Today, after a discussion with my wife on our way home from the city, I will be presenting a bit of information for the Land of Storms, about the village of Westhaven, last stop on the road west before the Dragon’s Teeth mountain range. It’s also, coincidentally, the closest thing to Fire Mountain that most folks would recognize as a village.
Sixty years ago, Westhaven was little more than a podunk farming village in the Smoking Hills, last stop along the western road before the Dragon’s Teeth and the Smoldering Pass. Caravans would stop through on their way to the lands beyond and on their way back, stocking up on food and other essential supplies and basically ensuring the village would have some coin to buy the wares they’d be bringing back on their next trip through.
And then Robert, born sixteen years earlier and having just bought a second-hand sword from a caravan guard and wearing an ill-fitting suit of leather armor, set off for Fire Mountain, determined that he’d slay the legendary dragon slumbering inside it and bring back the wyrm’s hoard to bring prosperity to the village. He went without the knowledge of his family, on a knock-kneed horse borrowed from Old Man Jacob as his trusty steed.
By some twist of luck, the would-be hero avoided the worst of the dangers of the Forest of Ashes and Fire Mountain, found a passage that let him ride his horse into the mountain, and passed through into the great cavern where an ancient red dragon lay dozing atop a pile of all kinds of metals wrought into forms from weapons to coins.
At which point the wyrm stirred (the season already being near the High Summer Festival, when she usually awoke to go see how her plans to change the world were coming along) to see the gangly youth, still not fully grown and certainly not fully fleshed-out, holding a sword that looked less impressive than anything in her hoard. Dragonfear hit Robert like a loaded wagon, making the sword wobble pitifully while his voice produced nothing but a terrified squeak.
At which point the dragon, remembering her origin and seeing this underfed and desperate-seeming youth before her, spoke as gently as she could. “Pray, boy, tell me your name.”
Of course, gently and kindly for an ancient red dragon is still thunder and volcanic fire to mortal ears, and so Robert barely managed to squeak out a wobbly response of “Bobby.” His imagination had imagined a dragon perhaps twice the size of his horse, ancient and old and decrepit like an old human, not a creature infused with the essence of fire and shining in glory with a voice like that.
“Well, Bobby, you should go home now. Eat something and put on a few pounds. And put that sword away before you drop it and hurt yourself.” The dragon watched as Robert quailed and fled, although not before following her command to put his sword away, riding all the way back to Westhaven as fast as his old horse would permit. (The beast hadn’t cared at all about the dragon, perhaps figuring that at least if it got eaten it wouldn’t be pestered by the village children any longer.)
Behind him, the dragon called upon the matriarchs of a kobold tribe near Westhaven, and bid them to go make sure that Bobby was properly fed – and the rest of the village, too, because if this was the kind of knight they’d send against her, she couldn’t begin to imagine how starved the others must be.
Robert told no one of his misadventure, hiding the sword in Old Man Jacob’s barn along with the ill-fitting armor and claiming that he’d merely been out trying to try to look for places to set traps in hopes of getting some furs and meat to sell to the next caravan. He settled for the good-natured mockery of others in the village, and it all seemed like it might go over without further mention.
And then, a week before Midsummer’s Day, the village woke to find an entire tribe of kobolds setting up a grand feast in the middle of the green, ringing beautiful silver bells to wake the villagers up, and the few kobolds who spoke the common tongue calling out greetings and asking after where a young man named Bobby might be found.
The tribe had spared no effort in setting up the feast, and while the villagers took time to coax out, a few children escaping their parents and being gifted with candied fruit while running with young kobolds through the streets soon brought the rest of the village out. Well, aside from young Robert, who was hiding in his room, pretending to be unwell and sleeping, certain that the kobolds asking for him were there to drag him off to be fed to the dragon if he’d gained any weight at all.
Still, he could only hide for so long, and soon enough he was sitting before two kobold matriarchs, dragged there by his mother after she found out that they were asking for him, certain he’d done the tribe some wrong. And then, to his bafflement and horror, the kobolds presented him with more food (and richer) than anything he’d had before in his life, telling him with a knowing wink that the Lady had asked them to look after him and his folks.
Soon enough most of the story of his misadventure came out, although the kobolds kindly spun him as a brave young man who’d confronted the great wyrm and had the courage to ask her for aid for the village. They also told of how the dragon, moved by his slender stature and his plea for aid for others when clearly in need himself, had asked the kobolds to aid the villagers. By the time Midsummer Day rolled around, with the kobolds helpfully pitching in around the village and gamely trying to learn to handle the village’s livestock, Robert was being toasted as Sir Robert the Slender, a moniker that sticks to the current day.
A week after Midsummer’s Day, the kobolds packed up, taking with them several farm animals so that they could learn to look after them better and to learn what they could do with their products, and left with a promise to return in a year’s time.
And they did. And so they have every year since – the tradition growing each year, such that girls on the verge of maidenhood when Midsummer’s Day is close find themselves with gifts of worked silver and some of the legendary fire opals of Fire Mountain, and many villagers choose to get married while the kobolds are in village, with the matriarchs of the tribe proudly presiding over the weddings. They’ve become experts at many of the culinary arts, and the rare batches of cheese sometimes sold in Westhaven are prized by gourmets across the land.
The one year that the dragon took wing during the festival brought such a celebration from the kobolds, who could see her for what she was, that the villagers (who mistook her for a hawk, or perhaps a falcon) thought that the kobolds must be fond of birds of prey; now everyone knows that some of the best falconers in the known world can be found in Westhaven, as everyone – boy, girl, or otherwise – is given a fledgling to raise at the age of ten. The kobolds, of course, are delighted to see the villagers with another way to support themselves and keep the rodent population at bay.
Sir Robert the Slender, meanwhile, still lives in Westhaven, and studiously watches his weight through the weeks of the year when the kobolds are gone, a nervous habit because some part of him is still certain that if he fattens up, the dragon will come to eat him. The villagers, meanwhile, have spent six decades spinning stories of Sir Robert the Slender, and happily tell any visitors of the many adventures of the slender but still-fit old man who lives in the middle of the village, who gives away half his larder each year (presents the kobolds leave for him) and how his heroism has blessed them with prosperity. No one mentions the dragon, or why girls and women with fire opals on necklaces and bracelets are referred to as “Fire-Kissed” by the other villagers.
And no one mentions the kobolds, because no one wants to endanger the tribe that’s blessed the village so much just because some adventurer got it in their head to go “protect” the villagers from them.