It has now been one week since Acorn joined with Chesterton's group. After showing some teeth and muscle (not to mention ruffled feathers and fur), the group had finally seemed to settle into some sort of traveling pack: Chesterton leading and Acorn following. Not that she did not expect this to happen, actually she had planned on it. It meant less time talking with anyone and more time turning over the most recent events within her mind. She was still unsure just how far she could trust this rag-tag group of wanderers, if wanderers they really were, and did not want to open up herself more than she really had to.
She had spent most of the morning turning over in her mind the groups intended destination, and just could not come to a decision of why they were so bent on going there. It seemed so...so...dangerous unless they had an ulterior plan that they were not telling her about. After driving herself half insane over all this, Acorn could not take it anymore and trotted forward to walk beside Allora. Serene as always, Allora seemed to float across the ground unlike Acorn's determined trudging. Acorn cleared her throat softly.
"Yes?" Allora did not even look towards Acorn.
"Now, tell me again where we are going?" Acorn was still trying to understand why the group was so determined to get to the abanded mines of Loftwood.
"Loftwood" Allora said simply. "We told you this last night."
"Yes, you did" Acorn scratched her muzzle thoughtfully. "But why?"
Allora sighed. "I don't suppose you would believe us if we said 'just because it's there', would you?"
Acorn shook her head no. "It's haunted, you know." Acorn said softly. Trying to look calm on the outside, her thoughts began racing franticly inside. There were so many legends about Loftwood, that she did not even know where to start. Most were simply scary tales to tell kittens who misbehaved, but there was ONE story that all her family believed in....could this be why the group was going?
"Are you going to look for the lost Book of Souls?" Acorn watched Allora's face out of the corner of her eye. Not that she had to bother, Allora's silence said it all.
Acorn's eyes wided. "Are you people INSANE?" Acorn jumped ahead of Allora and flung her hands out to stop Allora in mid-stride. "That book is forbidden! Heck, this whole TRIP is forbidden!" Acorn began to get hysterical. "Do you know what the College of Wizards will do to us for even THINKING about this??"
The others had realized Allora and Acorn were falling further and further behind and trotted back to see what was the problem. Tellon arrived first to overhear the last thing Acorn said. Arching one eyebrow, he looked over Acorn's head to Allora.
"We told you not to tell her." He said lightly.
Allora shrugged. "She would have found out anyway, best to get this out of her system first." She gestured toward the squirrel. Acorn still looked stunned. Tellon rolled his eyes in disgust.
Finally Chesterton trotted up to the group. Taking in the group's appearance at a glance, he sighed deeply. "You just had to tell her..." Allora looked outraged.
"And just WHY do you all assume I told her?" She snapped.
"Because you're the soft hearted one of this group." Tellon spoke up before Chesterton could. Allora shot him a dirty look.
"And since when is being 'soft hearted', as you say it, such a bad thing?" She said archly.
"Since it causes us so much flippin' work to fix behind you!" Tellon snapped back.
Allora ruffled her head feathers and opened her mouth to respond when Chesterton stepped between the two of them.
"Before you two tear into each other." He started mildly. "Would you both be so KIND as to help me round up our squirrel companion?" He gestured his thumb back over his shoulder. "She went into full-squirrel form and bolted for the forest over there" he pointed again, "like all the demons of Pareth were after her." Finished, he folded his arms across his chest and looked back and forth between the both of them.
Tellon and Allora blinked a moment then joined Chesterton in tearing off after Acorn. After a moment, Allora smacked her forehead and turned into her barn owl form. Soaring off over the treeline she dipped and swooped in search of her missing companion. After a few minutes of watching her, Tellon and Chesterton headed over to a spot where she had finally begun to circle.
Panting heavily, they broke through the trees to see an amazing sight. Acorn seemed to be protecting a bundle on the ground while holding off a couple of goblins with her small eating dagger. At the sound of the foxling and bearling crashing into the clearing, the two goblins whirled to face the newest threat. Taking in the pair, the largest of the two goblins made a strange piercing whistle and both goblins began backing away into the trees. After a moment, they vanished into the underbrush with barely a whisper of their passing and the clearing was silent except for the winded gasps of Tellon and Chesterton. Tellon strode up to Acorn angrily.
