|Picture: Wiki Commons/Jastrow|
The basket was small enough that I couldn’t turn, and the scraps of linen lining it soiled by my own waste. Terrible hunger blinded me to all reason—not that a griffin cub was wont to expressing any rational thought—but when I looked into Her eyes, the ravenous fires died back and, I’m later told, I stopped the incessant squawking and yammering with which I’d apparently been painting the very air blue.
Petite Anwyn had eyes like lapis lazuli, and her skin was bronzed—not from the sun but partially, as I later discovered, due to her foreign mother. And her hair. I always loved her hair—the palest gold, like corn silk. Eventually I would understand that her complexion was far too unusual to be considered attractive, but at that moment I gazed upon her face and I was lost. Some dim griffinish race memory stirred a resonance within me and I craned my neck so that I might be closer to her.
Her gaze was filled with compassion and I knew at that moment, even as I do now, that I belonged to her. Forever.
She didn’t have to haggle long to liberate me from the beast-seller. In hindsight I reckon the man felt, at that point, that he was well rid of me—a noisy, messy nuisance. Had he known my sheer magnificence once I’d fledged, he might have driven a harder bargain.
An unfledged griffin cub, I can guarantee, is nothing much to look at. Anwyn made many sketches of me when I first came into her care. A wide gape, almost bulbous eyes. Kittenish hindquarters unbalanced with the forequarters of a bird. Stumpy wings. Instead of glossy black feathers, I boasted a mess of vaguely charcoal-hued fluff. At this early age no one could really tell whether these would turn out to be pelt or plumage.
Griffins were almost unknown back then—and still remain rare—but when I was a mere cub no one knew enough about my race to know what to do with me. If Anwyn hadn’t come along I might’ve been pecked to death by the brace of basilisk hatchlings in the cage next to me or ended up in one of the labourers’ cookpots.
Instead I was given a name, a very fine name I might add—Silas Blackfeather—and took up residence in a small villa on the outskirts of the great city of Anfi, in the foothills of the Makarra mountains.
Anwyn had a way with strays, and in her care I flourished, and it was very soon apparent to her that the latest addition to her already considerable menagerie was more than just a beast, or indeed one of the magical sports. Neither she nor her father had expected that I numbered among those gifted with reason.
I will admit that at that stage of my life I did not possess a whole lot of reason, but when I called her “mama”, it brought her up short. The rest, as they say, was history. Once I started talking, no one could really shut me up.
Now Anwyn lived with her father, Carolo, who was a slave master. Not one of these big awful sods who dealt in gladiators or bed servants, but a peaceable, average middle-of-the-road master, who specialised in the kinds of slaves who would cook in kitchens, or create and maintain garments or teach children their letters. Most of these luckless folks were often in debt, and one way for them to alleviate the problem would be to sell themselves into servitude so their younglings were better off.
Or Carolo would visit the market and he’d examine the wares. He had an eye for quality. Just like his daughter. They could both see past a rough exterior. One slave master’s runaway became Carolo’s next prized carpenter.
Before you get all uppity with me about the slave trade being bad and all, please take a moment to consider what society was like back in the days of the Old Empire. Yes, there were rich folks who treated their slaves badly but, often, in many cases, slaves were prized possessions, especially if they were skilled, and were treated better than many free men who often went to sleep with empty bellies. A good master cared for his household. He would not want to see his horse lame, nor would he mistreat the slave who raised his children.
Carolo was a good master.