“Right. We mustn’t be weakened by the enemies of the avarians. The threat of a giant in the lands just beyond our cliffs is too much. We’re still recuperating after our last battle with the harpies.”
“I understand,” Keota said. “I did not mean to bring fear to your people. Our battle is our own. We will find a way to deal with the naga and their champion on our own.”
“Wait a moment,” Bolt piped up. “It’s true that the dwarves can’t really come to your aid. If the giant or his naga followers were to set their sights on the Goldenscale Cliffs, we’d be inviting far too much danger upon ourselves. No, we couldn’t risk even a single dwarf involving themselves.”
“Bolt…” Dorn protested.
“But a human could be a great ally,” the lad went on. “Especially if he’s got the tenacity of a dwarf in him.”
His father pulled him aside with a fierce grasp. “Bolt, this is not your fight.”
“It could be,” he protested. “If the giant and his minions are able to run amok on the avarians, it might only be a short while before they turn their attention to us. We’ve all heard the stories, and we all thought they were just that. But what if this giant is as mean and greedy as the ones we’ve been told about?”
“You’re not ready,” Dorn protested. “You’re just a boy—my boy!”
Bolt shook his head. “I’m old enough. If I were any other member of the clan, it would be expected of me.”
Keota stepped forward, flapping the bronze wings that spread across his back. That light buffet caught the attention of the two arguing family members. “I don’t mean to so rudely interrupt, but we need not involve the dwarves, or your son in the battle. We only need help finding the mythril.”
A smile was upon Bolt’s face in an instant. “You see, Father? You would not have to worry about me. And my involvement could save us from unnecessary bloodshed later.”
Dorn looked between the strange avarian and his eager son. Blowing out a sigh of defeat, he bowed his head. “You’d better not make me regret such a decision.”
* * * * *
Her eyes were shut and her brow was warm. The gentle kiss he placed upon her forehead was sure to go unnoticed. Bolt squeezed his mother’s shoulder a bit tighter, but Rena did not stir. All the better, he supposed. If she knew he was leaving, it would just be one more person attempting to stop him.
Instead, he crept from her room, scooping up his rucksack from the floor near the table. Dorn and Eli stood at the door of the cottage, a little closer together than Bolt was used to seeing.
“I wish I could go with you,” Eli said.
A smile was upon Bolt’s face that moment, and he took a knee before the young dwarf. “Someday, little brother. We’ll go on adventures together, and before you know it, you’ll be off on escapades of your own.” When he stood, he tousled the lad’s hair.
Dorn stepped forward and wrapped his adopted son in a tight embrace. “This isn’t like with those damn harpies,” he said. “If anything happens to you on this journey, I won’t be there to protect you.”
“I’ll be alright father. I haven’t packed any weapons, and I’m just going to help Keota figure out where to get mythril. I’ll be back before you know it.”
“Just make sure you come back in one piece.”
Bolt clapped his father on the shoulder before they separated. With a deep breath filling his lungs, the human stepped out through the door, ready to begin his first true adventure.
The sky had taken on another shade of grey, reminding him that the spring months in Cracius were tumultuous and unpredictable. The avarian paced just beyond the cottage, his brown feathers catching the last of the sunlight before it was obscured by clouds. When Keota heard the door shut, he spun about, facing his unexpected companion.
“Ah, you’re prepared,” the birdman spoke.
“That I am—though not entirely.”
Keota stepped forward, his wings flapping just once, but launching him ahead further than Bolt expected. In a moment, the avarian fell in step beside the human. “What else do you require?”
Bolt furrowed his brow and looked over his shoulder, his sights set on the cottage he called home. He waved his new companion on, and when they drew far enough away, he leaned over and whispered out of the side of his mouth. “We’re going to see an old friend,” he said. “But first, you’re going to help me get a weapon.”
The avarian looked at the human, who wore an eager grin, and nodded to confirm his choice.