:: Dungeons & Dragons - The Threshold Party - Griffons and Manticores and Mages, Oh My... ::

Griffons and Manticores and Mages, Oh My...

A sharp cry broke echoed through the valley, a strange sound that resembled a shriek but had overtones of a mighty roar. Karnus’ head snapped round from the rock face he’d been working on, and the wizard moved to perch on a nearby boulder, scanning the mountain range before him for trouble.

He stood there for a moment, straining to hear as his eyes panned over the landscape. The wind carried a second cry to the wizard’s ears. Karnus glanced back to his tools for second, worried that any creature that could make such a noise might present a danger while he was working on extracting a sample of Naramissium. After musing for a moment he turned, spoke a few words of magic, and drifted into the sky, drawing his elven cloak around him as he flew in the direction of the noise.

After a few moments, the wizard rounded the peak of a nearby small mountain, and found the source of the commotion. Below him, its back to the craggy rock face stood the largest griffon Karnus had ever seen. It was a magnificent beast, with dappled brown and white plumage and a wingspan that Karnus had last seen on a decent sized dragon. As he watched it spread out its mighty wings and gave a shrieking roar of defiance.

Swooping through the air nearby were a pack of manticores, their leering, evil faces contorted in cackling laughter. There were half a dozen of these creatures, and three of them dove down to land near the agitated griffon, arching their tales forward and preparing to strike while the other circled in the air.

The three manticores on the ground shot the barbed spike from their tales at the mighty griffon, who closed his wings over his head and body to shield himself from their attack. When the barrage was done, the griffon unfurled his wings and lunged forward a short distance, screaming defiantly.

Karnus wondered why the creature didn’t leap into the air to engage the manticores, rather than let them attack at range. Then he noticed that beside the griffon there lay the body of second of the noble creatures, this one much closer to the size Karnus associated with griffons. By the looks of it the manticores had taken the small griffon down easily, and the poor thing lat riddled with tail barbs.

The largest of the manticores dove in and clawed at the griffon as he swept past, cackling as he climbed up and perched above the creature (which brought him rather too close to Karnus for comfort.) The other manticores took up his mocking laughter and redoubled their attack, shooting their tail spikes into the griffon’s exposed flank, causing the creature to stagger back and roar in pain.

Karnus was rather fond of griffons, and rather disliked manticores, so he decided in that moment to intervene. He threw back his cloak and drew upon his magic to summon a shield around himself, then pointed a hand at the closest manticore and summoned two magical arrows that arced towards the evil creature and slammed into its side in twin explosions of sapphire magic. The creature reeled back from the stunbolts, flapping its leathery wings as it tried to take to the air. The stunning effect would not last long, but it made the creature more vulnerable to the wizard’s magic while it was dazed. Karnus took a step towards it and, stretching out his hand, laid a geas upon the creature, commanding “leave this place immediately and never return!”

The manticore shrugged off the effect of the stunbolts, and leered at Karnus hungrily. It dove towards the wizard and was in the process of arching its tail over its head when a confused look spread over the creature’s human face. It suddenly looked uncomfortable and squirmed away from Karnus, making as if to leave, but then turning back to the wizard. A look of pain and discomfort spread over its face, and it finally leapt into the air and sped away shrieking as it went.

The other manticores watched it go, but rather than follow their leader they redoubled their attack upon the griffon, who had now taken to the air and was chasing two of the creatures. Two more of the creatures were diving down on top of the lone griffon, spraying it with their needle attacks as they closed with it. The final manticore prowled towards Karnus, growling as it came, and arced its tail over its head, pointing the glistening needles at the wizard.

Before the manticore could shoot, Karnus unleashed a fireball into the air, which caught both of the evil creatures that were flanking the griffon. The fireball blossomed in the air, leaving behind two charred manticore corpses that tumbled to the ground with a crunch. The griffon caught up with one of its foes and clawed at it, snapping at its wings with his beak. The manticore opposing Karnus unleashed a barrage of spikes, three of which penetrated Karnus’ shield and hit him in the chest. The wizard recoiled, gasping in pain as the creature leered at him and prepared to pounce.

