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There was no answer to the dragon's whisper. The crystalline dracona lay broken at his feet, but a tingle in the dragon's mind told him she was not gone, not yet.
"Skytouch," he hissed again, venting smoke from his massive nostrils. Those who had knocked her from the sky lay torn in pieces, just beyond the ridge. He had answered her cry in time to avenge her, but not in time to save her.
"Highwing," whispered a voice to his left. "Stay your grief! You must listen!"
He swung his massive head in anger. "Iffling! Are you here to view the dead? Leave us in peace!"
"Highwing," answered the shimmering being, "your quarrel is not with me. Will you not accept my help?"
Highwing blew fire over the iffling's head. The creature floated out of the way, unperturbed. "If you want to help, then show me who encouraged those ... ungarkkondoh ... to do this."
"They were followers of one whom we do not name," whispered the iffling. "They meant to instill fear. You must not let them succeed. You must listen."
Highwing ignored the meddlesome being. What did its words matter? His mate lay dying, victim of a senseless, savage attack. She had come from the Dream Mountain to sing the memories of the realm; but some, it seemed, no longer approved of such stories, though the telling of them was an almost sacred function of the draconae. Those ungarkkondoh had deserved far worse than the death he had given them in punishment. But it was he who would suffer now. Skytouch, why did I not stay with you?
"Listen to her!" urged the iffling. "Listen while you can!"
Highwing did not answer. As hegazed down at her broken crystal wings, beautiful even in the fading twilight, his eyes filled with memories of Skytouch under a noonday sun: wings of gossamer crystal riding the wind, eyes ablaze, her flight-song gladdening the air. Now her eyes were nearly extinguished. Listen to her? He reached out in thought. Skytouch?
Her left eye glimmered faintly. He tilted his head, narrowed his gaze to peer into the interior or her eye. Deep within its facets a fire still burned, though faintly. Skytouch, he whispered with his mind. Can you hear me?
There was a golden flash in the center of his vision, and an image danced in his eye: the two of them on wing, riding midday thermals. He sensed laughter, through the pain. But he could not return her laughter, not now. I wish I could take you back there, he thought. Or to the Dream Mountain. To the draconae, to the other females.
He was astonished to hear her voice in his mind. Skytouch--
L-i-s-t-e-n ... t-o ... t-h-e ... W-o-r-d-s.
His gaze penetrated deeper into the dying coals of her eyes, into the pain, sharing it. Listen to the Words? Now?
Her mind-voice strained to be heard. Y-o-u ... Y-O-U ... m-u-s-t ... r-e-m-e-m-b-e-r ... And before he could do more than quiver in surprise, another memory grew bright in his thoughts.