Ihloden woke to find himself in a Cysia’s dungeons. The nausea he had felt earlier on with the Sertesdroy had passed, but his stomach still felt sore. His head was throbbing painfully. He reached a hand back and rubbed the spot. He cried out in pain as his fingers grazed over the open wound in his scalp. He eyes felt like they were going to burst out of his head with the pain. He cursed vigorously as he remembered what had happened. Nargon had said something and then there was a stunning blow behind him and he had blacked out.
“Damn creature busted me open,” hissed Ihloden to himself. He waited for the pain to subside a bit and touched the spot gently. His fingers traced out the wide blot of blood matted hair, and then he probed till he felt the outline of the ragged skin. It was as long as his middle finger. Ihloden cursed again. Then he snapped his head up. A familiar feeling of nausea began to creep up on him. “Not now!” he pleaded with tears of frustration stinging his eyes. A block of light appeared in the thick wooden door.
“Found my gift yet?” Nargon asked. Ihloden cursed him. Nargon laughed, “Such language does not befit one that has come into the possession of a Griffin feather. For a moment I thought that you were a Rider, but now that I have heard you, I now that you are not. A Griffin Rider would not have spoken like that.” Ihloden felt ashamed.
“But that would not avail you,” said Nargon, “All I await is the word from my Master and I will take from you whatever information you possess, and after that I will have some fun with you. I will enjoy breaking you boy, very much.”
Ihloden watched as the light blotted out. His eyes still saw a block of light in the darkness.
“Damn it!” he cried and flung himself on his face, “Where are you mother, Shila? You stupid trees? Cirvan?” ‘Why did you call him?’ his thoughts chided him, ‘All your life you’ve never called him. What makes you think that you are worthy of calling him now?’ Ihloden tried to think of a reason but in all of his life, he could not think of one good thing that he had done.
“Oh Cirvan,” he said tears falling onto his cheeks, “Oh Cirvan.” The floor was covered in fine straw that smelt of mould and rat droppings. Ihloden lay flat on his stomach, his cheek resting on the damp stone. Tears rolled down his nose and dripped to the floor. His thoughts ran in a confused circle and eventually he felt himself slipping into sleep. He allowed himself to drown in the bliss of sleep and to escape his misery.
A soft ray of sunlight woke him up. He opened his eyes to be blinded by the shaft of light. He rolled away only to hit his wound on the floor. He sat up and groaned; his head throbbed. He reached his hand to it and felt blood. “Great,” he muttered. The door clanged open. The nausea that hit him sent his lurching to the side. He didn’t have the strength to try and hold it back. Burning liquid came up and dibbled down the side of his mouth. He tried to wipe it away but the nausea kept getting worst. He retched more and more. A hand grabbed him from behind. He felt the scrape of tough leather. ‘The Sertesdroy!’ the word sounded like an alarm in his brain. He thrashed in the grip. A harsh laugh filled his ears and then he was flying though the air. The wall embraced him in a rib crushing grip. He tumbled to the floor. The Sertesdroy laughed again and Ihloden felt the creature grip him. Once more he was flung against the wall. He fell to the floor only to be sent back against the wall by a swift kick from Nargon.
“Tell me where you got the feather.” Nargon said. Ihloden opened his mouth to answer and the toe of Nargon’s boot went in it. He felt as though his teeth were kicked out. Blood filled his mouth and his tongue felt the ragged skin of his lips.
“Where?” Nargon asked again. Ihloden tried to answer again but the nausea only made him retch in reply. Blood splattered on to floor. Nargon grabbed him up and turned him to face him.
“I will only ask you once again boy,” he snarled, “Where is the Griffin?” Ihloden saw the red glow of Nargon’s eye behind the sheet of white hair. Nargon lifted him higher and was about to send him flying when there a knock on the door. Nargon cursed and called, “Who is it?”
“Come and see,” a soft voice answered. It was hard to tell if it was male or female. Nargon spat, “Why should I? I have orders from my master.”
“But your master is also me,” the soft voice said.
Nargon stiffened and dropped Ihloden. Ihloden crumpled on the floor. Nargon strode out of the room. Ihloden curled himself into a tight ball. His body was aching. He heard Nargon’s voice loud drowning out what the other was saying.
