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Paragon Forgotten Chapter 26

Gryphons: Lifespan 40-60 years

Appearance:  walks on four paws. Covered in fur ranging from white, red, brown, black. Feathered wings extend from behind the shoulder blade. Neck up is feathered. Mouth is a hooked beak. To the top of the head averages 5 feet.

Population: 30,000

Contribution: cargo-carrier

Realm location: Malbeane Forest

Namesake: they name themselves when they are old enough to do so, adding to their name every ten years.

Torc: Wind-Bearer

- “A Youngling’s Guide to Eloshian Races, year 2,862”


Invisible Cohthel kept pace with the wagons, Atalixsphere pain-free on his back.

Why, Cohthel, so you can live forever.

Fate finally clarified the purpose of his invisibility, but the answer left him more frustrated. He would grow old and die despite his invisibility because he’s had his invisibility since birth and he’d already aged sixteen years.

Knuckling stupid. Like Thaen said.

The sword Fate had summoned in her shrine banged against his right leg. Shollomoon stood by the hovering blade when he walked into the shrine six mornings ago, touched his shoulder — the dream-woman going back to occupy Shollomoon’s head, no doubt — said nothing. Watched Cohthel grab the hilt and walk away without ceremony.

Now he would carry this sword the rest of his life, however long that was. Short, he guessed, since he would grow old and die.

A falkon swooped down between the tree crowns, landing on the side of the wagon next to Markie. “Message for Markie, from Shiana.”

“Well, well, I receive.”

Did he sound excited?

Markie pulled out the folded slip of paper from the pouch on the falkon’s back.

“You still there, Evermore?”

“Yes,” he said, invisible.

Markie read the letter out loud while walking beside the wagon. Mother always included a bit of news in her letters. This time she wrote of two stolen dragon eggs. Her especially tiny handwriting fit everything she wanted to say.

Two red ones, Markie read. Twins. They will have been gone fourteen days by the time you get this letter. The mother said she dreamed heavily that night, and woke to her missing eggs, a note in their place. The note said, “The humans, Kings of Eloshonna, thank you for your generous donation of your children.”

Cohthel felt the shock same time as Markie and Atalixsphere who flinched on his back.

Can you believe that? The insanity! If this were the first case of similar crimes, we might have believed it a terrible prank gone wrong, maybe another realm pranking the humans and the dragons together. But you’ve already told me about Atalixsphere getting assaulted and branded with the word “animal.” May these evil kindred suffer more than what the Undergod suffers for his first crime! 

“I like your mother,” Atalixsphere said following the passionate declaration Markie read aloud.

You didn’t tell me, though, that the attackers left a similar note with Atalixsphere after they attacked her. Free falkon rumors explained her attack and said the note the attackers left behind with her said, “Remember your human kings.” 

“Atalixsphere, is this true?” Markie asked. “Kitannia didn’t say anything about a note.”

“I didn’t see the note myself, though she told me. I already have this abominable brand the small-minded are going to pester me about. I didn’t want yet more idiotic questions because of a note I never saw.”

Cohthel grinned at Markie’s distress.

Markie resumed reading.

I understand why you didn’t tell me about the note. It upset the entire Human Realm finding out about these cross-realm crimes labeling us the villains and the other realms believing it’s all intentional and not just isolated rogue-human cases.

There’s more to that I’ll have to discuss face-to-face. The mother dragon is distraught. Her eggs were only six days away from hatching. Falkons are scouring Eloshonna searching for them. The Dragon Realm wanted to keep the crime internal, certain they would find the eggs. Failing that, the Dragon Torc petitioned for a Kingdom emergency, and all the torcs have been searching, but they’re starting to fear they are underground, though they can’t break the armistice until they can prove the Dark Elves are involved.

Markie must have felt the same ethereal shift swarming Cohthel with panic, frustration, and fear about the meaning behind humans running about Eloshonna committing crimes and calling themselves kings, because Markie shot off with a distraction, “Can’t imagine the nappers could hide dragon eggs for long. Once they hatch, they’ll make a big fuss and the nappers will return them quicker than when Astorous disappeared. Can’t keep them underground forever. They’re too big. Need lots of meat to grow, something Dark Elves, if they are involved, can’t provide. Which begs the question of why the nappers took them. Any guesses?”

