Chapter 18: Partings
“It is said that all things end, but I would say that endings are not truly final. For no matter the ending, still time and life continue on, and the echoes of that end may last until the true and final end, when all things at last fade and the gods look down and pass their final judgment.” – Garkhen
From his position on the wall, Almonihah had a good view of the portal they’d just come from… including the image of an enormous skeletal dragon still flying towards it.
“Shut it!” He shouted… or tried to, as it came out as more of a groan.
The wizards were already at work even without his warning, and the tear in the air rippled and vanished just as their pursuer reached it. Relieved, he let himself slump back down for a moment, exhaustion almost overpowering him. Almonihah was dimly aware that his head was throbbing, and that he shouldn’t be this kind of tired, but it seemed like too much work to care just at that moment…
He had only vague memories afterward of being carried from the room, of healers coming and examining him and casting spells. The Ranger wasn’t sure just how long passed before his wits returned, but soon enough he groaned and stirred. Then a thought struck him and he sat bolt upright, only to almost faint as his injured body struggled to keep up with the sudden motion.
“Please, sir, you must rest…”
“Zakhin’Dakh!” Almonihah demanded of the nearest healer. “Where’s Zakhin’Dakh?”
“The griffon, correct? He’s being taken care of,” the priest replied soothingly. “He was badly injured, but Mashano has mended the worse of his wounds, and he’s now resting peacefully. And you should, as well. You hit your head quite hard, sir.”
“Still want t’ see ‘im…”
“You’ll do him no good if you lose consciousness as soon as you stand—which is a very real possibility at present, sir.”
Almonihah frowned, growled, shook his head… and then groaned and gritted his teeth as a wave of nausea welled up in him.
“Please, just lie down and rest. Your friends aren’t in any danger. They simply need rest just as you do.”
Grumbling under his breath the half-dragon reluctantly lay back down, trying to arrange his wings to be comfortable as he does so. There was a reason he usually didn’t sleep in beds. There was just no way to get his wings out of the way. But just now his usual method of sleeping while sitting propped up against something didn’t sound so great…
He woke again sometime later, and rose rather more cautiously than the first time. Pleasingly, he wasn’t immediately assaulted with dizziness and nausea. For that matter there weren’t any priests hovering over him, which he took to be a good sign. In fact, he was alone in a small, dark room. There was the bed he was sitting on, a door… and not much else. Almonihah slowly got to his feet and walked over to the door. He listened a moment, and hearing nothing, he opened it.
Beyond was a curved hallway—likely he was up in one of the many spires of the Midport Mage’s guild, given the fancy stonework. And also the apprentice mage sitting in the hallway. Said apprentice stood with a start as Almonihah emerged from his room.
“Master Almonihah!” she started, but the half-dragon cut her off.
“Not a ‘Master’ anything. Just Almonihah.”
The young mage nodded sheepishly, “Uh… right, umm, well, Master Ganver said to tell you when you awoke that your friend is still sleeping in other room,” she pointed at a nearby door, “and to take you to your griffon.”
“Name’s Zakhin’Dakh,” Almonihah growled, “’nd he’s not mine. He’s his own.”
“Ah… well, he’s this way.”
The young apprentice led him down the hallway to some stairs, and from there on a winding course through the Mage’s Guild’s hallways. Almonihah grumbled under his breath about how wizards couldn’t build straight while doing his best to keep his bearings. He did note that the buildings seemed rather empty, with only a few people in some of the larger rooms they passed.
Finally they crossed a bridge to a cluster of low buildings on one of the small islands the Guild was built on. Two of them seemed like large stables of a sort, and the apprentice led Almonihah into one of these. Glancing around the half-dragon noted that most of the stalls in the stable were clearly for much larger creatures than horses, but he saw no sign of any of them being currently occupied other than the one he was led to.
Zakhin’Dakh was resting peacefully, sprawled across a large heap of fresh straw. Almonihah’s keen eyes could still pick out the signs of healing injuries on his big friend, but they were largely healed at this point.
Gently the ranger approached and murmured, “Zakhin’Dakh?”
The big griffon opened an eye, then jumped to his feet. “Almonihah!” he screeched happily. “You’re okay!”
Zakhin’Dakh stepped forward and looked Almonihah over. “I was worried.”
The half-bronze dragon reached out and patted his friend’s leg. “Yeah, I’m fine,” he murmured soothingly. “Glad you’re okay, too.”
“I’m big and tough!” Zakhin’Dakh screeched proudly in response.
Almonihah chuckled a bit. “Good thing, too.” He shook his head slightly. “Was too close a thing.”
“They tell me he’s fine, too,” the ranger replied, glancing over at the apprentice who’d led him here.
Said apprentice jumped slightly at finding huge griffon eyes turning towards her. “Uh, you’re speaking of the other half-dragon? Yes, he is well, resting after treatment as you were.” After a moment of looking at Zakhin’Dakh, she ventured a question. “Do you… actually speak and understand? I know the griffon-riders say their mounts understand them, but… I never knew…”
Almonihah snorted as Zakhin’Dakh nodded eagerly. “Yeah, he actually understands the Common Tongue. Can’t speak ‘t with a beak, but he can speak Great Eagle.”
