The gryphon is a large predator made up of a combination of a Raptor (like a large hawk or Eagle) and a Pard (Very much like a Mountain Lion/Cougar) that plays a pivotal role in the Firebringer Trilogy
as antagonist, then allies of the unicorns.
There is no story of how the gryphons came to call the Mountains home. They have always been there. Isha their goddess created the mountains for them as a sign of her favor, and also gifted them with the Vale and the sacred flocks within that are watched over by her consort Ishi.
Over their history different clans have risen and fallen from power. A few times they even stood united under a single strong gryphon. The unity would last for a generation or more before the clans would break apart in war and they would be back to battling each other.
Four hundred years past the gryphons first encountered the unicorns. The unicorns inadvertently wandered into what they thought was an unoccupied valley. They settled in, not knowing that it was claimed as a sacred hunting ground for the gryphons. They drove out the deer and goats. The formels were shocked and angered to discover the sacred flocks gone when the went to hunt in the vale that spring. The converged on the interlopers but were driven back. The gryphons were left with the unsavory young of the unicorns to feed their newly hatched young.
For four hundred years the gryphons tried to drive the unicorns out of the valley. They were divided clan against clan. A few Wingleaders of different clans tried unsuccessfully to gain power over all the clans so that they could come as one large group to drive the unicorns out. None of what any gryphon or clan tried was successful and so they returned each spring to hunt the young of the unicorns instead of the deer and goats.
In recent time Malar rose to power within her clan. Through cunning as well as strength she became the Matriarch and leader of her clan.
“No single leader ruled, though Malar, the matriarch of the largest clan, was the most ruthless – and therefore most respected – leader.” (DM p.221)
The leaders of the gryphons fought amongst themselves for power, and for leadership of all the clans.
"'Our leaders have had enough of you; it will not be many years before all the clans are united and Isha grants our prayers for fair winds. Then we will come in a body and harry you out [of the vale].'"
The light in the formel's eyes shifted and spangled. Jan saw flocks of gryphons swooping and fighting, tearing each other's nests, pashing each other's eggs and carrying off one another's young-things such as he had never seen or heard in ballad or lay." (BoF p.34)
During this time of struggle the wyvern queen whispered in the ears of a pair of gryphons that had fallen out of favor within Malar’s clan. She spoke of a plan to kill the black prince of the unicorns (Jan's father Korr), and sang dreams of glory into the dreams of the gryphons Kilkeelahr and Shreel. On the night of a raging storm they flew into the Vale and tried to create a land slide to bury the black prince forever. There plan almost succeeded but they failed, and died at the horn and hooves of the unicorns. They left behind a young son Illishar, who grew up an orphan.
Several years later, Illishar lead a wing of young gryphons to attack the unicorns at the Summer Sea. All the gryphons were killed by a storm that raced in from the sea, except for Illishar who broke his wing, but thought he had succeeded in killing Jan who at the time was the prince of the unicorns.
The herons (historical enemies of the gryphons) kept him alive as a prisoner of war. At Jan’s return, from across the sea, the herons turned over Illishar to Jan to do with what he wanted. While Jan considered killing the gryphon who was an enemy, he felt pity for the crippled warrior. Jan had been held prisoner in the City of Fire. He knew what it felt like to be held in the power of another. The gryphon called the unicorns invaders and this was the first time Jan truly listened to the possibility of the gryphons laying claim to the vale.
Illishar and Jan talked that night about their histories and the cultures of their people. Jan realized that here lay a chance to right a centuries long wrong. He offered to heal Illishar’s wing in order for the gryphon to fly back to his people with news of a possible alliance, since the unicorns planned to leave the vale to return to their own homeland.
Illishar agreed after Jan spent a while trying to convince him. Illishar was taken care of again by the herons (who were included in the agreement of an alliance). He returned to Malar.
