We wingless ones feel a special empathy for those whom the society rejects. Nonetheless, we struggle to comprehend the actions of wicked creatures such as the vile despot, Queen Talona, and her ruthless mother, Soundringer. I remind myself, however, that this despot was a misunderstood youngster at one time, and that Soundringer loved her only gryphon chick with a fiery protectiveness that few could truly comprehend. She desired only the best for Talona and so she kindled within her the desire to ascend to the most powerful position in the gryphonic community, that of Premiere Queen. Unfortunately, in her fervor to secure her daughter’s advancement, she drove her into a pit of madness, the sort of insanity that unmitigated power sometimes ignites in those who are destructively insecure.
I had a dream one night that provided me with a certain insight into the two gryphons that many of our people judge as being of “low-to-no moral character”. I have written it down in my journal:
Talona screeched as she left the company of her three hated half-sisters, Sunsky, Mountain Rain, and Cloudhopper. Father Sun Quest had recently heaped yet more public praise upon the trio but he had, as usual, completely ignored his only chick by Mother Soundringer. It seemed that he would forever favor his daughters by his perfect “One True Mate”, the oh-so-wholesome matriarch, Skystar.
Tal flew off enraged into the sky, careening down near the jagged rocks until she was close enough to crash into them; and she then veered away at the last minute, saving herself from impending doom. After a while, she tired of her dangerous game and landed on a rocky ledge to rest. As the chilling wind whipped at her fur and feathers, the memories of her chickhood resurfaced.
The scene was vivid in her mind. Talona, then known as “Tal”, remembered herself as a young chick under attack, retreating into the air to escape her tormentors. She felt the painful bites of the other high-class gryphlets as they chased after her. One of them plucked a feather from her wing. There were many youngsters in the sky, each one of them taking turns diving at her, but there were three chicks in particular that held the most impact for her.
“Father Sun Quest loves us, but not you!” the youngest princess cried out merrily as she chased Tal through the air. This one was Mountain Rain, the worst of her three half-sisters. She reached out with her beak and plucked another feather out of young Tal.
“Careful, Rain!” the eldest sister, Cloudhopper, called. “We don’t want to send her crashing down into the rocks, do we?”
The middle sister, the one who would be queen of Gryphonia later in life, lagged behind. She darted in and out, half-heartedly nipping at Tal’s side and then falling back. Tal could sense that this princess’s heart was not in the attack but even so, she did not attempt to stop it. This was Sunsky, the “gryphon of courage” that the oracle Truth Speaker had predicted would rise to rule Gryphonia.
Sunsky was always her most hated nemesis, even more so than the villainous Mountain Rain...perhaps it was because Sunsky was such a little goody-goody, like her mother Skystar. Tal was nonetheless surprised at how little energy this chick, the top favorite of Father Sun Quest, held within her for the assault. Talona the adult gryphon remembered her as being much more vicious, but perhaps she had overestimated her rival for the Stone Throne. It suddenly occurred to her that Sunsky was chock-full of weaknesses. She had no stomach for the fight! The young Tal decided to change tactics. She swooped down low, surprising her pursuers. She then circled around to the rear and rammed her beak into Sunsky, delivering a mighty bite in the process. Sunsky quivered and nearly fell to the rocks below, but the sneak attack had raised the ire of the little sky demon, Mountain Rain. The youngest gryphon flew headlong into Talona and clawed her savagely with her talons. Tal returned the attack, and the two little chicks floundered in the air until they fell into a thorny bush below. The thorns pierced Tal’s skin and she screeched in pain. Mountain Rain seemed oblivious to the pain and continued the attack. Tal countered it by pulling an especially thorny branch back and letting it snap into Mountain Rain’s head. This time, the nasty little creature bellowed noisily, to Tal’s perverse delight. Immediately following her small triumph, Tal fell down into the thorns, the bush so thick that it nearly choked her.
“How dare you attack my sister?” Mountain Rain cried from above. “She will be queen one day, but you are only next-in-waiting. You will be waiting and waiting and waiting to be queen, but it will never happen. You are the daughter of the dreadful Gossip Queen and everyone hates you.”
