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Gryphon Guild: The Mission
Prologue

". . . In the days that followed, we who survived fell upon our knees -- knees torn and broken in some instances -- and prayed to whatever god would deliver us from this sudden and terrible evil. Ours was a fear born of the unknown and built upon the great storms that ravaged the land. These storms continued long after the great fireball dropped from the sky. Crops were destroyed, the land raped and any living thing so unfortunate to remain outside knew no more.

"The great beasts of the kingdom adjoining us fled their native land and came to our own. They told tales of a great rock from beyond the heavens, from a realm called space and that was whence the fireball originated. Their nonsense was dismissed as such, for who can believe such a daemon-spawn? These bastard misbegots and their ilk: the gryphons, dragons, halflings that are in-between, are even thought of to cause the destruction themselves, but none will come forth. The gods know the true good -- that which lies within humans -- and the true evil -- the beasts of the devil -- and they shall deal with each as they see fit. Just cause will be served for this grievance. For now, we wait and hope that the truth strike down the daemons."

"Ha! What a load of crap this is! My word -- is this what they entertained themselves with in the olden days? Tales of half-truths and talks out of the rear?" There was raucous laughter and the turning of pages. "That was a good one. I'll have to find out where these loonies came from so I can see if their 'kingdom' still exists. Wonder if they'll 'curse' me! Daemon-spawn -- hahaha!"

* * *

It literally came out of nowhere -- an appearance as sudden and as unanticipated as a change of moods. Thus it started out as neither a distant star nor with a grand entrance, hence no warning to those where its trajectory placed it. From nothingness it exploded, bursting into four segments, each as large as a small pool; various fragments that were born from this volatile incarnation were flung far and wide across the land, striking everything and anything without cause in fabulous display. They plowed through field and forest, plain and valley, smashing through the toughest material made by mortal hands and mortal sweat. Instantly, three villages succumbed to simultaneous destruction . . .

The largest of all the four fragments deviated from its course, curving in an unnatural crescent towards a lone mountain. It hit with tremendous force, smashing into the topmost peak, grazing off the ancient weathered rock: burning, melting, fusing all at the same time. Fire seemed to erupt from the crest of the mountain, as if it had been a dormant volcano come to a sudden and violent rebirth. Screeching like a thousand banshees, the meteorite ricocheted at a sharp angle and plunged directly into the lake.


The Guild was shaken from top to bottom by a massive tremor. Walls cracked and snapped like gingerbread into a million pieces, revealing the occupants on either side; ceilings caved and the bottoms of floors dropped out from under shocked feet. The indoor plumbing system exploded, sending currents of water spraying out of the walls and flooding the basement; rivers of sludge soon flowed from the most unlikely places. Anything that was not bolted (an many that were) went flying across room and hall without the greatest of ease to shatter upon contact with anything, be it flesh or inorganic.

Guilders were seized out of bed, in chairs, in the lavatories, just about anywhere, and bounced like a devil's puppet. Some fell in, others fell out -- saved only by their wings or the quick-thinking of someone else with wings. Still some were knocked unconscious as they scrambled to the ready, fearing an attack. Screams of pain, screes of anger, a thousand sounds filled the normally-happy Guild. Amidst the chaos, pain and terror, order was called. Some claimed to see shining figures ringed with haloes, others saw beloved friends or deities. In any case, there was order. A tentative order, but in the middle of a thousand emergencies, all happening at once, and Guild Leader Tserisa still unaccounted for, at least a few kept their heads to calm the rising fear.

Cries of pain and terror, tears flowing like the busted septic system. Into this new world awoke those of the eighth floor right wing dorms. Hosea Kittomer, a burly brown dragon, skittered to a halt by the cluttered staircase, only to have a bruised and bleeding Syris run into his behind. The firefox Vulpegryphoness teetered sideways, sprawling on her back, bleeding from a jagged gash on her flank; blood flowed sluggishly from the wound, which was by the looks of it an old one that she'd only gotten free of. Red also pulsed freely from cuts and scrapes upon her cere and along her brow, sealing her eyes shut with the gummed substance.

Legs peddling fervently, she cracked open her beak. "Hhhhhheellp," she whispered in a voice grainy from the massive amount of dust in the air, even with the windows in the hallways. With a ragged sigh, Syris tipped her head over and passed out.

