• Published 3rd Jul 2019
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Fire and Steel - shirotora

A man finds himself in a strange world in a body he knows very little about. Now, with a little help from his reluctant acquaintance Ember, he must either find a way home, or a reason to stay

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Chapter 3: Ember

The morning sun beamed through the forest canopy, stirring me from my sleep.

I sat up, stretching and yawning a little before tossing a few more logs onto the smouldering fire to fight off the early spring chill.

With that done, I decided to run down to the stream to refill my waterskins and look around for more yarrow. After about twenty minutes, I returned with the water, but not the herb, sadly.

I did find some more plantain, though, so I could at least change the bandaging.

I kneeled beside my patient, feeling her forehead to see if her temperature had changed. Just like yesterday, she was quite warm, but it felt the same as before, so I was hoping that was a dragon’s normal body temperature.

Slowly and carefully, I peeled the plantain leaves away.

I flinched at the sound of the dragon’s groaning voice. “Darn it, Garble, I said go away.”

Delicately, I reached out my thoughts, just like I did yesterday, “Miss, I need you to stay calm.”

Unfortunately, she decided to do the opposite. She jerked awake, took one look at me and tried to scramble away, only to hiss in pain, and clutch at her chest.

“Wh-what?” She stammered before her eyes locked onto mine, narrowed in hostile mistrust. “What happened?! What did you do to me?!”

“I treated your wounds,” I explained. “You were injured and would have likely died if I hadn’t.”

The dragon winced at the memory of the monster and looked down at the stitches going across her chest and belly.

She looked back up at me, this time more in suspicion. “Why? What do you get out of it?”

“The ‘why’ is simple; it was the right thing to do. You were injured, and I had the means and knowhow to help,” I explained. “As for what I get, honestly, I’m just happy to have someone to talk to after so long alone.”

She raised an eyebrow at that. “So, you saved me from that monster, just so you could talk? Speaking of which, where did that monster go, anyway?”

“It’s dead,” I answered.

Her eyes shot open, clearly not expecting that. “Wow,” she smirked. “I might have misjudged you. You’re tougher than you look. So... how bad was I? Was I out long?”

“The attack was just yesterday,” I explained. “As for your injuries, you lost a lot of blood, but it didn’t seem to hit anything vital, but... I’m no expert, but I think your wing might be a lost cause.”

“M-my wing?” She looked back, taking note of the splint and torn skin.

I continued to explain, “I set the bone, and that splint should hold until we get something better, but, well, I’m afraid I don’t know anything about fixing the flesh of the wing.”

“Th-that’s fine,” she said, choking up a bit. “I-it’ll heal... eventually.”

She was trying to put on a brave face, but I could not only see, but even sense her pain.

“My name’s Luke, by the way,” I said, as much to distract her as to properly introduce myself.

“Huh?” She turned back to me, having barely heard me. “O-oh... I’m Ember.”

“Well, Ember, happy to meet you,” I stuck out a hand, and she just looked at it in confusion.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“It’s a handshake, a traditional greeting among my people,” I explained. “Just stick out your hand.”

She hesitantly did so, and I grabbed it in my own and gently shook. “There you go. Now, why don’t I take a look at your wounds?”

Ember looked up. “Oh, uh, yeah, I guess.”

“Alright, go ahead and lay down.”

She did as I asked, and I examined the injuries. I washed them with some of the water from my waterskin, trying to be as gentle as I could, though her twitches and barely restrained groans told me I wasn’t completely successful.

Then, I took several of the plantain leaves and applied them over the wounds.

“What’s that stuff?” Ember asked.

“Plantain. It’s a medicinal herb that makes for a good makeshift bandage. It’s also good for treating poisonous insect or spider bites and stings. It also helps relieve pain.”

When I finished with that, I stood up. “Alright. You’re healing incredibly fast. I’d even say you might be up for travel in another two or three days. For now, you need to stay here and rest. I’m going to retrace my steps to try and find my pack. I’ll be back in an hour or two, hopefully with food. What all can you eat?”

She thought for a moment before answering, “Uh... pretty much anything. Meat, fish, fruits, gems, vegetables, pretty much anything anyone else can eat.”

“Alright, I’ll see what I can find.” And with that, I was off.

I had just reached the chasm when her words caught up to me.

Did she say she eats gems?

It took me nearly half an hour to find a spot I was confident I could cross. After that, it was easy to retrace my steps and find where I set my pack. A quick check on that clearing showed what I thought it would. My elk was already taken by scavengers.

Still, I managed to bag a nice sized rabbit, so we had some meat, at least. I almost got a duck, but it managed to avoid my attack.

Other than that, I found a raspberry bush, a couple wild potatoes, and some edible mushrooms. That coupled with a few things I should still have in my pack, and we should have a nice little lunch. Then, I could look for more.

Ember was sleeping when I got back, so I just let her be and got to cooking.

While I was a man of many talents, cooking wasn’t really one of them. Granted I wasn’t a bad cook, I just wasn’t a good one. Combine that with a lack of readily available ingredients and what I was able to make was subpar at best.

Still roast rabbit with potatoes, carrots, and basil was one of the better meals I’ve had since coming to this world. That, and the raspberries would make for a fine dessert.

The smell of cooking must have been at least good enough to rouse Ember.

“Oh, hey,” she greeted, stretching gently so as to not aggravate her injuries. “You cook?”

“That depends on your definition of ‘cook’,” I replied.

