This is a short story in the life of Pomper, a dragonborn adventurer. It’s also to help build some backstory to why Pomper does or says certain things; for example, “how’s your day going?” But before he became a daring lawful adventurer, he was a young recluse who wandered the deep forest that he called home…
“Pomper! … Pomper!” a sweet voice called out. The familiar song of his mother’s voice echoed through and out of the shallow cave. After failing to find him inside the cave, Asira made her way to the entrance. Before reaching the entrance, a short but full figured silhouette blocked her view of the full sun that shined in. A toothy smile smile swept her face.
“I’m… here!” yelped a timid voice; his words wheezed between the gasps of air. The young dragonborn stood at the entrance of their home with his hands gripped over his knees. Taking deep gulps of air, he tried to steady himself before stepping inside. “I’m, here.”
“Where do you go child?” his mother asked in a strong but worrisome voice. She grazed over him, as if inspecting for nicks and scratches on the red-hued scales across his round body.
“Adventures!” the young man replied, still working to regain his breathe, “…and I’m not a child you know. I’m nearly my own man!” Pomper replied in a slightly deepened but clearly forced voice. Wanting to appear more worldly, he swaggered away from Asira only to turn quickly with a makeshift mace in hand. “Ahoy!” he exclaimed with a passion, swinging it about gleefully until he clumsily strikes a towering pile of firewood.
At first Pomper stopped in his tracks. His heart skipped a beat as he could only watch the tall pile of lumber tipping toward him. Dropping the mace, Pomper raised his arms, closed his eyes, and waited for the weight to crush him. Continuing to wince for what seemed like an eternity, he realized that nothing had happened. Opening his eyes, Pomper saw his father holding the pile of lumber against his back to keep it from tipping. When did he get here, how was he so fast? “That was awesome!” he screamed in amazement of his father’s strength.
“Awesome or not, Pomper, you need to be more careful,” his father explained. Grunting as he pushed the pile back upright, the old dragonborn looked down at his son with worried eyes. “You’re a bit of a runt you know. You need to avoid danger whenever you can.”
“It was an accident, Baqrin. He was swinging this around,” Asira explained as she held the wooden mace in her hand. The mace appeared to be haphazardly made, mostly from fallen branches and shaven thorns. Both Asira and Baqrin look down at the mace and back to Pomper with a worried smile.
Pomper could sense that there was something they wanted to tell him but could not. He felt the constant worry, the overbearing watchful eye of his parents, and couldn’t help but shake the endless remarks about his inadequate stature. “…I could have stopped it,” he mumbled defiantly as his low hanging head leaned toward the now straighten pile of wood.
Asira reached for Pompers’ shoulder. “You have a strong heart Pomper,” she said with a warm voice. “I know you could have stopped it, but…”
“…don’t patronize me,” Pomper responded as he stormed out of the cave. Running away, Pomper could hear his parents calling his name. He ran, for what felt like hours, until he reached a break in the forest. It appeared to be a trader’s run; a misshapen road with two deep trenches formed from years of wagons traveling these paths. Before he could cross, Pomper heard the sound of a horse rumbling in the distance, and quickly tucked back into the thicket near the edge of the road.
The galloping sounds grew louder until it sounded like it was on top of him. Struggling to hold his nervousness together, Pomper took deep breathes and fought for a clear view through the foggy brush. The rider appeared to stop almost abruptly, but not by choice.
“Whoa… Whoa,” a strong grizzled voice called out. “Did something spook you there?” The man appeared to be talking to his horse, but Pomper struggled to get a clear line of sight. “I sense it too.. ..but if I’m not afraid, you shouldn’t be either. Easy there, easy…” the man continued to calm his horse.
Finally, Pomper was able to peer through the brush to see a short man stepping down from his horse. “…what a strangle little human,” he mumbled to himself as he glanced over the short bearded man.
“Well.. If you won’t go any further,” the man politely said to his horse, “…then I guess this is the place.”
Pomper watched the man, not only that day but every day. The man returned to that same spot ever day. And ever day he did the same thing. He got down from his horse, and waited for travelers to cross; asking them, “How’s your day going?” Some travelers would stop, and they would share stories, other travelers would call him names; beggar, vagabond, the naked fool.
As the days grew to weeks, and weeks to months, Pomper grew fond of the little man. He watched the man when no one was around. On days where no travelers passed, the man passed his days in meditation or practicing a strange dance ritual. One day, the man spoke, but it didn’t seem like he was speaking to his horse. The man wasn’t looking in any particular direction as he continued to rehearse his ritual.
“It’s called Martial Arts,” the man said in a soft and friendly voice. “I can teach you. I can show you the healing power of Ki.” The man continued his fluid ritual without pause, but at times Pomper could almost feel a third eye staring at him – always watching. “I do hope you’ve enjoyed the snacks I’ve been leaving behind. This land bears many rich fruits and the world outside has foods that are even sweeter.”
Pomper suddenly realized that his presence was known. In a panic, he sprinted out of the thick brush and ran deeper into the darkest parts of the forest. Looking behind himself, Pomper could not sense anyone there. He didn’t know why he ran; he only did what his parents had told him to do time and time again. Humans were not to be trusted after all, right? His feelings seemed to betray him. This man seemed so kind, spending his days in meditation and listening to the stories of travelers. Maybe not all humans were as bad as he had been told.
It would be weeks before he returned again to the place that had become so routine for Pomper. That isolated break in the forest had become his home away from home, and the tasty snacks did not hurt either. Pomper felt a pain in his chest. He had a deep worry that he might have scared off the little man.
As he got closer and closer, Pompers’ steps grew more quiet. He nestled into his familiar hiding place only to hear a familiar soft voice break through the sounds of the rustling trees.
“I’m glad you’re back… It was starting to get pretty lonely out here,” the man said in a welcoming tone.
With hesitation, Pomper slowly stood up until his round torso cleared the safe cover of the forest. He looked onto the road to see the little bearded man sitting cross-legged on the ground, his back to Pomper while he remained, unflinching in meditation. The man turned his head slightly to better face Pomper, and the grizzled appearance was more clear than ever now; a stark contrast to the man’s friendly voice.
A warm smile was revealed on the man’s battle-hardened face as he said, “Hello there, my name is Law… How’s your day going?”