Friday, December 30, 2011

And Weren’t You in Love When You Were Young?


More good writing news to end the year! I just learned that my story “And Weren’t You in Love When You Were Young?” has been accepted by Etopia Press and will be issued by them soon as an e-book. Based on a classic tale of love and tragedy, “And Weren’t You in Love When You Were Young?” is about fifteen-year-old Todd Laurino, who falls hard for fellow high school student Adrian Ginneo. But Adrian cannot come to grips with being gay, and his blind rejection of Todd’s love devastates the boy and nearly destroys Adrian’s best friend. I’ll post an update when the story is published. This is one of those wonderful tales that I always want so very much to find a good home, and it has. I’m very happy about this!

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"Chang'd Innocence" Is Up!


Wow, that was fast! "Chang'd Innocence" is now up at Aphelion Webzine! As I described previously, "Chang'd Innocence" is a mysterious/sinister/ beautiful/harrowing tale of innocence violated and the nightmare that innocence can bring upon wrongdoers. The journey of a mysterious, violated girl and her protectors through the dark night/nightmare/fright there streets of New York City carries you past shapeshifters and vampires and werewolves, and policemen who are not entirely living anymore.

Shapeshifter Zefiryn Piotrowicz was raped at age twelve by a stranger who destroyed her family to acquire the strength of Zefiryn’s magic. Two years later a disgraced Shakespeare professor and a kidnapped lawyer help runaway Zefiryn sort through New York’s monsters of the night to find her attacker, and take revenge.

This is a haunting tale, full of loss/longing/betrayal/love, which always seem to arrive together/forever, don't they? Enjoy the story, and always be careful of the innocence you do wrong to -- it springs up/wings up/fights up/flights up in many unexpected places.

"Chang'd Innocence" at Aphelion Webzine

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Monday, December 5, 2011

"Chang’d Innocence" is coming



My story "Chang'd Innocence" will be published this month at Aphelion Webzine. "Chang'd Innocence" is a mysterious/sinister/beautiful/harrowing tale of innocence violated and the nightmare innocence can bring upon wrongdoers. The journey of a mysterious, violated girl and her protectors through the dark night/nightmare/fright there streets of New York City carries you past shapeshifters and vampires and werewolves, and policemen who are not entirely living anymore.

Shapeshifter Zefiryn Piotrowicz was raped at age twelve by a stranger who destroyed her family to acquire the strength of Zefiryn’s magic. Two years later a disgraced Shakespeare professor and a kidnapped lawyer help runaway Zefiryn sort through New York’s monsters of the night to find her attacker, and take revenge.


I'll post an update here when "Chang'd Innocence" is published at Aphelion. Until then, be careful of the innocence you do wrong to -- it springs up/wings up/fights up/flights up in many unexpected places.

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Wrath of the Gryphonwind Cover Update



Artwork by April Danaher for Wrath of the Gryphonwind


Wow. Just...wow!

April Danaher has really outdone herself here. I love this! The characters, the colors, the whole atmosphere of the work is amazing! She really captured the boys (Owen and By'yalt'r) and the gryphon (Odrynn) so well! I get so tickled when I see something I created in words become pictures in someone else's hands.

Wrath of the Gryphonwind will be ready to read before you know it! Stay tuned for further updates.

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Wrath of the Gryphonwind Coming Soon!



Artwork by April Danaher for Wrath of the Gryphonwind


My YA fantasy novel Wrath of the Gryphonwind is nearing completion! It has young warrior knights flying into battle on armored gryphons and a gay teen love triangle and a murder mystery and...well, here's the description I wrote for it:

Young inventor Owen Pyke would rather build mechanical men and steam-powered potato peelers than become an armored, gryphon-riding knight of the sky. But joining the Gryphonwind guild is Owen’s only ticket out of the orphanage. Together with his beloved bond-gryphon Odrynn, Owen and his fellow Gryphonwind cadets train for aerial battle in the war to end faun slavery in the south. After Owen angers his faun friend By’yalt’r by flirting with By’yalt’r’s boyfriend Eryk, the faun disappears and Owen is suspected of harming him. Owen must quickly find out what happened to By’yalt’r while avoiding the violent anger of the faun’s bond-gryphon, along with a private detective hiding a terrifying secret and a nosy reporter who might be a werewolf. But an unsavory man follows Owen to stop the boy from uncovering the truth. And the angry Gryphonwind armies of the southern protectorates are drawing ever closer to the great city of Port Cedryssene...


