Riana’s fingers screamed out at her to stop as she held onto the rock ledge with all her strength. Her long platinum tresses were matted about her finely featured face and her mage’s robes were tangled around her thin body and long athletic legs as she dangled from the precipice with one hand.

“I… told you… this was… bad idea…” Katrina huffed, half in tears as she dangled from Riana’s other hand. Her own platinum tresses were better restrained behind her head, her long, tapered ears laying back from her head in fear. She looked from the ground far below them up into her sister’s Violet eyes, squinting her own golden orbs to get a better look through the wind-blown tears running down her face.

“I know…” Riana growled through her own body’s protests as her fingers screamed out in protest. “Would you mind… loosing a hundred pounds real quick?” She gritted her teeth as Katrina swung herself into the cliff face and grabbed hold of the surface, removing her weight from her sister’s body.

Riana quickly grabbed hold of another rock ledge and shifted her weight to relieve some of the pressure on her sore hand. “You ok Kat?”

Katrina was clinging to the rock face with all her strength, her arms and legs shook with adrenalin and fear. She took a moment to cast her sister above her a disparaging look. “I just nearly died Ree. What are we DOING up here?!”

“Looking for a root.” Riana huffed as she resumed climbing.

“A ROOT?!” Katrina nearly lost her grip again as she shouted after her sister. ”I have nearly died SIX TIMES on this trip and you are telling me it is all over a ROOT?!”

“Yeah.” Riana grunted as she pulled herself up onto a large shelf an sat against the wall of the cliff, taking a moment to catch her breath. A moment later Katrina scrambled up onto the shelf next to her and punched her in the shoulder.

“So what, may I ask, is this mysterious root-worth-dieing-for to be used for?” She huffed for breath as she pulled a water skin from her robes.

Riana cast her sister a sideways glance before snatching the water skin from her before she even had a chance to get a drink. Pressing the skin tightly to her lips she took a long pull and swallowed hard several times before allowing Katrina to steal the vessel back again.

“It’s… for a class project…” Riana finally replied as she chased a small piece of rock of the ledge with her finger.

Katrina eyed her once more before getting a drink of her own from the water skin. “Whatever. When you want to talk about it, just let me know.”

Riana raised an eyebrow at her sister thoughtfully, then chased the matted hair away from her face and tied the unruly locks together behind her head and glanced up the cliff to get an idea of the climb that was ahead of them. Slowly she pushed herself up off the ledge and turned to face the looming challenge. Keeping her eyes on the far-away top of the cliff, she pulled a long string from a pocket in her robes and used it to tie her sleeves up, baring her slender arms. Another string quickly secured the hem of her robe to her legs, essentially creating a pair of Capri pants that afforded her a better view of her lower legs and feet.

After a long moment, Katrina joined her in staring up the vertical face. “No time like the present eh?” She offered with little excitement in her voice.

Riana nodded minutely, then attacked the wall with surprising vigor considering the fact that they had already been at it for over an hour now.

A few minutes later Katrina’s curiosity, or maybe her frustration, got the better of her after her probing hand had disturbed a bird nest and resulting in her being nearly thrown from the cliff wall again. “What class did you say this project was for?” She grunted as she pulled herself up another six inches.

Riana took a moment away from the climb to glare down harshly at her sister, finally returning her attention to the ascent and reaching up for another hand hold. “Alchemy.” She grunted as she pulled herself up the cliff a few more inches.

For a few minutes more there was nothing but the sounds of the girls pulling themselves slowly up the rock face, their breath coming harshly and nearly every hand or foot movement loosing a tiny stream of pebbles or dust that filled the air around them like a thin, red fog. At last Katrina spoke again, her voice low and determined. “I’m in you alchemy class Ree… This is NOT an alchemy assignment.”

More long moments passed, during which time, the twin’s eyes managed to connect once, Riana’s violet eyes were icy with threats of bodily harm on her sister’s person if the matter was pressed much further. “It’s extra credit. You know I’ve been skipping too much class to make the grade without it.”

