Chapter 1: Tier III: Confidence
The red Chiro is crouched in the wet yellow grass roughly in the middle of a hill. The dewdrops in front of his muzzle sparkle in the first rays of the sun. Mornings are definitely getting colder up here. Soon the hills will be white with hoarfrost every day. Fortunately, Ignac's fur's grown thick enough over the summer months to protect him from cold weather.
Fog is still rolling around in the valley below and Ignac's yellow eyes are anxiously trying to see through it. He's watching the warm puddle of sunlight crawl over the slope towards him. Where is she? Shouldn't she be already on her way back? What if he's somehow missed her?
His worries dissipate, when he finally recognizes the familiar silhuette of Helga walking up the slope. Although she is carefully watching the path under her feet, there is a spring to her step. Strands of silver hair are flying around her head and she lifts the hem of her skirt as she climbs the rocky outcropping. She is carrying a basket full of gathered forest herbs in her other hand.
Ignac starts shaking from excitement, but remains hidden. Only when Helga disappears in the shadows on the other side of the meadow, Ignac jumps up and starts running up the hill as well. He takes a different route, shorter but also a more difficult one, through the part of the forest damaged by a recent storm. He climbs over rocks, races on top of fallen trees and jumps across small gaps to save time.
He manages to get to the cottage first. The small building is nestled in a small clearing at the edge of an extensive forest. He rounds the corner of the paddock. The horses with their big hooves and snorting nostrils used to scare him a lot. Especially the albino mare with red eyes, whose coat sometimes seems to emit a soft white glow. That was all in the past, however. Now he knows that she is, in fact, the gentlest of creatures. It probably also helps, that he himself is now the size of a small pony and therefore a little worthier opponent to the Drakehests should the need to fight or defend himself ever arise.
Suddenly the sharp Chiro senses warn Ignac, that Helga is already walking the sandy path leading up towards the cottage. He jumps to his feet, looks around, ponders his decision for a moment longer and then rushes to his chosen perch.
Helga arrives at the clearing in front of the cottage and stops for a second to admire her home. She might spend a lot of her time in the mountain fort, but she considers this little moss-covered cottage to be a much cozier place to live in. No draft, no crumbling walls and also no annoying students. Despite all those positives, though, the cottage is still too small to house most of her favourite winged monsters, when they grown up. Speaking of... what is the little red ruffian up to this time of day?
The old woman takes a look around. Meluzina, her white mare, trots up to the fence and energetically nods her head up and down in greeting. Otherwise, nothing. Helga shrugs and after waving hello to Mel goes over to the door. There she pauses, slowly puts the herb basket on the ground next to her feet and... quickly steps away, while expectantly looking up in the air, towards the roof. She waits a second longer, but... nothing happens.
She frowns and turns to have one more look around, when a big furry body slams into her chest from the other side. Helga is thrown off balance and goes down like a sack of spuds together with the Chiro. Ignac is absolutely thrilled that his little ruse worked and starts licking Helga's face.
"Aaah! Stop it, come on, STOP IT!" Helga cries, while desperately trying to push the sniffing and licking muzzle away, "You are already too big for that- Ow, this hurts, you little scoundrel! Okay, that's enough. GET DOWN!"
It seems the last order finally got through to the young Chiro, because he really pulls himself away and allows Helga to get back on her feet. She hisses in pain and massages her hip. Ignac sits in front of her, suddenly unsure how to act and what to expect from her.
Helga sighs, pats her sleeves and skirt to get them rid of the dirt. Then she looks over to the Chiro and her strict expression melts into a wide smile.
"Where did you come from, hm? I expected a roof-attack as usual, but you..." She straightens up, puts her hands on the hips and inspects their surroundings.
"Oh? Did you- Did you actually glide all the way from that tree? That's impressive. You are such a clever boy! Good job!" Helga exclaims and gives Ignac's head lots of pets. The Chiro is overjoyed to hear her praise and pushes into her hand like a big cat. It really has been the greatest distance so far that he dared to glide over. After the initial panic from being in the air with nothing to hold onto, he found out that he actually liked it. He liked it a lot. His big leathery wings carried his weight with surprising ease. The wind rustled the fur on his head, back and tail. And then it was over in a blink of an eye. Helga was right in front of him. He managed to turn a bit and extend his legs forward, but the final result was still very far from a smooth landing.
"You've really grown. I didn't even notice before," Helga wonders aloud, while delivering more cuddles, "maybe it's time to progress your training, hm? What do you say? Yes. And we'll start with teaching you some DISCIPLINE. You've almost crushed and smothered your old handler to death today, mister. I won't let that happen again..."" -strict stare- "Aw, come here! I'm so proud of you, you crazy furball!"
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