate from some animal fat and scrubbed the garments very roughly before spraying it down with more water. I would do this every couple of days so as to keep cleanliness as much as possible.
Once the clothes were clean, I created a sphere of wind with the clothes in the center and channeled heat into it. Another set of PhysX Haste spells I came up with. The sphere tumbled the clothes around while the heat dried them. It was an ingenious alternate method to having no washers or dryers.
Once the clothes were dried, I hung them up while cleaning myself. Hargen wondered what I was doing the first few times I came up with a way to clean myself, and was thoroughly surprised when I informed him. He’d never remembered that being a thing. After I finished my bi-daily ritual, I donned my undergarments and robes and pulled the hood up.
“I want to be as mysterious as possible, so, do you mind me riding on your back?” I asked.
“I do not mind,” he replied, lowering his head for me to climb up.
I hopped up and we departed the cavern. Hargen stretched out his large wings and flapped them with effort, flying us about two-hundred feet in the air before hovering and looking around.
“To which hamlet should we go?” he asked.
I looked around. The capital was to the East, and there were main roads heading West to some places. I figured we may as well go to a hamlet out of the way.
“That one, to the South,” I pointed.
Hargen leaned forward and flapped his powerful wings and off we flew. I could’ve probably flown faster than, but I liked going slower sometimes, and for the sake of what I wanted to accomplish, it meant riding on his back.
We passed over a couple hamlets in small groves on the way, and even crossed the main road. I could see several caravans moving about, having known the dragon was slain. Or rather, that the mother was slain. Trade must’ve been a lot more robust since then.
The two of us quickly came upon the desired hamlet and flew over the top of it, circling a couple times before I told Hargen to dive low and fast over the treetops and hamlet. We did that a couple times before he flew low and slow overhead.
During the flybys, I heard people shouting in fear and saw them running into their huts for cover. I didn’t see any of them running away, so that was a good sign. Hargen came to a near hover over the center of the hamlet.
Most of the hamlets we flew over were designed in circular patterns, with a large pit or platform in the middle. This one had a platform large enough for me to walk around on, but not for Hargen. I had him land gently beside the platform, and as he did so, I hopped onto it.
I brushed my robes off, pretending they had gotten dirty and glanced around. The shacks were shoddily made and looked like they may have blown apart if Hargen had come down any rougher. They were constructed out of the nearby trees and had large leaves for shingles to reflect the sunlight and rain.
Most of the shacks appeared to be able to fit a small family inside it, with the exception of the single large one, probably for the hamlet’s elder. I could see a few of the men looking out at me from inside their homes. I cleared my throat before speaking.
“Hello, fellow humans! I have come here in peace, and would like to talk!” I declared.
Fellow humans? I really screwed that one up. Probably more out of touch with reality than I first assumed, I thought.
I glanced around, but it didn’t appear anyone wanted to step up. I motioned for Hargen to lower himself to the ground and lay down. He did so, folding his wings against his body in the process.
“I do not mean any of you harm. I just wish to speak!” I declared once more.
There was more silence. Just as I was about to speak a third time, a voice arose from the direction of the elder’s home.
“What have you to do with us, stranger?” an elderly voice questioned.
I turned around to see an old man, probably in his sixties who shakily stood outside by his lonesome. He must’ve appeared very brave to those around him.
“I merely wished to speak to you all. I have been away from other humans for quite some time, and I’ve only got my draconic friend here as company,” I motioned to Hargen who scoffed.
“B - but why us?” he asked, having stopped moving only ten feet from his door.
Because I picked you randomly? I thought.
I didn’t want to sound that prudish though.
“Because you all looked like you needed help the most,” I lied, crossing my arms.
The elderly man furrowed his brows confusedly for a moment.
“Tell me, do any of you know about magic?” I continued.
The elder looked around at his fellow Man hiding away. His face betrayed his emotions as though one were reading a book. I thought he was going to lie to me.
“We – we do have one, but he’s only a child,” he answered.
I noticed then that the elder was rather dirty. I assumed everyone else would be as well.
“That’s fine. Ah! Pray tell, how often do you all bathe yourselves?”
