Authors Note: So here we have part one of a two-part story just for you! It was very fun to write, though painful to edit :) Please enjoy, review, and let me know what you think.
PART ONE: THE SILVER GRIFFIN NAMED FIORE.
Fiore watched curiously as the clan master's underlings filed behind her into the clearing. She trilled softly, a greeting to Callias and slowly trotted forward until her front claws brushed Cal's boots and her beak was rubbing affectionately along the Spymasters side. Fiore was a silver griffin with black tips on the ends of her wings. Many of the younger males had tried to court her, she had received rabbits and bushes and sometimes precious stones, but she hadn't accepted anyone's advances just yet. She was young, and had mastered flying with a weight on her back recently, which made the clan master very proud of her. 'Clan master.' she purred welcomingly.
Callias ran a hand firmly along the griffin's side, before stopping at the base of her ribs and scratching a patch of fur there. "Fiore." she replied, an inkling of warmth in her tone. As the group of about 20 men and women gathered in the clearing, she turned to them and spoke. "Don't do anything stupid, let them smell you and check you out. Tell them what you're thinking - you're all implanted."
Her people nodded. They had all been sliced open behind one ear so that a small and imbued stone could be inserted beneath their skin that would allow them to understand the griffins as if they were speaking in their minds.
One woman, called Re'ka, smiled nervously and picked a tree nearby to wait out the process - she'd heard these things could take a while, and she wasn't even sure if she'd get picked by one of the lovely young griffins. Watching the feathered beasts mill around and smell people, she smiled. She really liked griffins a lot - she hoped desperately that one would at least give her a go. With so many people, and so few griffins, her chances were slim. There were only 12 beasts here today.
'Clan master. Do you have anyone in mind for me?' Fiore asked Callias with a soft trill. She valued the Spymaster's opinion immensely; it was she who had pushed her to take to the air so young.
Cal looked down at the griffin and ruffled her head feathers. "No, just pick whomever you like.." the spymaster said softly. "Whom ever you think will be the best partner for you. Try everyone if you must."
Fiore whistled approvingly and then strode forward to greet some of Callias' underlings. A young boy with dark hair and grey eyes sat near a cabin and she greeted him gently, her sharp beak clacking together to draw his attention away from the other griffins.
The boy looked up, he was scarcely 16 years old, but quite tall for his age. "Hello gorgeous...!" He called and brushed his hair back from his face. The griffins he had been talking to walked off, except for one that glared at Fiore and dropped to the boy's feet, ears laid back. The boy slid of the tree-stump he sat on and crouched on the ground, stretching out a hand to encourage Fiore closer.
'Hello human. I'm called Fiore, how are you?' the griffin questioned politely, barely touching him as she frisked his body with her beak, searching for familiar smells and any wounds he might have.
"Uhm.. I'm Deni, and I'm quite well.. how about you..?" He replied, stroking the feathers at the back of the griffin's head softly. His heart was beating fast as she searched him - she was gorgeous and ever so close, and he knew she could kill him at any second with her strong claws and beak. Fiore purred approvingly, and then cast her gaze down on the griffin that was glaring up at her from his feet. 'It seems you are spoken for.' she clacked her beak in amusement, gesturing to the defiant griffin before leaning down to preen her clan-mate's feathers reassuringly. Fiore quickly moved on, watching the very dangerous humans in the clearing who were so useful to her clan master. Callias valued every one of these people.
Phayno watched Fiore closely as she wandered away from Deni and back towards the larger group in the trees. Judging the timing perfectly, she hopped down from the tree-branch she sat on and landed right in front of the small pretty griffin. She didn't say a word, only bowed elegantly and offered her hand to Fiore, head still bowed.
Fiore's hackles raised slightly and then settled. The way the girl had dropped from the trees- for a moment she had thought it was one of the younger griffins come to attack her. She sniffed the hand offered to her and purred, the rumble drawing from her chest quite loudly despite her small size.
