Chapter 17: Heart of the Maelstrom
“All journeys must come to an end someday, even the journey of life. Not all endings are cause for sorrow. But this time, I greatly feared, lest our journey would end too soon.” –Garkhen
It was a sign of the Warder’s exhaustion that he did not wake even while being carried aloft in griffon talons. Almonihah was just as glad for that—they’d need all of Garkhen’s strength later, he was sure.
“Fly south ‘s hard ‘s you can, Zakhin’Dakh,” he ordered. “Got t’ do this fast ‘f we’re going t’ live.”
Zakhin’Dakh screeched a tired agreement and forced his weary muscles to pump harder, flying as swiftly as possible in spite of how hard he’d flown the previous day. Anxiously his Ranger friend watched the ground, trying to make certain they were really making progress—and to his relief, as best as his keen eyes could tell in the moonlight, the blur of the ground below them was due to true motion rather than deceit.
The big griffon could not keep up his pace for long, however, and soon his wing-beats began to grow weaker. Almonihah noticed and patted his friend on the head.
“That’s enough, Zakhin’Dakh. Probably need t’ rest th’ rest of th’ night… if we can.”
Zakhin’Dakh nodded, too weary to voice his agreement, and descended. He set Garkhen down carefully before fully setting down himself. The half-blue dragon slept through it all, oblivious to the danger his friends had saved him from. Zakhin’Dakh dropped off quite quickly afterward, again leaving Almonihah to keep watch.
This time, he managed to stay awake, though it helped that dawn came fairly soon after they’d landed. Whether because of the Ranger’s watch, the blessings of the gods, or because the Madlands themselves had to rest, he detected no sign of danger during the night.
Neither of his companions stirred until long after sunrise, leaving Almonihah to pace anxiously, looking every way for danger. Why nothing attacked them he had no idea, though he thanked Naishia for the respite.
Zakhin’Dakh awoke almost halfway to noon from dawn, and Almonihah, on seeing him start moving, immediately went to their bags and got food and drink out for his big friend.
“We’ll have t’ wake him before we go,” he said as the griffon ate, nodding at Garkhen. “Can’t believe nothing else’s tried t’ kill us yet. No way it can last.”
“I’m better rested, so I kill them!” Zakhin’Dakh happily replied after swallowing another chunk of meat.
Almonihah snorted. “We’ll prob’ly need that, but we’ll still need all three ‘f us, I’m sure.”
Once the griffon had finished eating, Almonihah bent down and roughly shook Garkhen’s shoulder. “Garkhen!” He half-shouted.
Next time it was a full shout. “Garkhen! Got t’ go, ‘nd there’s no way I’m getting you strapped into th’ saddle while you’re sleeping.”
At this, Garkhen finally stirred. “Almonihah?” he quietly murmured, slowly opening his eyes and sitting up.
“Get on,” Almonihah commanded, pointing at Zakhin’Dakh’s saddle. “Can eat while we fly.”
“Right,” the Warder agreed, slowly getting to his feet.
Soon enough they were airborne again… just in time for Zakhin’Dakh to shriek a warning. “Bad things flying to us!”
Sorry again about the infrequent posting. I’ll try to get my act together enough to finish this without more gaps.