I watched as the shapes of a Pegasus and a griffin came closer, flying side by side. They both had bags on, slung around their heads and resting between their necks and wings. My key was clutched in my claws, the black obsidian and shining gold catching the sun. Goizu looked up and bellowed their names into the sunset. "Saoni! Arvid!" Junke cantered towards the edge, his tall figure blocking out the sun. I had been second to arrive, as my messenger had a faster horse. The pale dwarf had stumbled into Tsubi the moment I landed, having not enjoyed flying.
Saoni folded her wings gracefully, and Arvid did the same. Both of them had stern looks on their faces. I gasped as Saoni and Arvid stuffed their heads in their bags and pulled out two keys. One had amethyst at the base, and the other quartz.
We all retold how we got them, each story similar to mine. Junke had returned to his home to find a key on his bed, the ruby glowing with blood red light. Saoni had walked into the palace to find it hovering above her crown. Goizu had just ran in and found it floating in the middle of the throne room. Arvid's one had been found flying above the central fire in his tribes village. I retold the tale of how mine had been fished out of a volcano.
"Well, I suppose the others found ones too? I mean, if we did, then the other representatives must have, right? The question is which one fits."
Saoni had a good point, and a good question. "Well," I said, "it must be your key, Saoni. Seeing as they loved pegasi so much, they must have made it so that your one fits. If this is the case, we have to go now, save the world sooner rather than later."
As we packed the keys into small satchels, we mapped out a route to the Stronghold. We'd follow Junke and Goizu on the ground, and Saoni, Arvid and I would travel in the air to make tracking the Tornado's growth easier. As we took off, I had a memory of the keyhole, and something seemed off. The key probably wouldn't fit.
I thought nothing of it at first. Maybe I was just too worried. But as we landed on the steps of the crumbling temple between the pegasus and griffin statues, the pit in my stomach turned into a gaping hole.
When Saoni tried her key in the lock, I nearly loosed a jet of flame in my rage. It certainly didn't fit, nor did it seem normal. Looking at the hunk of amethyst and the gold and purple key together, it looked a bit too perfect. We tried each of our keys, and we took it in turns to fail to turn the lock. I flung my key to the other side of the room, the sound of metal hitting marble ringing out in the grim silence. Saoni put her wing around me and began to cry. She had this thing she'd do where when if you were sad, she would make physical contact with you and share the pain you were feeling so you wouldn't have to be alone. I'd seen her do it plenty of times, with Arvid and Goizu mostly. But this was nice, just me, and her, and our three closest friends in the world against everything else.
I'm a fast flier, and usually it would take me only a day or so to reach Icepeak. But this was different. I was pounding my wings against the raging snowstorm. I looked back in defeat and noticed that I could still see the glowing light of the Drakaupi volcano. I flew back to the edge of the castle and landed beside Saoni. She looked concerned, but not ready to give up. "Okay, now give me a try. I may be able to ride the currents and use my feathers to steer me." I nodded.
After deciding to get the other Representatives, we split up. Arvid, Junke and Goizu went solo, and I went with Saoni. We were supposed to be flying to Icepeak, the Hyklix capital, but this snowstorm was making it far more difficult than we anticipated.
She took a few steps back, then galloped over the edge, spread her wings, and began rhythmically pounding them to the beat of her heart. She taught me to do this, as it made flying easier and faster. I watched her strain against the blizzard and close her eyes as she got closer to the swirling vortex of snow. I nearly lost sight of her silver-grey coat as the snow momentarily enveloped her.
She flew a bit higher, then floated on a freezing bed of air. I smiled as she managed to spread her feathers out and float on the current. Small bits of ice landed on her coat and made her look like a winged snow buraqui. A smile appeared on her face as she spun in the current, disappearing from sight.
Then she began to falter. Her wings teetered, the right one weighing her down. I cried her name as frost crawled up her wings and made the feathers freeze. I was forced to watch as she plummeted out of view.
Not really knowing what to do, a sudden instinct came over me. She was my best friend, and had been with me for longer than I could remember. With that, I launched myself over the edge, flapping my wings to the beat of my heart, just as Saoni would have done.
The snow wasn't as bad down here. If only I could see where I was going and actually walk through the two feet of fresh snow.
The wind had been too strong. If Saoni couldn't beat the storm, then what chance did I have? I tried flying one more time, then I had finally settled that I would walk. Which, may I add, isn't my forte.
I was beginning to run out of energy when I heard a cry through the snow. Probably a Llamafantus, a winged creature with a coat of cream feathers. They were gentle enough, though if they felt threatened they would attack. I felt bile rise to my throat as I looked down at myself, a giant red dragon in a country of snow. If that wasn't threatening then I don't know what is.
I felt a great wave of hope as a hyklix ran out of the snow, blue-grey fur blending in almost entirely with the surroundings. That hope disappeared as a sleigh was pulled into vision by a band of hyklix, a bleeding Pegasus resting on the pale birch planks.