In many of my stories, I have delved into the past happenings of the gryphonic society, before the reign of Queen Sunsky ushered in the new dawn of freedom for wingless and other previously oppressed life forms. It is time now that I weave a few tales from this time of awakening:
The Attack of the Gorwalian Empire Part One
Groundsky, the new keythong king-in-training, dashed madly out of the healer’s den behind his official mate, the kryphon Fluff Feather. The couple had just discovered the most triumphant news possible from the physician, Light Healer.
“Rug-a-bug!” Groundsky cried. He ran into his mate, apprehending her from the side. “I can’t believe the news, can you, Fluff?”
“Our first live birth gryphlet,” Fluff Feather replied dreamily. “We will be the first wingless ones to birth a gryphon, Little King. Imagine—I, the wingless one, will give birth to a winged creature!”
“We will be the first wingless ones from our own mountain territory,” Groundsky corrected her. “The keythongs and kryphons of Forest Lake have been doing it for several sun revolutions.”
“Oh, humph-a-dumph-dumph, Groundsky!” Fluff Feather trilled. “Don’t take away from our victory over those silly gryphonic traditions. We are not from Forest Lake and therefore, we are the first ones.”
“It doesn’t matter to me, my love,” Groundsky countered, “whether we’re first or not. I just want our little gryphlet—or opiniclet, for that matter—to be a happy l’il winged thing.”
“I suppose we shouldn’t be more excited about the birth of our winged offspring than we would be about the hatching of a wingless chick.”
“No,” Groundsky agreed, “but it just so happens that our very first chick or cub will have wings, that’s all. She will be a gryphon, in all probability, but it is possible that an opinicus may spring forth from your precious womb.”
“I would be just as thrilled to birth a winged male as a winged female,” Fluff Feather stated. “The idea that only the birth of a gryphon blesses the family...well, that notion is antiquated and obsolete, now that your mother is the ruler.”
As Fluff Feather announced the passing on of old traditions, a cub with some unusual physical traits interrupted them. It was Groundsky’s hippopinicus son, Kingdreamer. “Rug-a-bug-bug!” Kingdreamer cawed, pouncing on his father. “Will I have a brother, Papa Groundsky?”
Groundsky regarded the unique being with great pride. Kingdreamer was the son of his former lover, the hippogryph Grass Hopper. There were very few hippopinici in existence, for most of the hippogryphs (or gryphon-horse hybrids), were born female. Kingdreamer possessed both the head and wings of a gryphonic being and the rear body of a horse; but his front legs were elongated leonine paws instead of a hippogryph’s avian talons.
Kingdreamer was but five sun revolutions old. He was full of vigor and fun, and he adored making up little dramas for his parents and grandparents. Groundsky guessed that his son would probably become a tale weaver or an actor of some kind, for he had more interest in being a drama king than a ruling monarch. It was not quite what Groundsky had in mind when he named the cub “Kingdreamer”, but the New Path had opened up far more choices for youth than ever before.
“You will have either a gryphon chick or an opiniclet cub as a sibling, Kingdreamer,” Groundsky replied to his son. “We know only that the infant will have wings.”
“I hope it’s an opinicus, like Grandfather Dreamspinner,” Kingdreamer stated his wish succinctly. Groundsky’s father, the spirit king Dreamspinner, shared a close bond with his grandson, Kingdreamer. Perhaps, Groundsky thought wryly, that is how Kingdreamer inherited his drama-loving ways. Father Dreamspinner was the official mate of the reigning monarch, the oracle-queen Sunsky, but everyone knew him as the drama king when he was courting Sunsky. Even now, Dreamspinner often insisted upon dramatic entrances and exits.
As if he had been listening from a distance, Dreamspinner tumbled into their midst from the sky. “O Blessed Son and Daughter of My Heart! Do I sense happy news?” he asked eagerly.
“It will be either a gryphon or an opinicus, Papa,” Groundsky told him. “What do you think of that?”
Dreamspinner threw back his head and uttered a cheering screech as an answer, and young Kingdreamer joined him in the vocalization. “Rug-a-bub-bub, three cheers for the cub!” Kingdreamer cried joyously. Dreamspinner tapped beaks with his beloved grandson. Groundsky delighted in Kingdreamer’s variation of the nonsense phrase that he used frequently, ‘rug-a-bug-bug’.
