Chapter 23 – Destruction and Silver Hair

Groyven slipped down off Hendosphyre’s back as they stood just inside the tree line. He looked up and checked Tiffaniel, watching as she shifted forward, securing herself. She grabbed a hold of the gryphon’s neck and patted. Hendosphyre seemed distracted as he listened carefully. Finally satisfied, he looked down to Groyven, tilting his head towards the clearing, nodding. Groyven nodded and walked forwards, the gryphon matching his pace. Coming out from under the trees on the peak of the ridge, they stopped at the same spot Hendosphyre had the night before. Tiffaniel looked around from her vantage atop Hendosphyre, the breath catching in the back of her throat. Groyven climbed atop a freshly fallen tree, its roots torn clean out of the ground. He stood, struck dumb by what he saw. This wasn’t a natural clearing in the forest, it was a corridor of uprooted and crushed trees that started at the ridge and led down into the valley. Trees that were hundreds or even thousands of years old snapped like toothpicks, scattered like a child’s toys, insignificant in the path of the beast that crashed into the mountainside.

 

Tiffaniel looked around, ‘Brother, just how big is this thing? she said as she looked at the flattened trees in awe.

 

Many of which would have stood above forty or even a sixty yards tall, their trunks thick and grizzled with the passing of time, were scattered like kindling. She looked over the ridge and into the valley, taking in what Hendosphyre had observed the night before. Her eyes wide and respectfully frightened. The path of torn up earth as the beast had slid down from hitting the ridge and into the cradle of the valley below.

 

‘Ven?’

 

Groyven nodded, ‘Down there is where it spent most of the night.’ he looked to Hendosphyre, ‘Do you think we can go down there?’

 

The gryphon nodded, still alert to its surroundings. It moved beside the tree that Groyven stood on, letting him get on his back. Hendosphyre wound his way through the trees at the edge of the wreckage down and into the valley, moving smoothly and at a reasonable pace. Occasionally he would stop and listen as dull thuds could be heard in the distance along with the felling of a tree or two. He finally came to a stop at the floor of the valley, where the earth was churned from where the massive beast had slid to a stop and slumbered the night away. Groyven slipped down from Hedosphyre’s back and jumped up onto a tree trunk

 

‘What is this place; this world that creatures like this exist?’ Tiffaniel said quietly to herself as she looked at the flattened trees and scarred earth in awe.

 

Then she saw it.

 

A distinct depression in the ground that was clear, ‘Ven, over there, do you see it?’

 

‘Where?’ he said, looking at her.

 

Tiffaniel pointed to a place not far from their position, no more than fifty yards away. ‘Over there, it looks like, like a footprint, or is it a claw?’

 

Groyven walked along the trunk of a felled tree to get a better look. Nimbly skipping from one to another until he was close to where she was pointing. He stood there for a moment, looking down and into it.

 

‘How is this possible?’ he looked back at his sister, ‘It is a claw print, a little like Hendosphyre’s.’

 

He dropped to the ground and walked to the edge of the hole. He grappled mentally with the size, Hendosphyre could stand, easily concealed in one of the four toe prints, not to mention the stab of the talons that each had the girth of one of the larger felled trees nearby. He tried to position himself to see into the closest to find it full of muddied water. One thought came to his mind, but he dared not believe it. A tale of gods that had left the world, abandoning it. Creatures of legend that most laughed at the possibility of. Myths and nothing more as no proof had been found of their existence. Fairy tales and fancy. But even then, the myths did not speak of this sheer magnitude.

 

‘Surely it is not possible?’ he said to himself.

 

He looked to Hendosphyre, ‘Hendosphyre, is this? But how?’

 

The gryphon gave a sharp nod.

 

‘Ven?’ asked Tiffaniel, her concern growing even further.

 

Groyven thought for a moment, fear rapidly growing.

 

He took a step towards the gryphon, ‘Hendosphyre, does this world have people? Elves, Dwarves, Humans… People?’

