Chapter 10: Turning Point
Little Flame was currently lazing around in the room where it had been sleeping.
After the breakfast in the morning, Eldrin finally got over his shock, and he had left to deal with various matters, abandoning the bored dragon alone in the house.
He had advised it not to depart from the house at the moment, for one of the so called ‘knights’ was outside, watching it.
Understanding the reasoning, but still annoyed by the unlucky developpement, Little Flame had nothing to do but try to discover the wonders hidden inside the many different rooms of the strange nest.
Its first destination was right across the table, the origin of the delicious smell behind the door. The adventuring beast arrived in the kitchen, lured by the smell of different herbs drying on the wall, but mainly by remains of meat forgotten on the counter.
White tiling was covering the room and different pieces of furniture made from that same ivory material were scattered throughout the kitchen. Running up to one of them, the small dragon stretched its head and placed its front paws on the console to use as a lever in order to see what things laid on top of it.
A row of stone dishes were lined on the counter, most of them had been filthy for an eternity, some still clean, and a few of them were used to hold ingredients. Above the counter hung a row of cabinets, but the dragon had no way to reach them without creating a mess in the large kitchen.
Plundering ingredients and herbs made Little Flame quite satisfied, especially after it tried one of the red fruits from a bowl next to the herbs.
Chewing on the sweet fruit, the curious creature continued exploring the other rooms of the floor, walking in a long hallway behind the kitchen.
A layer of dust was covering the floor, yet a trail of footsteps was clearly visible on the ground, running from the cooking room to a door at the end of the hallway.
Following this path Little Flame carried its expedition forward and arrived in front of an open door. Advancing bravely in the unknown territory, it stumbled across mountains of treasure and junk. Stacks of innumerable different items and objects filled the room to the ceiling, some of them broken while others sparkled with a bright radiance in the dragon’s eyes.
All of these had awakened its interest, so Little Flame wisely decided to dive straight into one of the mountains, digging through the goods in search of new and exciting oddities.
Unfortunately the towering mountains of items had started to move dangerously as a little invader had clawed its way through their insides, eventually alerting the small dragon, but still a tad bit too late.
With a thundering rumble, the swaying turned into falling, and buried Little Flame in an avalanche of various equipments.
Placing several [Water Walls], camouflaging the house to make it appear like no one was present, had exhausted Eldrin, and he took a small break to recuperate, sitting on a rock in the grassy field of the clearing. He had thought about different ways to deal with the knight hiding nearby, and the best solution he could think of at the moment was to smuggle the dragon outside while the illusion was in place.
In spite of the breach of the safety concerning the beast, the elf would truly hate it if such an interesting creature was to leave.
Most monsters knew one monster language upon birth and were able to communicate with other monsters of their kind through growls and barks. Additionally some familiars that had been belonging to warriors or mages were occasionally returning to the forest after their master’s death and could pass down their understanding of the common language to their brethren.
Grasping the adventurers tongue was therefore possible with a bit of training, although the degree of comprehension depended heavily on the monster’s intelligence, and most warriors and mages would have relied on the telepathic bond with their familiar to order them around.
As far as Eldrin was concerned, there hasn’t ever been a case of a beast or monster speaking the adventurer’s tongue or another ‘civilized’ language before a breakthrough into the legend rank, a feat only a few particular familiars and rare powerful beasts might achieve. The vermillion tipped black scaled lizard was a mystery to him.
The old elf contemplated on the topic for a while, bathing his skin in the sunshine, feeling the warmth seeping into his old bones. Unable to find a satisfying answer to the black and red enigma, he stretched his ancient body and slowly returned to the cottage, admiring the peaceful scenery on his path.
As he opened the door, a grime-covered bolt passed from the kitchen door through the main hall and up the stairs, leaving obvious paw-shaped footprints behind it.
Unsure on how he should react, Eldrin checked the kitchen first and discovered a trail of dirt coming from the entrance of the former servant quarters.
Following the claw marks in the dust, he arrived at the storage room at which he had taken the familiar dishes, only to encounter a chaotic mess where boxes and items had been neatly stacked in the past.
A set of recognizable paw prints seemed to enter the room, and a stream of dirt exited it, which combined with the appearance of the flash passing by him earlier allowed Eldrin to assess what had happened with certainty. Sighing to himself, he casted a spell of the first rank, [Water Ball] and guided it along the stains, back into the main room and up the stairs, all the way to the entrance of the guest room Little Flame was staying, and currently hiding in.
Inside the room a disgustingly filthy tail peeked out from a bulging blanket on the bed, curling around the cover and shivering slightly. With an impish smile, the elf dropped the first [Water Ball] containing all of the dirt out of the window, and immediately casted another one, approaching the bed sneakily, suddenly dropping the ball on top of it. With a yelp, life returned to the small bundle of scales, a head appeared, turned around and stared accusingly at the elf that had dared to soak it to the bones.
A single word escaped the mage’s lips as he watched the drenched dragon.