Before there was time for any more hilarity, however, Groundsky’s winged brother Sun Wing landed in their midst. Sun Wing was Groundsky’s counterpart as the junior-king-in-training for the opinici. Each of the four groups of gryphonic beings, both male and female, both winged and wingless, had their own three-part leadership structure that worked in concert with the other three trinity structures. Sun Wing, however, was in no mood to speak of dry governmental matters. Clearly, something was disturbing him.
“Groundsky, Father Dreamspinner!” Sun Wing exclaimed. “We may have a problem. Our people have encountered a strange new species of gryphon!” Groundsky was not sure why his winged brother considered a new group of gryphons as problematic. He felt a surge of excitement at the possibility of interacting with a new tribe.
“Well, let’s go meet them, brother!” Groundsky cried. “What’s the problem? Now that our mother is in charge, new beings are welcome in our society.”
“Our mother is negotiating with one of their envoys as we speak,” Sun Wing informed him. “But I think the envoy was sent as a distraction. I have seen great flocks of two-footed gryphons circling our community. They hold pointed sticks—they remind me of the hophas and their ingenious inventions—except for the fact that these two-foots are clearly gryphons and not hophas. They have feathers, beaks, and talons just like us, but they are bipedal, unlike us. We need to warn the oracle queen right now.”
“Very well, Sun Wing. We will go together,” Groundsky agreed. He turned to his mate. “I’m sorry, Fluff. As the junior king of the keythongs, I need to check this out. You must go back to the den and keep our little one safe.”
“Nonsense, Groundsky!” Fluff Feather scoffed. “Why do we need to fear gryphons with sticks, even if they are funny looking? I am going off to hunt rodents, as Kingdreamer and I are quite hungry.”
Groundsky was about to protest, but his father Dreamspinner butted his head with his beak. “I will look after Kingdreamer, Groundsky. Let Fluff Feather bring him some food, while you and Sun Wing investigate the situation. I am sure it will be fine, because Sunsky has not called me in as yet; but if there is a problem, send a messenger to me and I will come immediately.”
“Yes, Papa,” Groundsky replied. He took off at a run, as his brother Sun Wing flew overhead. It was not long before the pair ran into the strange beings, both in the air and on the ground. Groundsky did not see the four winged creatures apprehending Sun Wing in the sky, as the sight in front of him fully captured his attention. A troop of bipedal, wingless creatures carried pointed sticks, and they were aiming the weapons directly at Groundsky. The odd appearance of the beings startled him: their hind legs were leonine but were capable of bending at the knee, rather than forming a hock, as was normal for gryphonic quadrupeds. Groundsky assumed the beings were kryphons because their forearms were avian, with five fierce talons on each hand.
“Halt!” a masculine voice commanded him, ending his assumption that these were feminine creatures. “You and all others in this society are hereby ordered to surrender immediately to the authority of the Gorwalian Empire. We are the foot soldiers of Gorwal the Great, Supreme King of the Krestins!”
Groundsky was speechless. Who were these...krestins? He had never heard of them before. He was surprised that they spoke the gryphonic language so well, in spite of a heavy accent. The lead soldier rustled his feathers, displaying a large crest on his head.
“Are you deaf, Gryphon?” the soldier barked at him. “Stop gaping at my crest and move! You are under home den arrest, and we will escort you to your den now.”
Groundsky thought it was best that he not try to explain to the soldier that he was a keythong, rather than a gryphon. Somehow, he felt that such a lecture would not go over well. Nonetheless, he did not want to lead the soldiers straight to Fluff Feather, Kingdreamer, and his father. “I am Groundsky, the son of our queen,” he said. “She is negotiating with an envoy of yours, I believe? Perhaps you could escort me there.”
“We will escort you to the queen’s den,” the soldier promised. “That will be your prison cell for a very long time.”
Groundsky did not argue with the krestin. At the moment, he wanted to distract the soldiers from his pregnant mate, his father, and his son. If they led him away from the trio, that would at least offer some protection for them. He could only hope that Dreamspinner and Fluff Feather would realize the gravity of the new situation and bring Kingdreamer inside the couple’s home den.
He marched alongside the army of ground soldiers, peering at them surreptitiously, to see if he could glean any information about them. The leader of the troop was quick to notice his glances. “Stop staring at us!” he barked angrily. “You will learn all you need to know about us from King Gorwal, I’m sure...if you are who you say you are. If you are not, you will most likely die.”
