With that, the dragon left Garkhen to his own devices. Reverently the half-dragon removed the armor from its hiding place and looked it over. He was somewhat dismayed to discover that, while it had what he could only assume were slits for wings, it had no similar opening for a tail, much less one as thick as his own. Not only that, but the armor was clearly made for someone of greater height than the half-dwarf. He considered it for a moment, wondering if there were some way around this issue. Not seeing one immediately, he decided instead to try to don as much of it as possible, in hopes that a solution might be more obvious after he did so.
He struggled for a few minutes with the awkward armor, its weight as he lifted it making Garkhen glad his mentor had at least seen to it that he had built up his strength. He wondered briefly how long Solkh’Tolkharkha had been thinking of this day… and was rather startled when his thoughts were interrupted by a gentle bump on his leg. Looking down, he was surprised to see one of the greaves of the armor securing itself to his shin. Soon its pair joined it, and then it was all Garkhen could do to respond to the demands of floating pieces of armor trying to put themselves on the half-dragon.
The entire process couldn’t have taken more than a minute. Garkhen was momentarily surprised at how well it fit, then shook his head. Clearly, the original forgers had just as much foresight in terms of having the armor reshape itself to its wearer as they had in making it possible for a single half-dragon to don it unaided. He took a few minutes walking around, marveling at the fine craftsmanship and intricate detail of the ancient suit of armor, then decided he should arm himself. He picked up the mace he had been using for his combat ‘training’, a well-made weapon of solid steel. After a moment’s hesitation, he also picked a large shield, then started going over the few combat techniques he had tried that he felt actually worked.
A scant half-hour later, Garkhen sat down heavily on the floor, his fine armor crashing loudly against the ground and itself. It was clear that, no matter how well the armor fit and how much strength he had built up, he had not yet built up the kind of endurance he would need to fight in armor. He felt utterly exhausted, and very warm. He was sure that, had he been capable of sweating, he would be drenched with perspiration after his exertions.
He sat for a few minutes, feeling his aching muscles starting to cool down, and then unsteadily got back to his feet. He had no time for weakness, whatever his training had been lacking. He slowly made his way to his ‘room’ to pack his few belongings.
He had few—just the few gifts Solkh’Tolkharkha had given him over the years. A couple finely made changes of clothes, a pack, a few useful tools… hardly a hoard, by any standards, except perhaps a magpie’s. Still, Garkhen would not have it any other way. He was rather proud that he had so far controlled the hoarding instinct that was part of his father’s legacy.
Once he felt certain he was ready, Garkhen made his way to the library. There was no telling when he would have access to such a place again. He found that the armor’s bulk made even reading more difficult, but with some care he was able to settle himself comfortably on the stool placed in the chamber for his use, and spent his last day in his mentor’s lair as he would have wished.
Garkhen slept soundly that night, after finding that the armor was as well-enchanted for removing itself from him as it was for putting itself on him. Solkh’Tolkharkha awoke him early the next morning, and after seeing that his charge was ready, gently picked him up in his claws and flew out of his lair.
They flew for a long time again, until they reached a fair country of hills and forests. Solkh’Tolkharkha’s long neck turned one way and then the other, searching for something, and then stopped as he found his destination. Slowly the huge gold dragon circled downward, and the young half-dragon in his claws could make out a little of what he assumed was their landing area. It looked to be a military camp, with rows of tents and armed men, though these second were all looking upwards with some degree of nervousness as they approached.
As his mentor landed, Garkhen felt a thrill of fear. The idea of leaving, of being on his own, had seemed too surreal to be real yesterday, but today it seemed terrifyingly true. Solkh’Tolkharkha had been of little comfort on this matter—when they were departing, Garkhen had asked, Will I ever return?
The gold dragon had slowly shaken his head. There is no return to the nest, young Garkhen.
Thinking back on that, the half-dragon could not help but feel trepidation at the unknown future ahead of him.
Solkh’Tolkharkha watched a man—Garkhen found it difficult to decide if he were an elf or a human—approach after he had landed and set the young half-dragon on the ground. The man bowed as he drew near enough to speak.
“Solkh’Tolkharkha,” he began, in a passable attempt at pronouncing the Draconic name, “It is good to see you again. I take it this is the young man you spoke of earlier?”
The gold dragon nodded his head. “He is called Garkhen ze’Darkhen’Sem’dor. He will serve ably in your group, so long as you fulfill the conditions I spoke of, Captain Telarnen.”
The man—Captain Telarnen, apparently—nodded. “Of course.” Then he looked more closely at Garkhen. “So you are Garkhen ze’Darkhen’Sem’dor. As you have no doubt gathered, had you not known, Solkh’Tolkharkha has arranged for you to fight with us, as well as made clear the… somewhat peculiar arrangements I might have to make to account for your past. But I would have your word on this. Do you swear to me that you enter my service of your own free will, that you will serve under my command with honor to the best of your ability?”
Garkhen steeled himself, forcing the anxiety gibbering at the edge of his consciousness back. “Yes, Captain.” The Common Tongue words felt strange on his tongue, even though he had spoken the language before.
Solkh’Tolkharkha nodded. “Very good, Captain.” He turned his head to his young charge. “Garkhen, I wish you well in the path you walk. Remember you are a Warder of Bahamut, and his strength shall be with you in the dark days ahead. Do not falter even when all seems lost, and you will see the light again.”
And with that, the gold dragon leaped into the air, the strength of his wingbeats flattening grass and sending up a cloud of dust. Captain Telarnen watched as he flew away.
“Every word that one says has some meaning behind it,” he murmured, almost too soft for Garkhen to hear. The he turned back to Garkhen. “So, Garkhen, while I have some idea of your skills, I want to know—what will you do here?”
Garkhen froze, realizing just what had happened. Solkh’Tolkharkha had dropped him into an army—from his parting words, likely one in the midst of some great conflict. The thought of war, of taking men’s lives, terrified him. He looked about, noticing a large tent off by itself nearby. Men were tending to the wounds of others there.
“I will be a healer!” Garkhen declared with relief, seeing a way out in this thing.
The Captain slowly nodded. “Very well, then. Follow me, and I will introduce you to your new superior, then.”
Sorry I didn’t post yesterday–but see, this is a nice long post to make up for it!
And yes, dragon parenting does usually involve kicking your kid out and leaving him to fend for himself. Have I mentioned I’m glad I wasn’t raised by a dragon?