It took everyone who had participated in the battle - Taka, Illeera, Tenris, Relcia, and Vulcan - a full week to get over their injuries. Vulcan was now fully healed from the various wounds that Renalimas had given him, and Illeera's wooden leg had finally reached the last of its integrity. After the Battle of the Beyond, as they now called it, the prosthetic limb had become so stressed that it snapped in two.
Now, she was perched on Vulcan's back as she always was, deep in thought. Almost as soon as they had arrived back in Canyon Village, they had begun to mourn the loss of Taahnn. Burying him had taken them until mid-morning, and after Taka had finished carving his gravestone, they had propped up his Hunting Horn against it as a testimony of his bravery.
Taka, especially, was grateful to Taahnn for saving Relcia's life. He had broke down sobbing at the funeral, and Vulcan and Illeera had led him away and comforted him. Then he was truly thankful for having such good friends as the two of them. They will always be my dearest friends, no matter what, he thought, still very sad but not as depressed as he had been earlier.
Lauren had been there, almost fully healed, thanks to Elric. Although she had been happy to see her master, that changed to sadness almost as intense as his when she discovered the bad news. She had mourned with him, in her own way. Taka always remembered her words with a smile: "I wanted to mourn with you, master. Taahnn was a good furr-end, nya."
A week later, the celebrations could finally start. So far, the party had been going for a full twelve hours, and it was almost midnight. Taka yawned as he sat facing the huge bonfire that had been lit. So much had happened on this adventure, and he felt as if he hadn't slept in an age.
So tired was he that he never noticed Relcia approach until she had sat down next to him and wrapped her arms gently around him. Taka looked at her with half-closed eyes and rested his head on her shoulder in pure exhaustion.
"It feels like forever since things were normal," she said softly, tightening her grip a little bit. Taka smiled idly as the memories flooded back to him. "We were in the Forested Spring when this whole mess started," he whispered, relaxing visibly.
Relcia bent her head a little closer to his. "Our first date..." she said in his ear, smiling at him. Taka slowly sat up and smiled back at her. The next thing they knew, they were kissing passionately, just like the last time they had been alone together.
Well, well, said a voice from right behind them. Oh, sorry. I couldn't resist ruining such a tender moment. Instantly, Taka and Relcia broke apart and whipped around. The first thing they saw was a heron-like Bird Wyvern staring at them with a toothy smirk on its beak.
"Helix!" exclaimed Taka. "What a surprise!" The Moardea's smirk became a grin as she wrapped her neck around him and nuzzled him with her beak. Nice to see you again, Helix said fondly. She straightened up and turned her gaze to Relcia. And you are a friend of Taka's, I assume? Relcia blushed a bright crimson at Helix's teasing, but good-natured, tone.
"OK, that's enough, Helix," admonished Taka. "No need for the sarcasm." She smirked again and said, Sorry. Like I said, I couldn't resist. Relcia simply sighed in exasperation and held Taka's hand, to which he smiled slightly.And then, another unexpected voice made them jump. Enough with that, it grumbled. Youse love-Bird-Wyverns are going to make me sick. A grin slowly spread across Taka's face as he recognized the accent. He turned around, and sure enough, there stood Dronk the Thondriun.
Relcia muffled her shriek behind her hand as she saw the giant scorpion-like Carapaceon. Her reaction made him burst out in raucous laughter. Oh, youse should have seen the expression on your face, he guffawed, twitching his long tail in amusement. Taka and Helix joined in, and even Relcia managed a nervous giggle.
"What are you doing here?" asked Taka. We heard the rumors, answered Helix. We heard that you killed the Renalimas! So we journeyed down here to find out. She flapped her wings excitedly and finished, Seems we were right! We knew you were a hero.
With a faint tinge of pink on his cheeks at this praise, Taka modestly looked away and saw Elric fitting Illeera with a new prosthetic leg, this time made of pure Iron Ore. When he had finished, she hugged him gratefully. The sight made Taka smile.
Early morning signaled the day of departure for Taka, Relcia, Illeera, Taahnn, Lauren, and Vulcan. There to wish them farewell were the Chieftain, Tenris, Elric, Helix, and Dronk - the latter two had stayed overnight to see off their friend Taka with the others.