I'm very excited about this one! But one thing I'm even more excited about is the cover art being created for it by April Danaher. April is an extremely talented artist, and those of you who follow the Ponies (you know who you are!) probably know her excellent work already from her DeviantArt page. The drawing above is the cover of the book prior to being painted in full color. Here's another sketch April made of the characters in my novel.



I love the concepts and the dynamism of her line drawings. Stay tuned for more information and a look at the finished cover for Wrath of the Gryphonwind!

BONUS PONY PIC: Here's one of my favorite Pony pictures by April, which was one of the pictures that convinced me she was the right artist for this project. I simply love this work!



"Summer Fun," by littletiger488


April's DeviantArt Page (littletiger488)
April's Website

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

"Flight" and "Tiger Stone" are coming!



Thanks to the lovely ladies who run Gypsy Shadow Publishing, my stories "Flight" and "Tiger Stone" will be published by them later this year or early next year!

"Flight" is the story of a boy named Ogaleesha who is trapped in a summer of hell on his grandparents’ Wyoming ranch when he meets a boy who can fly. The boy, part of a hidden tribe of people like him, forces Ogaleesha to face a terrifying fact about his grandparents’ past and an inescapable personal truth, one that will change the stubborn Ogaleesha's life forever.

"Tiger Stone" is a noir detective fantasy in which private eye Kimball Glock hunts for a stolen diamond through the jazz-magic streets of postwar New York City. Kimball uncovers the stone in the teeth of a shapeshifting tiger-boy who hides from a witch bent on the child’s enslavement. Tough guy Kimball is shattered by his selfish betrayal of the boy before being swept by magic both dark and light into a final battle for the weretiger’s soul.

I'll post updates as the stories are published. Thanks to Denise and Charlotte at Gypsy Shadow for giving these stories a home!

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

They do not belong to you.



(I almost feel as if I should apologize for this in advance. Almost. But I won’t. I warn you, this piece is rough. I hope perhaps you’ll finish it with some idea of the pain that gave birth to this essay/blog post/emotional rant. Just don’t forget it if you do read it. Don’t forget them.)

Let’s get one thing clear right off the bat. Jerry Sandusky is a rapist, and the people around him who did nothing while children were being raped are enablers at best and co-conspirators at worst. The full extent of the law should and likely will be thrown at them. I wonder if Sandusky will use the excuse that he cares about kids. That’s bullshit. Anyone who cares about kids wouldn’t hurt them the way he did, with threats and coercion and force. That’s not caring; that’s predation. There’s no excuse for causing that kind of hurt, ever.

That has to be said first, because that is not why I’m writing this.

I’m going to skip over my thoughts on a voyeuristic country that hates child abuse but seems so anxious to hear about it; a hypocritical populace that despises child molesters but can’t get enough of the sordid details on Oprah or TV newsmagazines and such. We’ve all heard the details about the boy in the shower, and it’s as if we can’t wait for that boy and others to come forward and tell us the rest (I listen to NPR and the other evening, believe me, they could hardly contain their anticipation). At this moment (5:29 p.m. central time on 11/12/11), there are over 31,000 articles about the Penn State case on the Google News aggregator. That’s staggering. And it’s sickening. But I’ll spare you that opinion, because that is also not why I’m writing this.

I’m writing this because of a misplaced fury. I’m writing this because I’m tired of the smugness, the certainty, the assuredness of those who think they’re not culpable. I’m writing this because the other day I read a news commentator who described the rape of that young boy in the shower as the “most heinous act” one could commit against a child. But you know what? I think torturing and murdering a child are far worse. And the family homes of America are filled with parents and guardians who do just that (at least the torture part), and we fail to get outraged. We look the other way because “that’s just the way people discipline kids.”

