Timenall had freed Weirim ,and she in turn had freed Dalfie. The two gryphoness wanted to fight, but the hybrid called them back. “We need to get the packs off the rest so we can get out of here.”
“I am not going anywhere until I see that man Ram die,” Dalfie hissed in anger. She started toward the cluster of men the dragons were holding at bay.
Timenall reached out a wing and batted Dalfie in the face to get her attention. “We need to free the others,” he repeated in a firm tone. “There will be time enough for revenge.” He had no idea that Dalfie had seen her mate die at the hands of the Varda leader.
Dalfie pinned Timenall with a piercing stare. “You free them. I am going to see that these men never leave this valley.”
Timenall reached for her, but she evaded his wing. Weirim nudged him with hers. “You can’t stop her,” she said. “Ram killed Marsdon.”
Timenall looked at her in shock. Marsdon was their leader, the head of their colony. How could he have missed that he was not in the group that entered the canyon.
“Come on,” Weirim said. “Let’s set the others free.”
Jozwik roared as she was hit with a crossbow bolt. Timenall heard her and he saw Farloft rise up over the canyon wall at her call. The young dragon looked much bigger from down here as he plunged toward the group of humans clustered together, taking cover between several large boulders. As he fell, he bathed them in fire. The Varda ran from the shelter of their boulder hiding place as it became a massive oven holding the young dragon’s flames captive. Some of the humans were snatched up by a dragon or a gryphon now free of their burdens and more than willing to seek vengeance for the injustice done them the last few days. Mercy was not in the gryphon vocabulary today and the dragons were swept up in the fever of battle by Farloft’s continued roar and fiery breath.
No one saw Ram and a half dozen of his men escape behind one of the avalanche debris peppered walls of the canyon to the rim. They were advancing on Melozzo unaware as he let the hatchling out of their prison.
The battle below continued unabated until they all heard Melozzo’s roar of pain as he was attacked.
Farloft’s head snapped up at Melozzo’s pitiful call. Timenall turned to Weirim who was freeing Lopho of his packs, “The Hatchlings!” He backed up to give himself room to take off. “Stay here and free the others,” he ordered. He ran a few steps and leaped into the air to follow Farloft to the upper rim of the canyon.
The pair found Melozzo bloody, but still defending the hatchlings. Luckily, none of the men Ram had with him possessed crossbows, but they had taken on the dragon with their knives, swords and prods. Ram was laying into him viciously with his long whip. One of the Varda ventured too close and Melozzo swept out with a huge paw and nearly took his head off.
Farloft couldn’t land by Melozzo where the dragon had pushed the hatchlings for safety among some boulder. He landed behind the humans while Timenall took a position at Melozzo’s side to help defend the young gryphons. The Farloft could not use his fire to stop the Varda without hurting the hybrid and the injured forest dragon. Three of the men turned and advanced on Farloft with whip, sword and prod. The young dragon backed away in hopes of separating the three from the others.
Ram’s whip snaked out to strike Timenall, but the hybrid was quick and evaded the cutting tip. Melozzo raised his wings in an attempt to shelter the hatchlings behind them and took the hit on his wing. It sliced through the membrane giving the dragon yet another bleeding wound.
Farloft bit and clawed at the humans circling him. He could take flight and get away from them, but he felt he needed to keep them occupied until Timenall and Melozzo were able to either kill the other Varda or somehow get the flightless hatchlings to safety. He felt the sting of the largest man’s whip. The Varda were talented whip masters and it was an excellent weapon since it kept the enemy at a distance.
Timenall tried to take to the air to attack from above, but when he got just above Melozzo’s head Ram’s whip snaked out and captured his back leg just above the paw. Ram, with the help of one of his men, pulled hard on the whip and the hybrid slammed to the ground in a pile of feathers at Melozzo’s feet, the breath knock out of him.
It was at this point that Dalfie arrived. She had looked through those in the battle taking place on the canyon floor and not found her prey. Ram was not among them. When she heard the dragon’s roar she knew the leader of the Varda, and the focus of her wrath, must be up on the rim. She descended on Ram like an avenging warrior.
Ram’s whip was still wrapped around Timenall’s leg. When he saw her coming he pulled his weapons, knife in one hand, sword in the other, and took a stance to fight. The two men left at his side faded away rather than face her talons and beak. She screamed and fell upon Ram without regard for her own safety. They tumbled, a mass of feathers and cloth rolling with talons, knife and sword slashing, ripping and stabbing. Dalfie alternated rolling with her wings tucked and slapping at her opponent with them. He managed to scramble to his feet, but lost his knife in the tumbling roll. She drove him back, without regard to his cutting blade, further and further toward the edge of the cliff.
Ram’s two men started to come to his aid, but Timenall and Melozzo made short work of them and their futile attempts to defend themselves now that they did not have Ram’s whip to keep the defenders at bay.
Farloft thumped one of his attackers off the rim and over the edge to tumble down to the canyon floor. If the man made it there still alive after the fall, the young dragon was sure the Varda would find himself besieged by the gryphon and dragons below.
Timenall took on another of Farloft’s attackers. He impaled the man with long sharp talons and tossed him aside. The final Varda had run when Timenall joined Farloft. The two dragons and the hybrid, their opponents dealt with now turned to watch the battle coming to an end between the Varda leader and the infuriated gryphoness.
Dalfie continued to drive Ram back closer to the edge of the cliff with bats of her wings and snaps of her beak. She inflicted wounds to his legs and arms. She could have taken his head off, but her plan was to make him feel what her mate had felt as he fell to his death, unable to help himself.
Ram looked over the edge behind him. His foot teetered on the rim and slipped on the crumbling rocky edge.
“Goodbye, Varda,” Dalfie sneered. “Think of my mate as you fall.” She reached out and slapped him hard one last time with her wing. It sent him tumbling over the edge. She followed him in a steep glide all the way down. When his body reached the bottom she landed beside it and screamed in a combination of triumph, anger and agony for her lost mate.
From their perch on the side of the canyon, it looked to Farloft and Timenall as though the battle was over and the gryphon and dragons had won.