This either satisfied Katrina’s need to know, or thoroughly convinced her to let the matter rest.

It took another hour for them to reach the top of the ascent, and when they did, Katrina was not excited by what they saw there. The summit of the cliff opened up into a large shelf, easily large enough to play host to a well appointed home. In the center of the shelf was a large, tangled mass of plants, twigs, and what looked like bones and animal skins, all molded into a shape that looked suspiciously to Katrina like a very large bird’s nest.

“Ree. Why does that look like a gryphon nest?”

“I think because it is?” Riana replied flatly as she untied the strings restraining her robes and stuffed them back into the interior of the garment somewhere.

Katrina gaped at her sister. “And where you, in fact, aware of the presence of this nest before we began this trip?”

“Couldn’t be sure really…” Riana shrugged, pulling her dagger from its sheath and holding it up to the waning light of the evening. The finely crafted dwarven blade reflected gold in the fading light, its keen edge looked as though it could slice through her arm with little effort.

Katrina was visibly restraining herself from assaulting her sister by this point. “But you were aware that there may be the possibility of a gryphon nest being physically present here, however remote that may be?”

“I guess so.” Riana replied, very clearly done with the entire conversation at this stage.

Katrina huffed loudly as she yanked her spell book from within some deep recess in her robes and loudly flicked through the pages until she seemed to settle on a desirable section, then sat down violently and hunched over the tome in the waning light. “Might’ve mentioned it you know. Oh, by the way Kat, there is a possibility, however remote, that we could face certain death at the top of the perilous ascent…”

“Are you through?” Riana shot back at her sister, her own ears now laid back in annoyance at the situation. “I didn’t want to scare you, the climb was bad enough as it was, and I couldn’t be sure the nest would be here so I didn’t see the point in getting you all worked up over something that nay never happen. I’m sorry, it’ll never happen again.” Now Riana was facing her sister, shoulders squared and arms at her sides, the dagger clenched tightly not in any thoughts of attack, but rather her frustration with her sister’s attitude.

Katrina looked up at her, golden eyes flashing for a second, before her features softened a bit and her shoulders released their tension. Her ears perked up a bit as she spoke again, “It’s ok Ree, I’m sorry I yelled. It just took me by surprise is all. Just give me a minute to memorize some different spells and we can go get your roots.”

Riana deflated instantly. She could never stay mad at Katrina for long. Not just because they were sisters, but because Katrina was always so darn logical. She could knock the air out of anyone’s argument in an instant if she wanted to, and she always knew exactly what toggles to flip in order to make them mad as well. If she hadn’t known her sister so well, Riana would have sworn that she took delight in playing people against themselves.

A moment later, Katrina was on her feet again and her spell book had disappeared back into the voluminous interior of her robes. With a quick flash she produced her own dwarven dagger from her sleeve and moved up next to her sister to face the nest.

The nest itself was a tangle of tree limbs, vines, branches, leaves, and straw with what looked like numerous bones and animal hides woven in for good measure. It was easily three times as tall as the twins and one-hundred feet in diameter with a large opening facing over the edge of the cliff. There was about fifteen feet of rock shelf between the opening and the edge of the sheer cliff that looked down over the forest of Brume and the Plain of Serenity far below them.

As the twins inched toward the opening they could hear a rustling sound from within the cavernous pile of wood and hide. It sounded as though there could be half a dozen somethings moving around inside the nest, possibly more.

“How many do you think are in there?” Riana whispered to Katrina as they moved up toward the edge of the nest, their ears perked up and alert for any threats.

“Sounds like six or seven. But they are all small, probably hatchlings. I just hope mom and dad aren’t anywhere near by.” Katrina whispered back. “So where is this root supposed to be?”

Riana searched intently around the base of the nest for any sign of living plant material before spying a slender stem rising up out of a crack in the shelf and then intertwining into the woven wall of the nest. It was less than five feet from the opening into the interior. She pointed at the wispy plant tendril and Katrina rolled her eyes and stifled a dramatic sigh.

“Of course. It would have to be there…”

“Yeah, and of course I need the roots not the shoot. Which means we need to get it out of the rock intact.”

