LN Part 54: The Grouchy Old Hermit by RedPhantom ()
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“Do you know that dance?” Joanne asked Nim as they watched the others dance.
“Me? No. I don’t dance at all. Until Ann became my apprentice, I didn’t leave Baj-tisk at all.”
“The mountains where the dragons live. It’s the western border of Menthanla.”
“Why didn’t you leave?”
“I was a bit of a hermit. It’s a long story from a long time ago. I’d rather not talk about it.”
“So, what changed?”
“Ann. She was poorly trained and dangerous. She had to be trained properly, but she was too strong for the mages at the college to shield her, so Pt’this brought her to us. I agreed to train her because I have a unique ability to combine my magic with someone else’s to create stronger shields. Pt’this and I worked together to shield her until she learned to do it properly herself.
“Shortly after I agreed to train her, I received a request that I have her join the class the young dragons go to. That’s how she became friends with these young ones here. I can only assume the letter came from her birth father. Her going to class got me involved with working with the young ones. I’ve helped chaperone a few of the trips to Bisfip. That’s the human city nearest Baj-tisk. But, that’s as far as I went until perhaps two months ago. The trolls attacked. The High Council asked for volunteers. These guys volunteered to help transport the human army from here to the northern border.”
“Transport? Like what you and I did?”
“No, sorry. They found some rather large wagons and pulled the army like pack mules.” He frowned.
“It may not be dignified, but they were doing what was needed. War isn’t glamorous.” Joanne reasoned as if reading his thoughts.
He nodded. “That’s why I volunteered to go too. I acted as a go-between to sending messages to dragons located with other rulers and Pt’this and Ann at the front. Now I’ve been made emissary for the High Council.”
“A glorified messenger,” he said sourly.
“Oh, it can’t be that bad.” She laid a hand on his knee briefly.
“I’m a mouthpiece, a representative. If they need someone to go to other kingdoms to deliver messages they send me. So far, they want me here.”
He shook his head. “Sorry. It’s not something I can discuss.”
“Oo top-secret huh?” She wore a fake conspiratorial grin. It made him smile too.
“Is being away so bad?” She asked. “If you were a hermit, you didn’t have many friends, so you’re not leaving anyone behind. If you have no one, then home is wherever you sleep.”
Nim nodded. He found it was just so.
“It’s not bad. It’s just wasn’t what I expected. I figured after Ann was trained, I’d go back to being alone.”
“What did you do then?”
He shrugged. “Not much. Hunted, flew into the desert. Mostly, it seemed like I was killing time until I died. Not really appealing when you might live another two thousand years.”
“So you would say this is preferable?”
“I suppose it is. I can still go flying and hunt, but I’m not alone.”
“Do you prefer being alone?”
“I don’t know, some days, other days not so much.” He looked away. The dance had finished. Now Andy and Sapphire had joined them for the next dance. Dae, Ti, Bria, and Ghin had also gone to the dance floor. Ru and Kav sat together having a telepathic conversation while watching the dance.
“I’m sorry,” Joanne said. “I’m pushing you too much. This is leading right back to where you said you didn’t want to go, isn’t it?”
She was right. This was going right back to where he said he didn’t want to go. But, maybe it was time. Maybe he should talk about it. Joanne was easy to talk to, and she made him think, see things differently.
“It’s okay. It happened five hundred years ago, at the end of the last war. Well, really, I guess it kind of started before the war, with a woman named Areantor. I fell in love with her, but she didn’t feel the same way. She was in love with Kartonesh, Pt’this’s brother and my best friend. I was okay with that, sort of. She never knew how I felt, and neither did he. I knew he wouldn’t hurt her. She’s the only one he didn’t hurt,” he said darkly.
“Ann’s grandfather, Mishtali, wasn’t from Baj-tisk but Tricon, another clan of dragons. He was the most powerful dragon anyone had seen at that time. Pt’this was sent to him to be his apprentice. Mirimar was his daughter. That’s how Pt’this met her.
“Then, the war started. Trolls attacked, led by an immortal named Nor’than. Immortals are mages so powerful they don’t even age. They look human. It’s almost impossible to tell them apart from humans until they start working magic. It seems their power corrupts most of them. Many are malevolent, like Nor’than. They call it power mad.