 

The gryphon considered his master for a moment and nodded. He then looked to a distant outcropping that he had noticed during their descent to the valley floor. Hendosphyre guided Groyven’s stare. He heard an audible sigh of relief from Tiffaniel as she made out the ancient ruins of some type of fortification. Hendosphyre looked back to Groyven as he stared at the ruins. Watching him as his stance calmed a little.

 

‘Ven, what is it? What is not possible?’ she called out as another rumble was heard.

 

Her eyes snapped up as another deep thud in the distance shook the earth around them. She watched as Groyven steadied himself, glancing around. It sounded louder without the forest blanketing its sound. In the distance she could make out movement in the adjoining valley as it rose to the saddle of the mountain chain.

 

‘Ven, I think I see something.’

 

Looking up, he allowed his eyes to follow the wreckage of trees, until his sight met the cradle of two ridges among the mountains, hazy in the morning mists and in the distance. He looked to where she was pointing. He held his breath, not entirely believing what he saw. Tiffaniel also had her eyes fixed on the distant movement, the glare causing her to shield her eyes.

 

‘Mountains, I see mountains, I am not sure if it is just a cloud, or if it is…’ her voice trailed off.

 

Her eyes slowly widened in surprise, for there was something moving. It stood over the trees, much the same as Hendosphyre stood over both Groyven and Tiffaniel. The mid-morning sunlight glinted and reflected off its impressive body as it stood on the ridge among the mists. It fanned its enormous wings before resettling them against its back. It raised its head, checking from its vantage and slowly passed over the ridge, keeping its long tail above the trees. The three of them watched it disappear from sight. Looking back to her brother she noticed that he stood, unmoving.

 

Tiffaniel slid from Hendosphyre’s back and ran to Groyven’s side as he stood, staring at the distant mountains. ‘Ven, was that a?’

 

‘Yes.’

 

‘But I thought they were a story to frighten children.’

 

‘Here, in this world, dimension, place, whatever you want to call it, they are real.’ he tore his gaze away from the mountains and looked at Tiffaniel, ‘Here, dragons are real.’ He said with a hushed voice.

 

‘But it is, how can it be so big?’

 

‘Tiff, gods must not have abandoned this world.’ he rested against a fallen tree, ‘We arrived last night. It would have felt the energy of our arrival, it came to check the disturbance in the forest.’ he looked to the mountains again, at the different peaks, ‘It must have a den or lair in one of those mountains.’

 

Groyven went silent and looked back to where the silver dragon had been only moments before, dull thuds still shaking the earth occasionally. Tiffaniel felt the strange warmth of the device that brought them here in her pocket. Bringing it out, her eyes were immediately drawn to the dragons, the splitting image of the spectacle they had just witnessed.

 

‘Ven, maybe the answer was in our hands the whole time?’

 

He stayed quiet, just watching the mountains.

 

‘Ven, maybe its maker was trying to reach a dimension where the old gods still reigned.’

 

She turned it over in her hands, the strange black metal of a moon, with golden flames ringing it. A small glint of red light caught her attention, looking carefully she noticed a small red ruby set into the smooth surface.

 

‘Ven, look.’ she pointed out the gem.

 

Groyven looked at it, his eyes narrowing.

 

‘That is the star I saw. Those dragons, they are the same.’ he looked again at the mountains surrounding them, ‘Whoever he was, he knew exactly where he wanted to go.’

 

*          *          *          *          *

 

Birdsong returned to the canopy of the forest near the peaking of midday. The rumble and thuds of the dragon’s footsteps no longer shaking the ground. Woodland animals resumed their daily habits, venturing out of their nests and burrows as the scent of fear lifted from the forest. Early autumn was making itself known throughout the mountains and forests between the fortresses of Scarosant and Shadowfalls. The start of cold mornings and comfortable warmth by midday was now common place throughout the lower mountains and in Meliandra. Whilst heavy frosts of a night and chill winds on the sun-kissed heights of Scarosant heralded the onset of the first snows of the season on the towering mountains where the great sanctum was perched.