No, I think the betrayal that occurs when a parent turns vicious on you and beats the living shit out of you is far worse. (In my case, it was for being an incorrigible girly-boy.) That is torture far worse than anything physical because you know what? The betrayal of a child’s love by a parent is far worse than any physical torture. It’s a torture that, for lack of a better concept, affects the very soul of the child, the very innermost sense of self and love and happiness that belongs to that boy or girl. The boy in the shower with the rapist Sandusky may have felt betrayed by a trusted and respected friend, but he didn’t have to feel the immensely deep and heart-shattering betrayal of his own father lashing out violently at him.

You may disagree with me if you wish. But you had better have some good goddamn backup for your opinion, because I LIVED THAT TORTURE AS A CHILD. I’m not going into details here about my father’s repeated beatings of me. But I will say this: the day my father died was the happiest day of my childhood.

I remember it as vividly as if it happened yesterday, being awakened early in the morning by a ringing telephone and asking my mother who had called. She told me the news. I went back to bed and cuddled up under the covers with a little smile on my face and repeated to myself, over and over, “I’ll never be beaten again; I’ll never be beaten again.”

I was saying that mantra about my father. MY FATHER. You think that what happens when a child is raped is worse than the depths of betrayal felt by child whose parent turns against him? I invite you to think clearly about this. I am so sick of the rage people express over cases like the one that kicked off this post, but seem to think nothing of it when parents rip out their children’s hearts and stomp on them repeatedly. We don’t treat children as lives in this country, we treat them as possessions. Why else would a threat to one’s child and a threat to one’s car elicit similar reactions from many parents in this country?

I know; many of you hate the sort of abuse I speak of as much as what happened to the boy in the shower. But get some goddamned perspective, people. The mob mentality surrounding the Penn State case is sickening. You’re castigating the enablers at Penn State because their betrayal and failures hit too close to home; because experiences like I had probably go on in your neighborhoods all of the time, if not in your own homes. You pillory the sexual abusers because you know if the spotlight was ever turned on you and/or your neighbors and extended family, you would not likely survive the revelations. Could you live with yourself if I and everyone else in the world had a window into your relationship with your child when no one else was looking? I wonder. I wonder because I know I grew up in circumstances which could not have borne that light. And honestly, what happened to me wasn’t anywhere near as bad as some of the other horrifying tales I’ve heard.

If this all seems too harsh, too widespread in its accusation, it’s because when you grow up as an abused child you begin to suspect all of the adults around you as colluding with your abuser. That’s what I believed: they all know. They all know daddies beat their boys with so much hatred and fury. It’s the secret of the adult world; that kids are there for adults to punish and hurt as they please. They all know.

Try growing up with that fundamental idea of society stuck in your mind. It’ll fuck you up big time.

I’ve gone on long enough, but one more thing needs to be said before I go. Get a grip, people. And, as I ranted on another occasion when sanctimony threatened to overrule decency and acts of actual benefit to others, go find some way to help kids who are in trouble NOW. And realize that the sensational cases, the ones that make the evening news and get splattered all over the Internet, don’t even begin to scratch the surface of the horrors that children have to live through. Somewhere in this country, a child cried himself to sleep tonight the same way I once did. And that is one child too many. And YOU need to stop your self-righteous, feel-good, “goddamn, I’m better than that fucking child molester” bullshit and make this world a better place for kids. Goddamn fucking NOW. Children are not your possessions. They are their own LIVES.

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Beware of the unicorns!



"Rainbows & Unicorns" is now available from Aeon Press Books in a volume called Transtories. This anthology looks to be chock full of great stories! My story "Rainbows & Unicorns" is a sweet fairy tale with blood splattered all over it, in which a gang of hurt kids encounters a brand of helpful magic that, for some people, turns into a nightmare. I will leave it for you to discover why it fits perfectly in an anthology involving stories that in some way are based on the word "trans".



Transtories is available in both print and electronic editions. Read it, and be very careful that you never harm those who are protected by unicorns. Enjoy!

Transtories, from Aeon Press Books

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Once Again, HOORAY FOR BOYS WHO WANT TO BE GIRLS!



Seven-year-old Bobby Montoya identifies as a girl and wants to join the Girl Scouts. The Girl Scouts won't let him. His mother, Felisha Archuleta, thinks the organization is being ridiculous.

