*spoiler alert* In part one, a teen girl, Amy, and her brownie companion, Morin, help drive off a flock of harpies, saving three fae–a captain and his two remaining soldiers. Amy also rescues a griffin egg from the harpies.
In part two, the fae try to take the egg away from Amy because fae and mortals usually despise each other. But Amy threatens to sidestep into the mortal world, a human’s only skill in Faerie, and the fae withdraw to let the egg hatch safely in Amy’s lap.
The baby griffin was scrawny and wet, and no doubt Morin would have to listen later as Amy bemoaned the state of her jeans. He reached into his journey sack just as Amy asked, “What do I feed it, Morin?”
“Most creatures eat bread,” he replied, handing her a small loaf.
Without taking her eyes from the ragged future wonder in her lap, Amy tore off a small piece and offered it tentatively to the young griffin. It hardly appeared majestic with its brown feathers and coat dark with moisture, matted into clumps.
“What now? Will you lick it clean as well?” the fae captain demanded.
“Eeuw.” She made a face and tore off another chunk. The young griffin snatched at it greedily. “Hey, watch that, Riff.”
Morin’s shoulders shook with suppressed laughter as he reached into his sack for a rag. He handed it to Amy, and she wiped the griffin down between bites.
“You’re calling a creature known for prophecy Riff?” the captain said. “I don’t believe this.”
Amy shot him a dark glare before returning her attention to her young charge. “Don’t listen to the stupid fae, Riffy. Later you can tell him all the bad things that will happen if he doesn’t stop being such a jerk.”
The captain stomped off and began digging his sword into the soft soil, no doubt to bury his slain comrades. His younger companion joined him.
The injured fae remained seated, although it was clear he was on guard. “What would you have me do now, sir? I believe I can continue if you have any bandages for my leg wound.”
“You can accompany the would-be griffin mother back to Lady Nerina.”
“Oh, no,” Amy said. “The young guy—Tam—can come with us. No one else.”
Morin dug in his sack for bandages, and the five of them continued with their separate tasks. The only sounds were angry mutters from the fae captain, the soft thud of dirt coming from the graves, and Amy crooning endearments to young Riff.
By the time the fallen were laid to rest, the griffin looked much improved. His scanty feathers were at least dry, his lion coat had been smoothed to velvet softness, and he was gazing up at Amy in adoration. He rested his head against her shoulder and closed his eyes.
“What do we do now, Morin?” she whispered. “Should I make him some sort of nest?”
The brownie shook his head and gestured to the harpy corpses still within eyeshot. “We lack the time to pamper him further. We must leave this place soon in case more enemies come seeking him.”
Amy’s eyes flashed with anger at the thought, but she rose carefully to her feet, trying not to disturb her young charge cradled gently against her chest.
Tam removed his cloak and cut a swathe from one side. He handed it to her, saying, “Here, you can probably make a sling from this.”
The young were always full of misplaced optimism. Morin responded to Amy’s silent appeal and fashioned a sling over her shoulder. She lifted the young griffin as if he were china and might break, but he shifted to the sling with no more than a sleepy cheep.
Morin and Amy set off, joined shortly by Tam, who’d lingered for a few last-minute admonishments from his captain. “Can you hunt?” Morin asked the redhead, looking dubiously at his sword.
“No, but I can do something better,” he replied cheerfully. “I’ll get us provisions from a manor in Lady Nerina’s name.”
“See?” Morin said to Amy. “He’s proving his worth already.”
Her gaze slid briefly to Tam, but she held her tongue, possibly to avoid waking Riff. If the griffin could actually teach Amy to think before she spoke, Morin would concede the stories concerning their wisdom were all true. His efforts thus far had met with limited success.
They eschewed the quick route—a quick sidestep into the mortal world and back—both to avoid a shock to young Riff and because having Tam along would ease their passage to Lady Nerina’s presence. She might not allow her vassals to hunt humans and hobs, but that didn’t mean they could simply waltz into her presence. Fae and tricksters went together like oil and water at the best of times.
At least it was lovely country to journey through. Morin usually spent only enough time in the mortal world to sleep, because even their most beautiful scenery seemed faded compared to Faerie. Hoary oaks clung to the soil with protruding roots, wearing their crowns of mistletoe and garlands of moss with ancient pride. Young pines swayed in the breeze, perfuming it with their resinous scent. Daisies and blue flax pushed their way stubbornly through the brilliant green grass. Lichen-covered granite pillars thrust from the ground, silent sentinels guarding secrets only they knew.
Provisioning required hiding in a nearby grove as Amy fed the baby griffin their last meat roll, cut into small bites. The young fae returned with bread and cheese, and Amy even thanked him for it when they stopped again to eat.
The griffin was less work than a young human, and sweet-tempered to boot. Riff toddled amidst the clumped grasses, cheeping happily, with Amy hovering above. She swooped down and righted his wing just before he bumped his face on the ground. “I think he’s getting better at this already,” she declared. “I bet he’ll be flying in no time.” Morin just smiled and indicated it was time to scoop him back up again.
Six hours of steady journeying brought them to Lady Nerina’s court. The sunset was painting the sky in brilliant shades of orange and gold as they stood at the silver-wrought gates, awaiting admittance.
The guards opened the gates with a metallic clang, echoed by the hiss of a sword drawn behind them. Tam held his blade to Amy’s side, blocking her way out.
“I’ll take the griffin now,” he said.