“I am Groundsky, the junior-king-in-training of the keythongs,” he stated boldly, attempting to ignore the soldier’s unsettling threat to his life.
“You are the king of nothing, now, Groundsky,” the leader said, in a tone that was a little less brusque than the one he had used earlier. “In our society, there is only ever one king, and that one is Gorwal.”
“We already have a government, led by my mother, Queen Sunsky,” Groundsky replied.
“Not anymore,” the leader said, a tinge of sorrow creeping into his voice. “We will bring you to your mother’s den, and you can warn her about the imminent attack. So far, we have encountered little resistance, and we expect to conquer this area fairly quickly.”
Groundsky was too shocked to answer. He trotted along beside the creatures until they arrived at the royal den, where the queen lived with her mate and parents. The keythong ground forces had gathered in defense of the queen, but they were obviously awaiting an order before they engaged the krestin ground soldiers. To his horror, he saw that the assault from the sky had already begun: leagues of winged krestins were battling the gryphonic air forces, known as the Flock of the Sacred Feather. Groundsky scrambled up onto the terrace and ran inside the den, frantic to find his mother and warn her. He knew, however, that his warning would be too late.
The next group of tales will take place during the Reign of the great gryphon queen, Sunsky. This is the last entry from my Forest Lake journal, concerning the time after the great changes came to Gryphonia.
From the Last Journals of Tale Weaver, at her home in
the Forest Lake Nesting Site:
…And so here I am in old age, sitting in my nesting den, remembering the time when gryphonic society finally shifted from the old ways into the new. The changes that occurred after the reign of Talona finally ended were indeed the building blocks upon which the New Society was created. It is difficult to believe that at one time, our gryphonic society deemed it acceptable to sterilize keythongs and kryphons and to use them as servants; or that gryphons used to fear hippogryphs and horses. The younger ones of today do not remember a time when gryphonic beings were slotted onto their life paths at birth based solely upon their gender, life form, or class.
Queen Sunsky and King Dreamspinner have been reigning for well over twelve sun revolutions. The twelve-point leadership structure that the former magistrate, Queenstar, put into place became the base of the New Society, which is also referred to as The Four Trinities. The Queen’s sisters, Mountain Rain and Cloudhopper, have moved into the second and third elements of the gryphonic queenship trinity, replacing the elderly Queen Skystar, so that she might enjoy retirement with her even more elderly mate, King Sun Quest.
King Sun Wing of the opinical kingship trinity moved into the intermediate leadership role and has long since learned the wisdom of cooperating with the opposite gender. He has also been blessed with a new mate from our own Forest Lake community, the gryphon poet Verse Scribbler.
White Feather, the young opinicus son of Groundsky, took over the third “junior” element of the opinical kingship when his uncle, Sun Wing, moved into the intermediate position.
King Groundsky of the keythongs has continued to make the changes to the societal structure that his mother, Queen Sunsky, began. Queen Fluff Feather of the kryhons, his constant companion, aided him in this endeavor. Both Groundsky and Fluff Feather were well trained in their leadership roles by Old King Ground Paw and Old Queen Egglight, before the elderly couple left the ground forever to return to their spirit nest in the skies.
Lionheart, the former law enforcement officer (L.E.O.), was killed defending the gryphonic mountain society from the power-hungry rogue king named King Gorwal of the Krestins, who challenged the New Society five sun revolutions into its reign. The gryphonic mountain society joined with the Forest Lake community to return power to the Four Trinities, after an extended dialogue with the remaining krestin leaders. Lionheart’s kryphon counterpart and mate, Queen Day Minder, survived the crisis and helped Groundsky, Sun Wing, and Fluff Feather to rebuild the society after the krestins had ravaged it. Eventually, Queen Day Minder graciously stood aside to allow the young couple, Groundsky and Fluff Feather, to move into the premiere role.
The young couples have proven themselves to be wise and responsible, and yet also creative, energetic leaders. They have raised their sons and daughters to be the same way in their chosen professions, although they have not tried to dictate to them which life path they should choose. Groundsky’s hippopinicus son Kingdreamer, for example, has not chosen for himself a governmental position as his name might suggest, but he has instead traveled to the Forest Lake Nesting Site to pursue the art of drama and acting.