“Kartonesh accused Mishtali of being an immortal disguised as a dragon. Everybody withdrew their support from the war. No one trusted immortals. All that were left to face the trolls and Nor’than were Mishtali, his two children, Pt’this, Shintanillic, and myself. Shintanillic was emissary at that time, and he appealed to the High Council, and they set up an inquisition. They questioned everybody, even Mishtali’s children. Shintanillic, Mishtali’s son, Thailyn, and I were returning to Dragon Castle when there was some sort of explosion. There was a blinding light and then a crash. I was thrown to the ground by the force. The next thing I know I was back in Baj-tisk a few days later. I never learned what happened to Tani or Thailyn. I assumed they had died, although apparently Thailyn, at least, didn’t since he’s Ann’s father and she isn’t anywhere near that old.
“The explosion was seen all the way to the mountains. They sent out rescue parties. I was the only one found. That’s how I ended up back in Baj-tisk, though from what they told me, I wasn’t far from there when they found me. Maybe a week later, Pt’this brought Mirimar back to Baj-tisk. She was horribly injured, barely even alive. They were in the castle when the explosion hit. The part they were in collapsed. Pt’this tried to hold it up with his magic and went into a trance. Mirimar was still inside. She was impaled by a pillar. How she didn’t die, no one knows. She managed to get Pt’this out of the trance, but after over a week trapped in a nightmare, the damage was great. His parents and one of his brothers were already dead. Kartonesh was all the family he had left, and Kar didn’t care. He was angry, and he and his supporters were leaving. I tried to get him to help but he wouldn’t. I appealed to Areantor, hoping that since we’d been close once, she might talk with him, but she wouldn’t listen. I went to others, but they wouldn’t speak to me since I had defied the Council, so I tried myself and received this for the effort.” He rolled up his sleeves and revealed a burn scar covering almost his entire forearm. Joanne gasped. Nim laughed humorously. “Yeah, it takes a lot to scar a dragon with fire. We were nose to nose, and I didn’t get my shield up fast enough. I suppose if I’d gone to a healer there might not be a scar. But at the time I didn’t care. I just gave up.”
“Not entirely or you wouldn’t be here,” Joanne observed. “You helped Pt’this with Ann. You help with the kids. You obviously have no trouble telling the High Council ‘no,’ but you’re still their emissary. I don’t think you gave up so much as were looking for a way to belong again.”
Nim shook his head. Not so much in disagreement but at the way she could grasp something and show it in a whole new light.
“Enough of this depressing talk,” he said. “Tell me about yourself.”
She shook her head. “Can’t if you want to end the depressing talk.” She smiled. Perhaps it was his mood, but Nim had never seen anything so beautiful.
“At least tell me what you do. What occupies your time?” He requested.
She didn’t answer right away. She watched the people dancing. The two wedding couples had gone to sit at the escorts’ table. Bria and Ghin were still dancing while Dae and Ti sat with Ru and Kav.
“Oh come on, it can’t be all that bad.” He thought about telling her he was friends with a thief and a crazed torturer but decided to wait. Those were Sapphire’s and Ann’s stories to tell.
“It’s not bad. I’m a counselor,” she said.
“A counselor. I help people, people with emotional problems or depression or some just needing to talk. Right now I mostly work with women and children who’ve been abused. I also help with a suicide hot-line.”
It wasn’t bad. Her hesitation was because she had been counseling him and didn’t want to admit it.
He nodded. “Seems like something you’re good at,” he said.
“Sorry. It’s kind of a habit.”
“Don’t apologize for helping,” he said.
“You’re not angry?”
“For what? For someone caring enough to listen to the ramblings of a grouchy old hermit?”
“You don’t seem like a grouchy old hermit from where I sit,” she said eyeing him.
“I guess not so much a hermit,” he agreed.
“Not that grouchy either,” she said.
“Just old,” he said. “Twelve hundred is old and anyone’s mind.”
“Except to a twenty-five-hundred-year-old,” she shrugged. “Age is just a number. Watching Sapphire and Andy, you’d think she was older than him, but he’s four years older. Look at the young ones. They all look about the same age, but I know they aren’t. You know them better. You could tell me who acts the oldest and who really is.”
He nodded. He toyed with asking her to walk with him in the garden. He toyed with asking her to be his mate. He didn’t. She didn’t understand what that involved and while she seemed to enjoy being with him, she’d given no indication she wanted that for the long-term. Nor did she seem like she was one to just moved to a different world to be with a man and he couldn’t go there, not yet. They needed to take care of this business with Mishtali first.
Image Comments (3)
zaqxsw () 9:43AM | Fri, 19 July 2019
Another great chapter... nothing is ever as simple as it should be between men (and dragons) and women!