Arren and Eluna

Roland was woken up by the screeching of the griffins, as always.

He dragged himself out of bed and got dressed in the semi-darkness. He’d left a hunk of bread and an apple on the table the night before, so he stuffed the apple in his pocket and took a bite out of the bread on his way out.

The door to his quarters led straight out into one of the main rooms of the hatchery, and the instant he opened it the noise hit his ears. Yawning, he reached up and lifted a cage down from a hook on the roof.

In their pens, the griffin chicks called raucously. ‘Food! Food! Food!’

‘Sit tight there, I’m coming,’ Roland called back. ‘Roland’s here.’

They only screamed louder.

Roland set the cage down and put a heavy leather glove on his right hand. There was a door on the top of the cage – he opened it and reached inside. After a few moments of groping, his hand emerged holding a wriggling bundle of rats.

In the nearest pen, a brown griffin chick stood with its forepaws on the inside of the door. ‘Food!’ it screeched.

Roland dropped a rat into the pen, and moved on while the chick began chasing its breakfast. The other chicks clamoured as he visited them one by one, giving one rat to most – two for some of the older ones. He paused to touch some of them – most of them bit him for his trouble, but he was used to it. The glove protected his hand anyway.

Once he had fed the chicks, he opened a large pair of double doors and went through into another, much larger space.

This was where the adults lived. The room was lined with stalls, each one filled with straw that the grown griffins nested in. About half of them were occupied, but the rest of the adults were already up, and the noise was simply deafening. Adult griffins didn’t live well together, and there were already one or two fights going on.

Roland paid no attention. ‘Dermot?’ he yelled. ‘Where is he?’

A griffin had already sauntered up to him. ‘The boy has not come with our food,’ she said.

‘He should be here by now…’

‘He is not, and I am hungry,’ the griffin informed him.

‘I’ll see to it,’ Roland promised. ‘Just wait a little longer.’ He dashed off.

The heavily locked metal-lined storeroom was full of hanging carcasses, put there the night before. He began lifting them down, and carried them out one by one to distribute to the hungry griffins. It had to be done quickly, but even so he didn’t manage to do it quickly enough – almost as soon as the first carcass had appeared the griffins were fighting over it. Roland sighed to himself and returned to the storeroom. There was really no way of serving all of them at the same time, and even if there had been they would probably fight anyway. Adult griffins had never been meant to live together like this. Once he had complained about it to Lady Riona herself, but she had only said, ‘The Eyrie pays to feed and house those griffins who aren’t giving anything to us in return. If they want a better home, they can choose a human.’

But most griffins were extremely choosy. Roland knew that well enough by now.

He hastily distributed the last of the carcasses,  and went to wash the muck off his arms. It had taken him most of the morning, and he would still have to clean the water-troughs before he could have a proper meal. But he permitted himself a quick rest to eat his apple.

He loved the griffins who were in his care, even with all the work he had to do for him, and the ingratitude he always got in return. Griffins were naturally selfish; they expected the best and inevitably got it. But Roland loved them all the same.

Thankfully, his assistant turned up a few moments later, panting and red-faced.

Roland gave him a reproving look. ‘And where were you this morning, my lad?’

Dermot tried to flatten his hair. ‘I’m so sorry, sir, there was a fight in the marketplace and-,’

‘Well, it can’t be helped,’ said Roland. ‘Come on, let’s get these troughs cleaned.’

It was boring work, and tiring. ‘We can’t keep doing this by ourselves, sir,’ Dermot complained, after they’d finished emptying a particularly heavy one. ‘You’ll hurt your back one of these days. So will I, come to that.’

‘We manage well enough,’ said Roland.

‘I bet this was easier when we had a few slaves here,’ Dermot muttered.

‘It was,’ said Roland, ‘But those days are done, and I think our griffins prefer to be served by free men.’

Dermot glanced at him. ‘You shouldn’t be doing this job, sir. You’re a noble.’

‘I’m allowed to do what I love, aren’t I?’ Roland said mildly. ‘I’m needed here, and that suits me.’

‘Yes, but-,’

‘We both know who my father was,’ said Roland. ‘It doesn’t change anything.’

‘I’m just amazed none of the griffins has chosen you,’ said Dermot. ‘They always choose the nobles…’

‘I think you can finish with the troughs,’ Roland interruped. ‘Now if you’ll excuse me, I should go and feed the goats.’

