April 706 Cristos Reckoning
The sun shone brightly in the clear spring air. Quickpaw and I are in the central courtyard of the Keep. A crowd of spectators is watching from the gardens nearby. It seems strange that I am the one being taught about my new body. That, though Morningstar entrusted to me raise Quickpaw, now she would be the teacher and I the learner. Be that as it may, I find her to be a more than adequate teacher.
"Most Gryfin learn the basics of flight within their first four months." Quickpaw explains to me "I learned well at only three. This was why I was named Quickpaw." And indeed it seems she has always been an overachiever, even reaching maturity nearly a decade early. I ruminate on the point that it was a good thing too, for without wings of my own, I could never have taught her what she now teaches me.
I have my right wing out at full extension as she points out the various feathers and their respective jobs in flight. "These feathers," she says as she points out the uppermost feathers of the wing, "are called Coverts, there purpose is to make the transition from body to wing as smooth as possible. This is even more important on a Gryfin than the average bird as the cat body isn‘t built in quite the same way."
"The secondary feathers here," she points out the next layer of feathers down the wing, "are intended to direct the flow of the wind, giving you greater control for fine maneuvering, such as for catching your meal." She then moves on to the trailing feathers.
"These feathers act as lifters in a way, by moving them in certain ways while in flight," and here she demonstrates for me. I copy as best I can "they will help you to glide on the air currents without having to pump your wings so much, and still not end up falling to the ground. It is a most efficient way to scan for prey, or enemies and also to simply enjoy the freedom of flight."
Together we conduct some flexing exorcises, and practice a few simple maneuvers while on the ground. Snickers could be heard from the crowd that had gathered nearby, but hey, we all have to learn something new with the change don’t we. I take it in stride all the same.
Then we move on to the most important part of flight. "The landing, is something that simply has to happen eventually." Quickpaw explains most animatedly. She sends me mental images to coincide with her words. "The important thing is to flare your wings as you approach. This slows you down enough to prevent injury. Then you land hind paws first, following with forefeet. In this way you soften the landing even more than the flaring of the wings."
"That doesn’t seem so difficult." I send.
"It isn’t really, though learning is not usually an issue. With Gryfin, the knowledge is already there. It is shared through our bond. You just need to be reminded of it." She chuckles "I believe it could be called a racial memory of sorts."
"Well, that's all I can show you on the ground." She informs me. "Are you ready for your first flight?" This she asked with a wry grin on her voice.
"I guess I am as ready as I will ever be." I respond with a sideways glance at the crowd being entertained at my expense. "We should charge admission, if I am going to make a fool of myself, at least we could make something out of it."
Quickpaw chuckles inwardly, "Just ignore them, someday they may be begging for a ride." She thinks back for a bit "I don't know about you, but I don’t think I will readily be giving rides any time soon." This time I chuckle.
"Yes, you‘ve been giving them for many years haven't you?"
And so I assume an apparently seated position there in the courtyard and spread both wings out. I made one final check of my seemingly limited knowledge and then it is time to begin.
With a grunt I kick my hind paws out with all my strength and thrust my wings down fiercely. I repeat the thrusts a few times and before I knew it, I was almost a hundred paces into the air.
My first flight seemed to me to be far from graceful, anything but straight and level for that matter. But flying I was, and it felt good. Quickpaw of course was flying by my side giving me a few instructions to smooth the ride out a bit. "Very good Kiska, you're learning even faster than I did." We both laugh.
The feeling of the air flowing through my pelt and feathers is beyond description. It is like being lightly tickled and massaged all over. The sound of the wind flowing past my ears has a haunting and peaceful quality to it. I feel like I could stay up here forever.
I can barely believe it. I am flying. Not riding on Quickpaws back, though that had its charms that I would certainly miss. But actually flying under my own wings. It is best described as euphoric.
Together we fly side-by-side as she shows me a few basic aerobatics. I try to duplicate them, often meeting with reasonable success. Back flips, Barrel rolls, Nosedives and a myriad of others are done over and over again. I was having a blast, and loving every minute of it. We practice landing and taking off again in a clearing some miles from the Keep. I nearly fall flat on my beak the first time, but quickly get the hang of it.
Before I am quite ready though, the sun is sitting on the horizon. "We should head back to the Keep." Quickpaw says, "Even with our great vision, flying lessons at night in potentially hostile territory can be dangerous."
"Yes," I reply, "though I am having a great time, my wings grow weary."
"That means you have had a good days flying, come," she indicate the mountains, "lets grab dinner on the way."
Together we spot a small herd of mountain goats not too far up the great mountains. When she says “grab dinner”, she means that literally. I watch as she swoops out of the sky and, with one tarsus, she cleanly snatches a random goat off the ground without even landing. The goats neck is snapped in her beak before the animal even knows what hit it.
"As you can see," she informs me as she returns to my side, "hunting for a Gryfin is almost no problem at all. They almost never see you coming."
We return to the Keep with our meal to the “oohs” and “ahhhs” of the guards and locals. Together we land back in the courtyard with a pair of thumps, and a small storm of wind and sand.
"A very good first flight Kiska, any Gryfin would be proud to have done so well." My neck feathers ruffle up in obvious pride.
"Why, thank you, I have a very good teacher." Now its her turn to blush
Together we trot to the area of the refuse bin and eat our meal without ceremony. After we carefully placed the bones in the bin we began our walk to the guest barracks that had been assigned as our temporary quarters. We are met along the way by many who are quite pleased to meet us. While most cannot hear our projected responses, we nodded to many greetings, and hellos.