They often played this game: who invented the best guess, be it more outlandish, creative, factual, or thought-provoking. They guessed at Astorous’s disappearance, guessed why the Paragons allowed only one Aspect Goddess, Fate, a cleric to work in her service, guessed the man’s identity whom Cohthel carried his sword for.

They guessed until, ahead, the front of the caravan passed the signal down for the wagons to stop. Markie acknowledged the signal and repeated the hand sign to those behind him. “Must be an obstruction in the road. Evermore, go ahead and check. Kitannia will dock my pay if she sees I’ve left my cart unattended. Otherwise, we’ll have to wait until tonight to find out what stopped us.”

Obstructions in the road garnered big drama for the attendants wanting to break the monotony of walking and talking to the same kindred about the same subjects over and over. A flash flood between the Dragon Realm and Dwarven Realm had gouged a deep ditch across the road and the attendants talked over the next two camps about their trials crossing it. Sycain had been another hot discussion when they found him beaten nearly to death on the caravan road two months back. Once in a while the attendants still brought it up.

Cohthel stepped out of line and walked alongside the wagons where others, likewise, remained vigilant at their posts but craned their necks to catch a chance of seeing the front of the train. Those with wings used them, hoping height would help. All the falkons in the caravan — the ones employed by the caravan and the other free-flyers waiting to earn a link — flew en mass past Cohthel to the front.

“Looks like a cage,” said the dragon, flying in common above Cohthel’s head. Falkon, pegasi, and gryphon wings in common shrunk too small to use while in common. Gryphons in common gained a quick burst of height before sinking back to earth, more like a controlled jump. The dragons, however, gained enough lift with their wings in common to sustain over a short distance.

Odd, a cage, but would serve its purpose if it stalled the caravan for an ambush. But Kitannia’s advanced-warning attendants — the heart-beat-hearing Dark Elf, the White Elf to see invisibility, the ecthore, gryphon, and falkons for sights and sounds — did not act as if anyone hid in the forest readying for attack.

Five wagons from the front, a raucous shrieking exploded in a cringing echo, like a flock of falkons risen in a cacophony of distress. Cohthel stretched out his pace, reaching the head of the caravan.

Atalixsphere, on his back, clinched hard seconds before Cohthel did.

A cage indeed. Sitting middle of the road. Crude. Sticks lathed together big enough to contain the shrieking falkon inside. A scroll on the dirt outside the cage had been unrolled so everyone would read, “Free pet: needs a loving home.”

The caravan falkons bunched together on the ground, shrieking, pumping wings, flitting in sharp, erratic, zig-zags; emotions too big for their small bodies.

“Whooo diiid thiiis!” all thirty of the falkons screamed over and over. Cohthel winced at the shrill, unable to cover his ears without dropping Atalixsphere. “Let her out! Let her out!”

“You and you,” Kitannia directed, pointing, “open the cage.”

The ecthore she pointed out transfigured into common: the ecthore’s body bursting into what looked like a cloud of R’th light. The R’th light coalesced instantaneously into the ecthore common-form which now stood on two feet instead of four paws, gave her two five-fingered hands, and a shorter snout. Her body still remained covered in fur.

The pegasi with her also transfigured into common.

Others near the front of the train, against protocol, abandoned their carts to assist, having to dodge the frantic falkons zooming like a swarm around their caged kindred.

“Whooo diiid thiiis?”

A falkon swooped past Cohthel, the tip of the wing clipping his neck before shrieking onward, unaware of the invisible obstruction he touched. The ecthore carefully lifted the cage, the falkon inside, if not calmed at the promise of rescue, at least did not join the chorus of the shrieking others.

The villain built the cage with no door, bound together to outlast time, heavy abuse, and display the horrendous message: keep the falkon forever inside. Someone produced a knife and cut the cords binding the sticks together. The rescue took a long time, the cords sticky with pine tar. Little by little enough of the cage had been removed and peeled away for the falkon within to squeeze out, who battered her rescuers with her wings as she cleared above their heads. She flew to the first wagon and alighted on its side. Every falkon in the caravan joined her, pressing shoulder to shoulder until they made a thick black ring of feathers around the top of the wagon.

“I was flying by and a human called for me to deliver a message,” the freed falkon said. “So I landed. The human then asked if I acknowledged him as my king. An odd question, so I asked him to repeat it to make sure I heard right. He did. I told him I didn’t understand what he was talking about, especially didn’t understand the word ‘king’ he used. He got angry and said, ‘Is that too big a word for your small bird-brain?’”

