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Tales By the Fire: Where Do Dragons Come From?

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A young boy looks up at the stars, his white clothing flickering with the light the campfire pitches onto it. He looks at his arm and sees the silver band his mother gave him long ago. The starlight shimmers on it, leading his eyes back to the sky. If he squints, he can almost see her again, a constellation in the night. It fills him with determination, and he swears quietly that he will never forget her. Turning from where he stands, he runs back towards the fire, and frowns. The group's bard has already passed out, bottle of grog inches from his hand. Angry at being denied his story, the youth takes revenge by quietly tipping the bottle with his foot until it pours its contents onto the ground. A hand slips over his mouth as he's picked up from behind. Surprised and angry, he instinctively bites down, snagging a grip on his foster father's hand.

"Ow!" quietly yelps the head of the Claw, pulling the child aside and plopping him down on a log nearby. "Hey, come on, kid. Be nice. He's got a life, too."

"Sorry, Daddy," the white-clothed child apologizes, placing his hand in his lap. He checks to make sure he hasn't left a permanent mark before asking, "I was just going to ask him where dragons come from."

Bikke's face shifts between an array of emotions before settling on curiosity. "Notus... What brought this on? Do you miss your real family?"

The child shakes his head no. "I just want to know where dragons come from. I know humans were one of the earth-peoples made long ago by the gods. Are Laou like humans?"

"Well, yes and no," Bikke answers, lying down so his feet rest near the fire and his head lies on the log. "You're a Laou, which means you can naturally use magic better than humans can. In fact, in a way, you're made all of magic, while we humans aren't. That's why you don't age the same way as us."

"But I still eat food and drink milk..." Notus asks, confused. "Momma always likes complaining about how hungry I am."

"Hey," Bikke chides, sitting up a bit. "You don't take that tone about her. Merula does a good job with accounting- She makes sure there's always food on the table. If you want to call her 'Momma', I expect you to respect her."

"Sorry," the boy hangs his head in shame, before Bikke ruffles his hair.

"Yeah, well... While humans have a material body and produce mana slowly from their soul, Laou have such strong souls they can make a material body to tie themselves to. In a way, you guys are the opposite of the Alb- you're an endless wellspring of mana that needs to eat to keep a material body, while they need to take mana from other people in order to stay sane."

"Oh, is that why we can turn into big dragons? Cause we can make our own bodies?"

"Something like that, I'm sure." Bikke sighs. "I'm more of a gentleman thief than a sage, so I couldn't give you a real answer. But what I do know is that the gods made Laou to serve as protectors of the balance. If they're not serving Father Time or Mother Earth, they're Teya's greatest champions."

"Can't the gods just balance things themselves?" Notus asks, his innocence making the statement less irreligious and more curious. "They're super-powerful, right? More powerful than all the humans and dragons together!"

"Yes, but that's part of the problem," Bikke admits. "Teya used to grant everyone's wishes individually, but then she realized that we mortals disagreed on what needed to be done. Every time someone made a wish, someone would want something different to happen. Eventually, she created the Laou to judge and protect the mortal realm. Because they're material, they're able to think like mortals, but they're not as powerful as the gods, so they can't do everything." The trickster closes his fist before opening it and letting a sparkling butterfly fly from his hand. The illusory insect startles his adoptive child. Notus tumbles backwards in confusion, falling off the log and onto his back. The butterfly lands on his nose, and when the Laou instinctively sneezes, he blows the image into a sprinkle of light.

Bikke laughs and slaps his knee. "That's the other reason why the gods don't interfere all the time- they gave us magic to fix our own problems. And make more, obviously."

"That wasn't funny," grumbles Notus as he crawls back to his seat. "Okay, it was a little funny. But not very!" He yawns and then sits down on the log next to his adoptive father. Curling up and resting his head on the master thief, he answers the unspoken question Bikke asked himself when the boy started this conversation. "I just wanted to make sure I was someone like you." These final words before the Laou nods off causes Bikke to choke up a bit.

"You're a better person than I am, Notus. I hope... I hope you never lose that smile of yours." He waits for Notus to truly fall asleep before picking the boy up and carrying him to a tent. He tucks the Laou into a small bed, the larger tent meant to hold his dragon form should he need to shift. "One day, you'll have to make hard choices to make sure this world stays as wonderful as it is. So... Just keep that smile in your heart."

Closing the tent flap, he steps back outside and stares into the fire. His fist closes again, but this time in anticipation of holding a weapon. Aggayo... What's become of you? I heard of your exploits...

Bikke's brow furrows as he speaks in his mind to a sibling he hasn't seen in years.
Did you make this boy an orphan? I have to ask you...

You wouldn't kill unless it was a Wyrm, right?


Updated 05-19-2019 at 03:54 AM by DarkisnotEvil