There were several large pens of them outside – protected with thick steel bars above and below in case a passing griffin decided to help himself. Just now two of them were nearly empty, and Roland rubbed his eyes gloomily. He should have bought more stock from down in the village, but money was short…

Never mind. They’d manage one way or another.

He started work refilling the racks with hay and topping up the troughs. Later on he and Dermot would have to herd some of the fatter ones into a different pen and slaughter them so they could be prepared for tomorrow’s feeding. And he’d have to go and visit the rat-catcher before lunch, too…

He glanced up, and noticed a couple of people just beyond the goat-pens, coming toward the Hatchery.

Yet another pair of hopefuls, coming to see the griffins, perhaps?

Roland wiped a grubby hand on his tunic, and went to meet them. When he was close, he recognised them and his face split into a grin. ‘Why, hello! There you are! I was beginning to think you’d never come!’

The visitor did not smile back. ‘You sent us a message, my Lord.’

‘Several days ago if I’m not mistaken, Cardock.’ Roland folded his hands. ‘How are you?’

‘Well enough.’ Cardock’s black eyes were cautious. He was simply dressed, but the rough clothing of a commoner did nothing to disguise the tall, bony figure that made him look so different to the stocky Roland.

Roland turned to Cardock’s companion. ‘And you, Annir. Are you well?’

She was as lean as her husband, but she did smile. ‘We’re both well, my Lord. It’s good to see you again.’

Roland stepped forward to look at the small boy in her arms. ‘And if I’m not mistaken, this must be the little one I’ve heard so much about.’

‘My son,’ Cardock said, with a hint of pride.

The boy looked about three, and had his mother’s curly hair. He eyed Roland carefully.

Roland held out a hand. ‘Hello there, little lad. My name’s Roland. What’s yours?’

The boy looked as solemn as his father. ‘Arren.’

‘His name is Arenadd,’ said Cardock.

‘Arenadd Cardockson, eh?’ said Roland. ‘You must be very proud.’

‘Arenadd Taranisäii,’ Cardock corrected. He paused, and added stiffly, ‘I’m sorry we didn’t come sooner, but the boy’s been ill and we didn’t want to leave him behind.’

Roland put an arm around the Northerner’s narrow shoulders. ‘All is forgiven!’ he said expansively. ‘Come on, come inside why don’t you? I’m sure I can find something for you to eat while we have a chat.’

‘I suppose…’

‘Of course we’ll come,’ Annir butted in. ‘We’d be glad to.’

Roland took them in – giving the adult roost a wide berth and passing through the chick pens to his own door.

‘Sorry about the mess,’ he said once they were inside. ‘Now, just sit down and let me see what I can find here…’

Cardock sat down awkwardly at the little table with Annir beside him. She settled Arren on her lap and tried to make him comfortable while Roland bustled around the room, opening cupboards and muttering to himself.

‘Ah, here we go!’ he said eventually, returning to the table with a smile. ‘I knew I still had them around. Sugared almonds – just the thing!’

Sugared almonds were a luxury few commoners would have been able to afford. Annir and Cardock eyed them silently, as if they weren’t completely certain of what to do with them.

Roland sat down opposite them. ‘Try one, why don’t you? They’re just going to go stale if someone doesn’t eat them soon.’

Cardock took one, and turned it over in his long fingers. ‘Why have you asked us to come here, Roland?’

The cool black stare finally started to make Roland uncomfortable. ‘I haven’t seen you in three years. I wanted to know how you were getting along.’

‘We manage,’ said Cardock. ‘And you? Still enjoying doing slave’s work?’

Roland chuckled awkwardly. ‘It’s a living.’

Silence followed – cool, embarrassing silence.

‘Do you still want to leave?’ Roland said finally.

‘Yes,’ said Cardock.

‘He won’t talk about anything else,’ said Annir.

‘It’ll be a while before you can do that,’ said Roland. ‘After the war is over… I’m not sure you’ll be able to even after that – or if you’d really want to.’

‘The North is our home,’ Cardock said flatly. ‘My home. My father’s home. I want my son to grow up there.’

‘I understand,’ said Roland. ‘I really do. And… well, I want to help you.’

Cardock said nothing.

‘You’re my friend, Cardock,’ said Roland. ‘You saw it that way too once – and that’s how I still do.’