“I have my orders,” Nargon shouted. The voice said something that Nargon cursed at.
“You should know better,” Nargon said. The voice said something sternly. Nargon sighed and then snorted.
“Alright,” said Nargon, “But if you fail the Master’s curse will be upon you, not me.”
“I thank you,” said the voice.
The door swung wide; “You are free to go,” said Nargon. Ihloden lifted his head a bit, unable to believe it. “Do you wish to stay then?” Nargon said. Ihloden shook his head and tried to get to his feet. He rose half way then fell back down. Nargon strode into the room. Ihloden sidled away from him but Nargon caught hold of him and planted him on his feet.
“This is all the help I will give you,” he said, “You are saved today by a power higher than me. But someday I will get my due vengeance with you.” Ihloden stumbled out of the dungeon with Nargon close behind him.
Sunlight blinded his eyes as he stepped out of the darkness of Overed’s prison. Shrieks filled the air as Shila and his mother raced over to him. They covered him with kisses and hugged him tight. He cried out when they, by mistake, raked their fingers over his wound. Then they crowed over his cuts and bruises.
“We will get justice for this,” said his mother tearfully angry. Ihloden held her close.
“There will be no justice given mother,” he said, “Let’s us leave now. Please. I want to go home.”
His mother looked at him strangely then nodded. They helped him limp to the caravan. As they moved away he caught sight of the young man who had insulted him on the first day. The young man was staring at them with a look of sadness and envy. Then he caught sight of Ihloden looking at him. His face grew haughty and he turned away quickly. Ihloden however, could not forget the look on his face. Shila and his mother helped him into the caravan and padded him with cloth so that he was comfortable. His mother wanted to dress his wounds but Ihloden shook his head, “Let us wait till we get to Nurilah,” he said, “Till then a little washing would do.” His mother looked at him strangely again. “I am just tired mother,” he said, “Don’t look at me so. I want to get away from this place. It is cursed.” His mother turned away still looking worried.
The journey back was painful. Every jolt in the road caused his head to hurt. The pain of his cuts and bruises grew worst every moment. He also had to get out and help the horses to cross the road where the Dragons had destroyed it. After that ordeal he lay as a dead man in the back of the caravan. By the second day he had a fever that had him lying in a state between wake and sleep. He hardly remembered anything that happened afterward. When he came bit to his senses he felt Nurilah’s rough hand on his forehead.
“He has a bad fever,” Nurilah said, “What did they ever do to him in that dungeon? I have never seen a man like this after just one day.” He tried to speak but only croaks came out. “Easy,” Nurilah said to him, “A little while again and you’ll be well.” For the next few days he was drifting in and out of sleep. He heard snatches of conversation from the neighbors. He saw his mother try to get people to leave. He remembered Shila sitting by his bedside singing softly. But most of all Nurilah was there. He wanted to talk to her, tell her what happened. He could not tell his family. She was the only person who would truly understand. ‘I wish I had told my family of the Griffin feather,’ he cried to himself.
Then one day he woke up to find that he was feeling a lot better. A little weak but his head was clear. Shila was sleeping in the chair next to the bed. He reached over and touched her hand. She sprang up. “Oh Ihloden!” she cried and had her arms around him. He hugged her close then pushed her away.
“Where is mother?” he asked. She sniffed back tears and said, “In the kitchen.” He tried to get up.
“Ihloden, no!” Shila cried.
“I must,” he said, “I need to.” She nodded and helped him up and into the kitchen. His mother shrieked and ran to him.
“Are you alright?” she asked with tears in her eyes.
“Yes I am,” Ihloden said, “How are you?”
“I was so afraid Ihloden,” she said resting her head on his chest, “So afraid!” Ihloden put his arm around her.
“Glad to see that you are fine now,” Nurilah’s deep voice sounded.
“Thanks to you,” Ihloden said, “I know that much.”
Nurilah nodded. He saw by her eyes she wanted to know what happened. He gave her a look that said ‘I will tell you later.’ She nodded slightly and came over to hug him also. Ihloden sat by the table and said in his old cheerful manner, “What’s for dinner mother? I’m starving!” His mother gave a short laugh, full of tears, and shook her head.