King Groundsky and Queen Fluff Feather, rather than choosing one of their own offspring to train for the role of the “junior” kingship/queenship positions, opened up the third element of the keythong/kryphon leadership trinity for an election among the youth. The keythong and kryphon youth, in their collective wisdom, elected a king and queen of very humble origins, Ground Hobbler the lame keythong and Tealeaf, a dwarf kryphon. Both of these candidates were chosen, not because of their differences, but because the youth believed them to possess the courage of true leaders.
Moon Wing of the hippogryphs eventually re-joined the herd of her half-sister, Night Lover, and took over the reign from her when she retired. Queen Moon Wing is well-known among the hippogryphs for helping them to overcome their fear and mistrust of the gryphonic people and to forge new bonds of friendship. She has been aided in this task by her equine daughter Moon Drop, who has taken over her grandfather, Nightsky’s, role by acting as an ambassador between winged horses and the various species of gryphonic beings, including the hippogryphic peoples.
After becoming a hermit for a certain length of time, Talona, the former despot, left the mountains and went to our Forest Lake community. She recovered with the help of the soul healer, Snow Wing, the paternal sister of Truth Speaker the late oracle.
Talona helped Sunsky and her family to overcome the krestin leadership challenge, along with her friends from Forest Lake, Gripe Piper the gargoyle and Kowl the Wisdom Seeker, a cat owl. Talona, or Tal, as her friends named her, eventually created a new way to serve her society. Talona ultimately came to terms with her past actions and redeemed herself by working with “rebel youths”, young ones of all varieties who had been hurt or rejected in one way or another by their families and their societies. In this calling, she has finally found her true spirit, the one that was within her all along.
There are too many gryphonic beings within this narrative to recite all of their stories in one epilogue, but I will say that many of them have chosen much more creative paths than would have been open to them before the New Age of Equality.
...And so it is that I, Tale Weaver, put down my feather-quill pen and let the past go.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Young Ground Paw, the wingless keythong, trotted obediently behind the great and noble gryphon Queen. He had recently completed his training as a servant and at seventeen sun revolutions, he was ready to begin his life’s work. Like most young keythongs, he had been sterilized at birth. Queen Heartsong, his winged mother, turned around quite suddenly, startling Ground Paw. He froze in his tracks, intimidated by this royal matriarch, about whom he knew so little.
“Ground Paw, son of my egg-clutch,” she addressed him. “I called you into my presence so that I could assign you a new duty. I would like you to enter into service as a councilor-in-training. I want you to be more than a simple servant. I want you to be a member of the Council of Keythongs! I believe that you have the qualities that the council needs.”
Ground Paw bowed up and down like a mad creature. “I...yes, Great and Noble Queen Heartsong!” he cried. He did not, of course, understand what he was agreeing to do. A councilor on the Council of Keythongs? He had never, ever dared to dream of such a thing.
Over the next few days, he was briefed by his new mentor. Councilor Sunservant was only a few years older than he was, but he seemed to possess a wisdom that was greater than his age. Ground Paw listened to his teacher, astounded by this sudden opportunity that was gifted to him by virtue of being born of Queen Heartsong’s egg-clutch. He had no idea that the regal queen even kept track of her egg-born offspring. Like all other wingless beings in gryphonic society, keythong and kryphon guardians had raised him along with his other grounded relatives.
“As a councilor-in-training, Ground Paw,” the all-knowing Sunservant advised his student, “you must set an example to other keythongs and kryphons. You must show them what they should strive to be: the perfect servant, the one who puts others before himself or herself, always...and remember, Ground Paw, that means also that we wingless ones must remain without a mate at all times.”
Ground Paw’s determination to become “the perfect servant” faltered as soon as Sunservant referred to the state of celibacy that was forced upon all wingless ones. As a young adolescent—even if he was a sterilized one—he harbored a certain rebellious attitude toward the idea that the wingless servants should not mate. He managed to keep his anger repressed long enough to get through the lesson, but he knew that he needed to visit a special friend very soon—before he became inundated by the “privileges” of being a servant councilor. Everyone knew that the council of servants held no real power in gryphonic society. Even so, he would need to be careful when he went to see the beautiful kryphon nanny named Egglight. Queen Heartsong had bestowed upon him an extraordinary honor and he did not want to disappoint her.
