The Legend of Aerias
"Ah, you’re finally here!" Finn calls from the clearing as you approach. He is dressed up in an odd, flowing outfit and brandishing a small bow and arrow. You think to yourself that he looks like a little cupid angel. Well cupid, if cupid was a scaly dragon.
Taking aim with the arrow, he prepares to fire. He shouts, "To the roof! One, two, three!" Arrow fires off sideways, pinging off a boulder, and then crashes through one of his windows.
"Bleeh," he mumbled in frustration, "I can never get it to fly straight." Finn with a sigh flaps his wings and flies over to the window. Careful not to cut himself on the glass, he shoves his face into the window in search of the arrow.
Emerging, he looked over in your direction. "Sorry, I’ve been too excited about today’s story. So I let my imagination run a little wild."
He invites you into the house. Before settling in, he sweeps aside the window’s broken glass with his tail. "Would you like some ocean rain chips?" You kindly say no. You remember them being way too salty the last time you ate them.
Picking up a book on the coffee table, Finn replaces it with his bow and arrow. The cover is a worn pinkish leather with gold flowing throughout its binding. Sitting upon his storytelling throne, your dragon host flicks open the book. It flies open effortlessly.
In the Centerlands, the royal family gathered one last time. The king-father gifted his four children with ancient artifacts, and words of advice and blessing. Today, each of the children will leave the old kingdom and enter the greater realm. They were to establish new homes, and new kingdoms. Each would create order and peace in a world thrown into chaos by the Gloom.
To his only daughter, Aerias, the king gave a bow with a solitary arrow. The pair imbued her with the ability to fly. Firing the arrow, her body would fly after it as though pulled along by an invisible rope bound to the arrow.
The young girl was also presented with cryptic directions to her kingdom. She would pass through the land of people who never grew up, guided by stars close enough to touch. Arriving in her new home, she would be caught up to the heavens by an unlikely creature.
With a gentle goodbye to her father and two of her siblings, she turned to her twin brother, Albinus. "Alby, don’t forget me in your travels. The two of us will be forever connected no matter how far away we are from one another." The twins hugged each other in an embrace.
"Ouch!" said Albinus.
"Oops! Sorry, I forgot I was holding the arrow. I guess it may be better if we had a little distance between us!" The two parted with a chuckle.
And so Aerias set off in search of her new kingdom home. First through mountains, past an enclave of yetis playing sledball. And then over rivers, filled with shimmering fish and oversized salamanders. Then twisting through forests, hiding their own unique surprises.
One sticky surprise stuck out the most. Aerias, now covered in leaves and sap, found herself dangling thirty feet in the air. She was stuck in a sappy web made of rope and trickery.
"Why isn't that the biggest and funniest looking squirrel that I’ve ever seen?" A voice called out from far below her. "Oh well, it’ll make for plenty of good eating." The voice said with a clear smirk. Then a small band of men emerged from the woods. Their leaf-like armor camouflaged them against the surrounding forest. Aerias realized they had been following her since she entered the forest.
"Will you let me down already? I’m not really enjoying myself up here." She spoke simply, crossing her arms.
"Eh, we are not sure about that, missy," the same man said. He was evidently their leader. "You ain’t much use to us traipsing about our woods and scaring away everything we are hunting. You clearly ain’t very clever getting stuck in a trap made for bumble bears."
The men chattered away below, so Aerias chose to take matters into her own hands. Straining, she was able to fire off the arrow, and like magic, the arrow pulled her free from the web and onto a nearby tree’s branch. Distracted by their discussion, the men below didn’t notice.
Quietly, she fired the arrow back near the webbing. She cut the web loose while balancing on the branches. And with her precise aim, she dropped it on the leader below. Somehow, it captured every one of the men. It was barely big enough for her, a full-grown woman.
"It’s in my mouth!"
The men cried, stuck in the webbing.
Descending down, Aerias stood before. And surprisingly stood over them. Each of the men was only two to three feet tall.
"Ah, the people who never grew up. They are forest gnomes," she thought to herself. "Now, I can decide if I want to leave you, eat you, or feed you to a bumble bear!" Aerias mimicked the gnome's previous joke.
They began to laugh. "Haha, missy, it seems we were wrong about you. You are a very clever young lass. If you free us, we'd love to show you a bit of gnomish hospitality," the leader smiled back. Sap oozed down his gray beard.
Once freed, Arthur, the gnome leader, led Aerias to their village home. Their village was a vast network of treehouses, rope bridges, and ladders built into the forest trees. Some of the gnomes rode around on large, pink-bellied geckos, while others swung from tree to tree on vines.
It was a delightful little village and provided Aerias with some much needed rest. But things grew tense.
Telling the story of her escape, Arthur and some other gnomes were eager to have the bow and arrow as their own. He tried to woo her and trade a variety of riches and treasures, but Aerias refused to give them the bow.
The next day, she departed from the gnomes. While they were friendly, tension hung between the two groups.
