Gryphon made her way deeper into the neutral human territory, doubling back several times and hoping two trains to muddy the trail just in case. After all, it’s not paranoid if they really are after you, she thought with a small grin. She passed her favorite coffee shop and absently mourned that it was closed as she turned onto her street.
She only let herself start to relax once the final lock snicked into place at her flat. Farther inside she could hear music playing even though most of the lights were off. She made her way through the large warehouse on silent feet, stopping a few steps away from a massive computer console set up along the back wall.
“I thought I told you to go home, Jack.” She said, ignoring his slight start as she perused the multiple displays.
“Someone’s got to hold the fort down while you’re out finding allies.” the man said with a cheeky grin, the glow turning it more morbid then it probably was.
“What are you working on?”
“Tatha wanted an update on the Farris Clan. Dead boring, they’ve been having some big dinner at a mansion all night.” he said gesturing to one screen that was cycling through security cameras.
“The entire clan?”
“Everyone but the youngsters.”
“No special occasion that I can see. They all got notice about two hours before the gathering, looked like they dropped everything to go.”
“Means that the Clan Head is going to make an announcement. Has anyone been called away from the meal?”
“No, but everyone seems to be rather nervous.”
“Announcements normally happen at scheduled gatherings. That this one was called without warning means it’s major, a death, someone stepping down from a position of authority, announcing a Clan feud. Something to keep an eye on.” she said with a sigh, the politics of fae life were exhausting.
“How did your visit go?” he asked glancing back at her profile in the dim glow of the monitors.
“Good. I’ll be allowed to shadow walk to the bar in emergencies.”
“And the rest?”
“None of the other Clans are willing to take a side, not even the Sphinx. I’ll be on my own if the High Court sides with my Clan.” she said reaching around him a tweaking the wording in an email he was typing.
“What else can we do?” he asked around a yawn, ruffling his shaggy black hair.
“I’ll keep trying to gather allies but most are not going to take a side until the High Court decides.”
“I still say you can just pack up and head to Brazil.” he said offering her a red twizzler.
“Gryphons are stubborn, Jack. They won’t stop until they find me. I’d be on the run for the next three centuries. That’s not something I’m willing to do.”
“The fae are so damn weird.”
“No, just tradition and rule bound. I’m told they loosen up after a few centuries but my mother’s almost five hundred and she’s holding onto the old ways like a red cap.” she pointed out, around a bite of candy.
“Death fae, they were known by the red caps they wore. They dipped them in the blood of their enemies. Used to haunt battle fields and prey on the corpses.”
“And there goes the weird again.” Jack said with a mock shudder. “You’re not like that though.”
“According my Clan I’m freakish and the runt of the nest, Jack. Humans and half bloods are the only ones who seem to find me acceptable.”
“Will the collar come off if they rule against you?”
“It’s a punishment from my mother so I doubt it.”
“Grand. Any good news at all?”he said sending his email off with a final flourish of commands.
“Met a girl named Meg that you’d like.” she said with a smirk, wandering over to her desk and turning on the lamp there.
“Really? What’s she like?” He asked with a grin as he opened a new screen and started coding something.
“Irish American Goth who works at the Lantern. Sounds like she’d been there a while but she was still flaunting the rules.”
“Good for her. I’m telling you, the fae rules are ridiculous. You’ve rules for everything!”
“Considering what some of our kind can do, we sort of have to.” She said with a snort, “Imagine the chaos that my brothers would unleash if they were allowed to wander and do as they liked.”
“They’d hold up half the jewelry stores downtown and bash through the pawn shops in less then a week.”
“Maybe less, they get bored easily.” she said booting up her own computer and starting to write up notes on each Clan that she’d approached and their responses.
“How exactly did you get the brains of the family, again? The more I hear about your brothers the more neanderthal they seem.”
“They’re trained by their father’s clan so their education was sword and spear drills with very little actual book learning.”
“Not even comics?” he asked with a blank look of disbelief.
“Human literature would’ve been utterly banned. I didn’t read anything non-fae until I went to live with Tatha.” she said, digging though her desk looking for a file folder, “And no, fae literature is nothing like human. We don’t really do fiction. It’s all historical ballads with a bit of poetry and songwriting thrown in.”
“And all the songs are ballads about war, right?”
“Pretty much, through love is a big theme as well.”
“So love and war are universal. That’s either really good news or we’re going to have WWIII because some fae elite falls for the President’s daughter.”
“Sadly, we now have a law about stealing away humans for the fae’s amusement.” she said, laughing.
“Pity, I don’t know if I’d have minded a hundred year rave.”
“You would’ve made a lovely court jester.” She said laughing at the face he pulled, “Don’t hang around too late. I’m for bed.”
“See you tomorrow night?”
“Yeah, I’ll bring you one of those coffees you hate.”
“It’s a conspiracy, no coffee should cost ten bucks a cup!”
“Good night, Jack.” she called back ignoring the rant about corporate greed and yuppie culture that continued below her as she climbed the stairs to her floor.