As we enter the barracks we are met by a small group of Keepers who are diligently working to clean up the mess created by my change. Duke Thomas is among them.
“I have arranged for quarters better suited to your special needs,” he informs us, “or, I should say Kyia has arranged them, very similar to the quarters of our resident Weather Dragon, Saroth. He sometimes likes to uh, ‘take a flying leap’ out of his front door.” Then he laughs, “I suspect that you two are of much the same inclination given how much time you spent in the air today.”
This is unexpected, "that's really not necessary," I respond "but well accept it all the same, thank you." I say with mirth.
Together the three of us walk back out of the barracks, and the Duke points out a specific tower. “At the top of that tower you will find a door that should be large enough for you to enter. You will have the entire top floor. The only time it’s used otherwise is in the event of siege. I am told that Matthias is very excited to talk with you. If I know him, he is probably up there waiting for you already.
"Thank you lord Thomas, you are a most kind and gracious host. I hope that we can be of service while we are here. Should you need anything, please ask." I cannot begin to thank him for the hospitality shown us. We truly feel safe here, and that is something that has not happened many times before. In fact, the last time was many years ago, with the elves. Together we leap into the air, and fly to the top of our tower.
As we were told, there is a spiral stair in the middle of the tower leading down in a left turn, quite adequate in size for us to go through. The floor below the roof is spacious, and well lighted through the several windows. We can see for literally miles in all directions except those blocked by the other towers.
Surprisingly, Matthias is not waiting for us. So we occupy ourselves instead by making a bed of the straw that was left for us. Once the nest was adequate, we settled in and Quickpaw begins showing me the nuances of mutual grooming. It isn't long before we are both quite occupied in the preening of each other’s feathers while occasionally stopping to nuzzle one another.
It is only about twenty minutes later when the sound of scuffling feet, or rather paws could be heard in the stairwell. We pause our grooming and look to the doorway, which had been left open, and in walks our friend Matthias and a rather pretty lady rat we had not yet met.
“Ah, I see you've settled in, I do hope you enjoy your new apartment.” He says, with a smile. He then sets a few lamps alight on the wall, as it is getting darker outside now. “I would like you to meet a very special friend of mine. This is Lady Kimberly.”
"Much pleased to meet you, " I send as I bow my head.
"Yes, this place is quite nice, please convey our thanks again to the duke." Quickpaw responds. "He seemed of the opinion that you would have been here already, I hope we didn’t interrupt anything." She sends with a mischievous tone.
“This I will do,” he informs us, then he grins. “I uhh, decided to bring Kimberly to meet with you.” His ears and whiskers droop in mild embarrassment as he hugs his lady close; she squeaks happily. Quickpaw and I mentally smile. They are a very nice couple. “All that said and done though,” his face gets a look of utter confusion “what in the name of the nine hells happened last night? I have seen many transformations, but nothing like that.
We both laugh. "And it is unlikely that you will ever see another. The only reason Kiska became a Gryfin is because of the Ethereal Magic in the orb. It acted as a filter and guide for the curse, and then enforced a series of changes that allowed the Ethereal to make him into a true Gryfin. It is difficult to explain and we have an intimate understanding only because it worked through us.
"Essentially, the reason for all the wind, and resulting damage, was the battle between the curse and the Light Magic of the Ethereal. We saw the whole thing in our heads." I send.
"It was like talking to a child." Says Quickpaw. "The curse couldn’t understand what was happening. It’s used to getting its way, and this is the first real fight it has faced in that respect. But the Ethereal Magic could only be related to as an elder, an authority figure as it were. It acted like a child, and threw a temper tantrum. But in the end a compromise was reached."
"We do not yet know the full extent of the curse's influence on my form," I inject "but we do know that I am a true Gryfin in that I am a creation of the Ethereal Magic. The curse was necessary only to facilitate the infusion of that Magic. And all of it would have been impossible were it not for the bond of love Quickpaw and I share. We are sure that we will learn more when next we meditate."
Charles looks dumbfounded, but excited at the same time. “I was there, and I hardly believe this story, it’s just so fantastic, many will not believe it.”
"We have many stories that are almost unbelievable. Let me tell you about the secret and unknown history of the lutins." For once it is Quickpaw that gets to tell the stories. She has heard them so many times through our link, its only fair that she tell them herself now.
And so it goes for many hours. It is a nice change of roles. She telling the stories that I have always been the one to tell. And learning from Charles and Kimberly the many aspects of Keep life. He tells us of the patrols and the invaluable role they play in antagonizing the enemy. He then mentions that Misha, the fox we met earlier, was out in the forest for nearly a year alone, and somehow survived to return.
He tells us of the Keeps variable geometry, how it changes at will for no apparent reason other than that it wants to. He told us that the Keep is a living thing, informing us about Kyia, the spirit of the Keep.
Finally, the time came that the two love-rats had to attend to other things, namely sleep. "If you wish, we could walk with you." I say.
“No that's ok; you probably need some time alone together.” He winks “besides going down is much easier than up.”
"Very well," I send. "We look forward to meeting with you again Matthias and Lady Kimberly, friends of Gryfin." With these farewells, they depart down the stairs, Quickpaw and I blow out the lamps and settle in the straw bed to snuggle in the starlight.