Archuleta says that Bobby identifies as a girl and she doesn't have a problem with it: "He's been doing this since he was about 2 years old. He's loved girl stuff, so we just let him dress how he wants, as long as he's happy." Bobby himself told CNN, "It's like hurting my heart. It hurts me and my mom both. Somebody told me I couldn't like girl stuff."


Fortunately, Bobby's mother and grandmother are telling Bobby that it's okay to like girl stuff! It's about time people figured out that girly-boys, however they grow up to be, shouldn't be shunned, discouraged, shamed, teased, beaten, or otherwise just because they're different. My life would have been a lot better had the adults around me, when I was a girly-boy, understood this.

Here's a great video about Bobby. All I can say is, just like with Livvy James, when I was a kid I would have killed for those fecking GORGEOUS boots Bobby is wearing!



My girly-boy story is here. I still miss that black cat costume an awful lot...

"Transgender Boy Tries To Join Girl Scouts, Rejected Because Of 'Boy Parts'" (Gothamist)

BTW, Bobby likes My Little Pony, so on top of everything else he totally rocks!

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Monday, October 24, 2011

An American Classic



I first read this book many years ago on a business trip, one of those things you have to endure where you want some sort of engrossing novel to carry you away from the bullshit of a job you hate (and traveling with the company owner, too) and one of those nerve-wracking times when you have to be “on” all the time because you’re surrounded by clients who are all morons anyway, and you have to be nice to them. I was on board a plane reading the opening scenes of American Gods that take place on a plane. Not that it had anything to do with the novel, but I remember watching what was almost a mugging on a Baltimore street from my hotel room late one night while I read this book. Fascinating, as if the world had become weirdly in-tune and out-of-order from the normal and usual, as if tendrils of the novel wormed their way out of the pages and into the ether.

I finished American Gods well after that trip ended, and when I closed its pages I was startled by an unbidden thought: “That was one of the most satisfying books I have ever read.” And I meant it. Every moment spent reading American Gods had been worth it, every hour with it an hour much more than well-spent. How often can you say that about any book? The works of Shakespeare and Homer; the utterly perfect characters and situations of Stephen King’s masterpiece, The Shining; the overwhelming too-muchness and diamond-flaw perfection of my favorite novel, Les Misérables. Not many others. Not many others at all.

The edition of American Gods I read years ago was the “standard edition,” I guess we could say. I started reading it again recently in the above pictured, Tenth Anniversary edition, with text restored by the brilliant Neil Gaiman. I’m already hooked again. Read this. It’s worth every minute of your time. Very little written today is this goddamned excellent.



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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Psychotic Puck



Puck has wandered into the outline for my next novel and wants to take it over. I continue to resist his insurrection, but plan on finding a good and proper place for him in it. I figured I’d better catch up on Puck’s most famous literary appearance and re-read (and re-view) A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I’ve always wanted to see this old 1935 adaptation of Shakespeare’s play and I finally watched it last night. What about Mickey Rooney’s portrayal of Puck?

He’s completely deranged and psychotic. It’s amazing.

I was intrigued by this quip from Amazon.com about Rooney’s performance:

The other actors are decidedly varied, and they tend to be overwhelmed by the production design. Not so Mickey Rooney, whose performance as Puck is a feral, antic act of imagination (he was 14 during filming); picture a boy raised by wolves who somehow memorized Shakespeare. His Puck growls and screams and mocks the drama of the other characters, a little postmodern imp before his time. (Critic David Thomson called this Puck "truly inhuman, one of the cinema's most arresting pieces of magic").




“A boy raised by wolves who somehow memorized Shakespeare.” That is amazingly accurate. Rooney’s portrayal of Puck is legendary – he’s off-the-wall, annoying, magnificent, profound, silly, and magnetic. His laugh is one of the three greatest film laughs I have ever heard, along with Tom Hulce as Mozart in Amadeus and Heath Ledger as The Joker. In fact, give Mickey Rooney’s Puck a knife and make him malevolent, and he instantly becomes Ledger’s psychotic villain from The Dark Knight.

I enjoyed this all more than I expected to. Definitely worth hunting down.



