Mystic Journeys

A Memoir of Kiska Gryfin

by Coal Train

Chapter Four

The Gryfin set a slow, but steady pace while carrying her delicate cargo. Thereby allowing the keepers to join her and surround them as a type of impromptu guard. Shortly after departing, the sound of soldiers could be heard coming up the road from the Keep.

"Ho, Misha!" Hogan called. "The threat is no more."

A dark furred fox stopped short when he witnessed what his soldiers were escorting to the gates of Metamor. This surprised the soldiers behind him. "By the gods, it is a Gryfin." He gasps, but being the seasoned soldier he is, he quickly regained his composure.

"Is the uh, stranger with you?"

"Yes sir. But he has been badly injured in a fall. He will need a healer quickly." Hogan replied.

"The Dukes orders are to keep him safe at all cost, I was not told why, but I now have my suspicions." He said as he glanced at the Gryfin, he then turned to the rabbit morph next to him.

"Cathal, return as swiftly as you can and see that the eastern gate is cleared of anyone not absolutely necessary. Then inform the Duke that our Guests will be arriving shortly and will need medical attention."

"Yes sir." The rabbit warrior replied as he bolted off with the speed his jackrabbit kin are renowned for.

The company was greeted at the gate by a few guards who unabashedly stared wide-eyed at the spectacle before them. Without a word though they opened the gate and make way for the company. Once comfortably inside, they were greeted by a rabbit by the name of Phil, A rat named Matthias who happened to be an associate of Wanderer, and Duke Thomas, the horse king himself. Cathal was busy searching out a healer.

"Good day milord," Misha called, "I suspect, given the nature of our guests, there is a need for some secrecy."

"Yes, of course, you have done well Misha. How is the human?" The Duke asked, staring in disbelieving awe.

"He has an injury to the head of some concern. From my understanding, the Gryfin refused to let anyone else carry him. But it has been exceptionally gentle. What do you want me to do with them?" With that statement the Gryfin glares at the fox. It is clear she doesn't like to be ordered about. But for Kiska, she will begrudgingly follow. She dare not leave him alone with these strangers.

"Place them in one of the larger guest barracks, I trust you will personally handle security. For their own protection I want them guarded at all times." The horseman said with an heir of authority in his voice. Then he mumbled under his breath. "To be host to a Gryfin, we are truly blessed."

The companions were then escorted into the castle. They went past the library, through halls past the holy houses of the various gods. The sound of footsteps echoed through the nearly deserted halls. Finally they come to the guest quarters. Here they are taken to a simply furnished, but adequately large room. Several bunks were placed about the walls. Quarters perhaps for the entourage of a visiting dignitary or noble. Though it looked long unused, there was no odor of neglect, mold, or dust.

The Gryfin chose apparently at random a bunk on the far wall and lowered herself so that the humans may carefully place Kiska on the hard bed. Presently, a wolf-morph female enters the room, the dark cloak she wore flowing about her. the rabbit warrior was with her. She has the heir of weary confidence that only someone with great responsibility can have.

"Raven," Phil, the rabbit said, "you didn't have to come yourself, it's just a simple knock on the head."

"I know, but I had a feeling I might be needed and right now I have no pressing matters." Hardly sparing the Gryfin a glance she walked to the bed and began to examine the man.

"My apologies master Phil. I could not find master Coe, and Mistress raven just seemed to appear before me." The warrior says.

"Tis quite alright Cathal, you've done well. Thank you. I wish to speak with you later if you have the time." Phil replies.

"Yes, of course, I shall meet with you in a few hours if you wish." The warrior is then dismissed and leaves to turn his borrowed gear in.

The blood had long since stopped flowing and the back of his head was a dried and matted mess. His angular face, somewhat smooth, and apparently tanned in color, was framed by long hair, almost the color of the night sky, which was haphazardly strewn about the bed beneath him.

He was wearing a tattered gray cloak, leather fur lined boots of a type unfamiliar to her, loose fitting leather breeches again unfamiliar, and a thick woven shirt in the southern style, all made and worn in a fashion that spoke of a well traveled man. All of this was noted and filed away in her memory as she began to examine the wound.

