Opening his eyes to the sound of voices, Finn felt kind of awkward. It looked like the warriors were preparing to head out, but the girl he had only known for a day was out cold, sleeping against his side. Her drool was slipping down his scales.
Moving his head as not to disturb the girl, Finn noticed the girl's friend pointing and snickering at her, probably due to her lack of manners. At least, that was Finn assumed, for he did not understand their language or culture.
Once he stopped absorbing sunlight, Finn's golden glow naturally faded away, and the warm and comfortable feeling it brought went along with it.
Once a cool breeze blew across Anya's face, the cold sensation from her drool evaporating caused her to snap awake.
Still groggy, Anya immediately noticed her friend, smiling brightly at her own drool ridden face. Before she could even yell at her, Anya noticed that she had fallen asleep against the drake's side without realizing, which is probably why her friend was laughing at her.
Flushing in embarrassment, Anya jumped up and shuffled away. Thinking about how her tribesmen saw her in such a state, Anya began chasing her laughing friend Sel, who she blamed for not waking her up.
Anya felt aggrieved. It wasn't her fault that the light drake's aura was so warm and inviting. It could even attract seraphim foxes that were known for being notoriously skittish, let alone humans.
Finn watched the girl's antics in amusement. Clearly, she was embarrassed about falling asleep and drooling on him, and she was naturally blaming her friend as if it was her fault.
Meanwhile, off in a remote part of the camp, Borg was sitting on the stump of a felled tree, staring at his hand in silent contemplation, his thoughts a mystery.
Eventually, everyone finished packing and swapping supplies. The group designated two new scouts to man the small watchtower, and under the leadership of Anya, they set off.
Wherever these people live, its shouldn't be far... A watchtower wouldn't be placed too far away from a village or town if its purpose was to be an early warning system. That's what Finn thought anyway.
His guess was proven accurate, because it wasn't long at all before the party passed by other villagers, who appeared to be foraging.
Men, women, and children of all ages were out and about gathering wood or harvesting berries or other fruits. However, whenever the group passed by, the surrounding people gathered around, pointing at the drake and whispering to each other, their expressions filled with a mixture of fear and awe.
What were they doing with a wild drake? Why are they leading such a beast to the village? The questions the surrounding labourers had were palpable to the group in question.
Finn was not small anymore. Even on all fours, he stood above the surrounding warriors, making him easily visible. Without knowing him personally, he looked quite intimidating, purely from his size alone, let alone being a drake.
The group was traveling in their original formation, with Finn surrounded on all sides by strong warriors. However, if one was looking closely, they could tell the warriors did not seem too afraid of the drake. In fact, they seemed too relaxed to the onlookers.
Were they not afraid of this beast going wild and attacking them? As they came closer, they could see the daughter of their chief standing by as if unafraid of the dangerous magical beast.
It was obvious there was more to the story. Clearly something extraordinary happened to their Chieftain's daughter.
More and more people appeared, watching the entourage approach. It became such a huge commotion, that by the time they reached what Finn assumed was the front of the village, there was a large crowd waiting for their arrival.
Hundreds of people were waiting. Men and women, young and old were all gathered. Many of them were carrying weapons similar to the one's in their party.
The ones with weapons were standing in front of everyone else, clearly suspicious of some random wild drake being led towards them.
Finn believed all the attention was a mix of himself and the return of this girl, who seemed to be important in some capacity.
His little companions had ready gone invisible, sitting comfortably on his back, so they could not be seen by the crowd
When the party escorting Finn finally met with the crowd that had formed, a symphony of voices sounded out. Everyone was talking at once, leaving Finn completely confused.
Finn's senses were much stronger than a normal person. Even as he approached, he could smell a myriad of smells that he could only describe as... human.
Sweat, fire, leather, cloth, steel, everything had its own smell. When combined together, it created a unique scent that screamed "habited by humans."
