My first Rowan of Rin fanfiction! This is a one-shot about a grach, one of the flying invaders of the Zebak. This is also an accompaniment fanfiction to my Rulers of the Sky, a Deltora Quest fanfiction about the Ak-Baba.
So, the grach were mainly mentioned in Rowan and the Zebak - first when Bara was sent and took back Annad, and later when Unos flew Rowan and the others home to Rin. But both times it implied that they were merely obedient creatures, utterly loyal to their masters.
In here, most of the grach are mindless beasts. But I will use a theme expressed in the Rowan of Rin books - there are oddities. This is the tale of the oddity of the grach who could feel and reason for herself.
Oh, and disclaimer. I most certainly don't own Rowan of Rin concept, characters, trademarks, etc.
The Zebak did not know I belonged to no one but myself.
No one knew, actually. No one but the grach, and they could not care less. For they, being ordinary grach, only cared for the Zebak's - their master's - will.
I hid my true ways well. But, considering it now, it was not that difficult - the other grach mostly ignored me, and I had no intention of becoming a working grach. No, to be part of the specially bred fighting force to invade the slave rebels' land was much better than that fate.
But there was nothing I longed for more than freedom - freedom from this vile city, where they all saw me as nothing but a convenient tool. Freedom from everything, really, especially the Zebak.
I watched. I listened. And eventually I formed a plan . . .
The day chosen for the invasion turned out to be, in one word, chaotic. News of escaped slaves reached the invading platoon and summoned a storm from the Zebak who were there. The other grach simply stood and waited, as they always did, but I listened keenly to the conversation between the messenger and the captain of the invading operation.
"The last three, with that Rin girl, have escaped?!"
"Not exactly, sir. The older one - Thiery, I believe - had been killed by a guard. The Rin girl and the remaining two escaped on their slave grach, with four strangers, one who is Zebak born as well."
"Zebak born? Odd, but it cannot stop our invasion. And it may as well be today."
The captain turned as the messenger left and glanced at his soldiers. One of my tails twitched in eagerness - at last, I would be rid of this prison city!
My rider - whose name I have often heard but always ignored - was glad to go as well, but for different reasons. "The day has come, Irea! Today we will take back what is ours!"
I rolled my eyes, but in his excitement my rider noticed nothing.
The other grach, catching their masters' giddiness, started to shift around. I joined them, but I had my own reasons for doing so.
And then the captain gave the order:
Before my rider could strike me with the whip as the signal to fly, I unfurled my wings and leaped into the air, keeping my place among the dark mass of grach bodies and their riders.
Right away I knew that the village of Rin stood no chance.
We covered the heavens, blocking out the sun.
We were the invaders of the sky.
I knew I had to hold my place in the huge force, or through our journey to Rin at least. Once I got there, I could throw off my rider and escape . . .
We were soaring above water now. Water, seemingly endless, clear blue with white-topped waves breaking all over it. Silver, blue and green flashed below, glimpses like a mirage out of the corner of my eye, but I ignored it. Right now, I had to put up a good show. A show involving my pretend concentration on the smell of the wool the Zebak had waved in my face, the smell of Rin.
Abruptly, the sea ended. Cliffs rose from seemingly nowhere, as if they had a mind of their own - like I did - and decided to show themselves.
Just like I would be, soon - showing my true colors.
The wild meadows started then, a green recreation of the sea we had just left behind. It, however, did not last as long as the ocean - soon, neat crop fields began coming into view, with houses and huts and trees, and a huge mountain topped with white clouds. Smells came to me, one like the wool that had been used for our seek, and the others mingling together. But the smells I chose to ignore - they were worth nothing. But Rin itself . . . a small group of houses, fields and huts. A herd of strange, snuffling beasts . . .
In one word, Rin. This was the small village that the Zebak were so determined to conquer?
I lashed my tails in silent grim amusement. This was what the Zebak wanted? This was what so many grach had been bred and trained for, often dying in the process?
