Chapter 25: To The Road

A biscuit was in his mouth. Keenin coughed and sat up before he choked on it. A wrapped cloth with more biscuits fell open in his lap and onto the ground. He wet his lips and swallowed the crumbs. There was no doubt that a certain someone, named Dia, was irritated with him. Geez. It made him wonder if, for once, his dreams didn’t have to hold significance. 

Sometimes it was difficult to distinguish what was real. Even now. He didn’t know where the others disappeared to and it was easy to think that he had come all this way alone, that he was still running from his hometown on Alaban’s instructions, and his companions were voices in his head.

“Apparently you were snoring too loudly,” Clide told him.

Keenin raised his head, surprised by the dragon’s commentary and looked once more at the dark back of the cave which he had thought empty. 

“Or was it talking in your sleep,” the darkness said shaking. 

Clide’s snout emerged from the shadows and sapphire eyes blinked at him. A forepaw was also extracted which the dragon lay his head on, respectfully lowering himself to a docile position. Feeling slightly ashamed for thinking his friends weren’t real, Keenin brushed the crumbs from his pants and tried to put the surviving biscuits back into the cloth.

“That girl is impossible,” Keenin told the dragon.

Gods. If only it really had been a bad dream.

“Don’t let Dia hear you saying that,” Clide told him.

“And where is she?” Keenin asked, pulling over his travel pack to stuff the biscuits inside. 

“How should I know? I was up watching until that stranger finally left. Dia said she was going out at some point, but I was tired.”

Of course, Clide left out the part where Dia had discussed personal matters and then left saying she needed to think, but what did that matter to him.

“You let her go alone,” Keenin accused. 

“Of course. She did this all the time before.” 

Keenin remained silent. He examined the contents of his bag. It seems that she had returned the shirt.

“You’re angry,” Clide observed. “Because of that little biscuit prank.”

“I’m not,” Keenin said.

“Then what? You better not be planning to go get her.”


In fact, he had been planning to leave.

“Well you should,” Clide said, curling into himself to ignore Keenin.


Clide was silent and Keenin thought he would get no response.

“You people never say what you want,” Clide said. “Just ask the girl out on a date.”

Just then Dia returned.

“What the hell are you guys doing?” Dia asked.

Clide stood and folded down into his human form.

“Discussing the contents of this,” he said holding out her pack.

“You had it all this time!” she said running to grab her bag.

“Why didn’t you say something,” she accused.

“I wanted to see how long it would take and to remind you to watch your things better. You were never so careless before.”

Saying that Clide walked out into the forest.

“What’s wrong with him?” Dia asked Keenin.

“I have no idea.”


The way back through the forest was anything but kind. The rain had given way to a sea of mist. Roots hidden under a roaming fog made it difficult to step and distracted them from low hanging branches. Scratches were collecting on Keenin’s arms from walking with the map piece held in front of him. Dia let Keenen use it to navigate because of Clide’s refusal to offer guidance. Meanwhile the dragon seemed to wander in and out of the mists ahead of them so that sometimes they ran to catch up, only to remain lost when he retreated out of sight.

“Clide this is ridiculous,” Dia called out to the dragon.

Ignoring her, Keenin stepped around a large tree as he tried to navigate towards the line of what he hoped was a road on the map, trying to focus on any shift in the markings on the parchment.

“Don’t leave my sight!” Dia called to him as she followed. “You promised.” 

He wondered why she was so worried. With all the blaming and training she was starting to get on his nerves again. 

“I think were almost there,” Keenin told her.

“You said that before.”

Not responding, Keenin looked ahead through the brush. Then he pocketed the map and pointed at the sliver of sky seen through the leaves.

“That is the way out.” 

Dia trudged past.

“Why didn’t you say so?”

Keenin sighed, put the map in his pocket, and followed. When he waded out of the trees onto the open road he looked both ways down the deserted path. To the east was a statue of the god Baytu to mark the many miles, and to the west was Clide waiting by the road sign a little ways off.

“Wait here,” Dia told him and she approached the dragon.

Clide did not look down at her, though he glanced at the distance between them and the boy.

“Are you not going to keep avoiding him?”

She dismissed this.

“Last night Keenin was worried about you,” Dia told Clide.

“Good for him. He does remember that I’m a dragon.”

“What is wrong with you?” Dia asked him. 

“You actually like him don’t you,” Clide said, seeming to gaze up at the sky. “Last night you….”

“You think I’m leaving you behind don’t you, that we don’t need a dragon. Do you see how ridiculous we look here without you?”