 

Sunlight shone on uplifted startling silver eyes as they looked up and through the gap in the canopy above. They quickly became unfocused as they lowered and took in the surrounding forest tiredly. Her strong, beautiful features were strained as she stumbled, her bowed lips pulled into tight lines as she grimaced and rested a hand on a tree. Taking a moment, she breathed deeply and straightened, her heavy silver braid snaking down her back. Everywhere ached, her body felt tortured with every movement. She looked around, a frown on her face, she was not sure of where she was. Her memory of the night before was hazy and lacked cohesion. It seemed like glimpses, or fragments of memory that did not make sense. She remembered feeling a strong drawing sensation, like she was being summoned, her whole being shook and the feeling of vertigo. The next memory was of awakening in the forest with no memory of how she got there.

 

She stretched her arm and shoulder experimentally, her tapered brows furrowing. She walked unsteadily along the forest floor, her steps taxing her strength tremendously. Staggering and falling to her knees, she cried out in shock, her voice but a breathless whisper. After she had woke, she had checked herself for injuries, to find none. Just an overwhelming lack of energy, like every ounce of strength and life had been drained from her, leaving her limbs and body heavy and lifeless. She concentrated, trying to call on her innate abilities, to find nothing. She was powerless, strength less and alone in the wilderness. She grimaced again as she forced herself to her feet, fighting the feeling of vertigo as the forest swam around her. She couldn’t remember the last time she had felt so vulnerable. She smiled despite her predicament, the experience was humbling in its own way. She stumbled along unsteadily, stopping at almost every tree to rest.

 

A deer cut across the trail ahead, the buck’s antlers well branched and mature. He slowed and stopped, observing the failing moon elf. He felt a tug at its mind as he looked at her, her silver eyes inside his thoughts, compelling him to approach. He stood, watching for a moment in curiosity. He could help her. The buck took a slow step, feeling a sense of elation as he slowly moved toward her. She watched as the buck approached, his tail wagging. Drawing close he dipped his head making a faint grunt in familiarity and rubbed his nose against her neck. She did not smile, but rubbed his strong neck soothingly as she leaned heavily against a tree.

 

‘Will you help me, great one?’ she said quietly, a level of gravity in her voice as she asked him calmly.

 

The buck dipped his head and knelt, firstly getting down on its knees and then laying before her allowing her to get close. She dropped to her knees and knelt in front of him, smiling comfortingly and looking into his large brown eyes.

 

‘Thank you, great one.’ she said sadly, crawling weakly around to his side and hugging him, ‘Thank you.’

 

His thoughts were of bliss as he surrendered his lifeblood and flesh to the elf, in servitude to the silver-haired. All pain blurred and replaced with happiness by her will as she made an incision and drank from his neck. Her eyes flared slightly as his blood pumped out and into her mouth, overflowing down and pooling on the forest floor. He lay there, his life rapidly leaving him and replenishing the silver-haired moon elf. Before passing, he grunted softly, his eyes closing for the last time as he fell into endless sleep.

 

She lifted her head, her lips, chin and cheek bloodied, ‘Thank you for your offering, great one. Make haste to the afterlife, your soul has served well and without fear.’

 

She unsheathed the only blade on her and shakily started to cut, eating the buck’s still quivering flesh, raw and warm. While doing so her movements became more confident and sure as the barest fraction of her strength returned. She continued to cut of slivers of flesh, eating ravenously.

 

As midday transitioned to early afternoon she stood, all that remained of the buck was its carcass, all of its main muscular flesh efficiently cut away and consumed. She stood over it, bowing her head in respect before looking around. A pair of foxes sat quietly, waiting for her to finish with her meal, respectfully keeping their distance as she dined. She nodded to them and stepped back, moving away from the remains and walking a distance off. While in better condition than before, the meal would not last long for one of her kind, caught in the predicament she was in. She listened, the sound of water close by. Stepping off the trail, she headed for the river.

 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *