Exhausted, Garv landed atop the desolate spire. The aura of light about him vanished. As if crossing the finish line of a long-drawn-out race, he stumbled and fell. Grazing his forehead on the stony surface, his mind briefly faltered. Frantically refocusing, he stabilized his spell.
Almost broke contact! Nearly dropped him!
Gasping, Garv pushed up, rolled over and managed to find his feet. Body quivering, he scanned about to confirm what his mind sensed. A figure, dimly shining, floated yards away, teetering above the considerable chasm surrounding the outcropping.
Hold on Amin!
Profusely sweating, Garv strained mind and muscle. With beckoning hand, he willed Amin to move toward him. Nearby, a dragon slowly flapped its wings waiting; observing.
Veins throbbing, turning shades of scarlet and purple, Garv’s twisted hand clawed at the air. The light about Amin brightened. He began drifting to Garv and safety.
“Let me help.” Bryndis flew closer to nudge Amin forward.
“No! You’ll mar the magic.” Garv yowled. “It’s my fault! I need to fix this.”
The dragon hissed disapprovingly, but withdrew slightly.
Never should’ve let you come. Damn you, Amin!
The paralyzed form now over stone, Garv measuredly relaxed his concentration. Amin unnaturally lay prone; the luminance of Garv’s levitation spell gone. Yet, another baleful magic remained. A magic unfamiliar to Garv, nevertheless, he sensed the energetic shell surrounding his friend. He understood enough to know he couldn’t remove it. Kneeling, Garv held a hand above the petrified body. Strands of dark hair splayed permanently about Amin’s head, exactly as they were when the paralyzing magic struck him.
“His heart still beats, Bryndis. He remains alive.”
“For now. We must act.”
Garv looked askance at Bryndis. To her he more resembled the frightened teen she encountered years ago than a burgeoning wizard.
“Why’d he interfere? I was the spell’s target.”
Gazing at the grim determination and terror frozen in Amin’s face, Garv failed to understand.
“He loves you.”
“I had a counter-spell prepared!”
“You were spent. He had the sense to see it.”
“I was clear! ‘Watch my back. Leave Runihura’s sorcery to me.’”
“The leap of faith Amin took was the distraction you needed to undo your foe.”
“This evil is beyond my skill to reverse.”
“He trusted you’d find a way and you have.”
Blinking, as if awaking from a dream, Garv considered the dragon’s statement.
“I have found a way.”
Garv surveyed the encircling expanse. Unheeded while struggling to transport Amin, the view astounded Garv. He was thousands of feet up, atop a steep granite cone situated in the middle of a vast subterranean chamber. This was the central lava vent of a volcano held dormant with ancient elemental magic. The fire-mountain was home to Bryndis’ dragon clan. Glimmering along the walls, dragons glistened iridescently, reflecting sunlight streaming in from high above. Novas of every color imaginable pulsed, as the beasts’ yawning mouths revealed the glow of their internal fires.
“Bryndis, will they help?”
“We’ll need to explain everything.”
Lengthy debate ensued. Some counseled waiting for the return of their leader. Others having experience with the treachery of Runihura’s enchantments advised against delay. Ultimately, Bryndis convinced the clan to help. Garv initially elated, began ruminating about the risks of the plan.
This is too rash! Maybe we need another way.
Staring into Amin’s distorted face, Garv felt his willpower flagging.
“You’d have already decided what to do, but you can’t council me now!
Eyes closed, Garv took time to deliberate. Bryndis waited.
“Bryndis, I’ve decided. It’s the only way.”
“Agreed. But, you must allow me to carry you. You’ve exhausted your abilities at present.”
Hubris extinguished, he allowed Bryndis to gently pick up her wizard with a talon. Ages ago, Garv went looking for a familiar and become one himself. The indignity had been unbearable. His luck was strongest that day though. He had failing to thrive at the wizards’ guild, but with Bryndis’ guidance Garv was becoming a formidable magician. As the dragon flew to a nearby empty hollow she clucked in exasperation.
“Garv! Self-doubt, hesitation and wavering determination diminish you. Be the dragon you can be!”
“Yes, Bryndis. For Amin, I must be strong.”
Her astute observation was prophetic. Never one content to sit idly by waiting, Garv quickly started wringing his hands and pacing. Inevitably tears came, he reluctantly let them flow freely. Mercifully, Bryndis said nothing.
“I do try, Bryndis.”
“I know, Garv.”
