Chapter 2: Random Roulette
Most of these mounts can be obtained without paying for them. I think only 1 isn’t, and I included it solely because I could make an anime reference…and the thought amused me.
<<Chapter 2: Random Roulette>>
So the good news was that the Warrior of Light adored her new black chocobo and now preferred to use it to ride into Camp Dragonhead as opposed to those primal ponies of hers.
The bad news was that the Warrior of Light adored her new black chocobo, and so despite Haurchefant’s assurances that she didn’t have to, she wanted to reciprocate the gift. What was even the point of him getting her a thank-you gift if she got him a return thank-you gift? Unfortunately, Haurchefant was also a sucker for her happy smiles and therefore couldn’t put up more than a token protest of the idea.
Thus landing him in this predicament, where she kept giving him many of the more uncommon mounts she had acquired during her travels.
It was…different. Haurchefant wasn’t sure if he’d rather use it as a mount or as an animal fighting partner, however. The Direwolf was snarling and snapping with long sabre teeth and glowing yellow eyes, tail swaying back and forth, alert and just waiting to be given a direction to hunt in. It looked like it would eat Lalafells for breakfast.
The local Karakul population took a bit of a hit, and more stuffy and irritating (although you didn’t hear that description from him) dignitaries politely refused the offer to sit by the fire with a warm meal considering what else just happened to share the room when they visited…so overall, the Direwolf was pretty nice actually.
He made sure to tell the Warrior of Light how pleased he was with it, hoping she would deem it enough because he certainly did.
Instead she took it as encouragement to give him more. Should he be delighted or dismayed…?
“And people actually ride on that?” Haurchefant eyed the ‘mount’ in front of him uncertainly, not even sure if the singular term was appropriate. The main part was a metal chair attached to two chains. He then glanced up in trepidation at the most important part, namely the explosive void kin which were holding the chains.
“I, uh, suppose so sir.” One of his men replied, looking wary of the glowing orange bombs holding the chair aloft.
To be fair, the soldier had ample reason; they were glowing orange bombs after all.
Haurchefant knew he had to set a good example for his men, knew he should be the brave one especially since the Warrior of Light had already proven the Bomb Palanquin was ‘safe’. “Yes, well, seeing as it was a gift…I suppose…”
The void kin then swivelled as one to look at Haurchefant and grin.
“…I suppose it would be a shame to tire them out carrying people.” Haurchefant finished brightly.
“As you say, sir.”
He thought it was another attack on the fort by a herd of goobbue at first. Then it was noticed that there was only one goobbue…and that it had a rider.
Of course it had a rider.
Haurchefant found himself the…lucky…owner of said Laurel Goobbue, who was apparently a girl, and had some accessories made of flowers and leaves including a crown on her head. Alright, he’d admit it, she was quite sweet; very gentle for a giant mossy creature with skin so hard and leathery it appeared like rock. He decided to call her Laurel (not very original he knew, but how many people named goobbues anyways?).
Then there really was an attack on the fort by a herd of goobbue.
His knights were shouting and calling on reinforcements as they ran out to meet the creatures and stop their rampage…and they were joined by Haurchefant’s latest mount. She ran out into the snow and the elezen were treated to the rather unusual sight of a bunch of goobbues halting mid-charge. One toppled over from momentum and fell on its front, only managing to keep its head raised so it could still stare ahead.
Laurel shifted and adjusted her flower crown.
The goobbues all abruptly began trying to brush the snow off their hides and puffed themselves up to look larger and bulkier. Laurel gave a little wave and Haurchefant was treated to the sight of blushing rocks.
The good news was the goobbue attacks stopped…the bad news was they still came charging anyways in their attempts to give gifts to Laurel. The news he very determinedly did not think about was that goobbues obviously had to produce little goobbues somehow and he was very likely looking at a courtship precursor to that process.
That was going to be firmly ignored until he absolutely could not continue to do so.
So Haurchefant still didn’t know exactly how he felt about the goobbue, the direwolf was alright, and the bench carried by explosive voidkin was going to be strictly ornamental if he had his way. But the Battle Drake that spat fire and was way too reminiscent of a dragon was surely crossing a line somewhere. Yes, it was convenient when it came to lighting fires for warmth in the cold winter lands. Yes, it had no wings and couldn’t fly which was a strong indictment that it was not, in fact, a dragon. No, that did not mean he wanted to keep it around; if this had been any camp other than Dragonhead, he would have expected a riot.
He ended up keeping it anyways, without any backlash. Haurchefant’s soldiers were rather familiar by now with his inability to say ‘no’ to the Warrior of Light unless the situation was her running into mortal peril (a disturbingly frequent occurrence). He just made sure the drake wasn’t anywhere in Ishgard; the North Shroud fortunately had non-flammable areas and apparently the drake liked roasting the frequently attacking Ixal, so it was a win–win situation.
