Chapter 8: Getting to know each other
When Little Flame had broke through the encirclement of the adventurer party it had incurred heavy wounds. Blood was dripping down the slick scales, adding more depth to the crimson dress of the fleeing dragon.
Unable to understand why the short haired creatures had reacted like this when they saw itself, the little dragon fled as fast as possible, desperately reviewing its last battle for clues on any possible misbehavior.
Faced with the choices of either getting enslaved or fight back the party, Little Flame swiftly dispatched the first strike and was able to directly take out two of the shortears wielding weird-looking metal teeth and iron scales.
As individuals they were weak and frail, making them no opponent at all for the ferocious beast, yet they had intelligence and used it to arrange themselves in a formation to fend off the swift blows and heavy slices of their fiend’s claws. Chomping down with its dagger-like teeth, Little Flames took them by surprise and one of the short-haired lost his head. In spite of that the longears and the slower shortears who had arrived quickly after Little Flame were about to win the confrontation, preventing any fleeing. The situation truly turned around when one of the long-ears took out a black metal tooth glowing with a light similar to the one emitted by the lines surrounding the shorthairs that had been biting into its skin over and over again, leaving small wounds slowly piling up.
Frustration accumulated and the power used by the short ears with the wooden stick (instead of a metal tooth) weighed down the body of Little Flame, preventing flight, and therefore escape, and decreased its speed and strength considerably. The combination of the human fighting formation with the decline of its ability had already angered Little Flame, but one of the long ears even dared to inflict pain and add wounds on the dragon’s skin and scales. Thinking about a way out of its predicament, Little Flame felt its heart burn in hatred towards them. For hurting it. For attacking it without reason. For taking away its strength and speed.
Losing its mind to the battle instinct pulsing through its veins, Little Flame wished to hurt them like they had hurt it. Unleashing a [Black Flame Breath] happened as a reflex, but took the short-haired creatures by surprise and killed the one that had casted the constraints binding the black wings and limbs. As soon as the short hair died, the restraining feeling disappeared and the beast took the opportunity to turn around to flee. Unfortunately the longear with the black tooth used the momentum to hit a strong blow on its neck region, opening a long tear that constantly dripped blood.
A low growl escaped the wounded beast’s mouth as the cold air stung on its exposed flesh. Flying just above the treetops strained the scaled beast whose power had tremendously reduced. The night progressively turned into a blur around the exhausted Little Flame and it had to eventually land in a glade and continue on foot. The remaining images of that night and the following morning appeared somewhat obscure in its mind, only focusing on certain objects. A pillar glowing with two kinds of luminous threads intertwined. A clear spring, quenching the burning thirst somewhat. Fleeing monsters. A scent of blood. Following the scent. A cave entrance. Entering the cave. More blood scent. A different fragrance. A stronger kind. Promises of sweet nourishment. A strike. A relaxing feeling flooding over the wounds, washing away the fatigue caused by the blood loss as well as the pressure of the escape from the hateful short-haired.
Regaining a semblance of self-control Little Flame first noticed the carcass it was feasting on. Unlike the green-gray trolls in its memory, this one was donning a dusty green hide and the top of its short fur was gleaming with a metallic luster. Its two front paws lying on the torso of the big monster, the flying beast wasn’t soaked by the lake of the creature’s blood, and was effortlessly ripping out chunks of flesh to devour them, enjoying the cooling sensation intensifying, as it was influencing the long slash incurred earlier.
Instead of a deep gash, all that remained of the grievous wound after the miraculous healing was a shallow cut, slightly dripping with blood, adding a smaller steam to the growing lake. Each time a piece of meat vanished into the gluttonous lizard’s stomach, the cooling sensation appeared to take away another part of the pain, soothing and repairing any damage done, even slightly regenerating the scales.
The small trail of blood leading to its position had already dried. The dead monster had signs of injury, small tears and lacerations all over it. Thinking back about it, the bloody smell had tempted Little Flame to walk to this direction, and the delicious taste of the leaders meat was fully worth the slaughter of the place’s chief, who was most likely exhausted from an earlier fight and was therefore resting to recuperate from his wounds.
Ironically another strong predator showed up when Little Flame was busy replenishing its energy, imperceptibly shifting the stale air in the cave. Over the distinct raw smell of the items the trolls had forcefully left behind as they were fleeing the cave, a delicate earthen smell rose, coupled with soft steps of leather lightly tapping on stone. Raising its head, Little Flame saw the silhouette of a small creature surrounded by glowing streaks, and holding a straight line with two kinds of lights, releasing a stronger pressure than the prey the dragon was chewing. A vaguely familiar smell calmed the nibbling dragon, and it directed its gaze back on the meal before its eyes.