Although his sense of smell was strongest, his hearing was nothing to scoff at either. With everyone talking over each other in a language he didn't understand, Finn felt a headache forming. Too much stimulation was quite draining on his psyche.
It was the same for his little friends, who he could feel shaking on his back.
Perhaps this is why magical beasts avoid human settlements... Finn strained to handle all the noise. He didn't remember it being this bad back when he visited the small town with Bryn. Maybe it had something to do with living on my own for so long... Finn sat down and covered his head, trying to drown out all the voices.
When the party first arrived, Anya was greeted with a heroes welcome, with many cheering her name. When the fire drake had attacked their village out of the blue, it had been her that had drawn its attention away from them, allowing the villagers to pack up and flee.
Thanks to her, most of the villagers had time to leave in good order. Although many belongings had to be left behind, their already nomadic style allowed them to pack up relatively quickly. Her heroism did not go unnoticed by her people.
After being mobbed by her own tribesmen that had been cheering her name, Anya couldn't help but smile and cry at seeing them so happy at her return, the main reason being that it appeared her people had not been too dispirited by the brutal attack of the fire drake.
"My lady, why is there a drake with you?" Once the cheers settled down, one of the many questions pierced through the chaos of noise and reached her ears. Waving her hands, Anya silenced the crowd.
"Everyone! This magnificent beast was sent by the godesses! It saved me from certain death at the hands of the fire drake! I owe it my life!" Anya explained loudly to all who could hear. The news was completely unexpected.
This beast, a drake, saved the Chieftain's daughter? Sent by the godesses? The people discussed her announcement with a mixture of disbelief and confusion.
Why would the godesses send a drake to save the daughter of their Chieftain?
As she was giving her people a moment to digest her announcement, Anya felt a hand on her shoulder.
"Anya, something is wrong with the beast!" Sel whispered loud enough to overcome the background chatter.
Spinning around, Anya saw the drake laying down and covering its head. Now paying attention, she could hear a low growl emanating from its mouth.
Oh no, is it feeling threatened with too many humans around? This was her first guess, as magical beasts were known to become more aggressive when surrounded by large amounts of people. Although, in those cases, it was because they were being hunted...
Anya, making a quick decision, decided to err on the side of caution. She trusted the drake, but would never gamble with the lives of her people.
"Alright everyone, please return! You all have jobs to do and so do I!" Anya commanded the warriors to disperse the large crowd as to give the drake some space.
The crowd, prompted by the warriors, begrudgingly filtered away. Curiosity was a powerful driving force, and to see a wild drake acting calmly in the presence of humans was too extraordinary to simply ignore.
Finn had been struggling to try and ignore the headache that had been forming, but it was beginning to become unbearable.
However, all at once the sounds began to settle, and after opening his eyes Finn quickly noticed that many people were leaving.
He felt a hand on his skull and saw the girl peering at him with concern, whispering something he couldn't understand.
Ah, this must be her doing... Finn was actually genuinely grateful. He hoped this wouldn't become a recurring problem, but all that noise was just too much.
Standing up, Finn peered down at the girl and shook his head before nudging her shoulder with it. Finn hoped she understood that as a thumbs up type gesture.
Smiling, Anya turned to her friend. Deciding it was better to avoid the unpleasant truth, she directly asked. "Sel, what were the casualties from the attack?"
Understanding the weight this question held, Sel straightened her back and beat a fist to her chest. "My lady, thirteen were directly killed, ten of which were warriors. They died bravely defending the people of our village.
Anya's smile turned solemn. To die defending their people was a great honor, but the loss of anyone was a tragedy.
Sel continued. "Fifty were injured, thirty of which were only minor injuries. Fifteen of those were significant but not life threatening, and lastly...
Sel paused, clearly struggling with what to say next. Finally, she gathered herself enough to finish her report. "Five are in critical condition.
The extent of their burns goes beyond our healing capabilities. They... are not expected to survive. Selmor's daughter... she... she is one of them."