(If only he knew that her next few gifts would honestly make him wish for more almost-dragons. Heck, even real dragons were preferable.)
Haurchefant blanched when he saw the giant white as bone head with bat-like wings and veiny skin. “Where did you get…this?” ‘This’, he felt, was an entirely appropriate way to refer to the flying monstrosity; he was rather struggling to come up with words to describe it that wouldn’t cause offense.
Hearing about how the Warrior of Light got it from The Palace Of The Dead gave him a few more words, not in relation to the mount though. First she went off to slay Primals, then dragons, and even threw some Ascians and Imperials in there for good measure…and Haurchefant thought surely even she couldn’t best that in terms of danger. But no, now she had gone and visited the land of the dead.
Tossing propriety to the wind (who needed that anyways?) he grabbed her hand and tugged her forwards into an embrace. “For the sake of my poor heart which nearly stopped, I’m going to need some reassurance that you are alive and well for a short while.” He muttered into her hair, long fingers circling her wrist gently so he could feel the warmth of her skin and the steady beat of her pulse.
And he was going to firmly deny the existence of the flying head (and the flying eyeball he was introduced to later).
…Was it just him, or were these things going one of two ways? Haurchefant wondered as the Warrior of Light stampeded into the stronghold on the back of a Behemoth.
These mounts either got more and more strange, or more and more dangerous, and either way it could be horrifying and disturbing. Heaven forbid something meet both criteria…
There were faint trembles in the earth with every stomp of those muscular limbs (the thing was all muscles from the looks of it, muscles on top of more muscles). The Behemoth pulled to a stop, threw back its head and roared—causing a miniature shockwave around it in the process—as if to alert others to its presence. Which was completely unnecessary seeing as they had felt its approach and something of its size and bulk would not be missed.
He didn’t blame his men for edging sideways around the mount so as not to turn their backs to it. He also took note of—and then carefully filed away in the back of his mind so he wouldn’t think any more of it—how some feral crocs had made it rather close to the camp. It would have been more concerning if they had been alive. Not that it wasn’t still concerning…the behemoth had to eat something to keep its massive bulk and the less thought Haurchefant put into that the better he’d sleep at night.
Compared to the last few fiascos, the Pegasus that Haurchefant was granted next was an utter delight. Even the location wasn’t so bad, he thought, as the Warrior of Light regaled him with tales of lands in the clouds that were just starting to be explored for their strange treasures due to the unusual aethercurrents in the area limiting its access to certain powerful airships. Then she told him about the incredibly strong monsters found there and suddenly things were par for course again.
Still, it bore repeating, this was a genuinely lovely mount.
The Pegasus got into the most entertaining competitions with their Black Chocobos due to their shared traits of flight and feathered wings. Whenever the handlers came to care for them they began ruffling feathers, cleaning them and generally preening and prancing about to show off.
Yes, he’d take winged horses over aether ones any day.
Next time was the Battle Trio, as Haurchefant called them. Apparently they had each individually approached the Warrior of Light after she had been leading several parties on adventures and into battle.
On the one hand, the trio was fairly normal; they were a giant bear, lion, and panther but still looked like the animal instead of some mutated version. And looking like an actual living animal was far better than looking like a forbidden ritual gone wrong (such as the flying head).
On the other hand…the Bear kept wrestling with the Behemoth. The Lion kept roaring and causing avalanches. And the Panther and the Dire Wolf seemed to be in a grudge match the likes of which Haurchefant had never seen before, circling and stalking and generally trying to catch each other off guard by slinking through the shadows. It was effective on everyone but their chosen targets; it was very unnerving to be patrolling only to have a panther emerge from the shadows right next to you.
Then there was the fact that they were gifts that a delighted Warrior of Light had given him with that bright smile and those warm eyes.
Haurchefant was fully aware of his own weakness in these matters, considering the last fact was the most important to him. At least they kept some of the other mounts busy…
This one was a bit odd, Haurchefant thought. In fact, he was a bit concerned about it because a plant that looked like a ball of fluff on a stem was not what he usually thought of as a mount. He couldn’t see how it would be directed in flight. It wasn’t like it was sentient…
He paused and thought over the various other mounts he had seen so far.
Well, it wasn’t likely it was sentient, Haurchefant amended.
At least it was very, very fluffy and soft. Haurchefant placed it in one of the break rooms in the fort for people to take naps on.
It was joined by the Flying Cumulus cloud which was equally puzzling as mount.
Haurchefant also pretended to be unaware of how some of his captains had taken to messing with younger, inexperienced recruits saying that only the pure of heart could ride the cloud. It was amusing how many were hesitant to throw themselves onto the mount to test it lest they fall right through.
Just because Haurchefant thought real dragons would be preferable to flying heads, did not mean he actually wanted a real dragon.
The Wyvern let out a deep rumble of curiosity and wondered why its new owner was burying his face in his hands.