Here’s Gore Vidal introducing AMND on TCM. There’s a brief clip of Mickey Rooney in this with just a touch of that insane laugh of his. Pay attention to what Vidal says that Tennessee Williams once told him about Mickey Rooney.



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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Totally Awesome OPERA KID!





THIS KID IS AWESOME! Nine-year-old Aiden Sagerman loves opera and he wants to find other kids who love opera. He's not having much luck, though.

Most kids think of operas as long, boring plays that are in some language they don't know. Other kids think of operas as good chances to get some sleep. Still other kids think of operas as both. And then there are kids like me; kids who like opera, kids who understand the plot.

A lot of kids misunderstand opera. Once I told a friend the plot of "Die Walkure." I knew it was the kind of thing he might enjoy. As soon as I told him it was an opera, he stopped listening and tried to change the subject. That's what has happened with everyone else.

There are so many reasons why I like opera: the complex plots, the amazing music, the interesting characters, the battle scenes and just the stories themselves. I really don't understand why other kids don't like it. What idiot came up with the idea that operas were boring for children?


Reading his commentary is one thing, but you have to hear him deliver it for the full effect. Cripes, three-fourths of the adults out there couldn't deliver a short commentary with this much expression and feeling. Dang it, I think I see now why Aiden loves opera...

Good luck, kid! Eventually the opera lovers all find each other somehow.

"Opera Kid: Nine-year-old Aiden Sagerman likes opera, and he's not kidding." (KQED Radio)

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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hooray for boys who want to be girls!



This is a fantastic article about a terrific girl, her beyond-awesome mom and dad, and how they defied bigots to help their child be who she needs to be. Naturally, the worst of the bigots are adults. The kids are all right.

‘None of the other children called me nasty names and the boys accepted me as a girl. A few of them kept calling me by my old boy’s name, but I didn’t mind because it takes time to get used to something new. I have a small group of close friends — all girls — who would look after me if anyone tried to pick on me, so I’m not worried. I have as much acceptance as I need.’


Read the whole thing for an inspiring look at a world that, small hard-won bit by small hard-won bit, is changing for the better.

"Why I let my son live as a girl: Mother of boy who returned to school in a skirt bravely tells her extraordinary story" (Daily Mail)

BONUS STORY! Here's a look at a sweet world where boys want to be girls, girls want to be boys, boys just want to love boys and girls just want to love girls, and bullies get their comeuppance!

"Gryphon and Tiger and the Boy Filled with Dreams"

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Wolf Note



My novel Wolf Note is now available in an Amazon Kindle edition! This tale is an action-filled mystery with a werewolf private eye who falls in love with a beautiful and famous operatic soprano -- and then he discovers that someone is trying to kill her!

Private investigator Griffin Thorn must find out who wants to kill opera superstar Brianna Keller. Griffin becomes Brianna’s bodyguard after an unknown assailant attacks her, and his admiration of her talent quickly turns into love for her. Secretly, Griffin is a werewolf keeping one step ahead of bounty hunters dedicated to wiping out his kind. Orphaned as a boy, Griffin took bloody revenge on the hunter who killed his parents. Griffin thwarts another attack on Brianna and, with hard-nosed FBI agent Tarrant Cobb, tries to uncover the stalker’s identity before he strikes again. Brianna learns Griffin’s secret and falls in love with him anyway, but another deadly attempt to take the singer’s life nearly kills her children. With the puzzle unsolved, Griffin realizes his violent past might destroy his dream of staying with Brianna forever. But Griffin soon learns that in life, love, and murder, nothing is ever as it seems.

There's plenty of action and romance in this one! Wolf Note will soon be available in a print edition and in other e-reader editions. Get ready for some red-in-tooth-and-claw opera werewolf action! And it's just in time for the beginning of the new season of The Metropolitan Opera! Enjoy!

Wolf Note at Amazon.com

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Where the Wild Things Still Are; or, Children Are Beasts


A delightful and acerbic look at children's books today from one of my heroes, the irrepressible Maurice Sendak. What's wrong with kids' books today? They're too goddamn nice!

When your work first appeared, it was considered to be new, something different. What were you doing that nobody else had done?

I was developing a child who I recognized as myself as a child, from my observations of other children around me in Brooklyn. We were wild creatures. We did things that were objectionable.