"This is no simple knock on the head Phil, by all rights he should be dead." She finally said after several minutes "his skull is cracked, and I can see with my healing vision that there is swelling of the brain. I can heal the physical injuries with some time, but he may never come out of the coma." At this, Quickpaw's neck and head feathers ruffle in agitation.

"Please do what you can," the Duke asks. "For obvious reasons we have many questions that we would like answers to."

"Yes, I can understand that, leave us for now. I will do what I can for him; I will need cool water and clean cloths. Also have Pascal make some of her healing salve for me."

"I believe I can handle that." The rat says as he departs to get the needed materials.

He returned a surprisingly short time later with a large pot of water from the spring, and a stack of fresh cloths neatly arranged on a small cart along with a bowl of some rather unsavory smelling concoction. Raven thanked him absently and proceeded to wash the wound and cool the man's feverish head. "I'll be right outside if you should need anything else." He then left the room to sit upon a chair in the hall. Here he made small talk with the guard.

Raven worked silently for a few moments, occasionally glancing at Quickpaw. Then she spared a few minutes for quiet conversation. "Good morning Gryfin, it is a pleasure to meet one of your kind. If you choose not to talk, I will understand, but I would ask your names if I could, I am called Raven."

Quickpaw thought this over for a bit. Not many humans (or morphs for that matter) know how to project thoughts correctly, but what could it hurt. "I am called Quickpaw, and he is my bond-mate Kiska" this took raven by surprise.

"Bond-mate?" She says aloud, then quickly glances to the door, realizing her outburst. Then she continued mentally. "Uh-huh, I didn't think it was possible between a Gryfin and a human."

"By the histories of my people there has been but one comparison. But that was with an elf. It is something done only in dire need."

"If I may ask your ages?"

"I have forty-three summers, and he has seventy-five now. We have been bonded companions since I had but two."

"Then you are not mated!" Usually a Gryfin isn't mated until it is about fifty or perhaps as late as sixty.

"No. My bond with him is that of a child to a parent," Quickpaw reflected on recent events. With a sigh she continues. "But this must change soon if a proper mate cannot be found."

"I see." With this the conversation ended for a time while Raven finished her ministrations. "Now it is a battle of time." She said aloud. "If anything should happen you can call to me anytime." Raven then gets up to leave, "oh, I almost forgot to ask, how long have you been in the area?"

"We have been within the influence of the curse now for two days and a night. And I thank you for your offer, but unless I can see you, I am unable to touch your mind. Without a bond, our telepathic abilities are limited to line-of-sight."

"I pray that he will be up and mobile in time then, the curse may not take him until the seventh night, or perhaps longer, but not more than two weeks. I will be in from time to time to visit in case you need anything."

"Yes, that would be welcome, thank you." With this the wolf morph left the two companions in peace. She had much to think about. Quickpaw looked to her bond-mate, "oh Kiska, please wake soon. I don't want to loose you." Then she drifted off too a slow and restless sleep.

Chapter Five

My dreams faded into a fog upon my mind, the sounds of voices in the background, muted, as if heard through a forest in the heat of summer. I slowly open my eyes, and see twilight through a glass paned window, the last rays of sunlight warming my face and eyes. I quickly closed my eyes again to ward off the pain in my head.

"Good morning sleepyhead" Quickpaw's soothing voice was like gentle music to me. "Or I should say evening really."

"What happened," I asked, "where are we?"

"We are at Metamor, and you were so busy fighting Lutins that the forest knocked you out."

"Ugh, this I know, I was asking about the blue ball, it was the last thing I saw before I went out."

"Ah, yes, of course" there was a smug pride in her voice, "it would appear that I have harnessed the element of water. That was an ice orb." Of course she knew what I meant, we share all thoughts after all.

I couldn't help but to smile, despite the pain the light caused as I open my eyes again. "Once again your name proves itself accurate, you are almost a decade early."

She looked to the floor mournfully. "Yes, I know, I almost wish it hadn't happened." Then she perked up. "It would appear that someone is interested in your staff."


Behind my resting form, at a small round table made apparently of darkly stained oak near the door stood a fox, a jack-rabbit, and a rat. - They continued there conversation as I carefully reached for a cup of water left at my bedside for me.

