ABBARR: Ashes and Wings


Esha attached “void bugs” to several columns and activated the barrier, completely blocking the drinking fountain from prying eyes. Now only she and that funny lanky Allaty boy could pass through the barrier. She was almost done when she heard some noise. The noise was getting louder, and then Fravy appeared. He wheeled a small barrow before him, from which a huge ham stuck out. The foxling was panting, squeezing out every bit of his strength, but smiled contentedly.

“How clever,” Esha smiled; it was highly unlikely he could actually carry such a huge piece on his back.

Once he saw the griffin, lying limply, Fravy put his wheelbarrow down, pressed his little hands to his chest. The smile slipped off his face, his ears dropped down, and his big round eyes glittered wetly.

“He’s alive,” Esha nodded encouragingly. “Bring the ointment, please.”

Fravy’s ears shot up, as he ran up to her and held her the can, with both hands, so as not to drop it. As soon as Esha took the medicine, the kid whisked behind the closest column; yet he was still craning his neck, watching the griffin and the Elwing girl in turns – both looked curious and outlandish to him.

“I could use a little help here,” Esha beckoned the boy, then pointed at the griffin.

The foxling pulled off his gloves, embarrassed. Bashfully he rubbed his hand on his sides, not knowing where to put his hands. Esha smiled, held out one of the rags her cloak had turned into. Hiding after what had happened was pointless – a kai-reen was not some owlcat one could hide in their bag.

One look at Fravy was enough to realize, why he was being bullied. A mudblood, first-generation under-beast, and that was a stigma of an outcast. Even in the city of beasts he became an object of ridicule and abuse. His hands were covered with millions of tiny hairs, like those of a gecko, granting him a unique ability to climb any vertical surface or wall. His huge fox ears gave him excellent hearing, and his reptile eyes enabled him to see at night, and his beautiful golden fur, shimmering in the sun… Only his huge lizard mouth spoiled everything. The Elwing girl noted a large scarf tied around the boy’s neck, clearly for disguise, as well as his gloves. Esha remembered Saphy, and her heart sank. The echoes of war would keep haunting the innocents for many years to come, ruining their lives.

Esha was looking at the child, who was gently and carefully washing the griffin. The boy’s face was like an open book, reflecting a whole kaleidoscope of emotions: pain, compassion, delight, admiration.

Under the crust of dirt and blood, the Elwing girl and the Allaty boy found that the griffin was the color of moon steel, with small specks. All the large winged cats were called griffins or kai-reens in Abbarr, no matter if they had a beak, feathers, or membranous wings. However, only the royal griffins were distinguished by their especially large size, and belonged to the order of Muzzlerosts[1].

The kai-reen had a leonine muzzle, but with a fanged beak. Two lines ran down from his eyes, as if from tears. He had big ears and four horns – two larger, and two smaller ones. One of his eyes was damaged and swollen. One of his wings was feathered, while the second stuck out like a huge ugly finger. His long tail ended in a spike. He could have been a magnificent beautiful creature, but the ugly flaw and years had taken their toll. Only a shadow remained of his former might. Or perhaps, he had never known freedom. Esha sighed. She recalled the words of Raven, the pirate king of Vitalon: “To take flight, you need wings and courage.”

Well, this creature had almost a complete set. And she would somehow figure out how to get him a second wing.


The sun had set, and lanterns lit up. Water had long flowed down through grooves. The clothes managed to dry out, just like the griffin’s fur.

Esha was looking at the lanterns cast of desert glass, at the charged gas flickering inside. She recalled the living lanterns of Poogaton, the artificial sun of the Rock, the magical garlands of Siluria, the oil lamps of Vitalon. Out of habit she reached for a coin which used to hang around her neck, but the coin was no longer there, replaced by a small ocarina of the winds. And beads were no longer in her hair, and her hair was cut short. All that remained of her past was a cuff earring and a hairpin on a small braid by her left ear.

She recalled the words of the elder from the Northern Lands. “Power is never given for free. And yet sometimes we find out about the price far too late…” Esha looked at her hands, put her gloves on and called out to Fravy, who was sitting on top of a stone arch, admiring the city lights. Deftly the foxling came down, using his paws like sucker cups.

They were sitting on the platform, sharing dinner. Fravy was extremely talkative, as Esha herself once had been.