Max, to me, was a very average normal kid, but he upset a lot of people at the time. He yelled at his mother, he talked back to her, she deprived him of food and then gave it to him. Children who fight back, children who are full of excitement are the kind of children I like.

Max was a little beast, and we’re all little beasts. That was what was so novel.

More terrific observations about the cowards that were and are our parents from Mr. Sendak here. God, I love this man!

"On the Phone With Maurice Sendak" (The New York Times)

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Illustrations by Brian Ness


Gryphon and Tiger are very excited that the fabulous Brian Ness created some beautiful drawings for their site! Brian is a terrific artist and his work captures the world of Gryphon and Tiger wonderfully.

Brian resides in Minnesota, though like me with Gryphon and Tiger, his real heart seems to reside in a place called Dandyland.

You can visit Dandyland and see even more of Brian’s lovely work here. If you're daring, Brian collects a fabulous treasure trove of wonders at this site, too!

I loaded a page of Brian's illustrations at my SmugMug page just so you could view Brian’s Gryphon & Tiger drawings in all their ginormous glory!

I first found Brian’s work on some of the stories at I’m from Driftwood, so poke around there and you’ll find some sweet surprises.

Gryphon and Tiger both want to say, “Thank you, Brian!” And they would like to offer Brian a freshly baked partridge popover and some hot chocolate.



Gryphon and Tiger Have Moved In!


As you can see, our friends Gryphon and Tiger are in the process of moving their authorial establishment here! You can find tabs at the top of this blog that will tell you a little more about Gryphon and Tiger. You'll also find a page with links to the tales of their adventures! So settle in for some fun with Gryphon and Tiger. Here's some hot chocolate, and I think Tiger is just pulling fresh-baked cookies out of the oven. Enjoy!

The Gryphon & Tiger Story Co.

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Gryphon and Tiger and the Valiant Girl

Gryphon and Tiger hiked down from the mountains toward Town, carrying the bag stuffed with gold taken from the dragon they had slain. Gryphon and Tiger were not exactly taking the gold to Wizard with alacrity. The day was radiant, and Gryphon and Tiger walked slowly and laughed at the birds and stopped to smell some purple flowers, because Gryphon and Tiger had just become friends, and they didn’t want this precious time alone together to end.

But end it did with a flurry and a bustle and a burst of fallen autumn leaves. Onto the forest path tumbled a Girl of twelve, and her eyes were black and her curly hair was black, and her skin was the color of rich tea with just a little milk. Her clothes were ragged and colorful, and some bits of her clothing had fringe and other parts had beads, and she had leaves tangled in her hair. Girl nearly fell when she spilled onto the forest path from a ridge above, and then she looked around, glowered at Gryphon and Tiger, and raised to them a heavy sword that was much too big for her.

“Do you work for Wizard?” Girl said.

“Well, um,” said Tiger; but he was interrupted by Gryphon, who said, “No, we don’t,” because Gryphon knew right away that something was wrong.

“Good,” Girl said, “because I just escaped from Wizard, and I have to leave Town.”

“Escaped from Wizard?” Tiger said. “But everyone loves him!”

“Ha!” cried Girl. “You haven’t seen his secret dungeon under his Magic Tree where he keeps children locked in cages so he can turn us into beasts.”

This news made Tiger very unhappy, and he tugged on his tail a couple of times and stood closer to Gryphon.

“But where,” Tiger said to Girl, “are your parents?”

“Dad tried to save me,” Girl said, “but Wizard turned him into a manticore, and Dad had to go hide because he had become all big and scary.” Girl turned her head aside and shed one tear, which was enough for her. Then she said, “Mom lives in Town, but if I go back to her, Wizard will turn her into a troll.”

Gryphon said, “What does Wizard want to do to you?”

Girl cried, “He wants to turn me into a unicorn!”

Tiger tried to smile. “Unicorns are nice.”

“Yes,” Girl said, “they’re nice and pink and flowery and pretty, and I don’t wanna be one!” She waved her sword at Gryphon and Tiger to show how serious she was.

“How does Wizard change people?” Gryphon said.

“I dunno,” Girl said. “All I know is, it takes a lot of gold.”

