“Don’t even bother”, said a blond youth as he tilted a bottlenose down to his mouth. “The man isn’t just a lover of his privacy. He’s also amazingly unpleasant. He basically belittles and bullies people until they voluntarily walk back down the mountain. He won’t teach you anything.”
The other participant in the conversation replied with a subtle nod. “Perhaps no one has handled him properly.”
The blond only grinned in reply, drinking a bit more, “Hey, by all means feel free to try. But your time is better spent trying to handle an owl bear.” With the same grin, the blond paid his tab and began to wander out of the tavern. “Still, it’s been fun. I like talking about ‘heroes’. Good luck.”
A year had passed and Eryximachus’ fears had come to life. Fame made the mountain a beacon for all sorts with magic. Over and over at unpredictable intervals people would just show up at the mouth of Eryximachus’ home. They had their usual little speeches and motivations. “Oh please great hero, teach me how to wield my magic” or some such nonsense – and usually, a polite and short “no” was not enough. These little shits would actually attempt to browbeat their would-be teacher into accepting them.
After just flatly turning a few away, the march of people seeking out Eryximachus did not stop. They wanted a teacher? Fine. From there Eryximachus spent his time forcing his ‘students’ to endure the elements, all the while belittling them and teaching them very little related to magic. Soon, he found he could leave out vital information and some students would accidently injure themselves. The man prayed that word would spread and people would get the hint. But alas, people were arrogant and every new ‘student’ thought they had the answer of how to get Eryximachus to cooperate.
Pushing his hood aside, a man who would soon not be able to call himself a youth looked to the mouth of an unmarked cave. If it were not for his days of scouting Eryximachus’ activities he may have missed it. The man grinned, today was the day Eryximachus gained a student.
Standing away from the caves mouth, the man stood with good posture against the cold. He shouted, keeping his voice even. “Eryximachus, my name is Keld. I have come to make you aware of a gift I have given you.”
Stirred by the novelty of the other’s first words, Eryximachus soon came to the mouth of his home. He looked on, giving the boy a look over. Keld had a collected expression and modest clothing and stood a notably respectful distance away. Eryximachus crossed his arms, “Go on”.
Keld internally grinned, feeling victory draw closer. “Have you noticed a drop in people visiting you?” Eryximachus nodded, “I have. But the decrease is to be expected. Winter is coming.” Keld laughed shortly, “Actually sir, I am sad to say, you would have had quite the opposite situation on your hands. People were thinking that because of your elemental affinity with the cold that you would be more attuned and powerful at this time. And that they could prove their commitment.”
Eryximachus scowled at the thought, but then refocused on Keld, “would”? Keld nodded, “Would” he said confidently, “But I have made arrangements that will protect your privacy. I would be happy to tell you more if I may…” he said, gesturing to Eryximachus’ cave.
Before long, the two men were sheltered from the cold with a fire not too far away. Keld watched, trying to gage how comfortable he should appear. He knew that one mistake would banish him from learning from the dragon slaying sorcerer. Eryximachus sauntered around, his body language loudly laying claim over every inch of the caves interior. And at no point did Eryximachus offer food or drink. Not even a closer seat to the fire. Keld lightly shivered under his coat. It was clear, Keld needed to strike a delicate balance between respectful submissiveness and confident conversation.
He nodded as Eryximachus sat, “I will cut to the point. I know your time is valuable. Over the past few months I have talked to people in Minora and anyone new who were asking around about you. It didn’t take long to figure out you value your privacy and mountain. However, over and over others didn’t seem to feel the need to heed that and would leave to come up the mountain anyway. So, as someone who also values privacy, I was moved by your situation. Over the past few weeks I have constructed misleading signs and trails. I have even replicated – to the best of my ability – certain land formations people use as path markers to your cave. Hopefully, it is all confusing enough to dampen even the most ambitious efforts to find you.”
There was a long pause from Eryximachus as he eyed Keld suspiciously. “It does seem like you understand my situation. I will give you that. People have no respect for the word “no”. However, I do not like you framing this as a ‘gift’. You are sitting here with a reason I trust.”
Keld nodded with raised hackles. Dear Gods, this man could see a slight in everything. Honesty was the best policy here. “Yes. I too wish to be a student. However, let me make my case.” Eryximachus said nothing, letting his eyes bore into the youth across from him.
“I understand your anger. Of course you’re entitled to it. People show up on your mountain, at the mouth of your home demanding your time and knowledge without offering anything in return. I hate that sort of carelessness. If you teach me, I will provide a service to you in kind.”
Eryximachus shifted, sitting taller. His dark eyes narrowed and again Keld felt like he was on the edge of failing. “You come to my home claiming to have purposely subverted people who would have been your competitors for my attention. Then you offer to continue doing so in exchange for my teachings. You understand what you could be leading those people to? This mountain is dangerous. There are beasts, the elements, people have died here.”
Keld was taken aback by the sorcerer’s words. The youth took a moment to collect himself. What answer was Eryximachus looking for? His words were very righteous in nature…but his voice lacked the indignant rage a good man has when regarding a cheater.
Keld met Eryximachus’ eyes with confidence, “People die everywhere.”
And then, the tension broke as Eryximachus grinned and stood. He put a hand to Keld’s shoulder, “I believe this may be a very promising partnership…as long as you continue keeping others away from my home.”
Over time Eryximachus and Keld worked together, exploring the secrets of dragon blood and materials. It wasn’t long before some thralls left over from the conflict had been cured by the pair. They also learned of dragon enslavement of humans and the origins of half dragons.