Tythel laid there with Karjon until the immense vessel of Those From Above withdrew, that sound of metal grinding on metal and the flat, ominous throb their ship made fading into the clouds, reaching higher and higher until she could no longer hear them. It seemed that they were satisfied they had made their kill. It wasn’t about me.
That was her first rational thought since her father’s death, and it was a cold comfort. He still would not have been on top of the mountain if not for her, he’d still be alive if not for her.
She could almost hear Karjon chiding her for that thought. I just told you that you should never you should not feel guilt over what you could not have known. Do you forget me so quickly?
Tythel sniffed at that thought, but it was enough to push past the grief and get her into motion again. The future looked like nothing but storm clouds at the moment, but she’d find a way to keep going on without him.
But first, there was one last thing she had to do.
Karjon was too heavy for her to move, and too large for her to dig a grave for his final rest – in both cases, even if her arm had been uninjured. There was still a risk that Those From Above would return, and she couldn’t take that chance. She wasn’t sure exactly what she’d do next, but she was determined to not follow her father into the comfort of Shadow so soon after he departed. He would be very disappointed in her.
That being said, she also could not leave his mortal form resting in the valley to be picked upon by scavengers or, worse, desecrated by Those From Above. So she made her way up the mountain, back towards the entrance to Karjon’s lair.
She’d walked these caves alone before, when Karjon was out hunting, but somehow it felt so much more empty now. Like it had become a tomb, and in a sense, it had. Karjon’s mortal form may rest in the valley below, but his essence was resting here along with her childhood. She shook her head to clear the morose thoughts before she started to weep again.
Tears would not do Karjon any good now. Finding what she was looking for would.
Her prize was resting in Karjon’s vault, where he kept his most dangerous prizes. She’d been denied entrance into this room until she was thirteen, so it took some time to find her way around here.
Once she had the two items she sought, she headed back into the main chamber. There she started to go through the hoard. Most of it she would have to leave here – Karjon himself could not have carried it all while walking – but she took time to pack.
Every moment she spent here was like reopening the wound all over again and again. Tythel was resolved to not have to sleep here alone.
So into and onto the pack went everything she could carry. On the practical side she had five days worth of clothes, a bedroll, some meat Karjon had smoked, several purses full of coins and gems from the hoard, a silver compass inlaid with rubies, a hunting dagger made of drakesteel, and a shortbow with arrows she’d gotten some training with so she could one day help Karjon with the hunting.
She could have carried more, and knew she should bring more practical things, but the rest of the pack was taken up by things she could not bear to leave behind. A stuffed bear Karjon had given her as a child when she cried. A gold bracelet that Karjon had carefully carved with her name in draconic runes. A notebook full of Karjon’s research. The book he had read her every night on Moonsveil. Her favorite blanket, another gift from her father.
Finally, among the mementos of her father went a locket that he had told her to always take care of. She had studied the symbol carved into her back and determined it was a coat of arms. Only now did she realize that it might be the only way to prove her birthright.
The pack was heavy and pained her injured shoulder with every movement, but right now that pain was secondary to every other concern, and she pushed it aside for now. She’d checked the injury while she was inside, on one of the mirrors that made up part of Karjon’s hoard. It was a brutal burn, black and yellow, but it did not seem to have penetrated too deeply, and the pain did feel close to the surface.
She shuddered to think of what it would have done to her up close.
Setting concerns for what might have been aside, she exited the lair for the last time.
The first of the items she’d taken from the vault was the only remaining Sun Tears that Karjon knew existed, perhaps the last in the whole world, a set of four of them. She set one at the mouth of the cave and stepped back before lobbing a small ball of her own flame on top of it.
Once done, it began to glow, so bright she had to look away. Sun Tears were gems that fell during meteor storms, and when heated they would briefly glow with the intensity of the celestial body they were named for. Tears filled her eyes again, and she tried to tell herself they were just from the intensity of the light even as she turned away.
When it faded, the entrance to the lair had turned molten, collapsing to cover the path. It would not flow back into the cave, and once it cooled, it would be as if it never existed. No being would ever disturb her Father’s hoard, not unless they knew it was there and spent the time to bore through solid stone. Maybe, one day when it hurt less, she would come back and do exactly that.
For now, it was enough that nothing that lived would disrupt their home.
That being done, she headed down the path to where her father rested. The second item she had claimed from the vault was a vial of Phoenix Flame.
She could not bury her father, but she could give him a proper funeral.
Her hands shook as she unbottled the Phoenix Flame, the only fire Tythel knew of that was hot enough to burn a dragon. Seeing her father unmoving, when he had just hours before been so full of life, was a fresh hell she hoped she would never have to face again outside her nightmares. It got easier once the golden fire washed over him, obscuring his form. She felt like she should be saying something, some words to mark his passing, but none would come to her.
Instead, as his mortal remains ascended to the Light, she found the largest boulder and took the drakesteel knife to it.
Here lies Karjon the Magnificent
Who battled the 9th Pentagram
Dueled the dread necromancer Gix
Sat upon the Council of Twelve
And was the greatest Father to have lived.
Those last words brought tears again, and they flowed until his form had burned away to ash. She was almost ready to depart when she saw something glittering in the ashes of her father. Careful to not disturb them, she reached out to pluck it up.
It was the size of her fist, and appeared to be pure gold, although to the touch it felt far more durable than that soft metal. Based on where it had sat, it would have been roughly where his heart was. Most important was the shape, one that made its purpose undeniable.
It was an egg. She stared at it in wonder and confusion. Karjon was a male, he could not make eggs, and dragon eggs were far larger than this. She could not fathom what grew inside, yet she was certain that something did.
She had something of her father, something that was part of him besides just memories. Silently she thanked the Light for this gift, whatever it may be, and with far more delicacy than the metallic object needed she tucked it in her pack.
He was gone. Nothing would change that. But between finding the mysterious egg and ensuring his mortal remains, both in terms of hoard and his body, she felt more at peace with his passing than she had before.
Glad she had taken the time to see to his final rest, Tythel turned to exit the valley. She did not think it likely she ever would return here, but if she reclaimed her throne she vowed to return to properly honor the only father she had ever known.
Her heart still burdened with grief but lighter than she’d thought it possible to ever feel again, Tythel left the only world she had ever known.