‘Our friendship ended after my father died,’ said Cardock, his eyes as cold as death.

‘I didn’t want that to happen, Cardock,’ said Roland. ‘You know I would have done anything to protect him-,’

‘He was innocent,’ said Cardock. ‘It was murder.’

‘I know,’ Roland said quietly. ‘And I never forgave myself for standing by while they did that to him. You know I’ve always wanted to repay you for what you did for me…’

‘You gave me my freedom,’ said Cardock. ‘That was enough.’

‘You need help,’ said Roland, suddenly firm. ‘You can lie all you please about it, Cardock, but I know the truth. You’re barely making enough money to feed yourself, let alone your family. The people down in Idun haven’t forgotten what you used to be.’

‘That’s my business.’

‘Well then let’s talk business,’ said Roland. He sat back. ‘As you may have noticed, we have rather a lot of goats around the place – terrible nuisance, but all part of the trials of caring for griffins, I’m afraid. We slaughter some of them every day for food, but of course the griffins don’t eat the skins, and we have no use for it either. So I was thinking that, perhaps, given your profession, you might take them off our hands?’

Cardock paused. Roland was offering him a potential fortune in free leather. ‘How much?’

‘A modest price will be enough,’ said Roland. ‘And perhaps the first batch can be free. As a sample, you know.’

Arren had begun to fuss. Annir gave him a sugared almond, but he only sucked on it for a while and then spat it out again and started to whine. Annir put him down. ‘There, you pick it up again if you want it.’ At that point, she realised what Roland had just said, and straightened up to stare at him. ‘What?’

Cardock folded his arms. ‘I don’t want your charity.’

‘I’m not offering charity,’ said Roland. ‘I’m offering a deal. A mutually beneficial one.’

‘I don’t need-,’

Annir put a hand on her husband’s arm. ‘Cardock, stop it. Just stop it.’

He glared at her. ‘Annir, this is none of your-,’

‘It’s all of my business!’ Annir snapped. ‘We can’t eat your pride, Cardock, and we can’t use it to buy clothes for Arren. Roland’s offering us a way out, and we’re going to take it.’

‘He’s insulting us,’ Cardock growled. ‘Don’t pretend, Roland. You’re doing this because you think it’ll somehow make up for what you did. You’re doing it because you think we can’t survive on our own. You’re doing it because we’re blackrobes.’

‘No I’m not,’ said Roland. ‘I’m helping you because you’re my friend – the way I would help any of my friends. If you don’t want to accept it, you don’t have to. But I’ve made the offer, and that’s all I can do.’

‘Thankyou, Roland,’ said Annir. She turned her gaze on her husband. ‘Cardock?’

He looked unhappy. ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have been so-,’

Annir stood up quickly. ‘Arren. Where’s Arren?’

Roland stood too. ‘I can’t see him…’

The door banged, swinging open in a draft. From the other side came a deafening chorus of screeching and scratching claws.

Roland swore. ‘Gryphus’ flames, no!’

Without waiting an instant longer, he sprinted out of the room with Cardock and Annir close on his heels.

Outside, it was absolute chaos. Every single one of the pens was hanging open and the chicks were everywhere – chasing each other around the room, squabbling together – even perched in the rafters. When they saw Roland, several of them ran up and clustered around his feet, demanding food.

One of them had a dark stain on its beak.

‘No,’ Roland breathed.

The three adults spread out, calling Arren’s name with increasing desperation.

‘They wouldn’t have killed him,’ Annir said at last, her voice shrill with fear. ‘They wouldn’t…’

‘Griffins are predators,’ Roland told her in grim tones. ‘Even these chicks. They’ve been given live food since they were hatched.’ He tried not to picture one of them tearing a squealing rat apart, but it was impossible. He had seen it far too many times…

‘Here!’ Cardock yelled. ‘He’s here!’

Annir and Roland ran to where he was standing – in the entrance to one of the open pens. Roland looked inside, and stared in disbelief.

Arren was in there, sitting in a corner, and beside him was a white chick – her fur and feathers still fluffy. The boy’s ear was bloodied, but he was giggling. He tugged at the chick’s wing, and she turned and nipped at his hand. But he only shoved her, and she bounced back like a kitten and rubbed her head under his chin, cheeping softly.