The falkons listening with rapt attention chittered. “He didn’t!”

“He did. Then he said, ‘No problem. You will learn’. And then from behind me, someone else put a bag over me, then put me in that cage and set me on the road with that sign calling me a pet!”

All the falkons screamed together in their shared frustration.

“Quiet down!” Kitannia’s practiced command cut through and the falkons silenced. “Thank you for your report. Are you otherwise hurt?”


“That is very good. I’ll write a report to your torc about what you said. You may travel with us if you want protection.”

“I don’t need the protection. I’ll fly high for a while, talk to others. And don’t concern yourself with a report. I’ll deliver one to my torc myself.” The falkon alighted off the wagon, her falkon kindred left behind chittering amongst themselves.

“Return to your posts!” Kitannia barked. “Move out!”

Unease infiltrated the caravan. Cohthel noticed the lingering affect in meaningless conversations and low energy. First Atalixsphere, kidnapped dragon eggs, now a falkon? The attack on Atalixsphere eventually balmed over since everyone could report to Atalixsphere’s health and wellbeing every day, but this new course brought back Atalixsphere’s attack fresh and meaningful, Cohthel triply impacted by the news in Mother’s letter, and the silent question now becoming: who is next? But the real question, the question plumping Cohthel’s heart full of fear, the same question he saw distracting Markie while he cooked, turned Sycain’s eyes to stare into nothing, could not anymore be ignored, could no longer be diluted:


The question, now concentrated and compacted by everyone stuffing it into a small hole, over and over to shrink its influence, had arrived, embedding it’s claws. Cohthel felt the moment the caravan’s atmosphere changed. By dinner, by morning, it had not shaken off.


The caravan road cut below Forever Ice, on the very fringe. Deeper into the lands jutted rocky mountains with permanent snow caps, where the sluggish ocean churned chunks of ice…or so Markie reported, according to the dusutri he’d talked to.

Winter aside, the temperature dropped further still as they traveled northwest, gaining altitude into the icy climate the dusutri called their home. Soon Cohthel saw his own hot breath gusting into the chill air. He pulled out a coat for him and Atalixsphere.

Markie rested on the back of the wagon, long legs swinging over the rushing earth. Cohthel at first assumed he was writing a letter, but he’d been staring at the paper for thirty minutes without writing a word.

“What are you doing?”

“Hmm. Oh, me? Oh. I’m writing.”

“You’re staring more than writing.”

Color warmed his cheeks. “I’m writing a poem.”

“Whoa, a poem? I didn’t know you were a poet.”

“I tinker.” A long pause. “Never considered a man my age or Bladehand background would have the sentiment to write poems?”

“I guess you could if you knew how to rhyme sword, kill, blood and tie them into a romance somehow.”

“Or conversely, take love, heart, and hero and turn it into a tragedy.”

They laughed. “I write them and send them to my mother,” Markie said. “We exchange them because she writes too.”

“Can I read what you’ve written?”

Markie stared at his paper, finally holding it out to Cohthel whose hands remained occupied keeping Atalixsphere on his back. He’d written and crossed out many lines, with additional annotations written sideways along the margin with directional arrows. Putting together what remained after he crossed out lines and added others, Cohthel read:

A seed fell between the cracks

of a rock beside the stream,

robbed of earth and water both,

both robbed of life and dream.

A great tree it would be

if the seed but made the choice,

to still grow inside the rock,

despite the silence of its voice.

“It’s not ideal, but I’ll grow,”

The tree seed decided that day.

“Though ruined at birth and cheated by fate,

I can still decide to be okay.”

For the rest of its life

the seed adapted to the boulder,

and pushing back against the stone,

pushed up and out and over.

Without sky or sun or earth,

all things needed to thrive,

The seed flourished and grew,

nourished by grit and will and drive.

“Whoa! I like it!”


“You going to publish them?”

“If I do, I’ll make sure I’m dead first. I’m terrified of criticism and my heart would break if someone didn’t like my thoughts.”

“You let me read it without a problem.”

“I’ve never valued your opinion, so it didn’t matter what you would think.” He grinned.

“Hey!” Cohthel would have punched his leg if he had a hand free. “I’m thinking the Bladehand Towers made you softer, not the dead-pan, hardened, unmatchable swordsman you claim.”

“Sssh.” He put a finger to his lips and winked. “Don’t let the ladies find out.”

