Interludes – A Strange Friendship
Illustration by Mark Hansen
Are you alright, fareya? Do we need to land for rest? The air underneath Eddiwarth’s cloak hood swirled with an azure mist as he let his thoughts reach out to the mind of Ghorax, the dragon, flying below him.
I am well enough.
The cold wind at the altitude of dragon flight cut deep into Eddiwarth’s cheeks as he smiled. Ghorax didn’t like the common speech, so he always sounded so formal, even in his thoughts. Really? You’re OK? Eddiwarth asked again. I don’t think it’s too much farther.
Eddiwarth tightened the oversized cloak that wrapped over his legs and the seat he’d been strapped into. The warmth of Ghorax’s internal fires filtered up and kept Eddiwarth warm, even comfortable, but his face, exposed by the tiny gap in the hood, was still quite cold. For just a moment, he pushed his hand out of his cloak and adjusted the scarf over his cheek and jaws to break the wind.
The dragon responded, Then let’s just push through and get there. I’m sure I can find a place to rest.
Ghorax’s airgait was less than comfortable, even if Eddiwarth was grateful for it. One of his wings didn’t lift quite as high as the other, making each downstroke a little uneven. It tilted the seat and its rider a little to the left as it undulated up and down.
Eddiwarth had been actually quite concerned when Ghorax had volunteered to take him and Thissraelle on their journeys. Ghorax’s injuries had been extensive when Eddiwarth had first found him on the mountainside months ago, and it took many rounds of healing magic from both Thissraelle and Heathrax to mend his many broken bones. His wings, partly recalcified, had been the most painful repairs of all. More struggles followed with Heathrax in the Vast as he relearned how to move and to fly. Much of that had been done with Eddiwarth’s encouragement and diligence.
When Eddiwarth had received the letter from House Northil requesting his guidance and counsel, Eddiwarth went immediately to Heathrax.
“What do I do? What do I tell them? I don’t know how to run a kingdom! That’s why I turned away the throne in the first place!”
Heathrax had just smiled his tranquil draconic smile. “You and I, we have talked a lot about life and finding meaning and purpose.”
Eddiwarth’s eyes furrowed. “What does that have to do with being King?”
“Your ordeal taught you more than you realize. You now know the principles of wisdom and good judgment. They would do well to listen to you,” Heathrax reassured him. “How will you get there?”
“Well,” Eddiwarth said, scowling and scratching the back of his head, “Yeah. That’s another thing. We were planning to go to Dirae for the wedding. A trip like this would really shake up our traveling timetable. With the Seekers in hiding, there are no portals open…”
The old dragon raised one eyebrow, as if he didn’t like where Eddiwarth was leading the conversation. “Oh, no.” He waved his raised claw, “I’m too old to keep shuffling you around through the Vast. That gets tiring.”
Eddiwarth nodded. “Well, I suppose we could go by caravan. Maybe we could find a drake–”
“I cann fly you thhere.” Ghorax’s deep voice interrupted.
Eddiwarth spun to him in surprise, and Heathrax tilted his gigantic head. They both stared at the struggling red dragon who continued, “Well, I guesss I cann. I need to learn to sstretch my winngs in the reeal air, not jusst here in the Vasst. That wwould be a goood wayy to do it.”
“But,” Eddiwarth said, hushed, “You’re a dragon.”
“Yess, I am.” Ghorax raised his head up on his neck, flexing his chest. “That’ss why I’m offering.”
“But I’m a… a two-legs.”
“Yes,” Ghorax hesitated, “Yess you arre.”
Eddiwarth studied the dragon. He was a tall, proud, majestic beast with a brilliant mind. “You just fought a devastating battle so that you wouldn’t be treated like horses. You almost died for that freedom. You dragons swore you’d never be ridden again.”
“I made no ssuch oath to you, elff.” The dragon lowered his spined head and looked directly down into Eddiwarth’s upraised eyes. “Sso, now, I offer yoou my sservice.”
Eddiwarth took in a breath and smiled. He raised his hand and rested it on the dragon’s nose. “Well, then, thank you, my fareya, that would be very helpful.”
After much planning and discussing, as well as a few trial flights around the peaks of Emberfire, Ghorax’s confidence grew. He agreed to carry Thissraelle to Dirae first, then to Haffenberg for the meeting.
Haffenberg, correct? Ghorax’s thoughts sounded just as deeply as his voice in Eddiwarth’s mind..
Have you been in my head this whole time? Or am I thinking out loud again?
Ghorax ignored his question. Are those the lights of Haffenberg?
Eddiwarth raised his head into the wind and squinted. In the dim of the twilight, near the horizon, he saw a cluster of glimmering lights. It was a thinly scattered pattern, spread out wide, and still quite distant. He shook his head. No, that’s too big. It’s probably Twynne Rivers. Look to your left a ways.
Ghorax’s head turned, and his body shifted with him. Eddiwarth gripped the seat to keep himself upright. A smaller grouping of lights had just begun to show from behind groves of trees. Also near the horizon, they shone through the clear encroaching night. They were much fewer than the bigger city, maybe only a few dozen hovels.
I can easily go that far.
Eddiwarth smiled. Would you admit it if you couldn’t?
Ghorax huffed out a puff of sulfuric smoke that immediately rushed past Eddiwarth’s seat, making him cough.
The dragon leaned into a turn toward the smaller town. Where should I land?
Eddiwarth thought about this. I’m… not sure. Maybe showing up with a dragon would be more kingly? But I’m not trying to be kingly. I don’t want to be any kind of king. Would the people still be afraid of dragons? I don’t know how to play this. I really don’t know what I’m doing. What do you think?
Apparently, I am not the only one on their first flight.
Eddiwarth laughed. This is so, so true. He took a deep and chilly breath. I think that, this time, I’d like to ask you to let me off a little ways from the town. I’ll walk in from there. Then you can rest and go back to Heathrax.
You are not returning?
Heathrax gave me an oculus to establish a stable dimensional portal, so we can start to get around more easily from now on.
Ghorax dropped into a lower glide, settling into a descent. Eddiwarth’s stomach dropped with him, making him gasp for a moment. As the dark hills and trees started to rush below them, Eddiwarth thought of the great noble wyrmkin below him. Thank you very much, Ghorax. These flights could not have been easy for you, and I appreciate the sacrifice.
Yes. But it is thanks to you, fareya, that I can fly at all.
Author’s Note: A Strange Friendship
The power of friendship?
As I was writing this scene (as well as the other interludes), I was having a big quandry. At the end of Book 3, there were a lot of smaller loose ends to tie up, and I wasn’t sure quite how to do them all. Part of that was figuring out how Thissraelle and Eddiwarth were going to get all over the land and do the things they needed to do.
An easy way to solve that would be to have a dragon or a drake fly them around. But they had just been fighting a huge battle with dragons, and dragons had just fought for their freedom. They wouldn’t want to be ridden like horses again.
Then I figured out that Eddiwarth would be the kind of person to befriend a dragon. If you remember his speech and actions in the last scenes of Book 3, you’ll know what I mean. It set the stage for some strange friendships.
A friendship like the one with Ghorax. It started to take shape in my head, and it just kept getting better and better. The character of Ghorax also grew, and his friendship with Heathrax challenged his own anger as well.
So, his friendship with Eddiwarth became very touching for me, and I decided to have him establish other hominid friendships as well. Finally, I though it would be cool to establish a friendship with Xintalan, and to support her in her drive to reform Draconic culture.
Ah, the power of friendship!
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