Hours later, the half-dragon—he’d said to call him “Almonihah”, though Zakhin’Dakh didn’t really understand how that mattered when he couldn’t say anything—said he had to leave. Suddenly the griffon realized he didn’t want his new friend to go, and so he decided to keep him from going. He made a funny noise when Zakhin’Dakh trapped him under one of his taloned feet.
He tried to talk, and after a bit Zakhin’Dakh got the impression he couldn’t say anything when he was leaning on him. Zakhin’Dakh eased up a bit.
“I’ll come back tomorrow,” Almonihah gasped.
With a disappointed screech, Zakhin’Dakh let him all the way up, then watched as he started climbing back down. It seemed silly that he didn’t use his wings when it would be so much faster. Then he realized he was rather hungry, and forgot about watching the half-dragon in his haste to do something about that.
The next day was a good day for flying, but somehow Zakhin’Dakh didn’t feel quite as happy as he normally did. He did have a lot to think about, though, like wondering where Almonihah had come from and what else he might be able to talk about. Just talking with the half-dragon had given Zakhin’Dakh the impression that there was a whole lot he didn’t know that he’d never imagined there even was to know. It didn’t occur to him that a thought like that was unusual for a griffon.
He really hoped Almonihah would come back soon.
He had just taken to the air again after eating in the morning when he saw the half-dragon. With a joyful shriek, he dived down and landed in front of Almonihah.
Almonihah did something with his face again. “Glad t’ see me?”
Zakhin’Dakh nodded and screeched enthusiastically.
“Well, where were we…”
It soon seemed to the big griffon like he’d been looking forward to Almonihah’s daily visits his entire life. The Ranger taught him all kinds of new things, like how to look at the ground and tell what had walked there recently, or how to guess what the weather was going to be like. He also talked about a lot of things Zakhin’Dakh had never seen, like people and cities. Zakhin’Dakh wanted to see them, too.
The most frustrating thing, though, was not being able to tell Almonihah what he wanted and what he was thinking. The half-dragon seemed to know that, too.
“There’s got t’ be some way for you t’ talk… ‘r at least communicate…” he said one day, looking out at something Zakhin’Dakh couldn’t see.
The griffon screeched and nodded in agreement.
“Hmmmm…” Almonihah was quiet for a bit. “I suppose you could scratch some writing with a talon…”
So he started trying to teach Zakhin’Dakh to read and write. It was hard. Zakhin’Dakh didn’t really understand how he knew what words meant, much less how to look at something and figure out what word it was supposed to be. But he really wanted to talk, so he tried really hard. After a while he could sometimes scratch out something understandable in the dirt.
It was about then that Almonihah realized something. “You’ve got an eagle’s beak,” he said one day, like it was an amazing thing.
Zakhin’Dakh was a bit confused, and his soft screech echoed that confusion.
Almonihah looked up at the griffon. “’t means I can teach you Great Eagle.”
The griffon screeched happily, even though he didn’t really know what that meant.
It turned out it meant a lot more hard work. Zakhin’Dakh had no real concept of language, despite being able to understand the sounds Almonihah made, so learning to speak was slow going. Only his intense desire to communicate kept him going, though he could only do so much each day. When he got tired of trying to talk, he would make his frustration known and he and Almonihah would do something else for the rest of the day.
Eventually, he managed to get down the concept of words, and started screeching them out to try to get across what he wanted or what he was thinking about. His favorite was “Big!” which he liked to exclaim whenever he took advantage of his great size. He still got frustrated when he didn’t know the word for something, though he found that he could sometimes use other words in his slowly expanding vocabulary to get across what he wanted a word for. It helped that Almonihah was so smart. Zakhin’Dakh admired that a lot in his friend.
One day, though, Zakhin’Dakh noticed that Almonihah’s face looked different. He’d finally figured out that the half-dragon was happy when his mouth was curved up more, but now he hadn’t seen this face very much. It kind of seemed like the opposite of the happy face, though, which made the griffon a bit nervous.
I think I have to go now, he said.
Go? Zakhin’Dakh repeated. He wasn’t quite sure he understood what Almonihah had said, since he’d said it in Great Eagle, and he still had trouble understanding it sometimes.
Leave. I need to leave. I have… other places I need to be.
It took the big griffon a few moments to think through exactly what that meant. Then, with an angry No! he jumped on the half-dragon.
“Remember,” Almonihah gasped, “Not to crush me.”
With an unhappy screech, Zakhin’Dakh eased up a bit. No go! he screeched at his friend.
Almonihah shook his head a bit—as much as he could while pinned on the ground. I can’t stay here forever, he said, switching back to Great Eagle, And now’s the time I need to go.
Why? That was one of Zakhin’Dakh’s favorite words, after “big”.
Almonihah was quiet for a moment. Somewhere out there, there’s something I need to be doing.
It didn’t occur to Zakhin’Dakh to question that answer. With a long, sad screech, he slowly let Almonihah up, then settled down miserably on the ground to watch his friend leave.
“Sorry,” Almonihah said softly as he turned and left. Zakhin’Dakh watched him go with despair, not knowing what he could possibly do with his life now that he knew there was so much interesting stuff to learn and do.
Then he had an idea.
He stood up and took a step toward the Ranger’s back. With! Come! he screeched as he started running toward his friend.
Almonihah turned around. You want to come with me? he asked.
Yes! Zakhin’Dakh screeched happily as he stood in front of the half-dragon.
Almonihah smiled. After a moment, he said, “Well, if you’re going to come with me, I think you need a name. How about…”
Zakhin’Dakh turned his head, looking at Almonihah. He didn’t really understand the whole ‘name’ thing very well yet, but he understood it was important somehow to Almonihah.
Zakhin’Dakh sat for a moment, then screeched, Why?
Almonihah laughed. “It means ‘Swift Wing’ in Draconic. I thought it suited you.”
The big griffon nodded and screeched in agreement. Then it occurred to him that this meant Almonihah had agreed with his idea.
With come! He shrieked happily, rearing up on his hind legs and spreading his wings in excitement.
The half-dragon smiled wider, though he stepped back a bit to make sure Zakhin’Dakh didn’t land on him. “Yes, you’re coming with me. Now let’s go,” he said, then turned and started walking.
Zakhin’Dakh followed, ecstatically happy at the thought of not only staying with his friend but also maybe seeing some of the new places Almonihah had told him about.
This has by far been the most fun part of the chapter to write. It was a lot of fun seeing Zakhin’Dakh’s viewpoint on this part of his and Almonihah’s shared history, and, well, he’s just a fun character to get into.
This is the end of chapter 18, so we’ll be mostly returning to Almonihah’s point of view for the rest of book one, though I’m sure Zakhin’Dakh will let me know what he was thinking about some of these things. I anticipate it being three or four more chapters until we get to Garkhen and book 2. Which will be a lot different than book 1–Garkhen’s history is dominated by one event, so most of the book will revolve around it.