Chronicles of Draezoln

Tales of the world of Draezoln

Category Archives: Book 3 Chapter 17

Chapter 17-4

It was hard to say just how long they struggled through the madness. At some point Garkhen began to wonder if time itself was not fixed here in the Maelstrom. How would they even know if it were not? Certainly everything else seemed to change on a moment’s notice—once they almost fell out of the sky when gravity reversed directions, another time the air slowly turned to water around them, and they had to dive to breathe air where there had once been ground. They barely escaped before the air suddenly returned to being earth.

Finally, after what seemed an eternity of chaos, they reached their destination. With shocking suddenness their surroundings went from madness to emptiness, a plain of bare rock with only a single feature: an enormous globe of coruscating colors suspended just above the ground.

“The Eye of the Maelstrom?” Garkhen suggested after a moment of windswept silence.

Almonihah shrugged. “Good ‘f a name ‘s any. Think it’ll do?”

“Simply gazing upon it makes me sick at heart,” the Warder replied, glancing away. “If there is a more powerful concentration of Chaotic power, I dare not imagine it.”

“So th’ Amulet,” Almonihah half-stated, half-asked. When his companions voiced no objection, he pulled out its box and approached the Eye.

As Garkhen has said, even looking at it turned the stomach, and nearing it swiftly took more and more of Almonihah’s willpower. Gritting his teeth the Ranger forced himself closer until he thought he was in throwing range, then opened the Amulet’s container. He grabbed a rag and used it to seize the accursed artifact, but in spite of the separation between his scales and the Amulet’s chain he felt its power trying to overwhelm him, making his muscles seize up as if he were turning into a statue.

Somehow, with a supreme effort of will, Almonihah fought back against the Amulet’s power and hurled it into the Eye of the Maelstrom. It sailed through the air and struck the multicolored surface… and shattered, the fragments sinking into the Eye as if pulled into tar.

For a long moment the three friends stared at the place where it had been, then Almonihah turned his back on it and walked back to the others. Zakhin’Dakh knelt down to again allow the two half-dragons to mount him.

As he settled into place behind Garkhen, Almonihah commented, “Seemed like somethin’ more should’ve happened.”

As if on cue, a loud crack accompanied a bolt of many-hued lightning as it lanced out of the Eye of the Maelstrom and struck the stone not far from the three. Almonihah swore vehemently in Draconic, then shouted, “Get us out ‘f here, Zakhin’Dakh!”

With a shriek of agreement the huge griffon bounded forward and took off, plunging back into the Maelstrom. Almonihah twisted around as best he could to watch behind them. He saw the ground where the bolt had struck begin to crack and bulge, and then a huge, bony claw began to emerge…

“Faster!” he shouted to his big friend as another claw burst through the rock behind them.

Zakhin’Dakh pumped hard with his wings, though the air around him seemed to be thickening, slowing his progress. Behind them, more of the ground began to crack, and a huge, draconic skull started emerging from the rock. Two skeletal wings slowly followed as the big griffon finally broke through the thick air into more normal flying conditions.

Almonihah knew they’d gotten a fair ways away from the thing by the time it finished emerging from the rock, but even from this distance it looked huge—a skeletal behemoth that likely had been a dragon in life, though no dragon he’d ever seen had so many horns and spikes on it. Not to mention it was enormous even for a dragon. Oh, and it was a moving skeleton. That was different too.

The thing stretched and opened its mouth as if to roar, but no sound emerged from it that could be heard over the howling winds and grinding rocks of the Maelstrom. Then it spread its wings and leaped into the air… which worked far better than the roaring had, given that it did indeed begin flying. Almost immediately it was clear that the thing was gaining on them.

It was harder for Garkhen to turn around and look, given he was strapped securely into the saddle and in front of his taller companion, but he managed enough to get a glimpse of their pursuer. “Bahamut preserve us,” he prayed, quietly but fervently, at the sight.

“’f he’s helping, we could use it,” Almonihah replied.

Garkhen didn’t respond, instead trying to keep an eye on their pursuer while murmuring a prayer under his breath. For his part Almonihah kept a close eye on the skeletal dragon as it drew closer and closer.