Aerias decided that she would get to a higher point to see where she would travel next. So, climbing out of the dense forest, she began scaling a mountain. By the time she emerged from the tree line, it was night. Instead of the darkness greeting Aerias, a soft, warm light coated the mountain. Near the mountain tops and just below the clouds were hundreds of glowing stars. But they were quite stars. With a mysterious ebb and flow, they shifted and swayed through the sky.
Thus, the second description of her father was complete. Now she needed to find the unlikely creature to take her to the heavens. She spent the next few days searching the mountaintops to no avail.
Finally, she came around a bend in the rock face and saw it. A slithering, creeping creature. When not covered in scales, feathers lazily creep out from its body.
"Well, it does have feathers, so maybe he is the unlikely creature." Slowly, Aerias crept forward, her arm extending in a friendly manner. "Uh, hello. Hello?" She whispered. "Can you help me?"
The creature whipped around, and that is when she knew this creature was no friend. In a heartbeat, the beast scooped up Aerias in its coils. Her bow and arrow were ripped from her hands. Being squeezed tight, she began to lose consciousness. But then she heard a cry from the forest edge. It was Arthur and his band of gnome warriors.
Some jumped on the wriggling back of the creature. Others threw grappling hooks to climb higher. But the creature’s hide was too strong, and it easily tossed the little men from its body. Still, it squeezed Aerias tighter.
Then Arthur grabbed Aerias' bow and arrow, and with the skill of an expert marksman, he fired the arrow. In a moment, he was thrown forward towards the beast's face. It was ready for him, opening its mouth of dagger-sharp teeth wide.
Arthur smiled. Just before being devoured, he chucked a leafy ball straight into the beast’s face. An explosion of red and yellow powder erupted from the ball on impact.
Greaawch kawkaww grkah
The creature retched and began sneezing. With its eyes watering uncontrollably, it dropped Aerias. And before it could learn what happened, it fled up the mountain.
"Thank you," gasped Aerias. "What did you do?"
"Eh, just a gnomish spicy sneeze ball. Nasty stuff. Are you ok, missy?"
"Well enough, I suppose." Aerias stumbled to her feet.
"We are sorry, missy. I am not pleased with our last interaction. So we’ve been secretly following you, while I tried to think of how to apologize."
Looking a the last sight of the scaly creature, she responded, "I think this will work. I’m also sorry for how it ended." Aerias paused and thought for a second, then continued. "In fact, I believe our friendship is more valuable than some silly, old bow. Take it."
Initially, Arthur rejected it. But eventually the two saw it as a sign of the new union between the gnomes and Aerias' coming kingdom.
"Now if I could just find the actual ‘unlikely creature’ that my father spoke of to fly me off to the heavens."
"Well, missy, I’m not sure if it is what you are looking for, but I know one animal that is definitely the most unlikely to help you. "There is at least one creature that is more unlikely than Carl over there." Arthur pointed to a gnome tangled up in his own grappling rope.
Arthur led Aerias to a nearby valley. Next to it rested a herd of elephants.
"Well, they certainly are pretty unlikely candidates, but I’ve come this far already." So Aerias and Arthur gingerly approached the animals.
Something strange began to happen as they neared the elephants. An energy began to vibrate out of the bow and arrow. The elephants began to shake. Slowly and surely, they began to take on a pinkish hue, and feathers began sprouting out of their backs. And those feathers grew into great wings.
"You’ve got to be messing with me, missy!" Arthur looked at the bow. "You didn’t say they could do that!"
"I didn’t know." Aerias was also shocked.
"Well, you better get going. You’ve waited long enough! Go check her out!" Arthur pushed Aerias, the closest elephant.
She timidly climbed on its back and asked, "Uh, ok, what next?"
The elephant blew a celebratory trumpet sound with its trunk. And with a jerk and its newfound winged freedom, the elephant lifted off from the ground. Carrying Aerias with it, the elephant flew up, higher and higher. The already small gnomes became even smaller as Aerias took to the heavens. Rising far above the clouds, she danced through the low-hanging stars. Up and up and up she went, until she broke through the clouds. And there it was.
The floating isles of what became known as the Kingdom of Aerias. Aerias had found her kingdom.
"And that’s the Legend of Aerias—the Kingdom and its first Queen. What we know for sure is that a kingdom was founded in the floating isles, and the gnomes too became a mighty kingdom." Sitting on his chair, Finn goes quiet, as though pondering something.
"Alright! I think I got it!" Finn closes the book and leaps up from his seat. Grabbing the miniature bow and arrow again, he begins scurrying to the door. "Common, follow me!"
You spend the better part of an afternoon watching Finn’s repeated attempts to emulate Queen Aerias. Even after a hundred tries and two more broken windows, he is still unable to fire the bow properly.
"Ok, come back next week, and maybe I’ll have figured it out!"
Finn bids you farewell. And as you walk out of his clearing, you hear him call out, "Goodbye, young adventurer! Come back next week!"