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Chapter 2: Grown Up

Elees sat on the floor of the cave preening he newborn hatchling's plumage. As she had expected, she had laid only a single egg which hatched a few days later. The newborn hatchling was a little female. Fletcher and Tas moved in closer to get a better look at their new sibling. Like all hatchlings, she had grey downy feathers and yellow fur with black cub spots. Her eyes were a bright shade of orange.

Elees finished grooming the little hatchling and beckoned her mate to bring a small piece of meat over. Windstrider quickly hurried over with a shred of meat from a recent kill for the hatchling. After feeding the tiny gryphonling, Windstrider stood there looking at his daughter with pride.

"What shall we name her?" he asked.

Elees paused, thinking it over. She had come up with several possible names before the egg hatched and now that she knew they had a girl, she began mulling over the possibilities in her head. Finally she came up with a name she liked.

"Let's name her Mirriana. We can call her Mir for short." Elees suggested.

Windstrider gave a nod of approval.

As another year went by, Mirriana grew from a pudgy hatchling into a juvenile nestling. Though she was not big enough to fly, she had begun to learn how to talk. Her downy plumage and cub spots had gone and she now had dark brown feathers, darker than either of her brothers, but her fur was much lighter than theirs, like her mother. She still had the pudgy appearance, stubby beak, and short feathers of a hatchling though. Fletcher had became attached to his new sibling almost immediately. Mirriana seemed to idolize him and always wanted to be with him. Fletcher, meanwhile, had grown into a handsome adult. Soon he would head out on his own in search of a mate and start his own family. He was sleek and muscular with long elegant feathers, and long sharp talons and hind claws. He still had the same gentle eyes he had as a gryphonling though. Fletcher had begun to spend great deals of time with Mirriana and he suspected Tas had become jealous. Still, the young gryphon was at the stage in his life that he no longer took interest in childish games. He missed the old days of playing with his brother but those days were over and he was an adult now. He played with Mirriana because she looked to him as a role model.

One warm summer afternoon, Fletcher found himself lounging on the forest floor beneath the shade of the trees. The gryphon was lying on his back, his wings spread out beside him. Mirriana sat curled up on his chest, looking at him with those bright orange eyes. Fletcher twirled one of his talons over her head and hummed affectionately as she batted at it.

"I love you, Fletch!" Mirriana said. "Fletch" was her nickname for him. She was always so innocent and carefree. Fletcher remembered a time when he was like that and sometimes he missed those days.

Fletcher let out a warm chuckle. "And I love you too, Mir." He nuzzled her cheek with the tip of his beak. He heard the clicking sound of talons on the ground and turned his head to see his brother standing over him.

"Why don't you ever spend time with me anymore?" Tas asked. "All you ever do is spend time with her now!"

Fletcher sighed. He didn't understand why his brother was so jealous.

"Tas, we are no longer hatchlings. We have to help care for our sister just as our parents do." Fletcher explained. He did not want to have this argument right in front of his baby sister.

"Mir, why don't you run along home? Tas and I need to talk."

"Can we play later then, Fletch?"

"Yes, we can play later, Mir." He promised.

Fletcher watched as the nestling scurried back toward the cave.

"Tas, I know you miss the old days but those days are over. We are grown adults now. Soon it will be time for us to strike out on our own."

"I just feel so alone now." Tas said hanging his head sadly.

"Tas, I will always be here for you as I always have been before." Fletcher said reassuringly to his brother. "I just want to spend as much time with my sister as I can before then."

Tas sighed. He knew Fletcher was right but he still couldn't help shake the feeling of loneliness he felt since his brother never spent time with him anymore.

Fletcher suddenly had an idea. "Perhaps you and I can go hunting together." He suggested.

Tas's expression changed and he smiled at his brother.

"I'll take that as a 'yes' then." Fletcher said. He spread his wings and launched himself into the air climbing to just above the tree tops. Tas joined him.

