I’d been a professional luremaster for years; dragons, lions, great wolves. I flattered myself I knew monsters. I knew how they thought, how they moved, how to enrage them. And, with Ice Mane beneath me and a mist lamp in my hand, I could take on anything Alisara had to offer.
Then I met the Shade Griffin. Yes, the legends said his wings carried night and his great clawed feet shook waves of snow from the mountainsides and sent them thundering down to smother whole villages, while his beak could easily devour several oxen at once. I guess I didn’t believe them. I should have.
It was one of the arrogant knight heroes who’d hired me. All I was to do wake the beast, frankly not the best way to start any attack but hey, the knight was paying me good gold. I just made sure he paid me before we started out into the northern wilds. Anyhow, how hard was would it be to wake a Shade Griffin and then luring him down the mountain to the ambush where the knight was waiting?
I’d sat easily on Ice Mane and lifted a silver trumpet to my lips. The fact I had to wind the thing seven times before there was even a rumble from the gaping cavern should have given me some warning. And the Griffin’s first steps, shuddering the whole mountain side, did make me hesitate.
And then I saw him; wings made from living shadows, eyes as bleak as a starless night, legs as thick as pillars and a body which would crush have a village.
Ice Mane spun, tearing down the hillside so quickly I reeled, barely keeping my seat. Behind me, mist spun from my lamp, but there was no need of that now. We were hurtling into the darkness, barely keeping ahead of the Griffin’s easy stride.
And, as I pressed myself on my mount’s one final thought surged back and forth though my brain. Why, oh why, hadn’t I chosen to bait the fiery fen serpent instead?