Storytime With Grendel: Breath of Fire

Greetings, fearless beings!
Our question today is a rather spicy one!

Hail and well met, most fearsome dragon. Thank you for allowing me to ask my question—When did you first exude your fiery breath?
Volothamp Geddarm

A most astute question! While most members of dragonkind are capable of elemental breath almost instantly after emerging from their eggs, I will admit that for me it took a surprisingly long amount of time. It is my belief that my parents only remained in their fractured alliance until they could decide who would get me, the “special one” (if you missed it in a previous newsletter, my father was a green, while my mother was a brass). They had entered into a relationship not for love or comfort, for these things were an unobtainable concept for a green dragon like my father, but instead for the preservation of dragonkind as a whole.

It is my understanding that after the great Drakesdeath Wars and the subsequent wyrmscurse disease that spread over nearly every corner of the world, dragons had, unfortunately, become increasingly rare. Search as they might, my parents could not find any other dragons of their own kind. Thus, out of desperation, their treaty was formed for the express and unique purpose of procreation and the continuation of dragonkind, unto the point in which the offspring would be divided and they would leave to hopefully never meet again. When a multicolored egg was discovered in the clutch, however, they both stayed for a while, not being able to agree on who would take me. When I emerged bearing both green and brass scales, they began to argue. As I began showing components of having unique, blended abilities, their arguments began to turn to fierce battles.

It was during one of these skirmishes that I, being only a few month-old wyrmling,  had crept away from the nest. I had overheard my parents arguing about a group of frost giants seen in the area. My father, of course, wanted to destroy them before they found our lair, while my mother was insistently and foolishly demanding we attempt a peaceful resolution. Father was correct in his ruling, (for conquest is usually the correct choice); the giants, if they found our location, would surely mount an all-out assault until we were either driven out or slain. Giants are one of the ancient foes of dragons and were one of the instigators of the wars that drove my kind to near-extinction. My father tried to explain this to my mother, but in her irrational kindness, she demanded that a peaceful resolution be at least attempted. My father correctly argued against this, and the disagreement once again devolved into combat. 

Amid the chaos of poison and fire being blasted around the cave, I crept silently away, determined to find the giants before my parents even had to bother. From what I understood, a giant was essentially a human, maybe a little bigger, and humans had been actively eaten and fed to us by my father, much to the horror of my mother. Why there was even a debate on how to handle these slightly larger humans, or why they would pose a threat to an entire nest of dragons was baffling. Thus, I decided to quickly take care of these giants myself while my parents were distracted.

Though relatively small, my wings still allowed me graceful flight. After a few minutes of flying over the surrounding forest, I spotted billowing smoke from a few bonfires set at the base of a local mountain. Swooping above the tree line, I grew closer to the encampment until I could see figures moving around the fires below. As I landed between the pines, I crept closer until I could get a better view. From my crouched position, I could make out a white wolf, some felled timber for the fire, and a few lumbering figures in the mouth of a cave. They looked hardly larger than a regular human. Surely nothing we powerful dragons should be worried about, or at least I thought.

Turns out I had grossly underestimated these giants. My mistake became apparent as my wings were pinched together forcefully and I was hoisted from the ground. The trees I had been hiding between shifted suddenly, revealing themselves to be the massive legs of one of the encampment’s denizens. Lifting me up to eye level, I was then face to massive face with a bearded, blue-skinned frost giant.  His icy-blue eyes gave me a menacing glare before he bellowed out to his companions in the cave,

“Eh! Helmskag! Ulfur! Looky what we have here!”

The two giants in the cave turned toward us, threatening grins forming on their faces. These hulking figures emerged from the cave, which I now recognized as a massive cavern in the side of the mountain. They moved toward us with enormous strides, crossing the clearing in only a few paces. The wolf perked up at the beckoning as well, and looking at it then, I could see it was at least five times the size of a normal wolf.

“What do you have there, Bjoln?” One of the giants beckoned. I could tell they were speaking in the tongue of Giants, but how I knew that or how I could interpret, I do not know. Not even today.

