A thick misty fog met Crin and Andy as they left the sleep tree. It clung to the nearby mountains and slowly crept up their steep cliffs to finally reach the austere giants crowning the top of each mountain. The fog drifted up from the dense forests far below on the surface. It seemed to drag the mountains with it in its journey upwards. These mountains that floated like great ships on an ocean of air, made the perfect home for his kind.
Crin’s three young cubs met them at the opening to the sleep tree. The morning was quiet except for the gentle flapping of their wings struggling to keep them airborne. They eagerly leapt into the air, excited to see their father take off. Their wings were just strong enough to hold them aloft for a few moments.
Crin lead them all to the nearby clearing. He had chosen this sleep tree, not just for the massive size of the tree or how close it was to water, but for the excellent meadow nearby. The wind generally came from the west, and this particular meadow expanded west to the edge of a great cliff. The warm thermals gently moved up the side of the cliff here. If he wanted, all he would have to do is merely unfold his wings, and at the right moment, as if laying onto a bed of soft leaves, lean into the thermal and push off with his back feet to push himself off the cliff. Today; however, his children were eager to see their father launch himself into the air. The journey he and Andy had been sent on by the council would take him away from them for what could be months, so he would give them a bit of a show this time.
His cubs were growing so fast it seemed. It wouldn’t be long before they were off on their own adventures. Their bonding ceremony was fast approaching, and would be upon him before he knew it. Soon he would proudly present his cubs to the council, and introduce them to the new crop of young hopeful riders. The next generation of explorers and protectors of their mountain realm. They would form bonds so deep one would not want to live without the other. An ancient connection that was once begun out of necessity, but has carried on so long, his kind and the race of humans they were bonded too could not exist without the other.
Crin stepped to the edge of the meadow. The warm sun chased the morning dew away, and warmed the cool air causing it to lift in little gusts. He would get a little help off the ground in his effort to give his young ones the sight they were eager for. He leaned toward each of them and touched his forehead to theirs and rubbed their cheeks with his. They fluttered up to Andy seated in the middle of Crin’s shoulders strapped onto the saddle. Behind him a large bundle of supplies for their lengthy journey. Andy gently scratched each of them in their favorite spot before their wings wouldn’t hold them airborne any more. It was time to go.
Crin nodded towards his cubs to tell them to stand back as he shook out his great wings. He was the largest of the fliers among his kind, and his wingspan was above average. The reason he loved this meadow in fact. With his wings fully expanded, he could almost reach across it. He gave his wings a few test flaps to warm his muscles. Andy curled his fingers through Crin’s thick soft mane as he readied for the takeoff or rather launch into the air. Thankful for it as this method was a bit more jarring than when Crin simply stepped off the cliff edge. Like stepping into a lazy warm river and letting the current take you. Yes, much more enjoyable in his opinion. Crin’s cubs were eager to see their father take flight, and he like Crin, was happy to leave them with such a sight. This recent mission would take them far and into unknown places where the risk was great. There was a chance that this would be the last time the cubs would look upon him and Crin. Andy didn’t want to dwell on the dangers though, they had a mission of great importance to both their people and it was time begin it.
Crin felt Andy’s grip tighten and knew he was ready to go. The muscles in his haunches bunched as he crouched for the short run across the meadow. He felt his immense claws dig into the soft warm earth as he leapt into a gallop. He pumped his great wings and felt them fill with the warm currents rising off the grassy wet surface. With his wings fully extended high above his head, he gave a great leap into the air. He felt the pressure of Andy’s body resist the sudden movement, but his wings were strong. He shoved them through the air in a great downward motion. The whooshing sound as they cut through the air filled their ears, and suddenly they were airborne. A few more strong wingbeats and they were gaining altitude quickly. Now over the cliffs edge where the lazy thermals met them, helped to move them higher into the air column. Crin circled high over the meadow to look at his cubs one last time. He could see their jubilant leaps into the air and brief flights of their own. The sight made him smile. They would probably be flying by the time he returned. A sadness then threatened to fill him, but he was quick to squash it as a sense of duty replaced it, for they were on the most important mission ever bestowed upon either of their people. If any pair could succeed, it was unquestionably he and Andy. A determination swelled in his chest as he promised himself they would be back in time for his cubs bonding day ceremony a few months away. He would walk with them before the council. With one last look and a great roar for their delight, he wheeled them toward the west. The misty beginning to the day had turned out to be a brilliant morning. The warm sun spread hope and excitement for the journey through him. He and Andy were off on the greatest adventure of their lives.