Abruptly, a dragon’s roar filled the cavern. Bryndis answered bellowing loudly. Hundreds of sonorous voices erupted merging to create a cacophony of dragon noise. Bryndis took flight. Circling above Amin’s body, her mouth belched forth radiant, golden flames. Her fire licked furiously at the invisible shield encasing Garv’s friend. It was clear though the conflagration failed to undo the magic.
“Gods!” Garv prayed.
The awesome scene was terrible to watch. Air thrummed with hundreds of beating wings. Another dragon, replacing Bryndis, blasted Amin with cobalt blue fire. The majesty of the draconic thaumaturgy rekindled Garv’s hope.
“Amin. Hold on.”
Dragon after dragon engulfed the arcane barrier within a violent, kaleidoscopic conflagration. Sanguinary vermilion, scorching orange, noxious chartreuse, glaring saffron, billowy amethyst, crisp silver, jolting copper and molten gold descended; all failed. Undaunted, dragons dared combining attacks to no avail. Gradually, one by one, they returned to their nests. Bryndis grimly landed next to Garv.
“I’m sorry, Garv.”
He reached out to place his hand on his friend.
Beyond, the diminished radiance of the dragons shimmered faintly like banked embers in a fireplace. A passing cloud high above dimmed the sunlight, deepening the somber mood. Garv bowed his head, closed his eyes and sobbed. A rumbling noise like the purr of a cat emanated from Bryndis. The sound grew as other dragons mimicked the soft growl.
Amin…I wish you could hear this…even the dragons mourn for you.
“Garv! Look…our queen!”
What Garv mistook as a passing cloud was actually the shadow of an enormous, coal black dragon. He instinctually fell to the ground in abject submission. If watching, Garv would have seen the dragons reverently bow. The beating of the monstrous wings whipped up the air, ruffling Garv’s hair. The atmosphere felt charged with static electricity. A deep guttural grumbling reverberated like thunder.
“Who speaks for this human upon my throne?”
Garv quaked, hands trying to hide his head.
“Fool! This is your chance.” Bryndis hissed.
Scrambling to his feet, Garv stood. He winced facing the massive, inky darkness of the clan’s queen.
“Me.” he squeaked.
Garv felt a coruscating glow of electric blues, violets and whites as the dragon’s eyes fixed him in its gaze.
“Speak louder, human.”
“Me.” He tried to shout. “Me…Garv. Your Highness…Majesty… Eminence?”
The hair on Garv’s skin stood on end.
“Why are you and this other human here? You are not dragons.”
Garv thought that was stating the obvious, but he dared not mention it.
“Amin…my friend…did something very foolish… and brave. He pushed me out of the path of an extremely powerful spell cast by a depraved, Runihurain sorcerer.”
“Why would he do such a thing?”
“Well…we were interfering with his master’s current attempt to …subjugate the human world.”
The queen’s ubiquitous growl grew louder with displeasure.
“No, fool! Not, Runihura. I am familiar with his aims and desires. Why would your friend …Amin….do such a thing? Why did he unselfishly act to save you?”
Garv was dumbstruck momentarily. But, Bryndis’ words echoed in his head.
“Because he loves me.”
Garv stared directly into the queen’s eyes. He took a deep breath, exhaled and added,
“And I him!”
Bryndis growled a roar of approval. The dragons throughout the cavern took up the cry. There was utter pandemonium.
The queen’s voice boomed like a deafening thunderclap. Electricity arched about her. Rocks and bits of debris rained down from the top of the crater. The massive dragon landed upon her throne and deftly picked Amin up with one talon. Silence descended. The queen raised Amin nearer to her massive head and meticulously examined his condition. Garv scarcely breathed, heartbeat battering within. The queen snorted approval as dragons do.
“Excellent. I foresee important deeds your friend and you will achieve together… Bryndis’ apprentice.”
Garv felt an unfamiliar uneasiness from his dragon master. The monarch continued.
“Yes, daughter. I have known all along. You have my approval…would have it… if you had asked.” the great beast chortled. “Ahh, but you’ve always been rash and independent.”
Garv glanced at Bryndis, who bowed in obeisance to her liege.
“Rest assured, I can free this human…Amin.”
Before Garv could blink, inky black fire spewed down from the queen’s mouth onto the outstretched talon holding Amin. Blackness laced with violet streaks, white sparks and blue electrical discharges completely concealed Garv’s friend. Awestruck, Garv now confidently knew Amin would return to him. When he did, Garv had decided, he would confess to Amin how he really felt.