The man furrowed his brows once more.
“When rain falls, we collect it and use it to wash the dirt off. If there is no rain, then we make due until then.”
I nodded firmly, folding my index finger around my chin.
“I see, I see. I shall teach you all the proper method for cleanliness. I doubt it will solve all the issues, but it will prevent many of you from becoming sick.”
Shock spread across his wrinkled features. Here was this stranger who came from nowhere on a dragon, asking them how often they bathe, and telling him he’ll help them out. This was probably quite strange.
“But first, what is your name, kind sir? I am called … Uh, Avariel! I am The Angel, Avariel!” I proclaimed.
“My - my name is Gronde. I am the elder of this small settlement,” he replied, a bit more confident.
I levitated myself just off the ground using Air Thrust and flew gently toward Gronde, landing a few feet in front of him. He backed up a couple steps, wide-eyed.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Gronde,” I stretched an open hand out.
He took it hesitantly, and we shook hands.
“Can you call the boy out here?” I asked.
“Of - of course. Tristan! Come here, boy!” he shouted.
There was a brief pause during which I’m pretty sure I heard a mother’s muffled crying, and then a door opening. The boy was coming from a shack near Hargen’s head. The moment he locked eyes with the creature, the boy froze up.
“There’s no need to fear him. He won’t bite you unless you do something bad,” I coaxed.
Tristan didn’t seem to be listening. So, I created a wind gust beneath him and carried him and his shocked face next to me, landing him gently on the platform. His eyes were frantically looking around from Gronde to me, and back to Gronde.
“I won’t bite either,” I assured him with a smile.
“H- hello, sir,” he mumbled while looking toward the ground.
“Raise your head, boy! Please forgive his rudeness, he is still young, as I said,” Gronde apologized, bowing his own head sincerely.
I waved my hand in dismissal, maintaining my smile.
“It’s fine. Tristan, I was told you have some special talents!”
He nodded subtly in affirmation.
“I would like you to show some of it to me,” I motioned to him.
He looked up to Gronde with hesitation. The old man nodded slowly, and Tristan turned back toward me and whispered a word with the palm of his hand facing upward. Water began to pour from above his palm into it before overflowing onto the platform. He maintained the spell for a few more seconds, closing his palm into a fist, finally stopping the spell.
“That was very good!” I exclaimed.
I turned toward Gronde with a stern expression and mustered more composure before I spoke.
“I’ll get straight to the point now. I would like to take the boy under my wing. No harm will come to him, as I will protect him. In return, I will bring you all aid and knowledge. Additionally, I’ll loan my power to you in order to protect this settlement from harm.”
I reached into my endless pocket and withdrew two gold coins and held them out to Gronde. His eyes lit up and widened in astonishment. The hamlet’s residents must’ve never seen a gold coin before, likely operating on copper and silver for currency.
“You know how much this is worth, right?” I asked him.
“Y – yes! One-hundred Peri silver,” he responded immediately.
I nodded in affirmation.
“That is correct. This is my way of providing short-term aid to you all in return for taking the boy from his parents.”
“We couldn’t possibly accept this much money, sir! This is more than we would ever see in our lives,” he replied, rejecting my offer.
“Until now. You can split this amongst everyone in the hamlet to bring business and buy luxuries. Ah, I nearly forgot,” I said, holding my other hand palm-up.
I created a small, white crystal bead over my hand and grasped it. From there, I mentally chanted two incantations into it. The first was telepathy magic, and the second was teleportation magic. I spent a solid two years figuring out how to fuse magic into objects. It was mostly trial and error, like everything else I’ve come to be able to do.
“Please, take this and keep it safely guarded. It is fused with my own essence and power. Should you have any questions, think about them in your mind while holding it, and I will be able to respond through a mental link. If there’s trouble and I’m close enough, just let me know through the bead and I’ll be over instantly.” I paused for a moment, reading Gronde’s reaction.
“That is, provided I’m within a certain distance. If you hear no response, then I am not in range. Additionally, if the hamlet comes under duress, grip the bead tightly and envision I am next to wherever you are with it, and I will appear to assist you. The bead will be destroyed once I am summoned, though.”
