Saturday, September 10, 2016

Isle of Mystery - Chapter 8

Farloft scratched at the side of Rugarth’s cave entrance to announce himself. There was a worn patch in the rock where many before him had requested admittance to an audience with the ruler of the Moreth Clan.

“Come in,” Rugarth’s deep baritone rumbled. “Sit. I will be with you in a moment,” he said without turning to see who had entered.

The old dragon was sitting before a wall filled with chalk symbols almost from floor-to-ceiling. The runes were in long columns as if they were lists. Rugarth made one last mark with a large piece of chalk, then turned to face his company. The chalk dust had mixed with the silver of the scales on his paw. He had been at this for over an hour now.

“Ah, Farloft… I was just making a list for Kennoith of the issues which need attention while we are away trading.”

“He isn’t going with us?” Farloft has thought the senior human would accompany them.

“No, one of us always remains with the colony while the other is away. We don’t want to leave our people without a leader to turn to should anything unforeseen happen to either the one left behind or the one traveling.” Rugarth put the chalk down and sat to give the youngling his full attention. “Pier will go this time and I have chosen another young human, Olar, to travel with us. The Moreth are recognized everywhere we will be going, but a human is always good to have along to soften our arrival.”

“It will be good for Pier to have something to do. She is lost without Laroth. I know Mesanth and Trisk have been spending time with her.”

“You are very observant, Farloft,” Rugarth complimented.

“And you are playing matchmaker, I think,” the young dragon said with a grin. “I have seen Olar hanging around Pier like a hatchling around their first solid meal.” He grinned at the ruler and nodded knowingly.

“You will make a find ruler one day.” Rugarth bumped him with a wing in a companionable way.

“I am not sure I want to rule,” he replied. “It is a lot of responsibility.”

“As you grow older, I think you will long for it.” Rugarth looked at his young charge through the years of leadership he had behind him. “We dragons all long to rule.”

Farloft grinned. “Perhaps.” His eyes slid from the dragon in front of him to the writing at his back. “How did you learn to write?”

“Kennoith, naturally. He is a wise and patient teacher.”

“Father does not write, but he reads our human’s language. Perhaps he would write if I brought him back some chalk. There are basalt columns in our lair he could use as a board.”

“We can purchase him some in Ryland,” Rugarth offered. “It will be one of our stops along the way. I was going to get some for myself there.”

“Where all will we go?” Farloft asked anxiously. He had been quizzing Mesanth and Trisk, but both of them had never been, so their answers were vague and not detailed enough for the curious youngling.

Rugarth looked down, stood up and backed toward the wall. The movement revealed a map carved on the floor. Farloft rose and back up too, in order to see the full detail. There were mountains, streams, waterfalls, plains, forests, oceans, and islands carved in the image. He was surprised he had not noticed it upon entering, but then he realized the cave had grown quite a bit brighter. He looked up from the carving to see something else he had not noticed. There was a small ledge perhaps four to six inches deep carved in a swirling pattern around the walls. The ledge wound around and around, and on it sat hundreds of precious gems all tumbled into perfectly round spires. The ledge circled the cave walls until it ascended to the ceiling, which was studded with amethyst crystals like a giant geode. Currently, all the gems and the crystals in the ceiling were glowing with a soft light.

“It’s beautiful.” Farloft breathed out in awe. “How do you get them to glow?”

“You have so much before you, in the future, my young friend,” Rugarth said. “I redirect a bit of my energy to them. They are the purest I could select from our stores. They each pick up on the energy and vibrate creating the light. Now…Come here.” Rugarth extended a wing and pulled Farloft over to the side of the map. “We are here,” he pointed with a claw to the detail of the cliff face, waterfall and plain below. “We will walk the ridge along here and descend to the plain here,” he ran his claw along the ridge above the cliff and toward the south to the plain. “This is one of the dangerous parts. We must cross the plain and make it through Brail Canyon without encountering a twister demon. At this point everyone is so loaded down with our cargo that we cannot possibly deal with a demon or fly any length of time to get away from one.”

“Will it take long to get past that point?”

“It is a three-day trek and often full of mishap.” The map detail was now out of the reach of Rugarth’s paw, so he pointed out further spots of interest with the claw on his upper wing. “After we pass through the canyon, we enter the Gildon’s lands. They are humans who make their homes in massive trees. The sight is extremely stunning, if we arrive at nightfall. They rarely touch foot to ground and have built large trading platform in the trees. Pier, Olar and Trisk will help us with the negotiations there, although the platforms are low enough many of us can rest our head on them.”

Rugarth shifted his weight and leaned forward. “From there we pass through Lanis, Tilmar and Gord before reaching the swamps of Uptin.” He pointed with the tip of his wing at an area that had a large ‘X’ over it. “Crossing the Isle is where we run into those pirates I spoke to you about. They live on small land masses in the swamp and lie in wait for us. They know we must pass and many of us are loaded down with our purchases and cannot evade them and their weaponized flying machines as easily as we could without our loads. There is further trading to be done beyond the swamp and it adds weeks to the trip in order to go around it. We have tried.”

“Could you send back part of your clan with the goods and perhaps balance out the gem loads lighter between the others to make it easier to evade the pirates?” Farloft suggested.

“I had thought of that, but we are transport for some of the other humans we trade with. For instance, Lanis gives us not only iron tools for our farmers, but we carry some to Gord which we trade for grain to bring back to Lanis on the way home for more iron tools.” Rugarth sat back on his haunches. “Beyond Uptin are the Isles of Ryland. They are rich in everything the humans and we dragons desire, so we must push beyond the swamps and back over them again in order to truly accomplish our trade mission.”

“What is in the Isles, other than chalk, that is so valuable?” Farloft asked.

