“You have been very kind,” Timenall said, “but my mouth is so dry I feel like I ate a cottonwood tree. Could we get a bit of water to drink before I explain?”
“There is a stream that way,” Farloft indicated with a nod of his head. “And a lake that way,” He indicated with a raise of his paw.
“I know the area, and I think the lake,” Timenall said. “I can soak these paws a bit.” He looked down at the blood oozing from the tips of his swollen toes.
“Hungry?” Farloft asked seemingly out of nowhere.
“Starving.” Timenall answered.
“You like those dapple coated things?” the young dragon asked.
“The klnicks?” Timenall asked with a smile. “Lov’um.”
“I’ll meet you at the lake.” Farloft backed up and spread his wings. “I’ll bring dinner.” He smiled a toothy grin.
“I’ll look forward to it,” Timenall replied, as he too spread his wings and they both vaulted into the sky.
It didn’t take Farloft long to find his prey and bring it down. He was ravenous by the time he caught it, so he justified eating his portion before returning to Timenall by thinking he was giving the gryphon mix some time to himself for cleaning up. Besides, it made the load a lot lighter to carry.
He came down at the edge of the meadow just as the moon began to rise. Timenall was sitting on his haunches grooming himself like an over sized cat. He was licking his hind leg stretched out way over his head.
“I’d pull something if I tried that.” Farloft dropped the klnick on the ground close to Timenall and waded into the lake himself. When it got deep enough he lowered his head and swished his muzzle from side to side cleaning the blood off his face and neck. Then he dipped his head under and brought it up again rolling the water over his back and wings. He scraped his paws on the rocky bottom of the lake. By the time he got out, Timenall had given up grooming and fallen on the Klnick with gusto. There was little left except the bones and hide.
“Didn’t they feed you?” Farloft asked, as he came out of the water. He shook the beaded water off his wings and flicked each foot in turn to remove the access. Unlike the hybrid he didn’t have fur or feathers to smooth or groom.
“Haven’t eaten for at least a week.” Timenall drug his long pink tongue around his face to clean the blood off. He licked his paw and washed his face with it. He seemed like a very fastidious fellow. “They had no concept of what they captured or what our dietary needs were.”
“There are more of you?” Farloft’s ears pricked up.
“Not exactly like me. I meant more gryphon.” The full moon cast a pale light over the meadow they were in. Timenall settled down on his stomach taking the weight off his injured paws. “I was living with my father’s gryphon colony, the Neelands. My mother was a Forest Night Dragon. She was killed by the Varda tribesmen many years ago,” the hybrid explained.
“I’ve never met a Forest Night Dragon.” Farloft said. He pawed at the remains of the kill and found a tidbit left on a bone. “You mind?”
“Not at all,” Timenall answered. “I owe you.”
Farloft lay down and quietly gnawed on the bone as Timenall continued.
“A Forest Night Dragon is rather small for a dragon – about my size. They are nocturnal and my mother had the same coloring as I do. Nice camouflage for night hunting.” Timenall absently licked at his injured paws. “My mother and the gryphon colony shared this land. They coexisted well because when mother was hunting the colony was asleep.
“It was just one of those rare happenings that my parents met each other. Father was trailing injured prey. He didn’t want to leave off even though it was past nightfall. Mother followed the sound of the struggling klnick thinking she would make an easy kill. Each was so focused on the prey they literally ran into each other. To hear her tell it, it was just the most natural of things for them to agree to share it. From that chance meeting their friendship and later their love bloomed.” Timenall looked up at the moon. “When she was cornered and killed father almost went insane with grief. His feathers mottled. He lost so many he couldn’t fly. I hunted for both of us that summer. I was still young, but a fast flier and a good hunter.” His eyes returned to his paws. Farloft wondered if he was thinking he wouldn’t be that good a hunted any longer, when Timenall continued. “He died the following winter. Some said it was winter croup, but I know he just didn’t want to live without her.”
“I’m sorry, but you had a clan,” Farloft offered.
“Yes, my father’s colony was very tolerant of my odd mixed blood.” Timenall shook his head. The feathers of his mane which fell between his eyes were symmetrical. One white, one black-in the middle, and one grey. “But now they are all prisoners of the Varda. The tribesmen intend to punish them until they will submit to working as pack animals to transport them and their trade goods over the mountain range. They determined riding a winged gryphon would be far easier and faster than walking.” He licked at a paw. “I have to free my friends.”
Farloft looked down at the mixed breed’s injured paws. “You can’t do anything until those heal. In the meantime, we can work on a plan.”
“You’ll help?” Timenall asked in surprise. This young dragon was remarkably agreeable. He knew he didn’t have much of a chance without help now that he was declawed. Teeth were effective, but claws gave you the reach you needed in a fight.
“Why not? The Varda do not sound like people I would care to have as neighbors and I have found myself a very nice lair not far from here.” Farloft cracked the knuckle of the bone he was chewing and sucked aimlessly at the marrow. “I intend to stay for a while. If the Varda would tackle a hybrid, they might take a chance at trying for a dragon. I’d rather strike first.”
“Can you breathe fire?” Timenall asked expectantly.
Farloft took a deep breath and let it out with a flaming spew of fire. It was so hot it succeeded in lighting the piece of bone in his paws as if it were a torch. He smiled at the hybrid.
“I just might have a chance of setting them free with your help,” Timenall said and for the first time felt hope raise in his chest.