MacAllister and few of his comrades in the Duke’s forces stood at the Saddle and Sword Tavern drinking. It had been too long since their last break in battle, and they were drunk with freedom and Dwarven ale. He was guffawing at an off-color joke when the tavern went silent. He turned toward the door.
A tall, elegant woman entered clothed in a fur lined velvet cloak. She looked beautiful the way a sword is beautiful – cold, hard, and dangerous. She headed straight for Mac. It wasn’t hard to spot him, he knew, standing a foot taller and wider than any man there. His friends joked that his great-grandmother had bedded a giant. Who knew? Maybe it was true.
“Your Excellency,” he said, dropping to a knee when she stopped in front of him.
“I’m in need of your services.”
A titter of laughter fluttered around the room. She silenced it with a steely glare. Mac followed her from the tavern.
As they hiked up a hill west of town, she handed him a sword from under her cloak. He tossed it spinning in the air and caught it, testing its balance and weight.
“Careful!” she said. “It’s a magic blade. It will cut anything.”
“And what will I be cutting with it?” he asked, eyeing it respectfully as they crested the hill.
The duchess put a hand on his arm to stop him as something huge, and lightning fast lunged at him. He leapt backwards into a crouch bringing up the sword, but the creature stopped short three feet from them. Mac’s heart pounded.
The duchess had not even flinched. “It’s chained,” she said. “I want you to kill it.”
Mac stared in wonder. The griffon shrieked with something between an eagle’s cry and a lion’s roar. Its muscular feline back legs catapulted it skyward, its claws leaving gouges in the earth. Its golden wings, wide as a house, beat at the wind, raising a cloud of dust and leaves. A chain from the rock of the hilltop to its back leg snapped taut. The creature cried again as it thrashed. It dropped back to earth with the dangerous grace of a lion and hissed at them, wings spread.
It was the most magnificent thing Mac had ever seen. It weighed at least five-hundred pounds. Its majestic eagle head held golden eyes that while full of rage, were intelligent.
Mac edged right, keeping clear of the trampled earth and shrubs where the griffon could reach. Inside that circle lay the bodies of at least eight or nine soldiers, brothers-in-arms, shredded. “And those blokes?” said Mac, pointing the magic sword.
“Were not up to the task,” said the duchess. “Well,” she said when Mac was silent. “Are you going to kill it? Or should I find someone else.”
“It would be a shame,” said Mac, admiring the rippling muscles, shimmering feathers, and regal air of the creature.
“You’ll be well paid.”
Mac glanced at the duchess. Paid? Since when was a soldier paid extra for doing his duty? He noticed the griffon was focused on the duchess, the hatred in its eyes palpable. “And how will killing it win us the war?” he asked.
The duchess laughed, “War? My dear boy, griffon wing is said to be delicious.”
The griffon screamed and launched toward the duchess. Mac screamed and launched toward the griffon, sword raised. The magic sword really could cut anything. The chain rattled to earth. More screams joined the griffon’s. As Mac hurried down the hill, magic sword in hand, he wondered if duchess was said to be delicious too.
Click here to get your copy of Dungeons Monsters and Tavern Tales!