"The script is obviously elfish, but it's a dialect I have never seen before, and the runes are just different enough to make translation difficult." Yup, the staff is definitely the object of interest. "But I am no expert, I have only been studying the written elfish for a few years." This would be the rabbit talking, his voice comparable to that of a small boy, but with an aged roughness that speaks of hard experience.

I supposed I should let them know that I have re-joined the world of the living. They`ve been so engrossed in their conversation that they hadn`t notices my movements. "You may have difficulty translating it. It was gifted to me by the elves of Calasmier in the Dark forests of the Giants. It is a land far to the northeast, I think. It has been so long. You have no maps that show it. Roughly translated it is an enchantment of strength and swiftness. As long as I have it with me, no weapon may damage it, and it will block a blow faster than I can see it. It also warns me of potential danger.

"That's quite fascinating." Responded the fox. He had the look of a very experienced soldier. "Cathal, would you please inform the Duke that our Guest is awake."

"Certainly, on my way." The rabbit replies as he Quickly left.

"Good evening sir, I am glad to see you are well. You had us worried there for a while. Perhaps introductions are in order." The rat-man says. He has a rather handsome look to him, as though he likes what he is and wants to look his best at all times. I immediately like him. He continues as he returns the staff to a nearby bed. "I am Matthias, and my vulpine companion here is called Misha. Our recent companion is Cathal. He is a recent arrival at Metamor.

"My name is Kiska, formerly of the Eastern Shore; you call it the oriental coastlands, though I now have no lord and no land." I have full attention at the mention of the Eastern Shore. I believe there are few on this side of the continent that have seen it. "My companion is Quickpaw." She bows her head as I mention her name. "How long was I out?"

"You've been sleeping for three days. We were quite concerned for you." Matthias responded.

"Three days! Dear gods, that means we will have to leave very soon."

"I am afraid you are in no condition to be moving about," the fox, Misha interrupted. "Despite Ravens healing prowess, even the slightest strain on your injury might kill you."

"Well, I suppose you two are hungry." With this simple statement, Matthias completely derailed my line of thought. "Are there any special requests for dinner?" He asks. At this point I realized that I had not eaten for more than three days.

"I am hungry enough to eat a horse, literally." Quickpaw said with a mental smirk. "But out of respect for our host, who is one, ill take anything raw." I laughed. This drew a blank look from the pair.

"We will have to figure something out to do about this before it is too late." I tell Quickpaw "not that I would mind a change in my form so much, but it might affect our bond detrimentally." I then returned my concentration to the topic of dinner.

"I will take whatever is left over from the last meal, I am not too picky about such things. But my companion is strictly carnivorous, so any uncooked meat should do for her." They both looked at me, then to each other. The fox nodded his head and Matthias left to fill the request.

Just as the rat was leaving, A large equine morph entered the room, followed by a female wolf and a white rabbit. "This would be our host Duke Thomas, the wolf is Raven, she can be trusted, I have spoken with her. And the rabbit is called Phil, I know little more than this about him." Quickpaw helpfully informed me.

"Greetings lord Thomas, Raven, Phil, I wish to thank you for your kind hospitality, and also to apologize for having caused any trouble for you." To my surprise, none of them seem surprised at my knowledge of their names. Or perhaps they were, and just hid it well.

"You've been no problem at all" the Duke responded animatedly.

"Quite to the contrary, you have rendered a service of incalculable value to us." The rabbit pipes up.

"Yes, were it not for you, we would not have been able to thwart what has proven to be a large and surprisingly well planned attack on local trade caravans." Duke Thomas adds.

"Pardon me?" I had a look of incomprehension on my face, and even Quickpaw was somewhat surprised.

"You were being watched by one of our observers in the forest. And had you not walked into the area that the Lutins were in, we may not have found them in time."

"How is that?" I ask.

"They had a spell of concealment, very simple but quite effective, it only works as long as the spell caster is not already known or engaged in aggressive actions." Raven says. "It seems you walked right into them, and the captain who was also there Mage couldn't resist the temptation of an apparently easy target and set to ambush you."

"Well, that answers my next question, but I was referring to my being followed, I had seen no one in the forest."