The blood draining from his face, Hosea darted his head about, seeking a Healer amongst those trying to flee. Flailing about on his hind, he dodged another piece of fallen ceiling, spreading his wings to cover Syris. Plaster rained down, and with it came more than the thin layer; scooping Syris up in his mobile claws, he rolled to the side, scraping his wings against the wall. Dragon ichor oozed anew, spreading in a morbid painting along the wall as he did so.

"Hosea!" The big male turned to see a white gryphoness spotted black and panther-hind crawl out from a collapsed doorway to his fore. Aakora slid across the floor, leaving bits and pieces of her plumage and skin behind, lodged between the boulders of the dorm entrance. Seeing Syris, her golden beak gaped and she covered her mouth with trembling hands, throat contracting in an effort to stay the rising bile.

"Gods -- no!" she keened, choking and staggering forward. Looking up into the big male's face, she lost control and wept freely, tears pooling on the firefox's stiff feathers.

Growling low in his throat, Hosea fought to keep control of his fluctuating emotions. He longed to comfort Aakora and to heal Syris, but both were beyond his means as more Guilders staggered out into the hall. With a grumble that rose in response to his instinctual anger, Hosea shot a look at his fellow Guilders. "Cloth -- bandages -- a Healer!" he roared over the sound of a wounded mountain.

There was a sudden influx of air and a goshawk and cheetah gryphoness appeared in the midst of terrified colleagues. Darkflame's eye danced around and side to side as she took an authoritative stance. "Anyone seriously wounded?" Her scythe of a tail swayed back and forth, the only indication of agitation. A light shone in her silver eyes that made everyone take a step back as she paced forward and repeated her call. Hosea was the first to break the trance and called for her.

"Here!" he barked, drawing her attention. Syris moaned once, begging for a glass of water before slipping back under.

Easing like an eel over boulders and plaster, Darkflame settled about the gravely wounded Vulpegryph, feet splayed in all directions, touching the firefox vixen. "Where are you going?" Hosea demanded, loathe to have his charge taken from his sight. He did not particularly care for Darkflame's devil-may-care attitude that she usually displayed; she was known to misjudge in her teleportation. On more than one occasion, she'd ended up in the midden and twice in the kitchens, sprawled upon the day's bread dough.

"There's triage in the Common Room," she said matter-of-factly, with none of her expected off-handedness. "It's the only place in the whole Guild that's double-enforced and shielded. All the Admin and Mods are there -- except Tser. The office wing is semi-clear, but her floor is inaccessible." She darted her eyes around and they shied away from the glowing orbs; her talons gripped Syris tighter. "Look, I have to get her to the Common Room or she'll die. No time for chit-chat. There's a group coming through, headed by Muse. He'll get you out of here. Hang on." And with that, she and Syris vanished, leaving only a pool of blood as a reminder.

And that pool held the shape of Syris.


"There. Hold on, almost done."

Almalthia na'Viren k'Rashna lopped off the tail end of the bandage she was working on with one claw and tied it swiftly into place. LunaFlare raised her head and spat out the pillow she'd been clenching in her beak. Using one hand, she dashed the tears from both eyes and looked over the Healer's handiwork. The white-tiger-hind gryphoness' rear left leg was a swath of cloth, so tightly bound that she could not stretch it lest she tear both bandage and wound. She grimaced.

"How do you feel?" Alma queried gently, knowing how painful it must be for the young gryphoness. The supply room had been unfortunately cut off from them for now, and she and her colleagues were working only with their talents and nothing more. And that talent was running perilously low. More than one Guild Healer had dropped from over-extension, and Alma feared that she would be next before this nightmare was over. A Healer put themself last and the patient first -- that was always the case.

LunaFlare managed a wry, pain-filled grin. "Like I got hit by a cart of rocks." Her mobile face, like that of all gryphons, conveyed far more than the raptors they looked like. The pain was as evident with her as it was on the elf warrior Aryante.

Almalthia smiled sympathetically. "I had to pull about that much out of your thigh and then some," she told her charge truthfully.

Ducking her head, LunaFlare began to slowly examine her wounds; Alma stood up and walked off, calling one of her fellow Guilders to see to LunaFlare's needs. Walking over to a bowl of warm water, she began to wash her dusty and blood-coated talons. Looking at her distorted reflection, she saw the strain of the hours mirrored back at her: bags under her eyes, feathers dull and despondent. Her snow leopard tail hung low, not even caring to lift it where it trailed through bodily fluids. There was a sharp pop and Almalthia whirled to see Darkflame appear once more with another casualty. With a sigh born of frustration, she wiped her hands clean and started off to see to the Guilder the teleporter had brought this time.