Outrageous, but that was what the Zebak were.
Then a new smell came to me, breaking through my thoughts, mingling with the tame smells of Rin. This one, however, could not - and should not, if you were a sensible grach - be ignored. It was ice, fire, earth and sky. It was ancient power, jealous fury and dripping needle-sharp white fangs. All in one.
But I alone perceived what no one else did -
This was the guardian of Rin's skies.
My instincts reeled to panic and I nearly bucked in the air. No, calm down! You must keep up the act, Irea! I screamed in my head, which only helped a bit as I settled for a slight jerk instead of a full-out bucking. I could sense my rider's confusion, but it was shoved away when the captain's announcement sounded, the announcement that the Rin people had hidden themselves. I could only understand that much, as the roaring, rushing sound of water was invading my hearing . . .
The smell was what brought me back to my senses. Not the icy smell, but the scent of Rin. The fact that I was about to witness a mass invasion, and most likely a mass killing as well (seeing that the Rin people were fighters) snatched away the panic and replaced it with other feelings that normal grach do not contemplate:
Dread. Disgust. Hate. But above all, I felt apprehension . . . what was I going to do? Would I stand by and watch the end of these villagers' freedom, or fight against the tide?
And then the terrible, fate-changing roar. The earth-shattering, sky-thunderous roar split the air, the explosion of fury from the guardian of Rin's skies. Now I knew it was time to go.
The invasion was failing. The grach started writhing, fleeing, panicking in the air, trying to escape the horrible sound as the monster roared again. Shouts and screams of Zebak filled the air, including that of my own rider as I twisted and rolled in the sky, making it impossible to still ride.
And then the king of the sky itself hurtled towards us, the red mouth gaping open to reveal innumerable teeth. Teeth like icicles, sharp and cold. Its paws were huge, larger than your average Zebak house. The smell of ice, fire, earth, sky, power, and fury washed over us as it roared again. The Zebak shrieked and the other grach fled the horrific thing, flying back to the prison city.
I hovered in the air as the skies emptied, the leviathan thing remaining there as well. We stared at each other for a while - me, the odd grach, against this huge killing machine.
And then it suddenly it banked, turning sharply and impaling me with its wing. Stunned, I only froze there, the wind driven by its flying keeping me in place. But what shocked me even more was when it turned its spiked head and spoke to me!
"Do not be afraid, grach. They told me that the last invader remaining would be the one."
Well. That was comforting. But I said nothing, knowing better than that - I was in utter control of the beast, and speaking my doubts would only lead to my end. And yet . . .
"Who is 'they,' and what do you want from me?"
The icy creature laughed, a chilling sound not so different from its roar, but much more quiet and mirthful. "Oh, that you do not need to know. But I desire nothing from you, grach. However, I know you desire freedom." It glanced at me, then flew straight into a dense cloud, soon landing on an ice-water peak.
"How do you know this?" I asked quietly, backing away from the beast.
"We dragons have our ways, grach. We are more mysterious than most, and we have always been connected to grach. In fact, the first grach was bred from a malformed dragonling, one who happened to have two tails instead of one. By interfering with things, as many Zebak do, they eventually got the result of grach - you. But I take it that you, Irea, are no ordinary grach. Am I right in that?"
I swallowed. This dragon, or, should I say, this monster was claiming to know the past of my ancestors? The behavior of the Zebak? "You are correct. Most grach cannot feel, like I do. And most grach would probably not be speaking with you, either."
The dragon laughed again, its icy teeth showing in the process and making me even more uncomfortable. "I thought that was so. I saw your expression as you looked down upon Rin, you know." I must have looked startled, since the dragon laughed again. "Yes, Irea, I can also see more than most. Your eyes are what give away everything, and those three tails also show signs. You did not want to partake in the enslavement of the village, I know."
Then the dragon paused, and eyed me carefully. If possible, the eyes of this creature were even more menacing than its spines, spikes, teeth, and claws. Its head moved towards me, and soon we were nose-to-nose. And now that I looked carefully, I could see how we grach were of the dragons.