“I just needed some time,” Clide said. “To understand, because we were always together.”

Dia sighed.

“Besides,” Dia continued, “This body is not mine. This body that he likes is not me.”

Here Clide looked at her.

“Your sister would think you very stupid.”

“Sometimes I think that Tess should have been the girl for him,” Dia confessed sadly.

She looked for Keenin, but he had disappeared.


From his position Keenin saw his friends and a lot more. The wind mage Judial had one hand over Keenin’s mouth and the other around his arms to prevent him from running.

“Did you think I wouldn’t hear about a mysterious beast or your littler performance with fire,” the man whispered.

Keenin looked down at the man’s boots, and as he lifted his head a little higher he saw the griffin. He saw the enemies between the trees that his friends did not.

Clide, still in his human shape, sniffed the air.

“Is that a griffin?” Dia asked, now spotting one.

Now that they weren’t whispering Keenin could hear them clearly.

“I wondered why it smelled funny,” Clide mentioned.

“Where’s Keenin?”

“I don’t-

The attackers stepped onto the road. Several held hooks and rope.

“That boy’s a dragon. Don’t let him get away,” one of them said.

“I always knew Judial was good at traps,” another mentioned.

“Where did you put him!” Dia shouted enraged.

To better defend himself Clide shifted into his dragon form as hooks were thrown his way. Some snagged on his scales and Clide released a spray of ice to trap the enemies trying to pin him down. An arrow hit Dia in the eye so fast that all Keenin saw was her gripping the wooden shaft while blood streamed down her face. Clide blocked her from view and Keenin became aware of his own situation. Keenin couldn’t breathe. He struggled in Judial’s grip and his hazy mind tried to summon flames before he passed out. 

“Keenin!” Dia screamed in her own pain and anger. Her voice seemed very far.

Keenin kicked his heel against Judial’s leg, but Judial did not let go of the hand clamped over his mouth. 

“I have to say. I’m a little jealous of those friends,” Judial whispered before Keenin’s mind sunk into a dark unconsciousness. 


Clide cut through the fog and his talons came away red with blood, he knocked the enemy over with his tail, and ripped apart the rest of their bodies with his teeth. A banquet. A banquet, and if only he could swallow.

A whistle sounded in the distance. Enemies began to retreat. The remaining griffins took flight. Clide finally spotted Keenin on the back of one. He was about the jump into the air when he remembered Dia. Dia. He had almost forgotten she was there. He lowered his muzzle to the ground where she had fallen unconscious. It was strange for her not to rise.

His nostrils brought to him her scent, in his ears was her heartbeat, but he couldn’t leave like this. He growled. No response came for she couldn’t hear him, but he made the call again because the boy that she had grown attached to was going to be gone if she would not tell him to go.   

He roared out his frustration with his only answer as the louder pounding of hooves as horsemen approached. Clide turned his eyes to the newcomers and roared. 


“Kill it!” one of the riders yelled with the charge. 

Clide rose up on his hind legs and gathered his breath.  


The words cut. The horses skidded as they slowed, the soldiers sat back in the saddle, and Clide held his breath, nostrils twitching for his lungs to release. Slowly Clide lowered himself and turned his head to exhale frost. The two groups faced one another as the one who had given the order dismounted from his steed and removed his helmet to make a formal bow. No words were spoken. 

“Why are you here?” Clide finally asked him. 

The boy Keenin had been taken because of their distraction.

“My friend Marcus Sullivan mentioned you to me in a letter,” the leader said. “I had been hoping I would find you. I had only heard rumors of your kind till now.”

“Your reason for being here,” Clide demanded. 

“The griffins. We were tracking them.”

“Then it’s your responsibility,” Clide said turning. 

Carefully he lifted Dia up in his jaws. He would go to the woods away from all of it. Renaldo bent down to pick up one of the arrows and examined the point. 

“It looks like she was poisoned. You know the city is a few miles away, a mere wingspan for you. We can examine the type of poison used and give you aid.”

Clide knew that Dia couldn’t die, but he couldn’t be sure that she would regain consciousness or that the poison would kill her. What if she remained unable to move for the rest of her life? He suddenly felt unsure. He set Dia back down to speak.

“And would you humiliate me and lock me up?” he questioned. 

“Sir Dragon. I am Renaldo Ecclestone, a white knight and the leader of this company. I grant you all the protection I can give.”


Chapter 24: Nobody Spared

Chapter 26: Invisible Wounds