Chronicles of Draezoln

Tales of the world of Draezoln

Category Archives: Book 3 Chapter 16

Chapter 16-6

Garkhen was too tired to protest, instead simply giving a weary little nod. Zakhin’Dakh quickly descended, landing in a patch of off-color grass. Almonihah got down and pulled out his battered symbol of Naishia, conjuring up memories of spell-prayers. Haltingly he murmured one, and soft green light shone over his wounds. He gritted his teeth as fatigue started to set in.

As soon as he felt himself mended enough he stopped. “Don’t know how you do that so much,” he commented to Garkhen.

The Warder, however, was only half-awake at this point. Grunting, Almonihah said, “Guess we’d better camp,” and set about doing just that.

Once done, however, he was left with the issue of how to protect their camp with Garkhen now solidly asleep, himself fatigued from his minor healing spell-prayer, and Zakhin’Dakh worn out from hard flying. The Ranger looked around and growled softly.

“Hate being here,” he commented to no one in particular.

“Yeah,” Zakhin’Dakh screeched in tired agreement.

Almonihah glanced over at his big friend. “Get some rest, Zakhin’Dakh. I’ll watch.”

It was a sign of the griffon’s fatigue that he didn’t argue, instead settling down a bit more and closing his eyes. The half-bronze dragon, meanwhile, started pacing the perimeter of their camp. He’d let Zakhin’Dakh sleep a while, then wake him up to trade watches. It was a decent plan… but somehow, at some point during the night, Almonihah sat down to rest his feet for a moment and fell asleep.

He awoke with a start, though he couldn’t quite place why at first. Groggily he stood, and almost fell over on the steeply sloping ground.

Wait…

“Zakhin’Dakh! Garkhen! Get up!” he shouted as the facts of their situation sunk in.

When they had landed, this had been a fairly flat, grassy spot. Now, it was a steep mountainside, and Almonihah was fairly certain it was getting steeper as he watched. Before long it would be a sheer cliff.

Zakhin’Dakh stirred fitfully, grumbling as only a giant griffon can, in some kind of bizarre mix of eagle screeches and annoyed growls. Garkhen, however, showed no signs of stirring from the tent Almonihah had set up.

“Get up!” Almonihah shouted again at the griffon, while stumbling over towards the tent. He flung the flap open and swore, seeing Garkhen still sleeping with no signs of waking.

Instead, he took to the air with a flap of his wings, thinking it faster than walking on this treacherous ground, and flew over to Zakhin’Dakh, who was blearily opening an eye.

“Have t’ go now!” He shouted. “Grab Garkhen, he’s not going t’ wake up in time. Can’t afford to save th’ tent.”

Finally fighting his way free of the fatigue that seemed to be dragging at his mind, Zakhin’Dakh opened his eyes and noticed things were strange. He felt Almonihah land on his back and get in his saddle, and then his friend’s words finally started making sense. With a great cry, he spread his wings and took off, then circled back around and landed briefly by the tent. With one of his taloned feet he carefully reached into the tent (putting huge tears in it as he did) and gently grabbed Garkhen, then took off again.

Below them, the tent tumbled down the steepening slope into an abyss whose bottom was still hidden in darkness in spite of the moon’s light above. 

***********************

Sorry this took so long. I’ve been a bit drained creatively of late–I think I’ve been RPing too much, actually, so I haven’t had much writing energy left. 

Oh, and also, I got engaged. Which has been a bit distracting.

Chapter 16-5

They soared onward for a couple of hours in silence, Garkhen concentrating on his ward, Almonihah and Zakhin’Dakh focused on their surroundings. It was the griffon who spoke up first.

Something there! He screeched, nodding his head to one side.

Almonihah peered forward, then got his bow ready. “Looks like we caught up t’ the Javni’Tolkhrah.”

As they neared, it became clear this was only a half-dozen of the monsters that had been harassing them. But this time, when Almonihah sent an arrow soaring just past one, they all turned around and started flying towards the three friends. Zakhin’Dakh shriek-roared a challenge at them and flapped harder, ready to meet them with his own beak and talons.

They were smaller, weaker Javni’Tolkhrah, but still dangerous. Garkhen switched from warding against the chaos around them to warding Zakhin’Dakh from claws and teeth, while Almonihah brought one of the monsters down with his arrows. Then they were upon them, and Zakhin’Dakh tore into one with his talons. It died swiftly, but the other four struck with claws, teeth, beak, tentacle, and stinger. Garkhen gritted his teeth as he held his wards against them, but none penetrated to harm the big griffon… quite.

