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The griffins boy, p.33
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       The Griffin's Boy, p.33

           Julia Hughes

  The next morning, Neb emerged from Blain's hut. Before he could blink his eyes open properly, Harry and Alexis mobbed him.

  Lord Massant finished saying goodbye to his cousin and called over to his son and Alexis to make haste.

  They mounted up and clip-clopped out of the courtyard. Neb heard Harry complaining to his father about the recent lack of action. Lord Massant tipped his head back to glance at the sun, just visible over the tree tops. 'If you like, we'll ride on over to Berock's siege. If we hurry, we might be in time to join the skirmish.'

  Luke chased after them with his friends, all riding imaginary horses. Suddenly Lady Lydia stood before Neb, with a red cloak in her hands.

  'This belonged to my brother, but I'm sure he'd approve,' she said, adjusting the cloak around his shoulders and fastening it as she spoke. She smoothed out the material's creases, so the scarlet cloak swirled around his knees.

  'There!' she said, 'don't you look handsome!'

  Neb felt his cheeks flush and stuttered, 'thank you.'

  Lydia shook her head. 'We're still in your debt, there's a place here for you anytime.' She bit her lip, and before he could thank her again, hurried over to join the villagers saying goodbye to Balkind and Fletcher. They did look magnificent; beasts of silver and gold. Neb stroked the material of his new cloak, wondering how they'd managed to spin wool so fine. A clear voice behind him said 'There! Don't you look handsome!'

  Neb turned. Samara laughed up at him, and when she stood on tip-toe to kiss him, he hugged her and briefly buried his face in her hair. It still smelled of the ocean. When he raised his head, he caught sight of Lillian, looking disgusted; then worse still, Romulus watching impassively, and he groaned. But it seemed Romulus had purposely sought out Samara. His calloused hand engulfed Samara's and he growled: 'Goodbye maid – and my gratitude again for saving this young fool's life.'

  Samara grinned cheekily 'please, think nothing of it!'

  'Maybe you should recruit girls to be Griffin Riders,' Lillian butted in. Neb held his breath. But it seemed nothing could spoil Romulus' good mood. 'Study hard at Cherub Conventus young maid, do well, and who knows?'

  A pink spot bloomed on both of Lillian's cheeks. She gasped with happiness, her eyes flickered from Neb to Samara. 'I will!' she gushed, then ran off to find her father. Neb suspected she'd give him no rest until he arranged for her and Samara to travel to the Cherub Cliffs again.

  Romulus shook hands with Samara. He gave Neb's new finery a look of approval, then clapped him on the shoulder. 'Time to mount up, Balkind's Rider.'

  Neb felt his backbone stiffen with pride.

  'Thank you sir, I won't let you down,' he promised. Romulus stared at him unblinkingly. Finally he growled, 'I know you won't,' and stomped away. Neb glanced at Samara. Her eyes glittered – with laughter – or tears? Before he could look closer, she waved him away with an impatient gesture: 'Go, quickly – your precious griffin is waiting for you.'

  Neb hurried to catch up with the Griffin Master. Both Fletcher and Balkind crouched at Romulus' approach. Neb clambered aboard Balkind, noting that despite his age, Romulus vaulted onto Fletcher.

  Villagers stood back when the griffins shook their wings out, then with a ground shaking thunder, gambolled forwards and soared upwards. Fletcher curled around in a semi-circle with Balkind in his slip stream. Balkind seemed as bone tired as his rider, content to follow the great golden griffin to their new home.

  Neb imagined Balkind's pleasure at being reunited with his sanctuary mates. Then he grimaced – Neb's fellow students would greet his arrival with dismayed shock. He'd have to watch his back, especially when they learned Neb, a nameless nobody, had been selected to join Romulus' elite Griffin Riders.

  As though reading his mind, Balkind bellowed. Fletcher gave an answering bellow, and Neb realised they must be nearing the camp.

  Dismissing his fears, Neb stroked at his griffin's silvery grey wing feathers and grinned triumphantly.

  The other new recruits had better watch out for him – Balkind's Rider.

  The end.


  Grateful thanks to all my readers: Bubba, Charlie, Dan, Dody, Jenny, Laura, Randall, Sean, Stephen, Jenny, Val, and especially you. The Griffin's Boy cover is adapted by from an engraving by the artist Gustave Dore: Ludovico Ariosto’s “Orlando Furioso”. (public domain licence).

  Especial thanks to Joe L, for allowing his griffin "Kelednak" (Cornish for brave), and Linda B, for allowing her griffin "Rafe" to appear in "The Griffin's Boy".

  An invitation from Julia:

  I'm delighted you took a chance and downloaded one of my random stories. If you enjoyed this, there's more titles to choose from.

  Personally, I'll read anything that catches my interest – my books reflect this eclectic taste: Treasure hunting, Paranormal time travel romance, London criminals and fat old detectives; I even created an alternate universe where mythical beasts exist: The Griffin Riders' Chronicles: The Griffin's Boy, The Griffin Cryer and coming soon The Midnight Griffin. See author's website for details and to sign up for free newsletters - never miss a new release or special offer.

  I'm also on Facebook and Twitter if you want to shoot the breeze anytime – hope you'll get in touch soon!

  Julia Hughes


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