"Take care," murmured the Chieftain. Taka reached out and handed her the talisman that she had given him for the fight with Renalimas. She pocketed it and added, "May all of your adventures be fruitful."
Tenris shook Taka's hand, along with those of the others. She finished with a pat on the head for Vulcan, who responded with a gentle lick on her cheek. "Come visit us in the Central World sometime," invited Taka, to which Tenris responded with a sad smile. Elric followed his sister's lead, shaking everyone's hands and blushing ferociously when he got to Illeera.
Helix and Dronk said their own good-byes to Taka, as well as everyone else. Farewell, Taka, whispered Helix in a voice that was simultaneously happy and sad. Youse be safe, now, muttered Dronk gruffly. Taka, as a joke, turned into a perfect replica of Dronk and said, "We will, thank youse very much." Everyone burst out in gales of laughter as Dronk harrumphed and turned away in embarrassment.
At last, the time for farewells came to an end. Vulcan rose into the sky majestically, greating huge gusts of wind that blew the hair from Tenris' and Elric's faces. The three humans and two monsters waved at their friends, on the back of the King of the Skies.
Taka relaxed as Relcia put her arms on his shoulders. He gripped the scales of Vulcan's neck as Lauren sat on his lap. We're going home, he thought simply as his wyvern friend carried them to the one place that he had missed most - Mediatas Village.
Taka's heart leapt when the Desert Sea at last came to an end, and the familiar sight of the Wet Rainforest came into view. They were back in the Central World at last!
During the long journey back home, Taka had replayed the adventure that him and his friends had gone through these past few days - arriving in the Mysterious Beyond and protecting Canyon Village from a rogue Pariapuria, fighting the Gobul and meeting Tartu, talking with Helix and Dronk, the epic battle with the Lumidusa and later, the Renalimas and the Vengeful Gobul. They had lost Taahnn, who had died saving Relcia's life, but other than that, it had been a great and massively fun adventure for them all.
After what felt like an age, the Wet Rainforest disappeared behind them, and Taka saw with tears in his eyes the sight that he had been looking forward to ever since he had left - the sight of small, innocent Mediatas Village, sitting in the middle of a medium-sized grassland, bordered by the Barren Desert, Idyllic Ocean, and other locations.
Vulcan began to descend, coming in for a landing in the centre of the village. Taka and the others braced for the bumpy landing that they knew was coming - after all, wyverns weren't Hunting Planes, which had smoother landings than anything Taka had ever seen.
With a shriek, Vulcan landed, using his talons to brake and sliding forward a few feet on them. He took a step back to steady himself and crouched down, allowing everyone to disembark. Taka sighed as he took in the familiar sights of his home village.
He was home, and that thought made him truly happy.
The Elder asked to see them right away. He wanted to know about the Mysterious Beyond - what monsters lived there, if the war was still going on, and other things. Taka took a deep breath and began to tell his story.
The sun was setting when Taka had finished his story. The Elder was silent for a long time, and then he croaked, "I am truly sorry for the loss of Taahnn. I am also sorry that Mylie departed in such a... dishonorable way. But this mission was one of great success, it seems."
The three friends remained quiet as the Elder continued. "I shall inform Hydra that her contacts in the Military Bastion shall now maintain contact with the Mysterious Beyond, as well as Moga and Minegarde as always." Taka grinned - he had completely forgotten that Hydra was now the captain of the patrols that kept the Central World safe.
As if he had read Taka's mind, the Village Elder smiled thinly. "Hydra has waited with much anticipation for your return, Taka. She probably wants to see you and the others," he said, gesturing to Illeera and Relcia. Taka nodded gratefully, but didn't say anything. The hour or so of storytelling had made his throat sore.
The three friends found Hydra with her monster companion, a Basarios named Geon. Hydra's back was to them - she was totally focused on the Herbs she was growing - and it was only when Geon exclaimed, Taka! that she turned around.
Taka opened his mouth to say hello, and suddenly couldn't find the breath to do so. Hydra had snared him in her embrace, and didn't let go until he started wheezing desperately for air. By now, Relcia and Illeera were in the middle of a giggling fit that left them gasping as well.