"I am about to tell you something most dragons keep to themselves for their entire lives, Irea." I nodded silently, easily sensing the intense truth in the dragon's words. "We dragons have a - belief - that knowing one's name gives one power over that being. I know yours, but you do not know mine." It paused again, inching its head closer.
The next words were so quiet I had to lean in to hear.
"My name is Icefyre."
Icefyre, I thought quietly. Fits it well.
"Then my greetings to you, Icefyre," I replied, watching as it backed away slightly, its head retracting once again.
"And now, Irea, I will take you to a place where you can dwell in peace and away from the Zebak," Icefyre said, glancing at me. "I will take you there. Would you like to fly or ride within my wing again?"
I knew that this dragon, however menacing it seemed, was now my official ally. "Fly, thank you," I said, feeling a rush of gratefulness.
"Good. Your spines are rather irritating, and my wings are quite sensitive. You can use the updraft my wingbeats create to your advantage," Icefyre said, smiling slightly.
I had the strangest yearning wish that I could smile, too, right then. But grach are bred not to, and thus there was no way that I could. So I had to content myself to, "Yes, I will. I thank you."
Icefyre nodded understandingly. "Also, Irea, I can sense your discomfort around me as well. And I am not an 'it', but a 'she'."
I blinked in surprise and all three of my tails twitched. This massive dragon, a female? Not to stereotype anyone, but . . . this was a dragon, and a ferocious one at that!
Icefyre smiled, its - no, her - fangs showing again and glinting in the sunlight. "Ooh, how I love their reactions! I have only told a few, mostly other dragons that pass by once in half a century or so. Even they cannot tell what gender I am!" She laughed again, then looked at me apologetically.
"I, like you, have been cast away as an oddity, but I from the Realm of Dragons. Few were icy white, and even fewer had my nerve to question the higher-ranking dragons. But now, I have a mountain to call my own and I know I play a fine role in the well-being of the village below." Icefyre smiled again, her eyes full of the triumph the words brought her. "But sometimes I feel so lonely here . . . a feared peak is all very fine, yes, but the fact that every creature fears it sometimes is my weakness. I have struggled through hard times, here."
She sighed at that, then lowered her head to meet my eyes. "I have no right to ramble, but I feel that I must. And now, let me take you to a certain place I know." With that, Icefyre leaped into the air, her mighty gales of wind from her wingbeats crashing down and pressing me against the cold peak. "I am sorry!" Icefyre called from above, then added, "Come up now, I have moved to the side!"
And the suppressing force lifted as she said so. I struggled to my feet, looking up and seeing the glint of her icy scales in the sinking sun. "Come, Irea!" she called, beckoning with her tail. I knew it was time.
The air was still warm, and Icefyre's wingbeats helped me gain altitude as well. And thermals were still abound, despite the coming dusk. "It is this way, follow me!" Icefyre roared, a thunder in itself, a gush of cold white flame flaring in the air. I shuddered, despite myself - her roar was quite something to adjust to, and I wondered at how the village below coped with her.
In the setting sun, I followed the she-dragon through the sky.
And it was in that setting sun that I realized that I was free, at last.
Like the setting sun, the remembered power of the Zebak was slowly fading, from both my mind and the land.
Like the sun would rise in the morning, I would truly rise in that new day.
It was that new day that I could truly live my life - a life as a grach free of the Zebak's control.
Note: I realized sometime along my typing up this one-shot that there is a lot of stereotyping about Zebak in here if you squint. It was totally unintentional! I think Zeel is amazing (better than Shaaran), and the whole thing about the Zebak anyway was me trying to get into the grach's character. I'm not exactly sure of what they think about their all-powerful masters, but if grach could have feelings, I bet they wouldn't like being confined to that one city.
So, R&Ring would be greatly appreciated by me! My great thanks to anyone who does! 8D