The horse walked to a window in the wall and looked our at the clear spring night. "We knew you were both here before you left the camp on the ridge. Once the Lutins were detected however, it became a priority to physically canvas the region for other groups. Thus far we have found nearly a dozen, the rest appear to be in full retreat. The last three days have been busy."

"This explains why the Lutins have been so quiet for the last several weeks." Phil injects "It would have taken Quite a while to get that many Lutins so far undetected, even with the aid of the spell. The spell fails as soon as hostilities start, or the group is detected."

"As for observation, we have our ways," the horse said as he gave Phil a knowing glance "lets just say that there is little that happens in Metamor that remains unknown for long, unless of course it is covered by magic."

Just then Matthias returned with a mouse morph pushing a cart on which is a large plate of food and an entire shank of uncooked pork. The aroma of the food is scrumptious." I do believe that whatever your preferences are there should be something here. Fruit, veggies, meats of three varieties, and even nuts and berries. I presume that the grain menu would not be appetizing." The mouse nods to the Duke and leaves without saying a word.

"Uh, yes, thank you Matthias, the selection is quite acceptable. I as wondering if Wanderer may be about. I was on my way to meet with him when I got, uh, sidetracked."

"Unfortunately Wanderer is somewhat elsewhere disposed at the moment. I am sure he will be glad to meet with you once he returns from his business. He's quite the storyteller as well I have been made aware are you." The Duke responds. "Phil and I were to meet you when you arrived but you were somewhat indisposed at the time." I am still somewhat disconcerted at the ease with which I was followed. In the many years that we have traveled we were never known before. Yet despite our expertise at secrecy, here we were discovered with ease. And in a way completely unknown by us.

"But I think it best that it wait for tomorrow." Duke Thomas says, "you probably would like some time to yourselves, and you still need much rest. "

"Yes" I reply, "that would be nice, thank you. I am sure we will be speaking again soon."

"We shall see you in the morning." With that the Duke, Matthias, Phil, and Misha leave, Raven stayed behind for a few moments.

"I have something for you," she says, "it is a safe bet that you have a monstrous headache, this is a potion that I had our Alchemist, Pascal make up for you. A shot of this should remove all, and I do mean all, pain for hours. Take it before you eat, it will help to prolong the effect."

"Thank you" I said as I took the small bottle, "I understand that you've spoken with Quickpaw."

"Yes, we have had a brief conversation while I was tending your injuries." She answered telepathically.

"I am quite impressed; most people do not know how to address a Gryfin." I responded aloud. "I just hope this curse isn't going to affect our bond."

"The curse is completely unpredictable. No one can say what will happen, but I have asked the gods for guidance for you." Then she continued in mind speak "I know that two of the possibilities could well destroy your bond, and perhaps the third is no better, all I can suggest is to pray, and hopefully a solution will present itself." With that silent hope, she left us to eat in peace.

I laboriously sat up in the bed and began to eat the delicious food. "We should meditate on this," Quickpaw said "perhaps the ethereal creator will have an answer to these problems."

"I hope so, lets be prepared to meditate in the morning, I am too tired tonight." We finished our meals after I took the painkiller and turn in for the night after I placed the soiled dishes back on the cart. My sleep however was restless.

Chapter Six

We woke early the next morning. Bonded as we are, we share not only thoughts, and personalities, we also share feelings, energy and even magic to an extent. Through our bond, we live as one, even if we are in different places. Therefore we also tend to sleep and wake at the same time as well. Excepting of course the unnatural sleep of sickness, injury, or magic.

After an abbreviated morning stretch routine we begin preparations for meditation. "Well, its a few hours before dawn," I sent "so now is probably the best time to do this."

"Yes, let us commune with the Ethereal together. The pain drug is out of your system, right?"

"Yes, I believe so, the headache is back, but not nearly so bad now."

With some difficulty I sat upright in a cross-legged position in the middle of the bed. I placed both wrists upon my knees palm up, I then closed my eyes and began the ritual prayer in the ancient language. Quickpaw sat across the room from me and spread her wings at an angle so that, had I wings, we would collectively create a circle. She closed her eyes and joined me in this transitive prayer.