The young woman looked up from her bow, though remained bent in the middle, and smiled at the young griffin, moving her hand ever so slightly to stroke the feathers under the creature's chin. Her long copper-red hair fell in crazed cascades down her shoulders and arms, and there were visible sticks and leaves stuck in it. The red mass moved like water as she enthusiastically curtsied and sat cross-legged on the grass, smiling broadly up at the griffin. Fiore lay down beside her, willing to test the atmosphere between them. 'What does Callias have you do?' she asked. She felt it was important to find out these things before she chose her partner.
Phayno seemed to look at her blankly for a long moment, her lips pressed together and naturally wide eyes looking as if caught in some bright light and unable to move. Eventually, she shot a finger up in the air, as if an idea occurred to her, and she leaned in very close, looking around as if no one else was allowed to hear, and whispered in Fiore's ear. "I interrogate in the field." Fiore seemed to slouch in disappointment. 'Ah. So you need someone who can also protect you while you are working.' she spoke in understanding. 'Why corner me? I am not as large as others.' Phayno shook her head wildly, her hair thrashing like long grass in a storm. "No," She said sharply, before darting her eyes around to check that no one was listening. "You are smart - and logical."
Fiore glanced over at Callias, catching her eyes.
Callias shrugged and narrowed her lips - she had to make sure that she stayed out of their decisions - already most of them had asked her about who they should chose, and she had told them the same thing.
Phayno looked in the same direction and saw Callias looking back, and flinched away from her gaze, bowing her head low so that her hair formed a barrier from Cal's view.
Another griffin much larger than Fiore walked up, curious to see why Fiore was so interested in this human. Fiore greeted him affectionately, her beak bumping his and her sharp tongue poking out to lick at his face. 'Her name is Phayno.' she introduced the eccentric redhead.
Phayno slowly looked up from her cloud of hair and pushed it back over her head, which served little purpose but to make it messier. Once again she bowed and offered her hand to the newcomer, though kept her eyes on Fiore from her periphery.
Fiore trilled approvingly and slinked away back towards the Spymaster, only to be intercepted yet again by some human looking to win her. This boy had her frozen in place. She couldn't move. Her hackles raised and a low growl poured from her beak fiercely. She glanced at the Spymaster. 'Clan Master. I'm frozen.' she spoke, unimpressed and slightly fearful. The boy walked forward lazily. He crouched in front of the griffin and smiled at her smugly. "I'm Gray."
Fiore glared, clacking her beak angrily and trying to lunge from her invisible restraints. She could see Callias move forward slightly. She hissed at the boy and fought to leap forward upon him with all her might. She felt as if she were being held tightly. 'What are you?' Callias waited back a little, though considerably closer than she was before. She watched eagerly to see how both parties would deal with this. Gray shrugged and leaned in closer, as if inspecting Fiore's face. "Nothing special. You are though, something very special.." His eyes were dark and serious.
Fiore hissed, an angry sound, which developed into a high-pitched screech similar to that of an eagle or a banshee. Other griffins abandoned their human company and slowly moved in to inspect the situation, but Fiore dismissed them. 'I will not forget your face or smell.' she promised him, still trapped in place.
Callias smirked and leaned against a tree.
"Good. Make sure that you don't.." Gray sneered and patted Fiore a few times firmly on the head. "I want you to be mine."
Fiore glowered, stretching her neck forward and nipping at his retreating fingers. 'I would be unable to support your heavy ego on my shoulders and we'd never lift up high enough to become airborne.' the silver griffin bit out the words.
Gray threw his head back and laughed. "Oh little one, I'm sure we'd manage." He said casually and ruffled her head feathers. "You're quite skilled as I recall." Fiore's claws curved into the soil beneath her, clenching tight as she considered him.
'You watch me?' she asked, a slightly curious pitch entering her tone though it mostly remained scathing.
"I watched all of you grow up." He said coolly, shrugging again. "But you were always the boss. And the most skilled."
'Hyrum and Andromache lead us. Not I.' she corrected him, slightly amused. Her feathers less raised now as she settled in slightly to regard him properly. She was unable to do anything to aide her movement.
"Oh I know, but you were the boss of the young ones - the leader." He spoke in low tones with his mouth close to her ears now as he slowly ruffled her feathers, fingers buried deep in the silvery covering.