They laughed together and Markie put his poem away. A falkon swooped overhead declaring the attendants needed to prepare for arrival.

The caravan horses, at Kitannia’s cue, lifted their knees and pranced with high heads afore the attendants marching in sync. Cohthel followed invisible off to the side, giving them plenty of space.

The land mixed hearty pine trees, sagebrush, and tall prairie grass. Balanced between wet and dry, cold and hot, anything able to survive the very extremes of either grew here. Cohthel stepped over and around junipers and winter-stripped aspens, wild roses and berry bushes he couldn’t identify. His excitement rose at the discovery of edible plants not native to the Human Realm. He’d gather samples during camp and test them for palatability.

Dusutri appeared between the flora: giants barely clothed with their dignity, muscled arms and thighs tattooed and pierced everywhere with bone, and having yellow hair. Mianda had grown into her dusutri girth as far as her resistant human blood let her.

A type of oxen Cohthel had never seen before stood among the mass of bodies. Long hair covered their entire bodies so dense Cohthel at first did not see the reins strapped to their bony heads and held in the custody of the dusutri. It appeared the dusutri were using these arctic-hearty animals as their horses.

The wagons circled. Cohthel had seen the performance many times already, so he watched the dusutri instead.

Both sexes grew long hair, strung through with bone beads and braided. Though smaller than the males, the females also retained a fierceness in their postures that wouldn’t fool anyone about their intent if the cause for action arrived. One female, in particular, the smallest dusutri there, stood with the rest. Not a child. Just…smaller—

“Mianda?” he said out loud between the beating spaces of his heart. He didn’t recognize her because for the first time since they’d been friends, she’d cleansed away the black hair dye. Beads and braids now accented her natural yellow dusutri hair. 

The girl looked, gaze sliding over him. Cohthel pulled off his invisible veil and her head snapped his direction at once. She squealed and ran to him, throwing arms around his neck as if Atalixsphere wasn’t protesting.

“What? How? Why are you here?” He separated from her, looking her up and down because she was not Mianda. Homesickness for friends pierced him deep. Then the obvious struck him with a cold, dark blade of betrayal.

She’d defected.

Her eyes skipped side-to-side. “It’s not like that,” she whispered, grabbing his sleeve and pulling him away from her dusutri kin. “Hiya,” she said to Atalixsphere on his back, glancing at Cohthel with questions.

Atalixsphere snorted at her.

“She’s injured, and I’ve offered to carry her,” he hoped Mianda would believe as easily as he meant.

“Injured? Oh, what happen—?”

“Don’t ask me what happened,” Atalixsphere cut in and Cohthel cringed, “and I won’t ask which of your parents was the human one.”

Cohthel tried to communicate with his eyes to Mianda not to allow offense from anything Atalixsphere said, but Mianda, well-practiced in defending her own, said, “Oh, I don’t mind. Because I’m equally curious which one of your parents was the bird.” Mianda’s grin followed Atalixsphere’s silence. “I’m Mianda. I’m very sorry you were hurt. I’m relieved and extremely happy you had Evermore nearby to help you.”

Mianda turned her attention back to Cohthel. Far enough from the caravan and the dusutri, she said in explanation to her presence in Forever Ice, “The day the Dark Elves took Neleci, Torc Thoraus called for me to meet with him…” Asked her to be a spy. Feed information about the dusutri to the Kingdom to warn the torcs of any future attacks…or kidnappings.

“I didn’t think I would do it.” They sat down. Cohthel assisted Atalixsphere off his back who turned away and contented to not participate in their conversation. Mianda pulled at the grass. “My friends mean so much to me and I didn’t want to be away from you. But Neleci was…gone, and you had already left, and Thaen super-focused on his apprenticeship so we had done nothing together since they took Neleci.”

She pulled the grass with thoughtless aggression. “I debated for a month. You can probably guess why.”

Cohthel nodded, knowing the depths of her deep-seeded want to be human.

“I could not get Thoraus’ face out of my mind. His sorrow.” Mianda swallowed as if feeling her own. “I would not be so selfish. So I agreed. Now I’m here. I’ve reunited with my dusutri relatives, and I can’t express how happy I am for their acceptance. Finding family has been one of my greatest wants, and I finally have them. They alone keep me anchored instead of going back to the Kingdom. But…Dusutri is not what I want to be. It’s not who I am.” She leaned against Cohthel. He put his arm around her. He understood her conflicting want. She wanted to be human. Impossible, she still wanted to pretend, and she could not do that now. “I’m here for compassion toward Thoraus, nothing more since he’s shown me boundless compassion in fitting me with an unbiased mentor and slotting my friends in class with me.”

