It had the torso and wings of a giant eagle. The front feet were scaled and had large talons. The beak looked very sharp. The backside of the creature was just like a giant cat, similar to the body of a lion. Its golden color was hard to distinguish in the darkness of the room, but its eyes shone like a sun coming out from behind a cloud.
“Oh no,” Katie whispered, taking a step back. The griffin’s eyes were locked on her. It watched her every movement.
“We need to get out of here, fast,” Richard said out the corner of his mouth.
“Do you see another way out?” Brianna whispered. Her eyes were wide, even though the griffin’s eyes weren’t directly on her.
Richard stepped sideways to look beyond the creature. The griffin’s eyes never left Katie.
“Yes,” he said. “That board on the ground, it must have been knocked over when the creature moved. There’s a hole there now. If we can get past it, then we might be able to drop down into the ground there.”
“Great, and how do you suppose we get past that monster?” Brianna asked. Richard shook his head.
Katie looked the creature in the eye. Since it wouldn’t look at any of the others, she wondered if it was only interested in her. If she could distract the creature, maybe Richard and Brianna can escape. It was worth a try.
“I have an idea,” she whispered to the others. She leaned in the talk quietly, in case the griffin could understand her. The others leaned in as well.
“If I can distract the creature, then maybe you guys can get to the hole in the ground,” she said. Richard opened his mouth to argue. “Wait! Don’t interrupt. It seems to only watch me. Maybe if I can keep its attention long enough for you guys to open the board all the way then maybe we can escape without fighting it.”
They were silent for a moment while they thought about it.
“Maybe,” Brianna whispered.
“What!” Richard whispered in an aggressive whisper. “So we just leave her behind?”
“I didn’t say you would be leaving me behind. I just said that I can distract it while you guys get clear, then maybe I can climb into the hole before it attacks,” Katie said.
“Well, I don’t like the idea of you being up here unguarded,” Richard said, crossing his arms.
“If we can get past it, nearer to the hole, then we can get into the ground before it tries to attack,” Brianna pointed out, looking grim.
“I think that if I hold eye contact, then we can walk around it to the other side. Then you guys jump into the hole first and I’ll follow behind,” Katie said.
“Richard, this might be the only chance we get,” Brianna said to him. He remained silent for a moment, obviously thinking hard.
“Yeah,” he said. “If that works, great, but if not...”
“I think it’ll work,” Katie said. For some strange reason, she knew it would work. The creature would watch her only. Then if they could get around the griffin, they could jump into the hole, and she would follow after them.
“If she is willing to take the risk, so should you, Richard,” Brianna said. He stood for a moment, looking into her eyes. Then...
“Okay,” he said, sounding defeated and unhappy.
Katie turned back to the griffin. It hadn’t moved. When her eyes came up, its eyes darted to them. She held the gaze, trying hard not to blink. She motioned for them to start their walk around the creature. Richard grabbed her hand and pulled her with him.
“What are you, child?” came a chilling voice. The griffin’s mouth had not moved, but Katie knew that it had come from it.
“What do you mean?” she asked it. Her eyes burned for her to blink, but she resisted temptation.
“You are a human, and yet you control powers none before me have ever had,” it responded.
“Yes. None that have ever come into my lair have ever been able to look at me without fearing me,” it said.
“I fear you,” she said, her voice shaking.
“But you do not freeze in fear,” it said without moving its mouth. “You did not become petrified with fear.”
“But my friends can move about,” Katie said. The griffin’s eyes moved to Richard. He suddenly froze, as if he had ran into an invisible wall. Brianna tugged at his hand, her eyes wide. Katie looked over at Richard and saw that he was starring into the griffin’s eyes.
“Richard, look away,” she said, speaking loudly. He didn’t move.
“You see?” the griffin said, turning its gaze to Brianna. She froze this time and Richard stirred, but he seemed disoriented. “None can meet my gaze without fearing petrifying them.”
“Please, leave them alone,” Katie said. She tried to keep her voice calm, but it shook with fear, even though it wasn’t as tangible as it seemed for the others.
The griffin’s eyes turned back to Katie. It starred at her in wonder. Brianna seemed in a daze as she clung to Richard’s hand. He had released Katie’s hand and was shaking his head, as if to clear it.
“Can we pass?” Katie asked.
“In all the years I have spent here, I have never been intrigued by something. I live a dull life,” the creature said, its mouth still not moving. Katie suddenly realized that it was a female’s voice.
“I’m sorry,” Katie said.
“I do not say this for your pity,” the griffin replied. “I tell you this because I have never really been surprised. I find it a curious sensation.”
“Okay,” Katie said, not sure what to say. She lightly shoved Richard’s back, making him take a step.
“I think that, since it seems fair, I shall allow you access out of here,” the creature said. Katie breathed in a sigh of relief. “But there is a condition.”
“And what would that be?” Katie asked. Richard seemed to have regained his senses and was urging Brianna forward. Katie had stopped following them and was standing still. Her eyes unblinkingly watched the amazing creature before her.
“I have lived thousands of years, and I have spent them doing Lord Zarha’s services. If I allow you to escape, will you take me with you?”
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