And it was that way for a while. I traveled the grid as a lonely wolf, trying to be nice with everybody but always careful not to get too close either.
That changed the day I met Lord Wings and Crottin De Chavignol from whom I learned there were people I could still trust. It was the time I was exploring the Southern Continent. I stopped in a little village that had attracted my attention because of its small airstrip and some nice planes and airships parked there. Moreover there were some nice shops and art galleries, and a beautiful palace uphill, dominating the place.
I stopped at the local pub and I booked a room, planning to spend a couple of days in the area. That evening I was in the common room, drinking ale and distractedly watching the serving wench. Suddenly I became aware of noise outside and people yelling. A little fellow entered the pub looking around with a gaze showing both worry and pride. Shortly after, three individuals, carrying wooden clubs came into the pub and walked toward the the little one.
"We don't want no bloody babyfurs around here !" one said
"I'm no babyfur, I am a tiny!" replied the little one defiantly
"Shut up, you weirdo!" added another
"You stinking furry !" completed the third, raising his club and stepping toward the tiny guy
I sighed. I had many furry acquaintances and it did pain me that these gentle people were discriminated against in so many places. I never understood that attitude. I was always shocked that any time I invited one of these people they were constantly asking me if I was sure they would be welcome. The little guy that had just entered was clearly no furry but that did not mean I disliked what I was witnessing any less. And in any case I did not think those three jerks would have changed attitude for a tiny.
I sighed even more and I stood.
"The little fellow is my friend" I said
"Stay out of this, Mister! this is no *** business of yours!"
"I said this is my friend. You touch him, you pay the price"
The fight was quick. I felt a bit sore and bruised after and my head was ringing and spinning but in the end the three guys retreated. People like that are always after easier targets, not someone their size ready to fight back.
I went back to his table and drank my remaining ale. I needed to recharge,
After a while I turned to the tiny, who had been staring at me all the time, and asked, "You okay , little fella" ?
Before I could hear the tiny's reply the world blacked out.
I woke up in bed the morning after.
"Good morning," someone said
"where am I ? ... who are you ?"
"They call me Lord Wings. You have a concussion and two broken ribs. I had you transferred here. I am in charge around here and this is my palace. Mr. De Chavignol is my guest, and I owe you. It would have been dishonorable if something happened to him in my village. I try to make this land a safe heaven for all, but you always find those who do not agree. Mr. De Chavignol here would like to thank you as well"
I noticed the tiny next to his host.
"You okay? " I asked, trying to force a smile
"I am fine. Probably thanks to you."
"Nice to meet you both, then. I am Ralph ... Ralph Montcalm"
"My name is Crottin De Chavignol" the tiny said.
"Damned long name for a tiny and difficult to remember when you have a concussion."
"You can call me Crotty" he said.
Lord Wings insisted that I remained as his guest together with Crotty, and I spent the following weeks at the palace. Without even realizing it we became good friends. Crotty was a natural in making people smile. He could spend hours telling you stories, and you were never able to discriminate the true part from what he was making up (and he is always making up a lot). He reaches his top in front of a glass. Crotty is very fond of good drinking, and I have never met anybody who knows about wines as much as he does.
Lord Wings had been very fond of flying for long time and he had built the airstrip I had noticed the first day. He also owned an impressive collection of airplanes and he was a always happy to involve new people in his passion. Crotty had been his guest because he was also very fond of flying and he was spending time there to try some new models.
Of course I knew how to fly. In my family you learn it almost as soon as you learn to walk. It simply was something given for granted, I had never thought of it as a potential source for joy. Being there was very different from being in the business environment of the family industries. Flying was about being free above the clouds, not just about making profits. I learned to take a plane up with the same attitude a musician plays an instrument. I guess Lord Wings almost immediately recognized my latent flying talents and became my mentor
When it was time for me to leave, Lord Wings donated to me my first battlebug, the vehicle that, to these days, I still pilot with greatest pleasure.
And by then I knew that flying would be my life
In the next episode ... Ralph's return to Caledon