After Sunservant had finished his rather lengthy lecture for the day, he ordered Ground Paw to go for his evening meal. He was very hungry after taking in so much mental information, but his hunger took second place to the more pressing desire of finding Egglight and walking with her one last time, before his duties inundated him forever. It was not a reasonable desire, but Ground Paw was in no mood for reason tonight.
Fortunately, Sunservant had been especially talkative during the day and the sun had long set at the time that Ground Paw obtained permission to leave. It was dark enough for him to steal secretively to the sacred terrace where Egglight tended to the royal princesses and princes, the winged offspring of Queen Heartsong and her consort King Lightning Bolt.
“Egglight!” Ground Paw called out into the darkness, as loudly as he dared. “Will you come to me, one last time?”
A wingless kryphon stepped out of the gryphons’ lair, her head-feathers ruffling.
“Ground Paw, what do you mean by coming here to me, at my place of service? I am a nanny of young gryphlets! If their parents see you and I together in their territory, they will demote both of us!”
Ground Paw rustled his own head-feathers slightly. He and Egglight were both wingless, yet they were a contrast to one another in terms of their forearms. While Egglight’s feathered forearms included sharp talons, Ground Paw’s were completely leonine, like his winged counterpart, the opinicus.
He was always careful not to offend his kryphon friend, but at the same time he needed to make his feelings known to her.
“Egglight,” he pleaded with her. “I need to see you one last time. I will be going into service as a councilor-in-training, so that I might one day serve on the Council of Keythongs. It is a great honor bestowed upon me by our noble Queen, but I am nonetheless troubled. Once I begin my duties in earnest, there will be no more moonlight walks for us upon the paw-bridge.”
“Ground Paw!” Egglight hissed. “I am of course pleased that our wonderful queen has blessed you with such an honor, just as she has blessed me with the care of her dear gryphlet chicks. I, in fact, respectfully recommended you to her for the position of councilor-in-training. That is why I must refuse your request! And besides, do you think that as nanny to Queen Heartsong’s winged progeny, I can afford to take any more foolish walks with you upon the paw-bridge? We are adults now! May I remind you that we were both sterilized at birth for a reason, that we might mind our duties more than our desires? What sort of ridiculous romance can two wingless servants possibly enjoy? We cannot produce young of our own, so what need have we of mating? Go now, before I scratch your eyes out.”
Ground Paw backed off slightly at the very thought of Egglight’s fierce talons blinding him in one swipe.
“Egglight, I know it must seem foolish to you, but...”
“Yes, it does, Ground Paw...very foolish.”
“...but I must see you one last time before my service begins in full,” Ground Paw resumed his passionate entreaty. “Do you not long for one last...encounter?”
Egglight twitched her tail in irritation. “No, I do not, Ground Paw!” she shrieked into the night sky. “Go now, before we awaken the Queen and King!”
Ground Paw hesitated. There was the sound of a scraping talon against rock, and a small figure fluttered down from the top terrace.
“Young Princess Skystar!” Egglight boomed. “What do you mean, coming out of your den during the night time?”
“I heard you and Ground Paw speaking, Nanny Egglight,” the young gryphlet Skystar announced. “I think you and Ground Paw should go for a walk upon the paw-bridge. It is the perfect night for it—the moon is shining in all its glory!”
Egglight stifled a screech, wary of awakening Queen Heartsong, the mother of young Skystar.
“This is none of your business, Mistress Skystar!” Egglight scolded her. “You are far too adult for your own good. Next thing you know, you and that scamp of an opiniclet, Sun Quest, will be taking night-flights together. I won’t have it! Back to the royal den with you!”
“Oh, Nanny Egglight!” Skystar grumbled in consternation, flapping without enthusiasm back to the top terrace. “You never want anyone to have any fun.”
In spite of his anxiety about having been discovered by the young princess, Ground Paw barely managed to stifle his guffaw. “It seems your charge wishes me to succeed, Egglight!”
“Ground Paw, you are far too sly for your own good!” Egglight admonished him. “But you must think of your own situation. If you are caught taking an illicit walk with me, your opportunity to become a councilor on the Council of Keythongs will be obliterated. Then, you may as well become a cart-goat, making deliveries to mid-class mountain families. Do not risk it, Ground Paw!”
