The King’s courtyard was silent save for the rustle of the morning breeze. While the sea breezes whipped around them, the King led Andril and Haryk to the stables. It was filled with steeds of all kinds. Lord Borindin, the once King of Cellinor was a collector of sorts. In his many ventures into the wilds, he brought back all manner of beasts and he was able to domesticate quite a few. Hippogriffs, griffons, even a reptile creature with batlike wings was saddled. Billius, his majesty’s caretaker led the two men to where several different species lay in wait. Andril was the first to select a beautifully mottled grey and white hypogriff.
“Terrific choice, Master Mage,” smiled Genoran, petting the creature’s neck. “She was one of my father’s favorite. She will serve you well.”
Haryk needed little time to choose. He knew what he wanted the moment he got on the dragon and nearly electrified his genitals from the friction of his armor. Haryk pointed to a large male griffon. It was a young, beautifully golden creature. Billius walked into it’s area and motioned for Haryk to follow. The creature was calm and peaceful while Billius showed Haryk how to bridle the steed. This of course was a test, and Haryk, having past it, was allowed to walk him out to the courtyard.
“I thought you said that you were granting Tahg a steed as well,” Haryk asked Genoran.
“I did!” replied the king. “He should actually be here any time now.”
Haryk was just wondering what the little miscreant would choose. His mind was flicking from bumble bee to firefly, when suddenly there was a thunder clap over their heads! Above them, hovering in the air was a magnificent golden dragon. And Haryk saw with disgust, the feet and boots sticking down from below the saddle and stirrups. He knew who the tiny shoes belonged to. Haryk did not even know such a color existed! The men-at-arms around the courtyard could not contain themselves. They whooped and cheered.
Genoran was cheering too, like a child himself. “I can’t believe it. But I am glad I see it, Master Tahg!”
“So he gets a gold dragon?” said Andril in his customary sarcasm.
“Not quite, Lord Andril!” said Genoran who still smiling raced to the dragon, and ran his hand along the bright scales. “This creature here belonged to my father. He found him, no larger than a carriage wagon on one of his travels. Sickly, wounded, my father returned with the beast, and raised him. But we cannot keep a dragon in the stable here, nor would it be wise to keep one in the Grand City. My father who slew the great dragon. It wouldn’t do. For years, this magnificent creature was kept by a dear friend of mine in lands near the coast. Free to leave, he chose not to–eturning to dwell there after every foray. I myself, others as well, attempted to domesticate the beast, but,” Genoran ran his hand along the creatures’ neck, “he wouldn’t take to a rider. Something told me that he might have just been needing the right one.”
“Yeah, like a fucking kid?”
As if on cue, a familiar figure appeared over the dragon’s shoulder. It stood in it’s saddle and jumped over the side. “Andril! Haryk! So good to see you!”
Haryk’s mouth dropped. Andril too was speechless. Tahg, the young boy, had grown a magnificent bushy brown beard.
“What devilry is this that a child would sprout a beard?” Andril was pointing to the boy’s face as if it were cursed. “Did you get into Malorus’ magical creams, boy?”
“Oh, I meant to tell you, but you both were having way too much fun.”
“Tell us what, boy?” snapped Haryk. “Tell us what, precisely?”
“Well, for starters I am not a child.”
“What in the darkness are you then?” Haryk threw his hands up in the air and looked imploringly at Andril. “He says he ain’t a kid, Andril!”
Genoran doubled over in laughter, and Tahg threw his head back, laughing as well. The dragon snorted.
When he found his breath, Genoran cried out at the two, “He’s a halfling you two! Isn’t that obvious? Late 30s I should say.”
Tahg stroked his beard, his little lips curled into a smile underneath the whiskers.
“The halfling tribes of the northern hills are always trying to pass themselves as children in fairs and plays and such. Takes a trained eye, gentlemen. Now you know.”
“Great, now we know,” mumbled Haryk walking to his griffon.
Andril called a servant over and with its help, gracefully mounted his winged horse. He bent over the beast’s neck, massaging the snow-white mane. “Hey King, don’t call me a gentleman.”
Tahg made a little bow and held out his hand which Genoran shook. “You can call me anything your majesty. Look for me out in the Carrn lands, ok? That’s where I’ll be. Guys, if you need me, I’ll be out in the….
“We heard you!” Yelled Andril and Haryk at precisely the same time.
Genoran clapped his hand together and stood back. He nodded and Haryk stared in his eyes as his griffon began to beat it’s wings. Haryk felt it’s feet lifting off the ground. Genoran called out, “When I have need of your most excellent services, I shall call, Master Tahg.”
Andril, who was the last to take flight, winked at the king. “Don’t worry your majesty, I’ll call you.”
The steeds rose in the air. Wings caught on the updrafts from the sea below. Andril, and Tahg’s mount caught the winds perfectly and drifted out into the sky. Andril’s flew off into the south–Tahg’s to the North. Haryk circled the harbor, watching them get smaller and smaller. His griffon squawked and flew over the ships of the grand harbor, the ships that took both he and his father west once. He watched as the King, still standing in his courtyard, the Temple Mount, and the great spires of Cillandar fell away from view. Onward he went, gliding along on the breeze. The warm morning sun warmed his skin. As he flew on towards the familiar hills that as a boy he called home, the darkness of the past and the darkness of his future seemed a lifetime away.