Lion of Fire

Lyon DeFyr, wynser, was traveling from the meadows to the barren lands of The Loathted Desert, exercising the Right of Expedition in a last desperate attempt to save what little reputation he had left. He had been granted no more than a chariot and rations for himself, the animals and his ynser companion, Rhandligh. They carried enough water and food, and the de basic items for survival, but they were not allowed to carry more than a single sword for two people.

The odds were against him. Just the way he liked it. They had been on the road for about six days now. One hundred and twenty hours, barely stopping to rest. The gransteeds were slow, but hardy animals. They could withstand several days of continuous travel, carrying the weight of the wagon. And their presence alone was enough to scare off the bandits, or at least most of them.

― Are the gransteeds allright? ― Lyon asked, looking up at the yellow sky with a smile.

― They’ll hold, but we’ll have to rest in the next town. If there are any so close to the Loathed ―said the bronze-faced young ‘serin, turning to look at his master to answer as custom dictated.

Lyon let the silence go on for a while, while he took a sip of the cheap wine they had bought at their last stop, two days ago.

―I’m not a goldy, boy. And we’re about to risk our necks in The Loathed, over a stupid bet because of me. I think the least you’ve earned is being able to talk to me without following protocol.

― Thank you, my lord.

― Rhand. Call me Lyon. Please.

― Eh… -Hey… It’ll be hard to get used to. But I’ll do my best.

Of all the constellation of possible partners in this impossible task, Lyon was both relieved and saddened that he had been forced to bring Rhandligh the ynser. He was the only Illiserin he had ever considered a friend. Even despite the social difference between the two. Or rather, especially because of it. Rhand had shown loyalty to Lyon far beyond what he was obligated to, and Lyon rewarded that loyalty as best as he could. That was more than he were able say for any other member of his species, the golden ones were too uptight, and the wynser, the silver ones, were too selfish, preoccupied with being the big raogor eating the little raogors.

But besides his friend, Rhand was also his secret weapon.

―Tell me more about the gransteeds. I always liked those stories of yours.

―Lychen is hungry, but Warrior wants to go on for a while. Today is the day to polish their horns, so they will be a bit nervous.

The gransteeds were like donkeys, but bigger and sleeker, and they had patches of dark scales on their backs, as well as two large, pointed horns. They were expensive animals, but part of Rhand’s duty  to House DeFyr was to care for those two. So he had had time to establish an understanding with the creatures.

― How are you going to polish those horns without your sanding stone?

― Three villages ago a relative gave me an old scraper. It’s going to be more complicated, but it can be done.

― I didn’t know you had family so far from KehVansil.

― Not a literal relative! All of us Ynser are family, Lyon. We hold each other’s backs.

Lyon was about to say something about how much he despised the pettiness of his own lineage, but stopped when Rhand brought the animals to a halt with a firm tug on the reins and a whistle in the tone of “rest”.

― What’s the matter? ― Lyon asked, alert.

― A caravan.

― Good news or bad?

– Impossible to tell at this distance without a spyglass. They look like uroaiser, but at this distance I could be wrong. What do we do?

― You already indicated rest. So now we’ll have to stop for a while or the steeds will tantrum. So I want us to get out of the way and go around them. At best they’ll just be merchants from the Confederate Colonies.

Lyon took out his old deck of cards, nervously, and began to shuffle it and play tricks with the cards. It was an old hobby of his, passed down to him by an old elleserech with whom he used to play.

― You’re worried about the worst-case scenario, aren’t you?

― Why do you say that?

― Because I hear you shuffling cards. And because I know you.

― Maybe you don’t know me as well as you think you do.

― Lyon, I’ve spent a lifetime serving your house. And more than half that time as your personal servant. I know you well enough to know that shuffling is your way of letting off sands.

― All right, I admit it, you’re good. You read me almost as well as you read animals.

Rhand didn’t continue. He got off the chariot driver’s seat and began to feed and polish the horns of the gransteeds. Otherwise they would begin to accumulate dusty sediment, for it was the season for desert winds.

Fortunately, the caravan up ahead was moving away, which Rhandligh reported as soon as he noticed it.

― Do you think they will go to The Loathed like us? ― Lyon asked at one point. He was still sitting on the floor of the wagon, playing Snake Or Blade. A solitaire game that consisted of trying to match all the snakes and blades of the same number before you were forced to match a one or five of chalice. Somehow Lyon had developed a strategy that allowed him to win almost every time, and occasionally get a near perfect score.

Rhandligh didn’t answer right away. He merely averted his gaze and watched him play. Lyon could swear that he seemed fascinated.

― If so, I think it’s in our best interest to catch up with them rather than open up. If we stay close they will be able to repel the beasts.

― It might be a good move. We can follow them. And if it gets dangerous we leave.

― Or we could help them. If anything happens. ― Rhandligh says.

― Boy, basic strategy. Our victory condition is as simple as go, get a lucky break, find a relic, and come back safe and sound in less than the three weeks we still have left. Our defeat condition, on the other hand, is much simpler. Die. Facing a Loathed Beast without armor is death. If one approaches, we send the ‘steeds full blast in the diametrically opposite direction and hope the moster prefers a hearty, slow portion to a small and fast one. Get it?

― Wow, you had that all worked out in advance, didn’t you?

― I like to plan ahead. Go raise the Emblem of House DeFyr. Maybe that will give us an advantage when negotiating with them.

Heeding this, Rhandligh ignored the gransteeds for a few minutes to raise the flagpole with the symbol of the lion’s mane in golden flames on the black background. The symbol of House DeFyr and in honor of which Lyon himself had been named. The symbol that represented passion for courage, justice, honor and order. In short, the symbol that represented everything Lyon was not.

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Creature of the Desert

The Relicbearer

Your goddess, your words

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