Riana could hear her sister shudder at the thought of the noise and effort that would be required to uproot the plant. There was no way they could do it without alerting the gryphon’s to their presence.

“So what’s the plan Ree?” Katrina hissed in her sister’s ear, her body was hunched over Riana’s crouched form, almost fully in contact with her back they were so close together.

Riana shrugged off her sister and crept forward toward the skinny plant, stooping down at its base to get a better look at how it was anchored in the rocky shelf. She grumbled to herself as she saw that the plant extended from the tiniest of crevices in the shelf. She was going to have to open the crack in order to extricate the plant without damaging its roots.

Turning to face her sister, Riana shrugged her shoulders, ear splaying out wide from her head. Katrina’s face contorted into a visage of almost pure terror and she began shaking her head back and forth almost violently but it didn’t seem to deter Riana any at all as she closed her eyes and quietly chanted a few words of power.

An instant later there was a rumbling of stone as the tiny fissure began to widen and the crack stretched itself across the entire rock shelf with a series of deep crackling sounds that made Katrina think of her bones being splintered in the razor sharp beaks of a family of gryphons.

As the groaning protestations of the cliff face finally subsided the horrendous noise was punctuated by the absolute silence that followed. It took a moment to realize what the depth of the silence meant, but the point was driven home by the sudden ear-piercing screech that issued forth from the nest. The hatchlings were calling for their parents.

The twins looked at one another fir the briefest of moments before Riana turned back around and began working to dislodge the plant from its purchase and Katrina took to searching the failing daylight for any signs of mom or ad returning to the nest.

Riana brought her dagger to bear on the rocky crag, chipping away at the loosened material, not even pausing when Katrina’s breath caught short in her lungs. She knew what was coming and she had to get what she was after before they were forced to deal with the creatures.

‘Be dealt with by the creatures is more like it.’ She thought to herself as she frantically chipped away at the rocks with her dagger.

“Ree. We have to go. NOW!” Katrina hollered as she yanked at her sister’s collar frantically, trying to get her to stand up and see what was winging toward them.

“I’ve got it!!” Riana exclaimed as she stood up, holding the scraggly plant aloft for all to see.

“That’s great, now GET DOWN!!” Katrina screeched as she dove into her sister, knocking her bodily to the ground a mere heartbeat before the massive, razor sharp talons of an adult gryphon sliced through the air where her head had been an instant before.

The twins tumbled over one another for a few feet before landing in a heap. Two loud thumping sounds followed by several long scraping noises drew their attention toward the nest where they saw both the mother and father gryphons standing shoulder-to-shoulder, staring at them with their wide, avian eyes boring into them.

“So what happens now oh fearless leader?” Katrina grumbled as she tried to disentangle herself from her sister and regain her feet, all without taking her eyes off of either of the huge predators.

“I am open to suggestions at this point.” Riana replied simply as she took in the sight of the horse-sized creatures.

The gryphons stood about as tall as a mustang, but its body was primarially that of a large hunting cat’s, with the rear legs, hind quarters and central body mass of what looked to be a lion. Its front legs and fee were those of a powerful—and extremely large—bird o prey, with massive, curved talons that gouged into the solid rock face as the creatures stood there watching the twins. Their heads were avian as well, with wide, alert eyes and wicked sharp, curved beaks. Their gigantic wings were folded against their backs and ruffled restlessly as the giant predators appeared to be thinking about how to handle the interlopers. Their heads moved with quick twitching movements and their eyes never seemed to blink, instead taking in their surroundings in massive detail at all times.

As the girls regained their feet, standing up very slowly, the gryphons eyed them suspiciously but made no moves toward them, until Riana gasped and exclaimed “The plant!!” She spun around in a hurry and began scanning the shelf where they had fallen. Finally she located her prize, dangling precariously over the edge of the shelf.

She dove for the plant, snatching it up after several blundered attempts that nearly resulted in its falling beyond her reach. Katrina squealed in fright as Riana dove toward the edge and the gryphons reared up on their hind legs and screeched at the sudden flurry of activity.