Tiger cried a little bit then, for it was he who had asked Gryphon to help on the quest Wizard had given Tiger, to kill the dragon and take his gold. Tiger said to Girl, “We didn’t know.”

Gryphon comforted Tiger, and told Girl the truth. “Are there more children in Wizard’s dungeon?”

“Ye-e-e-eah,” said Girl, who was now suspicious of Gryphon and Tiger. “Lots.”

“Then,” Tiger said, “we must go rescue them.”

Gryphon and Tiger hid their bag of gold in the woods, since now they would never give it to Wizard. Then they walked with Girl out of the woods and into Town, toward Wizard’s Magic Tree. Along the way they stopped and bought a green scarf from a street vendor; and Tiger, who liked to make things, fashioned the scarf into a sling for Girl’s sword so her arms wouldn’t get so tired carrying the heavy weapon. Girl loved Tiger for that, but she was still suspicious of big and powerful Gryphon. Gryphon had black eyes, and Girl knew that creatures with black eyes, like her, had smart and busy brains. But while they all walked down the street past carriages and jugglers and traveling eggcup salesmen, a retinue of the King’s Knights rounded a corner and came toward our adventurers. The King’s Knights were proud and noble, but they were a little dim, and they might not have believed raggedy Girl’s tale of the evil Wizard and his dungeon, because Wizard might have sent the Knights to look for her. So while the Knights demanded that a hapless eggcup salesman show them his eggcup-selling license, Gryphon used his huge wings to shield Girl from the Knights’ view. Then Gryphon, Girl, and Tiger ducked behind a passing trolley and ran away. After that, Girl loved Gryphon, too.

Wizard’s Magic Tree was in the center of Town Park, down in a little valley shaped like a soup bowl. Few people ventured close to the Magic Tree since the valley rim was patrolled by little brown wriggly creatures that looked like moles but had teeth like sharks. But because Tiger had been there before, the mole-sharks let Tiger and Gryphon pass. Girl hid on Gryphon’s back underneath his folded wings so she wouldn’t be spotted.

Tiger shivered after they passed the mole-sharks. “Those little creatures are so ugly,” he said. “Why did we never realize that Wizard is evil?”

“The powerful ones have special magic,” Gryphon said, “and can fool people into thinking they’re good.”

Tiger thought Gryphon was very wise, and that made him feel a little warmer inside.

Magic Tree was one of those places that look small from the outside, but are really as big as palaces when you go through the door. When Gryphon and Tiger entered with hidden Girl, Wizard waited for them in his blue and silver Wizard robes and his blue and silver Wizard hat, while standing at his blue and gold cloth-covered magic-making table.

Wizard stroked his very long and silver Wizard beard. “Where,” he said with a sniff, “is my gold?”

Girl jumped up from under Gryphon’s wings, and stood as tall as she could atop Gryphon’s broad back. She thrust her sword out toward Wizard as if it weighed nothing at all.

“The only gold you’ll feel, evil Wizard,” Girl said, “will be the gold on the hilt of my sword!”

Gryphon’s long ears twitched, and any doubts he had were dispelled.

“I can hear children crying in your dungeon,” Gryphon said, “you evil, evil man.”

And so they fought, and there was much shouting and tussling and flashing of magic fireballs. The mole-sharks ran in to help Wizard with their greedy, dripping fangs, but Tiger took care of them one at a time by popping the monsters with his sharp tiger-teeth, and the wriggly little creatures’ bodies burst like bloody little balloons. Gryphon flew about the high-ceilinged chamber and batted back Wizard’s magic fireballs with his wings, and slashed at Wizard with his beak and claws. But it was Girl who was bravest of all. She sneaked under gryphon’s mighty, flapping wings, ran up to the distracted Wizard, and plunged her sword deep into his body. Girl never broke a promise, and indeed the only gold that Wizard felt that day was the cold hilt of Girl’s sword on his belly before he died.

A trio of very dim Knights waited outside the Magic Tree to arrest those who had attacked wise and good Wizard. But Gryphon held the Knights back while Tiger and Girl brought the newly-freed children up from Wizard’s dark dungeon.

