She buried her face in his feathers. Around her, the wind whipped through her long, unkempt hair. Below them, the world rushed by.
It was a dangerous world down there, filled with strangers and monsters, but here, on his back, a thousand feet in the air, they were safe.
He was a griffin, tall and handsome, with a head and wings of soft brown feathers and hind legs covered in even softer cat's fur. He was the one who had watched over her all these years, ensuring she was fed and warm each day. Why this noble beast had decided to take in a weak human child, she had never thought to ask, it was just the way it had always been.
She went where he took her, he waited for her before he left. At night, she slept under his wide wings, during the day the two hunted lesser beasts for their dinner.
He bucked suddenly. Once, she might have fallen due to such a maneuver, but she had long since learned how to hold on to his bareback, and her body twisted with his as he made his sudden turn.
She looked over his wing, to the ground. Strangers pointed guns into the sky, tracking their movement with the laser sights.
He rolled in the air, dodging another round of shots, pulling out of the spin with the beating of his wings.
As they climbed, she drew the spear from her back, adjusting the grip in her hands.
The strangers shot again. She could feel the heat of the energy weapon as the bolt flew past her, grazing her cheek but missing its target.
He crested in the air, turning his beak down, toward the men, tucking his wings back, locking her in place. They dove, careening out of the sky, his clawed forelegs extended, her spear extended before her, the wind screaming out of their way as they dropped.
The strangers scattered, shouting words she did not understand in panic.
Not all of them moved fast enough, he catching one, she another. He pulled them out of their death-defying dive at the last minute, extending his wings and angling up again at the last moment, dragging their prey's bodies into the air with them.
Back at cruising altitude, they dropped them, letting the deadfall back upon their remaining comrades.
Those comrades were shooting wildly now.
He dodged them easily, weaving through the flurry of energy blasts and traditional bullets.
The two dove again, picking off another of the strangers.
Apparently, that was enough for today. The remaining strangers turned and ran back to their distant city.
Why the strangers challenged them, she never understood. Without wings, they stood no chance against them. Even with their strange weapons, they never managed to harm the two of them. And they didn't seem to have any interest in their territory. She'd never seen them eating the meat of any of the beasts they hunted here, and she couldn't think of any other reason they might want the plains the two of them had claimed as their own.
She returned her spear to its bag on her shoulder, standing on his back to watch the strangers run. She liked to ensure they had properly left when they ran. Once she hadn't, and they had jumped her in the night. It had ended okay, but it was not an experience she wanted to live again.
He brought them up to one of the great structures that dotted the plains, a great pillar of metal, glass, and stone. She leapt from his back to stand at the edge, watching over her home with a smile. He nuzzled up beside her, wrapping one wing around her shoulder. She returned the gesture, wrapping an arm over his neck, holding him close.
In the distance, a city glistened gold and crimson, the setting sun lighting it from behind.
Another day, perhaps, she would go there and find out why the strangers came to her lands.
Another day, perhaps, she would find out why, although they looked like her, they did not fly through the skies with their family.
Another day. Perhaps.
He nudged her again, crooning lovingly.
She smiled and patted his neck, turning and following him to their nest. But not tonight.
She lay on the forest floor letting the sun's light dance through the foliage and onto her face. She held one hand up, palm outstretched, half blocking the sun from her eyes, half staring at the gold band around her ring finger. She sighed and dropped her hand to her side, running her hand throug...