A moment later, while Roland was still staring, another chick wandered in to see what was going on. It was one of the larger ones, already heavier in the body than the white chick with Arren. Seeing the child, it came over to thrust its beak at him.

Instantly the white chick rose up, hissing. The other reared up in response, and was attacked. The two chicks had a short, clumsy fight before the intruder retreated and the white chick went back to Arren’s side.

Cardock found his voice. ‘Arren, get away from there!’

The boy wrapped his arms around the chick, holding her close as if she were a toy. ‘No!’

In the end they had to pry the two of them apart. Roland returned the chick to her pen, where she ran around in agitated circles. Arren cried in his mother’s arms, reaching out toward the little griffin and yelling. ‘No! No! No!’

‘Look at that,’ Roland murmured. ‘Look at his ear.’

Annir did, and breathed in sharply. ‘By the Night God…’

‘One of them’s bitten the tip clean off,’ said Roland. ‘But he doesn’t seem to have noticed.’

‘Want!’ Arren wailed.

Cardock took his wife by the shoulder. ‘We’re leaving. Roland…’


Cardock stared at the ground. ‘I… I’ve decided to take your offer.’

‘Thankyou, Cardock,’ Roland said gravely. ‘You should go home and see to your boy now, but I’ll expect to see you again here soon.’

Cardock nodded curtly and walked away.


Cardock kept his word. He returned to the Hatchery the next day and helped Roland to skin the freshly slaughtered goats – setting the hides aside to take home.

‘I’m very sorry about what happened with your boy,’ Roland told him. ‘Is he all right?’

Cardock paused to sharpen the skinning knife. ‘His ear’s healing cleanly – he’ll be fine.’

‘I wish I could say the same for that chick,’ said Roland.

‘What chick?’

‘The white one – he got into her pen. She wouldn’t eat anything this morning. I hope she’s not falling sick.’

Cardock gave him a sideways look. ‘You don’t want to see one of them die.’

‘Never,’ Roland muttered. ‘You know that.’

Both of them were silent after that, but each knew what the other was thinking.

Roland, watching the man he had thought of as a friend, felt a deep sadness ache in his chest. He had hoped that after three years Cardock would have forgiven him, but now he saw him again he realised he barely knew this strange, sullen young man.

After Cardock had left with the hides and a brief word of thanks, Roland retired to his home and made himself a hot drink. It tasted good after a hard day’s work, but he quickly forgot about it as his mind wandered back to the past.

Cardock had always been proud, he realised. That was what had made him stand out. Of all the slaves who worked at the Hatchery, Skandar Taranisäii was the closest thing to a leader they had. The tall Northerner had not been born a slave, like most of his fellows, but had been sold away from his home as punishment for some crime. Rebellion, most likely. His small son, Cardock, had been sent with him – doomed to grow into a life of hard labour with an iron collar around his neck.

In those days Roland had been a rising star – only young, but with a small griffin waddling along beside him and a place as the apprentice to the Master of Law. His father owned the Hatchery and all the slaves in it, making him one of the richest griffiners in the city. With that inheritance in front of him, Roland’s future had been bright.

But then the sickness had come. It killed many griffins in the city, and Roland’s partner was one of them.

He thought back to those terrible days and nights, watching over little Rakee, unable to sleep while the tiny creature’s life ebbed away. Rakee had been robust for his age, full of life and strength, but the sickness took it all away and he lingered for half a week, reduced to skin and bone, his fragile chest pattering away until he finally died.

After that, Roland couldn’t bear to face anyone. He hid away – in the Hatchery where Rakee had spent the last days of his life.

And that was where Cardock found him. The slave-boy was only nine, but he was bold enough to try and talk to the young noble when he found him shedding silent tears in one of the storerooms. ‘Are you hurt?’ he asked. ‘Do you want food?’

‘No,’ Roland had told him. ‘I’m just… I’m fine…’

Cardock had stayed with him, saying nothing but making sure Roland knew he was there. In the end Roland had told him everything – confiding all his sadness and all his despair.

Strangely enough, Cardock did not look sad in return. ‘Why should you be so sad?’ he asked.

‘Rakee is dead,’ Roland told him. ‘I couldn’t save him, and without him I can’t be a griffiner ever again.’

‘But you’re free,’ said the boy, and in that moment everything changed for Roland.

