Saturday, June 23, 2018

A Gathering of Dragons - Chapter Twenty-four

On his way to the castle, Farloft spotted Arrud lying in the mud of the churned up battlefield. He landed and pulled the lifeless wyvern to his chest. He had not seen his friend go down. He did not hear any call of distress. Farloft roared his anger. While he was dealing with the Thrax clan, Arrud had given his life. The earlier victory over the red dragons felt empty.

With a swipe of his paw, Farloft knocked off the multiple arrows, which riddled his friend’s body. He picked him up and with mighty thrusts of his wings, carried him to a quiet clearing in the woods.

Farloft laid him down in the violet covered meadow. “I am so sorry, my friend.” He leaned down and head butted the wyvern. “You will be remembered and honored after all is settled in this matter.”

He heaved a sigh of exhaustion with a tinge of defeat. Two dragons had died for his cause. For his kingdom and the humans who lived here. He hoped it would be the last.


Farloft landed in the courtyard of the castle. It was eerily quiet. Empty armor lay scattered among the bodies of the fallen, as if the men had stripped it off and run from the battle.

“Theresa?” Farloft called. “Sarah?”

The two women came running out of the castle toward him. He sat down on his haunches, and they fell into his paws grateful he, and they, had all survived.

“Did any of the enemy follow our people through the Great Hall and into the tunnels?” Farloft asked.

“Hundreds,” Theresa admitted. “The army we built of metal delayed them, but did not stand a chance against the overwhelming odds.”

Farloft picked up a helmet, now realizing what he was looking at. The Healer and Sorceress waged a battle of their own with metal and magic. “It looks as though it was a valiant effort.” He tossed the helmet to one side. “Your gargoyles succeeded in stalling Xinx long enough I had time to take action and talk some sense into him,” Farloft smiled wanly. “The relatives of Thrax have gone home.”

He lowered a wing and extended a paw, so they could mount. “Come. Let us go home. We can talk there. There might be more of the enemy lingering about.”

“I don’t think so,” Sarah said. “I overheard the last of the stragglers saying someone sent word to King Minuss to come. That they had taken the castle and run the people of Kerth to ground.”

“They didn’t damage anything in the castle. Adrian heard Minuss intends to rule from here,” Theresa added.

“Not while I still breathe.” Farloft huffed smoke angrily.

The two women climbed on to his back and settled themselves around his shoulders. “Clearair and James?” Theresa asked after Farloft’s family.

“On their way to the lair along with the other dragons and gryphons who arrived with me, and the last of the Queen’s guard.”

When the three arrived at the lair, they found that under cover of darkness all the humans of Kerth were led by Anna and Royster to safety.

“She was incredible,” Royster bragged to anyone who would listen. “You should have seen her down that tree.”

“Yes, but I couldn’t have placed it across the river without your help,” Anna countered.

It seemed to Farloft it was a mutual admiration society between the two. They had uprooted several trees and like busy, oversized beavers, they made a crossing for the humans to escape. He couldn’t give her enough wing hugs to show her how proud he was.

The whole of Kerth’s population was either in or around his lair. The injured were being brought into the main cave to be close to the thermal pool. The survivors helped the injured, cleaning their wounds and keeping them warm. Theresa and Sarah had stocked the cave of supplies and trained many to help with the wounded. Now they moved to aid with the most severely injured.

There was a large group preparing food for everyone. Farloft’s stomach rumbled, but there was no time for eating. He had to check on everyone and make sure they were all there and being taken care of properly.

Several of the Queen’s guards were tending to Mokum’s hip. They had removed the arrow and were gently rubbing liniment into the wound to seal it. Mokum, did not seem to be hesitant at all about having humans near him, even though he had no love for them. In truth, being a lonely dragon, he seemed to be enjoying the attention.

Rymit, Fafner, and James had already set themselves up as sentries outside to keep an eye out for the enemy.

The Baldar, and their hired horde, had not shown up yet. They were most likely turned around in the tunnels below the castle, but they would come eventually. There was no way to hide which way the people of Kerth escaped. They left a trail several yards wide, through the forest and up into the mountains. Within a day, two at the most, the enemy would be at their door.

Farloft settled down beside James on the rock shelve above the entrance to the lair. “Are you alright?”

“Tired, but not injured,” James replied with a deep sigh. “After the first hour it all seemed so needless.”

Farloft draped a wing over his shoulder. “I know… I know…” He clucked his tongue. “I have never understood war. It hasn’t happened in my lifetime between dragons. The Dragonic War in the north was the last. It seemed after that, dragons realized no one won in a war.”

“I don’t know if you heard, but Arrud didn’t make it,” James deeply sighed. “Mokum said he needed to fly low to disburse his venom and it made him vulnerable to the enemy arrows. He went down when Mokum went to help you. I saw it.” He shook his head at the thought. “I tried to help, but there were so many of them.”

Farloft sighed too. It had been too much to hope they would all make it through the day without a loss. “I am sure you did your best. I found him and moved him to the meadow in the woods. We will honor him and Lemira after this business is over.”

James hung his head. “A lot of good men lost their lives today, too. Men I knew from the guard when I was a boy. Mavaric who used to buy me and my sister a loaf of bread when he saw us in the village.”

Farloft squeezed James with his wing and paused before asking, “Speaking of which, have you eaten?”

“Fafner caught us an elk, spooked out of the forest by all the noise.”

Farloft made a note to thank the father dragon for seeing to the young.

The two sat quietly for a few moments wrapped in their own thoughts.

“You should have seen Snow seal that gorge,” James said, out of the blue. “It was incredible. He had the clouds raining lightning. I have never seen anything like it.”

