“Are you ready?” Nurilah asked. Ihloden sat astride the griffin.
“Sure,” he said his voice coming out an octave higher. The Griffin shrieked and tossed its head. “Please don’t do that,” he groaned holding on tighter.
Nurilah reached up and patted his leg. “You will be fine. Just trust the griffin and most of all trust yourself.”
He nodded. It had been a hard two weeks getting to this point. Washing and repairing the armor, making adjustments and then learning how to decipher the griffin’s emotional speak in order to saddle it. Then there was the one sour point where he had to lie again to his family telling them he had stayed to hunt for Nurilah while she was doing some repairs on her house. To make it worst, after he had told Nurilah what he had said, she decided that she did have repairs to do on her house and he had to help. Then out of guilt he went home every night instead of taking the easy way out and sleeping at Nurilah’s house. He even did anything his mother or Shila asked without complaint. It was two weeks of horror for him and bliss for those around him. But it made him feel better.
He sighed and relaxed his grip. The griffin turned its head back to him and a wave of assurance washed over him. He smiled, “Thank you for that vote of confidence.” He then took several deep breaths and let the last one out noisily. Ihloden reached up and puller the helmet over his face. It was rather like a half-mask, the upper half covering his head with only eyeholes and tapering down to a point like a beak, over his nose. Surprisingly the eyeholes did not obscure his vision. He leaned down, almost lying flat against the Griffin’s back. “Alright,” he said slowly, “I am ready.” Nurilah nodded solemnly and stepped back.
The Griffin nodded to him and then to Nurilah. It leaned forward onto its forelegs. He felt it raise and set its hind legs on the ground. Ihloden felt his stomach clench and his heart began beating wildly. The Griffin suddenly tossed it head up and shouted, “Eml-ah eirdr ieterh eml slf uin!” Then it sprang up into the air.
Ihloden felt his stomach reach his feet then come flying back up. The sky came rushing up to meet him with the sound of beating wings. He heard someone shout and he looked down to see Nurilah waving wildly from the ground. She was growing smaller as he watched. He looked out into the air as the Griffin banked and flattened out into a steady line of flight. He looked at his hands holding tightly on to the Griffins feathers then down again towards the trees, unable to make his mind accept that he was actually above them. He took another deep breath and looked up towards the sky. The Griffin let out a loud screech and tossed its head. He felt the movement vibrate through its body. He felt the muscles move under the feathers and fur. Then it hit him, he was flying. He was actually flying.
“Oh my….” He said, his breath coming faster and faster. The Griffin tilted its head back toward him then it gave a short screech. “Oh no you don’t” he shouted, “Griffin no! Griffin!!”
The Griffin did not listen to him. It went into a dive and several spins. Ihloden felt like his stomach went into several new locations. Then he found himself laughing. He realized then that he wasn’t scared. He wasn’t going to throw up. In fact he was feeling quite at home. He was home, in the air, with his Griffin doing crazy antics trying to scare the daylights out of him. It felt insane to be feeling like that. But it felt right. He leaned down and kissed the Griffin’s back. “Do that again,” he said, his voice sounding choked. A wave of surprise washed over him. “You heard me,” he said louder, “Let’s do that again!” The Griffin screech loudly as he screamed, “Woohoo!!!” and went into another dive.
Ihloden felt like his heart was going to explode with joy and exhilaration. He and the Griffin low dived near Nurilah, the force of their pass flattening the grass. He heard her laugh and shout, “Get something for dinner will you?”
“You heard the woman,” he said to the Griffin, “Let’s hunt shall we?” The Griffin turned to glance at him and a questioning feeling washed over him. “I am sure,” he said, swallowing the lump of doubt that suddenly popped into his throat. The Griffin nodded and then gave another screech and lurched up into the air. Ihloden gasped as his mind and body went through the dizzying joy of flying up into the sky. They slid into as easy flight and Ihloden took the time to settle his nerves. The sky was quiet and the flapping of the wings was strangely soothing as he gazed into the blue air. He then gazed down and spotted the small shadows of deer moving about in the wood below.
“Griffin, I see them,” he said. A Wave of assurance rolled over him, then the Griffin banked sharply down and dove softly toward the area. The griffin then low passed and screamed loudly. The deer bolted and headed for the inner parts. “No, The other way!” Ihloden shouted. The Griffin swung back hard. Ihloden slid violently in the saddle. He slid back into the seat as the Griffin trashed the tops of the trees with its fore claws. The deer bolted towards the clearing. The griffin gave a short shrill and headed up into the air. Ihloden kept an eye on the deer as they headed up into air. Then there was beautiful moment as the griffin made the turn in the air to dive. It felt like time stretched and they moved in slow motion. Then Ihloden felt fear in the split second they moved into the dive position. Then a wave of supreme exhilaration filled him. He heard the Griffin scream and he heard his own voice join it, as they struck down through the air. The wind whistled loudly in his ears.
The sky was moving past him in a blur, yet he was still able to follow in the movement of the deer as they ran. The Griffin’s wings were tucked into its side against his legs; he saw the way the wind coursed through the feathers, out of the corner of his eye. He saw the deer reached the edge of the forest. They were already at the tree line. He saw the deer leap out of the trees into the air; dark fur turning light brown in the bright sunlight. Then a feeling of such ferocity filled him that he almost bit through his tongue as he clenched his jaw. The griffin’s wings struck open and it dropped like a stone onto the leading deer. Ihloden could feel the deer trash under the Griffin, and strangely he could feel the claws of the griffin snapping shut inside the deer. The griffin then closed and snapped its wings open again, in a split second knocking two more deer into the ground. As the deer skittered to get up the Griffin pounced on them; the eagle claws slicing cleanly through the necks of both deer. The rest of the deer bounded away out of the clearing and back into the wood.
Ihloden sat in the saddle breathing hard as the Griffin screamed a triumphant shrill. It was surreal seeing the Griffin strike like that. It was even more surreal that he knew that he had been part of it. He had for a few seconds merged with the Griffin, feeling in a very personal way, the exact way it felt. It was a pure sharing between the two of them. He realized his hands were shaking. The Griffin picked up the deer and dropped them next to each other. It then looked back to him. He looked back at the Griffin. In that moment he felt something he had never felt before. A closeness that was almost a union. His breaths were taken in the same rhythm as the Griffin and the tenseness of his body was the same as the Griffins’. The air around him seem silent; void of all noise. It was in that space that the words the Griffin had screamed came back him, and now he knew what it meant. Eml-ah eirdr ieterh eml slf uin! My Rider and I are one.