One of the beasts charged the twins down, seemingly in an attempt to simply bowl the over the edge of the shelf, but Katrina’s shriek and sudden movement to the side alerted Riana to the danger and she rolled between the gryphon’s fore legs just in time to get clear of its wickedly sharp claws. With a quick movement she jabbed the plant into her robes and chanted an incantation that caused a spark of flame to suddenly ignite beneath the gryphon.

The animal screeched again as it reared back, trying to get clear of the flame and Riana rolled to the side, coming up into a crouching position, her dagger at the ready. The instant the gryphon realized that the source of the heat had moved away when its target had moved, it flapped its wings angrily and turned to face her with a malicious glint in its avian eyes before darting forward faster than any creature its size had a rite to move. Like a lightning bolt its beak lashed forward, slashing thro9ugh the air like a well-aimed sword stroke.

Riana moved her dagger forward in an attempt to intercept the attack, but succeeded only in getting her forearm savagely cut across the outside. She was sure she would have lost her hand had it not been for her thick robes taking the brunt of the damage. She screamed out in pain and the sight of her blood running scarlet sown her forearm.

With a flash of anger Riana launched herself forward toward the gryphon, her dagger gripped with anger-reinforced strength. As she drew near the creature lashed out with one of its fore claws, but Riana twisted herself around, avoiding the brunt of the attack. She felt its wicked claws tear into her robes at her waist but kept herself focused on her objective. With another quick twist she was between its legs again and drove the point of her dagger into its feathered chest.

The gryphon shrieked in pain and spun around on all fours, knocking Riana bodily across the shelf where she skidded to a halt mere inches from a thousand foot plummet. She looked back at the gryphon, squinting through her blurred vision from the attack and watched as the gryphon pulled at the dagger embedded in its chest with its fore claws. A sudden shout from the other side of the shelf drew her attention and as she snapped her clearing vision around to locate the source she saw her sister backing away from the other gryphon, her dagger in one hand and gouts of flame issuing forth from her other hand.

Her assailant seemed to be thinking about how to best get past her flaming defense to tear her sot tissues apart as it shifted from side to side and cocked its head back and forth, examining its quarry with a critical eye. He real issue that Riana saw was that as the creature tentatively advanced on her sister, she would step away from it and was quickly running out of usable space on the shelf.

Without thinking, Riana jumped up and dashed across the space between them. Running as fast as she could she dipped her chin down and drover her shoulder as hard as she could into the gryphon’s ribs. The animal staggered away from her as she crumpled backward under the recoil from her own attack and Katrina seized the moment and blasted the gryphon in the face with a flame tongue that sent it reeling away from them with a panicked shriek.

“What the heck was that Ree? Why is it you totally forget about your spells whenever we run into serious trouble?” She stooped next to her sister and hauled her to her feet by her armpits as she admonished her.

“Still looking for a good sword…” Was Riana’s explanation as she tried her best to get her legs under her and convince them to support her weight.

“Whatever. I think we’ve pretty much overstayed our welcome here. You have what you need right?”

Riana cringed at the thought. Her dagger was still stuck in one of the gryphons and she wanted it back. That dagger had been a gift to her from the city of Rathalon for when she and Katrina had helped the guard root out an infestation of mean little goblins from the aquaducts. “Almost. I just need to grab one more thing real quickly.”

She forced her balance to reassert itself and then stalked toward the gryphons which were attentively looking after one another’s wounds. When Riana approached with a glimmer of determination in her violet eyes and her ears laid back in intent they both turned to face her and raised their hackles, widening their stances in anticipation of an attack.

Riana held out her arms showing that he hands were empty and that she was unarmed, then cocked her head to the side a bit, ears perked up. The gryphons reacted almost instantly, calming themselves down and lowering the feathers along their hackles. They eyed here suspiciously and still shifted uneasily but did not advance on her.

“I’m sorry for the confusion.” She said in a soft voice as she took a small step toward the animals. She could hear the hatchlings squeaking nervously from within the nest again, this time they were more agitated, almost doubtful. Their parents looked back and forth from the nest to Riana, her sister standing behind her with a worried look on her face.