Then they were past one another, Almonihah pivoting to keep his bow in play. Both Zakhin’Dakh and the Javni’Tolkhrah turned, angling to attack once again, while the Ranger blasted another arrow into one of the monstrosity’s sides. Its flight faltered for a bit, but it steadied after a moment… just in time for another arrow to hit it, this time in the shoulder. It still struggled on, until a third arrow pierced its skull.

Zakhin’Dakh’s slashing talons accounted for another before the last two struck… this time aiming for the half-dragons on his back. A stinger glanced off Garkhen’s armor, but Almonihah didn’t quite dodge the other Javni’Tolkhrah’s claws, and got a nasty gash on his arm. Cursing, he almost dropped his bow, but managed to catch it with his other hand.

Of course, that did involve hurling himself to one side, which lead to falling right off of Zakhin’Dakh’s back.

Injured, and suddenly far too busy flying for himself to aim his bow, Almonihah could do nothing to fire at the remaining two Javni’Tolkhrah. As he felt his friend fall off, Zakhin’Dakh turned as sharply as he could to interpose himself between the half-dragon and their foes. Garkhen tried to summon up the energy to do something, anything, but his vision wavered as unconsciousness tried to claim him, and he soon found himself clinging to the saddle in spite of the straps holding him in.

Almonihah managed to get himself under control and started heading towards his griffon friend, but the Javni’Tolkhrah returned before he could get back. Zakhin’Dakh intercepted one and quickly bit through its spine, but Almonihah had to dive to evade the other one. It shredded the sole of one of his boots as it flew by, but didn’t quite get its claws deep enough to draw blood.

By the time it came back around, Almonihah was clinging to the back of Zakhin’Dakh’s saddle with his good arm, and the giant griffon’s beak made quick work of the last Madness-Touched. Garkhen reached to heal him, but Almonihah shook his head angrily.

“Save it,” he growled. “We need t’ land, ‘nd then I can patch myself up a bit.”

**********************************

Sorry this took so long. I’m not sure why I’m struggling so much with this section. Maybe I just want to make sure I’m making the finale appropriately interesting.

Chapter 16-4

Worryingly, they were harried again and again over the next few days. Every time the Javni’Tolkhrah would approach them, and Almonihah would drive them off with arrows. Every time he injured or killed one or two of them… and every time even more returned.

“Don’t like th’ way this ‘s going,” he commented, watching as well over a dozen monstrosities flew away after the latest attempt.

“Perhaps it is better than if they simply waited until all had gathered?” Garkhen suggested.

Almonihah grunted. “Like they’re getting us used t’ it, or something,” he commented, ignoring Garkhen’s optimistic thought.

“We shall have to remain vigilant, then,” Garkhen replied. “Perhaps more that are capable of invisibility are gathering?”

Almonihah shrugged slightly. “Never tell with Javni’Tolkhrah. Could do just about anything.”

“That is hardly reassuring,” Garkhen stated. “I shall do my best to ward us, but it is draining.”

“Save it for when they attack,” Almonihah replied. “I’ll keep watch.”

“Me, too!” Zakhin’Dakh screeched. “I’ll watch too!”

“Let us hope it is enough,” Garkhen said, worriedly.

They flew on in silence for a little while, then Zakhin’Dakh screeched again, “What if we chased them?”

Almonihah grunted. “Chasing them’s prob’ly what they want. They always fly off in th’ opposite direction from where we’re going.”

Garkhen frowned, thinking over what he’d seen and realizing Almonihah was right. And something else, as well. “Then how are they always in front of us again?”

The Ranger paused to think, then growled. “Who knows if they have t’ sleep.”

Garkhen shook his head slightly. “They still seem to be living creatures, surely they must sleep.”

Almonihah grunted. He didn’t immediately respond, instead looking around. There was something to Garkhen’s words… something… something wrong around them. He narrowed his eyes, looking at the ground beneath them. They were zooming past it, but…

Wait. They weren’t going that fast. Things suddenly clicked into place as he took a hard look at their surroundings. They weren’t making a lot of headway. Instead the ground beneath them was… blurring, giving the illusion of motion, while they fought against a headwind that made it feel like they were moving fast.

Almonihah swore under his breath. “Garkhen, can you do something ’bout this?”

Garkhen, confused, tried to look over his shoulder at the Ranger. “About what, my friend?”

“Th’ blasted wind,” he growled in response. “Look hard. Th’ ground’s actually trying to fool us. Doing a good job ‘f it, too.”

Zakhin’Dakh screeched a wordless question, then peered at the ground himself. “Yeah!” he agreed after a moment.

“Let me see what I can do,” Garkhen replied after looking himself.