“When I returned two years past with word that the unicorns might consent to relinquish Ishi’s sacred Vale and return to their own lands across the Plain, she pounced at the chance. Others were not so hungry for peace. They sought to seize the wingleader’s place.” (SoSS p.25)
“But with my aid and that of all her loyal flock, she has struck her rivals from the sky and pashed their eggs to shards. Mightiest of wingleaders, she soars, and the clans fly united behind her once more!” (SoSS p. 25)
Malar’s flock is the largest of the clans and lays claim to the richest hunting grounds in the Gryphon Mountains. The clans that were destroyed in Malar’s rise to power have left unclaimed lands. A few enterprising young gryphons have sought Malar’s permission to claim the lands as their own and to branch of to start young clans in the land that is left over. The land is the least desirable, since after the battle the clans loyal to Malar were allowed to pick over the ‘spoils’ and move to better areas if they so wished.
The Gryphons are a very particular species made up of a combination of a Raptor (like a large hawk or Eagle) and a Pard (Very much like a Mountain Lion/Cougar). Their forequarters, head (including beak -although they do have pard ears), frontlegs and wings are all those of an Eagle, while their rear quarters and back legs are those of a pard. They have lion like tails. Gryphons are distinctly colored as well. Female Gryphons (Formels) are larger and are always colored with Blue feathers and tawny bodies, while Male Gryphons (Tercels) are Green feathered and Gold bodied.
Compared to unicorns a formel can be three times the size of a halfgrown. A gryphon's eagle talons are very nimble, with a range of movement similar to that of a human hand. Illishar used his to make a fishing net out of seaweed, to debone fish, to tie his feather into Jan's mane, as well as manipulating the clasp of the halter that humans from the City of Fire had placed on Jan while he was a captive there.
Gryphons have cat eyes, that come in almost any color. When they are born the baby's eyes are usually either a light blue that darkens with age, or a black that lightens with age. The color changes gradually after the first five weeks, by their tenth week they have darkened/lightened to their adult color.
As babies, gryphons can vary in color going from a pale white to mottled silverish gray on the eagle half (blue or green tinted depending on the sex) and a very light tan or gold (depending on the sex) on the cat half. Baby gryphons often have spotting on their cat half that they grow out of as the get older.
Once they start to fledge darker feathers begin appearing. The transition from juvenile to adult feathers takes from between 5-7 years depending on the individual. Usually the feathers of a juvenile are a paler/grayer version of their adult color, helping them to blend in more with the rock of their mountain home. The juvenile feathering is often mottled with various shades of pale/darker blue (formels) or green (tercels). The gryphon maintains the juvenile feathers for their first year. By this age they loose any spotting they had on their cat half (if they had any as a baby). Their fur deepens at the same time coming in a desaturated version of their adult coloration.
By their second year deeper hued feathers appear. They continue to get brighter in coloration. By the third year most of their juvenile feathers are gone and they loose the mottling of the juvenile coat. Their feathers are still washed out versions of their adult coloration, but it has the same markings that they will have as an adult. By the time they are 5-7 years of age the colors of feather and fur have brightened to their adult colors.
A note on markings: On the pard half minimal markings are allowed. This includes: dorsal stripes and darker/lighter; tail tips, undersides, paws, and ear tips. The markings must be some form of tawny (formels) or gold (tercels) but the color can vary from almost black to almost white in shade. There are no stripes, or the various forms of spotting (cheetah, jaguar, etc.) allowed, except on baby gryphons who may be born with faint spotting which they grow out of.
On the eagle half there are several markings or patterns that are allowed on the feathers, this includes things like: lighter/darker feather tips, speckling, lighter bellies, banding/barring on the feathers, lighter/darker undersides of the wings, or other similar markings. The markings must be some form of blue (formels) or green (tercels) but they can vary in shade from near black to almost white. No black and white markings (or any other color aside from blue and green) will be allowed.