"Are you out of your little squirrel head?!" Tellon roared.
"Shhh." Acorn put her finger to her muzzle. "You'll wake him..." Telon blinked in suprise at her.
"Wake who?" He looked around.
"Wake...him." She gently reached down to the bundle at her feet. After a careful moment of removing some of the coverings, a gleaming head of gold and scarlet feathers appeared. Tellon started and backed away nervously.
"Is that what I think it is??" He tried to casually put some distance between the sleeping form on the ground and himself.
Chesterton looked confused. "What is it?" He craned his head over Acorn's shoulder to look at what she was protecting. His eyes widened. "Well I'll be dipped in beeswax. I thought those were only a legend..." He continued to stare in amazement at the form on the ground. Tellon snorted softly. "It's a gryphon...a real live gryphon..."
"If you become any more shocked, all my fur will stand on end." Tellon said sarcastically as he crossed his arms over his chest. "Now that you've seen it...and you know they are real...can we go now?"
Acorn gently removed more of the burlap sack that was covering the scarlet and gold head feathers of the sleeping gryphon. She carefully put her paw to its face and began to concentrate. Tellon started forward to stop her but was stopped by Chesterton quickly shaking his head not to. Stopped in his tracks, Tellon could only look on warily as the once sleeping gryphon became the now waking up gryphon. He only hoped that he, Tellon, could run faster than the rest of the party when that big animal realized that it was free. He took another step back and tried to nonchalantly draw his sword. A quick look to Chesterton saw that the bearling was thinking the same thing; Chesterton had his fighting daggers already in paw. Both party members met each others eye and gave a brief nod. They were ready...just in case...
After a brief moment of struggle to wake up, the gryphon blinked its eyes open and looked around. Dazed, he did not seem to register the two forms across the clearing, but he did seem to notice the squirrel sitting next to him. Sitting next to him with a big smile Tellon noticed as he gripped his sword tighter. Both gryphon and squirrel looked at each other briefly and then Acorn gave a brief burst of laughter and hugged the gryphon's neck tightly.
"I am so glad to see you!" She said into the creatures neck feathers. Tellon relaxed his grip ever so slightly. It would appear that they both knew each other...at least she seemed to know him. The gryphon tilted his head into Acorn's grasp and purred softly. Okay, so he knows her too...Telon sheathed his sword and started towards the two sitting on the ground. The gryphon's eyes riveted to Tellon and the creature made a dangerously low hissing noise. Tellon froze and put up his paws in (what he hoped) was a non-agressive manner.
"Uh," he started "I'm with her" he pointed at Acorn. The gryphon's gaze never wavered. "Really...I'm with her. Ask her yourself..." Tellon began to wonder if he should not have put away his sword. He also wondered if the gryphon could maybe blink intead of just staring at him.
"Is this true?" The gryphon spoke in a deeply melodious voice to Acorn. Acorn looked up at him briefly then looked over her shoulder at Tellon. Seeing the foxling's slightly terrified face, she laughed lightly and nodded.
"Yes, he's with me. Or rather, I'm with them" She stood up and began brushing off the clearing's dust and grass from her clothes. "They rescued me some days back and now I am traveling with them." The gryphon nodded.
"I see..." He shrugged himself out of the remains of the burlap bag and stood at his full height. Tellon and Chesterton backed up slightly to give him room. At full height, the gryphon was more then a head taller than Telon and as massive as the group's pack horse. When he stretched his wings...it was nothing less then impressive.
Giving himself a brief shake, the gryphon turned and gave Chesterton and Telon a brief bow. "I am (brief combination of sqwaks and purrs)." Seeing the pairs stunned faces he tilted his head at them and said calmly, "but you can call me Scarlet Talon-Heart." Chesterton and Tellon nodded a greeting to Scarlet and then moved off to converse together in private. Giving a "we'll be right back" gesture to Acorn, the bearling and foxling began to argue.