Ground Paw thought about the loss of opportunity that might accompany a simple walk with his beloved Egglight; but he felt anger rising within him. Why should he have to choose between his friendship with the kryphon he loved and his livelihood? Was it not enough that they had been sterilized at birth, robbing them of the right to fully love each other? The gryphons that ruled them seemed intent on destroying the future happiness of the wingless ones. None of this was just or fair, but he knew that Egglight was right about one thing: We must live in the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. If he took the walk with Egglight, her future livelihood as a caregiver would be in jeopardy, too. He knew how much she treasured her work, and demolishing her efforts with the young ones was definitely not something that he was willing to do.
In that moment, Ground Paw made a decision that he would spend the rest of his life both defending to himself and regretting: he turned around and departed silently from his dearest love, letting his love recede gently into the darkness of the night.
Here in the Forest Lake Nesting Site, we have one elderly hopha living in the area. Her name is Gara the Rover. We gryphonic beings also know her as The Two-Foot-in-residence. She hikes around the lake at least once a week, and we often see her collecting nuts and berries outside a small shelter. She fashioned her abode from tree branches and leaves, expertly weaving the material together with vines from the forest.
Once in a while, Gara the Rover will join our Story Circle and regale us with the tales of hophas and their treasured friends, the winged horses. This, then, is her tale:
There once lived among the equine community a strong leader named Mountain Pounder. This majestic, black winged horse was the Chief Stallion of his herd, having won the leadership ten seasons ago after a fight with an elderly horse, Midnight Bonfire. One fateful day, Bonfire’s young grandson, Redfire, thundered in upon the harried harem to claim his family’s right to the leadership position.
“I am here to conquer you and take over your mares, Old Mountain Pounder!” Redfire cried as he lunged at the dark horse in mid-air, “I do this in the name of my grandfather!”
The two stallions immediately engaged each other in a fierce mid-air battle, biting into each other’s bodies with their sharp teeth and using their hooves as lethal weapons. They spiraled down from the skies toward the ground while Redfire flailed at Mountain Pounder’s head with his front hoof. The older stallion was determined not to die as he fell, dazed, away from the younger horse’s vicious bites and kicks. He used his powerful wings to sweep himself back up into the air, preventing a fatal fall onto the mountain rocks. He flew off, bruised and bloody, to the sound of his rival’s whinny of victory. That foolish young upstart, Redfire, dared to steal the post of Chief Stallion right out from under him! Mountain Pounder had no choice but to surrender to his fate: he was now a lone stallion whether he liked it or not.
His one consolation was that a young, wingless filly named Goldmare abandoned the herd to follow the fallen chieftain. Female horses on Gryphonia all tended to be wingless, with only a few rare exceptions. He knew that Goldmare had always held great admiration for him and that she was deeply in love with him. He allowed her to stay with him in his solitude and Goldmare grew into a beautiful golden mare. She gave birth to his son, a black winged foal who she named Nightsky.
. Nightsky learned to fly by watching and imitating his father, who took great delight in the young colt’s early attempts to leap into the air. It was not long before the son of Mountain Pounder was taking to the skies with his father, leaving Goldmare far behind.
Goldmare never complained. She took as much delight in her son as Mountain Pounder did, although she could not fly. “Nightsky, I am proud of you,” she told him, through the ages-old practice of equine telepathy, when he came home from a freedom-flight. “You are a strong flier, like your Papa.”
“I just wish you could come with us, Mama,” Nightsky replied. “It’s not fair that you get left behind all the time.”
“It is as it is,” Goldmare stated philosophically. “I learn much from the grounded world...but tell me, what creatures do you see on your flights? Mountain Pounder says the Lower Mountains are filled with gryphons.”
“Yes, I see them often,” Nightsky informed her. “I think they are very beautiful. Papa says he tried to mate with one once, but her mate drove him off.”
“If you mate with gryphons, Nightsky, you will become the father of a hippogryph one day. I have seen some of those eagle-horses in the valley on occasion. They are magnificent creatures!”
“We also had a glimpse of some very odd-looking creatures,” Nightsky added. “Papa says they are called ‘hophas’, or two-foots, and he also says that they are very dangerous. But I felt their emotions strongly! I believe that they love the equines and want to make friends with us.”
Goldmare whinnied in her anxiety. “Mountain Pounder warned me about the hophas. He says they are not to be trusted. He says they will make us their slaves and ride about on our backs. The hippogryphs say that they have enslaved the winged stallion named Grey Tree of the Valley.”