He took to visiting the Hatchery more and more, and more he visited, the more he truly looked, the more he realised just how terrible life was for this quiet boy and his friends. Not knowing what else to do, he used a good portion of his money to buy Cardock’s freedom, and called in a favour to have him apprenticed to a leatherworker.

‘I want my father to be free too,’ the boy had said, and Roland had promised to help him, too, when he could…

It was a promise he had not kept, and now he knew that Cardock had never forgiven him for it.

Roland sighed and picked up his mug. The contents had gone cold, but he drank them anyway and went to check on the chicks. Ever since Rakee had died, no other griffin had ever chosen him. It would have been very unusual if one had. A griffiner who failed to protect his partner was looked on as unworthy of a second chance.

The chicks were as raucous as always, and Roland went to give them their second feeding – just a few scraps of meat left over from the day’s butchering. He went to the white chick’s pen first, and looked in on her.

She had killed the rat he had given her that morning, but had not eaten it – its cold body lay in a corner, untouched. She picked listlessly at the meat scraps when he offered them to her, and then turned away from them too.

Roland put down the bucket and went into the pen. ‘Here, now, little one, what’s wrong? Aren’t you hungry?’

The white chick hissed when he touched her, and tried to move away. Roland picked her up gently and, ignoring her protests, began to check her for signs of sickness – feeling her stomach for swelling, checking her pulse and temperature, parting her fur and feathers to look for parasites. She was dehydrated, but otherwise fine, and not at all happy about being handled.

Roland skilfully avoided her nipping beak, and rubbed her head with his thumb. ‘Having a little sulk, are we, snowflake? I might just have to give you some of my medicine and see if that helps you perk up.’

He left her in her pen and went to feed the others. When that was done, he returned to his home and put some water on to boil. While it was heating, he searched through a cupboard until he found a small cloth bag full of dried herbs. He took the lid off the big iron kettle, and dropped it into the bubbling water.

Before long, the room was full of the sweet scents of the soaking herbs. Roland breathed it in happily. The mixture was supposed to be a medicine for griffins, but he’d tried it himself plenty of times. It tasted as sweet as it smelled.

He poured some into a small clay cup, and let it cool before he took it to the chick.

She wriggled and squeaked when he picked her up, but he tucked her under his arm and poured the medicine down her throat. The instant the cup was empty he threw it aside and held her beak shut, tilting her head back until she’d swallowed.

‘There, that wasn’t so hard now was it?’ he said, putting her down.

She squarked resentfully at him and went to huddle in a corner.




‘Why so unhappy?’ Cardock asked, three days later.

Roland wiped his forehead, leaving a smear of goat blood. ‘It’s that chick,’ he said. ‘You know – the one I mentioned before. She’s wasting away. Refuses to eat properly. I can’t imagine what’s got into her.’

‘I’m sure she’ll get better,’ Cardock said gruffly.

Roland was silent for a while. ‘So tell me; how is your boy?’


‘Hmm.’ Roland wiped his hands on his apron. ‘I don’t suppose he’d like to come back here for another visit?’

Cardock looked uncertain. ‘Well…’

‘Yes?’ Roland prompted.

The Northerner frowned. ‘He’s been asking to come every day.’

‘Well then.’ Roland smiled hopefully.

Cardock stared at him for a while, and then, unexpectedly, he laughed. ‘You poor… you know what this is really about, don’t you?’

Roland’s brow wrinkled. ‘I’m sure I don’t know, Cardock.’

Cardock laughed again. There was a hint of mockery in it. ‘Even before my father died you were trying to replace him. And now you want to be Arenadd’s grandfather, don’t you?’

‘I…’ Roland trailed off. He had been going to protest, but in that moment a great wave of shame washed over him. He’s right, he thought. Gryphus help me, he’s right.

‘I’ll bring him, if that’s what you want,’ Cardock broke in. ‘He wants to come, after all.’

Roland stared at his hands. ‘I didn’t realise you thought of me that way.’

‘You meant the best,’ Cardock said at last. ‘You always did. We both know that.’

Roland looked up. ‘So…?’

‘So there’s nothing to apologise for,’ said Cardock.

He left it at that, but Roland cherished the words for the rest of that day. He knew that in his own way the Northerner had told him he was forgiven, and that was enough for now.

That evening he tried to feed the white chick again, with the same result as last time. Once again he resorted to forcing some shredded meat down her throat. She didn’t enjoy it one bit, but at least she swallowed it. Still, if she didn’t start eating again normally she wouldn’t live long.