“Just how big is th’ thing?” he muttered incredulously under his breath. With the oddities of the Maelstrom it was hard to say, but it looked as if its head was nearly as big as Zakhin’Dakh.

The big griffon, for his part, was flying as hard as he could. The Maelstrom didn’t seem to be mustering quite as much resistance this time, almost as if it was anticipating the undead monstrosity would take care of them. Looking around, he saw a region of large rocks that were floating in the air not far from his path and angled towards them.

Behind them the skeletal dragon opened its jaws wide. Iridescent lightning began to arc between its ribs.

“Dive!” Almonihah shouted, and Zakhin’Dakh, trusting his friend implicitly, tucked in his wings and dove as steeply as he could.

Lightning lanced out from the dragon’s maw, burned away the tip of Zakhin’Dakh’s tail, and blasted one of the floating rocks ahead, which exploded so violently it showered the three with shrapnel even from hundreds of yards away. Shards of stone rattled off of Garkhen’s armor, while one cut Almonihah’s cheek. His armor protected his torso, but his arms also suffered several wounds. The big griffon was the worst off, however, as dozens of sharp-edged stones pierced his wings.

Garkhen hurriedly uttered a spell-prayer of healing as Zakhin’Dakh struggled to regain altitude with his wounded wings. The injuries healed somewhat, though the Warder dared not expend the energy to fully restore them. Zakhin’Dakh pulled up and pumped his wings, plunging into the madness of the floating stones. He dodged and weaved between them, nimbly avoiding them. Behind them Almonihah watched the skeletal dragon slow, hesitating to follow them. After a moment it changed direction before Zakhin’Dakh dodged around a rock, cutting off his view.

The big griffon weaved in and out of the bizarre airborn landscape, swooping over, under, and around the floating hunks of stone. Now that they were among them it was obvious that they were not holding still, and Zakhin’Dakh had to focus to avoid colliding with one. A few times he cut it so closely the tips of his wings brushed one rock or another, and twice he actually had to push off of one of the floating stones to change direction swiftly enough to avoid crashing. What most worried his passengers, however, was that all around them were flying rocks, with no landmarks to point the way. Were they even going the correct direction any more?

How long they spent in that sea of stone, none could say, but Zakhin’Dakh was panting and exhausted when they finally broke through the other side. Amazingly enough, what they saw beyond was not more of the Maelstrom, but rather the desolation surrounding it.

And shortly after Zakhin’Dakh flew into open air, Almonihah shouted, “It’s here!” as the skeletal dragon dove towards them from above.

Desperately the huge griffon began to dodge and swerve, but lightning again began to crackle between the creature’s ribs. Garkhen chanted a quick spell-prayer, bringing up a ward just in time to deflect the deadly bolt, lightning crackling against his invisible barrier. He groaned and slumped in the saddle, the effort of blocking the bolt straining Garkhen to his very limits.

Almonihah shrugged one strap of his pack off his shoulder and quickly searched in it, pulling out the box he’d been given before they left Midport. He opened it and pulled out the small beacon rod inside, held it with both hands, and snapped it. A brief flash of light sparked between the broken ends, but nothing more.

“Hope that worked,” he murmured to himself as he dropped the broken pieces to hold on as Zakhin’Dakh dove again to evade the dragon’s claws.

The dragon flew just over the three, not quite able to change direction fast enough to catch the swift griffon, but close enough to make Almonihah glad he was leaning forward over the saddle as Zakhin’Dakh dove. Its claws whistled through the air just behind Zakhin’Dakh’s tail.

“The beacons!” Garkhen cried out once the big griffon leveled off enough for him to breathe.

“Already broke one,” Almonihah stated.

“Then we can only hope it worked.”

Almonihah nodded a silent agreement as Zakhin’Dakh pumped his wings to try to open up some distance between himself and the skeletal dragon. It didn’t last long—in spite of its complete lack of wing membranes, the undead dragon was fast, its only disadvantage being a lack of maneuverability. As soon as it had itself turned around it was again gaining on the three despite Zakhin’Dakh’s efforts. And so again the big griffon had to dive aside as it slashed at them with a claw… and then bank sharply as Almonihah shouted a warning about its breath.