He half-closed his eyes as he thought through the spell-prayers he knew. He’d never run across one for wind… but if this wind was Chaos-wrought, he might be able to do something.

The Warder raised his symbol of Bahamut and chanted a prayer. The change was subtle, but as Almonihah watched the ground, he saw that the illusion of motion was quickly becoming truth.

“That did ‘t,” he stated.

Garkhen nodded briefly. He didn’t want to mention how much it was going to strain him to maintain this ward. Fighting back Chaos in the Madlands was draining, and he suspected they’d need all of their strength in times to come.

****************************

This section brought to you by the difference between air speed and ground speed. Also by the Madlands being, well, Mad.

Chapter 16-3

Somewhat to their surprise, nothing attacked them in the middle of the night. Zakhin’Dakh grumbled as he stretched out his sore muscles, and complained about eating old meat instead of hunting, but he knew well enough why he was putting up with all of this, so his complaints were mostly wordless, unhappy screeches. Almonihah patted his big friend soothingly as they breakfasted.

The land around them had mostly stayed steady, though the vegetation seemed somehow… watchful. Baleful. As if the very grass was glaring at them. Garkhen shuddered slightly as he re-mounted Zakhin’Dakh. Did the Amulet draw even the very substance of the Madlands?

Zakhin’Dakh took off with his two friends on his back, heading southeast again, towards the Maelstrom at the heart of the Madlands. He had not flown for long, however, before they could see dark shapes flying towards them.

“Took ’em long enough,” Almonihah commented acidly as he got his bow out.

There were only a handful of small flying monstrosities. They flew right at the much larger griffon, only to be shot down one-by-one as Almonihah fired on them. The Ranger looked around suspiciously as the last one fell.

“Something’s not right about that…” he commented… then noticed he could still hear wing-beats other than Zakhin’Dakh’s.

“Dive!” He shouted.

Zakhin’Dakh trusted Almonihah. That was likely the only thing that saved them, for the big griffon hadn’t caught on to what was going on. He dove, plunging downwards suddenly at the Ranger’s shout. Almonihah felt as much as heard the whistle of something passing right overhead.

Garkhen began chanting, then held up his symbol of Bahamut. It flashed with silver light, and a half-dozen more Javni’Tolkhrah appeared in midair above them.

“Right!” Almonihah shouted in Great Eagle, and Zakhin’Dakh banked just in time for another monster to dive past them.

Again Garkhen began chanting a spell-prayer. As he finished, a shimmering silvery shield formed above them, just in time for another Javni’Tolkhrah to impact it. The Warder grunted as he channeled power into the ward, and the beast bounced off, flipping and tumbling in the air, killed by the sudden impact with an unyielding surface.

“Okay, level off,” Almonihah told Zakhin’Dakh as he straightened and got into firing position. “That ward of yours let my arrows through?” He asked Garkhen.

“Yes,” was the Warder’s terse reply.

Almonihah wasted no more words, either, instead opening fire. His first shot whizzed past one of the Javni’Tolkhrah, and suddenly they all broke off, scattering to the winds. He kept firing as they fled, managing to bring another down before they got out of range.

He growled as they left. “Going t’ be back,” he commented. “Too clever. Don’t like it.”

Garkhen let his ward fade as he said, “Agreed, on both counts. Is it the influence of the Amulet, or are Javni’Tolkhrah always this clever?”

The Ranger didn’t take his gaze off them as they flew away. “Clever, yeah. Organized? Usually not. That’s th’ part that worries me most.”

Garkhen nodded soberly. “We shall have to be wary. I shall do my best to ward us against the approach of invisible creatures. It will be an alarm only, to conserve my strength.”

Almonihah’s response was a simple nod of agreement. Zakhin’Dakh, however, spoke up in Great Eagle. “Yeah, next time I’ll bite them and tear them up!”

Almonihah snorted in amusement. “I’m sure they won’t like that, Zakhin’Dakh.”

**********************

Nobody likes being torn up by Zakhin’Dakh. It hurts. A lot.

Chapter 16-2

The transition from normal reality to the Madlands looked subtle, but any who had crossed it knew it was felt more than seen. The feeling was impossible to describe, but unmistakable… a sense of the sudden shift in the laws of reality, perhaps? By now, all three friends knew the feeling.

Almonihah looked around warily. “Better keep ‘n eye out for Javni’Tolkhrah,” he commented.

“Indeed,” Garkhen replied, his voice subdued.

They flew on in silence for some time, looking at the terrain below them and the air around them. This close to the borders of the Madlands there was no visible difference, but it seemed to flicker slightly in the corner of the eye, like something was twisting and changing when not watched. But for now, that was all—no monstrosities flew up at them, no mad cultists fired at them.