‘Don’t die, little snowflake,’ Roland told her sadly. ‘You’re too young yet.’

The next day Cardock came, and little Arren came with him. The boy toddled along by his father’s side, frowning and intense as only a three-year-old can be. But he smiled shyly when Roland stooped to meet him.

‘And how’s how little griffin-tamer today?’

‘A griffin bit my ear,’ said the boy.

Roland inspected it. ‘You’re very brave. You didn’t cry at all.’

‘I want my griffin,’ Arren announced.

Roland glanced at Cardock. ‘Which griffin do you want to see?’

My griffin,’ said Arren, with a hint of impatience. ‘She’s white.’

‘I think she misses you, too,’ said Roland. ‘Shall we go and see her, then?’

The question was really directed at Cardock, who shrugged. ‘If he gets bitten again…’

‘Don’t worry, I’m sure we can keep him out of harm’s way.’ Roland straightened up. ‘I’ll show you the way then, Arren.’

When they entered the chick-room, Arren pulled away from his father’s hand and ran around the pens until he found the one that contained the white chick, which he promptly tried to open.

Roland caught up and gently stopped him. ‘Now then, let’s not try that again.’

Arren struggled. ‘She wants to come out!’

That was certainly true. The white chick had rushed up to the other side of the door and was pushing at it, chirping loudly.

A wild idea came to Roland. He let go of Arren with one hand, and reached for the latch. At that moment, Cardock strode up and scooped his son into his arms. ‘Stop that, Arenadd.’

Arren started to cry. ‘I want my griffin!’

The white chick threw herself at the door even harder, squarking at the top of her lungs.

Roland’s wild idea hadn’t left. He leaned over the side of the pen and lifted the white chick out, cradling her in his arms with her wings pinned to her sides. Seeing the squalling child just a short distance away, she started to try and get at him.

Arren stopped crying and reached back. ‘Want!’ he said, becoming monosyllabic again in his excitement.

‘Well you can’t have it,’ Cardock said sharply. ‘It’s not a kitten, Arenadd. Now stop it.’

Roland wasn’t listening. He reached into his pocket and brought out a piece of meat. He offered it to the chick, which ignored it completely.

Very slowly, Roland offered the meat to Arren. ‘How would you like to feed her, lad?’

Arren snatched it and stuffed it in his mouth. He spat it out again. ‘That’s yucky!’

‘Give it to her, lad,’ Roland urged. ‘She wants it.’ He moved closer – so close that the boy and the griffin could nearly touch.

Frowning, Arren held the meat out toward the griffin. She snapped it up and threw her head back to swallow it at once.

Arren giggled. ‘She’s hungry!’

Roland’s expression had become set and hard. He took another piece of meat from his pocket and offered it to the chick. But her eyes were on Arren and nothing else.

Roland gave the meat to Arren, who offered it to the chick. Once again, she took it.

Cardock was looking bemused. ‘Are you hoping to give the boy a job here one day, Roland?’

‘If he ever wants it,’ Roland muttered. ‘Here, you try it.’ He offered another meat scrap to his friend.

Cardock took it, and gingerly held it out for the chick. She paid no attention.

Arren snatched it. ‘I want to give it to her.’ He did, and she ate it eagerly.

Roland fixed his gaze on Cardock. ‘Put him down, would you?’

Cardock did, keeping his hand on the boy’s shoulder. ‘What are we doing?’

Roland knelt, and put the chick down. The instant she was free she ran straight at Arren, and before Cardock could intervene he had pulled away and was grabbing at the little animal, petting her head as if she were a dog.

The chick crooned and rubbed herself against him. ‘Human,’ she cheeped. ‘Little human.’

‘By the moon,’ said Cardock. ‘That’s amazing.’

Roland watched the boy and the griffin play together, and felt as if something heavy inside him was falling into a void. ‘Impossible,’ he breathed.

‘What?’ Cardock suddenly looked concerned. ‘Roland, does this mean something?’

Roland shook himself. ‘Oh no. It’s nothing. But at least we finally found a way to make her eat again!’

His tone was cheerful, but behind his smile his mind was racing. He knew what this meant; he knew exactly what it meant. He’d seen it dozens of times – maybe hundreds of times. But not like this, never like this.

Gryphus help me, he prayed. What am I going to do?