“So, I’m helping Val Sturion with vegetables and fruits until dawn. And then Val Maidu trusts me with the morning papers. Val Caruon and Val Patry like to sleep late, that’s why I’m usually right on time to unload their bales. Valla Maritta Kritarou sends out flowers – expensive white Silurian lilies – for the table of Great Ormu himself, so my wheelbarrow then rushes to the Spire of Time.”

“The Great Ormu is fond of flowers?” Esha asked, alarmed.

Fravy laughed:

“Oh yes! But living flowers. In his Gardens of Love live the most beautiful maidens, and the most beloved of them all is the fair-haired Valla Ilamille, with her skin as delicate as silk, and her green eyes bright like emeralds. She is a noble Elwing, and these flowers remind her of her home. I’ve seen her once,” the Allaty boy closed his eyes and said dreamily: “So beautiful… Well, and then I have plenty of time to go about my business,” he finished his story.

“And where do you spend such an awful amount of money?” Esha smiled, thinking over what she’d just heard.

“I’m living with my aunt and uncle. I’m their burden and shame,” Fravy continued carelessly, munching his jerky with cheese. “So, I’m giving them two quarters of my earnings. I’m spending one quarter on goodies and toys, because I still have several little sisters and brothers. And one…”

Fravy hesitated, pondering if he should tell or not.

“And one quarter I put aside for something very important.”

Esha guessed that Fravy was talking about a bank account. In Abbarr anyone could open an account, regardless of age. Yet the foxling refused to tell, what he was saving up for.

“I have to go home. Thank you for dinner.”

Fravy rose to his feet and glanced at the griffin. The creature was sleeping all this time. Together they had treated all his wounds they could reach.

“May I stroke him one last time?”

“I think he won’t mind.”

The boy gently touched the undamaged part of the griffin’s skin.

Fravy then pressed his hand to his chest and smiled slyly:

“My friends will be so envious once they find I was washing…” Fravy thought a bit and corrected himself, “was stroking a royal griffin.”

“Downright royal, eh?”

“Of course. Only the royal guard of Siluria has such griffins. They are equipped with armor, and they guard the borders. Each one of them has their own personal griffin. They are paid a salary, and they can fly. All the sky is open to them. Their names are carved in the Griffin Hall, and the girls faint at the very sight of them… Though I’m not sure of the latter. How can one be so stupid as to faint and miss all the interesting stuff? Oh, and do you know that anyone can become a royal guard? Any resident of the Empire, Siluria, and Archipelago? Regardless of their race and social class.”

Esha smiled. Looked like now the knew what the little Allaty boy was saving up for. Anyone could become a guard, but not everyone could afford to pay for the training in the Academy.

Fravy threw his wheelbarrow on his back, which made him look like a turtle, and ran home. Esha called out to him.

“Your pay!” she tossed him a golden ‘dragon.”

“Oh wow!” he said from the dark.

“And you know what? You’ll become a great guard,” Esha said. She couldn’t see Fravy, but she could have sworn: the foxling was smiling from ear to ear.


A couple more hours passed. The nights in Abbarr were cool. Esha buttoned her vest, put on what remained of her cloak, still thinking about the mysterious Elwing maiden and the white lilies.

The griffin stirred, rose to his paws and growled, flashing his good eye. “Happy awakening,” Esha yawned. “There you go.”

She tossed him a piece of meat.

“You need to eat, and then sleep all you want. Though I recommend to move away from that stone bottom, otherwise you’ll freeze your kidneys and start urinating every half and hour.”

The creature grunted, swallowed the piece, and peered at the remains of the ham.

“That’s your dinner, don’t be shy. By the way, I thought of a name for you. Swarg. Far away in the North this word stands for “wing” and “flight. So, what do you think?”

The griffin squinted his orange eye at the Elwing girl, crunched a bone. He still did not answer her. Well, one thing at a time.

As he dealt with his meal, the griffin rose, shook himself, took a couple of steps, then drank from the fountain.

Esha got up, fastened her bags, pulled her hood down.

“Come on, it’s time to hit the road. Perhaps you are exactly the reason

I’ve been stuck in these sands for so long.”

She looked at the exhausted kay-reen and added:

“Let’s have a deal: while I am responsible for you, don’t you dare to die on me.”

[1] This made-up term comes from the combination two words: “muzzle” and “rostral”.


To be continued…


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ABBARR: Ashes and Wings