Humble Beginnings

I think I’ve mentioned it before, but with my first set of Griffins & Gunpowder short stories getting ready to launch and The Cerberus Rebellion so close to publication, I thought I would revisit the flash in the pan that started it all.

This short piece of fiction was written on my phone, though I couldn’t pinpoint exactly when. It was probably during a slow point at work when I had the chance to type it out in Google Docs.

It was done in April of 2011 and for about 4 months, it just stewed. Finally, in August the story took off. So, without further ado, here is the short story that was titled “Griffin Steampunk”.

The hunting party rode slowly along the low rolling hills, buffered from the wind and light drizzle by their thick, fur lined cloaks. They had been riding in the fields and hills for the entire day and had yet to see any of the prey that they sought.

There was sign everywhere along the low hills that there were Griffins in this part of the country, but neither the party scouts nor their hunting hawks had come up with anything.

“My Lord,” one of the riders shouted from the hilltop. “Griffins, about three lengths ahead. A whole flight of them!”

“Lead the way, Alvars!” Lord Thomas Collins, Baron of Shadow Ridge, shouted to his armsman.

The hunting party turned, their large horses climbing the hill with little effort, following the scout. Armor clattered as the riders picked up speed, their cloaks flapped behind them as they road hard toward the flight of griffins that they had been tracking.

As the party neared, they slowed to a trot. Griffins were notorious for having impeccable hearing and for maintaining a keen watch when they were away from their avaries.

“Armsman, bring me a rifle!” Thomas shouted to the back of the party. While swords were the primary weapon on the planet Gregorov, rifles were the hunting weapon of choice. One of Lord Collins’ armsman dismounted and pulled the long gun from its holster at the horse’s side.

“My Lord,” the armsman handed his lord the weapon as Thomas dismounted from his horse.

“Thank you, Vance,” the baron said as he flipped open the caps on the scope.

The rifle, a meter long, weighed at least ten kilograms and was of the finest make on the planet. Thomas had used the rifle since his tenth birthday, though he had to use a mount until he could carry the weapon himself. Now, he hefted the barrel with no trouble and brought the stock to his shoulder.

The scope was high powered, it brought the beasts so close that Thomas could seen the individual feathers on each of the beasts. The male Griffins were covered in spikes, the females were smooth backed. Males were much larger than their mates, but were less valuable as trophies because of the ungainly spikes.

Thomas settled on one of the females, stalking along the side of the hill with her ears pinned back against her skull. Thomas held his breath and settled his sights on the beasts’ chest and flicked off the weapon’s safety. He braced himself against the ground and squeezed the trigger.

The rail gun thumped as it spit the the bolt of metal at supersonic velocities. It took mere seconds for the round to reach its target and Thomas could hear the screams of the other Griffins as they lifted into the air. The hunting party lowered themselves as much as possible: a flight of angry Griffins was nothing to be trifled with. The beasts circled for a few minutes before they finally drifted toward the cliffs, retreating to their avary.

“Let’s go see what we’ve got!” Thomas shouted as he handed the rifle back to his armsman. The party remounted and took off at a gallop towards where the Griffins had been.

The party had stopped at nearly a full length from the flight of Griffins, so even at a full gallop it took almost ten minutes for them to reach the corpse of the majestic beast that had been their target. The scouts arrived first, their smaller horses were faster than those of the armsmen and nobles, and they circled the corpse slowly. Even as he approached, Thomas could tell that the scouts were talking to each other about something.

As he approached, Thomas quickly realized what had the attention of the scouts. The corpse of the female Griffin had fallen where the beast had stood, but there was something else. Laying in a small stone circle were a trio of baby Griffins. Their wings were still tucked back against their bodies, a sure sign that they were not yet able to fly.

“What should we do with them, My Lord?” One of the armsmen asked.

“Griffins are dangerous animals, My Lord,” Thomas’ master-of-arms suggested. “We should put them down.”

“My lord,” Thomas’ advisor interrupted. “Griffins could be a great asset. When fully grown, they could support riders. And even if we can’t ever train them, their wings could be clipped like a trophy hawk and they could be prize animals. Imagine walking into the King’s Palace with a trio of Griffins at your heels. Everyone would respect your power and wealth.”

“Alexander,” Thomas looked to his oldest son, and most accomplished horse trainer. “Do you think that you could train these beasts to carry a rider?”

“If there is a beast that cannot be trained to take a rider, I have not come across it yet,” Alexander nodded. “They won’t be of size to take a rider for at least nine months, and in that time we could train them to be hunters.”

“Very well,” Thomas nodded. “We’ll take them back to the castle.”

And from that, the Griffins & Gunpowder universe was born. It just goes to show how far a story can wander before it finds its home in your head. Have you ever written down a quick idea and had it morph into something very different before you finally started writing it in detail?

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About Joshua K Johnson

Josh is the author of The Cerberus Rebellion and The Hydra Offensive, Gunpowder Fantasy novels set in the Griffins & Gunpowder universe. He is currently working on a new novel set in the same world as well as The Centaur Incursion, Book 3 in the existing series. He's married with a 5 yr old son and a 1 year old daughter, keeping him busy. He currently works and is a full-time student.

Posted on June 15, 2012, in writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. This. Looks. Awesome.

    Can’t wait to see more! =D

    • Thanks! Though I feel I should note that this was merely the short that started it all. The Griffins & Gunpowder universe ended up more in the American Civil War era for technology.

      This short, in its adapted form, does play a major role in one of my POV character’s backstory and is going to be the core of a novella.

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