Chapter 18: Griffon
Zakhin’Dakh hatched the middle of five siblings—three males, two females. He wasn’t the biggest and strongest nor the smallest and weakest of his siblings, but he was probably the most curious. He was the first to have to be carried back to the nest after wandering near the entrance of the cave his parents were nesting in, and the first to try to fly. The first to succeed, as well, though that took a bit more work.
In time, of course, it was time for him to leave the nest for good, and he flew off away from his parents’ territory, as well as the directions his siblings were going. He flew for a while until he found a good place that didn’t seem to be claimed by any other griffons. He found a good place to nest and started to settle in.
Game was fairly scarce that winter, and Zakhin’Dakh had to fly further afield to find something to eat. He wasn’t the only one, however—he noticed a few tall things he’d never seen before in the distance. They looked kind of funny since they walked on only two legs, but they looked pretty big, so he didn’t get too close to them.
He did, however, see them hunting some of the same deer he had wanted to eat. That was a problem, but he just had to look elsewhere. They noticed him hunting, however, and he started seeing them more frequently. A group of them was slowly making its way in the direction of his nest. They would stop every now and then and look at things on the ground, then keep moving. Zakhin’Dakh didn’t really know what they were doing, but the way they kept getting closer to his nest made him nervous.
When the group was only a few miles away from his nest, Zakhin’Dakh decided something needed to be done. Being a territorial griffon, he thought it would be good to fly down and drive them out of his territory. So he flew over and dove at them, shriek-roaring a challenge at the intruders. Then one of them threw something at him. He didn’t want to get hit by it, so he dodged to the side. It nicked his back leg just enough to draw blood. The others started throwing things, too, and after a little bit, he decided it was best to fly away instead.
He started back toward his nest, but the thought occurred to him that they might be headed there with their sharp things. A little more debate brought him to the decision that it was time to find a new territory. And so he flew away.
Zakhin’Dakh flew for a long time, stopping only when he needed to eat, drink, rest, or sleep. He didn’t really keep track of where he was going, except it was into more mountainous areas. Eventually he flew up and over a ridge and saw a valley below him. Deciding it was time for a meal, he descended into the valley to see what he could find.
He could hardly believe the first thing he saw.
It was a deer… or at least it looked like a deer. The odd thing about it was that it was nearly as big as he was. As far as Zakhin’Dakh knew, that was a very unusual characteristic in deer. Of course, that meant it was probably too big for him to hunt, which was unfortunate. It seemed like something he should investigate, though, and so he started looking around the area more closely.
All the animals he found seemed to be similarly giant compared to their normal size, which meant that a rabbit or two was just about right for him. Zakhin’Dakh rather happily verified this fact. His belly full, he explored more, finding a couple streams and more signs of giant animals, including some terrestrial predators—but he saw no sign of aerial predators of his size, much less bigger. And so he started searching for a good nesting site.
He found a good-sized cave in a cliff not far from one of the streams that seemed just about right. It even had a nice ledge for launching off of and landing on. And so he decided to settle in and make it his territory.
Hunting was rather… difficult at first, as he had to go for different kinds of animals than he was used to, but Zakhin’Dakh was a fairly clever griffon, so he adapted. After a while he started really feeling at home, and slowly, to his delight, he found himself growing to match the size of the other inhabitants of the valley.
Zakhin’Dakh was quite happy in the valley. He enjoyed being big, even though everything else was big, too. Sometimes he’d think a bit gleefully about meeting one of those big two-legged things again, but for the most part, he was content living in the valley, feasting on giant prey. The only thing that disturbed his contentment was a nagging curiosity about what the two-legged things were doing and how they were heading toward his lair. And maybe just a bit of general curiosity, too.
That curiosity was awakened full force one day when he saw a two-legged thing in the valley. Even considering his now much greater size, the two-legged thing seemed smaller than the other ones, and it was all bronze-colored, while the bigger ones had been whitish-bluish. Not only that, but this one had wings. He seemed to be looking at the ground the way the others sometimes had before, though. Zakhin’Dakh stood up and got ready to take off when it looked up at him. For some reason, he just looked back at it. Then it started walking toward him. Curious, Zakhin’Dakh settled back down to watch.
It took the winged two-legged thing quite a while to get to Zakhin’Dakh’s ledge. Even when it got to the cliff, it didn’t use its wings, but climbed up, instead. Zakhin’Dakh thought that was really weird, but it seemed like a weird kind of thing, so maybe that made sense. Finally, it reached the top and looked at him.