“We came up here for this plant. We meant no harm to you or your children.” Slowly she reached into the front of her robes and withdrew the spindly plant, holding it out for the animals to see. The larger gryphon, the one with the knife in its chest quirked its head to the side and took a tentative step forward. Not a menacing advance, rather a probing step to see what would happen. Riana held the plant out for the creature to see.

“I researched it thoroughly. It doesn’t say anywhere that you use it for anything, but I need the roots for something I am working on. I really didn’t mean for this to all get out of hand. If you will permit me, I will remove the knife…”She pointed at the handle protruding from the animals chest, near its left shoulder. She obviously had not struck anything vital with the weapon but she was sure it would cause problems for the family if it were to stay in place. That and she didn’t want to lose the weapon either.

She advanced forward another step and the gryphon made no move to stop her. Slowly she transferred the plant to her left hand and reached deliberately for the handle of her weapon. Inching her way forward she gently touched the pommel of her dagger and the gryphon flinched a bit, but stayed in place as she moved even closer, wrapping her hand around the handle fully.

“This may sting a bit. I’m sorry.” She said, then took three long breaths and yanked hard on the handle of the dagger. The long blade jerked free of the animal’s body with a sick sucking sound and a thin stream of blood followed the blade in a wide arc away from the gryphon. The animal shrieked again and reared up on its hind legs, knocking Riana to the ground in a heap. Unprepared for the fall she smacked her head on the rocky shelf and her world began to spin as the gryphon slammed its forelegs back down on the stone shelf and its claw gouged out huge furrows in the granite.

Riana’s world spun, she couldn’t focus on anything and attempting to do so only made her head hurt worse. Looking up she saw the gryphon looking down at her, its head tilted to one side, then Katrina’s face filled her whirling view of the sky and gryphon as she felt her upper body being lifted slightly off the rapidly cooling stone.

“It’s ok Ree, I’ll get you to a healer.” She head her sister’s voice swimming through the mire of her mind. A moment later there was a flash of light and the spinning sky was replaced with the spinning stone ceiling o the Rathalon portal chamber. There was a sudden flurry of activity, bodies moving in random directions and people shouting back and forth. It all blended together into a cacophony of noise that washed up over her as the world went dark and she lost consciousness.

When she opened her eyes she was greeted by the familiar canopy of her own bed. Looking to the side she saw that she was indeed in her own room, the familiar sights and scents greeted her senses and she could hear the sound of someone cooking in the kitchen down the hallway. Slowly she sat up, taking a moment to let the world stop spinning around her before she swung her feet off the bed and stood up, supporting herself against one of the bed posts. With a little effort she made her way to her wardrobe and pulled on some clothes, then dragged herself down the hallway to the dining room. Flopping down in one of the dining room chairs she leaned heavily on the table and focused her senses on the kitchen where she saw Katrina busily preparing something to eat.

“What happened?” She finally asked, surprising herself with how strong her voice was compared to how she felt.

Katrina stopped what she was doing for a moment to cast a menacing look at her sister. As quick as the look had appeared however, it was gone again and she was attending to her culinary concoction once more. “You pulled your dagger out of the gryphon and it knocked you down. You hit your head pretty hard on the ground, if I didn’t know any better Ree I would say your skull is harder than that granite. Anyway, the gryphons let me grab you and I used the portal ring we took with us to get you back to Rathalon. As soon as we arrived the guards summoned a healer and after a very long night of patching you up and a day of sleeping like the dead, here you are.”

Riana ran her fingers through her long platinum tresses, flinching when she encountered a tender spot at the back of her skull.

“The healer said that would be sore for a few days, you may want to take it easy. He also said he hadn’t ever seen a bruise that size before. I’ve got to hand it to you sis, you don’t like to do anything small do you?” Katrina made her way out of the kitchen with a few dishes and set them out in front of Riana and an empty chair next to her.