Within two more days, all of Roland’s fears had been confirmed. Cardock brought Arren with him on both days, and both times the boy insisted on going to see “his” griffin, which Roland and his father both let him do. Roland had finally accepted that if nothing else it was necessary for Arren to visit the chick – she would not eat anything unless Arren gave it to her.

On the evening of the second day Roland made another hopeless attempt to feed her himself. She only stared expectantly at him and said something that made his heart sink.

‘Arren. Arren. Arren. Arren.’

‘He’s not here,’ Roland told her helplessly. ‘Please, eat.’

‘Arren,’ she said. ‘Want Arren. Want Arren!’

Roland leaned down toward her. ‘Why do you want him?’ he asked quietly.

The chick hissed. ‘Mine.’

Oh Gryphus, what have I done? ‘Yours?’

‘Mine,’ said the white chick. ‘Arren mine!’

‘But he’s a…’ Roland trailed off.

A Northerner.

‘What am I going to do?’ he asked the empty air yet again.

But deep down, he knew there was nothing he could do. The little griffin had made her mind up, and Cymrian law utterly forbade going against a griffin’s wishes. She had chosen a human, and by the laws of the city – by the laws of every city – that meant he was a griffiner now… no matter what race he came from. Peasants and beggars had been chosen in the past, though it had been extremely unusual. But a three-year-old child? A Northern child?

Part of him was excited, but only a small part. Though he wanted it to be a good thing, he knew that it wasn’t. Cardock would never accept this – and the Eyrie…

Roland knew what he should do. If he wanted to protect the child, then he should put a stop to it now. Stop him from ever seeing the white chick again. Keep them apart, even if it meant the chick would pine away. Maybe in time she would forget him.

He thought about it for the rest of that day, brooding while he cleaned out the stalls and helped Dermot to bring in fresh bedding. It couldn’t be allowed to go on. If word got out, then the gods alone knew what the consequences might be. It was his duty to his friend.

But the memory of Arren and the chick together haunted him, too, and it would not leave him alone.

They were so happy. They could grow up together, best friends. They would have perfect harmony together, I’m certain of it…

A sudden helpless anger filled him. Despite everything, he knew that what he had witnessed was something rare and special. A chick, only a few months old, who had already chosen a human – the youngest human to be chosen that he had ever heard of. If it had been anyone else – a griffiner’s son, someone with noble blood – the city would be treating it like a miracle. But the boy was a Northerner, and that meant he would never have the acceptance he deserved.

Roland’s anger stayed with him all that evening, but that night as he tried to sleep it gradually drained away, leaving him to debate the question it had brought with it.

Could he really do it? Was he really that mad? Would the world thank him, or curse him?

He thought of Cardock instead. What would he want? He was the boy’s father, after all.

I should talk to him, Roland thought at last. He deserves to know. Let him decide.




‘Roland, I’m tired of this,’ said Cardock. ‘What is all this for? Just tell me and be done with it.’

Roland took a deep, steadying breath. ‘This isn’t easy…’

‘Then make it easy.’ Cardock gave him a stony look. ‘A week you’ve had us come here and do this. Why? I’ve got work to do, and so have you.’

‘This isn’t about us,’ said Roland.

‘Then who is it about?’

Roland turned and pointed at Arren, fast asleep with the white chick curled up next to him. ‘It’s about them. Can’t you see it?’

‘I understand you like spending time with the boy-,’ Cardock began.

‘Cardock, he’s a griffiner.’

Cardock stared. ‘What?’

‘Your son is a griffiner,’ said Roland.

Cardock made a half-laughing sound that had no humour in it. ‘He’s three years old.’

‘Look at him, for gods’ sakes,’ Roland snapped. ‘Are you blind?’

‘Spending time with a baby griffin doesn’t make him a griffiner,’ said Cardock. ‘If you want to-,’

‘It’s not him, it’s her,’ said Roland. ‘She made the choice. She won’t eat anything unless he gives it to her. She calls for him all the time when he’s not here. She lets him touch her, and that would be proof enough for most people.’

‘She lets him touch her,’ Cardock said flatly. ‘That doesn’t mean anything.’

‘You try it, then,’ said Roland. ‘Go on.’

Cardock stooped and reached a hand toward the dozing griffin. ‘This is- argh!’

‘I probably should have warned you about that,’ said Roland.