After having gulped down a few more slices of flesh, Little Flame saw the strange one flinch and turn around, as more footsteps walking down the corridor could be heard. The feeble breeze carried new smells into the cave, and the animal quickly recognized the odours’ owner as the short hairs that had tried to capture it. Unfortunately, fleeing was impossible for the cave only had one exit.
On the other hand the familiar smell at its side was radiating a calming presence, and the other party had lost the one who had taken away Little Flames’ speed and weighed it down. In a confrontation between the two opposing parties, it was confident on its own ability to come out as a victor.
The enemy sent forth the weakest members first, a scheme that Little Flame had seen before in monster tribes. The two longhairs crashed into the small shorthair with long ears protecting the black lizard, and the small longear’s power swiftly repelled them. A sharp sound resounded through the cave, sounding strangely similar to the noise the bones of the meal beneath Little Flame made when they broke. When the weak creatures finally stopped moving, the rest of the enemy party appeared, talking in the adventurers tongue. The two shiny longears donned again their metal teeth and iron scales and the dragon carefully eyed the black metal tooth, especially as they stepped between itself and the remaining shorthair in a covering posture.
The conversation between the enemy and the longear near Little Flame went on, but it couldn’t understand many of the foreign words since it had never heard them before. Nonetheless as the discussion continued, the blinding threads around the longear shielding the beast coiled denser and grew in volume. Little Flame was able to estimate that the whole enemy party couldn’t measure up to the longear based on the pressure they were respectively emitting.
When the longear started shouting Little Flame strenuously shifted to a better position to run, in case the enemy was to start fighting with the kind longear, despite the cuts on its neck and torso that were bleeding again. At the very least they didn’t hurt as much anymore and weren’t impeding its movement at all.
The sudden movement focused the attention on itself again, and prompted the frightening longears to brandish their iron teeth in Little Flames direction and they began to charge while shouting something in another language. With all its muscles tensing, the scaled lizard was ready to counter the charge, and struggle for the way out of the cave, when longear roared at the charging enemy in the same foreign language and used his power again to form a giant snake, coiling around him and the tensed dragon. The water snake wasn’t truly sentient and kept on circling around the longear and Little Flame, guarding them from their claws-wielding opponents who had stopped their attack and were retreating back to the side of the remaining shortear.
The enemy party regrouped and the sheltered commanding one said once again something at longear before they slowly made their way out of the cavern, leaving behind the two longhairs with broken bones on the ground. Once they had left the area, the water snake dissipated, washing away the blood stains on the ground and leaving small puddles on the uneven parts. Glancing back at Little Flame, longears picked up the two unconscious longhairs and walked towards the exit of the cave. Turning around for a last time, he glanced at the black and red lizard.
“Follow me if you like.” With this parting remark he reverted his position and left.
Two choices presented themselves. The attackers had hunted Little Flame, injured it and they had even tried to enslave it in their greed for a dragon. This very dragon would prefer to not let any issue unsettled, in case they returned later, a lesson it had harshly learned. The thought of hunting them down was providing the little dragon with satisfaction and peace of mind. Additionally one of the shorthairs had shown that he could use a power, so his flesh would definitely taste exceptional.
On the other side the longear had invited Little Flame to follow him, and he was interesting. The creature had never seen anyone of his kind before, and he was way stronger than itself, wielding a spectacular power that was able to summon a giant water snake. Furthermore he had helped Little Flame out when it was cornered by a bunch of other shorthairs, telling them off according to its grasp of their conversation.
If it was to come along him now, maybe he could teach the curious creature many things. Why the enemy party chased the little dragon so desperately. What the shiny things on the shorthairs before were. What the treasures it kept finding in the Dungeon’s Den were.
Forced to make a decision before the scent trail of longear disappeared, the black and red beast exited the cave through the corridor and headed off in the direction of the interesting scent, as curiosity gained the upper hand. Sadly, this particular route was opposite to the path smelling of enemies, sabotaging Little Flame intention to take care of both matters at the same time.
Advancing on the path, the prying beast crossed a small stream and passed many rocky areas as the thin road slowly winded through ascending terrain. The density of the trees dwindled and the soil on the ground increasingly contained rocky patches. Many smells gave off the location of different monsters nests and dens, yet the track never crossed through one of the lairs. Little Flame was deeply impressed by the longear’s knowledge of the area and his ability to avoid any troubles, even if he was certainly stronger than the various monsters living here.