“You’re pretty big,” it said, and Zakhin’Dakh was surprised to find he knew exactly what the weird sounds it was making meant. He screeched an enthusiastic agreement.
The creature did something with its face. Zakhin’Dakh looked at it curiously. After a moment, it made some more noises.
“You lived here long?”
Again the griffon understood the meaning of the sounds, but he had no idea how to respond to the question. So he just looked at the weird creature, a bit confused.
“Nod your head like this,” the creature moved its head up and down, “To say yes. And shake your head like this,” it moved its head from side to side, “To say no.”
It took Zakhin’Dakh a moment to figure out what the thing was saying, and then a moment more to figure out what it wanted. Then he moved his head up and down quickly, then realized he wasn’t quite sure that was right, so he stopped and screeched a bit uncertainly at the creature standing in front of him.
“So yes, you have lived here a while,” it said, again doing something with its face.
Well, it seemed like the moving-head-up-and-down thing was right, so Zakhin’Dakh did it again with more enthusiasm this time, screeching to emphasize his increased assurance.
The creature made some noises again. “Well, were you this big when you got here?”
He thought the question over for a bit, then shook his head with a negative screech.
“Hm…” The creature was quiet for a moment. Zakhin’Dakh looked it over again. It really was a funny-looking thing. It was scaly like a lizard, but stood on two feet like those big things he’d seen before. It had wings, but didn’t use them, which seemed weird.
“Wondering what I am?” It asked.
Zakhin’Dakh moved his head up and down—a nod, it had called the motion—and screeched happily that it had asked for him.
“’m a half-dragon. Father was a bronze dragon, mother was a human.”
Zakhin’Dakh screeched uncertainly, a bit confused. He’d seen a dragon once, he thought, a long way away. Some big winged thing. A human, though… he oddly had some image of what a human was, even though he’d never seen one as far as he knew.
The creature… the half-dragon made a series of noises. Zakhin’Dakh looked at it, a bit more confused. “t’d take a while t’ explain,” it said.
The big griffon screeched sadly. That sounded like he wasn’t going to explain. Which was sad, because he wanted to know. Then the half-dragon spoke again.
“Want t’ know what I was doing?”
Brought out of his sadness, Zakhin’Dakh nodded and screeched excitedly, taking a step toward the half-dragon.
“Was just looking at your tracks.”
That didn’t really mean much of anything to him. He had some vague idea from somewhere—probably wherever he could understand the sounds from—that tracks had something to do with marking the ground when you walked, but he still didn’t really understand what ‘looking at tracks’ meant.
The half-dragon spoke again. “This ‘s going t’ take a while…”
Hours later, the half-dragon—he’d said to call him “Almonihah”, though Zakhin’Dakh didn’t really understand how that mattered when he couldn’t say anything—said he had to leave. Suddenly the griffon realized he didn’t want his new friend to go, and so he decided to keep him from going. He made a funny noise when Zakhin’Dakh trapped him under one of his taloned feet.
He tried to talk, and after a bit Zakhin’Dakh got the impression he couldn’t say anything when he was leaning on him. Zakhin’Dakh eased up a bit.
“I’ll come back tomorrow,” Almonihah gasped.
With a disappointed screech, Zakhin’Dakh let him all the way up, then watched as he started climbing back down. It seemed silly that he didn’t use his wings when it would be so much faster. Then he realized he was rather hungry, and forgot about watching the half-dragon in his haste to do something about that.
The next day was a good day for flying, but somehow Zakhin’Dakh didn’t feel quite as happy as he normally did. He did have a lot to think about, though, like wondering where Almonihah had come from and what else he might be able to talk about. Just talking with the half-dragon had given Zakhin’Dakh the impression that there was a whole lot he didn’t know that he’d never imagined there even was to know. It didn’t occur to him that a thought like that was unusual for a griffon.
He really hoped Almonihah would come back soon.
He had just taken to the air again after eating in the morning when he saw the half-dragon. With a joyful shriek, he dived down and landed in front of Almonihah.
Almonihah did something with his face again. “Glad t’ see me?”
Zakhin’Dakh nodded and screeched enthusiastically.
“Well, where were we…”
It soon seemed to the big griffon like he’d been looking forward to Almonihah’s daily visits his entire life. The Ranger taught him all kinds of new things, like how to look at the ground and tell what had walked there recently, or how to guess what the weather was going to be like. He also talked about a lot of things Zakhin’Dakh had never seen, like people and cities. Zakhin’Dakh wanted to see them, too.
