Chapter 21: Sea
Almonihah and Zakhin’Dakh did find a valley through the rift they had seen. They found another beyond it, and in this way they meandered their way west, sometimes through valleys and canyons, other times just paralleling the Dragon’s Teeth range on one side or the other. Gradually they made their way southwest, until they reached the Stormpeaks. These proved more of an obstacle, both because of their greater height and because of the frequent storms for which they were named. The pair were determined, however, and slowly, carefully made their way, often having to turn back and try another way.
Eventually, though, they found what Almonihah was looking for—a large stream running through a narrow valley. If he was right, this was part of the Stormwash, the river that flowed through Midport. That was where he wanted to go.
Before long, the stream and valley widened, and in the distance the keen-eyed pair could see hints of smoke. Then Zakhin’Dakh screeched in surprise.
Griffons! He said.
Zakhin’Dakh had the advantage of Almonihah in distance vision, as he could only make out small dots approaching them. Before long, though, he could make out enough of their silhouettes to see that they were, indeed, griffons. And if he remembered correctly, that meant griffon-riders.
Slow down and fly lower, Almonihah murmured to his friend. We don’t want to seem any more dangerous than we have to.
Okay, Zakhin’Dakh screeched in acknowledgment.
The griffon-riders—both of them could see the riders now—approached quickly. Midport’s griffon-riders were its main military force, other than its navy. Almonihah had seen them before the couple of times he and Zrathanzon had visited the city, but he hadn’t been riding a giant griffon then. While they were generally more open-minded than the guards of a lot of the smaller settlements he’d visited, he wasn’t sure how they’d react to Zakhin’Dakh and him together.
They slowed as they neared the pair, as well. There were five of them—a sizable patrol. One of them flew closer than the others and spoke.
“What is your business here?”
“Spending gold. Maybe finding a ship,” Almonihah yelled back.
After a moment of silence, the griffon-rider replied, “We’ll escort you into town.”
They flew into formation around Almonihah and Zakhin’Dakh—two on each side, and the leader in front. They flew slowly in silence, which was fine with Almonihah. Zakhin’Dakh, after his cheerful greeting screech went unanswered by the other griffons, was quiet as well, though he looked around curiously.
It wasn’t long before they could see signs of cultivation below them. While Midport depended on imports to support itself, there were fairly extensive farms up here in the valley of the Stormwash. Getting the food down to Midport itself was a fairly difficult business, but not really any more difficult than bringing it in by ship, and it gave the city some semblance of independence.
The main method for getting the supplies up and down soon came into view. The Great Crane, a marvel of modern engineering, sat at falls of the Stormwash, lowering food and other goods from the valleys above down to the city, and bringing up supplies from the city. Particularly brave souls (or those who did not wish to climb the Great Stair) would even get a lift for themselves.
The group of griffon-riders flying into the city needed to use neither. As they neared the falls, the leader of the riders asked Almonihah, “Going to the Merchants’ Quarter first?”
“Yeah,” he replied.
The griffon-rider nodded, but said nothing more. They flew out over the falls, and got a view of Midport itself. Midport was generally cited as the most populous city on all of Draezoln, despite being crammed into the small delta of the Stormwash, surrounded by mountains on two sides and the ocean on the other two.
Zakhin’Dakh found the sight quite impressive, and screeched long and low in appreciation.
So, back to Elque narrating. Remember that this picks up right after chapter 20, not chapter 20.5, since Almonihah didn’t tell Elque about the Phoenix.
Also, there’s apparently something about riding a griffon that makes you not talk much. Maybe it’s the habit of not trying to yell into the wind or something.