She shook his hand away, annoyed at his clever techniques. Griffins bonded much more quickly with physical contact, he was trying to disarm her. 'If you are attracted to leadership, why not court Callias?' she asked sharply, her eyes glinting in the morning light.
Gray laughed coldly and glanced over his shoulder at the watching spymaster. "At least with you, I have only a chance of losing a limb - with her, I'd certainly lose something."
'What do you do? Why would you require me?' Fiore interrogated, skimming over this insubordinate to the clan master when Callias just shrugged amusedly.
"I can move people - or stop them moving.." He looked at her meaningfully, as if to use her present situation as a perfect example. "But only if I can see them. Callias wants me in the air - much easier to see people from up there."
'So we would fly mostly. I'm small, how do you expect me to support your constant weight?' the griffin challenged him, as if he were simple.
Suddenly, he thrust himself to his feet, spinning on his heels in one quick circle, before bending to be at eye level with Fiore again. "But look how light I am...!" He exclaimed, grinning at her. "Surely I'd be easier than some of the smaller girls here, even."
'Phayno is interested in me.' Fiore huffed. 'Why shouldn't I choose her? There are 19 other humans here for me to pick from.'
"Because I value your skills more than any of them." He said calmly and gave her an easy, smug smile.
Fiore glanced at some of Callias' other subordinates. Despite not being able to move, she dismissively scanned past Gray to interact with the others. A young woman with blond hair and blue eyes leant against a tree, watching the exchange. 'What do you do?' Fiore addressed her.
"Me?" She asked and pointed to herself, her pretty eyes sparkling in the sun. "Spy." She said quickly. "Callias has me infiltrating a large gang - they have a group of people with great beasts as familiars. I need to fit in."
'That sounds like fun.' Fiore approved genuinely. 'Would I be suitable?' she questioned. Infiltration sounded incredibly enjoyable. She wondered how many interesting partners she could choose between.
"Of course, you particularly with your impressive appearance." The woman replied, prompting scoffs from Gray, who had changed to sitting beside the still-frozen Fiore. "I want her, Issei - she's mine and you know it." The boy bit back, glaring at the blonde with great intensity.
'Issei.' Fiore repeated as though testing the words. 'So my small size in regards to griffins like Andromache will not matter, because my plumage is unique?' she asked, ignoring Gray's warning.
"That is correct." Issei said calmly and shot Gray a look, telling him to shut up. "They pride their creatures on being unusual."
Gray cut in and half-shouted. "See? She wants you only for your aesthetics. I know what you're capable of, I know your mind and your skills." He enthused, cupping her head with a hand at each side and trying to direct Fiore's attention to himself.
The griffin turned away from him, back to Issei. "How long do you expect it to take to fulfil your objective? What would you do with me once we completed the task?'
"I am intended to be there for as long as possible - we need information from the inside about their goings-on." Issei replied plainly and strode closer to the griffin, keeping her eyes firmly planted on her. "Afterwards, I do not know - I guess that depends on Callias' plans." With this, she stopped dead next to Gray and froze for a few moments, watching him from her peripherals. Callias watched them closely. Quickly lashing out with one hand, Issei balled her first, leaving her pointer finger's knuckle jutting out cleanly and smashing it into Gray's temple. The boy reeled and fell backwards, head spinning, but trying to clamber to his feet. Issei struck him once more - a firm kick to the abdomen as he sat on all fours on the grass - before Callias called an end to it, a warning tone in her voice. "Stop fighting!"
Issei shrugged and sat calmly on the ground infront of the griffin, her knees folded beneath her. She watched Gray stumble away, glaring at her the whole time and suppressed a laugh.
Fiore trilled softly, her movement returned and she regarded the woman infront of her appreciatively. 'Callias. Would our partnership end when she accomplished her objectives?' she questioned, briefly turning her gaze to Gray.
Callias considered for a moment and shook her head. "No, I see little reason. I'm sure you as a pair would be useful elsewhere." Issei smiled at Fiore slightly, a soft expression with bright eyes and a gentle mouth.
