Tuesday, September 26, 2006


A few acres northeast of town, a small cottage puffs grey-white smoke from its red brick chimney. The cottage and surrounding outbuildings are all neatly fenced in. Snow covers the fields and roofs, and there aren’t any tracks either to or from town. Near the cottage, a large green barn stands, doors open. You can hear a pair of voices inside, and the whinnies and cries of a horse. Yellow lantern-light illuminates the barn on this early, snowy morning.

The commotion is coming from one of the horse-stalls inside the barn. The dirt-packed floor inside the barn is frozen under your feet as you walk to the stall. Once there, you see a pregnant horse lying on a pile of fresh straw, while Grissom and one of his apprentices are trying to turn its foal to deliver it.

Grissom must have heard you come in, because he turns slightly and speaks in a gentle voice. “Ahh, Lummox. Glad you’ve come back. Give us a hand.”

A couple of hours later, the new foal is standing on wobbly legs and you have a chance to speak with the kindly animal trainer. He seems excited by the prospect of helping you train your mount and speaks rapidly, his eyes flicking from you to somewhere behind you, as if you’ve brought the griffon with you.

"So, where’s this griffon? Have you made any progress on training him? I’ve never trained a flier before, it’ll be a learning experience for both of us. We may need Reshaph’s help. He’s pretty good with exotic animals, too. How long do you have to stay with us? Usually it takes a month or so to train an animal to ride.”

“Usually, I charge people to train their animals, but you’ll be doing most of the work, I figure. You going to stay here, or in town? Either way, you’re in for some long days. Be here an hour before dawn, and you’ll leave an hour after sunset. Probably best to leave the animal here. And I’ll have to charge you a few nobles for that, and the feed, of course. Might ask Reshaph what griffons eat when you find him. He’s been spending a lot of time in the Dawn Quarter lately. You might try the Familiar’s Roost first. You’ve been to the Roost before, I trust? You need to be able to shapechange into a bird.”

“Oh, you can’t change your own shape? Well. Uhmm.” He scratches his head for a moment.” Wait here for a few minutes, this might work.” He walks quickly back to his cottage from the barn. After a few moments, he emerges, using his homespun cotton sleeve to polish the dust from something he’s holding.

He walks back over and opens his hand to reveal a small silver and emerald bird, its wings stretched in flight. “I traded this off a druid in the Adri Forest when I was a lad. Gave him an old red gem I’d found in the mountains. See, you blow on the bird’s back and it’s wings close. When it’s wings are open, you can say a magic word and it’ll turn you into a green jay. Similar to a blue jay, but with green coloring instead. This little bird will let you into the Familiar’s Roost. After an hour, it’ll wear off. I bet there’s a way to change back, but I could never figure it out. Maybe Reshaph will know. Anyway, bring it back when you’re done with it. I’d hate to lose it.”

Later that day, the sun has thawed the cobbled snowy streets into a slushy mess. It’s a constant effort to dodge out of the way of wagons splashing dirty snow in all directions. You find yourself at the end of Trader’s Road, staring up at a colossal elm tree. All sorts of birds, common and exotic, can be seen in and around the lofty limbs of the tree. Trader’s Road ends here, between the Familiar’s Roost (a cramped inn/tavern that is built around the huge tree.) and the Elven Barracks.

There is no entrance at ground level, that you can see.

You fly up and after twenty feet or so, you can hear people talking inside the foliage. Other birds are perched all over the tree, singing and tweeting musically. There’s a walkway near the tree that leads to smaller platforms where all sorts sit and talk.

Reshaph is talking with a small group of people when you find him. He’s clean-shaven on his cheeks, but wears a long goatee that’s braided and secured to his jerkin with a silver broach in the shape of a twisting vine. He wears worn, muted green broadcloth garments. A few birds are flitting over his party, and many chirp a greeting while winging past.

You only recognize two of the men talking to Reshaph, one is the Viscount Langard, the other, interestingly, is the rogue Illusk. There are two others who you haven’t seen before. One is a scruffy-looking sort, with a short, wispy white beard, a leather vest, and beggar’s rags. The other is a well-dressed man with a closely trimmed goatee. He’s wearing dark red brocade with gold thread and seed pearls, and a leather beret. You only catch a bit of the conversation before the group breaks up.

“It’s agreed then? You’ll remove this object from the city immediately?” says Langard sternly.
“Of course, my Lord. As soon as our business is done at the Chapel of Zilchus. The object is still in the vault, Illusk?” the scruffy, white-bearded man asks.
“Of course.”
“Then we are done here.” Langard says, and stands.

The men leave the area, except for Reshaph, who looks directly at you.

“A green bluejay. Not a common bird around here, to be sure. You’ve overheard more than you needed to. He draws a slender wand from his robes and points it at you. Now, come down from that branch and I’ll return you to your normal form. Then we’ll decide what to do with you.”

Reshaph flicks his wand at you and says a couple of words in draconic. You feel a strange swelling and morph back into your normal form.

Reshaph laughs, a deep hearty laugh. “Ah, Friend Lummox. I didn’t know you were a shapeshifter. Well, you might as well know. Your companion Leelu, a buyer has been found for her dragon’s egg. Langard caught wind of the thing being here in the city, and we had to call this meeting to assuage him. Illusk should be contacting her with the rest of the information.

“So, why have you come to see me, friend?” he asks. You explain your talk with Grissom about training your griffon.

“Aye, I’ll help you with your griffon. How long do you have? And the beast’s at Grissoms? Well, usually we’d only be able to train it to do one thing, like hold you and fly. But between the three of us, we should be able to train it faster. And, this is a good excuse for me to catch up with Grissom. And ask him how he came across that curious bird bauble.”

1 comment:

Degolar said...

There's a joke in there somewhere about Lummox the bird . . .