As they fall, Tythel lost her grip on Karjon’s back. She thought she’d be separated from him, spend her last moments alone, but his rear talon stretched out to catch her as they fell. She wrapped her good arm around it, holding onto the limb for all she was worth. At least we die together.
Karjon, however, had other ideas. She couldn’t even begin to imagine what kind of pain he was in, but he still twisted his body as they fell until his mouth was facing the ground. She noticed they were directly over a lake, although from this height that would make almost no difference.
Then he opened his mouth and let loose his flame, as if he thought that he could burn away the ground before they hit it and somehow survive through falling forever. Father, what are you doing? she wondered, but all she could do was hold on and hope he would be accomplishing something.
For the first few seconds, nothing seemed to change. Then, almost imperceptibly, they began to slow, as if somehow his flame was scorching the very pull of the world away. Every second their plummet turned into less of a crash and more and more into a gradual descent. Tythel was reminded of the glowing feet the suits of armor had used to slow their fall and even fly, and wondered if Karjon was going to fly like this, riding a jet of his own flame.
He was not. They had fallen too far, too fast. The dragon fire was powerful enough it could slow their fall just enough so that neither of them would burst or break upon hitting the ground, that was it. The impact was still hard, and sent them tumbling apart. Tythel had a brief impression of the sound that Karjon made upon hitting the ground, a deep rumble like thunder. She was tumbling away. Her injured shoulder struck a rock squarely, and that was the limit. The pain was overwhelming, and darkness claimed her.
Tythel wasn’t sure how long she was out. When she came to, the sun was overhead, meaning the clouds had cleared away, and the monstrous vessel of Those From Above hovered overhead. Have the found us?
If they had, they weren’t doing anything about it. The illusion still held, it seemed, and if they had breached it they were not willing to bring their ship so close to the ground. The flying suits of armor were nowhere in sight, which either meant they had returned to their vessel or were on the ground, hunting for her and…Karjon.
With that name came the full memory of his injuries, and that was enough to drive her back to her feet. She was still weak from the Ritual and now was ravenous on top of exhausted, but she pushed that aside to walk towards where Karjon had fallen.
The impact that had hurt her had been far worse for him. HIs whole wing was mangled, and in several places swaths of his scales had been knocked loose. Dark red blood oozed from multiple injuries, and he was barely moving, his breaths coming in labored gasps.
“Father!” she shouted, rushing over to him and wrapping her arms around his neck, although she kept her grip gentle so he would not have any more difficulty breathing. Tears began to well in her eyes, and her new membranes flickered to clear them.
“My dear…” he whispered, reaching up to pat her back with one of those great claws.
“Don’t try to talk,” Tythel choked, resisting the urge to hug him with all of her might for fear it might kill him. “Don’t…don’t say a word. You’ll be fine, right? You can…” she thought about her injuries and for the life of her could not imagine what even Karjon’s magic could do to heal them. “Heartfire! I’m a dragon now, I can use Heartfire, right? Teach me and I’ll…I’ll heal you. You’ll be-”
But Karjon was shaking his head. “Even if…I had time to teach you…it would kill you.”
“I don’t care!” she shouted, the tears coming in earnest now. “Father, this happened because of me. If we had waited…you can’t die because of me!”
Karjon held her closer to him. “My daughter, promise me that…you will not feel guilt over what you could not possibly know. There are many things that one should take…responsibility for but never should you blame yourself for lacking the foresight to predict the unpredictable. If blame is needed…blame me for ignoring this threat when you but a child.”
“Never, father.” She hugged him a bit tighter, certainty stealing over her that it soon wouldn’t matter how tightly she clutched him because he’d be beyond any harm she could do. “But isn’t there anything else we can do? I…” her breath hitched, her throat tightening. “Please tell me there’s something I can do.”
“Yes, my dear child. There is.” Hope sprung for in Tythel’s chest, but Karjon wasn’t letting her go, he was holding her closer. “So long as you live, I will never die.”
“No,” she sobbed, and the tears poured from her eyes. “No, no no. Please, father! Please.”
He held her closer, and when he spoke again, his voice was more distant. “I have warred against wizards of the 9th Pentagram. I dueled the Necromancer Gix and my ghostfire seared his army of shadowspawn. I was one of the few of my kind” he coughed here, roughly, and continued, “to stand against the Great Shadow. I have walked among the lesser gods as an equal. And none of that, none of the four hundred years before this, comes close to my greatest achievement, the most wondrous thing I had a part in.” His grip tightened to the point it was almost painful but Tythel didn’t care. Anything to be closer to him for a bit longer. “That was you, my daughter.”
“Father,” she sobbed, and for a moment the words escaped her, for a moment she could not make herself speak, until finally she knew exactly what to say. “I love you. I love you so much. Please don’t go.”
“I love you too, my beautiful, wonderful Tythel. I know that…you will do so many…wonderous…”
He didn’t finish that sentence. Whatever the word had been, it died on his lips, and his claw ceased to hold her, falling limply to the ground.
For a time, Tythel could do nothing but sob.