Aphelion Issue 287, Volume 27
September 2023
 
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Flashes of Silver

by Rhiannon Bird




The elf’s green clothing was stark against the grey rocks, pointing Elyssa out as unnatural in the hard landscape. Waves crashed below her into the side of the cliff.

From this angle she could see the beast stalking the coast below her. Even through the rain she recognized this gryphon, it had the same scar across its hip. Elyssa readjusted the bow on her shoulder and started down a small path carved through the harsh rock. Rage thrashing deep within her rose closer to the surface the nearer she got.

Lightning crashed above her, and her mind was thrown into the past.

The sky lit up with a loud crack of thunder as Elyssa walked home. She shuffled through the forest, her shoulders already tense, ready for the oncoming rain. After a long day patrolling Elyssa was ready to sleep, especially since she’d need to be up with the sun tomorrow. Her sister’s initiation was tomorrow and Violen would kill Elyssa if she didn’t make it. She sighed as the rain began to pelt against her, could the day get any worse?

Halfway down the rock face she crouched to watch the gryphon pace. It was waiting for something. Every few steps it looked out towards the ocean. This close, she could see the patchy feathers and new scars scattered on its face. One wing was bent on the wrong angle and hung loosely, dragging on the ground. For the first time Elyssa hesitated in her quest, it looked pathetic, scared even. She almost felt sorry for the beast.

Elyssa froze in shock. The inside of her house was now open to the elements. The lightning flashed and revealed a magnificent gryphon that Violen had been hunting for the past week, standing in the rain. The feathers practically shimmered and Elyssa couldn’t tell what was blood and what was water.

She had trained for years in various weapons and fighting styles, yet everything inside her seemed frozen. The gryphons golden piercing eyes turned to look at her which jolted her out of the stupor, she fumbled to grab the bow on her shoulder and pulled out an arrow.

The gryphon had already spread its wings and was disappearing into the night.

The gryphon stopped moving and stood facing the sea. Every muscle was tense as it watched the crashing waves. Elyssa grasped her bow, there would be no fumbling this time. She nocked an arrow and took aim. One shot, that was all it would take. She took a deep breath in and prepared to release.

She hesitated, her fingertip barely holding the bowstring taut. The gryphon skittered back from the water’s edge, its chest moving rapidly. Her eyebrows furrowed, what could scare a gryphon? She lowered the bow and stared at the crashing waves, there was something moving.

From beneath the water a silver serpent rose, almost five times the size of the quivering gryphon. The serpent hissed and its lips curled, revealing pointed teeth.

Its head snapped forward and ripped at the already broken wing of the gryphon. The screech that the gryphon released cut through the storm like a sword. Elyssa didn’t know if it was the sight of the gryphon bleeding or the ear--splitting sound, but she was already moving. She raised the bow and released an arrow straight towards the serpent. The arrow bounced off its scales and was swept away by the churning sea.

Elyssa squared her shoulders; she was a trained warrior and refused to be defeated.

Standing halfway down the cliff made her eye level with the serpent who flashed sharp teeth in anger at her. On the side of its head fins fluttered over a rippling gill. The serpents head jabbed forward, and Elyssa dived out of the way. As she did, she sent an arrow straight into its gill. It pulled back, twisting in pain, before disappearing into the inky black water.

Elyssa released a breath and quickly traversed down to the sandy cove. She approached the gryphon carefully. With its wing damaged it couldn’t escape the cove by air and was too large to fit along Elyssa’s path. The gryphon squawked painfully as she approached.

Upon inspection there was no possible way that she would be able to fix the wing, fresh blood mixed with the sand as it bubbled from new cuts. Across its entire body she could see scabs and half healed wounds.

“How long have you been trapped here?” She whispered to herself. The gryphon shuffled away from where it was pressed to the rock face and revealed a small alcove. Elyssa sucked in a breath of surprise. There in the crevice was a tiny and battered gryphon. The baby was young and the effects of starvation obvious on its figure. Hip bones pressed against skin, and its eyes had a distant faraway look.

She rummaged through her bag, there had to be meat in here somewhere. Right in the bottom she grasped her hands around the morsel of meat left from last night’s kill. She unwrapped it and offered the food to the baby gryphon.

It was cautious, slowly moving closer until it couldn’t resist the tempting smell and wolfed the meat down. She laughed as the gryphon searched her hand for more,

“I don’t have anything else for you buddy,” Elyssa turned just in time to see the mother gryphon thrown across the cove and slam into the rocky wall on the opposite side. One very angry serpent looked down at her. This time with a friend. She cursed, one she could have dealt with, two was a different story. She glanced over at the mother gryphon; she wasn’t breathing anymore. “Looks like it’s you and me, little guy,” she said dropping her bow in favour for scooping up his slender body.

Both serpents lunged forward, and she took off sprinting out of the way.

Elyssa skittered on the sand to get onto the tiny path. Whoever had carved it, did not take into consideration having to run up its length. As she moved tiny sharp rocks tore at her clothing and the gryphon in her arms began to cry desperately.

She heard the serpent head whistling through the wind and slid to a stop. The head of the serpent missed them by inches. Elyssa spun, whipped out an arrow and stabbed it in the eye. The creature withdrew hissing in pain.

She was already moving again.

There was no stopping.

She was holding the baby gryphon in her arm facing away from the serpents to protect him. But when the other serpent gripped onto her free arm, she dropped him. He sprawled onto the wet rock. Elyssa couldn’t focus on him at the moment though, she just had to hope he didn’t have a broken leg from the fall.

Pain popped behind her eyelids and there seemed to be a fire coursing through her entire body. Blindly she reached for an arrow and the serpent withdrew at the sight of it. She knelt on the path, blood pouring down her arm and thought about not getting back up again. The pain was just getting worse, throbbing incessantly. She was so wet with blood that even the rain couldn’t wash it away.

Then Elyssa looked down at the small crying gryphon in front of her, she knew there was no way that he was being left here to be the serpents chew toy. She took a deep breath, gathered the baby gryphon in her good arm and stood up.

The rain was heavier now, she couldn’t even see the cove let alone a few feet in front of her. Elyssa squinted through the rain, there was no sign of either serpent, she couldn’t even hear them. They were almost to the top of the cliff now, almost safe. Her heart froze as she saw the serpent head bobbing in the rain. It wasn’t moving or attacking, just glaring at them. Her grip tightened on the baby gryphon. The serpent snapped its pointed teeth at them and hissed loudly. She let a breath escape in relief, it couldn’t reach them, they were too high up. She almost cried with gratitude.

Safety.

It only took a few more minutes to reach the top of the cliff. She lay the baby gryphon on the ground and rummaged through her pack for something to tie around her arm. She needed to stem the blood flow. The arm just hung loosely by her side, completely numb. Once that was done, she located her dagger and tucked it into her waist since her bow was lying back at the bottom of the cove.

The rain was beginning to clear up now and the sun brought to light the devastating state the two of them were in. She picked up the baby gryphon, “First thing we need to do is find you some more food.”

Then they would start the long trek back home.


THE END


2023 Rhiannon Bird

Bio: Rhiannon Bird is an Australian Author who has had short stories and poetry published. The most recent of which was The Beast in the Basement published in an Anthology by Black Hare press, Lockdown Fantasy 4. You can find out more on her website rhiannonbird.com

E-mail: Rhiannon Bird

Website: Rhiannon Bird's Website

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