Gronde hesitantly took the gold coins and beads from my hands and bowed very deeply.
“Sir, I - I do not know what to say. We have no means to thank you for your kindness,” he thanked me endlessly.
I looked to Tristan and nodded, motioning with my head toward Hargen. The boy was very reluctant to follow, but he was smart enough to realize it wouldn’t have been wise to refuse.
I hoisted him onto Hargen and turned back to Gronde, who was watching me along with the rest of the hamlet’s residents.
“I’ll keep my promise and teach you how to make soap, as well as easier ways to bathe yourselves. I’ll also be coming back just to check on how everyone is doing. Remember, if you have trouble, let me know. If it’s something that needs me immediately, you know what to do,” I climbed onto Hargen’s back, behind Tristan.
“Off we go!” I shouted.
Hargen rose up, stretching his legs. He then crouched down and leaped into the air before flapping his wings as hard as he could. I glanced back to the hamlet to make sure we didn’t destroy anything on the way out.
There was a deep imprint from where Hargen had lain, but nothing seemed damaged. Tristan’s small body froze in my arms as we took flight. I chuckled aloud and assured him all was fine, and to not look down.
Despite my warning, he looked anyway. I couldn’t help but chuckle in amusement.
We returned to the cavern shortly thereafter. Hargen slowed, descending rapidly. The pit of my stomach rose to my mouth as he lurched downward. I quelled the need to wretch, but it didn’t seem Tristan could. He leaned as far to the side as possible and vomited on the ground.
Hargen craned his head to see what happened, letting out the guttural growl-laugh he did to me before.
“Other people’s plight amuses you?” I asked in jest.
“Only sometimes,” he shot back snidely.
I climbed down the opposite side and levitated Tristan off of Hargen gently. Turning toward the cavern’s entrance, I waved my arms in a superfluous fashion.
“Welcome to my home!” I exclaimed proudly.
I looked to the boy after hearing no response. He appeared even more hesitant to follow me after seeing the dark cavern.
I twirled my hands in a tracing pattern mimicking a sphere. As I did so, a ball of fire about a foot in diameter manifested in front of me. From there, I proceeded to walk inside, sending motes of fire into the standing torches. Even after all this time, I still wasn’t sure how to give myself night vision. It was vexing to say the least.
With most of the cavern lit from the torches, I turned back to Tristan and beckoned him closer. He finally entered and looked around. Just inside to the left were a couple boxes and crappy weapon racks. They had spears and swords made from Loht’s bones on the racks, with wands, hand-wraps and other catalysts using Loht’s body inside the boxes.
Near my bed was my very own shoddily-made bookcase with a few books in them – Journals from me, as well as a couple books with my observations on magic and tests. In the back center of the cave was Loht’s Skull, which was decorated in respect for Hargen’s mother.
To the right of that were wooden targets, both working and broken ones. In the center was a large amount of leaves as bedding for Hargen. I didn’t have anything special on the right side of the cavern yet, but the new addition gave it purpose.
“I will teach you and help you to make your own stuff, since I doubt you’re able to do much else. Tell me, did you mostly just help your parents and the others with the cattle and such?” I inquired.
He nodded gingerly.
Well, makes sense given his background, I thought.
When his eyes met with Loht’s skull, his jaw dropped.
“Sir, are you the one who killed the maneater?” he asked in awe.
“She needed food after laying me,” Hargen chimed in, much to Tristan’s surprise.
“I did kill his mother, Loht the maneater. Dragons aren’t inherently bad creatures, truth be told,” I smiled, patting the side of Hargen’s neck.
The boy was dumbfounded, and for good reason.
“Come, don’t worry about that. There’s still plenty of light left in the day, so let’s begin your training,” I stated, heading back outside with Tristan in tow.
The first day didn’t amount to much, as I ended up chopping down several trees and making his own bed-box in the cavern’s right side. I cleaned his clothes and taught him how to use the soap to clean his body as well.
He wasn’t able to properly use his magic yet, so I had to spray him down with water from my own spell. I made a cleaning area shortly thereafter, realizing we probably needed one.