As she locked and armed the final door behind her, she let the last parts of her armor down, her glamor falling in a soft shimmer of light. Her close cropped hair shaded from it’s shock of red to a softer reddish grey that would have looked more natural on a fox or deer. The grey patterning ran its tattoo like feathers along her arms and down her fingers which ended in silver tinted claws. Golden eyes surveyed the wards as she activated the final rune sealing the floor from entry.
She glanced at the large bed to one side yet walked past it, into her true sanctuary. The long room was filled with floor to ceiling shelves holding treasures of every shape and form. Antique volumes vied for space with gold vases and stone sculptures. Her true hoard hid in plain sight among the multitude of precious objects.
Her phone pinged softly from a pocket of her peacoat and she pulled it out with a sigh, only one person would be calling her this early.
“Good morning, Grandmere.”
“Good morning, my dear. I got your email.”
“Yes, he agreed to allow me to use the Lantern as an emergency doorway.”
“No, no one is willing to take a stand until the High Council’s decision.”
“Three weeks then.”
“Yes. Three weeks.” she said with a soft sigh, dropping onto the couch that sat along one wall.
She only had to avoid her Clan for three more weeks until the High Court’s decision and then she would either be free to work in the human world or would be assigned a job in the Fae community. That was only if they decided to side with her.
If the High Court decided to give her back to her Clan she wasn’t sure what would happen. Her clan would be extremely angry that she’d defied them for so long. She’d spent most of her childhood being punished daily in some way for a perceived slight. Those punishments had varied wildly from hours of weapons practice, confinement to her room, destruction of her property, or physical abuse in the form of lashes or blows with a rod or practice weapon.
Her main issue with the Gryphon Clans was their unrelenting arrogance. They believed everyone beneath them. They were the strongest, the wealthiest, the most intelligent. No matter how often she watched her brothers be proven wrong they refused to admit defeat or even that they might be at fault.
Living with her Grandmere Tatha at the Sphinx compound had been an eye opening experience. Her Grandmere worked and traveled around the world and would often bring her along as a learning experience. She’d been sheltered from even the Fae world and it was shocking to realize just how large the world really was. Over and over again things she had been taught to believe by rote in the Gryphon clans were shattered.
As the years passed she became her Grandmere’s assistant and learned about the human world and the ventures the fae invested in while hiding their true natures from the humans they interacted with. Each race in the Fae had their own traditions and skills that they passed down to their members but the High Court had the final say in all major laws or disputes.
There were technically two High Court’s, one for local disputes and one for larger issues. The local High Court consisted of one member of each major clan that lived in the area. The High Court that would be deciding her fate presided over most of the eastern coast of the United States. Most countries had just one High Court with a local chief who dealt with the day to day issues that came up.
Her case had been presented to their local Chief first but he had refused to rule on the matter, passing it on to the local High Court. If they refused to rule as well, it could go to the full High Court but that had not been convened in almost a century now, not since the last major migrations had occurred when the fae split away from their traditional homes that were being destroyed in human wars and construction.
The more delicate fae who would have been harmed by the constant exposure to iron from human cities moved into the national parks and remote forests that the humans had yet to corrupt. Those that could tolerate living in the city had purchased homes and learned to blend in with the humans when they could.
Those that physically were unable to hide their differences were given homes at the larger estates that the clans purchased. They gained safety from the humans but often gave up much of their dignity and freedom as they were little more then servants for the Clans. Some were able to work odd jobs for the High Court members but that was just changing one master for another. The injustice of it rubbed her feathers wrong.
One thing she had never been able to abide was being caged. Her clan had realized this early on and delighted in using it against her. No gryphon liked to be restrained and it’s ultimate punishments were all some form of binding.
The collar wrapped around her neck being one. It bound her magic and locked her into this form. She would not be able to take her true gryphon form until it was removed. The collar had been the final blow that broke her and forced her to run from what should have been her home.
Her mother had announced to the entire clan that she would be sold as a breeder to another clan that night. She would be locked into this form until she was pregnant and forced to shift to lay her clutch. No gryphon would ever abandon her children, so once the eggs hatched she would be bound by her very nature to them. Once they had her children she would do anything they asked to keep them from harm.
The only ace she had was the Sphinxian genetics that her father had gifted her with. Along with her ability to shadow walk she also gained the Sphinxes love of secrets. Over the years growing up she had hoarded the truths small and large that each clan member hid away. If they tried to chain her she would scream every dirty little secret in the middle of the High Court’s hallowed halls if it meant that they would release her.
She’d given a book of these dirty tales to her grandmere for safe keeping. If the High Court wasn’t swayed then maybe Tatha could blackmail the Clan themselves for her release. It was a long shot since a gryphon did not give up a possession once it becomes theirs.
“Well, I may have something to keep you busy until the decision at least.” Tatha said with a smug sounding tone.
“Grandmere,” She chided, it was never a good thing when her grandmere started meddling.
“No, check your email in the morning, dear. You will need a well rested head for this one.”
“I could look at it now.”
“No, I insist. Go to bed, ma petite and call me later in the day if you have questions.”
“Good night, Grandmere.”
“Bonne nuit, ma petite-fille.”