Anya felt something unexplainabley heavy weighing her down from the inside. Selmor was a personal friend of her father. His daughter Nep... she was only nine summers old.
There was too much to do. Anya still had to take inventory, reorganize their defenses in case of another attack, make preparations for her father's return, convene with her people, so many things entrusted to her by her father before he left.
However, the most important thing she had to do now was still by far the hardest of them all.
"Sel... take me to them."
Nodding with a heavy heart, Sel led Anya and the group of warriors that had been listening into the village, in search of a particular tent.
Finn could tell something was up. He watched as the girl's attitude turned from upbeat to sullen as she talked with her friend.
Bad news? Finn felt a little concerned for this girl. This was the first time he had seen her so down. When they started moving again, he followed the group as they were led into the actual village.
All around, Finn noticed tent like structures covered with various paints and symbols creating a variety of colors. In the surrounding trees, there were ropes strung across where clothes were being dried and other equipment being hung from them.
In fact, it wasn't just those ropes in the trees. There were several small scale platforms built into them, allowing for people to stand in the trees to observe the village from above. On each, he could see a bow and quiver full of arrows.
So it's like a defensive position in case the village get attacked, clever... Finn saw the benefit from such preparations. However, the distinct lack of a wall or structure resembling one felt odd to him. Maybe it's just not something a nomadic tribe would construct.
As for the people, kids were running around playing while adults doing various tasks walked to and fro with purpose. Whenever their group passed by, they were greeted loudly, while many pointed and stared at him.
Finn could tell something was wrong, because those in his group seemed far more solemn than before. The group moved on until they came to a particularly massive tent, which was more like a pavilion. It was very long and wide, covered with a large amount of leather. Finn figured even he could easily fit inside.
Taking a sniff, Finn could smell the scent of cooked flesh. Was this a meat storehouse? No that doesn't make sense... Finn still did not quite understand why they were here.
Finn watched as Anya took a deep breath and entered the large opening flap in the pavilion. All the warriors followed in after her. Unable to help himself, Finn did the same.
What greeted him made Finn want to vomit. Rows of injured people covered in terrible burns that were red and swollen, sitting on beds while being taken care of by what looked like doctors or healers.
Cooked flesh... Finn felt like gagging when he thought of his initial assumption. He remembered how he saw people fleeing before he met the girl, and now it all made sense.
Anya took it all in before walking towards the back. The group followed after her silently, their thoughts unknown.
In the back, there were five beds, each holding a figure that could have once looked human. Horrible burns that charred their skin black, nearly exposing the bone underneath on several of these poor soul's limbs. Faces that were once pretty and vibrant, cooked until their skin cracked apart. Everything about these victims screamed tragedy
The worst part, Finn felt terrible for thinking, was that these people were still alive. Despite their ravaged bodies, he could still see the rise and falls of their chests. Living in such agony, death would seem like a better alternative.
Each bed had people surrounding the victim, likely their friends or family. Anya, without a word, walked up to a rather small man standing next to the bed with the smallest burnt figure upon it.
Placing a hand on his shoulder, the man turned around and came face to face with Anya, who had tears streaking down her face.
"I'm so sorr-" Anya began before she was cut off. The man had hugged her suddenly.
"Anya, it's not your fault. Without you, so many more... so many more..." The man couldn't find the words. On this bed lay the broken body of his only child. There were no words that could be said.
As he was hugging Anya, the man looked up at the warriors who had followed her in before he caught sight of the drake.
Finn could see the blond middle aged man had been crying from his bloodshot eyes. It must have been his child on that bed... Finn felt his heart go out to the man, that was until the man caught sight of him.
Finn had never seen a man, one who looked so broken, give him a look that filled him with such fear.
The man's expression warped unnaturally when he finally saw the drake. Gently pushing back Anya, he demanded in a sudden shortness of breath.
"WHAT... IS THAT DOING HERE!"