I saw a group of people standing there. Wizards, presumably the police from that area, and Jack had been waiting for us.
“I figured you would come back,” Jack said. “I told you, don’t try to steal from this museum. It won’t work, and now you’ll go to jail.”
“No,” Dossik said. I hadn’t expected him to be the one to speak. “We will not go to jail.”
“Of course you will,” said the one who seemed to be the leader of the three police, the captain.
“I don’t think we should,” Maybelle said, but she was so surprised that the persuasion didn’t work.
Akeelay just stood there, shocked. At least, from a first glance she appeared to be in shock. But her eyes were alert, darting around the room to see the best way to get to the feather. She started edging toward it.
“Stop that, girl,” the captain said, glaring at her.
While his attention was diverted, I acted. “Sensih!” I said, pointing at Jack. Although he wasn’t the one to worry about, because he didn’t have magyk, I wanted to take him down first. The wizards couldn’t really do anything, anyway. I was the only one in that room who could use magyk with the caerthin walls.
The wizards looked at me, astonished. “How-” started one, but I shouted the unconsciousness spell again and again and took down the three wizards.
I hadn’t attacked wizards in a while. It felt strange.
Akeelay ran for the case containing the feather.
“It’s gone!” she said.
“It’s gone?” I echoed, devastated. This couldn’t happen. The feather could be anywhere. If we couldn’t find it, we were doomed.
Maybelle ran over to Jack and strained to flip him over from where he had fallen, facedown. She managed to get him to lie on his back and pulled out the feather from inside his jacket.
“We’ve got it!” she said.
“Really?” Akeelay asked. “It actually worked? I really didn’t expect us to get it.”
We had it. I was amazed too. I had hoped, of course, that we would succeed, but knowing our luck, I really had thought that we would have to find another way to wake up the king and queen.
“Wow,” I said. “But now we have to go all the way back.”
“Right, right.” Akeelay seemed a little put out, but I could still see the thrill of victory in her eyes.
“Let’s get out of here before they wake up,” Maybelle said. “I know it probably won’t be for a while, but I don’t like hanging around caerthin.”
“Could I see the feather?” Akeelay asked. Maybelle handed it to her.
“It is the real thing, right?” I asked, suddenly worried that it wasn’t the actual one. It’s not like it would be hard to switch it out with a decoy.
“I think so,” Maybelle said. “But you can see it for yourself.”
Akeelay handed it to me. I could feel the magyk running through it, and I sighed in relief. There had been so much going on lately, I wanted to be sure.
That’s an understatement, isn’t it? There really had been a lot going on lately, so much that it’s impossible to describe in that 8-word phrase.
“Let’s get out of here,” Maybelle repeated. We left out the same door that we had exited from earlier that day.
I still held the griffon feather, and examined it as we walked casually away from the rounded museum. Blue with gray stripes. It was really pretty.
The casual walking stopped and the running started as soon as we were out of sight around the building. I don’t think any of us had planned to be that obvious, but it was a natural reaction.
We ran, or galloped, in Dossik’s case, away from the museum. I had no idea where we were heading, but Maybelle was in the lead. She had seemed to know where she was going before, so we let her go.
We slowed down passing the park we had been to earlier. There were still people there, unaware of the importance of what we were doing. Earlier, I had envied them. They had no idea what was going on. Now, I wished that they could help us. There were some magykans in that group, all wizards, and help would be nice.
But it wasn’t their problem, it was ours. If we could find the wizards from Rhellens, that would be perfect, but we had no idea where they were. I had just let them go and left them to do whatever they wanted to. It was unlikely that we would find them anytime soon.
I suggested it anyway. “We have to try to find the castle wizards. We told Jack that we had already done it, but it could really help.”
“Exactly,” Akeelay agreed. “We’ll need a lot of help if we expect to get in the castle without getting caught by the sorcerers, let alone getting to the king and queen.”
“Tracking spell,” Maybelle said. “Only how are we going to get there if they’re really far away?”
“We should leave the city first,” Dossik suggested, “then we can worry about how to find the wizards.”
Getting out of the city was easier than getting in. We weren’t questioned by guards about why we were leaving, unlike going in. Even though it was the middle of the night, I don’t think defending the city involves keeping people inside the walls.
“Okay, well, we’re out,” I said after we had walked a fair distance from the city walls. We stood in the middle of a forest. Forests were one thing I hadn’t missed while in Lospem. “Now what?”
“We better watch out for unicorns, too,” Akeelay mentioned. “I’ve had some bad experiences with them.”
“I don’t -” Maybelle started, but she never finished her sentence.
What made her stop was a dragyon swooping down from the sky and landing in front of us.
Yes, another one.
“Hello,” the dragyon said in a feminine voice. I could see, even in the faint light of the moon, that her scales were lavender. “What are you doing in the forest at this hour? You wouldn’t want unicorns to catch the four of you here.”
“We know,” Akeelay said quickly. The rest of us stood in stunned silence. “But we have to be here.”
“And why might that be?” the dragyon asked. Her voice was like bells.
Maybelle spoke up this time. “We’re on a quest.”
