As I approached the clearing I had my first glance of the creature. My breath caught in my throat. How could anyone call such a magnificent beast a monster? It had killed a deer, a great white stag. It gripped the carcass with its talons, ripping out chunks of flesh with its powerful beak. Its hind paws braced it, claws digging into the dirt, tail twitching from side to side, like a cat’s.
I stepped from the treeline. A branch snapped under my foot. I froze, but it simply continued feeding; it had nothing to fear, not the King of all creatures. I could sense my brothers in the trees around me. They weren’t there to help me should the beast attack but to see whether the prophecy would be fulfilled. I waited.
It finished its meal and looked round at me. I wanted to run, but that would have been certain death. Instead, I slowly walked deeper into the clearing, stopping before I got too close. It moved towards me. My heart was beating so loudly I was sure the beast could also hear it. I had to stay still. They value courage above all else. It halted in front of me. I’m a tall man but I found myself staring at the feathers at the base of its neck. Maybe it was monster.
It reared with a shriek that pierced the air, unfurling its massive wings, its talons snapping inches from my face. I managed not to flinch. It lowered its head until its beak was level with my nose. I stopped breathing entirely. I was looking into the eyes of a gryphon. It stared at me, studying me. This was no mere animal.
It stepped back and bowed, spreading its wings close to the ground. I couldn’t believe it. The King of beasts was submitting to me. I ran my hand over the soft feathers of its neck and down the muscular back. I looked up and saw my brothers emerging from the trees. One after the other they dropped to one knee. Othos knelt last, a look of disbelief on his face.
I mounted and settled my knees in the hollows between its shoulders and wings. With the first flap of its wings it shot into the air. I did not expect such a large animal to get airborne that quickly. I threw my arms around its neck as the trees fell away below me.
The gryphon turned towards Thunderhead Mountain. It knew where I wanted to go without me having to steer it, not that I knew how. I was flying a gryphon! No mortal had ever done something like that. As we soared over the highest peak I spread out my arms and did a summoning spell. From the four corners of the sky the winds rushed to me, gathering the storm. Lightning flashed around me as my mount ascended above the clouds. The power was intoxicating.
I pulled the sword from the scabbard at my waist. The opal in the hilt glowed with black light as it sensed the magic in the air. We dove into the centre of the storm. I held up the sword and lightning hit the blade, again and again, drawn to it by the most powerful of spells. The gryphon flew through the tempest, unperturbed by thunder or wind. We rode the storm until the blade was glowing with fierce blue light and I could see the flashes of lightning in the stone on the hilt. I had done it. I, Malthus Gryphon-Rider, Warden of Thunderhead Mountain, Mage of the First Order, had captured the power of the storm.