Multihued lightning sizzled just past his head-frill. While normally lightning would not have been of concern to him, the half-bronze dragon suspected that a hit from this dragon’s breath would be quite deadly even to himself, or to Garkhen.

Suddenly a voice spoke from the air nearby them. “We have your position, but we’ll only be able to open a portal once with the interference here! Just fly straight for a while and we can get you out!”

Almonihah looked about suspiciously, wondering if it were a trick of the chaos around them. Garkhen, however, exclaimed, “It is the mages from Midport!”

“Right, but flyin’ straight’s easier said than done.”

“I can do it!” Zakhin’Dakh interjected. He dove one last time as the dragon made another pass and then leveled out.

Almonihah watched the skeletal dragon come around for another pass. “They’d better make that portal ‘f theirs quick…”

The big griffon held his course even as the dragon behind him finished turning and started closing, its jaws opening.

“Garkhen!”

The Warder chanted a spell-prayer and held up his symbol of Bahamut. After a brief moment there was a searing flash of light as the dragon’s breath met Garkhen’s ward in the air just behind Zakhin’Dakh. The Warder groaned as the strain of maintaing the ward struck him, but he hung on grimly until the bolt of chaotic energies faded… and then promptly fell unconscious, avoiding falling out of the saddle only because he was strapped in.

Almonihah swore under his breath. “’f they don’t open up that port…”

A sudden rippling split the air in front of Zakhin’Dakh, soon forming into a circular view into the interior of a building. The big griffon had only enough time to close his wings (and thereby avoid having them hit the edges of the portal) before he was through, talons and claws suddenly meeting stone floor as he crashed into the ground at full speed, Almonihah tumbling off his back and across the floor as he did so. The half-bronze dragon came to an abrupt stop when he smashed into a wall as Zakhin’Dakh skidded to a halt, partially on his side after his legs had given out from the impact of landing.

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So, here’s the rest of chapter 17. I just… I think I scared myself off from it. I’m still not particularly happy with it, but it’s done. I was trying to write a hectic, climactic final scene, and… didn’t really get what I wanted.

Chapter 18 is going to be the final chapter, and it’s already in progress. I’m hoping to wrap it up by next week, but either way I’ll post next week.

Chapter 17-3

They camped in the blasted wastes around the Maelstrom. Nothing stirred here, save for the occasional errant winds. No creatures moved beyond themselves. Fatigue, and the oppression of the desolate landscape, meant the little group spoke little as they made a cold camp. None of them knew what lay ahead in the Maelstrom… and none of them really wanted to discuss what they might encounter.

The sun seemed hesitant to rise the next morning, shining weakly through a haze that was not quite thick enough to call cloudy. The two half-dragons and one griffon arose just as reluctantly, eating a cold breakfast to prepare themselves for the day. They spoke few words, avoiding talking about the challenges ahead for just a few more minutes.

At last they could put it off no longer. Almonihah looked out over the wastes to the Maelstrom with a soft growl.

“Don’t like th’ thought ‘f flying through that,” he commented. “Walking ‘d be worse.”

Garkhen nodded wordlessly. Zakhin’Dakh screeched agreement, then knelt down to let his friends on.

The flight to the Maelstrom was uneventful, but not exactly silent. At first just the moaning

of a fitful wind accompanied them, but as they drew nearer the shifting landscape ahead of them, a bizarre cacophony met their ears. This was matched by the sights drawing ever-closer to them. Iceburgs crashed against one another in a sea of sand. Distant volcanoes erupted, sending hunks of electrified mud into the air, before the cones collapsed and became forested hills. Thunderstorms lashed the ground with a hail of nails, which swiftly dissolved into rivulets of acid as the stormclouds turned into floating islands.

“It is… rather impressive,” Garkhen opined after a few moments.

Almonihah snorted. “Mean deadly. Fly int’ the wrong thing here ‘nd we’re dead.”

“I can do it!” Zakhin’Dakh screeched, proudly.

Almonihah patted his friend’s side. “Yeah. Wouldn’t want t’ trust th’ flight to anyone else.”