When Hydra had let go, Taka was finally able to say, "Hello, sister." He said this with a grin, and his grin grew even broader when he got a better look at her. "Tell me, did you gain weight? If I didn't know any better, I'd say that you were..." His voice trailed off and his smile faded as he realized the truth.
"Yep," laughed Hydra. It was her turn to grin as she broke the good news that she had been waiting to tell. "You're going to be an uncle, Taka." The seventeen-year-old just gaped as Illeera patted him on the back and said, "Congratulations, friend. Just hope you don't get asked to babysit in the future." Taka broke out of his stunned state and laughed along with everyone else.
Suddenly, Vulcan was amongst them. You're going to be an uncle much sooner than you think, Taka, he said cryptically. Before Taka could ask what the Flying Wyvern meant, Vulcan was walking away and saying over his shoulder, Come on and let me show you. You too, Relcia.
Illeera looked confused as the two walked off behind Vulcan. "I don't understand," she murmured to herself. "What business of Vulcan's would possibly concern the two of them?"
Hydra, who had overheard, bent down and said, "I think I know..." She proceeded to whisper in Illeera's ear, and when she had finished, Illeera had a broad, excited smile on her face.
The sun had completely set when they reached the cave. Reia was waiting at the entrance, along with Syrie and Zin. For once, the Fanged Wyvern managed to keep himself in check and not blurt everything out like he normally would. Syrie simply winked at Taka and Relcia, saying, You're not going to believe this.
Reia smiled fondly at the two friends. Nice to see you again, dear Taka. You as well, Relcia. But no more stalling, I want to show the two of you something. With that, she disappeared into the dark cave, indicating with her tail that they should follow her.
Cautiously, Taka stepped into the cavern, followed by Relcia and Vulcan. It was odd - Reia had never let anyone except Vulcan into her lair, ever. For the life of him, Taka couldn't figure out what was going on.
The lair consisted of a narrow tunnel that was just wide enough for an average-sized wyvern to fit through, then widened into a perfectly circular cavern that was big enough to fit a dozen of them. A small hole in the ceiling let moonlight through, illuminating the centre of the den. Bones and shed scales littered the floor.
In this particular spot, there was a shallow pit covered with leaves, grass, and other soft materials. Sitting in this pit were three glistening white eggs. Taka took a deep breath - he had never seen wyvern eggs so close up before. The pure simplicity of them sitting innocently in their nest was enough to bring tears to his eyes.
He and Relcia both stopped walking when they were near the edge of the nest. Vulcan was behind them, and Reia was making herself comfortable on the other side, lying on her side as if preparing to sleep. All of a sudden, Relcia gasped and pointed to one of the eggs. Taka took a closer look at it and gasped as well - the shell was beginning to crack.
Vulcan drew closer, wrapping his wing around them comfortably. Relcia clutched Taka's hand as the egg continued to crack. Eventually, the shell had been damaged enough for a small section of it to break off. Slowly and cautiously, a small, grey head emerged from the egg.
Taka felt as if his heart would burst with love at the sight. The Rathling chirped pathetically as it tried to force its eyes open. Glued together with slime, its eyelids slowly retreated, allowing the chick to get its first good look at the world around it.
Its beautiful blue eyes fixed on Vulcan. It instinctively struggled to break free of its egg, desperate to get to the being that it instantly knew was its father. Rapidly losing energy, it stopped, panting slightly.
That's when its head turned toward Taka and Relcia. Just like it knew that Vulcan was its father, it knew that these two humans were also family. Successfully breaking free of its shelled prison, it tried to scramble toward them, only to fall flat on its scaly face.
Taka laughed good-naturedly at the sight of the slimy Rathling trying to get to its feet, random bits of eggshell sticking to it. Relcia sighed and wrapped her arms around Taka's waist. He knew that she was completely at peace here in this cavern. Taka knew that he should be at peace too, but something was nagging at him, causing him to worry. Our troubles aren't over, he thought privately, in the back of his mind. Tartu and Mylie are still out there, and I bet they'll form a new plan to take control of the many regions before long.
Involuntarily, Taka smiled as the wyvern chick continued to struggle to its feet, and as the other two eggs began to shudder and crack. Tomorrow, he decided. Tomorrow, I will worry. But not now.
Taka slipped an arm around Relcia and held her close as two more infant Rathlings hatched and spread their wings to embrace their new world.