Read the previous chapter here.
“Of course,” said the man with a deep bow. “My name is Bosarius. I am a dragon.”
Gigas just stared at him, skeptically. “I… see,” he said, adjusting his feathered hat awkawardly. This was a bizarre sort of claim, and it seemed worthless to point out that the man looked nothing like a dragon. If it was a lie or a joke, and Gigas accepted it, he would look like a fool. If it was the truth and he denied it, he could have an angry dragon in front of him. He decided his best bet was to play along, without looking too serious. “I’ve never met a dragon before,” he said in a tone of mild interest. “How do you do?”
The strange man gave the young sorcerer the same skeptical look. “Quite well,” he said dismissively, “but it was you we were speaking of, was it not? I could teach you to create such wonders with your magic, especially now that you are getting such a nice start on your magical career,” he nodded in the direction of the cooper’s shop, site of the spell Gigas had cast. “Why have you never come to visit me? I would have welcomed you any time.”
“Well… I would have liked to visit,” improvised Gigas, “but you know how hard it is to travel by ship nowadays. The security checks are such a hassle, and they charge all kinds of fees, especially when your destination is a dragon’s—”
“You’ve never heard of me at all, have you?” interjected the one who claimed to be called Bosarius.
“Nope!” said Gigas, brightly. He could be good at deception if it were necessary, but it was hardly necessary here. “Actually, I hope you’re not offended, but so far, I have only you’re word that you’re a—”
He was cut off again. “Come with me,” said the man, grabbing him unceremoniously by the hand and leading him out of the alley, towards the path out of town. Amused, Gigas just followed. He could have pulled away or hit the man in the face with a magic missile or two, but he had a funny feeling the stranger wasn’t lying. Perhaps it was the indefinable sense of age and power around him, or the way Gigas’ lizard familiar kept sending him emotions of excitement and interest. Could his reptile sense another, even in disguise?
They reached the docks, where a big ship was being loaded with cargo. The place was so busy that it might have been empty; nobody noticed Gigas and his companion at all. They walked up to a dock a few spaces away from the ship that was being loaded before the maybe-dragon let go of Gigas’ hand. “Right, then. Give me a moment,” said the stranger. He ran towards the edge of the wooden pier, and jumped into the water.
“Wait!” called Gigas, but of course it was too late. He blinked. Halflings had keen ears, and the young sorcerer’s senses were especially sharp whenever his familiar was near. He turned to look at the lizard on his shoulder. “Hup, did you hear that splash?” he asked. The lizard looked silently back at him with beady eyes. “Me, neither.”
Gigas walked to the water and peered down. “Can you fly?” asked the 20-foot long dragon, hovering flat with outstretched wings mere inches above the water.
“N-no!” stammed Gigas, taken aback by the sheer size of the dragon, not to mention its deep bronze scales, spined tail and head, and ancient eyes.
“I shall have to carry you, then.”
Caught somewhere between fear and excitement, Gigas watched the dragon flap its wings and lift itself higher, up towards the pier. He looked for a suitable place on the dragon’s back to hold on to, planning to jump when the dragon reached his height. He did reach his height, and kept climbing. Without stopping his ascent the dragon reached out with unnatural speed, and suddenly Gigas found himself clutched in a powerful, reptilian claw.
“Let me go! Dragon! Hey!” clamored Gigas.
“As I mentioned before, my name is Bosarius,” said the dragon in a resonant voice. “Am I hurting you?”
The halfling considered for a moment. “No, actually,” he realized. The dragon’s hold was firm, but that was it. He looked at his shoulder to see Hup the familiar still holding on, and felt a lot calmer. Then he noticed the dock falling away quickly as they climbed into the air, and felt nervous again. Heights didn’t bother him. Leaving his home city, something he had done exactly never before, did. “Where are you taking me?” he asked.
“You’ll see, once we get out of the the fog.”
“This fog,” said the dragon’s tenor voice. He opened a claw wide (not the one holding Gigas, to his great relief) and a thick bank of warm fog rolled out from it. It spread to completely cover the dragon in under six seconds, drenching Gigas in the process. He squirmed a bit, but Hup was loving it.
Back on the dock, a dwarven day laborer pointed. “Oi, oi! I saw a dragon! There, just there!”