And with that, they plunged into the Maelstrom. It was madness. It was chaos. Zakhin’Dakh had aimed for a clear-seeming patch, but shortly after he flew in, downdrafts buffeted him as a sudden storm swelled above them. The great griffon stroked hard with his mighty wings, fighting to gain altitude, to get above the storm before it hailed burning coals or something similarly unpleasant.

Garkhen chanted a spell-prayer, and a canopy of holy energy shielded them as the storm opened up—dagger-like shards of jagged ice, to be exact. He gritted his teeth against the expenditure of energy, knowing that much more would be required of him in the hours to come. He made the ward as weak as he dared, just barely strong enough to shatter the ice shards.

Then they were through the storm and soaring over a peaceful field of purple grass with green flowers. Green flowers that started shooting seeds at high speed upwards. Fortunately Zakhin’Dakh was flying high enough that they lost all momentum before reaching him, dropping back to the ground just below him. Just to be safe the big griffon flew a bit higher.

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I’m really struggling with this for some reason. I’ll try to get back on track.

Chapter 17-2

It wasn’t long before the half-dragons could also see a number of dots in the air in every direction, which soon started resolving into a menagerie of Javni’Tolkhrah. Almonihah took one look at them and growled, “There’s too many ‘f them. We’ll have t’ avoid most of ’em.”

Zakhin’Dakh shrieked a wordless agreement and started flying harder, aiming mostly in the direction they wanted to head, but somewhat between where some of the dots were coming from. Garkhen started chanting, but Almonihah growled, “Save it.” When Garkhen started to protest, the Ranger shook his head once and said, “’f we need it, we’ll need it, but wait ‘nd see if we do.”

Zakhin’Dakh’s swift flight soon brought them close enough to make out the nearest of the Javni’Tolkhrah, revealing them to be as bizarre and dangerous as ever. They had changed their course of flight, starting to close the gap between them to block the group’s flight. Seeing this, the big griffon turned his flight upwards, using his strong wings to try to get a height advantage over the oncoming monstrosities. They moved to follow, and it became clear that, while they didn’t look to be nearly as good of fliers as Zakhin’Dakh, he wouldn’t be able to just fly over them.

But that wasn’t his plan, and just as one of the Javni-Tolkhrah spat some of its teeth at him, Zakhin’Dakh dove, fast enough that Almonihah had to grab onto the saddle hard to stay on the griffon’s back, ducking down just in time for the teeth to fly over him. The monsters dove to follow, and Zakhin’Dakh turned and twisted, changing directions suddenly and unpredictably in an attempt to out-fly the clumsy chaos beasts.

The monstrosities steadily fell behind, their asymmetrical forms poorly built for swift flight and abrupt maneuvers, but they were hardly rendered safe. One of them sprayed a stream of violet liquid from a vaguely scorpion-like tail. Almonihah, struggling to keep his head up and watch them, kneed Zakhin’Dakh hard on one side, and the big griffon twisted away, but a few droplets still struck his wingtip. He shrieked in alarm as his feathers started to smoke and blacken, but then Garkhen lifted his holy symbol and chanted, and the smoking stopped.

Then Zakhin’Dakh leveled off his flight and flapped hard, starting to leave the Javni’Tolkhrah behind. They struggled to catch up, spat and threw spines at him, but they fell short, and slowly the three flew clear of them. The big griffon didn’t slow his flight until a couple of hours later, when the monsters following them had fallen out of sight.

Amazingly enough, they faced little opposition after that, only an occasional lone Javni’Tolkhrah. It was as if the Madlands had exhausted itself in its assault, and now had to rest and regain their strength.

Either that, or it was lulling them into a trap.

But if it was a trap, it didn’t yet spring. Mountains rose before them, and when they crossed over, the three friends could see a vast waste… and at its center, pandemonium, a rapidly-changing landscape shot through with fire and lightning.

“Th’ Maelstrom,” Almonihah stated. “Just about there.”

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I’m really struggling with this end sequence. I know how it ends, but I haven’t got all of the challenges along the way really clear in my mind. I’m still not really satisfied with this, but… here it is.

Chapter 17-1

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.

No response.

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!”

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Sorry again about the infrequent posting. I’ll try to get my act together enough to finish this without more gaps.