Cardock dabbed at the cut on his hand. ‘She lets you touch her.’

‘She knows me,’ said Roland. ‘But she let Arren touch her on the day they first met. Do you know how long it normally takes to win a griffin’s trust to the point that they’ll let you touch them? I promise you it’s longer than one afternoon.’

‘What does that mean?’ said Cardock.

Roland threw up his hands. ‘She’s chosen him. I can’t change it, and neither can you. He’s a griffiner.’

‘He can’t be,’ said Cardock. ‘It’s impossible.’

‘It’s possible if a griffin says so, and she does,’ said Roland. ‘Not even the Eyrie Mistress would be allowed to stop her. The law is absolute.’

Cardock said nothing. He looked utterly shocked.

‘No-one else knows about this,’ Roland said quietly. ‘And if you want, it can stay that way. We can separate them by force… make sure they never see each other again. I’m not sure if it would work, but we could try. But I won’t do anything without your consent.’

Cardock still looked uncertain. ‘What if we don’t? He’d… well, he’d need training, wouldn’t he?’

‘Yes,’ said Roland. ‘Someone would have to teach him griffish, and a few other things – reading and writing, for one.’

‘They’d never do it,’ said Cardock. ‘None of the griffiners would teach him.’

‘I know,’ said Roland. ‘But Cardock, just tell me. What do you want to do?’

Cardock looked at the little griffin snuggled up next to his son. ‘We’re supposed to do what the griffins want, aren’t we?’

‘It’s been the law ever since the griffiners began,’ said Roland. ‘The whole country knows that.’

‘Well then… I suppose…’ Cardock trailed off.

Roland, watching him closely, had a sneaking suspicion that he knew what was going on in the Northerner’s head. He was frightened and uncertain, of course, but under that…

Roland could almost see what Cardock was imagining. His son, a griffiner. Knowing how to read and write, able to fly, with access to power and influence that other Northerners could only dream of. It was easy for Roland to picture – he had pictured it too that night, while he stared at the darkness above him. The idea of Cardock’s son growing up to become a griffiner had been too compelling to forget.

‘It’ll be dangerous,’ he admitted aloud, reminding himself that he had to be honest.

‘I know,’ said Cardock. ‘But he’ll have her…’

‘The longer we keep it a secret, the larger she’ll be when the world is ready to know. By then she should be strong enough to protect him.’

‘But how can a Northerner become one of them?’ said Cardock, almost helplessly.

Roland’s eyes narrowed. In that moment, he looked as fierce as he ever had. ‘It’s his right, Cardock. You and your father were denied too many of the things every man should have. I won’t stand by and let the same thing happen to your son.’

Cardock straightened up, and a gleam showed in his black eyes. ‘Then let him be a griffiner. For my father, and everyone the griffiners hurt. Let them see what happens when one of my people has their power.’

‘So be it, then,’ said Roland.

Cardock paused. ‘But who’s going to train him?’

‘I am.’ Roland knelt and shook the boy awake. ‘Arren, it’s time to get up.’

Arren yawned and reached instinctively for the chick. ‘Is it time to go home?’

‘Yes,’ said Cardock. ‘But we’ll come back again tomorrow.’

Arren looked unhappy. ‘Is Eluna coming too?’

‘Who’s that?’ said Roland.

She is,’ said Arren, hugging the white chick. ‘She told me.’

Roland’s face crinkled in a smile. ‘Eluna, eh? That’s a nice name for her.’

Arren nodded happily.

‘You like her a lot, don’t you?’ said Roland.

‘She’s my friend,’ said Arren.

‘Do you want to be her friend forever?’


‘It won’t be easy if you do that,’ said Roland. ‘And you’ll have to work hard.’

‘Don’t care,’ said the boy.

Roland knelt and reached out to touch Arren’s curly head. ‘Do you want to be a griffiner, Arren?’

Arren looked up, wide-eyed. ‘Like the big wing-men?’

Roland thought of the griffiners at the Eyrie, with their feathered ceremonial outfits. ‘Yes, like them.’

Arren looked awestruck. ‘Could I?’

‘Eluna wants you to,’ said Roland. ‘Do you?’

The boy hesitated a moment longer, and then nodded rapidly. ‘I want to.’

Roland stood up. ‘Then you’re a griffiner, Arenadd. Now and forever.’



Neato text ornament here