Chapter 20 ½: Phoenix
Translator’s Note: I found this chapter scrawled on several sheets of parchment stuck in the copy of the book I acquired at this point, with this small note written on the back of the last page: “Since this copy’s not staying on Draezoln, I can actually tell you about this.” While translating the Draconic and Great Eagle contained therein was even more difficult than the Common Tongue contained in the book itself, I was curious to discover what it contained. This is what I found.
So. Haven’t written a lot like this. But someone should know about this, and since whoever’s getting this isn’t Draezolnian, I can tell you.
As the Mage-Archivist was saying, Zakhin’Dakh and I were flying around the Northern Dragon’s Teeth, thinking we were just enjoying ourselves on our way to the west. Then we found that odd pass. Could swear I’d passed there before and not seen it, which made me curious. Besides, it… felt right. Can’t explain how or why. But it did.
The little canyon was almost too narrow for Zakhin’Dakh in spots. It didn’t seem like a natural canyon—the walls were too sheer, it was too straight. Seemed more like something magic had made it.
Eventually we came out into a small valley. Seemed like a pretty nice place, the kind of thing you might want to keep hidden for yourself.
Like where met! Zakhin’Dakh screeched happily.
A bit, I agreed. It did remind me of that valley I’d found him in, though smaller and better hidden.
It didn’t have giant deer in it either, to my big friend’s disappointment. We explored around for a bit, didn’t find much interesting. Then Zakhin’Dakh saw a funny red dot on a mountainside down on the other end of the valley. We didn’t have anything else to do, so we flew over to take a look. As we flew, I had a feeling like something was watching. Looked down, thought I might have seen something, but just figured it was a manticore or something else smart enough not to bother us.
The red thing on the mountain was much more interesting. As we got closer, we could both tell it was something bird-like. At first I thought it might be a Great Eagle, or maybe just a dire eagle, but I’d never heard of a red one. The closer we got, the more we both realized it was big—bigger than Zakhin’Dakh, even. He screeched a bit unhappily at that part. The other thing was, it wasn’t just red—it was more… flame-colored. Oranges and yellows mixed in with the red.
Then we heard a voice. Not out loud, but in our heads. It was weird… it felt like a warm campfire on a cold night, but with words. Can’t really explain it.
I do know it said this, though. There you are. I have been waiting.
Zakhin’Dakh’s surprised screech told me he’d heard it, too. It was the last thing I needed to figure it out, though. This was the Phoenix.
Now, you probably don’t know, but the Phoenix is a legend among Rangers. During my time with the Order, I’d heard stories of Rangers saved from certain death by a giant bird of fire. Some of them had just heard it from others, but a few had seen him themselves. And here he was waiting for us.
You are surprised, young one? I knew he was directing the question at Zakhin’Dakh somehow.
He nodded in response, then screeched, How talk like that?
He was getting better at Great Eagle, but still had a way to go.
I could feel the Phoenix laughing as he answered. I am afraid it is not something I can teach you, young one. It is
[Translator’s Note: A large splotch of ink covered most of the rest of this page.]
Zakhin’Dakh just knocked my inkwell over. Usually he’s better about this, but he got excited when I told him what I was writing about.
And he says hello. He’s happy I wrote that for him. He also says he liked talking with the Phoenix. And I’m not writing anything more for him right now, though I might later if he’ll let me get on with it.
So, the Phoenix said, It is a gift I am given to speak like this, as throats and beaks like ours are not suited to the tongues of men.
Zakhin’Dakh screeched sadly. I patted his head. “You can talk with me,” I said.
His screech in response was happier.
We landed near the Phoenix. He was huge—even bigger than Zakhin’Dakh. He says that made him kind of jealous. Up close, his feathers looked even more like a fire, and I noticed he’d built a large nest. He’d built it on a wide ledge a ways up from the valley.
“Why were you waiting for us?” I asked, once Zakhin’Dakh was settled.
