Erador spied Windweaver in the distance and began to heat his deadly breath. Vapours poured from his nostrils. The joy of ravaging was again upon him, and he had put aside the words of the tiny Sidhe during the long flight. He dived from a great height, hoping to catch Windweaver by surprise. Erador loosed a huge blast of white flame from his maw. Windweaver had seen Erador. He jumped, agitating his cracked knee joints. The dove flew off Windweaver’s back into the jet of flame. Even the ashes of the dove were lost amid the dark smoke surrounding Erador’s breath. Windweaver’s left flank blackened from the proximity of Erador’s flame.
Karamindakas’ spirit watched the battle in despair. Erador’s rage had not been wholly daunted by the words of the Darkenkell Sidhe. In the grove Karamindakas’ left side blistered, and he cried out in reflexive, mindless pain. Asleep, Stephen did not hear his Master’s cry.
Erador swooped high into the air and trumpeted victory, for he did believe the dove to be Meliane in disguise. His surprise attack had worked, and Erador relished the first fulfillment of his revenge. Refusing his lust, Meliane would nevermore savor her flesh. The dragon turned in the air to make another pass at Windweaver. Suddenly, Erador cried out in agony as his wings were beset by flocks of shadowcrows. He tasted mortal wizardry in the air with his serpentine tongue. He could not shake the shadowcrows off his wings, and he could not vent his flame upon them without injuring his wings. Erador knew of shadowcrows, the baleful spirits, made from the very substance of a dark spirit. The living silhouettes pried their sharp beaks under the dragon’s scales to peck at the tender flesh that pulsed there.
Erador shrieked in agony, crashing into the earth with the shadowcrows, stuck on his wings like leeches. Erador righted his bulk off the ground and stood there as he swung his long muzzle from side to side, searching for the wizard who had dared to launch so potent an attack against him. Erador thought, "The human must be close to do this to me."
The rest of the shade’s substance stood in the shadow of the grove of trees and laughed at the pain he caused the Emperor of Glered‑nigh.
Windweaver stood distant from Erador, lest the dragon should breathe his fire again. Windweaver was amazed at his good fortune at seeing the corrupt battle each other. The unicorn bided his time, waiting for the chance when Erador would drop his guard. With Erador grounded, Windweaver could strike. Yet he needed an opening, or the dragon would burn him to ashes ere his charge was completed.
Sitting on his haunches, Erador searched the area. He fought the agony that the shadowcrows inflicted on his wings and kept one eye on the unicorn’s sharp horn. Then, he saw a darkness within a darkness: A mortal wizard’s foul shade floated among the shadows of the grove. Screaming in agony, Erador turned his neck to face the spirit and blasted it with his most caustic bile. The shadowcrows fell from his wings and sunk below the ground, following their Master’s essence.
Windweaver charged as Erador cremated the human’s spirit. His horn pierced the dragon’s scales. Ichor spouted out the wound and covered Windweaver. Blinded by the ichor, the blackened unicorn sprang back from the dragon.
Erador roared in pain, lurched forward, and crushed Windweaver under his bulk.
The dragon launched himself into the air, his mind awash with the pain of his wound. He flew back to Glered‑nigh. The gaping chest wound spouted the black ichor that served as Erador’s blood. Striking the ground, the ichor assumed the shape of dark serpents, tunneling into the deeps of the world. The drops of ichor from Erador’s wings became shadowcrows in the manner of the kind that inflicted the wounds. The shadowcrows flew away and mocked Erador with their coarse caws. Humiliation mixed with his pain: These were the offspring that he had dreamt of having. The dragon reached his cave and bound his wounds with his spittle. He slept without dreaming for a full turn of the seasons.
Windweaver started to run back toward Meliane, but the ‘corn stumbled again and again. Reaching the tiny grove, his strength spent, Windweaver collapsed and breathed in short wheezes. The shadow of death silenced the animals of the grove.
In Karamindakas’ proper time, the snapping sounds of breaking bones filled the air as his body contorted to resemble Windweaver’s fractured body.
A dove landed next to Windweaver and melted to the form of Meliane. She had waked from her sleep and had felt the immortal tear grow hot against her bosom. The diamond had reminded her of Windweaver, of her memory, and of her sorrow. She comforted the unicorn until death. Mad with grief at the loss of her perfected hero, she let loose her spirit, and fairest Meliane died with Windweaver.
Windweaver’s death catapulted Kara’s spirit back to his dying body. His eyes lifted to see the translucent shade of Windweaver at the center of the grove. Next to Windweaver, the shade of Meliane stood. Death had not severed the bond between them. Groaning, the wizard tried to get up, but he fell down, gasping in pain.
The shade that had been Meliane spoke:
"Your spell roused the grove’s memory. Windweaver and I crossed back, drawn by the forces your spell invoked. Human, you have linked your destiny with ours. Dig in the earth that you lie upon and find some small benefit in your sacrifices for us."
The shades departed slowly, becoming more and more ephemeral. Karamindakas grasped the blue stone around his neck with a bleeding hand. He thought of Stephen.