The big blue-black raven waited silently in the trees, watching the little cottage…biding his time. He had been waiting for days, knowing his patience would eventually pay off. The front door opened and the Guardian emerged with the little dove, Eberhardt. Ghrim knew they would make their way to Reignfether Necropolis to sit with their old friend, Soddgauble. The dove sang to Authorious during their walk, and the great man, as always, responded with, “I wish I knew what you were trying to tell me, little friend.”
Today, though, their routine was broken when they passed by a little urchin sitting in the street playing his flute. Eberhardt alighted on the fence behind him and began to excitedly chirp a song to the boy. He repeated the song on his flute. Flapping his wings and turning in a circle, the little dove belted out his song and the urchin, with tears streaming down his face, played it back to him.
Authorious hunkered down in front of the child. “Son, do you know what the bird is singing?”
“I — uh — I don’t think I can explain, sir.” He kept his eyes downcast.
“Try, please.” the Guardian urged gently.
“I can feel his song. I feel a great desire to follow him.”
“Follow him?” the Paladin was confused.
“I think, sir, that there is somewhere he wishes me to go — or wishes someone to go, anyway.”
“Can you communicate with him?”
“No — I just feel his song — someone is hurting.”
“Would you be willing to help me? He can lead me to my lost child, but I cannot understand him.”
“How could I help?” the boy looked intrigued, but hesitant.
“He’s been singing to me for a while now but I did not feel any of this. You could listen to him and lead us to the child.”
“I don’t know that I could.”
“Are you willing to try?”
The boy thought long and hard, then responded, “Yes. I’ll try.”
“I must speak to your father at once.”
“I haven’t any parents. I’m an orphan. The monks care for me.”
“Then let’s go talk with the monks.” Authorious held out his hand which the boy readily grasped, and together made their way towards Drulec Sactuary to make arrangements with the hermits residing there. The great man turned to the little grey dove and said, “Go tell Soddy, Eberhardt. Tell him we are setting out to find Honor!”
* * *
The vast group of hunters set out right after Honor joined them. They traveled far into the parched and burning land of Wyvern. Deep in the heart of the flatland was a prodigious sierra, and one of Deceine’s attendants explained that they would partially traverse the mountains before making camp.
“We will be near the dragons?” she asked, feeling hesitant to continue on.
“No, we will only go about half way up the mountain. We do not even go close to the timber line. The dragons live in the caverns at the top and their bulk prohibits them from entering the forests below. We will be safe from them. Have no worries, little one.” The tall, reed-like man chuckled and his blue eyes twinkled, reminding her of Soddy, and a sharp pain shot through her heart. She shifted painfully on the wagon bench.
“We will build our camp in a few more days. Then you can be free of this torturous contraption,” Ludlow said compassionately. He admired Honor for her strength and resolve, but also wondered why a crippled woman would even consider undertaking a life such as this. A hunt camp was a rough place to live and it made him wonder why Deceine had hired her on. He was not hurting for help — he had his pick of foolhardy young men begging to join up and procure their chance to slay the mighty bane of the homeland — rash young men who wanted to be heroes, but usually made their way down the mountain wrapped in a burial shroud. Any one of those lads would eagerly begin their time with Deceine as a cook. He didn’t understand his employer’s motives, but he had come to admire the young woman and hoped no harm would befall her.
* * *
Elation surged through Ghrim as he realized his opportunity had finally presented itself. With mighty wings lifting him, the raven arose from his perch and flew swiftly and silently towards Reignfether Necropolis. Little Eberhardt had just arrived at Soddy’s monolith and was so enraptured in his song, he neither saw nor heard the great black bird swoop from the sky until his wicked talons were already piercing the body of the faithful grey dove.
Eberhardt let out a cry of anguish as, in his final moment, he felt the razor-sharp beak of the raven plunge into his chest to retrieve his trophy: the heart of Honor’s faithful friend. Leaving the dove’s lifeless body crumpled atop the burial mound, Ghrim flew off with the heady sensation of his conquest coursing through his veins. He let out a wicked and heartless laugh as his great pinions lifted him high into the currents above Banyon Cray.