I'm so untrained for this, she thought as she examined Syris' deep gash.

A heavy silver paw draped over her shoulder and pulled her from the Vulpegryph's body. Starting, Almalthia looked up into the peaceful mein of SilverMoon. The dragoness' gods'-given pendant gleamed in the magelight the mages had erected all about the Common Room.

"Take a rest, my child," the large female soothed. "More are coming as we speak and you have done enough for today. We cannot afford overload on your gifts."

She shook her head empathetically, golden eyes tearing at the corners. "I can't -- so many -- "

SilverMoon laid a finger along the harpygryphoness' cere. "You have served the Guild and your fellows well this day, Alma. Rest."

Blessed darkness rushed up to claim her and Almalthia slept.


"Gods-dammit, Kalaki. What do you mean you can't send us aid?"

The face hovering above the latest in the Tsurieth line held nothing more than pity and remorse. The canted eyes, dark grey and lit with an otherworldly light not seen in any other living creature save those of the race stared back into eyes like its own. However, these eyes were set into a gryphonic face, and that face held despair. "We are recovering from our losses, too, Ythe," the faerie said quietly. "Surely you understand?"

The golden Phoenix in gryphon form did a double-take. She had not been prepared for this news. "W-what?" The Elven Nations overtaken by this cataclysm as well? Impossible!

Kalaki Moroko Shekeira, sister to the Ambassador Crystal, nodded. "Aye. But ours is more in land than in actual buildings. However, many of the working folk were caught unawares, like you were." She shook her head sadly. "So is the price of mountain dwelling."

Crystal nodded as well, slowly, thinking of their lairs back home -- the Vahazayi Phoenixes. She pressed the matter at another angle. "Can you at least spare us medical supplies, as an alternative to actual bodies? We can manage, I think, but not without those."

The blonde faerie turned her head to the side and spoke in the liquid elven dialect to someone there. Turning back, her face was grim and it was clear she was fighting an inner battle between aiding her sister, and the Guild she was an itinerant member of, and her duty to the people of the Elven Nations as the Phoenix Ambassador. "My loyalties lie with the Elven Nations," she finally said. It came out strained and her eyes danced with held tears. "You will receive aid when all that is seen to here." Looking swiftly from side to side, she added in the Vahazayi tongue: "I am so sorry, my sister. Believe me -- I am!"

Crystal reached out one bandaged talon to touch the image above the Tsurieth. "Aye, my sister. Aye, Laki -- I understand. We each have paths that we stepped upon and that is where our souls lie; me with the Guild and you with the Nation. Thus we stand and shall not deviate." With a sigh, Crystal sat back, finger hovering about the end communication button. "Am'nelii Berinshah, Laki."

"May Golden Solarius guide you --"

" -- and God keep you," Crystal finished. With a soft chime, the connection was cut and the globe went dark.

* * *

Day dawned finally upon the smoldering ruins of the once-majestic Gryphon's Guild. Now there was nothing but scorched rock and land burned for miles in all directions by the path of the meteorite. In the triage Common Room lay all those of serious injury; the cafeteria served as a mass dorm for the rest. Amazingly -- and all praise went to whatever god(s)/goddess(es) whose hand lay within this miracle -- no one was accounted as dead.

Save one:

Tserisa.

The Guild Leader still remained unfound, even as the passages began to clear. There were many halls and dorms left inaccessible to Darkflame and those that could teleport. Cave-ins, unstable halls -- all of these were deemed unapproachable until they could find a way to keep everything from collapsing.

On the morning of the fourth day of terror, the great main doors were finally opened and weary Guilders saw the land, tasted the air and felt the sun's warmth upon their skin for the first time in a long time. What greeted their eyes was a wasteland: gone was the green of the fields, the grass seared to nothing but brown if it was lucky -- wiped out clean in most places; the lake had been drained almost completely -- fish and other mammals that called the great lake home were washed upon the shore, dead and hardly recognizable.

In the distance, fires burned.

Some gaped, some cried, some showed no outside emotion. But they all thought the same thing, standing there upon the broken slab of the main ramp.

Their world was gone.

2002 Crystal Shekeira. All Guilders are copyright themselves; the Gryphon's Guild is trademarked to Tserisa Supalla. All other names, places and events are copyright to MH. Do not copy, alter or distribute

Copyright Melissa A. Hartman
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