The most frustrating thing, though, was not being able to tell Almonihah what he wanted and what he was thinking. The half-dragon seemed to know that, too.
“There’s got t’ be some way for you t’ talk… ‘r at least communicate…” he said one day, looking out at something Zakhin’Dakh couldn’t see.
The griffon screeched and nodded in agreement.
“Hmmmm…” Almonihah was quiet for a bit. “I suppose you could scratch some writing with a talon…”
So he started trying to teach Zakhin’Dakh to read and write. It was hard. Zakhin’Dakh didn’t really understand how he knew what words meant, much less how to look at something and figure out what word it was supposed to be. But he really wanted to talk, so he tried really hard. After a while he could sometimes scratch out something understandable in the dirt.
It was about then that Almonihah realized something. “You’ve got an eagle’s beak,” he said one day, like it was an amazing thing.
Zakhin’Dakh was a bit confused, and his soft screech echoed that confusion.
Almonihah looked up at the griffon. “’t means I can teach you Great Eagle.”
The griffon screeched happily, even though he didn’t really know what that meant.
It turned out it meant a lot more hard work. Zakhin’Dakh had no real concept of language, despite being able to understand the sounds Almonihah made, so learning to speak was slow going. Only his intense desire to communicate kept him going, though he could only do so much each day. When he got tired of trying to talk, he would make his frustration known and he and Almonihah would do something else for the rest of the day.
Eventually, he managed to get down the concept of words, and started screeching them out to try to get across what he wanted or what he was thinking about. His favorite was “Big!” which he liked to exclaim whenever he took advantage of his great size. He still got frustrated when he didn’t know the word for something, though he found that he could sometimes use other words in his slowly expanding vocabulary to get across what he wanted a word for. It helped that Almonihah was so smart. Zakhin’Dakh admired that a lot in his friend.
One day, though, Zakhin’Dakh noticed that Almonihah’s face looked different. He’d finally figured out that the half-dragon was happy when his mouth was curved up more, but now he hadn’t seen this face very much. It kind of seemed like the opposite of the happy face, though, which made the griffon a bit nervous.
I think I have to go now, he said.
Go? Zakhin’Dakh repeated. He wasn’t quite sure he understood what Almonihah had said, since he’d said it in Great Eagle, and he still had trouble understanding it sometimes.
Leave. I need to leave. I have… other places I need to be.
It took the big griffon a few moments to think through exactly what that meant. Then, with an angry No! he jumped on the half-dragon.
“Remember,” Almonihah gasped, “Not to crush me.”
With an unhappy screech, Zakhin’Dakh eased up a bit. No go! he screeched at his friend.
Almonihah shook his head a bit—as much as he could while pinned on the ground. I can’t stay here forever, he said, switching back to Great Eagle, And now’s the time I need to go.
Why? That was one of Zakhin’Dakh’s favorite words, after “big”.
Almonihah was quiet for a moment. Somewhere out there, there’s something I need to be doing.
It didn’t occur to Zakhin’Dakh to question that answer. With a long, sad screech, he slowly let Almonihah up, then settled down miserably on the ground to watch his friend leave.
“Sorry,” Almonihah said softly as he turned and left. Zakhin’Dakh watched him go with despair, not knowing what he could possibly do with his life now that he knew there was so much interesting stuff to learn and do.
Then he had an idea.
He stood up and took a step toward the Ranger’s back. With! Come! he screeched as he started running toward his friend.
Almonihah turned around. You want to come with me? he asked.
Yes! Zakhin’Dakh screeched happily as he stood in front of the half-dragon.
Almonihah smiled. After a moment, he said, “Well, if you’re going to come with me, I think you need a name. How about…”
Zakhin’Dakh turned his head, looking at Almonihah. He didn’t really understand the whole ‘name’ thing very well yet, but he understood it was important somehow to Almonihah.
Zakhin’Dakh sat for a moment, then screeched, Why?
Almonihah laughed. “It means ‘Swift Wing’ in Draconic. I thought it suited you.”
The big griffon nodded and screeched in agreement. Then it occurred to him that this meant Almonihah had agreed with his idea.
With come! He shrieked happily, rearing up on his hind legs and spreading his wings in excitement.
The half-dragon smiled wider, though he stepped back a bit to make sure Zakhin’Dakh didn’t land on him. “Yes, you’re coming with me. Now let’s go,” he said, then turned and started walking.
Zakhin’Dakh followed, ecstatically happy at the thought of not only staying with his friend but also maybe seeing some of the new places Almonihah had told him about.