I have never met a creature as strange as a wyvern.
I remember the first time I met one. I remember what I thought, and what I saw. I remember being terrified, and curious, and in awe. I remember everything that went through my mind. I remember the first thing I said; I remember the first thing the wyvern said to me.
It’s a long story, a story I haven’t told anyone…not yet.
But it’s one I should tell – many stories, about the wyverns, and about me, and about people and places and things borne of a wild imagination.
The wyverns themselves were creatures with no gender, no boy or girl, male or female. You didn’t call a wyvern he or she; you called a wyvern wy. Something that belonged to a wyvern wasn’t his or hers; it was wys. And when you spoke to a wyvern, you were not speaking to a him or a her. You were speaking to a wym.
It took me a long time to understand what they were, and how to talk about them, but it didn’t take long for one of the wyverns to become my closest friend.
This is a part of that story.
Teodor and I crept cautiously down the row of books in the ancient, underground library, away from the fountain, and the massive panther. Teodor kept us and wys torchlight invisible, my hand clutched tightly in wys own.
“That…was close,” wy whispered.
“Yeah…” I whispered back. “Can we get out of here without the light?”
“Sure,” wy said. Then, abruptly, wy stopped. “Oh, rats.”
“What?” I whispered, feeling the fear rise again.
“The outside wall has caved in here,” wy said, and I felt the motions of wym feeling around in the darkness, making sure. “The way is blocked.”
I felt the rubble with my right hand. It was steep and rough, but as I stood on the very tips of my toes, I felt the top of the pile. “It isn’t that high,” I said. “We could climb over.”
“While carrying this torch and keeping you invisible? Not likely.”
“Couldn’t you fly us over?”
I heard a snarl and nearly jumped out of my skin before I realized it had come from Teodor wymself. “Not funny, Quinn,” wy said.
I stammered, thoroughly confused. “I…but…I wasn’t trying to be funny! What did I say?”
“I can’t fly, you idiot! None of the wyverns here can!”
“I-I’m sorry! I didn’t—”
“You didn’t stop to think why we’re always walking? You don’t think we’d be flying around if we could?!”
“Okay, okay!” I replied, “to the right, then.”
At that moment I heard a movement in the darkness. I felt my blood run cold and Teodor suddenly go rigid with fear. Still clutching wys hand, I turned around, facing the direction of the sound. Sure enough, listening closely, I could again hear the panther’s low growls.
We froze. I let out a trembling breath. “Um, Teodor…I think it can see us.”
I let go of Teodor’s hand. The tingling feeling swept through my body once more, backwards this time, as I became visible again. Teodor followed suit moments later, and I had to squint for a moment against the light of the torch. When my eyes adjusted, I could see the mammoth cat sitting patiently next to the dark shelf, its eyes on me. It bared its teeth in a wide snarl.
Before I even had time to think, Teodor hurled the torch right into the creature’s face.
The cat let out a pealing roar of fury and pain, rearing up and swiping at the torch. “Run!!” Teodor yelled as wy took off, and I had no choice but to dash after wym, frantically dodging the cat’s flailing claws.
“Are you crazy?” I yelled at wym as I caught up. “What were you thinking?!”
“Now is so not the time!” wy shouted back.
There was a sudden blast of light behind us, and we turned to look back. “Oh-h-h, no…” Teodor moaned. I was speechless.
The torch had landed on the stone floor beneath the bookshelf, now a raging inferno. The great feline, its fur singed, frantically swiped at book after book. The ancient, dusty pages burst effortlessly into flame, waves of fire rolling up and along shelf after shelf. Sparks flew everywhere.
Soon the entire place would be a massive bonfire, and there didn’t seem to be a thing we could do about it.
“Quinn, come on!” Teodor yelled. “We have to get out of here!”
“But…” Try as I might, I couldn’t make myself turn away. Thousands of books, all going up in smoke. Aeons of history and literature. I felt sick. “We have to help! This is our fault! We have to do something!”
“We can’t do anything! This whole place will be on fire and we’re gonna get stuck in it!”
I took one last, long look before we fled toward the fountain, running for our lives through the rapidly spreading blaze.