Ember cocked an eyebrow, “Burning meat until it stops bleeding.”

I laughed. “Then, yes. I can cook.”

Ember looked at me, her curiosity apparent. “So... what are you, anyway?”

I closed my eyes and sighed. “I’ve been wondering that myself.”

“You don’t know what you are? How does that work?”

I flipped the rabbit before leaning back on my hands. “What I am isn’t what I was. What I am is a pokemon, specifically, a lucario... but, I’ve only been one for a few months.”

“Then... what were you?” Ember asked.

I replied, “Would you believe me if I said I wasn’t from this world?”

Ember shrugged and said, “I’d say it’s not the weirdest thing in the world.”

I looked up at my dragon companion, not sure how to take her easy acceptance.

“Well, then I guess I’m not as weird as I thought,” I said. “So, yeah. I’m pretty sure I’m an alien. I mean, where I’m from, dragons were only myth, but here... well." I gestured toward her.

“Yeah, I am pretty amazing,” She said, trying to strike a pose, only to aggravate her injuries. “Ah! Darn, that hurts.”

I chuckled, “Just try to keep your awesomeness from popping your stitches.”

I placed a few chunks of rabbit and two potatoes each on two broad pieces of bark and placed one in front of Ember before helping her sit up.

“That’s not a lot of meat,” Ember said, looking down at her food.

“Well, if you don’t want it...”

“N-no no! It’s fine,” she said, quickly. “I was just thinking... Why are you really sharing this with me? I mean, it’s really not a lot of food. Heck, both these plates together wouldn’t be much of a meal, so why would you go hungry?”

“Two reasons,” I began. “First, is the same reason I gave when you asked why I saved you. Second, this forest is unnaturally bountiful. I can’t take ten steps without finding something useful. I find more fruits and vegetables than I would ever need. Even small game animals are all over the place.

“The only thing that isn’t common is big game, and the only thing I get from them that I can’t really get from smaller animals are their pelts.”

“So... basically what you’re saying is... there’s plenty of food here?”

I shrugged as I chewed my food, One benefit of being psychic is that I can talk with my mouth full “Yeah. The only reason I didn’t get more was because I was more worried about getting my stuff. I’m going to be getting a few small things for dinner. Any requests?”

“Something made of meat,” Ember answered.

I chuckled. “Sounds good. One last thing.”

I gave her half the raspberries I found. She looked down, wide eyes. “No way! How’d you know these are my favorite?!”

I smirked and said, “I think we’re going to be good friends.”

I stared in surprise at Ember’s wounds as I inspected them the next day.

“That’s impossible,” I said aloud. “There’s no way it’s healed this well.”

Ember raised an eyebrow, “You know I can’t understand you when you aren’t doing that freaky brain-speak.”

“Oh, right,” I said, shaking my head to clear it. “I’m just baffled by how fast you healed. Is this normal for dragons?”

Ember looked down at her chest. “Eh, maybe a little faster than normal.”

I looked back up. “I’m going to press slightly on you. Tell me if there’s any pain.”

And so, I examined the area of the injury. Obviously, she wasn’t fully healed. The wound still looked painful, and she didn’t have the full range of motion, but she was far better off than she had any right to be.

I sat back, leaning back on my hands. “Alright, you’re healing nice enough that I think we can start traveling at a slow, steady pace.”

“We?” Ember recoiled a bit. “What do you mean, ‘we’?”

I shrugged, “I figured we could travel together. We could both use the company. Besides, you’re still injured and can’t fly. If something like that monster finds you, you’re lunch.”

Ember looked at me, scowling in indignation. “Are you saying I’m not tough enough?”

“Oh, you’re plenty tough,” I replied. “You survived getting half eaten, for christ’s sake. But even as tough as you are, you’re injured."

She looked like she wanted to argue, but I could see the thoughts race through her mind.

She let out a growl. “Fine, but we’re only traveling together for the company. I don’t need a babysitter.”

“Whatever floats your boat,” I conceded. “I want the company more, anyway

And so, after spending that morning getting ready, we set off.

After walking for a good hour, Ember decided to break the silence. “So, where are you heading?”


She cocked an eyebrow. “East?”


“Okay... why?” Ember asked.

“Because I have no idea where civilization is, and I figure the only real way to find it is to choose a direction and start walking” I answered.

Ember looked at me like I was stupid. “Or you could just ask me.”

I stopped, dead in my tracks. I had been so used to just heading East it was just what I did.

“Are you telling me you’ve been heading East since the end of last Fall?”

“Uh... yeah.”

“‘Cause, uh... if that’s true, you probably would have gotten to a town in a few days if you went West.” She said, hesitantly. “In fact, the only way you didn’t pass through it would be if you’re really slow, or camped out in one spot for a while.”

Have you ever felt your mind snap? It’s an interesting feeling, but not one I’d recommend you ever try.

Everything I’d been through.

Everything I’d endured.

All for nothing.

I could only start laughing.

“Uh... you okay?” Ember asked.

“I... I’ve been alone for months,” I said, out loud, as I laughed. “All this time... because I went left?!”

Ember, meanwhile, not able to understand poke-speak, could only watch on as I completely lost it.

At some point, my laughter turned into crying.

With that one revelation, the illusion I wove around myself shattered.

This wasn’t some grand adventure. Everything wasn’t just going to work itself out. I wasn’t just going to stumble into the one thing I needed.

And chances were, I would likely never see home again.

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