The Phoenix seemed to find something about that a bit funny, too. It is nearly time for my rebirth, and I need brave hearts to aid me.
Zakhin’Dakh screeched, Okay! I didn’t say anything. Not until he explained more.
Don’t know if he knew somehow that I was waiting for more explanation or if he was just going to explain more anyway, but he continued, I am ancient beyond your knowledge, but every so often I must be reborn. It is in these moments that I am vulnerable, and the minions of Jivenesh seek this time to attack me. Even now I can sense them here… He paused. He gazed directly at me. As I can sense that you have not been untouched by the Mad One.
I froze at that. How… and if…
Do not fear, he continued, That you are here shows that you are stronger than the Chaos which would take you.
“Thanks,” I mumbled, only half-sarcastically. Somehow the Phoenix trusted me in spite of what had happened to me made me feel a bit better.
But I fear we have little time for talk. I must give myself to the flame now, and I will need you to defend me until I am fully reborn. Assuming you are willing, of course. I could tell from the tone that he knew we’d accept.
Zakhin’Dakh reared a shrieked a challenge, almost throwing me off doing it. (He apologized later) I could feel the Phoenix’s amusement, but he just said, You will not have long to wait to show your ferocity, my young friend. Look.
I looked, too. I don’t have eagle eyes, but dragon eyes are at least as good. Neither of us could make out anything clearly, but we could make out a lot of movement in the valley below. Some of it seemed rather large.
I would fight at your sides, brave young ones, but I must be reborn. He hopped up into the nest he’d build. The blessings of Naishia be upon you in your battle, he said, and burst into flames.
Zakhin’Dakh shrieked in disbelief. I stayed quiet, thinking about some of the stories I’d heard… then I heard the first growls. I dismounted, pulling out my bow, as Zakhin’Dakh turned to face downhill with a deep growl.
A wave of Javni’Tolkhrah charged up the slope toward us. There were a lot of different kinds, like there always are when you’re dealing with them—a three-headed wolf, something that looked like a cross between a tiger and a crab, things like that. My first arrow hit one in the eye, killing it, while Zakhin’Dakh dived on the wolf creature with a war shriek. Whirling, he slashed at another creature that was trying to run past him, while another of my arrows arrow killed a tiger-like creature that had been crouching to spring at him.
I dodged to one side, reacting before I knew what I was doing. You do that sometimes if you’ve had as many things try to kill you as I have. A lightning bolt blasted past me. The lightning wouldn’t have hurt me, but it’s not like I knew what was coming when I dodged, then fired back. I got just enough of a glimpse of something humanoid to stick an arrow in it. I didn’t think I got a solid hit , but but another Javni’Tolkhrah was charging me, so I didn’t exactly have time to check.
Zakhin’Dakh had his talons full, too. He was taking two or three of the things at a time, slashing their faces, biting them with his beak, even picking up and throwing some of the smaller ones. I’d shoot an arrow at one of them when I had the time, but I was too busy with my side usually. He was getting bitten and scratched, and though he hadn’t got hit too bad yet, I knew it was just a matter of time.
When I had a second to shoot a couple of the monsters around him, I yelled, Take off! Fight from the air!
He screeched in understanding and took off with a leap, slashing another Javni’Tolkhrah as he passed over. I had to turn back to my side, since three different messed-up kinds of cat-things were charging at me. The first one got an arrow in the head, but I had to drop Naishia’s Messenger and draw Zithrandrak and Eldereth for the other two. They crouched, ready, waiting for the pounce. Just like I thought, they jumped. I stepped aside, stabbing one with Zithrandrak. I hit it too hard, though, and had to let go of Zithrandrak to keep from getting pulled off-balance as the thing died.
The other one slashed at me with its claws, but I managed to get Eldereth in the way, shocking it a bit. I backstepped, slashing at it, but only managed to scratch it. It tried to charge me, and this time I got a good hit, taking a couple of its toes off, then finishing it off as it stumbled. I whirled to meet whatever was coming next, and was a bit surprised to see nothing else coming up the slope at us. Zakhin’Dakh was just throwing this fishy-dog-thing down a particularly steep spot as I turned.