“Ahhhh, that is what I want to save as a surprise,” Rugarth teased. “You have never seen anything like it.”

Farloft grinned and shifted from paw to paw in anticipation. “I can hardly wait to see.”

“Are you packed?” The old dragon asked.

“Mesanth insisted on taking care of it. She says I am not able to carry a load just yet and will carry mine for me the first part of the trip.”

“Mesanth is a good youngling and will make a fine healer one day.” Rugarth rose indicating the audience was over. “Get a good night’s sleep tonight. We leave at sunrise tomorrow.”


Farloft watched as Mesanth went through his pack one more time, checking to make sure she had not forgotten anything.

“Mesanth, you are going to wear half the gear out, just packing and repacking it,” he grinned at her intensity.

“I mustn’t forget anything. We can’t very well come back and get it when we make camp the first night and find I missed it.” She was stuffing the things back into the contraption of baskets suspended from leather straps which would fit over her head and behind her wings in order to dangle off either shoulder in front of her as she walked and flew.

“I think you are packing way too much.” Farloft couldn’t believe she could fly with such a heavy load. She was no bigger than he was. “I don’t need a rug to sleep on. I am quite capable of sleeping on the ground.”

“You have no idea where we are going,” Mesanth chastised, as she placed the second rug in the basket. “I have heard…”

“I do know where we are going. Rugarth showed me on a map,” Farloft countered.

“Well then, you should be happy I am taking a rug for you then.” She huffed at him, but it wasn’t a relaxing huff, more like she was exhaling her anxiety.

“Alright, but as soon as we get to the Gildon and purchase the new baskets, I get to carry my own gear,” Farloft huffed back.

“Deal…” Mesanth extended a paw.

“Deal…” Farloft took it and shook.


The walk the next morning along the ridge and down into the plain took all day, but was full of new sights and smells. The air was crisp and clean at this height and Farloft longed to soar on the thermals he could feel rising from the plains below. About midday they started to descend to the valley. It was a long winding trek and sometimes quite narrow. At one point the trail was blocked by an avalanche and the loaded down dragons took turns carefully gliding to the ledge several hundred feet below. One missed, having miscalculated the weight of his load, and its increasing his speed so much. He took a tumble, but managed to right himself and land a good deal further down the mountain. Part of his load spilled and Farloft, being the only one of any size without a pack had appointed himself retriever of the spilled gems. He was descending in a series of glides from one wayward gem to another. Rugarth was keeping a close eye on him and continued to shout instruction at him, like ‘be careful,’ and ‘watch that lose shale.’

Farloft grinned at the old dragon’s concern and continued to enjoy the freedom that would vanish once they reach Gildon and he had his own pack to carry.

By early evening they were on the valley floor. Here was once more the barren land Farloft encountered on his arrival. Luckily, Mesanth had packed well for the trip and unlike his waterless, foodless former trek, they feasted on apples, meat and had fresh water to drink from several skins the young female filled at the waterfall before their departure.

Farloft spread out the rugs Mesanth packed in the shade of a rock outcrop. He was thankful she did not listen to him on that score. The rugs would make a nice bed. The sun was setting and the shade was not needed for the night, but he noted that the sun would rise behind the rock, so they would have shade in the morning before they left.

The moon was going to be full tonight. Rugarth planned it this way so they could see the twister demons should they descend on the trading party. They were out in the open. There was nowhere to hide from the creatures.

As night fell the party of some thirty dragons curled up in smaller groups and chatted until sleep came. They were large, powerful beasts, but they were also used to flying and the day’s walk had exhausted them.

Pier and Olar curled up against Rugarth, at his bidding, and he set to watch over them, sleeping with one eye open to keep watch for any danger that might arise.


Mesanth’s moan awoke Farloft, who was not lying far from her side with Trisk resting between his paws. He looked up to see the young female frowning and her paws twitching in her sleep. As he watched he witnessed an incredible manifestation. Behind Mesanth the dust began to lift and the particles begin to swirl. The cloud immediately began to form into the shape of the twister Farloft had seen. It was growing quickly and gaining height.

Farloft didn’t know what possessed him, or what made him think what he was thinking. Maybe it was Mesanth’s actions while caught in what appeared to be a nightmare, but Farloft somehow knew the twister and Mesanth were somehow connected.

Farloft didn’t even see that both Trisk and Rugarth had awoken. Trisk moved when Farloft did toward Mesanth. Rugarth hesitated having both Pier and Olar leaning against him in sleep. Farloft reached his friend first. He concentrated thinking of his calming scene at the ocean. He fixed the visualization firmly in his mind and then huffed over Mesanth. She continued to twitch and paw at the air. As Rugarth came to his feet, waking his two human companions in the process, Farloft breathed in and huffed again. The furrows in Mesanth’s brow smoothed.

“Again,” Rugarth said, in a loud stage whisper.

Farloft huffed over Mesanth one last time and the young female relaxed back into a peaceful sleep. The twister having not fully formed dissipated and the dust fell gently to the ground forming a coned pile.

Farloft and Trisk went to Rugarth as he sat down with the humans beside him.

“The Twisters are the nightmares of the Moreth,” Farloft declared with certainty. If Trisk’s clan was their pleasant thoughts, then it made perfect sense that the twister demons were their nightmares.

“Yes,” Rugarth confirmed. “That is what makes this area so dangerous for us. Originally, the plains were all like the area at the base of our cliff home, fertile and life giving. But, as we all dreamed the twisters came into being and they did not die upon our awaking. They ate everything, like hungry dragon hatchlings. We retreated and when we came to the cliffs, we found that the mass of stone somehow insulated us. The demons still formed on the plains should be dream there, but not in our sanctuary. Out here,” he waved a wing, “we are vulnerable again.”

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