In the deeper corner of Lions Arch, away from the lights and noises of crowds and their celebrations, upon ragged and drenched rocks, sat a griffon. His darker plumage blended with the shadows caused by the high cliff sides, and assisted in hiding him from prying eyes of Lionsguard patrolling below.
It helped to have a rider who matched the tones well, and who was trying to remain still until they moved on to another path, farther away.
They were watching everything. Distant ships moving in and out of the harbors. Groups travelling across the bridges to and from the main square, some jovial while others appeared calm, or even focused. They watched creatures bound everywhere, with and without riders like they.
They unfold their limbs from the saddle to lean forward on the horn. With dusk moving faster, they managed to pull the glasses off so their viewing could continue without issue.
The hands were still shaking. Now they weren’t sure if it was from what unfolded, or something else. Perhaps the lack of sleep, or maybe they were unsettled by the mice sitting with them.
Gal has to slap some away, before they rub at the eyes to keep them back again.
“You’re lucky, you down feathered nuisance. No worries of annoying pests, or of haunting memories. Not a thought in your mind, except for when your next salmon is ready.”
Obon with his large purple eyes, only chirps and swivels the head until looking to his rider. His guardian. A clawed foot picks at the saddle while his tail whips at their back.
Ah, they know that fidgeting. It was past his riding hours, and the saddle was getting uncomfortable.
“Alright, hold on, don’t need you to bite it again.”
With some adjustment on their stirrups, Gal moves to swing their body sideways. The saddle creaks, just as they manage to slip the foot from the other side and move further under the griffon’s chest. There, they begins to flip buckles and belts until they feel the object move. A foot slips, and they land on their knees before that same saddle falls onto the ground with a soft thump.
Obon immediately begins to dance in place, with claws flicking stones and dirt in every direction.
Gal only chuckles before moving on.
Dusk continues its march. They turn from him to watch another patrol, but they don’t pay attention.
They can hear the nearby gardens stirring as what appears a party is slipping through the gates, full of cheering and music that was beginning to build.
The saddle is scooped into the arms to have it pulled into the lap. They start to check for stray string or loose bolts, in hopes to keep their mind from straying into oblivion. Obon continues his prancing, while they start to speak. They wish the beast could understand them, but only shadows and stray mice seem to pay attention.
“Do you miss it. How the dancing was. Dance for hours, letting drinks spill while we sung merrily until the dawn. How the crowds would move with you, or how you seemed to keep track of its beat. I do. Not for what the crowds did, not the frantic love that would happen in it- Its joy. I missed how you could dive in, and you could feel the energy. How people would forget the tides of time outside.”
Pick, pick, pull, tug– They go over every inch. The longer they go, the more they shed. The cloak, the stained gloves…Armor, chainmail. It all piles.
Soon it’s a pile next to them, with Gal fishing through bags to find tools.
“I miss the music too. That would be nice again. That, and singing. Trashy, horrible singing. But, you know it would be happy….”
A hand moves to reach into a shirt pocket. It stills, just as the fingers move over a piece of metal hidden inside. They play with it, letting the tip follow it before it bumps into what they need: A tiny pick.
Out it comes, to pick at a stray thread.
“I know it’ll happen again…Once we deal with this.”
They don’t know if Riathan or the others knew yet. They don’t know that a comrade has fallen and that they were there. They don’t know if they will know how much blood stained those steps. They’re scared of what they’ll have to say, to do when they meet again.
It has to be said, whatever it was. They have to be the one to do it this time. To give details. To show the blade that still sang within their bag.
Obon’s kicking brings Gal back to the spot. He’s finding rocks now, and throwing them off the ledge. Gal frowns, and reaches for reins to tug him back from throwing one more.
“Hey, don’t you start that. When we’re back to the stable, we can play with your rope. This time, we make sure you don’t hit someone on the head.”
The mount squawks with some defiance, but bends to the request. The stone is released, as are the reins, and he bounds off to claw at a tree trunk.
Just as he runs, their eyes catch them.
Stars. Above the horizon and growing brighter. Edges of clouds and the galaxy begin to find its way into view, and scatter across darkening skies.
Music is kicking up below, with fiddles and guitars growing louder.
The shaking hands still. Their eyes stray from their frantic flickering to watch them.
“…I missed the stars. They shined so bright, so peaceful. They were wondrous to see in the mountains. They never stopped being beautiful, I guess. Doesn’t hurt to look at them now.”
They pat the shirt pocket gently.
“We should stargaze in the Shiverpeaks again, and maybe ask for a guest or two to join us. Bet it’s been some time since they saw the stars like this.”
The griffon paid no mind to the mindless mutterings of his caretaker. He’s only fighting a tree, trying to eat the leaves.
Gal nods, again with that smile. Their hands return to busy work, while their mind wanders once again, back to memories and back to melodies they hum.
All under stars they missed so dearly.
A moment of peace, in the madness that pools around them.