This week I’d like to rectify something that I noticed about this blog right off: while it’s based around my writing career, it contains precious little of my, you know, writing. True, all these words count, but I want to put something creative out into the world.
So, without further ado, here’s an excerpt from my short story, “The Foaling Season.” Reynard is a breeder of gryphons in a harbor city where a slave revolt has recently established a new government under the charismatic Dominic L’Escalier. His daughter, Aveline, helps him around the pasture.
The shed stands across the pasture from the road onto Reynard’s land. L’Escalier is at the main gate, chatting with his bodyguards.
A roar freezes Reynard in his tracks. The herd is not at rest. They circle, like lightning in storm clouds.
Ouragan. Of the three stallions, this is the only one Reynard could never acclimate to the side pasture. When a creature can fly, it becomes far more dangerous for it not to know its place.
“Get back,” Reynard tells Aveline. “Behind the shed.”
“If I need you, I’ll call! Go!”
Ouragan is sire to the foal birthed that morning. He’s picked fights before. Foudre, never the strongest male, bears a strip of discolored fur from where Ouragan slashed his haunch with a hatchet-sized foreclaw.
Ouragan is pacing a circle around the fence, bellowing and shaking his mane. Three gryphons take flight all at once, all skittish yearlings. They wheel in the air as others follow them up, an ever-widening helix of dark shapes against the clouds.
Reynard throws the side gate open and strides into the pasture as it swings shut behind him. Man and beast are alone now, enclosed together.
Ouragan veers to meet him. Reynard keeps his eyes downcast, his movements slight. Fortunately, it is overcast, so there is no danger of a shadow spooking the gryphon.
“Reynard,” calls Dominic L’Escalier. His voice is cautious, and a little excited.
A roar hits Reynard’s ears.
He rolls, hits the pasture grass. Hooves thunder by him. A wing-tip feather grazes his face, tickling.
Ouragan is charging the fence again. L’Escalier’s towering guards close ranks in front of him, but they needn’t bother–the stallion halts once more to face Reynard as he rises. Under the rage is a bond of trust he can use. He foaled this beast, after all.
He makes it to his knees. Then he points down the road, points hard, so L’Escalier can see. To speak a warning would be too much loud noise, too fast.
The Sovereign Minister of Locksgrove swivels his head to look where Reynard is pointing. Reynard resists the urge to slap his own forehead. L’Escalier is only brilliant in two or three ways.
Ouragan snarls. His mouth froths. Reynard points to L’Escalier, then again down the road, as softly as he can, as hard as he must.
At last the Minister gets it. He draws his guards by the shoulder down the road and out of sight.
“Right then,” Reynard says, and smiles at Ouragan. “Now you and I can talk.”
His smile is calculated. Like Lucia’s, it does not reach his eyes. But after smiling he yawns, as though he is still at tea, and not much interested in it. Boredom, he hopes, will put the gryphon at ease.
Time to move in. Sifting his feet through the grass, his loose shirt stained with dew, Reynard approaches the wild-eyed stallion.
Ouragan roars. Reynard stands firm, though ancient instinct screams at him to run. A sudden movement now, too close to dodge, would mean death.
Two more steps. One. Arms-length away, Reynard stretches out his hand to Ouragan’s mane, stroking with his fingertips. Grooming.
A new roar dies in the gryphon’s throat. He pants. Reynard feels the hot breath. On the far side of the pasture, a few of the circling colts gain the courage to land.
Reynard’s hands shake as he places them on either side of Ouragan’s mane. His father showed him this–had his father trembled as much? Fool, he thinks, the hard part is past. Now it’s all rhythm.
He breathes, in and out, seeking the pulse of Ouragan’s life. Their breaths synchronize.
Ouragan looks down.
His throat rumbles, but he steps forward to nuzzle Reynard. Reynard, at the same time, looks up. Lucia stands just outside the fence, while Aveline has crept into the pasture, wielding the stout sharpened pole Reynard keeps behind the shed. Their last resort.
“Aveline,” he croaks, “go and tell L’Escalier he may approach.”