They made good time stopping only to eat. Slowly the land below them started to change, becoming more obviously distorted, more warped and twisted. Vegetation grew in sharp, unnatural shapes, or drooped in writhing masses that shuddered in nonexistent winds. Soil and stone were stained with sickening colors—violent purples and yellows, or slowly mingling oranges and greens. The land itself slowly moved and shifted, mountains sinking or rising, sand becoming fertile earth only to crumble back to sand again. Where they landed to eat, the land seemed to hold stable for a moment, but it continued flowing and changing at the edge of sight.

“How can we sleep here?” Garkhen asked as night fell. He glanced up at the sunset and shuddered—for a moment it he had felt as if the sun were rising instead of setting.

Almonihah shrugged. “Didn’t have any trouble with that before. ‘course, I wasn’t lugging around th’ Amulet.”

The Warder nodded. “I shall ward our campsite as best I can,” he stated. “If the land itself does not strive to kill us as we sleep, we shall be safe enough, at least warned should danger come.”

Almonihah nodded. Zakhin’Dakh, hearing the discussion, screeched, “Does that mean I can land now?” The exhaustion in his voice was plain, at least to the Ranger, who snorted softly and reached down to pat the griffon on the side.

“Yeah, you can land, Zakhin’Dakh. You need th’ rest worse than th’ rest of us.”

Gratefully the giant griffon spiraled down to a landing in a spot that looked at least halfway safe, his friends dismounting after he landed. Garkhen busied himself with preparing wards around them while Almonihah fed his big friend some preserved meat from their enchanted bags. As soon as he was full, Zakhin’Dakh settled down and closed his eyes, exhausted enough that the soreness from the day’s labors couldn’t keep him from drifting off to sleep.

The two half-dragons ate in silence, wary of every sound and sight around them. Even as they finished eating and retired to their tent they said nothing. There was nothing to say. 

***************************

Apologies for missing last week, I just got distracted.

The Madlands are not a good place. I don’t think I did a good job at establishing that during the earlier forays into it.

Chapter 16-1

Chapter 16: Flight to the Storm

“What is required to resist evil? Good is, of course, the obvious answer, but a somewhat insufficient one. The mere existence of good does not combat evil. Rather, it is the doing of good, the spreading of hope, the performance of kind deeds… these are the first defense against evil.”

“The last is blade and fang.” – Garkhen

At last they were ready to depart. Almonihah and Garkhen both had new bags hanging from their belts—small bags that were much larger on the inside. Zakhin’Dakh now had a saddle-bag, though given the unusual shape of his saddle, it was on the back rather than the side of his saddle. All were filled with provisions, especially drink.

Other preparations were not as physical. When not speaking with the Mage-Archivist, Garkhen discussed warding against chaotic forces with wizards of the guild. Almonihah, for his part, dredged up his memories of Llinos, trying to recall what little he had learned of Naishia’s magic. Zakhin’Dakh… simply enjoyed exploring human things.

The most critical preparation, however, was a container for the Amulet. Given its proven ability to draw in Javni’Tolkhrah, it was imperative for the success of their mission that they find a way to limit its influence. To this end, the mages of the Guild, Garkhen, and even a few priests of Mashano worked mighty wards and other spells into a box made of layered metals—lead, mithril, and steel—to block as much as possible the power of the Amulet. Garkhen now carried that box, with the Amulet within, in his pack as they met one last time with the Archmagi of the Mages’ Guild.

“We have done all we can,” the head Archmage said. “We would send more with you, but a small group is easier to guard against the corrupting influence of Jivenesh, not to mention easier to supply. One last thing we give you, however.”

He gestured, and an apprentice wizard came forward with two small boxes. He opened one, displaying a small rod with intricate runes carved all along its length.

“These are beacons. Break one when you near Midport again, and it will alert us to your location. We can only go so far into the Madlands before magic itself is too unreliable to aid you, but should you find yourselves in need not too far from us, we will come.”

“Thank you, Archmage,” Garkhen said, taking one of the small boxes, while Almonihah took the other.

There was little more to say after that. Those assembled wished the two half-dragons and their griffon friend good fortune, and then they departed. Almonihah, Garkhen, and Zakhin’Dakh walked out of the Mages’ Guild, the griffon again re-assuming his true size as they exited. Zakhin’Dakh crouched down next to a low wall, and first Garkhen and then Almonihah climbed on his back. Then he took off, flying southeast towards the Madlands. 

**********************************

It struck me today that I hadn’t posted yet this week. So apologies for the lateness, but it’s not quite next week yet!