ABBARR: Ashes and Wings


The Elwing girl and the griffin left the Great Arena quarter, turned to an axial street, then reached the Caravaneers’ Square. Esha was grateful for the fact that the beast was stronger than he looked. Finally, the midday heat made the townspeople disperse; only the children followed Esha and the beast stealthily. The majority decided they’d seen enough and vanished just as abruptly as they’d appeared, but one small flock tailed Esha from the Death Pavilion. There were three or four beastlings. The larger one was clearly in charge.

Once the Elving girl had reached the street water fountain, she stopped. In Abbarr such places were not uncommon. Underground wells pumped water from the depths, turning the whole city into a blooming oasis.

Esha had always admired Abbarr, the way the city was built and organized from within. Even an ordinary water fountain with a small pool was a little miracle of great engineering thought and skill of builders, mechanics, and architects of the Black Flower. The water pressure was automatically regulated, and the excess flowed down the grooves into the underground drainage system, watering numerous park areas. The source of water was hidden deep underground; with the help of a fancy mechanism, invented by the Beast engineers, whom Abbarr was famous for, the life-giving moisture rose to the surface. And it cost just three “gears” per quarter hour. Sometimes Esha was really irritated by this passion to measure everything in quarters.

The drinking fountain always worked and was available to anyone, while those who wanted to refresh themselves and give water to their cattle had to pay a fee. Unlike bath-houses and pools, this place was popular among those who wanted to make their goods more attractive. On hot days fountains were in demand among the city children. Esha and the griffin were lucky this time: the square was empty. Even the smell of the draught gwahrs had already weathered. The filigree pattern of black-and-white tiles was dry. “First we need to get you washed,” Esha told the beast, taking her cloak off. “And to feed you. And give you water. And treat your wounds. In any order, but as soon as possible.” “Feed Fravy to the monster,” someone said from the side.

Cursing viciously, Esha looked back at the group of teenagers, who laughed, pushing out a thin floppy-eared fox Allaty.

“Great idea. But just one won’t be enough for him!” Esha cried to the kids, who were already running away.

Only a kid they called Fravy stayed. He was hiding behind the column, but he stayed nonetheless.

“Your ears give you away,” Esha laughed and added softer: “Just like mine give me away.”

The ears, sticking out from behind the column, twitched, and a small muzzle showed up instantly. Then the little fellow himself took a couple of timid steps. In his hands he held a leaflet with the announcement of the final battle.

“You’ve bet on him too?” Esha nodded at the paper and frowned.

Fravy – a small and feeble Allaty with overly big ears which gave him a comical cute look – shook his head so hard the Abbarr’s hot air seemed to ring.

“Oh no! Of course not!” the boy chattered, and finally had the courage to come closer. “This is a Royal Griffin!”

Esha remembered she’d already seen the Allaty boy earlier this morning at the vegetable market. He was the one bullied by the kids who’d just run away.

“Well, so far he is far from being royal,” the Elwing girl glanced at the griffin, who tried to drink from a small fountain. “But if you help us, we’ll get him into shape. Or at least we’ll do our best.”

Esha promised Fravy a coin and sent him to an apothecary shop to get ointment, then to the butcher to get a piece of meat – as large as the boy could carry.

“If you run away with my money, this beast will track you down and eat you.”

Flashing the soles of his sandals, the boy vanished around the corner.

As it was common in the city of merchants, you had to pay for everything. Esha threw a coin and pulled the lever. There was a noise, as water rumbled in the pipes, and after a few seconds, the stream poured.

The griffin stepped back and bared his fangs, lifting feathers on the scruff of his neck.

“Calm down, buddy. You’ll feel better, don’t be afraid. We need to wash you a bit.”

And Esha touched the animal, calming him mentally.

In the middle of the pool there was a small platform where one could leave their clothes and belongings without worrying someone might steal them, or they might get wet. The locals and city guests often had picnics on such platforms, or spent time losing money playing cards or sharkhs – a local board game similar to chess, that was so thrilling it often ended in a fight. And the blood from broken noses could be easily washed off here, just like sweet puddles left of the fallen ice cream.

Esha threw her vest on the platform, scooped some water and washed her face. Her white hair with subtle purple hue gleamed slightly in the sunlight. A silver cuff flashed in her ear – the mark of the Black Dragon of Vitalon crew. The Elwing girl took off her boots, unfastened her bags and her knives before going to the edge of the platform. The griffin stood in the water, clearly enjoying the coolness. His muzzle was lowered – he drank eagerly, greedily.

“Those fiends didn’t take care of you at all,” Esha said sympathetically. Suddenly, the beast froze, closed his eyes, and tumbled to the side, raising a wave, spraying Esha from head to toe.

Esha jumped from the platform into the pool; the water barely reached her knees, but it was enough for this griffin to drown. Fatigue took its toll, and the beast lost consciousness, having breathed in the burning wind of freedom.

With difficulty Esha lowered the griffins head on the platform – this sack of bones was heavier than he looked.

“Just don’t you lie around for too long,” Esha whispered with sympathy. “I’m afraid they’ll start their hunt for me soon. And we’d better get out of Abbarr as soon as we can.”

Carefully she started washing his wounds, cleaning his horns, fur and feathers. It was amazing he had even lasted so long. Esha couldn’t hear his thoughts, but she sensed the might of his spirit.

The Royal Griffins were special creatures. They were around long before the Elwing and Allaty. They were sentient, and it was impossible to take their mind under control. Strong and fast, they’d later become friends of the Elwing people, defending the borders of Siluria high in the sky. Many of them had died in the last war.

In the Big World, catching and selling Royal Griffins was strictly forbidden. Yet this one was out of luck. Esha examined the defective stump which hung on the beast’s side instead of a wing. Maybe he was born that way and raised on the arena. Or perhaps he’d been caught in the mountains of Siluria and smuggled away. One day he might tell her his story, but for now, she just needed him to survive.

“Don’t let Tkharod be right,” Esha stroked the kai-reen’s forehead between the horns. “Fight!”


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ABBARR: Ashes and Wings