Tal felt the words sear her soul. Her beloved mother, sarcastically known as Soundringer the Queen of Gossip, swooped in and picked up her tormentor by the scruff of the neck, tossing her aside onto the mountain rock. She reached down with her left claw and gently helped her young daughter up out of the bushes. Tal wailed out her pain, pressing her head against her mother’s breast.
“There, there, my dearest chick,” Soundringer soothed her. “Those dreadful little monsters of Sun Quest’s will one day regret their actions. I will make sure that you become queen in Sunsky’s place.”
As soon as the gryphon mother’s words entered her young mind, Tal felt a jealous rage welling up in her for Sunsky, the one who would be queen. She felt as though she would like to kill her and Mountain Rain, leaving the eldest sister Cloudhopper to watch their demise helplessly. She wanted to torment these three privileged brats, just as they had tormented her.
“One day, little Tal,” Talona screeched to her younger self, within the echoing chambers of her own mind, “I will get them for what they did to you.”
And thus the gryphonic community planted the seed of fear within the heart of its most vulnerable chick...the one who would later be known as “the Monster-Bird Queen” of Gryphonia.
The scribes once wrote that the world of Gryphonia is “alone among the stars, an oasis of life in a galaxy riddled with dead worlds”. Unlike those dead worlds, Gryphonia is a diverse world that is full of life. Its population includes gryphons, winged horses, hippogryphs, gargoyles, and hophas, to name just a few of the many life forms that inhabit the planet. The hophas (known in some spheres as humans) are relatively new arrivals to the world, having traveled through the dimensions in starships so that they might escape conditions on their own depleted world.
The hophas felt extremely fortunate to have landed on such a gem of a planet and so far have restrained themselves from running roughshod over it. Ironically, it is the hophas themselves who were responsible for naming the planet after a large portion of its population: the gryphons who inhabit the world are everywhere. A curious mixture of what appears to the hophas to be leonine and aquiline features, the beings both fascinate and terrify the hophas.
The gryphons, for their part, consider the hophas to be mythological creatures. The avian felines are very parochial, seldom straying very far from their home in the mountains. Since the hophas inhabit the land that the gryphons call “The Flatlands”, the two species have interacted little if at all.
To the gryphons, “Gryphonia” is not a planet but instead comprises their particular home territory. There are gryphons of the mountains, the valley, the seashore, and the forest. Each group considers their own area to be “Gryphonia”. It will be the gryphonic beings of the mountains, however, that will one day forge an alliance with the dreaded, two-footed hopha creatures.
I am Tale Weaver, an elderly scribe and the teller of the stories of Gryphonia. I am the one who receives visions from my sister, the oracle Truth Speaker, and through her guidance I perceive not only the actions of the other beings from the outside world, but I hear their thoughts as well.
I am that which the gryphons call a kryphon, or a wingless female. I am confined to the ground, unlike my gryphon sisters who have wings to soar in the sky. My kryphon nanny brought me up in the mountains among my wingless brothers, who are known as keythongs. We comprise the gryphonic servant class, and the elders train us from birth to serve the Great Winged Ones. We, the wingless, are all supposed to be sterilized at birth so that we do not over-populate and grow more numerous than those of the winged class. I must confess, however, that there are those among the wingless who have deliberately evaded such an unjust fate.
I am one of those wingless rebels who refused to cooperate with the dictatorial laws contained within The Gryphonic Code. That irritating piece of legislation forbids the kryphons and keythongs to mate, even with each other. At an early age, however, my gryphon mother chose to remove me from the legal chains of my society and she instead brought me to a wonderful, free place called “The Forest Lake Nesting Site”. I have lived here all of my adult life, and I have welcomed the rejected ones from all over Gryphonia to join the lake, the trees, and me in creating a sacred retreat outside of the demands of the rigorous, class-based societies. It is here that you will find the mystics, sages, oracles, hermits, rovers, and other creatures that were once cast-aways of their own communities. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, we remain cloaked in mystery. Until the dawn of the New Age of Freedom, it will remain so. Nonetheless, I am a scribe, and I will tell my tales to whoever wishes to listen.