Our story begins with one of those inquisitive Halflings trying to make a name for himself in the parched lands of Light. He had been traveling Lightward for weeks, the heat was unbearable and all of his fellows had already turned back. He was determined to see the ball of darkness though, even just a sliver of it over the baked dunes, and he pressed on. He was re-rationing his meager supplies, determined to eke out another few days of travel Lightward, when a shadow fell across his work. He was so absorbed in his work, he did not at first make the connection between a moving shadow and the person or thing that cast it.
What did finally get his attention was the slight cooling the shadow caused. The heat had been so constant and so draining for so long, that even the slight bit of shade made enough of an impact for him to take notice. And when he did he was afraid. Very afraid. Because the only thing that he knew for sure that lived in these lands were the Dragons of Flame, and he had hoped to avoid their attention.
With trembling hands he set down the travel rations he was separating into piles, trying to decide if he wanted to see what killed him, or if it was better not to know. When the anticipated blow never fell, he finally decided it was best to look. He turned his head slowly and squinted into the sun.
“I was wondering when you’d notice.” A gruff but friendly voice responded to his gaze, not at all the kind of voice that most of the stories associated with the terrible dragons. “I’d almost convinced myself that the sun had baked your wits and I should just leave you here.”
He saw before him something he had never seen before. Something no one had ever seen before, as far as he knew. It was humanoid, shorter than a Halfling, though much, much stockier. Muscles bulged from everywhere, even places the Halfling didn’t think muscles existed. Those muscles rippled under a skin that was a golden brown, like a turkey cooked to the point of perfection. The squarely built creature must have been massively powerful, but what the Halfling noticed most was that it was wearing a sweater. His jaw would have hit the floor had it been long enough.
“You should shut your mouth, you’ll lose less water that way.” The Halfling’s mouth snapped shut with a click. “Well, at least now I know we speak the same language.” The stocky body shook with a quiet chuckle.
“Are you cold?” The Halfling hadn’t spoken for days and his voice creaked from his dry throat. He knew it was a stupid question, but he pressed on. He had to know. “You can’t be. Its impossible.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say cold, but I’ll keep the sweater on, thank you. This place is a bit cooler than home.” With a shrug, the powerfully-built creature dropped onto the dune across the pile of supplies from the Halfling. “I’ll get used to it eventually.”
“Now, let’s get to the important questions. What in the Light are you doing all the way out here? This is no place for a Halfling. By all rights you should be dead already. Either you planned well or you’re just too damned stubborn to die.”
The young Halfling blushed, though it was invisible under his bright red sunburn.
“I’m going to see the black ball in the sky. I want to be the first to make it back from seeing it in his right mind. I’ll be famous.”
“You’ll be dead, is what you’ll be. It’s several days walk before you can even see the edge, and you’re already short on supplies and burned to a crisp. You’d never make it.” The strange creature seemed quite sure of himself, and the Halfling’s resolve started to weaken. But he wasn’t ready to give up just yet. In fact he was a bit annoyed with the new arrival’s assumption of his failure.
“How do you know? Have you seen it? I suppose you walk there all the time, in your silly sweater.” He sneered as he said the last sentence, but immediately regretted saying it.
“I’ll thank you not to insult my mother’s handiwork.” The gruff voice had gone cold, and the Halfling actually shivered despite the furnace like heat of the air. “I grew up looking at the damn “black ball” every day. Though I doubt you’ll believe me.” He climbed to his feet and dusted off his pants, then his sweater. “The time for questions is over for now anyway, c’mon, you have to lead me to your home.”
“Why would I do that? A strange creature like you, that just appears out of the desert, and you want me to take you to my home?”
“I thought you said you wanted to be famous. Well, show up with me, and your name will be on the lips of everyone you know, and a lot of people you don’t. Probably more than is good for you. You’ve never seen the likes of me, and I doubt anyone else in your home has. I’m as good as the damn black ball and a lot easier to prove. So let’s get going.” He started stuffing rations into the travel sacks.
The Halfling just stood there dumbfounded. He had done it. He’d found something no one else ever had. Technically it had found him, but that wasn’t important. The creature was right. He was going to be famous.