The lead griffon-rider’s eyes widened. “What? Where are they?”
“We lost sight of them some time back,” Garkhen replied, as Zakhin’Dakh began to descend towards the city. “But given what we carry, I rather doubt they have lost track of us.”
“Well why did you bring it here, then?” The leader cried, expression hardening.
“Better ‘an in th’ hands of Chaos Mages,” Almonihah growled in reply. “What, Mages’ Guild didn’t tell you?”
“The Mages’ Guild has had a… civil war of sorts,” the griffon-rider replied, grimly. “And I rather suspect what you carry was the catalyst for it. But if Chaos Mages seek what you bear, we are, at least, agreed that they cannot have it. Come.” He turned his griffon about and began flying towards the spires of the Mages’ Guild.
Zakhin’Dakh screeched tiredly and tried to follow, but his wings didn’t seem to want to work. Almonihah shouted, “We have t’ land. Zakhin’Dakh here’s been flying flat-out for hours, no way he can make ‘t across th’ city now.”
“Then walk,” the lead griffon-rider called back. “I will bring word ahead, that we may begin to prepare our defenses.”
Zakhin’Dakh’s wings were exhausted, but his legs were not, nor were Almonihah’s. Garkhen rode on the big griffon’s back as they made their way through Midport, his shorter legs too much of a liability when haste was needed. They saw others up and about, starting their day, though they often spared a curious glance for the odd group as they passed by. Almonihah kept glancing back, hoping he wouldn’t see smoke rising at the edge of the city.
Thus far, the morning was quiet.
When they reached the Mages’ Guild, however, it was clear that things had not been quiet overnight. Two of the guild’s spires lay toppled, and several others were scorched or otherwise damaged. The griffon-rider from earlier was near the entrance, speaking with a robed man—the head Archmage at the table when they had first arrived in town. His expression was grave as the three friends approached.
“You survive,” he noted, rather unnecessarily. “Good. Though I wish you did not come trailing quite so many foes, given the obvious capabilities of that Amulet, I prefer knowing it is in your hands rather than that of the Chaos Mages. Unfortunately, I do not think we will have sufficient time to discover the secret of its destruction before those Madness-Touched reach us. And given our recent civil war, we are ill-prepared to face them.”
“Civil war?” Garkhen repeated. “What has happened here?”
“It would appear that there were a number of Chaos Mages in our guild,” the Archmage replied, the very calmness of his voice somehow speaking of his anger. “Apparently they thought the time to reveal themselves was upon them. Why Illusin helped you when he was one of them, I do not know…”
“Because he thought he was sending us t’ our deaths,” Almonihah growled, eyes narrowed. “Underestimated us. Was close, though. Still is close.”
“Indeed,” the Archmage responded. “I fear you shall have little time to rest. Already our wards in the mountains are alerting us to the approaching horde. Given your involvement in this matter, I assume you shall go to the front lines of our defense…?”
Garkhen nodded. “Of course.”
The Archmage looked over at the griffon-rider. “Good. Captain Theris here will instruct you as to our preparations.”
The griffon-rider nodded. “They’re coming from all across the southeastern mountains. How they’re getting down the cliffs into the city, I don’t know, but I’d rather not find out. We’re marshaling in the square in front of Castle Midport. We’ve got some priests there who can do something for your wounds and fatigue. Come!”
He mounted his griffon and took off again, flying south. Zakhin’Dakh, still exhausted, followed on the ground, Garkhen on his back, while Almonihah jogged alongside.
The sun was fully up by the time they arrived. The square was huge, but full of activity. Zakhin’Dakh had never seen so many griffons in one place at once! Even when he’d visited the griffon-riders’ aerie, they’d been scattered around too much for him to see many of them. But there was no time for him to socialize, for Captain Theris, seeing the three friends arrived, called for attention.
“Riders of Midport! We face now perhaps our greatest threat—hordes of Madness-Touched stream towards our city, and our mighty wizards are too broken by their own battle to give us much aid. But we cannot afford to let the monsters into Midport. And that is why they,” he gestured at the two half-dragons and griffon, “Will be coming with us. See that glowing pack? That’s what all of the Madness-Touched are after. They’ll come to it, and we’ll kill them as they come, or die. I know which one of those I’d prefer, so you’d better not let me down. Now, we ride!”
I had to come up with another name. In other news, Captain Theris is perhaps not the best at rousing speeches.