What do you think we will find? Tas asked his brother mentally.

A deer I hope. Between you and me I doubt a goat would be enough to fill us up. Fletcher answered, scanning the land below with his keen eyes.

They flew onward in search of prey for about half an hour. Few animals were active this time of the day but there was bound to be something out somewhere. Finally Fletcher spotted something; a lone doe in a forest clearing ahead. Tas saw it too. Fletcher climbed higher into the air and leveled out, silently gliding over the deer. The gryphon rolled over and went into a steep dive, homing in on his target like a guided missile. Tas followed suit. Just before reaching the deer, Fletcher leveled out and landed next to where the deer was standing. Spooked by the sudden appearance of the predator, the animal bolted madly toward the woods.

Tas screeched angrily and hissed What did you do that for? You could have taken it!

I know, but this makes the chase more interesting! Fletcher answered, taking off after his brother.

Tas chased the doe from the air, easily matching its speed. He angled himself downward and grabbed the deer with his front talons, wrestling it to the ground. Tas was careful to avoid its kicking legs as he clamped his beak shut on the deer's throat, breaking its neck and killing it instantly. Fletcher touched down and folded his wings, eying the deer hungrily.

Tas puffed his chest and flapped his wings in protest. "I caught it so I'm going to be the first one to eat!" he said sternly.

Tas ate quickly until he was full and then stood aside, leaving the rest for his brother to finish up.

Fletcher gladly ate his fill. When he could eat no more, Fletcher took off into the blue sky, heading for home. There were many thoughts on the young gryphon's mind. He felt he was ready to head off into the world on his own. Leaving his parents and the only home he had ever known was difficult and sad but it was something every adult gryphon had to go through.

That night, the young gryphon approached his parents as they sat watching the stars.

"Mother? Father? We need to talk."

Windstrider and Elees turned their attention to their son.

"I think the time has come for me to head out on my own." Fletcher said flatly.

Windstrider and Elees looked at one another solemnly. They both knew this day would come sooner or later.

Elees said telepathically to her mate It is time then.

Windstrider nodded to her and stood up and walked up to his son, a look of both sadness and pride in his eyes. His son had grown up…

"Fletcher…" he said in the quietest tone the young gryphon had ever heard his father speak. "Your mother and I are so proud of you. It saddens me to see you leave but at the same time we are happy to see you complete your journey to adulthood."

Elees joined her mate and said to her son, "We will always love you, Fletcher."

Elees walked to the back of the cave, leaving Fletcher and his father alone. Windstrider sat down on his haunches at the entrance of the cave and curled his tail around his feet. Fletcher followed suit, sitting next to his father.

"Fletcher, I plan to tell your brother and your sister the same thing I am about to tell you." Windstrider explained, still looking out at the starry sky. "When you go out into the world, you will find that life is not always easy. Your mother and I have protected you and cared for you as best we could. We have done everything we can to prepare you for what lies ahead. Now you are on your own. There will be hardships you face in life. Not everyone you meet will be kind or generous. However, I believe in you and I have confidence that you can face whatever the world has to throw at you."

"Thank you, Father." Fletcher said quietly, feeling a lump in his throat. He was nervous and sad to leave his parents but there was nothing more he could learn from them. Still, he felt that he was ready.

"When do you plan to leave?" Windstrider asked.

"In the morning. I want to spend tonight with Tas and Mir." Fletcher replied, heading toward the back of the cave where his siblings slept.

His mother nuzzled him as he walked past her. "No matter where you go, you have our blessing." She whispered.

Fletcher smiled. "I will always love you, mother."

The gryphon padded to the back of the cave and lied down next to Tas who was sound asleep and Mir who was lying on her back, her wings outstretched beside her, also asleep. Fletcher hummed softly as he lowered one wing over his brother and the other over his sister and then closed his eyes, knowing that this would probably be the last night they ever spent together.

To be continued…

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