The only thing you need to know is that Dragol at this point has been forced down from the skies and is wandering through enemy territory, the lands of the Five Realms. The Trogen warrior was alone when he encountered the Wanderer, who he perceives to be an ordinary, older man. At this point of the story, he is beginning to find out that the Wanderer is something more, as this scene illustrates. I hope you all enjoy it!
Excerpt 2 from Spirit of Fire:
|The Wanderer with the Firaken from|
this scene. Artwork by Matthew Perry.
Emerging from the forest growth directly before them, without any regard for stealth or surprise, was a most fearsome-looking creature. Walking upon six sinewy legs, the beast carried an arsenal of weapons in its very step.
Each of its legs ended in broad paws, armed with an array of nestled claws, each like deadly blades unto themselves. The natural blades were partially unsheathed, the spiky ends protruding as if to herald the beast’s deadly capability.
The creature stepped with a silence hard to believe for an animal of such girth. Boasting exceptional height, its large round head was level with the middle of Dragol’s chest, even in a relaxed posture. Dark, silky fur covered the surface of its long, chiseled body, giving a rich sheen to
its muscular contours.
Piercing, feline eyes gazed upon Dragol, narrowing in the daylight to thin ellipses. The predator’s lips curled back as it emitted an eerie hiss, revealing gleaming daggers of white set into its upper and lower jaws.
A foreboding tension coalesced, setting off alarms at every level of instinct the Trogen possessed. The hairs at the back of his neck stood on end. A veteran hunter, Dragol had no illusions about what the situation before them presented. His body statue-still, Dragol made no sudden movements, but he prepared himself to dive to the side the moment the predator before them lunged.
“My friend, have no trouble with us. We intend you no harm,” the old man addressed the beast, his easygoing timbre cutting through the stillness.
For a moment, Dragol thought the old man had lost his wits, but the look in the eyes of the creature in front of them softened at the old man’s words. Its lips closed, shutting their exposure of the lethal weapons within. The sense of coiling threat Dragol had felt dissipated rapidly.
“Come over here, my friend,” the old man invited, holding his hand out towards the large predator.
Deliberately, the cat-like monstrosity sauntered over to Dragol and the old man. Despite every instinct to run off or draw his blade, Dragol kept control of himself, and remained in place.
The old man reached up, and stroked the creature on the side of its head, just behind one of its triangular ears. He worked his hand up gradually to rub the space between its eyes. The creature closed its eyes as the old man scratched, emitting a sound reminiscent of a small, purring cat, only much more resonant.
“He will not bite, or try to maul you,” the old man said, inviting Dragol over to pet the creature. “I have two wolves of my own … big fellows, and sometimes irascible curmudgeons. But they are good lads who, though they both look monstrous, can be as gentle as lambs. Appearances do not always reflect that which is true, I have long come to realize. There is nothing to fear from this one right now.”
Following the incident with the large tree, Dragol knew that reality was not being governed by the same rules he had been used to throughout his life. Though admittedly nervous, Dragol reached forward and touched the soft fur of the creature.
To his surprise, the beast lowered itself to the ground, rolling over onto its back. It folded its legs underneath, fully exposing its belly for rubbing. Dragol noticed the claws of the beast were now entirely
The old man reached out both of his hands, scratching and massaging the creature all along its belly, eliciting sounds of gratification from the huge carnivore. Dragol did likewise, though still riddled with tentativeness. He ran his hands along the fur of the creature, feeling the steely muscle lying underneath.
Dragol could not assuage his worries whenever he looked upon the creature’s wide paws, containing the host of deadly knives that could emerge in a flash, and be wielded with blinding speed. The thoughts kept his heart rate quickened.
The Trogen glanced over at the old man several times, as the mystery surrounding his companion grew. The event with the stream water, the lifting of the tree, and the peaceful interaction with a deadly predator were undeniable examples of deeper powers harbored within
the enigmatic figure.
Dragol was a hunter and a warrior. He had spent many days and nights tracking game back in his homeland, with others of his Thunder Wolf clan. His instincts had been acutely honed through war and hunts fraught with peril, such that he could recognize the confidence that came with exceptional martial capability. There was no question the elderly man with him had that sense about him; in abundance.
A part of Dragol deep inside, which he called his spirit, told him the old man would have protected them, if the creature had attacked. It also told him the old man could have driven the creature off with little trouble or disruption to their travel. Instead, the old man had chosen to invite the creature over, to have its head and belly scratched as if it was merely a tame animal.
Dragol knew he had gained further insight into the nature of the mysterious wanderer. While his curiosities were not satisfied by far, every glimmer of understanding helped make the man less of an enigma.
“You are quite large, my friend. A very big one of your kind,” the old man remarked to the beast. “Night comes in a few hours, and you will be seeking food. And this is the time of year for you to be seeking your mate. Good luck to you on that. Females can be very formidable,
of any kind.”
The old man chuckled lightly. Dragol could not dispute the old man’s last statement, humoring himself with a brief remembrance of the way his own father, a fearless warrior, was cowed into meekness in one moment by his stalwart mother.
The old man laughed more heartily, rubbing the creature vigorously on its belly. He patted the creature solidly a few times near its haunches and stood up. Though Dragol felt more secure, he took the movement as a cue and rose to his feet with him.
The creature slowly rolled over with a final, contented purr, getting slowly back up to its broad paws. It turned about, and extended its large head to the old man.
The old man looked proportionately miniscule. The creature’s massive jaws could easily engulf the skull of a human within them. Instead of threats, the creature leaned forward and rubbed its face affectionately against the right cheek of the old man. Merry laughter came from the old man as the creature brushed its fur on him.
The creature then turned to Dragol, and did the same. Dragol saw that his exposed neck was just inches away from glistening teeth that could end his mortal existence in a flash of time. He could feel the hot breath of the beast upon his skin.
Before the Trogen could worry himself too much, the forest predator then casually turned and walked off, to be lost amid the trees after a few strides. Dragol remained in place, staring in the direction the creature had gone. He kept silent for several long moments, as if
transfixed. “There is a gentle nature in all of us, great or small,” the old man
“You have a way with beasts, “ Dragol observed, a wry grin coming to his face. “I am fortunate you were here.”
“He just wanted to greet us, have his belly rubbed and scratched, and go attend to his own concerns,” the old man replied with a shrug, chuckling. “Humans and Trogens always expect the worst.”
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