Well, the good news was that it loved Haurchefant.
The bad news was that it seemed to only love Haurchefant, water, fish, and the Warrior of Light. And it was mean. It hissed and spat water at anything and anyone that so much as looked at Haurchefant in a manner it disapproved of. Considering the frigid temperatures of the Coerthas, it was a miracle no knights had gotten hypothermia or frostbite yet (well, no important or good ones at least; a few arrogant new bloods had learned the hard way not to insult creatures and just assume they lacked intelligence). A few ogres had been turned into ice statues due to the water hitting them freezing, but those were acceptable casualties.
The Elbst really shouldn’t have even liked the climate as much as it did. It was obviously water-based and most of the water in Ishgard was frozen, after all. But apparently the moving river water was good enough for it.
Haurchefant decided to leave it in the water so it could take its aggression out on the local Eft population. At least they wouldn’t be hindered by something spitting water at them.
A wave of Ice Sprites charged the outpost, a cold spell having caused an outbreak in the elementals.
A whirlwind spun forwards and knocked them all back.
The Ice Sprites charged the outpost.
A whirlwind knocked them back.
Haurchefant wondered which would tire first: the Sanuwa or the sprites. His latest mount seemed to find them very entertaining and treated the whole thing like a game.
“Sir, the dragons have been repelled!” A knight reported, saluting sharply.
“The patrol dispatched them already?” Haurchefant asked in surprise. The initial report had stated there was a small swarm of them; he had been considering sending reinforcements in fact.
“Well…in a manner of speaking, sir.” The knight allowed. “You recall your latest gift?”
Haurchefant thought back to that. Ah yes, the latest one was that strange green insect with a saddle and unusual spray-like contraptions on its rear. “Yes, the Kongamato. What about it?”
“It seems it took umbrage to the dragons flying in the same vicinity as it and disturbing its peace. One flew to its face and roared at it, and it turned tail as if to flee, only…” The knight trailed off. “The patrol described it as a moment of extreme flatulence that nearly knocked the dragons out of the sky with its stench. The dragons quickly fled.”
Haurchefant tried not to giggle; it was unseemly and dragons were serious business. Still, it was fortunate that the mount had some remaining chemicals from its time with the Vath in its holsters that it could spray.
The gift mounts had slowed and finally trickled to a stop. Haurchefant was a bit relieved, since he was running out of places in Dragonhead and Ishgard to keep them all. Although it had taken the Warrior of Light literally gifting him all the mounts she could feasibly acquire in the four great nations of Eorzea before that happened.
“Really, this is more than enough.” Haurchefant assured her. “Although…perhaps you’d like to visit more frequently, to check up on them?” He asked hopefully, heart beating painfully hard in his chest.
She smiled and nodded immediately her agreement.
“Splendid!” Haurchefant beamed back, feeling like he was soaring with his elation. “Would you join me for a warm meal before you depart? I would love to hear of how you even acquired some of these mounts.”
That she accepted the dinner date and spent a delightful evening regaling him with her adventures made everything worth it (flying heads and dragons and all).
In fact, he had such a good time and was in such a good mood with his new good fortune that Haurchefant began planning another gift to the Warrior of Light to show his appreciation and affection.
(Meanwhile, the soldiers of Camp Dragonhead smiled and sighed and shook their heads. Here we go again…they thought fondly.)
Aside 1: Spreading the Joy
“She showed up on a dragon. In Ishgard. In front of the Holy See!” Aymeric lamented when he was in the privacy of his own chambers (where there was no risk of anyone overhearing besides his current drinking companion), nursing a mug of something strong. “I know she claimed Midgardsormr as an ally but how could she think that such an entrance was a good idea?”
Haurchefant pat him on the back in sympathy. “If it helps, I don’t think it’s so much believing it’s a good idea, as not recognizing it as a bad one.”
“It doesn’t help.” Aymeric replied flatly, massaging his temples. “And you would know this how, exactly?”
Thinking back to the chaos and heart attacks from ponies (among other mounts best not thought of for long), Haurchefant shuddered a bit. “Trust me, I know.” Then he smiled, wide and sharp and a little too much teeth. After all, a burdened shared was a burdened lessened, right? “In fact, I can tell you all about it.”
Aside 2: Stormblood
“Ah, my apologies, but could you repeat that?” Haurchefant requested blankly.
“The Warrior of Light will be traveling across the seas to Doma.” The messenger repeated dutifully.
“Doma…Meaning a whole new continent, a whole new land, new wonders and most certainly new dangers.” Haurchefant sighed. Of course she had gone on another adventure. He wished it was closer to home the way her time in Ishgard was…he could hardly help look after her when she was all the way in Doma (plus, that likely reduced how often she’d be able to visit him in the foreseeable future). Then he froze as a sudden realization hit him. “…And new mounts.”
Here we go again…