Gideon and Kallach followed Galan through several passes as they made their way up to the high eyrie kingdom. Gideon pointed out several roads which would need to be cleared. It looked like bandits had been busy setting off ambushes. They spotted a work caravan clearing one rockslide and Kallach descended to get a closer look. Galan was less than pleased, but the griffin king would not listen to reason.
“We are close enough Galan,” he insisted. “I need to understand how much it takes to clear one of these rockslides, and how they may be started.” He back winged neatly, landing on the largest boulder. “Gideon, would you do me the favor of asking the head crewman what it takes to deal with this obstruction?”
Gideon slid down over Kallach’s extended claw, and half slid, half climbed down to the roadbed. They were halfway up the mountain, and looking both up and down, he could see several switchbacks. At the end of each stretch of road between turns, there was a wider rest area, and large piles of boulders could be seen protecting travelers from going over the edge. Gideon approached the burly half giant who was working to move the large boulders and asked, “Kallach,” he pointed at the white griffin, “would like to know what it takes to clear one of these boulder fields?”
“If we had a mage to help us break the stone, or some form of explosive like the dwarves use for mining, it would be but a week, as it is, it takes us the full cycle of a moon to clear but one. We have ten crews working, the griffins have been kind enough to lift us and our house wagons to each site. If you could bring us a mage, or trade the dwarves for their magic clay, it would speed things along.” The foreman had stopped swinging his gigantic pickaxe and leaned on the handle. “My men can hardly break the granite, and several have injured themselves. My wife tends them over in the tent away from the heat.”
“How did this rubble come down the mountain?”
“My son is a nimble climber, he went up to the top, found several large pry bars had been left there. It appears it was started by loosening an earlier slide. Someone is trying to close all the roads to your kingdom. We cannot keep up against the damage. I have ten crews working, my brother has another dozen working on the other side of the kingdom.”
“I have made note of your concerns. Kallach must return to the Kingdom immediately, he will be crowned King tomorrow. As soon as the ceremony is over with, we will talk to the dwarves. I will also make sure you have both a mage and a healer to help each crew’s efforts. With Axtra defeated, both are coming out of hiding looking for work” Gideon reassured the tired road boss.”
The boss looked up to where Galan and Kallach perched and bowed. “Thank you. Both of you are a credit to you father.”
Gideon looked at the face of the boulder he needed to climb, and quickly saw the footholds he needed to scramble up. Far stronger than the meek serf he’d been at the beginning of his brother’s quest he pulled himself up the sheer face, until he came to a crack near the top. Wedging one foot into it, he carefully turned and placed both hands inside and used it to make his way up to Kallach. Swinging himself up onto Kallach’s knee he turned and straddled him over his shoulders. “Let’s go, there’s something afoot, not good. Someone or something is unhappy with your return.”
“I told you, Kallach, you need to be home, and quickly.” Galan insisted.
“Why did you not say there were plots against us?”
“They have not been confirmed by reliable sources. Perhaps Gideon can help us figure out who or what is upset with us. Doras has been courted by several of our nobles. She is considered old enough to mate and there are those who would use her to start a new claim to the crown. Goraf had a few loyal followers, not interested in anything except keeping the kingdom isolated and secure. They may be at the bottom of this or it maybe we have outsiders who have allied themselves with them.”
Kallach searched the skies for the telltale currents which would lift them over the next high ridge. “I can see you were wise to come for me. We’ll have to return to Williamstown for the coronation, but I’ll take this month to learn of all the forces at play. It appears we’ll be be home in an hour.” He dipped a wing turning to streak into the next valley, only two more passes to get through and he would be one step closer to claiming his birthright.
Privately, Gideon whispered, “The half giant, he is called Dogos. He thinks there’s a griffin behind this. He thinks it’s one of the yellow clans, not gold like your brother, but pale, like the color of butter.”
“Is there anything else you picked up?” Kallach asked.
“He and his brother are truthful about the state of many of the roads leading into Gryphondom from both the north and south, only passages from the east are clear, and they have been told of two new slides in the west, between here and Kalvaria. Even the roads that skirt the kingdom have been threatened, but by lesser problems, dirt, and mud, far more easily dealt with.”
“We have seen the evidence on this approach. I’ll be talking to the patrol leaders immediately. Tonight, even before I’m crowned.” Kallach increased his wing strokes, soaring higher, seeking the quickest way over the last valley.