“Did the healer say how long it would take for the spinning sensation to stop?” Riana said as she clamped her hands to the sides of her head in an attempt to steady her world.

“Yeah, he said that could last a couple days as well, something about your brain swelling or some such. Personally I don’t buy that bit. I don’t think your head could possibly get any larger.”

Riana offered her sister a menacing glare of her own as Katrina retreated to the kitchen to retrieve the food. She returned promptly and served up some sweet smelling meats and vegetables and the two dove in without any further words between them.

When the food was gone, Riana’s head had slowed its spinning and she was better able to focus her attention so she helped her sister clear the dishes and then they sat down in the living room to look out at the starry night sky over Rathalon.

“I don’t suppose you picked up my dagger, or the plant?” Riana finally ventured.

At the mention of those items, Katrina’s face turned sour and she looked back at her sister emploringly. “I’m sorry Ree, I didn’t think to grab them. Everything happened so quickly there wasn’t a moment to think…”

Riana sighed heavily as she looked out the balcony door. Finally she offered an affirming nod toward her sister. “Thanks for your help, I know it was a bit crazy. Next time I won’t keep you in the dark. I just…”

“It’s ok Ree. I get it. Just don’t…”

“I won’t Kat. You’ll be the first to know what’s going on. But I’m not ready yet…” She stopped for a moment, unable to find the words.

Katrina filled in the gap for her however, “I know Ree. Just know that when you are ready, I am here. I’ll always be here, you know that.”

Riana’s eyes welled up with tears then. “I don’t deserve you Kat.”

“Darn right you don’t! So don’t go trying to kill me any more!” Katrina mock-hollered across the living room. And the pair broke out in laughter that seemed to actually help clear Riana’s head rather than making it worse.

Finally they managed to stifle their laughter and Riana wiped the tears form her eyes then looked back at her sister seriously. “So. When do we go back after my dagger and the plant?”

Katrina gaped at her incredulously for what must have been a full minute before she stood up and parked her hands on her hips, glared evily at her sister and raised a finger to point at her. “If you think for one instant that I, or even YOU for that matter, are going back up there EVER again… Missy you have got another thing coming! There is no way in hells you are dragging me up there again, or anywhere even remotely similar! Never in my life have I ever…”

Her tirade was suddenly cut off by a rush of wind billowing in through the balcony door and as the twins turned to see what was going on they were surprised by the complete absence of stars, or even sky. It took a moment to realize what was going on, but finally it dawned on them that there was a giant gryphon perched on their balcony, and the creature was completely blocking out the sky.

They stared dumbly at the gryphon for a few long moments, its softball sized eyes staring in at them unblinkingly the entire time. Finally the animal screeched in at them so loudly that some of the crystal in the kitchen actually shattered. Both of the twins leapt into one another’s arms in startled fright, but the gryphon made no aggressive moves. Instead the creature actually lifted one of its forelegs and folded it across its chest as best it could then dipped down low on its other leg, mimicking a curtsey of sorts.

The twins let go of one another and turned to face the animal, then at once they both curtseyed back to the gryphon which responded by standing up straight, screeching one more time then spreading its massive wings out and with one great flap and a gust of wind, hurtled up into the darkened sky.

The sisters rushed out onto the balcony and looked up in awe as they watched the gryphon winging away into the night, back toward the cliffs of the Uraval Mountains to the south. They watched until the gryphon was completely out of sight then looked at one another and grinned broadly, ears splayed out in excitement.

“That was awesome!” Katrina gushed. “I was SO scared, I nearly peed myself!”

Riana offered her sister a sour face. “Gross Kat. Did I really need to know that?”

Katrina looked slightly hurt, “Well I thought maybe you…” She looked down at the floor of the balcony, a hurt expression on her face that quickly turned into a wide-eyed exclamation. “Um… Ree?”

Riana looked down at the space between them and then offered a surprised expression of her own. There on the floor between them lay her dagger, sparkling in the starlight and next to the knife were two plants, both fully intact, roots and all, and lastly there were two gryphon feathers, each more than a foot long and impossibly strong and light when they picked them up gingerly.