“Really?” She sounded intrigued. “Is there any way I can help you with this quest? It sounds like it may be interesting.”
“N-” Akeelay started, but I interrupted her.
“Yes, actually, you can, if you want,” I said eagerly. This was just what we were looking for.
Maybelle and Akeelay shot curious glances at me, wondering where I was going with that. Dossik seemed to understand, though.
I continued. “We just got a griffon feather from a museum in order to save our kingdom. We need to find the castle wizards from Rhellens so that we can get into the castle to save the king and queen. They might be really far away, though, so we needed a ride. If you can help us, that would be amazing.”
The dragyon seemed to think about it for a few moments.
“I believe I would like to help you with this,” she said. “You will just have to direct me to where they are, and I can take the three of you and all of the wizards back to your castle.”
“All three of us?” I asked.
“How would I be able to ride a dragyon?” Dossik pointed out. “It will be all right. I will do my best to move quickly and meet you at the castle. I will try to make it in time for the combat, but if you find the wizards quickly, I will not be able to make it back in time.”
“Are you sure?” Maybelle asked. “We could find another way to get there. It might take longer, but I doubt the sorcerers are going anywhere anytime soon.”
“I am sure,” Dossik replied firmly. “This is too important to delay because of me.”
“Okay,” Maybelle said. “Bye.”
“Bye, Dossik. It was nice having you with us,” Akeelay said.
“It was. We’ll miss you,” I agreed. “Even though you didn’t like me at first.”
“Get on.” The dragyon bent down.
“What’s your name?” Akeelay asked. “I’m Akeelay, this is Kaolin, this is Maybelle, and that’s Dossik.”
“My name is Neyolc.” She pronounced it Nay-yolk. “Now come. From what you have told me, we do not have much time.”
“We don’t,” I agreed, carefully climbing up on her back. Her scales were rough, but easy to climb, almost ladder-like in the way they were formed. I sat right behind her neck. There seemed to be places for riders to sit, formed by smoother scaled-patches in the midst of coarser ones, and I wondered how often these were actually used. “Come on,” I urged Maybelle and Akeelay.
Akeelay climbed up and sat right behind me.
Maybelle hesitated, then hugged Dossik quickly and climbed up too. I hadn’t noticed it before, but just then I started to suspect...something between the two of them. But the moment was over quickly, so I didn’t comment on it.
Neyolc bent her back legs and jumped into the air, flapping her huge purple wings to keep rising.
The three of us jolted. Akeelay put her arms around me. It was almost instinctual, I think, just to keep from falling off, rather than romantic.
“Which way?” Neyolc’s bell-like voice asked us as we came to a standstill in the air.
“You should do it,” I said, directing the comment at Maybelle. “You know them better than I do.”
“They should be together, right?” she asked.
I shrugged. “They left together.”
“Isibu,” she said and closed her eyes. “I’ve got it. Go directly south.”
I repeated this to Neyolc, and she turned and flew. We all jolted around again.
Flying on the back of a dragyon is very different than flying on the back of a pegasus. Neyolc’s head blocked most of the wind, so we could actually all hear each other when we spoke, which wasn’t that often anyway. It’s strange talking when you can see the ground rushing by below you, much faster than pegasi can fly.
Thinking about it now, riding a dragyon didn’t even seem all that strange at the time, considering what we had done just before it. It was one of the most amazing things we had done, though.
Time passed. The sun started to rise, and we watched the sun rise from the back of a dragyon.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” Akeelay whispered. She still had her arms wrapped around me. I nodded.
“It’s amazing,” I responded.
Sunlight shone over the trees we were now flying above and reflected off of Neyolc’s scales.
Purple light shone everywhere, flashing around the mountains.
“Okay,” Maybelle said. “Does this always happen?”
“Really, that could be a giveaway,” I added.
“Keep calm,” Neyolc said. “It will not last for very long. Only around the times of dawn and twilight does this happen. It is because of the angle of the light of the sun. It happens to every dragyon at this time of day. Because we are above the clouds, we will not be seen by humans or magykans, although any dragyons in the area will notice us.”
A far-off twinkle of blue caught my eye. It was the same color as the dragyon we had seen in the border forest. I spotted another deep red one near a distant mountain.
“Wow, you can really see them from far away,” I commented, impressed.
“Yes,” she responded. “But even now, it is fading.”
It was true. The blue and red glimmers were getting dimmer and dimmer until I couldn’t see them anymore. I knew their general location, and could fool myself into thinking I could almost see their movement, but it could have just been my imagination.
“So, those three other dragyons could have seen us?” Maybelle asked.
“Three?” I broke in quickly before Neyolc could respond in her blunt way. “I only saw two, the blue and the red.”
“There was another one, closer to us than those two,” Akeelay said. “It was gold, and it looked like a star.”
“To answer your question, yes, they could see us. Or rather, they could see me. There are almost always a few dragyons in the sky, though, whether you humans can see them or not. We fly so high, it is impossible to tell whether one is there, even if it is directly above you, except at dawn and twilight. Very few humans know this; consider yourselves lucky.”
“I do,” Akeelay said. “Even though, you know, we’ve had really, really bad luck lately.”
