Farloft and Timenall sat on the ledge outside the dragon’s lair watching the sunrise.
“I should go home today,” Timenall said reluctantly. He was not anxious to. “There is something I need to do.” He started to paw at the ground, but thought better of it. The young dragon’s administrations had succeeded in scabbing over the injuries. He didn’t want to break them open. He would need his paws for what he had to do when he got home.
Farloft could feel how upset the hybrid was just sitting next to him. There was something at ‘home’ that he didn’t want to deal with.
“Would you like some company?” Farloft innocently asked.
“It’s about a two hour flight from here.” Timenall remembered what was waiting and didn’t know if he should get the young dragon involved, but at the same time he would appreciate the company and the help once they got there, if the dragon was willing.
Timenall shook his head at the young dragon’s boost. One could not sail on ones back.
He sobered a bit and said, “What we find there will not be pretty,” he warned. “I’m going to bury the dead.”
No wonder the hybrid was upset. Farloft was under the impression all the gryphon were captured. He didn’t realize any had died. He swallowed the lump in his throat. He’d killed for food, but never fought a battle or buried a friend. He talked brave and was large for his age, but he was just a little this side of still being considered a youngling by other dragons.
“I can help,” he said. “We can do it together.” If he intended to stay in the area he should follow through with his threat last night. Help rid the area of the Varda and stand by his new friends of the gryphon colony.
As they approached, the gryphon colony was easy to spot. It was built in what appeared to be half of a crumbled volcanic dome. The wall was almost a ‘U’ shape with landing platforms at the higher levels in front of slightly hollowed out areas where large nests were built. The nests were sprinkled throughout the wall. It must be a large group of twenty or so mated pairs.
Timenall tilted his wings and headed for a larger lower cliff with what appeared to be a shallow cave behind it. Much like the lair Farloft found for himself.
“Land to the left there,” Timenall pointed with a paw. “And keep your eyes open. The Varda might have sent hunters back here to look for me.”
The hybrid set down on the ledge and quickly moved aside to make room for the larger dragon. Farloft back stroked his wings to decrease his forward motion. He was momentarily hovering when he saw the large stain of blood on the right hand edge of the cliff. When he came down on the ledge itself he could smell death in the air.
Timenall didn’t move. “Do you know much about gryphon society?” he asked Farloft.
“Just what my mother and father taught me. They live in colonies like this,” he waved a wing to indicate the expanse of the rookery.
“We all mate at the same time of year. We can mate other times, but no young come from it. Having the young all at once makes it easier to care for them. Hatchlings come in the spring when there is an abundance of food. There is always an elder pair or two past breeding age that watch over the young while the parents and other siblings go on hunts to keep the hatchlings fed.” Timenall sighed deeply. “I had no young here in the nursery, but I helped hunt.”
‘Oh no,’ Farloft thought. The hatchlings…The Varda killed all the hatchlings…That was what they were here for. His heart started to race. He didn’t know if he could do this.
“Weirim, a gryphon I plan to ask to be my mate, told me what happened after we were penned up by the Varda,” Timenall explained.
He started toward the mouth of the cave. Farloft hung back.
“Singras was the eldest female. Her mate died last winter so Weirim, having no young of her own volunteered to stay and help watch over them.” Timenall noticed the young dragon was no longer at his side. He looked back over his shoulder. “You don’t have to come if you don’t want to. But it was quick, just one bolt from a crossbow to the heart.”
‘He said one blot…one heart…’ Farloft steeled himself against the smell and what he was going to see and moved forward. He was a bit relieved to see what appeared to be only one dead adult gryphon in a huge nursery sized nest. In fact, she was slumped forward, so he couldn’t even see her chest where the arrow must have been lodged. There were no young here. He let out the breath he did not even realize he had been holding.
“Weirim said Singras stepped back into the nest to shield the young as she shouted for her to fly for help. She considered for a moment staying with the children, but then Singras took the bolt and went down. Weirim was no match for the horde of man assaulting the cave. She bit and scratched her way out to make it off the ledge. But, she didn’t get far before she heard their leader call from the edge of the cliff.” Timenall swallowed hard. Tears rolled down he cheeks. “Weirim turned in the air to see the leader had Nalee, one of the youngsters, grasped by the neck while two of his men helped him subdue her by keeping her wings penned to her sides.” Timenall stopped, unable to continue with recounting what he had been told.
Farloft placed a wing over the hybrid to comfort him. He gave him a friendly dragonic lick of affection and waited silently until his friend was able to go on.
“The leader, he calls himself Ram, threatened to kill Nalee if Weirim did not return immediately. Nalee was always a troublesome hatchling. She took that moment to attack her capture. She bit one of Ram’s fingers off.” Timenall hung his head. “He slit her throat and dumped her body over the cliff edge. He cursed and screamed at Weirim that he would kill them all if she did not return. There was nothing else she could do. She went back to him. They had thrown a net over the young to keep them in place. They hobbled and muzzled Weirim in the same way you found me. When we returned from the hunt, laden with our kills we walked right into a trap. A trap none of us could escape, because Ram and his men threatened to kill the hatchlings if we gave them any trouble.”
Timenall walked out from under Farloft’s wing. He went to the edge of the cliff where Farloft saw the bloodstain - Nalee’s blood. Timenall looked back at his new friend. “I will go down and get Nalee.” He said no more, but spread his wings and dropped down over the edge to retrieve the dead hatchling.
Farloft stood at Timenall’s side before the nest in the nursery now containing Singras and Nalee. With their heads bent forward, if it were not for the smell and the flies, they would both look as though they were merely napping.
“I know it is not the gryphon way,” Farloft continued, “but it is the dragon way and I really believe it is the best in this case.” The bodies had started to decompose and there were flies and vermin in the cave. To move the bodies as Timenall suggested seemed almost impossible. Fire was the best solution and Farloft had it to give. “A funeral pyre is the dragon way and it is clean. This is only their bodies. Their souls left long ago. When the gryphon return they will understand,” Farloft said trying to comfort the hybrid.
“Of course,” Timenall said quietly. “You are right. It is best.”
“I will fetch some dry wood. It will burn clean and the ashes will be swept away with the next wind.” Farloft said philosophically, with wisdom that seemed beyond his years. He nuzzled Timenall gently behind the ear. “They will take flight, once more free to ride the high winds”