Saturday, January 6, 2018

A Gathering of Dragons - Chapter Two

Farloft roared out his pleasure at returning home to his family as he glided across the meadow to the entrance of his lair.

Clearair, James and Anna heard the call and were outside to greet him as he landed. Clearair let the younglings welcome their father first. Anna was so excited she kept shifting from human to dragon form, not knowing which was best to give her father the love she wanted to show him. James wing bumped his father as the older dragon extended it over his daughter’s head to him.

“It is so good to see you all.” Farloft pulled James into him.

James seemed to have grown while he was away. There was a more mature set to his stance and he looked his father straight in the eyes rather than shying away like a hatchling. Farloft felt good about the way James had adapted to living as a dragon and how hard he worked to please his dragon family.

“It is so good to have you back.” James reached out a paw and wrapped it around Farloft’s front leg. “We have all missed you.”

“Indeed, we have,” Clearair rumbled with a purr.

The younglings looked up to see their father gazing lovingly at his mate. James gently pulled Anna aside to allow the two older dragons to greet each other.

Clearair churred affectionately deep in her throat as the old male approached her. She sat down on her haunches to give her the freedom to caress her mate with her front paws. She took his face in her paws and leaned her forehead to his. He sat down before her and reached out a paw to lightly stroke her neck. She sighed at his touch and leaned into his paw. Their cheeks touched and Farloft nuzzled her behind the ear.

“I have missed you too,” he breathed softly into her ear, “so much.”

Clearair churred with delight and quickly licked his ear before pulling back. “Later, my love,” she whispered. “Come in. There is food and drink. We want to hear all about your travels.”

Farloft looked to the sky. The sun was just rising. He needed to be off, but he had to make this time with his family special. They would be without him for months to come. He needed to prepare them to assist the humans in his absence. They would all play a major part in whether the kingdom stayed under the rule of Queen Larkin or fell to King Minuss’ tyranny.

Farloft rose and draped a wing over Cleairair. When the children moved close he extended a wing to Anna. She shifted into her human form and climbed up on his back, wrapping her legs over his shoulders and laying forward to hug him around the neck. James stepped under his other wing. They proceeded into the lair wrapped in one big dragon huggle.

After they finished eating they settled down on the warm black sand of the cave floor at the edge of the thermal pool. Farloft shifted his bulky frame until he burrowed a comfortable hollow into the sand. Anna, in her dragon form, took up a place at the side of her older brother. The young dragon draped his wing protectively over his little sister. Clearair lay at Farloft’s side in much the same position as her daughter at James’.

“I will be gone for five to six months.” Farloft hugged his mate to his side.

“We could go with you.” Clearair knew it was out of the question. If it were not for the younglings, she would have insisted he take her, but with James, and especially Anna, as young as she was, there was no hope of being included in his journey.

“I need you here.” Farloft nuzzled her gently. He would have liked to go on an adventure with his mate, but there would be much to do here in order to prepare for the coming siege. “I have little time. I must be off by tomorrow morning, but I want to tell you some important things about a plan Adrian and I formulated on the way home and to which Queen Larkin has agreed. I will be depending on you all to keep the humans safe while I am gone.”

He looked directly at James. He knew his son was the most anxious of the three to go with him. James had youngling urges he did not understand raising up in him.

“Adrian, Queen Larkin, Theresa and Sarah are the only ones who know the complete plan.” Farloft started to draw in the sand with one huge claw. “We do not know who might have infiltrated our kingdom from Baldar. You must keep the plan a secret between only yourselves and these four humans.”

“We will,” Clearair spoke up. James and Anna nodded.

Farloft was drawing a map. “Here is the castle.” He pointed to a circle he had made in the sand. “It is a closely kept secret that there are tunnels below the castle. They were created much like our lair here by the volcanic action long ago. These tunnels can be accessed from the Grand Hall under the flooring. They run in many direction, so even if the enemy finds them after breaching the castle wall, they will not know exactly which route to take and therefore their forces will be divided for a time.” Farloft paused for a moment and looked over his small family. He would be putting them in grave danger if he was not back with reinforcements prior to this action needing to be taken.

“If I have not returned with the other dragons by the time Baldar starts their advance, Queen Larkin will pull every residence of the kingdom onto the castle grounds. They will make their stand there for as long as possible.” He drew the river at the base of the mountain the castle stood on. “If it appears as through the walls of the castle might fall, then Queen Larkin and the rest will lead the people down through the tunnels to the river and the waiting ships which you will see are in place, James.” He nodded toward the young dragon. “Adrian has the Dragon Call. He will sound it before they enter the tunnels.”

The dragon call was made years ago by a wizard for an antient king to call Farloft to battle. It had been handed down over the centuries. Only a dragon could hear its note of desperation. Adrian was given it several years ago when Farloft, James and he fled the kingdom from the pursuit of dragon slayers.

Farloft made several ‘x’s’ on the sand map. “They will bring the dead with them. They will sail down the river to the falls, but stop short of going over to unload the living on the west side of the river at the base of the southern tip of the Westridge. Then they will allow the ships to drift over the falls. The wreckage of the ships and the dead should slow any pursuit down until the enemy finds there are not enough dead to account for the living.”