“Perhaps the hophas could be tamed,” Nightsky suggested. “We could train them to respect our freedom and set Grey Tree of the Valley free.”
“Nightsky,” Goldmare warned him. “They will never respect us...not if they enslave us and make us carry them around on our backs! You must be very careful. I know you are fascinated with creatures that are different from us, as I am; but we must not forget that we are horses. We must run or fly from such arrogant beings as hophas.”
Nightsky seemed to acquiesce to his parents’ advice, but Goldmare knew that he harbored a secret desire to befriend the hophas as well as the gryphons. She could sense his thoughts, even when the young colt believed that he was hiding them from her.
There came a day when the family of three could no longer avoid the fearsome hophas. On that fateful day, Mountain Pounder led his mare and son through the forests of the lower mountain, grazing on the tender grasses and plants that grew more plentifully as they traveled nearer to the valley. Suddenly, Mountain Pounder brought his head up with a snort.
“The hophas! I can sense their odious presence.” He told them. “Goldmare, take young Nighsky and hide among the trees. I will not be bested this time by yet another enemy.”
“Mountain Pounder!” Goldmare called after him as he bounded into the air. “Be careful. You should retreat from them and go no closer.”
“I will protect the family that is left to me!” he whinnied back at her as his wings propelled him into the air.
Goldmare’s protest was lost in the mountain wind. Mountain Pounder flew until he saw the two-footed trolls readying their ropes. They had a contraption with them, as usual: it was a square structure, with round log-like things under it to move it forward. To Mountain Pounder, it looked like a trap. After his humiliation at the hooves and teeth of Redfire, he was determined not to lose his dignity again.
The two-foots looked up into the air excitedly, pointing at the winged horse and preparing a stick-like implement. They tossed a rope into the air, somewhat clumsily, the stallion thought.
In a burst of pride and in the desire to protect his family, Mountain Pounder made a decision. He decided, in that moment, to do what no horse had ever done: he chose to attack the hophas first, before they had a chance to assault him and steal his freedom. He soared over them, flailing at their furry heads with his hooves. They dropped the ropes and dove for cover, to Mountain Pounder’s delight. He turned around and flew back in for a second attack, landing on the ground and biting one of the golden-tufted males on the forearm. The creature screamed in pain, while a second one brought out the stick-like implement. Mountain Pounder reared in the air, narrowly missing the head of a smaller male. One of their females uttered a high-pitched scream. The hopha with the stick-like implement made a clicking noise and a yellow burst of energy hit Mountain Pounder squarely in the chest. In a fit of agony, he realized that he had underestimated the fighting genius of the two-foots: they had used the implement to throw some strange weapon at him. He felt his heart thud like thunder, and he fell to the ground dead.
From the grove of trees, Goldmare and Nightsky watched in horror.
“Papa!” Nightsky cried, but to no avail. He and Goldmare saw the hophas gather around the equine father, embrace him with their forearms, and make sad wailing noises. It occurred then to the son of Mountain Pounder that the hophas had not intended, or at the very least, had not wished to kill the big stallion. He felt their remorse at having killed a winged king, and for some reason he could not hate them. He looked in the direction of a small, black-tufted male who stood off to one side. The youth spotted the two horses watching among the trees, and he turned and ran towards them. He shouted in a language that neither Goldmare nor Nightsky could comprehend, but they both understood that the youngster was trying to chase them away so that the others would not attempt to capture them.
Goldmare needed no urging to leave the scene. She nudged her young colt and the pair galloped off into the wooded terrain. When they had run far enough, Goldmare halted and screeched her grief and rage into the skies.
Nightsky remained silent for the rest of the day. He felt the terrible loss of his father, but at the same time he felt a growing determination within himself to go one day to the hophas and find this youth who had possessed the courage to break away from his herd for a moment to ensure the freedom of Mountain Pounder’s mate and son. He felt that he and this hopha youth were somehow destined to make peace between their peoples, so that one day there would be no more deaths such as the one that befell the proud stallion Mountain Pounder. Goldmare sensed her son’s determination, and she too decided that she would one day go to the hopha, if only to rescue her son from their wily clutches.
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.
I am the author of a new fantasy novel, "The Gryphon". I have been writing fantasy stories since I was seven years old. More recently, I have published free stories on fiction sites; but this is my first published book of prose.