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The Wanderer’s Tale – Part 10 November 17, 2012

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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The Air kindreds waited to one side, silent spectators as the Forest kin buried their dead. There was no time for ceremony – Aradann and his people called the trees, and their roots wrapped gently around the bodies and took them down into the earth.

Grey was the only one to break ranks and pay his respects alongside the Forest kin. He stood shoulder to shoulder with Aradann. In that moment, despite having only just met, years of living with the same terrible grief made them close as brothers.

Grey looked out over the brown, fresh turned earth as the trees moved away. “If you want, I can use a cyclone to bring enough stone to cover the graves,” Grey offered.

Aradann gave him a sad smile. “Thank you, but there is no need. The wyverns will not touch them. We eat berries that are harmless to our kind, but make us lethal to them.” The smile ran away from his face as he looked at the newly settled grove. “So now they simply kill us, rather than eating us.”

Grey thought of all the shattered bodies, obviously dropped from a great height. He gripped the Aradann’s shoulder in sympathy. “I’m sorry.”

“We knew the risks when we came down to the plains from our stronghold,” Aradann said. “Come, we should keep moving. Your own people still need help, and if we tarry too long these brave souls will have died in vain.”

Grey got everyone aloft in minutes. Galen had taught him the trick of lifting so much weight, and while he did not have the older man’s finesse, the tornadic winds he summoned moved them much faster.  The miles fell away beneath them, tree-clad slopes giving way to rolling plains, and then to dry rocky ground as they reached the near end of the canyon. The closer they got, the more tense Grey became – for all he knew, he might well be coming home to a tomb.

The main entrance to the caverns was set mid-way up the canyon wall. Grey flew in first, dismayed to find there was no Wind barrier over the entrance. He darted through the entry cave, only to be brought up short at its back by a solid wall of granite. His fears were coming to life – it looked like the Mountain sealed up the bodies of his kin, to keep the wyverns from digging them up.

He started to pound frantically on the rock. “Tairwyn! Anyone! Open up!”

Cavall pushed through the crowd gathering behind him, barking and jumping up to scrabble at the wall.

Galen shouted at him over the noise. “Is there another way in?”

A gravelly voice answered them. “Not anymore.”

The wall melted away, revealing a worn, haggard looking Mountain kin. Grey could just make out the long, drooping mustachios the man wore, and let out a whoop. “Tairwyn!  You’re still alive!”

“Stones below, it’s good to see you laddie!” Tairwyn said, pulling him into a rough hug and pounding him on the back. “I live, though there’s less of me now than there used to be.” He let Grey go and looked curiously at the group waiting behind them. “Who are your friends?”

“I brought help, healers, and more medicine,” Grey said. “Where are the others? How are they?”

Tairwyn herded everyone into the passageway and sealed it up behind them. “Right where you left them. We had to close the entrances, not enough of us left standing to keep guard day and night. Most of my folks are recovering, but I’m afraid we’ve lost some of yours,” he said, shaking his head. “The poison won’t get out of their system. It’s like it was made to kill the Wind tribes.”

“It very well might have been,” Galen said, his expression bleak.

“You’ll explain that to me later, right?” Grey asked, and waited for Galen’s nod. “All right then. Let’s get to work.”

They say the character of a man can be seen through how he treats others. Those were Galen’s thoughts as he labored over the grievously ill members of the Wind tribes. It would have been perfectly natural for Aurengrey to want some immediate answers.  Or to rush to his parents side, and demand that they be treated first. And yet, he had calmly accepted Galen’s promise and patiently helped to organize everyone so that those in the direst need would be healed first. He worked tirelessly, refusing to rest despite having just fought a battle and flown their entire group for miles. He teased a little girl to make her smile, and cajoled a temperamental elder to cooperate with the healers. It was obvious the warriors of the Mountain kin respected him. The Forest kin had accepted him without question.

Galen was more than a little impressed himself by this quiet young warrior. He had watched Aurengrey throughout the journey – he fought like a demon, but took no joy or pride in it. He was selfless, earnest, and had a depth of compassion and wisdom that belied his youth. If the greater Houses of Air had not fallen in their civil war, Galen would have sponsored him to become a Wind Knight.

Galen had long since put aside his own sword, but he had never given up on the ideals that were the foundation of the order, nor stopped searching for one he felt worthy to carry on their legacy.  There was little doubt in his mind that in Aurengrey, he had found what he sought.

The question was, would he want anything to do with Galen when he found out why his people had nearly been destroyed?

Galen finally settled down by Aurengrey’s parents.  Aurelius slept fitfully, his breath rattling in his lungs. Merina was awake, but delirious. She reached out and gripped the hem of Galen’s robes. “Where is my Aurengrey? My sweet little boy? Please, tell him to come home. You will, won’t you?”

Grey hurried over and held her gently in a hug. “I’m home, Mom. I haven’t been little for a long time though,” he said, laughing quietly.

Merina looked up at him with feverish eyes. “Don’t tease, papa. Have you seen my son?”

Grey let out a choked sound. “She always said I looked like my grandfather.” He clenched a fist in frustration. “I feel so useless. I can snap a wyverns’ bones like they were twigs, but I can’t do a thing to help her.”

“Don’t belittle your efforts,” Galen said. He waved for Xenobia. “See to her, please. I am afraid Aurelius will need all of my attention.”

“Of course, my Lord,” Xenobia said. She sat by Grey and placed her hands on Merina’s head. “Hold her still.”

Galen did the same for Aurelius, placing a hand on either temple. He summoned Air, and let it course out through him. His House was Zephyr, a far gentler wind than the ones used by Cyclonis, but he had to hope it would be enough. He let his thoughts sink down, working the Air into patterns and setting them loose. He lost track of time, his whole being focused on this one, singular task. Find the poison, and neutralize it.

Aurelius was not responding. The poison had spread everywhere. Galen’s entire body went taught, as if he were straining against a great weight. His own breathing became labored, coming out in short gasps. Finally, he let out a sharp cry and slumped forward, feeling as if all the life had drained out of him.

“Not enough,” Galen croaked, his voice gone hoarse. “I can’t channel enough of the right sort of Wind to reach him.”

Grey looked over at him in panic. “I’ll channel any kind of wind you want. Just tell me how!”

Galen sat back wearily and shook his head. “Too dangerous. Healing comes from within, and you have no training. It would kill you both.”

“There has to be a way!” Grey said. “Can’t I give the energy to you somehow?”

Galen rubbed a hand over his face. “Maybe. A transfusion of his own element…Yes, it just might work.” He sat up straighter. “Give me your hand.”

Grey thrust his right hand out to him. “Take whatever you need. As much as you need.”

Galen took Grey’s outstretched hand, and clasped it firmly. “Whatever you do, do not let go. All three of our lives depend on it.”

“I won’t falter,” Grey said, as calm and steady as Galen could have wished.

The healing was going to be tricky. He had to take enough of the element from Aurengrey to learn its ways, but not so much that it drained the boy and overwhelmed his own system. Then he would have to share it with Aurelius, and hope that his strength didn’t fail. And all of this had to be done soon. Aurelius would not live to see another hour, let alone another day. There would be no second chance.

But situations like this were exactly why Galen had become a healer. He gave Aurengrey an encouraging smile. “Let us begin…”

NEXT WEEK –  Grey’s story continues in GATHERING SHADOWS, Part 1.
Sometimes you choose your path. Sometimes it is set before you. The dark road that Grey took in becoming Grimm was a long one, but herein lies the first steps…

<- The Wanderer’s Tale, Part 9

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