How A Gryphon Ages
First Flight- ~3 months
Fledgling- 3-12 months
Fullgrown- 5-30 years
They build their nests on the ledges of the cliffs, close to where the flocks travel in the spring and summer. It is separate from their normal roosts especially in those clans that follow the migrating deer. The female gryphon lays mottled silver eggs. They lay from 1-4 eggs and then both parents guard and incubate the nest taking turns until the eggs hatch a month later. The formel leaves the tiercel then to hunt the sacred flocks of deer and goat in the Vale to bring back for first meat for the chicks.
The chicks grow rapidly. They open their eyes at one to one and a half weeks. At two weeks old the chicks can hold up their heads while feeding. Between four and five weeks they are able to stand. Six weeks they are nearly as big as their parents. At eight weeks their appetite is at the highest, with both parents continually feeding them, its at this point they start stretching their wings. Ten to thirteen weeks old they take their first flight. Gryphons will hover or fly by with bits of meat to entice the chicks out of the nest.
After the first flight the fledgling still hangs around the nest and is fed by their parents while they learn how to fly and hunt on their own, as well as they start learning about the clan and history.
After the first year they start making a life of their own, separate from their parents. At this age they start fighting for prominence, and making alliances, within the age-mates of their own clan. They are still to small and ungainly to take on the older members of their clan.
Around the age of four or five gryphons will start participating in contests of skill and daring trying to court members of the opposite sex. The contests encompass all the clans. A clan is comprised of mostly family (both close and distant), so gryphons will seek for a mate outside of their clan. Once pair bonded the pair can choose which clan to move to, more often then not they will join the formel's clan.
A gryphon that survives to become an elder is well respected because of their fighting and hunting prowess. They hold as well the lore of their clan and can be fierce fighters.
They place their dead on the highest peaks within the clan's territory. With wings outstretched there they can lie in peace closest to those they loved in life, and be closest to Isha and her consort Ishi.
Flight & Movement
They are soaring animals preferring to ride the thermals and wind to move from place to place. They also use powered flight (flapping up and down) to move. Soaring is more energy efficient so gryphons will soar when they can. Clear sunny days seems to make the best conditions for the highest thermal updrafts, but any weather that has strong uplifting winds, thermals, and strong tailwinds are ideal.
Most gryphons stay within the lands of the Gryphon Mountains but occasionally individuals will fly free of clan and home to seek life else where.
For gryphons that wander from place to place, the wind is key to their movement. If there is no wind then gryphons can't soar and so tend stay in one place, or travel using powered flight (flapping wings). A traveling gryphon is very likely to travel with the wind, riding it from one place to another. They also travel more during the day when the sun is out creating thermals that they can ride.
A gryphon flies 20-60 miles per hour (30-90 km/h) in normal flight, depending on wind and other conditions. A gryphon can reach 130-200 mph (220-320km/h) in a steep dive.
When traveling at the slowest speed a gryphon will hold its wings out as far from the body as possible to give it the greatest surface area (much like soaring). The faster they go the more the wings are closed in. When they travel at the fastest level flight (not diving) the wings are drawn in to just over half the maximum wing span.
Gryphons prefer the meat of goats, sheep, and deer. They have been known to fish as well to augment their food. While historically the gryphons once attacked the young of the unicorns during the spring, they only did so because the goats and deer they prefer was ran off by the unicorns. Gryphons actually dislike the taste of unicorn, for it is bitter compared to the sweet flesh of goats and deer.
Gryphons tend to hunt in groups or pairs, bringing the prey back to their clan's Cliffs of Assembly and feeding from the kill according to rank. They can carry, in flight, prey the size of a halfgrown unicorn without a problem, but even the formels have trouble flying while carrying anything the size of a full grown unicorn.
A large group of gryphons will be formed when hunting deer who tend to run around in herds. One tactic often seen is for the gryphons to fly in low using surprise to spook the herd, while others lay in wait at the wings or ahead to take advantage of any deer that falls back or gets singled out from the herd. They might attack in pairs or singly to take down the deer, swooping in to attack with claws or talons before flying up out of reach. As a pair one will distract the prey, attacking its front, while the other gryphon comes in from behind to kill it.
