It is known to most that dragons are a frightening, powerful, and merciless breed, capable of surviving in environments too blighted for even weeds to take root in. Whenever one chooses to migrate from the northern wastes, death and destruction assuredly meet all that come into contact with it. So has been the accepted understanding since before recorded history.

But, there are instances where this preconception is challenged.

In the tundral plains there was a village that was little more than a grouping of weathered hovels, and within these hovels there lived a boy. Like all children in that frostbitten community, he was warned of the evil that was dragons, from bedtime stories to recountings from elders that had survived attacks in generations past. But rather than be filled with the fear and hatred that overtook his peers, he had questions. He wondered what motivated these creatures to behave and destroy as they did, if there was direction in their movements. In short, he questioned if dragons were more than the mindless machines of violence his family made them out to be.

Perhaps it was no surprise that he was also particularly fond of animals. From an early age he would spend much of his free time feeding and playing with the village strays, and oftentimes cared for wounded rats and birds.

These traits were considered frivolous to the villagers, who honed and valued the base, gut instincts one needed for basic raw survival out in the tundra. But though the lad proved sluggish with the axe and clumsy with the bow, his curious mind made him adept at observation, particularly in locating herbs used in medicines, as well as understanding the process of making medicines. Eventually the boy grew into a man, becoming the village's sole herbalist and medical expert. His mending prowess was impeccable; his concoctions effective in spite of the primitive resources available. His skill garnered respect from his neighbors, though none was given to the man that harbored it.

It was near the end of one bitter autumn that the man's predilections would come to alter his fate.

On a day seemingly indistinguishable from any other, he requested the use of a large, sturdy cart and two equally sturdy horses from the village trader. He claimed that there was a large bear carcass in a nearby copse, and wished to bring it back while it was still fresh. This seemed rather suspect, especially when he fervently refused to accept any help in moving the carcass. But he was otherwise a trustworthy soul, and the trader thought it good that he was finally pulling some actual weight for a change. The cart and horses were readied, and the healer set out without further word.

It was over a day later that the trader decided to mount a search for his missing property, and thus a party was organized to find the wayward healer. Tracks had indeed led to the copse of withered trees, and indeed something large had upset the earth. But the tracks led out in the opposite direction: Northward.

For half a day the villagers followed the tracks warily to the far edges of the tundra, and shortly past the point where grass stopped growing, they finally discovered the cart. Smashed to splinters, with no sign of the horses to be found. A short distance from the wreckage was a large patch of freshly scorched earth, where they made another startling discovery.

A statue bearing the same height and dimensions of the missing herbalist stood in the center, made entirely of a black, gleaming stone that appeared both cool and warm to the eyes. Its arms were raised forward and open in unrequited embrace.

Fearing this the work of dragons, the search party hurried back lest they themselves met a similar fate. Upon their return they wasted no time detailing the grim findings, and shortly thereafter a young boy came forward with a confession. Or rather, information that would shed further light on this tragic occurrence.

On the day of the healer's disappearance, the boy had secretly followed him out in the early morning, curious as to where he harvested the ingredients for his elixirs. Into the copse they went, and from behind the cover of a tree the boy saw not a bear corpse, but a living dragon, hardly larger than a bull, with razor-sharp claws and talons. But the herbalist showed no signs of fright; instead he placated the creature with dead rabbits in order to replace some bandages that could not have been more than a day old. The tufts of hare fur found there attested to this, and it gave some explanation as to why the healer had returned to the village empty-handed the previous day, when none of his past foragings ever turned up fruitless.

The rest was quickly surmised. Whether out of genuine kindness, madness, or as validation against years of ostracism, the healer took it upon himself to convey the dragon back to its realm, only to meet his end at its border. Perhaps his passenger had finally turned on him; perhaps he reunited it with its kin and that was his reward.

What was most puzzling about the affair was the fact that there were any remains to be found. A mortal would be reduced to ashes before a dragon's infernal flame and scattered to the winds, yet the solidified body of the herbalist stood defiant of that.

Maybe there was something in the air that altered the fire's properties. Maybe it had been a rogue wizard that attacked him instead. Or maybe the gods, taking pity on his foolish but well-meaning endeavor, immortalized him in stone that evoked the same sense of warmth that had filled his heart.

Word of this anomaly reached more civilized regions via merchants who had heard the grumblings of the village trader, prompting travelers to brave the harsh frontier and behold the peculiar statue for themselves. Some of these travelers believed it to be a miracle, gathering together and building an outpost for the sole purpose of preserving it and the message it represented. Namely, the fervent hope that peace, unity, and friendship between all races large and small could be achieved. Farfetched, but a belief that still manages to draw in fresh devotees every few years.

Although, probably the biggest testament to this miracle's validity is that in the fifty years since the statue's appearance, not a single dragon has been spotted for miles around the site. The northern expanse is vast, however, with plenty of areas for a dragon to slither across. But to the devout, it is the unseen persisting will of the Kindly Warden barring passage to the most brutish of dragons while also awaiting the arrival of wiser, more empathetic dragons with open arms.