I...” Katie was at a loss of what to say. Richard and Brianna were at the hatch. He reached for it, to lift it the rest of the way clear.
The griffin’s tale slammed down on top of the hatch, completely covering it. Richard jumped back in surprise, grabbing Brianna’s hand as he did so. His eyes were wide. There was no other way out. Brianna stood next to him with her hands covering her eyes, as if she were very upset.
“If you will not take me with you, I will have to kill you,” the griffin said. “I can wait until another comes; one that can control the fear as you do, even if it takes another thousand years.”
Katie pondered this as she watched the creature’s shining eyes. She quickly went over their options. After a moment, she realized that they really didn’t have any options.
“How can we get you out of here?” she asked the griffin. She starred directly into the creature’s eyes, trying hard again not to blink as her eyes watered.
“I can get myself out,” the griffin said.
“By breaking through that wall,” she said, moving her head in the direction of the wall behind her.
“Then why hadn’t you done that before?” Katie asked.
“Because I have never been very interested in leaving before.”
Katie went silent for a few moments, thinking everything through.
“Yes,” Katie said after the silence. “We will take you with us. But how will we get out of here?” She gestured to herself, Richard, and Brianna.
“Climb upon my back,” the creature said. “I am a proud creature, but humiliation has visited me when Lord Zarha captured me all those years ago.”
Katie motioned for the others to come to her. They slowly made their way around the griffin, careful to keep their distance. Richard stood close to Katie, and Brianna stood just behind him. Katie didn’t look away form the griffin’s eyes.
“We can escape by riding upon the griffin’s back,” Katie said told them.
“Why can’t we just go through the hole in the ground?” Richard asked, looking at the creature’s tail, which still sat upon the hatch.
“Because,” the griffin said, answering Richard before Katie could. “It will lead you to a more fearsome creature than me.” Richard opened his mouth to reply, but no words came out.
“Can we leave now?” Katie asked the majestic creature.
“Yes,” the griffin said. It was hard to tell, but the tone sounded light, as if the griffin were smiling.
“Do you have a name?” Katie asked it. She grabbed Richard’s hand and pulled him forward.
“Yes,” the griffin said. “Airlia.”
“That’s an amazing name,” Katie whispered, truly meaning it. She reached up to grab hold of the creature’s shoulder blade, but stopped. A clawed hand curled around her waist. In surprise, Katie released Richard’s hand. She was lifted into the air.
“Katie!” Richard shouted, below her now. “Let her down!”
“Do not worry yourself, young human,” Airlia said. Katie looked down and saw that she was very far up. She hadn’t realized how far up the ceiling was. With a slight rush of air, the creature started to lower Katie towards it’s back.
The griffin gently set her down on a furry back. Katie carefully sat up and looked down again. She was still far off the ground, but not as far as she had been. Richard was looking up at her with wide eyes, his hand on the hilt of his sword.
The griffin reached towards Brianna. She shrieked and jumped back. Richard stood in front of her and pulled free his sword.
“Back off!” he shouted.
“Richard, she means no harm!” Katie shouted down to them.
“And how would you really know that?” he barked back.
“You’ll have to trust me!” She shouted back. She watched as Richard held the sword out, ready to slash the claw if it came too close.
“If they wish to stay, so be it,” Airlia said.
“Richard, please!” Katie shouted at him.
“Richard, I think we can trust the creature,” Brianna said.
“No way!” Richard screamed at her.
“Richard, what other choice do we have?” Brianna asked him. She stepped around him and waited as the hand reached out to her. Katie could see her shivering as the fingers curled around her waist.
“No!” Richard shouted. He reached out to grab Brianna, but she was lifted out of his reach. Katie could tell that she was suppressing a scream. A moment later, she was set down next to Katie on the creature’s back.
“Are you okay?” Katie asked her. Brianna nodded, her eyes wide. Katie turned her attention back to Richard. “Richard, you need to listen to me.” Below, he had his sword still out, pointing towards the creatures belly.
“She will not harm you. I promise you. You need to trust me and put your sword away,” Katie said to him.
Katie could see that he was shaking. He was obviously afraid of this creature. He would probably rather risk taking the tunnel under the hatch instead of facing this creature. Katie wished that he would listen to his heart and do as she asked. A moment later, he lowered his sword. He took a deep breath and placed it back in its sheath.
The hand curled around his waist as well. He was lifted into the air. A few moments later, he was sitting down next to Katie and Brianna. He shook his head and muttered to himself.
“Never again,” he said.
“Hold tight now,” Airlia instructed. The griffin stretched out its long legs. She reared and spun in a slow circle. Katie couldn’t understand what the griffin was trying to do. A moment later, they heard a loud crash. Katie glanced over her shoulder.
A large gaping hole was in the wall. The griffin had broken the wall with its hind legs and tail. There was a large hole now, with the sun shining through. Airlia spun again, and carefully climbed through the hole.
When the griffin was finally clear, she jumped. They plummeted through the sky in a rush. Katie’s hair flew in front of her face. She felt Brianna’s hands grip her waist tightly. Her scream was lost in the wind.
They were falling and Katie could feel Airlia trying desperately to throw her wings out. It must have been a long time since the last time she flew. Her joins probably weren’t what they used to be.
The ground was coming up quickly. Katie joined in with Brianna’s scream.
The griffin’s long wings came out and caught the air at last. Their descent was slowed, then stopped all together. A beat of the wings brought them up higher. Another beat and they were even higher. After only a few beats, they were about the same height as where they had taken off from.
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