I saw movement in the trees below, and rolled aside just as a ball of fire exploded where I had been. It singed me a bit, and Zakhin’Dakh’s shriek didn’t sound good. I ran back over to Naishia’s Messenger, glad to see it was in good shape (good thing it’s enchanted so well), picking it up and nocking an arrow. I saw another movement and fired an arrow. Something fell with a thud, so I figured this time I’d hit something important. I saw Zakhin’Dakh land and charge into the woods, and then heard a strangled yelp. Maybe there’d been two mages?
There was another explosion, a shriek, and then the sound of Zakhin’Dakh tearing into something. Three mages. Then I saw some Javni’Tolkhrah bird-things coming, and had to quit paying attention to what Zakhin’Dakh was doing. (He says he found another mage-guy and a few smaller Javni’Tolkhrah.)
I stuck arrows in flying Javni’Tolkhrah until I started to worry I’d run out. Zakhin’Dakh was busy with more of them on the ground (he says some of them were bigger, but none as big as him). Once I’d cleared the sky, I could finally look down again. Zakhin’Dakh was growling at a big tiger-bear thing with a couple scorpion tails. He’d backed up the slope, and looked rather beat up. I growled myself and sent an arrow into the thing’s head. It wasn’t expecting that.
I only had a couple arrows left, so I drew my swords and went to stand with Zakhin’Dakh. He glanced back at me and gave me a tired screech. I nodded back to him, then turned to face whatever came next.
For a little while, everything was quiet, but I could just barely pick something up. Don’t know if they were nervous after how many of them we’d killed or what. Maybe they just thought a big wave would be more effective, because that’s what happened next—big wave of Javni’Tolkhrah charged up-slope toward us.
We charged back.
More like Zakhin’Dakh took off and dived at the biggest one. He hit it hard, but it was still struggling when I started fighting. The first thing that jumped at me… I think it used to be a rabbit. It died with Zithrandrak through its head. The next few were larger and more dangerous. I had to use everything I knew to stay alive, and even so took some hits. Good thing my scales are harder than the boiled leather I was wearing. Still got scratched up pretty badly, though.
I managed to take down several of the Javni’Tolkhrah I was fighting, and I could see every now and then that Zakhin’Dakh was flying around slashing and biting more of them, but it seemed like some of them must be getting to where the Phoenix’s ashes were.
Then… there was a flash. And then a dull roar, like a wizard had thrown a fireball. The surviving Javni’Tolkhrah turned as one and started to run, but a giant flaming bird flew past and caught up to them. Looked like we’d held out long enough. Zakhin’Dakh landed next to me and we watched him together.
It wasn’t long before he flew back over to us. Well done, brave ones, he said. I am reborn, and these creatures of Chaos have seen my renewed strength. Let any that survive take word of it to the others—I fight them again!
I snorted. “Not that most of them can talk to each other.”
He looked at me. Do not dismiss their intelligence so casually. Not all touched by the Mad God lose their thinking in their insanity. Indeed, some even become more cunning.
I didn’t have anything to say to that.
The Phoenix kept speaking. Now it is time for you to depart. But first, it is right that I should reward you for your aid.
He took off again, then flew over us. He flapped once right above us, and a few feathers started floating down from him.
Catch them. And good hunting, young friends. Naishia watch over you. And with that, he was gone.
I caught about half a dozen of the feathers, and Zakhin’Dakh carefully caught one with his beak. The others burst into flames and burned up when they touched the ground. I carefully stored the ones I’d caught, then did the same for Zakhin’Dakh’s, keeping his separate.
That was fun! Zakhin’Dakh screeched.
I snorted. Almost dying to a bunch of Javni’Tolkhrah wasn’t my idea of fun, but we’d lived, and done something that needed doing.
Let’s go, I said back.