A halfling sailor put a hand to his eyes and looked in the direction the dwarf was pointing. “A cloud dragon?” he asked, sarcastically. “Nah, that’s just an eversmoking vial,” he explained. “Kids keep setting them off. Just ignore it.”
“So, your mother has never spoken of me?” said Bosarius the bronze dragon, flying over the water towards the other end of the bay. He wasn’t flying that fast or that high. He loved the sea.
“No, she hasn’t,” admitted Gigas, who was watching the water pass by underneath him. The young halfling couldn’t swim, but he was making a silent vow to learn as soon as he got back to the city. “Do you.. do you know her?” he asked, closing his eyes.
“I have known your family for a few hundred years,” said the dragon with a sigh that caused some of the water to splash onto Gigas, soaking him again. “Your mother and I had an argument, for which I am sorry. But still, I thought she would have told you about me by now, or at least you would have heard my name from one of the town elders. I’ve only been watching over Hobbitania, your city for, oh, 400 years or so.”
Gigas opened his eyes again, and tried to look around to see the dragon’s head, but could only see his jaw. He wasn’t sure he could read draconic facial expressions, anyway, so he had no idea if that was a joke.
“A long time ago, a band of your kind started building boats by the shore in preparation for a long voyage,” explained the dragon. “They knew next to nothing of navigation in those days, and naught of barometry. Foolishly, they set sail directly towards a major hurricane. I was already an old dragon in those days, but was looking for a new cave, and happened to be in the area when I saw what they were doing. So, I flew out to them and bade them turn around. They did. The halflings were very grateful, and decided to camp on the shore until the storm passed. I offered to keep watch over them from a nearby cave,” the dragon pointed with his other front claw to the cliff face they were heading towards, “for as long as they decided to stay. The hurricane came and went and, to make a long story short, the halflings liked the little community they put up to weather the storm. They liked it so much, they stayed.”
Gigas nodded, though only Hup and the fish passing beneath him saw. He had heard this tale before, the founding story of his city-state, how the halfling pioneers had been turned back from a hurricane by a dragon. To hear it from the dragon’s point of view, though, was something new. “And you’ve been watching over us for 400 years?” asked Gigas.
“I have,” nodded Bosarius as he flew. “I’ve kept the orcs and such at bay, and I’ve chased off pirates and sea monsters. Why has your state never fought in a war? Because I’ve been there, protecting it all this time. And I’ve done it almost completely alone. I have had help only from my friends and allies: a renowned family of halfling sorcerers.” The dragon turned his reptilian face around, and beamed at Gigas. “We’re almost there, now. Look at this.”
The dragon did an almost 90 degree turn. Gigas now saw bare rock flying past him instead of water, and knew they were going up again. Suddenly they stopped at a colossal hole in the cliff.
“This is where I chose to make my home,” boomed Bosarius, proudly. Glowing runes reading “BOSARIuS” in the Halfling language framed the top of the entrance, and ten larger-than-life statues of halflings casting various spells adorned the bottom. Inside the cave was nothing at all, except for millions or billions of gold, silver, copper and platinum coins, with fantastic gems of every description liberally scattered amongst them. “What do you think?” said the dragon.
“Your U is out,” said Gigas.
“What,” said Bosarius, flatly.
“Your U,” he repeated.
“No, the letter U,” said the halfling, pointing to the the second-to-last letter in the dragon’s name. It wasn’t glowing like the rest of them.
The dragon groaned. “Moving swiftly on. If you’ll recall, I spoke of the ability to craft spells into things — to make ordinary items wondrous. I think it would be a more worthwhile occupation for you than pranking shopkeepers, and I offer now to teach you that art, if you’d care to learn.”
Gigas whistled. “I would. I would indeed like to learn that, great dragon.”
“Just call me Bosarius,” said Bosarius. “This is the place where I will teach you the art. But I won’t teach it to you now.”
“Okay, when can you teach me? I am most grateful for this, Bosarius,” added Gigas quickly.
“When you come to my cave.”
“When you come to my cave,” repeated Bosarius, “without any help from me. There is a passage through the hills. This is the path I set your mother on, to test her. When she failed, she accused me of trying to get her killed, and never spoke to me again.” The halfling’s eyes went wide. “It is an ancient path, scouted out by ancestors of hers and yours. I think it is time you reclaimed it. I take you back to your city now, Gigas. If you want my knowledge… just seek me out.”
Next time: Gigas encounters the cloud giants!