She would deny his opinion, Cohthel knew, but seeing her stand next to her dusutri kin…she belonged. Cleansing the sooty black from her hair and wearing dusutri-made clothing that fit her other-than-human-bulk, she’d become beautiful. Her yellow hair framed her round, sable-winter face like a rose curling around its core. Still, dusutri is not what she wanted.

The wagon circle completed with an abrupt stop of creaking wheels and Kitannia’s command of, “Uncover!”

Mianda stayed all day with Cohthel as the caravan settled down to camp, shared Cohthel’s dinner and fire with Markie, Atalixsphere, and Sycain. Cohthel had described Mianda to Markie a month ago, and though seeing her now living with the dusutri came as an initial shock for both of them, Markie did not question.

“Thaen said he went underground to save Neleci,” Cohthel said to Mianda, sharing Thaen’s secret.

Mianda’s head snapped up. “He went…” Then she grinned. “Yep. Sounds like another Thaenism. Fabricating stories to make him sound big and tough.”

“He told the truth.”

She tilted her head. “He really convinced you?”

“Look…” Cohthel paused, threading his next words with sincerity, “Thaen is dramatic, but when he told me he went after Neleci, he didn’t tell me to prove he was big and strong. He…he appeared changed by it.” I—II went underground for her, brother. And IAndI didn’t get far. Too dark. Had to turn back. But I tried. “Scared, even.”

Suspicion rose with Mianda’s eyebrows. Thaen never got scared. At least, so far as he claimed. Would never claim in front of friends. To his best friend he called brother.

“…pegasi banana!” Sycain exploded in laughter at his joke Cohthel didn’t hear the beginning of. It must have been about Atalixsphere because the pegasi shrieked and threw a rock at Sycain. The man threw up an arm and knocked it to the ground, laughing harder.

“I’d stomp you into the dirt if I could!”

Cohthel turned back to Mianda, glad for the noise to cover up exposing his brother’s secret and easily ignoring Atalixsphere’s pleading eyes to take her away from the caravan circle and all the “idiots” surrounding her. “I believe he really did try.” Cohthel ripped at the weeds sneaking through the well-used caravan camp. “I think something happened to him down there but he’s too embarrassed, or ashamed, to talk about it.”

Now that sounds like Thaen.” She paused, staring into the dark horizon. “You believe he went down to rescue her?”

Cohthel remembered back to Deep Winter, and Thaen’s pained admittance. “I do.”

“You know…every time I think the Kingdom despises me, you befriend me, and then I think it’s just you who does not despise me until Ilthyn accepts me too, and then Thaen. Neleci. And just when I think it’s you four taking pity on me, Torc Thoraus puts absolute trust in me and needs me exactly as I am, even if I don’t want me exactly as I am. And that…” She filled her dusutri lungs with air, “that is enough to keep me loyal to the Kingdom.”

Cohthel watched the silhouetted icy peaks blaring out half the night sky in the distance. More stars punched through the black night to shine here, the Golden Spoor cutting a swath of gold cloud across Galactico’s nose.. “But what if it’s not enough for you?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean…when Thaen grows up, becomes a ranger captain, marries, and Ilthyn moves back to Yl Elyuon, Neleci loses touch with everyone so she can concentrate on being elected torc someday and all you have left is me. Am I, alone, by myself, enough to still keep you wanting to stay in the Kingdom?”

His question stalled her. He watched his true fear swim inside her hesitation.

“I’m saying, Mianda, that you’re going to doubt. Really doubt. You’re going to reach a point where you question what is the Kingdom doing for you. You work for them, provide them information. What’s the return greater than being united with and accepted by your blood dusutri family, the gift you want most the Kingdom cannot match?”

He let the question settle hard against her, gave her several moments of uninterrupted silence to mull over those same questions now instead of years away.

“When you reach that point, Mianda, when you come to that divide and you must choose, I want you to remember my promise right now.” He scooted closer to her, gripping both of her hands in his and connected a gaze stronger than chain links. “You are my friend, my sister, and neither circumstance, distance, or time will weaken my devotion to you. For the rest of your life, I will accept and protect you. No matter where you go, no matter what happens. Always.”

By the gods I swear it;


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