It was not Nicodemus' nature to be selfish. For the longest of times, Nicodemus has known itself to have been devoted to his Onus Bonded rider. It had used its own body as a shield in the past to protect Vandross from incoming arrows. It had survived without food and water and acted as a shelter from the unforgiving rays of the sun when they once found themselves marooned in the middle of some desert. And most of all, it had chosen the young man when he so desperately wanted to form a bond with a dragon, even if for Nicodemus, one human was no different from any other (a belief which Nicodemus, not long after learning to socialize with Vandross, learned to be an unfair generalization upon the human race.)
But now, Nicodemus couldn't help but wonder if that choice made so long ago was a choice it was now to regret having made.
As the landscape beneath them shifted from sands into green, Vandross' keen eyes caught sight of a glow in the distance. Closing his eyes, he focused his attentions instead on his olfactory senses and inhaled deeply. Meticulously, he took note of each and every scent in the air and began to categorize them. It was a skill that he had learned to master as a child.
"Leaf. Green. Wood..."
Each scent painted a picture in his mind's eye that matched the scene before him. But with his eyes closed , he was forced to decipher the scene through smell alone.
"Water. Wet grass. Old wood...."
It was a training he had received as one of the Faith's Dragonrider Archers. While sight had its limitations when weather and illumination came into play, smell on the other hand was a perceptive option that a dragon could help enhance. Through slight manifestations of the Dragon's song, a dragon could draw the air from miles away closer, and through their intense and for some almost maddening training, a Dragonrider Archer of the Faith could learn to dissect the air into key scents in order to paint an accurate picture of the lay of the land.
"Smoke. Ashes. Embers..."
Few were aware of this training method and assumed that all Dragonrider Archers of the Faith were gifted with some supernatural sense of sight. Others mistakenly assumed the archers carried with them spyglasses or telescopes. A few even spread malicious rumors that the archers had stolen the eyes of other dragons and through some dark magic now use them as their own.
"Chicken broth," Vandross opened his eyes. Nicodemus felt the slight tap of one foot against its scales. Slowing its flight, Nicodemus awaited for Vandross' new orders.
The rich salty aroma of chicken broth suggested many things. The obvious was that down below, the source of light was indeed a campsite and that the broth was being prepared as a meal. Vandross, however, was far more skilled than most and discerned more details from the smell alone. He recognized that the chicken was well cooked, easily suggesting the camp had been set up for quite some time. The spices in the broth included ginger, black pepper and Ossusi horseradish, and the latter was an expensive spice. This suggested those camped were most likely a merchant family traversing the dangerous land for some excitement. However, the fact that chicken broth alone was what Vandross smelled made it clear this was no merchant safari. Which narrowed it down to a smaller group, capable of affording expensive fare, traveling in this dangerous place.
"Mercenaries," Vandross declared. "Take to the sky higher, Nicodemus. We fly towards that light. However, keep within cloud cover. We might have Febhed down below."
Nicodemus gave a low growl. Vandross patted the dragon's neck to calm it.
"Savati is there," Vandross nodded, "Don't ask me how I know. I just know it."