Before it could jump on him, Karnus swept a hand into the air and summoned three illusory replicas of himself. The manticore swept a claw through one and, confused by the appearance of more humans, missed with its other attacks.

Glancing into the air, Karnus fired a barrage of magic missiles up to assist the griffon. The sapphire bolts of magic slammed into the two manticores, causing the previously uninjured one to howl in pain and break off its attack on the griffon. The noble creature continued to savage its target, biting it hard with its beak and raking it with its claws, all but finishing the creature off.

The manticore facing Karnus raked the wizard’s images with another volley of spikes, dissipating all of his defensive illusion. Karnus turned to it and spoke the words to his newest spell, rapidly searching his mind for viable targets for the teleportation spell. Suddenly inspired, he decided that it was time that the Alphatians got a taste of their own medicine and sent the manticore halfway across the planet to the outskirts of Dovir. The creature simply faded from view, without any ostentatious display of magic, leaving the wizard feeling altogether quite smug. Karnus turned back to the aerial combat just in time to see the last of the airborne manticores sweeping towards him, vengeance writ large upon its face.

The wizard was bowled over by the attack, carried several feet then slammed to the ground and pinned there as the manticore placed its great cat like paws upon his chest. It leant its leering face into the wizards and parted its lips in a smug grin. Karnus struggled to free himself, but couldn’t break free of the manticore. Nor could he reach his staff which lay tantalisingly out of distance.

As the manticore opened its mighty jaws to bite down on Karnus’ head, there was suddenly a whooshing noise, combined with the shrieking roar of the griffon, and the pressure vanished. Karnus looked up to see the manticore being bodily carried off by the enraged griffon, flapping and clawing at its foe as it went. The griffon released the manticore in a well timed manoeuvre that slammed it against the rockface hard. The creature whimpered as it tumbled to the ground.

The griffon turned back to Karnus and roared at the wizard. Karnus clambered to his feet as the creature loped towards him, spreading its wings and acting in a very unfriendly manner. The wizard backed away, noticing that the griffon was badly injured but reluctant to fight it now that he had bailed it out. Suddenly, the last manticore leapt upon the griffons back, clawing and biting at it. The griffon beat its wings in shock, fighting to get into the air but unable to get the lift. It twisted its head to snap at the manticore on its back, and Karnus could do nothing as the two creatures tumbled over the precipice.

The wizard leapt into the air and watched as the two creatures clawed at each other as they fell. The manticore suddenly seemed to notice the onrushing ground and moved to disengage itself, but the griffon would not release it, and the two slammed together into the rocky ground far below Karnus. The wizard drifted down to the broken bodies of the creatures, staring sympathetically at the mighty griffon as, with its last breath, it tried to haul itself back up towards its dead mate. With a final sigh, he griffon lay still, and Karnus was left to speculate how grand a steed it would have been had he been able to tame it.

Leaving the shattered corpses of the creatures Karnus soared back up the cliff side. He was just wondering if he it was worthwhile harvesting any spell components when he heard a weak mewling sound, apparently coming from the female griffon’s corpse. Karnus moved cautiously to investigate, tracking the screeching sound to its source. He lifted one of the wings of the beast, and found under it a small griffon, about the size of a dog, barely hatched and mewling as it pawed at its dead mother. The baby griffon turned to Karnus in shock, silent for a second, then proceeded to screech in an even higher pitch, causing the wizard to cover his ears.

Karnus reached out and spoke a few words of magic, and the pitch of the griffon’s cries lessened as it suddenly perceived Karnus as a friend. “So you’re the reason that big fellow was so determined to fight rather than flee,” mused the wizard as the creature tottered towards him, “he was protecting his son…”

The baby griffon flopped awkwardly out of its nest and clawed pathetically at Karnus’ boots. The wizard knelt and patted the youngster on its feathery head before pulling out a strip of cured beef and giving it to the hungry creature. He sat beside the creature as it munched on the food, watching amusedly as it tried to use its claws to feed itself and ended up flopping onto its back as it overbalanced, its underdeveloped wings flapping uselessly.

“I think you and I are going to get along just fine…” Karnus murmured to the baby griffon, a genuine smile spreading across his face for the first time in weeks.

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