After that enjoyable abuse, Eldrin left to check on the unconscious maids once again, and then started the cleanup of the storage room, where he would make sure to enlist the help of a black and red helper.
The rest of the day hence consisted of a certain animal playing around while an elf tried to teach it how to clear out the mess it created.
It took the larger part of the week to wash and restore the storage room, and as they worked together to get rid of the mess, Eldrin taught various new words to Little Flame, availing every discovery of an interesting thing in the different heaps of items to name it. He encouraged the learning lizard to repeat the words to become more fluent with the adventurers tongue, holding everyday conversations when they weren’t cleaning up.
Additionally, Eldrin was taking the dragon with him when he was visiting the maids who were still immersed in a deep slumber, despite their physical wounds having healed under the repeated use of the [Fountain of Life] spell by the elf.
The dragon showed great interest in the healing spell, observing as it closed the wounds incurred from the collision with the rock wall, and cured no small bruises at a rapid pace. Trying to imitate the incantation and mana flow it attempted to cast the same spell, yet its first attempt was inconclusive and disappointing.
On the third day, the black shadow Eldrin had last seen in the [Stone Breaker]’s Den, repairing a certain dragon’s slender flesh, appeared under the repeated effort of Little Flame, eating away the remaining visible wounds on the maid’s bodies.
This accomplishment impressed Eldrin to no end, although he had seen the spell before, consciously using a power was usually requiring a long period of training, at least for a beast. Little Flame had not reached the fifth rank and formed a monster core yet, so there was little to no chance that the black shadow could be its innate ability either.
To avoid slaughtering too much of the [Sapphire Cows] Eldrin raised, the small lizard had decided to head out and hunt its own meat. After discussing it with Eldrin for a bit, Little Flame was allowed to head out early every morning and the vicious little creature was killing everything from [Horned Rabbits] of the first rank to [Armored Bears] of the fifth rank, nearly making it a contest to shock Eldrin anew each day, displaying the amount of meat it could carry around. On the fifth day after their encounter , Eldrin had to ask the proud lizard to stop its slaughter, as the storage room of the kitchen was completely filled with meat.
Starting at the seventh day, Little Flame got comfortable enough with the elf to sneak into his room at night and slip under his blanket, curling up right beside him. At first the old elf was a bit confused as to why the beast trusted him so much, since he had kept to himself a particular night.
Bringing up the recurring event in a conversation, Eldrin learned of similar episodes happening between Little Flame and its siblings when they were still alone in their Dragon’s Den.
The small dragon wasn’t exactly saying it out loud, but from the pained expression on its face – Eldrin managed to get a good grasp on the various emotions it conveyed – the beast was missing its siblings and was simply feeling lonely.
In the following night he petted the dragon’s head until it nestled itself right next to him under the blanket. He had came to consider it as an eleven year old kid missing its family.
On the morning of the ninth day, Little Flame left the room in a hurry, but didn’t display any dissatisfaction about their conversations or mentioned their sleeping arrangement, although it didn’t quite look the elf in the eyes either. They spent the rest of the day inside the mansion, because of bad weather approaching and in the evening a heavy rain had started falling, talking about various matters as they finished tidying up the store room.
With the cleaning of the storage room having been taken care of, the two of them found some useful things in between the piles of junk.
Eldrin was surprised to discover how many high ranked clothes made out of fine silks ranking up to the 5th rank were had been left behind in the storage room when the previous inhabitant had abandoned the cottage. Silk itself was a luxury good that could not be produced in the kingdom of Leandar, but could only be imported by merchants’ houses, or sometimes even by the adventurer’s guild, from the far away northern kingdoms. In contrast to the kingdom Eldrin lived in, located far in the west from the designated central mountain, these nations weren’t nurturing neither knights nor magicians; they were practicing a way based around a codex of honor, calling themselves ‘warriors of the divine path’.
As one of their specialities, the Yukedo kingdom was raising a specie of [Titanic Dire Silkworms] that didn’t appear anywhere out of their area of control. From a merchant friend that was trading silk in the capital, Eldrin had learned that these silkworms were hard to rear. Even though, the thread from their cocoons could be woven to produce a textile called [Heavenly Silk] and their queen worms were at the fifth rank, making the most precious of those fabrics of the fifth rank as well.
A single piece of such clothing could amount up to 50 gold, yet the two of them noticed several crates of differently dyed vests, dresses and trousers, all tailored in different styles.
Eldrin unceremoniously picked some of the silken pants for his own use, as their quality, soft under the fingers yet durable, was making them perfect to wear. The elf wouldn’t have been able to buy trousers like these by himself, but seeing as they had already been abandoned by their previous owners, he helped himself without second thought.
Little Flame also felt excited, and snatched some dresses and vests away, building a small cradle of silk right in front of the fireplace. The newly erected sleek nest reminded it of its bed back in the [Dragon’s Den] and provided the dragon with a place to laze around.
