Farloft cocked his head as he dipped a wing to get a better look at the scene below. Timenall assigned him the duty to scout out the location and status of the captured gryphon. The hybrid thought the Varda would not associate the dragon with a possible rescue attempt.
Farloft chose to spy on the caravan at night. His night vision was excellent and the fires the Varda clustered around made it easy to survey the kidnappers and assess their strengths and weaknesses.
Farloft had no trouble spotting the cage Timenall described which held the hatchlings. It sat right in the middle of the camp. The little ones were all huddled together in the middle, using each other’s bodies for warmth and comfort. The Varda had the adult gryphon staked out separately, hobbled with their wings bound to their sides and their beaks all covered with wire cages which kept them from chewing off the weighted boots they all wore, much like the ones Timenall was wearing when Farloft found him. The hybrid had told Farloft the boots were way too heavy for any of the gryphon to fly far or high, but they could for a short time if their wings were released. It was only the foolish actions of the Varda not binding his wings right away, and his size and strength from his dragon side, which allowed him to escape in spite of the boots.
Farloft glided lower to make sure he had not missed anything. He wanted to give Timenall and the others an accurate headcount of the kidnappers. Timenall said he was not sure how many Varda there were. In all the confusion and with the blinders on he thought he might have missed seeing some.
The young dragon sailed quietly over the multiple campsites sprinkled across the plateau of the mountain. The Varda were not many, but they were armed. Farloft spotted crossbows and swords leaning within reach of the sleeping kidnappers. They were also being careful not to cluster in a group. It would be hard to determine where to attack without having some of them behind you as well as in front.
As Farloft sailed beyond the site he thrust his wings down hard to avoid the next higher mountain in the range. When he tilted he caught sight of the trail the caravan was following and noted a canyon between two mountains. The Varda and their captives would have to go through that passage. It was not wide enough for him to maneuver effectively to fight them in it, but if they could separate the caged hatchlings from the main group and free them, then they could work earnestly on freeing the adult gryphon without holding back.
Timenall and the others were waiting not far away.
“There are only as many of them as there are gryphon, but they are armed and keeping the cage with the hatchlings centrally located in the camp,” Farloft advised. He sat down on his haunches, and extending a claw, started to draw in the dirt for the rest of the rescue team to see. “There is a passage here, a canyon, between these two mountains. It’s narrow and has a bend just beyond the middle that makes the opposite end blind to the ones who enter it. I thought it might be a good place to attack them.”
The feather’s on Timenall’s neck and head ruffled in the gentle evening breeze. “How far?” he asked.
“A hundred of my wing beats or so,” Farloft answered.
“Good,” Timenall said and nudged Farloft with a wing to show his thanks. “If they continue to make the same amount of progress they have since the capture they should make it to the canyon by late afternoon tomorrow.”
“But what then?” Salishan asked. “If they continue to keep the caged hatchlings in the middle of the caravan then we can’t do anything.”
“I was thinking of that on the way back,” Farloft said as he absently doodled in the dirt. “You said they had a couple of the adult gryphon pulling the caged wagon. If five of you could keep the Varda busy, I could fly down with the sixth. We could release the two adults and I could fly out with the cage.”
Melozzo looked at Farloft with renewed interest. “Timenall says there are fifteen hatchlings. You think you can carry a metal cage with fifteen hatchlings?” he asked skeptically.
“Honestly, I don’t think I can very far, but provided I am not hit with a crossbow bolt, I think I could carry them far enough to be out of harm’s way.” Farloft rose to all fours.
“Unless we get the hatchlings away we have no hope of rescuing my friends. They will not fight if they know their young are in danger,” Timenall said with conviction.
“I could help carry,” Melozzo offered. “These huge paws should be good for something.” He flexed his toes out to prove his point.
“The only problem I can see with the plan is that we won’t have Farloft’s fire to help us defeat the Varda,” Jozwik said. “It would be very helpful to kill some of the enemy from a distance prior to attacking them with teeth and claws.”
One of the things the forest dragon had lost permanently in their gene pool was the ability to breathe fire. Farloft was surprised when they told him, but then they were lacking so much because of their inbreeding – fire breathing and healing, the least of their loses.
Rezdal turned his wedged head toward Farloft. “Are there lose rocks on this canyon’s rim?”
“A dragon can make anything lose,” Farloft said with a smirk.
“Can we go have a look at it without being seen by the Varda?” Timenall asked, with a hint of excitement in his voice.
“I think so,” Farloft replied. “We will need to take the long way around over the mountains, but if you all can fly as high as me, we can.”
Rezdal thumped Treynic in the side with a wing. “Well, if we can keep old ‘whitey’ here from giving us away we can certainly keep up with you,” he boosted.
“I know how to take care of that,” Jozwik said and turning her back she started kicking dirt up on him with her hind paws.
“Hey! Stop that,” he yelled and pounced on her from behind. The two went rolling over the ground in a playful huggling mass.
“Younglings,” Timenall scoffed. “We’ll be lucky if we don’t all get killed.”
Salishan, who was standing next to Timenall placed his wing over the hybrid. “Come on, Uncle,” he said. “You were young once and look,” he pointed with his other wing, “it worked.”
Sure enough, Treynic was a dusty shade of tan rather than his strikingly white self.
“Not perfect, but hey, who’s perfect,” Salishan announced extending his mangled paw. The other five young dragons laughed as they came back together around Timenall.
Farloft liked this young group. They might be maimed, even deformed, but they were not feeling sorry for themselves. They were living with their less than perfect selves, and even keeping a sense of humor about it. They were good dragons.
“Let’s go check out the canyon and make a plan,” Timenall said, as he walked out from under Salishan’s wing.
Without waiting for everyone to agree, Farloft leaped into the sky. The others followed spreading out in a wing behind him.