"LORD OF THE ETHEREAL, CREATOR OF ALL THINGS, HEAR OUR PRAYER." This chant is repeated over and over again in the language of the ancients, until all sense of time is lost to us. And then as in times past, we are in the ethereal mists.

In times past though we could hear thousands of muted conversations as if we were in a crowded hall, unable to hone in on any one for more than a few seconds. Invariably though we came out of this state feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

This time though, we were greeted with silence. "LORD OF THE ETHEREAL, CREATOR OF ALL THINGS, HEAR OUR PRAYER." And then something new happened. The thousands of voices joined into one to respond. "I HEAR YOUR PRAYER. I AM THE ETHEREAL, I AM THE CREATOR, THE ONE THAT IS MANY. I AM LEGION."

The name of the lord and creator is a sacred knowledge. This knowledge is passed on to very few while living. It is forbidden to speak the name aloud or in open thought. It is a knowledge that confirms the true communion with the one. This is an honor beyond all others and a confirmation of unity with the Ethereal.


"YOU ASK TWO GREAT FAVORS, AND BOTH YOU SHALL RECEIVE." Then the voices faded to one voice, the voice of Morningstar.


"MOTHER!" Quickpaw alone responded.




With those words the ethereal mists fade, and we were returned to our own consciousness. Together we open our eyes to see the orb of magic floating in the center of the circle, illuminating the room in a blue wash of light. Matthias and Duke Thomas were standing in the doorway with a look of incredulity on their muzzles. "Wow." I said simply.

"Wow" Quickpaw repeated. As she collapses her wings to her side. "Mother told me it would be like this, back in the cave, when you took me as your own child."

"What in the name of all the gods just happened here?" Quickpaw and I turn to the source of the voice. It was Duke Thomas; he stared at the orb with awe and some alarm. "Uh, we're not interrupting something, are we?"

"No!" I responded "we were just finishing. Why do you ask?"

"We arrived just in time to see the two of you in some kind of trance, and then you both faded into some type of fog. I've never seen anything like it before. Then the fog lifted to reveal you and that ball of light."

"We've been here watching you for three hours. Ever since one of the guards informed us that something was happening." The rat informs us. Indeed the sun was now shining brightly outside.

I look genuinely surprised, I didn't know that happens when we meditate. "We were just meditatively communing with the creator. That is all."

"And what of that?" The Duke pointed with one hoof-hand at the orb.

"That is a gift from the creator, the answer to the problem of my pending change."

"Is it dangerous? May we safely enter the room?"

"As long as you do not physically touch it, there should be no problem. The creator would not harm any of us."

While they both still looked somewhat confused and bewildered, the answers seemed to have satisfied them.

"Your arrival has caused quite a stir." The horse finally starts. "I am afraid that despite our best efforts, you two are the talk of Metamor." He looked at me questioningly as he takes a seat. "I hope I am not being rude, but I have noticed that the Gryfin doesn't speak per say yet you and Raven seem to communicate with her. How is this possible?"

"We are understood when and by whomever we choose" Quickpaw responds mentally "we simply choose not to do so often, or freely. The subject must have a good heart, and an open mind." The Duke was momentarily surprised, but quickly regains composure.

"I was beginning to wonder why we hadn`t had hundreds of curious visitors by now. surely a Gryfin is not a common site, and as you say, rumors spread quickly." I reply to the duke.

"Yes, I suspected that privacy would be a primary concern for you, so we tried to keep your presence here a secret. I confess, we know little of Gryfin, we believed them to be extinct."

"We almost are," Quickpaw responded sadly "the dark wizard hunted us mercilessly after we refused to join him. My mother, she, she was the last of my kind I have ever seen. The rest have either been killed or fled this world as far as I know. "

"Were it not for Kiska," she looked at me fondly and brushed her cheek-feathers against my cheek, her version of a kiss "I too, would be dead. My time may yet be running short if a mate cannot be found."

"The Ethereal promised us that the problem of mate would be solved in due time, we must trust to that." I reassure her.

"Yes, of course, it must be a part of your human cynicism showing through our personality." We both chuckled.

"I am sorry," the horse responded with genuine feeling, not quite getting the humor "Nasoj has many crimes to answer for."