Having taken out a bottle of his most expensive wine, Eldrin spent the evening in front of a blazing hearth, sitting in a padded armchair, and exchanging stories with the small dragon, who was enjoying the heat of the fireplace up close, muffled in several layers of fabrics.
Over the course of this evening the elf learnt more about the relationships between monster tribes, and how the siblings were governing their domain. It took some time for Little Flame to explain him the principle behind the hot bath, since the dragon didn’t know the specific word for such a thing, and as Eldrin came to understand, the existence of a hot spring in the wilderness astonished him, especially as this one was created by monsters. Thinking about it, the concept wasn’t that unbelievable, the little lizard in front of him was looking so delighted, enjoying the warmth of the burning wood, that it was faintly purring, so creating a form of hot water reservoir wasn’t impossible especially considering its high intelligence.
Eldrin on the other hand was describing things like ‘a city’ or ‘nobility’ to the curious creature, who had three new questions for every answer it was given.
Eventually evening became night and Eldrin departed from the hall for his bedroom, leaving the fire to die. Little Flame didn’t add anything and just followed him, not even pretending to go to the guest room it was supposed to live in, and simply laid down in the bed while the elf was preparing his clothes for the next day.
Compared to the picture his chamber was depicting a week ago, the current room could have been described as spotless. No more clothes lying around, all of the furniture free of dust and even the bed was properly made.
The shy-acting Little Flame faced the wall, yet still waited for him to lie down and sleep. Eldrin smiled wistfully, he had decided long ago not to tease the dragon for missing its loved ones, since he perfectly understood that very emotion. He took out his golden pocket watch and placed it on the nightstand.
Kindly looking at the lizard, he spread the blanket over both of them and gently stroked the warm scales on the top of its head. Raindrops were hailing onto the roof, inducing a hypnotic melody, and he fell asleep like this.
During the tenth and eleventh day, a heavy thunderstorm raged outside the cottage, and the two friends thus spent their time eating and conversing in front of the fireplace. Little Flame eventually ran out of things to tell Eldrin and could only listen to his story, how a young and bold elf grew up in Cilyra, the forest kingdom of the elves.
He was born as the second son of a rich merchant and had spent the first 50 years of his life as a spoiled child, never working for even a single day. This had changed soon after he came to be consider of adult age by the elves, when his father’s trading house fell into ruin and disappeared without leaving anything behind for his older brother and him.
Trained as the successor of the house, his brother quickly got accepted as a trader into another rich noble house. Forsaken with nothing but his own two hands, Eldrin knocked onto the doors of the adventurer’s guild and had to accept the lowest level of available quests, trying to make a living. Without an education in craftsmanship, or as warrior or mage, he could barely fight [Goblins] and [Horned Rabbits].
His fate changed when one of the guild’s receptionists took notice of his hard struggle, and introduced him as a guide to a visiting group of adventurers from the human kingdom Leandar. As they were conversing together, they learned of his history and the archmage of the party, seventh rank in mana at the time, took him in as a disciple.
A giant [Shadow Walker] at the eighth aura rank appeared near the elves home, and no one from the guild had the fitting light element to put a fight against it. As an emergency quest, the human party got commissioned to take care of the creature,and Eldrin went along to enjoy the spectacle.
The scene of his teacher casting volley after volley of [Holy Cross]’ on the monster to restrain its movement, and dispel so many of its [Dark Shields], while the remaining party, consisting of a knight, a summoner and an assassin of the same rank as the archmage, cornered and executed the monstrosity inspired a deep feeling of reverence in him.
Driven by a will to become as strong as them, Eldrin deserted the kingdom that had been his home for a long time to follow his teacher, even after being taught the basics of spell casting and being able to live properly from an adventurer’s job’s incomes.
His teacher was pleasantly surprised, he didn’t have any issues with the elf following him to Leandar, and set up a place for him to live when they arrived. Within the next 100 years he quickly became the most powerful disciple of his master and took over his spot as a court magician when he died.
At this part of the story Eldrin stared into the fire for a while, with Little Flame curiously watching from the side, waiting for the rest of the story.
Eventually Eldrin let out a long sigh, emptied his wine cup and turned back to the little dragon.
“Let’s go to bed, shall we ?”
With a slightly sad smile, he stood up and, leaving the rest of his past unsaid, as he headed for his room.
Reading the atmosphere somehow, the little lizard followed him and coiled itself around one of the arms of the elf when he laid down.
Patting its head again, Eldrin took a long look at the golden pocket watch on the bedside table, going through the last part of the story in his mind.
Using the hand the cute beast was coiled around the old man caressed the softer scales on its stomach, causing its tail to wag, and a small purr escaped its lips as the red and black dragon drifted off into a dreamland.
With the morning of the twelfth day the rain clouds departed and the sun shone down on the field of grass in front of the cottage.
But clouds of a different kind appeared on the horizon as the first sunrays showed that the knight that had been camping out behind the hedge was gone.