Editor’s note: Herein lies one of the greatest mysteries of our dragon friend. We’ve seen before how he knew other languages, though he does not seem like he views this omniscience of other dialects to be anything impressive. I’ve asked him about this ability before, but I did not get much of an answer from my dear friend. All I have gathered so far is that Grendel knows seemingly every language there is to know. I’ve had him translate scores of books for me, though he tends to grow bored of it quickly. I know this is not a normal feature of dragonkind as a whole. Hopefully we will unravel this mystery together in the storytimes to come!

I struggled as best I could, my wings pinned between the two fingers of the giant, my legs dangling, but I could not pull free. The giants began laughing at my predicament, adding shame to my already sorry state.

“Ha! Why, it’s a wee lil dragon, aint it?” one giant guessed. “Out here in the forest all by himself! Where’d you come from, eh? You’re too small to be on your own, it seems. You got your hatchmates around?”

  “Ah! Good point, Helmskag!” the other giant added. “This one’ll hardly be a meal in itself and considerin’ that I haven’t had any good dragon meat in a few decades, we’ll need a few more to make it dinner. This one’ll make a good appetizer, though!”

“Ha! Hardly!” The first giant chuckled. “Barely enough for a single bite on this tiny thing. And by the look it of it, I think it’s a green. Filled with poison, they are. Wouldn’t want to give yourself a stomach ache! Throw this wee one to the wolf and maybe we’ll just smush the others if they come looking.”

The giant holding my tiny, struggling body gave me one last look with his massive eye, and in that moment, I had a choice—desperately try anything, or be thrown to the massive wolf that had padded over to the giants, its maw already drooling in anticipation.

The only idea I had was to attempt the loudest roar I could muster. Maybe I could startle the giant enough for him to drop me, and I could zip away. Instead of a roar, however, my throat brought forth a torrent of furious flames. If I know anything about mortals, it’s that they hate fire in their faces. The only thing I now know about frost giants is that they absolutely despise a face full of flames.

The giant in his surprise and fright threw me away from his scorched face, and before I could find my bearings, I found myself in a trajectory heading straight for the bonfire! I tried to fly away from the heat, but I was too late. Straight into the flames I went, bracing myself to feel like the giant’s face did in that moment, but to my absolute disbelief, I felt barely a tickle as I entered the inferno. I gathered myself inside the surprisingly comfortable fire, peering out at the spectacle outside.

Two giants were attempting to extinguish their friend but were only succeeding on harming him further with their slaps and blows to his melting face. It was now or never. I dashed out of the fire, heading straight for the tree line. The wolf must have heard my footfalls, for he bounded around me and attempted to bar my escape. It seemed like the creature was begrudging being denied a meal, thus he was taking matters into his own paws. He was no match for me, though! Even though the dire wolf was much larger than me, I was quickly able to let out another blast of fire, sending the hound darting away.

Free from the clutches of my captors, I slunk through the forest, far from the pained screams of the giant behind me. Eventually I was far enough away that I could take to the sky again, flying home as quickly as my little wings would let me. By the time I made it back to my parent’s lair, I was exhausted but happy to be safe. My parents had concluded their fight, it seemed, with both of them licking their wounds on opposite sides of the cave.

I never knew who had won the battle, though, for as I relayed what had happened, a fierce anger came upon both of them. Father became committed in his fury against the giants, and surprisingly, Mother became hostile toward them as well. I guess threatening one’s baby will cause even the most pacifist of dragons to turn to violence. What happened next is one of the few times I had ever seen my parents work together. My siblings and I barely made it to the giant’s camp by the time they were finished. All that was left was the carnage that is enacted upon a creature when they threaten a dragon’s offspring. The greens and I were impressed. Our brass-scaled siblings were horrified. We all were safe, though. At least for the time being.

And that is the story of how I learned how to breathe my immolating fire. Though I feel more like a green, I have my mother’s breath in me. What kind of breath do you have, dear readers? Is it fire? Ice? Poison? Oh, Geldrin says that most of the readers cannot produce elemental weapons from their throats. Good to know. You mortals are surprisingly unimpressive, but I appreciate you reading this all the same. Until next time, continue roasting yourselves with the flames of knowledge!

Storytime with Grendel stories are compliments of Tyler Swanson
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