Crosswinds: Gryphon Down

“Tell me where the gryphon is. Now!” she shouted out. Her breath started to grow heavy. Each swing, each thrust dug into heavy flesh… it took a toll on Juliette that wasn’t exclusively physical.

That night, Juliette began to dream again.

Since Marla’s death, maintaining their yard of pets was… expensive, to say the least, and as market prices kept rising through the roof, Juliette found her situation untenable. It was down to either starving to death or selling off some of the animals they had cared for.

Marla lived in the countryside. It was how they had the room to take care of that many pets in the first place. However, Marla also loved the city, was constantly in awe of its many adventures and mysteries. Because of that contagious passion, Juliette had grown to love the city as well.

Yet now that Marla was gone, the city was dull and irritating, with so much noise and other unpleasantries. People didn’t feel like people anymore, just obstacles to walk through to get where she was going.

Juliette came to learn that she could really only enjoy the city with Marla.

And now, she walked Charlie through the streets of the city, bringing the gryphon to the nearest stables. She wondered how much more of Marla she’d have to lose. Now, she was about to find out.

An officer from Tarith had approached Juliette about the gryphon earlier. One of her neighbors had reported her in exchange for a reward; gryphons were illegal for civilians to keep during wartime. The officer promised that no harm would come to her and that they were willing to pay to take the gryphon back. She just needed to voluntarily send Charlie off to the army, and no drastic actions will be taken.

After a short trip, the two arrived at the stables, and Juliette greeted the officer.

“Officer.”

“Juliette. Is that Charlie there?” the officer asked. “You seem to have taken good care of her.”

“Yeah… This is Charlie,” Juliette said. She gently ran her hand through the fur on Charlie’s back, a little weight pulling on her chest. This was going to be the last time she would see Charlie, before the gryphon went on to live and die on a field of war. “Don’t worry, okay? This nice man will be taking care of you from now on.”

Charlie let out a low growl, perhaps the gryphon equivalent of grumbling.

The officer stepped towards Charlie and reached out to it. The gryphon backed away at first, but calmed down after briefly looking at the man.

“That’s a good reaction,” he said. “Not too relaxed, but not too jittery, either. This shows that Charlie is alert enough to assess and spot threats on the battlefield, but not so much that she’ll panic and bolt.”

“That’s good to hear…”

Charlie, who had been silent the entire time, walked over to Juliette, pressing its head against her stomach, cuddling against Juliette.

“Charlie…” I guess she doesn’t want to leave, either.

She hugged the gryphon close to her, letting the moment sink in as they shared a last gesture of affection, but she realized that Charlie was still trying to move against her; specifically Charlie was trying to push against her foot.

“Uh… Charlie, what are you—“

When Juliette saw that her foot was tied to Charlie’s halter, it was already too late. Charlie stretched its wings and took off into the air, dragging Juliette up with it. Naturally, Juliette started to scream at the top of her lungs.

“H-Hey!” She faintly heard the officer shout after them.

Up in the air, Juliette was flailing about, desperately and vainly trying to reorient herself. “CHARLIE-E-E-E-E-E, I’M GOING TO DIE!” she screamed. “I’M ACTUALLY GOING TO FALL AND DIE! CHARLIE!”

Charlie just squawked in response.

It kept climbing higher and higher into the air while Juliette could do nothing but scream her voice out in sheer, sheer panic. Eventually, the gryphon stopped ascending and looped under to catch Juliette neatly on its back.

Juliette groaned, holding onto the lead rope for dear life. “Okay, okay, okay—” She kept her head pressed against Charlie’s feathers and her eyes closed. “Bring us down— bring us down! I’m not sure what point you’ve made, but you’ve definitely made it!”

Charlie let out a loud roar, and Juliette got the sharp feeling that the gryphon was not bringing her down. 

Reluctantly, she raised her head and opened her eyes, and she was greeted with a sight of the city far below: the tiny forms of all the horses, carriages, and people traveling through the streets, rooftops of varying heights — all sitting below a blanket of clouds of all shapes and sizes, lit up in a bright, yellow-orange hue by the setting sun.

Before she knew it, she found a smile spreading across her face, the brightest one she’s had in months. For a brief moment, the city was so… endearingly beautiful.

Did Marla always see the city this way?

Juliette let out a large howl of laughter. “Forget going down, Charlie. We’re staying up here forever!” she shouted.

Charlie flew through the sky as Juliette watched the city seemingly move below her, laughing and howling, her voice echoing in the distance.

It seemed like life was beautiful again, and it was all thanks to Marla.

I wonder what she would think if she saw me now… Would… would she have been happy…?

“Charlie, bring us ba—“ When she looked down, she found that her gryphon had suddenly disappeared from under her… She started to fall again, the wind blowing through her entirety as she spun uncontrollably in the air.

She did the only thing she could; she screamed.

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