As breakfast arrived, the four of us trade small talk through the day. Matthias informs us that he heads the writer's guild and we trade many stories about our travels. Many of my stories of lands, events and peoples completely unknown in this part of the world.

I explained that I was born on the eastern coast of this continent. How I had left while only fifteen, fleeing an abusive father. We discussed the geography between the two coasts. Of my travels through a great desert to the north, the great planes in the south, two mountain ranges and a great river that seemed to have no beginning and no end.

We talked about the peoples and the cultures I had met. We briefly discussed the gifting of my staff by the Elves of the east when they discovered I was a companion to Quickpaw.

The subject of our meeting and resulting bonding inevitably came up. I explained that Nasoj was trying to move in more directions than this one, and that he personally had wiped out most of Quickpaw's clan while trying to crest the great Barrier Mountains to the east. I then told my story. The story I have retold a thousand times in my mind, but never, until now, to a living soul.

Finally with the passage of time, evening came, and I got a very distinct feeling that time was fleeing from me. "It is time." Quickpaw informs me. "The change will come soon, we must prepare."

"I really hate to end our discussion, but we must do something that will require our undivided concentration." I informed our audience, "if you wish, you may observe but do not interfere in any way."

"If I may ask the nature of this activity? Will it cause any harm to the Keep or her People?"

"No harm should come to anyone; the light magic of the Ethereal is powerful, but benign. Its purpose is only to guide my transformation so as not to harm our bond, and therefore Quickpaw through it." The two of them nod in understanding.

"He is a good steward of his people," Quickpaw said privately "I like this man, and this place."

"Yes, I agree, I find no reason to distrust any of these people. Maybe we have found someplace to call home."

With those thoughts Quickpaw and I once again took up our meditative positions and start to chant words in the ancient language, words given to our minds by the Ethereal. Words that defy translation and are as quickly forgotten as they are uttered.

Within a minute, my body began to levitate above the bed. The orb slowly grows in size until it encompasses us all. Then without sound or feeling, the orb collapsed to surround Quickpaw and I. It began to swirl and shift, changing colors as images begin to show in our minds

The curse tries to assert a shape; the image is one of a rather well endowed woman. That image is then shattered as the light magic counters the spell. The next image is that of a raccoon, it too is shattered. Images pass and are shattered or fade into a background until the curse runs out of images. Some ancient, many animals, a few other female forms as well as images of youth. Each image shattered or saved according to the feelings of acceptability from the two of us.

Then the faded images are brought forward again, and again many are obliterated. This continues for some hours until there are but two forms remaining. The images are those of the golden eagle, and of the panther.

Quickpaw's neck feathers were seen to ruffle as together, we have a sudden comprehension. Could it be that the light magic will force a new form into the curse? Perhaps even one that has been impossible before now? Then the words of the chant changed. The orb began to collapse onto the form of my body alone, almost skin tight.

The orb began to flash brightly, in a rhythmic pattern. A breeze began to flow within the room. Then that breeze turned to a furious storm. Furnishings and blankets flew through the air with the force, chairs shattered as they hit walls. Matthias and the Duke hold onto the nearest bed trying to find shelter against the wind. Matthias sheltering the Duke as well as he can.

The guards from outside, having been alerted by the sound of crashing furniture tried to enter the room only to find the door blocked by some strange transparent barrier. Through all of this the chant is unbroken, as if spoken by some heedless god.

The flashing of the orb continued for a few minutes and then the light became blindingly bright. So bright that the sun itself pales in comparison. Then the light faded even as the wind calms down. The glow fading to reveal the new body in which I found myself. Sitting in my place, was the visage of a Gryfin, wings spread wide, touching the very tips of Quickpaw's, and completing the circle. The smell of ozone was rich in the air.

My feathers and pelt are both a rather nice shade of black in color with a strange bluish hue showing as the light reflects off the feathers. A whitening at the ends of the beak and tallons that fades to the same black as my pelt. The same coloration can be found in the ear feathers, and the tips of my trailing feathers.

We both opened our eyes, and I saw through Quickpaw's view the image before her. "You make a very hansom Gryfin Kiska." She commented to me with a mental smirk. Then we both passed out, exhausted.

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