After a walk of about three hours the trail stopped ascending and arrived at the edge of the woods; On the slope of a mountain, large fields of greenery surrounded a large strange nest and formed a clearing. The fields were full of a kind of monster with dark blue short fur, lazing around on four legs and nibbling on the grass. Although they did not have a high cultivation, the large amount of meat they carried around looked alluring to Little Flame. When the beast appeared at the edge of their meadow, the cattle felt its presence, and they scattered around, clearing the path to the exotic dwelling set half into the mountain side.
As it was advancing through the grass field, the little dragon noticed a second smaller lair alongside the first exotic dwelling, hidden even deeper inside the mountain, only revealing a large entrance as well as a few quadratic openings above in the stone wall. Instead of a single fabric, or even the same material as the stone wall it was set in, the nests exhibited a mix of different colours and structures, stone, wood and other items unknown to Little Flame.
It had difficulties discerning all of the different materials because they glowed in different hues and luminosities, lighting up the the whole scope and therefore revealing the hidden second lair.
Walking up to the bigger building Little Flame noticed the stick longear had been carrying on the ground and used this opportunity to closely examine the peculiar object. Instead of a simple stick like any other that could be found in the forest, this one had a smooth surface with fine lines carved onto it, wreathing around the whole length of the wood, and converging into a shiny red sphere at the top. The thing was still reeking of energy and it fascinated the lizard even more. Apparently it had some sort of use for the longear in unleashing his power, something Little Flame had never seen before.
Perceiving a small vibration in the air and hearing that typical sound of leather on stone, the small dragon backed away from the stick and turned its attention to the entrance. The longear had came back and was sighing in exasperation.
“You’re a troublemaker, aren’t you?” He mumbled to himself in the elven tongue before smiling slightly and then addressed Little Flame once again.
“That’s a magic staff, the gem on top of it helps me to channel mana. There is also an enchantment on the cane containing a rank 5 spell. Go ahead and look at it.”
Tilting its head somewhat, the little dragon looked at longear, trying to appraise his intentions. His deep and clear voice together with the reassuring smile he wore on his face only expressed tranquility and friendliness, convincing it to go ahead and admire the lustrous staff once more. Little Flame liked the new word ‘staff’, and went to its investigation right away, touching the fancy item carefully with a front paw. Upon contact a small amount of mana was drained from Little Flame and flowed into the staff, lighting up the swirling lines of energy around the staff anew. Elated by the reaction the small dragon continued to pour mana into the staff, circling it around the rod and playing with the brilliant lights.
“Aren’t you more of a cat than a lizard?” Startled by the sudden remark and the low chuckle Little Flame realized it had completely forgot about longear and had even lowered its defenses. Now wary of the strong power user, the small creature jerked back and adopted a defensive stance while giving off a low growl.
Contrary to the lizard’s expectations, the chuckling longear started laughing, to the point of holding his stomach. After the bouts of laughter had died down he managed to explain what was going on to the confused dragon.
“Not only do you act like a cat, you sound like one too!”
Getting compared to one of the big monsters that had been occupying the Dragon’s Den when Little Flames and its siblings first arrived, caused the scaled beast to feel indignant and it started to sulk a bit, restraining itself from playing with the staff and avoiding eye contact with longear with proud manners.
Looking upwards, the eyes of the little dragon fell on his body, which was covered with something similar to the treasures that Little Flame had liked to collect in the Dragon’s Den, covering most of his skin. A sky blue garment was on his upper body, hiding another set of gleaming threads in it. Compared to the blazing light in his body, the patterns on the robe hardly stood out, yet they were appearing akin to the lights and carvings on the staff.
His pants and shoes were made out of animal skin, a material quite familiar to Little Flame, but were showing cracks and folds like those on an aged tree, matching the condition of the old elf’s skin.
Straightening out himself from the laughter the cheerful longear resumed the rather one sided conversation.
“My name is Eldrin. You understand me, right?” With a minor smile on his face Eldrin introduced himself to the dragon who was still sulking. Little Flame nodded it’s head slightly, admitting its understanding of the spoken words.
“I’m sure you are still somewhat exhausted from your wounds, so you can rest up first. I’d offer you a secluded place to stay in the stable, but I’m afraid you’re scaring the cows. Come with me, I’ll give you one of the rooms,
but don’t tear the sheets! I’ll be sewing my fingers to them again like the last time I tried to fix them!”