“Oh. Great Eagle?”
Almonihah shook his head again. “Jus’ full ‘f questions, aren’t you? They’re like giant, intelligent eagles. Live up in th’ mountains. Now why don’t you go ‘nd make sure Garkhen’s not up ‘nd wondering where we all are?”
It was almost an hour later before she led Garkhen to the other two. Almonihah had carefully inspected his friend, making certain the healers knew what they were doing with Zakhin’Dakh, but he supposed they must have called in one of the healers that helped the griffon-riders, as all seemed in order. For his part, Zakhin’Dakh was just happy his friends were okay and they were back from that crazy place to somewhere he could hunt and sleep without the ground trying to drop him or eat him or something else horrible.
For his part, Garkhen still seemed rather the worse for wear. While he showed no sign of injury the way he held himself spoke of exhaustion—maintaining his wards had clearly drained the Warder.
Still, he was glad to see his friends well after their ordeals. They chatted for a few minutes before he ventured to ask, “What will you do now?”
Almonihah was silent for a long moment—long enough that Zakhin’Dakh interjected, “I’m staying with Almonihah!”
A hint of a grin teased at the corners of the ranger’s mouth. “Head back out into th’ wilderness. Too much ‘f cities ‘nd the Madlands for me ‘f late.”
Garkhen nodded. After another long, silent moment, he stated, “I should go back south. There are those I left behind I wish to see.”
Another pause. “…Sorry ’bout yanking you away from them,” Almonihah muttered, looking away from the Warder.
He shook his head slightly. “It all worked out. Without you and Zakhin’Dakh, I doubt I would have been able to destroy that amulet.”
Almonihah grunted. “Think we should stick around ‘nd see ‘f that undead dragon shows up?”
“Let us pray it does not!” Garkhen fervently replied. “I asked the young apprentice assigned to us, and she said the mages are watching for it, but thus far it seems to have returned to the Maelstrom and not ventured back out into their Sight.”
“Hm. Guess we can tell ’em to get us ‘f they th’ thing comes out ‘nd they think we can help.”
“Could we, if it did?”
Almonihah shrugged slightly. “Couldn’t just let it rampage around without trying.”
Garkhen nodded in agreement. “Its presence within the Maelstrom is worrisome, but in truth there are many dangerous creatures in our world. Let us hope that it remains away from the innocent like the others.”
“Right.” They both fell silent for a time, before turning to less weighty subjects.
They spent a couple of days recuperating, but soon enough Almonihah’s restlessness could not be contained, not to mention the energy of an enormous and curious griffon. The healers reluctantly agreed that Zakhin’Dakh and Almonihah were well enough to depart, and so that afternoon found the three friends standing outside, with the ranger finishing his second check of the straps on Zakhin’Dakh’s saddle.
“I suppose we truly are parting ways now,” Garkhen observed needlessly, saddened by the thought of their impending departure. While it was true their relationship had started… badly, he had grown fond of the gruff ranger and his excited companion. “Perhaps we shall meet again someday.”
Almonihah stood up, satisfied the saddle was strapped on properly, and definitely not trying to delay leaving. “Maybe. Might try t’ drop by Ferdunan sometime, ‘f we can find a boat that won’t get attacked by pirates. Figure tracking down a half-dwarf, half-blue dragon won’t be too hard.”
Garkhen chuckled softly. “Certainly I have not met any others.”
They stood there in silence for a long moment, until Zakhin’Dakh suddenly stepped over, crouched down, and gently bumped Garkhen with his beak. “Bye Garkhen, I’ll miss you,” he screeched softly, then stood up and more loudly proclaimed, “But I want to fly now!”
Almonihah couldn’t help but grin a bit as he translated for Garkhen. “Guess ‘t’s time, then,” he said, before half-jumping, half-pulling himself into the saddle. He looked down from his lofty perch at the Warder. “Make sure t’ not die.”
Garkhen chuckled in response. “I will strive to stay alive. I hope to see the two of you again in good health.”
Almonihah nodded in response, and Zakhin’Dakh, with a screech that might have been a laugh, did likewise. Then he bounded forward and took off, soaring into the air. A trio of griffon-riders met them in the air, their leader saluting the pair before giving them an honor guard out of the city.
Garkhen turned and walked back towards the Guild. He was not quite recovered, himself, and there would be time enough later to find a ship. He hoped he would see his friends again… and indeed, he could not help but feel that he would.
Well… this is the end of The Chainer’s Legacy. Sorry it took so long–it took being stuck in an airport to get all the distractions out of the way so that I’d finish this.
I think this is a sign that I’m done with this story. It seriously needs editing and revising, but… I’m just going to leave it as-is and move on to other things. The spark’s gone, and I’m going to follow it.
So what’s next? Well… I’m deciding. I’ve got an Iolar story that’s slowly taking form, and some other ideas, too. Whatever it is, it’s going to take some time to outline (and hopefully apply the lessons I’ve learned here about planning).