"No." Tellon folded his arms across his chest.
"No what?" Chesterton's eyes were a bit brighter then usual. "I didn't even SAY anything!"
"You don't have to bear." Tellon's eyes became like steel. "I know you too well. The squirrel is bad enough. But a gryphon? Please, for once...be reasonable."
Chesterton looked thoughtful. "There are so many legends about gryphons...I wonder how many are true." He shook his head thoughtfully.
"Hello? Are you even bothering to listen to me??" Tellon was getting the sinking feeling that the conversation was over before it had even started. He did know Chesterton...only too well. He also knew Chesterton's complete devotion to the fantastic and unreal. Sighing deeply, Tellon prepared for the inevitable, but tried to argue against it anyway.
"Chesterton..." Tellon put his paw on Chesterton's shoulder My, what big shoulders you have... "Please be reasonable about this. We don't even know the gryphon's story...and we don't have time to babysit every single lost furson on this blessed earth!"
Acorn popped her head under Tellon's arm. "He's not lost"
Tellon froze and stared down at her. "Who asked you to butt in?"
Acorn scooted under Tellon's arm to face the both of them. "He's not lost" she said again. "Just kidnapped." She smiled at both of them.
"I fail to see how 'kidnapped' does NOT equate to being lost!" Tellon was outraged. "And who asked you to butt in anyway??"
Chesterton rubbed his muzzle thoughtfully. "We could make sure he gets home safe..." Tellon's eyes widened. He cannot be serious!
"His family must be beside themselves." Chesterton turned toward the gryphon. Tellon jumped in front of the bear and took hold of both the bearling's shoulders.
"Chesterton. We have been friends for a long...long time." Chesterton nodded. Looking relieved, Tellon continued. "Then for the Goddess's sake, please let him fly himself home." Chesterton finally looked doubtful. Tellon had never played the "we are friends" card before, and could see that it was making Chesterton think things through.
"But he can't fly..." Acorn popped her head between the both of them. Tellon sincerely wanted to strangle her, his claws unsheathed slowly.
Wincing, Chesterton removed Tellon's paws from his shoulders. "Why..ouch...not?" Acorn sighed and looked back over at Scarlet.
"I can't say." Tellon gurgled softly. His eyes narrowed and his ears swivled backward. Taking in his appearance, Acorn hurriedly spoke faster. "It's a religious rite. I really can't say because I don't know why!" Tellon did not look the least bit mollified and Acorn began to back away. I pushed it too hard... Putting up her paws she stopped backing away. "But the good thing is he can read the Book of Souls..." Tellon froze a moment and then dropped his tail and ears suspiciously.
"Who told you about the Book?" He demanded. "And what do you mean he can 'read' it?"
Looking relieved, Acorn nodded her head brightly. "I figured it out on my own. It wasn't hard." Better skip the sarcasm... "As for reading it, all the gryphons can. It's one of their natural gifts, like flying." Tellon sheathed his claws and stepped back thoughtfully.
"This is new and unexpected..." He thought briefly. "But is it a good thing or simply another disaster in disguise..." Mulling it over, he finally nodded at Acorn and Chesterton wordlessly. Both broke into a grin and trotted back over to where the gryphon was still standing motionless. After a brief conversation, Tellon noted sourly that the gryphon actually looked relieved? and walked over to join the group.
"Thank you." Scarlet said simply.
"Yeah, well let's see if you are still saying that later this week..." Tellon grumped and headed out of the clearing. "Let's find Allora and have her meet the newest member of our EVER growing company..."
Scarlet tilted his head at Acorn who just shrugged. "It's his way of saying welcome."
"Ah." Scarlet shook his head confused. "Who is Allora?"
"Oh, you will just love her! She can fly too!" Their voices faded off as they wandered after Telon.
Chesterton just shook his head and headed after them. "A gryphon...who would have thought..."
NOTE: This chapter is dedicated to my fur-friend SC...who gave me a wonderful gift: I only hope to get to the MFM to get one in furson!
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