Memories flashed through my mind of the past couple of fortnights, and I laughed. Depending on your perspective, we could be really unlucky, or just go looking for trouble. We probably did look for trouble, but trouble found us just as frequently as we found it.
I said so to the others. They didn’t comment, really, probably going back through the past fortnight or so themselves. We had met dragyons, giant bears, Lymlock himself, and faced down and escaped them all.
“We really do make a good team,” Maybelle said. “All joking aside. Neyolc, turn left, please.”
The dragyon did so, and, trying and failing to find something to hold on to, I gripped her scales tightly with my legs and leaned left so as not to fall off.
“I hope we get there soon,” Akeelay whispered in my ear. “This is so much faster than riding a pegasus, but it’s harder.” Because she was right behind me, she ended up in between Neyolc’s wings, which couldn’t be comfortable.
“Want to switch?” I asked her. I wouldn’t mind taking turns.
I could feel the movement of her vigorously shaking her head. “I don’t like heights,” she confided. “I couldn’t be in front without freaking out.”
“How did you ever ride a pegasus?” I teased.
“That’s different,” she said. “We had a saddle, and he flew lower.”
“What ever happened to him?” I asked. She and Maybelle had left that out when we were telling our story to the museum employee.
“The...I think it was the third night we were gone, the sorcerers who came to attack killed him before we got to where he was. After that, we just walked.”
“Wow,” I said. “Harsh. I just let mine go when I caught up to you two - well, three at that point.”
“It wasn’t that bad,” she replied. “We didn’t actually see him get killed, and, well, we didn’t really care about him that much. The worst part for me was the sore feet I got when we had to walk because we couldn’t ride him anymore.” She laughed, a little sadly. I expected that she cared for that pegasus more than she cared to admit.
“So did you ever figure what the deal was with that knife?” I asked, curious about it.
She let go of my waist and I heard her pull out the dagger from her sheath that she always carried on her belt. “Nope. It’s still a mystery.”
“Can I see it?” I reached a hand back, half-twisting around to see her. She put the hilt into my hand, and I faced forward again, looking at the thing.
It had a bright red handle, and the blade was sharp. As I flipped my vision (there’s really no other way to describe changing your vision to see magyk), I saw the distinctive sparkles that showed that it did have some magyk in it. But not as many as you would expect to see on an enchanted object, especially not one that powerful. I flipped it around and around in my hands, almost in the same way the thief had done, but couldn’t figure out the mystery of it.
I handed it back to her. “As Maybelle probably told you, it does have some magyk, but I’m not sure that it’s enchanted.”
“What else could it be?” Maybelle asked from behind Akeelay.
Akeelay gasped suddenly. “It could - it could - ” She stopped.
“What?” Maybelle and I asked in unison.
“I...I don’t know.” She sounded mystified. “I forgot, or lost my train of thought, or something.”
“Oh well, it’s not like it’s really urgent compared to some stuff,” I reassured her. “How much longer will it be, Maybelle?”
“We’ll find them about midday,” she responded. “Assuming they don’t all suddenly find a dragyon and go somewhere themselves.”
“For some reason, I doubt that,” Akeelay said. “If they did find one willing to help them, they would probably have to form a committee to decide whether to take its assistance or not.”
Maybelle and I laughed. “I don’t know about wizards,” I said, “but sorcerers would probably fight over who gets to use the dragyon for what they want, and end up with all but one dead.”
“Both of those are probably true,” Maybelle agreed. “Good thing Neyolc came to us instead of them.”
As she said Neyolc’s name, the dragyon’s ears instinctively perked up and swiveled around, then flattened again after a moment.
“How much longer will it take?” she asked. Evidently she hadn’t been listening to our conversation. I wondered what language she normally spoke. Was there a dragyon language? And if so, was it hard for her to hear English?
And I was pondering this, Akeelay told her, “We should get there at about midday, according to Maybelle.”
“Good,” she said. “You may need the time, if you wish to succeed with your attack on the castle. It will not be easy to organize the wizards, or to break into the castle, even with my assistance.”
“You’re going to help us?” I asked.
She laughed, a sound like silver bells tinkling. “What do you think I am doing right now?”
Embarrassed, I shrugged, even though she couldn’t see me. “I mean, I thought you were just going to drop us off with the wizards, or maybe take all of them and us to the castle and leave. I hadn’t expected you to do more than that.”
“I will be affected just as much as you will if Rhellens falls to darkness,” she replied, more serious. “I have lived a long time, and I have seen kingdoms fall to the wizards before. You do not wish that to happen, if it is your home. You will never be able to go back, nor to escape if you are in the kingdom for long.”
“What happened? What kingdom fell to the sorcerers?” Maybelle asked.
The dragyon sighed heavily. “That story is a long and ancient one, and has not been told of in years except in whispers on dark nights and rumors among those who were there, such as dragyons.”
“But you were there?” I don’t remember who said that, even whether it was me or not. Although the sun was burning in the sky, it suddenly seemed as dark as midnight.
“Of course I was.” The response was weighted with bitterness and regret, and she hesitated a long moment before continuing. “I was helping the sorcerers.”