'Have you interacted with the others?' Fiore questioned, ignoring Issei's personal space and sniffing her eagerly as she sat on the grass. She clacked her beak in the woman's blonde tresses, preening her.
"I have. Some have shown interest, but others are scared to be acting for their lives." She continued in speak plainly, leaning in to Fiore's scrutinizing sniffs and butts. "They all went to look at other options, of course. I was just waiting."
'I understand. You're waiting to see who returns?' Fiore asked. 'All of us are very excited to form partnerships.'
Issei nodded and looked meaningfully at Fiore. "I can understand that. What is it you desire from your partner..?"
'Respect.' The small griffin glanced meaningfully at Gray. 'And I want something challenging and fun. I'm a skilled hunter. Callias has trained me in fighting as well as flight. I successfully carried Talthybius earlier this week in the air. I'm looking for someone who will take me on many assignments.' Fiore trilled and many of the other griffins signalled their agreeance with her statement by trilling back. They all wanted some fun.
Gray noticed her attention from his position, slumped against a tree about 10 metres away, and grinned smugly. Issei blinked quickly, as if to wash away his annoying personality and turned back to Fiore. "I can offer many of those things, of that I am sure." She said decisively. "You'll be in the middle of a major operation by the network. You'll get to fight, and fly and do lots of interesting and illegal things.."
Fiore nodded. 'Your face is often unreadable. I can't tell whether or not you're luring me in with a kind, false smile.' the griffin admitted curiously, wondering how the woman would respond to that. Callias smirked.
Issei looked at her calmly. "I am not dishonest to those I work with. I am simply calm and professional, though a very good actress." Just as Issei finished speaking, she snapped her head to the side, to look up at a shimmering space of air, taller and wider than she would have been standing. "And this is Skyne.." She said, apparently reluctant to introduce the air-shimmer to the griffin.
The effect seemed to fall, and then evaporate, and left a large man crouching before Fiore. "Heeeello..." He greeted and tousled her feathers roughly with one hand.
Fiore stood as tall as she could and then extended her large, powerful wings straight up in the air to tower over him. 'You are very large.' she appraised seriously, before circling around his entire body to get a better look.
Skyne drew himself to his full height and width, puffing out his chest and raising an eyebrow. "Why thank you." He enthused, and waited for her to complete her circuit before crouching to get a closer to look at her. "You're not so bad yourself..!" He ran an appreciative hand over the top of her wings, gentle but firm in his touch.
'You must weigh more than I do.' Fiore remarked in amusement. 'Have you only come to greet me, or are you trying to court me into choosing you?'
"I'm looking for something pretty specific in my griffin partner..." He said emotively, his voice rising and falling in apparent excitement. "So what are you good at..?"
Issei sighed and stood, easily walking across the clearing - exactly opposite to where Gray sat, to stand against a tree like she had been before. She had to admit that she was a little upset about losing her monopoly on the gorgeous griffin, but she knew all hope was not lost, she'd made a good pitch.
Fiore purred, rubbing against his side as she sauntered to stand infront of him. 'I hunt, fight, and I am the fastest flier from this batch. I can out-race even Andromache. That is without weight though.' she gestured humorously to his large stature.
Skyne laughed a low, deep chuckle and placed a large hand on her head. "I'm after a partner to hunt and fight with, not so much a mount. But there would be plenty of flying involved in tracking." He explained and looked right into her eyes. "If you'd be interested."
'I am interested, definitely. But I wish to have someone abroad my shoulders as well.' the silver griffin admitted.
"Oh, well.. Sorry gorgeous. I'm a little large I think - if you don't find anything better, let me know." He said happily and grinned at Fiore, petting her head firmly before standing and waving over his shoulder as he walked away. Fiore trilled after him, definitely interested in his offer. He presented the opportunity to work as two clan-mates hunting and tracking together. It sounded very interesting. She sat in the clearing now, waiting between Gray and Issei. She realised that many of the spies had been watching her and listening in, and that parties who were interested would most likely approach her now. Most of the other griffins had settled on partners which left 12 of Callias' people unpaired. They would stay in the clearing until all the griffins, including Fiore, had decided.