How to Tame a Gryphon

To be a gryphon rider, you must know the Aerie.

The boy who was meant for greatness

A teacher at the head of his class walks up the cliffs of Griffinrock; he is teaching his last lesson. He’s educating them one last time, instructing them one last time, and preparing them one last time, for today they become gryphon riders. Today they use what they’ve learnt; today they become men.

It is an honorable day indeed.

Twelve proud young boys will become gryphon riders, twelve young boys will become men, and twelve young men will be crowned with glory and granted riches beyond their wildest dreams.

For some, this really is a dream come true; as for those some born into squalor, they are to be thrown into luxury.

Some come from already-wealthy families, some come from merchant families, and some come from poverty. Most chose to be here, whilst others did not. Still, they all follow their instructor to their fate.

Five out of the twelve scored mediocre marks in their exams, two almost failed, four did outstanding, and one had a score like never seen before. This one student in particular was considered a prodigy, meant for greatness; this one person, in particular, was meant to be a gryphon rider. Everyone thought so.

Three years of training, three years of lessons, three years of gaining confidence, three years of getting stronger, three years of hard work: a thousand and ninety-five days of testing their limits. Imagine how it must feel to finally be in Griffinrock after all that hard work.

Yet it only takes one mistake, one foot out of place, to crumble all that hard work.

The students crawl through shrubbery and finally look down at their prize, at their ticket to fame and riches: they look down at the gryphon nest, at the baby gryphons inside. The parents are nowhere in sight. It’s a good start.

I’m sure you can guess who’s up first. The prodigy. Dressed in leather, a small bag strapped to his thigh and a training rope fastened to his waist. Brown hair cut short. A middle-class, thin-boned boy, no older than sixteen. He scored perfect scores on all his tests. He was the smartest, he was the fastest, he was the strongest, and he was the most determined to succeed out of all the others who were there. He wanted this, and you could tell.

Inside the sixteen-year-old’s bag is a small blade tucked away out of sight, some herbs, some dried sheep meat, some dried squash, a vial of gryphon pheromones, and gryphon tranquilizer dust. The only weapon allowed on the Mountain is a small blade; any weapon sighted by a gryphon will make them aggressive and distrustful of people. Tight-fitting gear, sensible shoes, and hair out of the way are childish basics.

The boy didn’t underestimate his opponents. He knew what to do and when to do it. He knew to stay low and not attract the parents. He knew to wait until there were no parents. He knew to kneel and bow his head if the parents returned and saw him. He knew how to lure the baby gryphon out of the nest; he knew what smells to use and what gryphons loved to eat and what mannerisms to adopt. He was prepared. He was ready. And so, he approached the nest of the three baby gryphons.

He knew which one he wanted; he knew which one he would take.

He slides down the slope to the nest, and a snake slithers away on the rocks as he does so. He scouts the air above with his eyes, his hand pulling out a vial of liquid from his small bag. He opens the vial and dabs the stinking contents onto his wrists and face.

He proceeds to walk up to the giant pile of sticks, feathers, and leaves. The three baby gryphons were curled up together, sleeping. He hovers his hand over his chosen gryphon.

The baby’s nostrils flare, and he opens his eyes as he breathes in the stinking odor of gryphon pheromones. You can tell it’s a male because there’re no markings, and the males are smaller than the females, but faster.

The gryphon doesn’t call for help but is cautious. The boy lets the gryphon sniff his wrist and get comfortable with him; this requires patience, as it can take a while depending on the gryphon. The gryphon breathes out hot air, stands up, and nuzzles against his hand. That’s a good sign.

The boy guides the gryphon out of the nest and starts leading him away from his siblings.

Just then, a familiar call had the boy down on his hands and knees, bowing his head down to the ground.

A parent has returned, clomping down next to their baby. You don’t dare look up at an untamed gryphon, especially next to its young. Now that the baby has seen his parent, the boy will have to retreat and come back later to take the baby.

The other babies wake up to the sound of beating wings and feet thudding down next to the nest. Not just one, but four adult gryphons had swooped down and were now stamping their talons on the ground, too close to the boy’s head. He dodges them all by rolling backwards but still doesn’t look up at them. He narrowly avoids stomping his foot down on a snake’s nest.

He has to stay calm. If he loses his wit, he risks being mauled by the gryphons.

One of the gryphons steadily comes closer to the boy, who slowly straightens his legs but still keeps his head lowered and his eyes on the ground. The boy outstretches his hand towards the gryphon, and the gryphon sniffs at the fingers and wrist that are still covered in the gryphon pheromones. The gryphon relaxes its wings and moves to nuzzle his hand; at that point, the boy would be safe to look up at the gryphon and leave.

But, an unexpected complication makes the boy let out a small wince, and his leg flinches. A snake, its nest now a ruin, has sunken its fangs into the boy’s leg and is writhing around aggressively about the boy’s ankle. Not just any snake, but a viper. Fear and fury overwhelm the boy as his vision becomes blurry.

The gryphon spooks at the sudden movement and lashes out with a claw, making the boy shriek in pain and slip on a rock behind him. The other gryphons begin pawing at the ground again, becoming increasingly aggravated.

The boy collapses to the ground, as the paralyzing snake venom sweeps through his system. The gryphons charge toward him and viciously snap their beaks, wach the size of men’s hands, down at the boy. Several loud snaps are heard as one gryphon brings its front claws down on the boy’s legs and spine. The boy is unable to run, unable to cry out, unable to correct his error, unable to turn back time.

With what little strength he has left, he drags himself to the edge of the cliff and flings himself over it, rolling down the stone-covered hill, all the way to the bottom.

His spine was broken, his knee caps were shattered, and his soul was destroyed. The damage was done, and it was unfixable.

To have gone through all that, just to be bit by a snake and fail.

His classmates returned from their own successful hunt hours later to find their prodigy — the one meant for greatness, the one who inspired, the one who encouraged them to push themselves — beaten and heartbroken, still unable to move on the ground.

The gryphons were gone, having moved their young to a new location. The gryphons were gone, the passion was gone, and the boy’s potential was gone.

The boy was paralyzed from the waist down, and his chance at fame and glory were gone. His chance to become a great gryphon rider was gone.

As the boy who is now a man sits to write this, I can tell you that there was only one course of action I could take, and that is to educate the next generation. I know everything there is to know and can teach everything others need to know, but I cannot fly.

I am still bound by oath to my king, and cannot fail him, so I teach.

The teachable moment from my experience is that you must not only be prepared for the gryphons but also all the other wildlife in the Aerie. It is not just a matter of underestimating the gryphons; it is a matter of not underestimating the Mountain.

To be a gryphon rider, you must know the Aerie.

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