Friday, July 20, 2012
#fridayflash The Blackfeather Chronicles, excerpt 2
Read the first excerpt here.
"I'm not so sure about this creature in our dwelling, daughter." Carolo leant heavily on his desk and regarded me from beneath a ferociously troubled frown.
I sat upright next to Anwyn's chair, my flank pressed tightly against her thigh. Her hand rested warm and solid on my shoulders by the wing joints-wings I kept tightly furled against my back. Why couldn't I have been born a wolf hound or a cheetah, or even a house cat for that matter, I don't know. I was a griffin. Or so everyone kept telling me.
Oh my goodness, what is that?
Does it bite?
I could recite those particular words like a mantra and, usually when I did, they elicited a startled response from the previously ignorant parties.
"He learns quickly, Father. He hasn't messed in the house at all, and he speaks. He's capable of reason." Anwyn's voice was warm honey and I leant into her touch.
"That's exactly the problem. You know how they are when it comes to the weres and the nightwalkers. They don't like 'em, and they're as near human as you can get. And guess why dragons are extinct, and unicorns might as well be too for all we see no hide nor hair of 'em. A talking walking griffin..."
Anwyn's fingers tightened. "And if we give him over to one of the temples? They will use him as a sacrifice or he'll end up in the Imperial menagerie to be poked and gawked at. He's a person, Father. Like you and me."
Carolo glanced down at me and his expression softened. "Aye, that I know." Then he returned his regard to his daughter. "That's why no one must know that he is gifted with reason. For all intents and purposes people must think him no more special than a well-trained cockatrice or basilisk. Enough tongues are wagging as it is."
I bristled at the thought. I was no dumb reptilian with a venomous sting or paralysing glare. But I understood the wisdom in Carolo's words, and anything that threatened to tear me away from Anwyn's side was to be avoided at all costs.
Carolo shifted a few scrolls on his desk, took a sip of wine then turned his full attention on me. He has a way of looking at all of me, for lack of better explanation, as if he could consider the present and delve deep into the future. Outside his office, beyond the latticed window frame the sounds of sparrows reached us. Within this hallowed space was only a heavy regard punctuated by the thudding of our pulses.
"Silas, would you be able to give the appearance of being no more than the average alchemical? At least just around strangers and when you accompany Anwyn outside the grounds. It is for the best."
This was the first time Carolo had ever addressed me as though I were another person, and I straightened. I had lived here in the villa for six months already and, up until now, my missus's father had only ever existed on the periphery of my life. Anwyn patted my shoulder. She meant to reassure me but my heart still thudded faster.
"I will, Father."
The man paled slightly and blinked rapidly, but then collected himself. What had I said wrong?
Anwyn cleared her throat and rose. "If I can take leave of you, Father. I need to go oversee the progress in the southern herb garden."
The man nodded briefly and whatever tension had built in the room fled. Anwyn straightened her stola and we left her father's office, and made our way to the south gate by crossing the main courtyard.
As soon as we were out of earshot, I asked, "Did I say something wrong?"
Anwyn paused and smoothed the down on my head. "Nothing you'd understand. I think perhaps Father is reminded of my brother. Both he and my mother passed away when he was born." Her sadness sparked off a pain in my chest, and I raised myself on my hindquarters so that I might be closer to her.
"I don't remember my mother," I told her. "It is terribly sad."
Her eyes glistened but she managed a small smile. "It is all right. I don't remember mine either."