Each individual develops their own tricks of the trade when taking down large prey. Generally one way is to stoop and dive and then grab on with talon and claw while the beak moves in for a killing blow. They may also take advantage of the steep cliffs and sharp inclines that riddle the Gryphon mountains. By using their wings to buffet the prey as well as circling and stooping they can cause the prey to loose traction and fall from the cliff side.
When they hunt alone they hunt by soaring high into the sky and then spotting their prey with their strong eyesight. If the prey is large (deer or goat) they often use similar tactics to the ones they use when hunting in a group, such as latching on for the killing blow, or making it loose its balance and fall off the cliff side.
Small prey, such as rabbits or shrews, are usually caught by the young and inexperienced.
Some species of goats will stay in the highlands even through the cold and deep snow during the winters. The deer and sheep will tend to migrate moving down slope in the winter where the grazing is less scarce, then moving back up the slopes come spring and summer. Gryphons will sometimes travel as well establishing winter and summer hunting grounds. When prey is scarcer during the winter gryphons will more often hunt on their own or in mated pairs. Larger groups will hunt together in spring to fall when there is more prey upslope, and when the deer/sheep tend to travel in larger groups themselves.
Alone a gryphon can sometimes use their voices to mesmerize their prey, allowing them to get close enough to spring. It comes from the fact that most gryphons have a musical voice that they use when they sing together. They merely use the lyrical voice while speaking to their prey, lulling them into a daze. It is similar to the semi daze that a good laysinger achieves during a griping story.
Those gryphons that leave the mountains often have a difficult first year as the try and find new ways to hunt. Most will stick to deer and goats when they can, although antelopes and other ungulates will crop their way into the gryphons diet. A gryphon traveling alone will become opportunistic, hunting when and what they can. Few will lower themselves to eating carrion, unless they are desperate. Often they will hunt smaller prey at first working themselves up to larger prey.
The Gryphon Mountains are where the gryphons roost. They also lay claim to the Vale (Called by them the 'Bowl of Ishi') as a sacred hunting ground.
They are a very proud and fierce race. While they tend to judge others by their skills, actions, and strength, they are not fond of war. The four hundred long conflict they had with the unicorns left them weary of battle. They share their history in songs.
“For what is a gryphon without honor? Only a pecked-upon squab.” (DM p.221)
“Great Isha created her consort Ishi from the greenest of grasses and the most golden seed. But he was lifeless, so she closed him in a silver egg, and he hatched out full grown. Half the mottled shell still turns in heaven. Now full so we see it end-on, beholding only the outward curving edge. A week hence, when it has pivoted, we will see it in profile, the half moon. In another week’s time, on the night of the new moon, we will discern no silver rim at all but instead gaze into the dark mystery of its inner hollow. Blessed be the goddess and her consort, Ishi!”
“Then Isha, mistress of the sky, turned to Ishi, lord of the winds. ‘These gryphons, fiercest of my chicks, shall know a token of my favor.’ With one mighty talon, she scratched the earth, creating a valley. With the touch of one wingtip, she brought it life: wooded slopes and grassy meadow. Here the wind god pastured his goats and deer. Here the blue-fletched formels sped each spring to capture first meat for their newly hatched young…”
“Illishar sang of Isha’s gift of the winds to her consort Ishi, of her creation of the Vale for his sacred flocks, lovingly husbanded as first meat for the newly hatched.”
The gryphons are comprised of family clans which are then ruled by a Matriarch (also called wingleader). Each gryphon is then ranked in a pecking order based on how close their ledge lays in respect to the Matriarch of the clan. Generally the Matriarch claims the highest ledge on the Cliffs of Assembly to roost. Those that roost on the ledges close to her are favored by the Matriarch. There is a constant struggle both within and without the clans to gain honor and glory.
The Matriarch also claims the best nesting site for her and her consort.