Farloft started to draw arrows in the sand representing the mountain range of the Westridge. “Anna, you will meet the humans and lead them through the mountains and up here to the lair.” He felt Clearair tense at his side. He knew she would be against this part. Anna was so young, but she was the best choice for this part of the plan. “There is a decent amount of cover from rock outcrops. It should be safe enough.” He tried to assure his mate. Anna, for her part, looked excited.

“Clearair… You and James will observe from above and cover their flank. Once the humans are all safely in the lair then you will go in and guard the entrance to keep them safe until I return. The main entrance is the only way in for the humans, but you three have the back way to get out. Clearair and James, you can make periodic forays out and attack them from the rear to keep them divided in their focus.”

Farloft looked at each member of his precious family. Why did humans insist on going to war? Dragons rarely fought. A show of strength to keep your established territory was all that was needed. In fact, even though Farloft was far from the strongest of his species due to his age, he was respected for his wisdom like Naza of the East. Few would challenge his place in Kerth due to his reputation.

Farloft was risking everything by helping the humans. He knew this could end very poorly and he was in danger of losing members, if not all, of his family. Yet… he could not turn his back on his human extended family either. He needed to have a serious talk with James. Clearair was experienced and Anna would stay close to the humans. It was James who would be at risk. He was young and other than the encounter with Thrax, which had not gone well, he was impetuous and tended to act impulsively.

Clearair rose to her feet. “Let’s all spend the day out in the meadow.” She looked to Farloft. “Anna has been doing very well with her flight lessons. I am sure she would love to show you.”

Anna jumped to her feet. “I can do a barrel roll now,” she bragged.

“That is wonderful.” Farloft stood too. “I would like to see that.”

James was the last to rise. He hung back as Clearair and Anna headed toward the exit. “I want to go with you,” he insisted as he came up by Farloft’s side.

The old dragon paused. “I need you here, James. Adrian will need you. The queen is sending him into enemy territory to spy while I am gone. He has the Dragon Call. He may need to have you rescue him if he gets in over his head.” Farloft draped a wing over his son’s back. “I know you are anxious to go. There is a desire in all young dragons who attain a certain age to go exploring. You have been on some short journeys with Adrian, and that has kept your dragon core happy so far. One day, you will want to leave your lair and venture off to see the rest of the world, but for now, I need you here. Adrian is your best friend and he may get in a position where it will be a matter of life or death for him whether you answer his call.”

James looked up at Farloft, his brow furrowed. “You will be careful?”

Realization hit Farloft like a hammer. James was not so anxious to go, as he was fearful for his adopted father’s safety.

“You might run into someone like Thrax.” Farloft heard his son swallow hard. The eastern dragon who descended on their kingdom several years ago was a formidable enemy and almost killed James.

“I will be careful,” Farloft assured him. “Hopefully, I am going where I will be welcome rather than challenged. I need their help. The most they will do is tell me to leave.” Or at least he hoped that would be the case.

After a lovely fall day in the meadow below their home, the younglings bid their father goodbye. James took Anna back to his lair so Clearair and Farloft could have some private time.

The elder dragon pair lay side-by-side in the sand by the pool in their lair. Farloft was curled up around Clearair’s back and had his wing draped lovingly over her body as he nuzzled her neck and huffed in her ear. Clearair purred in pleasure at her mate’s touch. It would be a long six months and she was not looking forward to preparing for war. She thought she had left those days behind her when the curse was lifted and she no longer had to masquerade as a dragon slayer.

“Where will you be going?” Clearair asked. She had met many dragons in her time. She could suggest ones who might join with them in their defense of the kingdom.

“I will go North to the Fur and Frost Clan. I have known their kin for centuries.” Farloft stroked her shoulder with a paw. “South to the Endless Sea, and the Land of Sand and Stone. East to Naza in the Mountains of Forgiveness and west to the Shadow Forest.”

“Rymit is not to be trusted, Farloft.” Clearair said softly. “You know that. And Lemira will not join you. Her kind is hunted by the humans for the oil in their skulls.” The sand dragon was a bully only interested in expanding his treasure. The sea dragon only wanted peace, but could not find any where the humans in the South hunted her kind almost to extinction.

“If I can get Rymit to part with some of his treasure, it will help entice others to join. Our kind cannot refuse the gift of a dazzler without offering payment in kind,” Farloft told her. “As for Lemira, she would be invaluable to us if, or when, we got to the point of evacuating the humans by ship. If the Baldars bring ships down the river in order to make chase, she could stove them in without difficulty.”

Clearair huffed in agreement at his side, but then shook her head. “Naza is too old. The last time I saw her, she appeared flightless. Her wings are tattered beyond the administrations of her monk entourage.”

“I know, but she is wise and may lead me to others who can assist us. Her knowledge and influence stretches from continent to continent.”

Clearair snuggled up closer to her mate. Farloft was not a young dragon anymore. He was verging on being one of the oldest she knew of other than Naza. She wished she could go with him – protect him – be at this side.

“You will be careful?” She asked.

“I promise,” Farloft answered. He was beginning to feel his age based solely on everyone’s fearful request that he be careful.

Clearair by Sarah Hyndshaw - The Farloft Chronicles


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