“Do you know what these are?” Katrina asked with the closest thing Riana had ever heard to lust in her voice.

“Um… Feathers?” Riana said as she picked up her dagger and the two spindly plants with her free hand, offering the feather in her other hand a quick glance to see if there was anything strange or unusual about it other than its size.

“Obviously.” Katrina replied in the know-it-all tone she used whenever she was about to start a lecture. “Not just any feather though. It’s a gryphon’s flight feather. And mores the point, it was offered up willingly by the gryphon that bore it!”

Riana tried her best not to look completely baffled by her sister’s energy. “And this is so amazing because why again?”

Katrina rolled her eyes but continued on unabated. “Gryphon’s flight feathers are highly prized for their magical properties, especially when used as quills for scribing spells. The only thing better than a gryphon’s flight feather for scribing spells is one that was offered up willingly by the gryphon, any spells scribed with such a feather can be as much as ten times as powerful as one scribed with a stolen feather!”

Riana raised her eyebrows at the feather as she moved back into the light of the living room, where she carefully set her treasures down on the table and inspected the feather more closely. The calamus of the feather was easily as large around as Riana’s pinky finger and the vane was wider than her hand with her fingers spread wide. It was around eighteen inches long and impossibly light for its size. The vane was a deep brown color with reds, blues and purples running through it depending upon which way she rolled it in the light of the room.

Finally a slow smile crept across Riana’s face and the tips of her ears dipped down mischievously as she narrowed her eyes at the feather. “So, any spell scribed with this feather will be much more powerful than one scribed with a regular quill eh?”

Katrina nodded excitedly. “Compared to a spell scribed with a regular duck quill, or even a hawk or eagle, they could almost behave like completely different spells they will be so much stronger. Magic is said to be nearly as strong in a gryphon’s blood as it is in a dragon’s!”

Slowly, Riana stood up from the couch and collected her things, being extremely careful with the feather and the plants. “I think I’m going to turn in Kat. I’ll see you in the morning.” She quietly moved out of the living room and into her bed room where she pulled the door closed behind her and moved across the room to her chest of drawers. Carefully she set her treasures down on the top of the furniture and then braced herself against the wall as she pulled the heavy chest away from the wall. Slipping her arm behind the furniture and feeling the bricks in the wall for the one she had specially prepared so many months ago.

The special brick hinged outward at her touch and she reached inside to remove the ornately carved Brumewood box from within. A gentle mist surrounded the darkened wood of the box as she set it on top of her chest of drawers and hinged the top open. The white mist that constantly surrounded Brumewood filled the space inside the box but it didn’t bother her, she knew where each and every item she had collected was within the concealed space.

Gently she removed the items one by one to inspect them each in turn. A scale from a cocktrice, shavings from a rhino’s horn, chittenous armor from a giant scorpion, herbs and roots collected from the corners of Rathalon’s bazaar and the wilds beyond the walls of the city itself. There were chunks of rock and crystal in an amazing array of colors, brighter than a spring rainbow and a few small vials of liquid in various colors as well. She sighed with the thought that her collecting was nearly through. Soon enough she would be able to start on the distilling of the core components and then she could mix the inks.

Gently and deliberately she returned each item to the box, adding the two plants the gryphon had given her with a smile, then she raised the feather to eye level and inspected it one last time as the smile turned into a grin. “And now, things will be even better when I am done. There won’t be a mage in the world that can do what I can…”

The sound of her sister shuffling around in her room next door startled Riana out of her daydream with a jolt. She quickly added the feather to her box and closed it up. In a flash the box was returned to its hidden alcove and the furniture was replaced.

Riana prepared herself for bed with a smile on her face, the slight spinning in her head not bothering her one bit as she brushed out her platinum tresses and then slid back into bed. In moments she was asleep and her lips curled into a wide grin as she dreamt of the scholars at the Magic Academy begging her for the secret to her magic, a secret that lay right beneath their noses. A secret that she had uncovered in their own library not more than six months ago. The secret to casting spells instantly and with no conscious power channeling or reading of spell books. Soon enough…