The clans are then ruled by Malar, called both ‘Queen’ and ‘Wingleader of the gryphons‘ or ‘Wingleader of all the clans‘. She united all the clans under her wings two years before the battle of Ending-fire.
“Had they succeeded, they would have been called heroes, perched high in the pecking order once more. Queen Malar would have rewarded them with a prestigous nesting site, a ledge close to her own upon the Cliffs of Assembly, first pick of the kill.” (DM p.221)
Females have higher rank then the males do. Females are the warriors and generally the better fighters, because of their superior size and strength. It is the females that lead the clans. The males take on the roles of caretakers both to the hatchlings and to the flocks and herds that they use for food. It is the females that go out to hunt each spring at the Bowl of Ishi to provide first meat for the newly pipped hatchlings, leaving the young in the care of their mates.
Tercels are not without strength though. While the larger formels are more brute strength. The smaller and more agile tercels are like a swift wind, able to turn quicker then the larger females.
It is rare but some Tercels (particularly Illishar) prove themselves as fierce and strong as a formel. They become warriors and are allowed into the ranks to fight at the side of the Formels.
“Our singer is blood kin to me - but for all that he is but a green winged tercel, he holds a heart as brave, talons as keen, and a voice as strong as any formel’s.” (SoSS p.23)
When gryphons sing tales they will sing together in a group. The main singer will spin the tale while several gryphons will accompany the singer in the background. The background singers use sound and body movements to accent the main singer’s words. The main singer both sings and chants the story. The tales are also sometimes known as songs or a chorus.
“Again fluting whistles from the formels, but more melodic, rising and falling in a complex harmony to the tercel’s words.” (SoSS p. 25)
“Behind him, the formels raised their voices in intricate, effortless accompaniment, the ever-changing position of their wings seeming to accent his words: now lifted, now folded, now outstretched.” (SoSS p. 25)
“The tune pulsed and lilted. Tek’s heartbeat sped. Her people had no such sinuous music as those gryphons made, the tercel sometimes speaking or chanting while the formels behind him repeated and ornamented his words.” (SoSS p.26)
They value songs and tales of valor. The gryphons that travel without a flock or a gryphon companion will sometimes sing tales on their own. In those cases they tend to adopt a method more like the unicorn laysingers, just a bit more melodic, with the gryphon using their own body to emphasize their words.
They can sometimes use their voices to mesmerize their prey, allowing them to get close enough to spring. It is similar to the semi daze that a good laysinger achieves during a gripping story.
While the gryphons may have some knowledge of the healing arts, they knew naught of mending broken bones until Jan mended Illishar’s wing. With the alliance, and some unicorns returning to the Vale some of the gryphons interested in healing might gather the courage to seek out the unicorn healers to share knowledge.
Much like with the unicorns this ability is rare among the gryphons. Magicking works the same for gryphons as it does for unicorns.
"Despite how it sounds, this is not an all powerful ability to do magic. Magickers simply use tools such as herbs and points of focus like pools of water, to perform extremely simple tasks such as Scrying. They cannot change the weather, or control minds, or do anything of that nature. Additionally, these tasks take extreme mental effort and are not performed without consequence. A Unicorn would need to recover from making any sort of attempt at Magicking." (Quote from Section Five of the FAQ)
Another rare gift that is found amid the gryphons. It is a rare thing to find, but often those individuals that are born with this gift are highly prized by their clan. They often become informal (or sometimes formal) advisers to their clan leader. Again the gift works the same as it would for a unicorn.
"This would be very much like the ability to foretell the future - predominantly in dreams. This is not an exact gift... meaning that a Unicorn would not be able to foresee the results of a specific event or something they choose to see. It is a very vague power and also rare. Often, singers are gifted with this ability. If a character is strongly affected by this ability, there must be consequences." (Quote from Section Five of the FAQ)
Gryphons are formally allied with both the Warriors of the Ring and the herons. They have little to do with the Plainsdwellers, dragons, and the pans, but are allied to them as well through the alliance to the Warriors of the Ring.