Temloki’s leathery wings rippled in the blustery breeze, rousing him momentarily from his slumber. The journey from Avanaux had been long and arduous, and the sword grew more burdensome with each passing mile. His strength would not last forever, he knew, but it would suffice until he reached his destination. The Scarf. He quivered with excitement in his half-sleep. At last, he would be with his kinfolk.
He’d nested alone these past three hundred years, ever since that dire day Ka-Varla had failed to return from the hunt. He’d woken with her screams echoing through his dreams and immediately left the lair to search for his mate. Temloki tracked her to the marshlands outside the city of Crodal. There, amongst the white water lilies, he discovered Ka-Varla near death. She lay on her side, pierced by a score of arrows, with thick black blood oozing from her belly, swollen with the nymphlet she’d carried these last eighteen months. She lifted her head and keened as he approached. Temloki dripped water into her mouth and brought her fresh meat until she could no longer swallow. Her breathing became weaker and more labored, and finally, it ceased with a sigh. He remained with her until long after she’d grown cold.
Temloki grieved many months for the loss of his mate. She’d been with him near a century, the mother of four nymphlets, all of them dead at the hands of the wingless ones. Each night before they slept, they relived the joy of the chase and the kill, and shared their bewilderment over the endless wars between the six kingdoms of Erlach.
Ka-Varla and Temloki were the last of their kind on the northern continent, and after his mate’s passing, Temloki lived in solitude, emerging from his cave only to hunt, his sorrow and hurt souring to anger and hate. The rage festered inside him day by day until all thoughts but those of revenge fled his mind. He brought terror to the wingless ones, the Erlachi, demanding they give him their children, their mates, as they had taken his. His revenge knew no limit. Many of his victims he swallowed whole to satisfy his hunger, but others he tore apart slowly for the pleasure of watching them die. His appearance at the gates of any city created hysteria amongst the population and earned him his epithet, Riv-Amok, ‘bringer of death.’
And in two hundred years he had never heard another voice until the warrior from the stars whispered in his mind. At first, he thought he dreamed again of Ka-Varla, then with mounting excitement, he hoped the whisperer might perhaps be one of his own, miraculously come from a far country to seek him out. But hope turned to bitterness when he realized the stranger was nothing but a wingless warrior. He sought her out, but her will was strong, and she evaded him. In the end, he devoured two of her companions before the White One commanded him to leave and take the sword to the Scarf.
In the first days of his journey, he fancied he’d heard the weapon murmur to him, urging him forward with promises of great treasures, but he laughed at it. Nothing created by the hand of a wingless one could hold sway over him.
Temloki grasped the sword more firmly in his talons and coasted lower, cocking his head to survey his new home: a hot and steamy place with salt-encrusted white rock cracked and broken into a million pieces by rivulets of seawater, and seemingly devoid of life. There was nothing for him here. He groaned, but beat his massive wings and flew on.
The sun sank beneath the sea, and the planet Prosperine’s two orange-dusted moons rose high. The aurora unfolded like a curtain, and the sky was blanketed with pulsating sheets of emerald, ruby, and turquoise. A thin ribbon of gold rippled slowly across the heavens and sank beneath the horizon. Temloki cared naught for this natural beauty and fastened his eyes on the land below.
Gradually the terrain changed. Occasional patches of lichen and algae joined together, and the salted crust gave way to rushes and ferns and then to swamps infested with biting insects and creeping plants. Bushes and scrubby trees emerged, growing taller by consuming their own branches, leaf litter, and the occasional dead animal. The land rose in places, forming hillocks and ridges in the otherwise flat vastness.
A flicker of light caught his eye, and Temloki turned towards it, his heart suddenly aflame.
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