“I watched his grandfather create a flash flood in that same canyon decades ago.” Farloft shook his head at the memory. “Both those birds have some powerful weather magic running through their veins.”

James huffed, and some residual smoke cleared his nostrils. “The gryphons are strong fighters, and fast.”

“They are. We were lucky to have them join us.”

The young dragon yawned and they both fell silent again. Exhaustion was taking over now that the adrenaline of the battle was seeping out of their systems.

James broke the silence. “I saw the red dragons leave. Is that settled?

“It is,” Farloft affirmed. “Just make sure when you venture out on your youngling journey you avoid that area of the world.”

They scanned the countryside below and watched as the torch carrying Baldar troops searched the battlefield for their injured. Men Mokum gassed had begun to revive. They rose and started back toward their own lines.

“It’s going to take a long time to get the kingdom back to where it once was after we rid the place of the Baldar,” James said.

“It will,” Farloft agreed. “At least it seems they left Theresa’s cottage standing.”

They both could see the Healer’s home in the open meadow. “Adrian and I brought Knicker and Tolly up here before it all started,” James said. “They’re stabled back in the forest with the rest of the Kingdom’s livestock.”

“That was wise of you.” Farloft rose and stretched his wings. “I need to find Snow and his flock. Check on them.”

James grinned. “Last time I saw them, they were headed toward your hoard room.”

“Really?” Farloft’s brow ridges rose. “I best hurry and see what that bird is up to.” He wing bumped James. “Try and get some rest. Tomorrow will come far too early after a day like today.”

It was obvious the birds were making themselves at home in Farloft’s hoard room. The room smelled of damp fur, and discarded feathers floated in the air and lay on the floor. Some of the gryphons were curled up among his treasures, heads tucked under their wings, sound asleep. Others were still preening, cleaning dirt and blood from their feathers. Some of them looked quite comical partially dresses in the ‘treasures’ they took from the battlefield. Several had helmets tilted precariously on their heads, others wore shields like saddles across their backs, and still others had breastplates hanging round their necks.

He tried to do a quick count, but there was too much rustling of wings and milling about to get an accurate number. He spotted Snow by Malard settled in among the section of his hoard where Cleairair had arranged his jewels.

“Well, aren’t you the pair?” he said, as he entered the room, the swoosh of his tail sending loose feathers up into the air.

“Big Green!” Snow rose a bit unsteadily.

Farloft could see he had been injured. His right claw was missing the end of the middle finger.

“Sit, I will fetch Theresa. She will see to your claw.” Farloft started to leave.

“Hey, wait up, my friend.” Snow called softly, not to awaken those finally settled in to roost for the night. “I’ve seen what she is dealing with out there. It can wait. It’s only a finger.”

Farloft turned and huffed. Worry lines furrowed his brow. “You said you were fast. I thought you could avoid trouble. What happened?”

“It was my fault,” Malard confessed. “We were all landing to pick up the last of the Queen’s guard and transport them here. I got myself grounded trying to help an injured man mount. Snow rushed in to save me and one of the enemy cut him with their axe.”

“Better my finger, than your neck,” Snow chirped. He settled back down beside the older bird. “And it doesn’t stop me from conjuring.”

Farloft looked up to see a cloud appear over his head. “Please not today,” he begged.

Snow churred in laughter and let the cloud dissipate.

“Was anyone else hurt? Did we lose anyone?” Farloft asked anxiously.

“Nope.” Snow held out his claw and looked at it. “I am the only one who gets to claim a war wound.” He said it with a bit of pride in his voice.

“Bird-brain,” Farloft scoffed. “You can control lightning, but can’t stay out of the way of an axe.”

“Have you looked at your face, Lizard? You’re about two shades darker than usual. I saw that red dragon giving you a facial,” he squawked and then the two birds churred together with laughter.

Farloft hadn’t seen his face, but he could imagine what it looked like. “It will heal.” He leaned down and head bumped his friend. “Did you all get something to eat?”

“We did,” Malard chirped. “The team your Queen stationed up here, had food waiting for all of us when we arrived.”

“Rest then.” Farloft smiled wearily at the two gryphons. “I have to check in with Clearair and then I will find my soft things for an hour or two.”

“I told Fafner, Rymit and James we would relieve them on watch a little after midnight,” Snow said.

“Have that claw tended to before you go,” Farloft ordered.

“Aye, Aye, Captain,” Snow said with a wing salute.

Farloft chuckles in spite of his exhaustion.

Farloft had no trouble finding his mate. She was waiting for him in the tunnel outside his treasure room.

“I have been looking all over for you,” she gently chastised him. “You wouldn’t think anything so big would be so hard to find.” She leaned forward and nuzzled his neck. “I followed your trail from Theresa, to Mokum then on to James and now here. I understand you are making sure everyone has eaten and is resting. I think you should consider doing the same, my love.”

Farloft leaned into her and caressed her with a paw. “Exactly what I was thinking, my wise dragoness.”

“Come with me. I have put a little something to one side for you and prepared your soft things.” She led the way to the chamber she chose from Farloft’s many adjoining caves. When she became his mate, he told her she could have any she liked for her own treasure room. The only treasures she had was what Farloft had given her since they met.

A full cooked elk was waiting for him and his bedding was piled against one wall on top of a fresh layer of cedar boughs. He could smell them and it quieted his soul. His mate had been busy. He draped a wing over her and nuzzled her neck.

“You are my greatest treasure,” he whispered in her ear.

“And you are mine,” she said as she returned his affection.

An angry Farloft by Wolfool

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