Tiger never frowned, but right then he was very angry, and he ordered the Knights, “Take these children back to their proper homes!”

The Knights obeyed, though first they had to free the eggcup salesman whom they had arrested for not having the proper eggcup-selling papers.

Gryphon looked at Tiger, gave his new friend a sad smile, and said, “Your fine clothes are all bloody and dirty.”

Tiger smiled, and nuzzled Gryphon’s beak with his muzzle. “That’s okay,” Tiger said, “because I’m with you.”

Girl giggled at them because to her, there was nothing sillier than being in love.

Gryphon, Tiger, and Girl went back for their bag of gold, and divided the coins three ways. Then Gryphon and Tiger took Girl home, and there was much happiness even before Girl’s Dad showed up. He was no longer a manticore, for Wizard’s evil spell had worn off when Wizard died. Dad hugged his Girl, saw her gold, and being a very practical sort of Dad, he reached at once for the newspaper to find his family a nice, new home.

Gryphon and Tiger hugged, and said good-night, and each went to their own homes. Gryphon and Tiger both got in trouble, for despite bringing home gold and slaying Gold Dragon and vanquishing Wizard and freeing the children, the new friends had missed a day of school without permission, and the Dean of Polytechnic Academy was very upset. Mr. and Mrs. Tiger were understanding, and only sent Tiger to bed early and without dessert. But Mr. and Mrs. Gryphon were fiercely angry, which is simply normal for gryphons, and they made poor Gryphon take out the trash every night for a week; for, you see, taking out the trash is the thing gryphons hate to do most.



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Gryphon and Tiger and the Big Solstice Blizzard

Winter Solstice was without question the happiest time of year in Town. All the Townsfolk bought presents to wrap in colorful paper and ribbon, and decorated trees with bright newfangled alchemical lights and shiny glass balls, and baked gingerbread critters with cinnamon drop eyes and mittens made of frosting. This year, Eagle’s famous partridge popover recipe appeared in the Town Chronicle, and soon no partridge within fifty miles of Town was safe. Children practiced their Solstice carols and watched the night skies with impatient and longing gazes for the arrival of Jolly Red Elf. As day broke on Solstice Eve, Townsfolk rushed out to run errands and buy last-minute presents and stuff their faces with quiche and rumballs. Everyone looked forward to spending the longest night of the year at home with their families, and the children were so excited that Jolly Red Elf was finally coming!

This year, however, catastrophe struck.

Gryphon and Tiger spent Solstice Eve afternoon shopping for presents. A light snow started falling right after lunchtime while small children were still a little woozy from their rumballs. Tiger saw the snow and danced for joy because he loved snow, especially on Solstice. Gryphon did not like how snow accumulated so quickly on his huge wings, but it made him glad to see Tiger so happy on their first Solstice together, so he didn’t complain.

The snow kept falling harder and harder. After buying the last of their presents, Gryphon and Tiger went to Tiger’s home to wrap gifts and bake partridge popovers, and Mr. and Mrs. Tiger made the boys some hot chocolate. Mrs. Tiger was still a bit frightened of Gryphon’s enormous size, but she overcame her fear and handed Gryphon directly his steaming mug of hot chocolate. Tiger gave his mother a huge hug, and told her she was very brave.

Outside the windows, the snow kept falling.

And falling.

And the wind blew, and more snow fell.

Soon the pudding and pickle carts were having trouble maneuvering down the snowy streets, and the King’s Dim Knights’ hot water bottles started to freeze. The evening paperboy, who was very small, wandered into a snowbank and got lost, and when he finally dug his way out of the snow he was on the other side of Town.

When it was full dark outside and Gryphon was getting ready to go to his own home, Girl burst through the front door of the Tigers’ apartment without even knocking. No one scolded Girl for this because they all knew that was just the way Girl did things.

“Gryphon and Tiger,” Girl cried. “It’s terrible! The snow won’t let up and the zeppelins are grounded and the trains have stopped running, and Jolly Red Elf can’t make it through even with his eight flying rhinos! And he’s bringing me a new stone to sharpen my sword, and my own rock-climbing gear so I can go to the troll caves and keep the trolls in line! Jolly Red Elf can’t cancel Solstice!”

Gryphon and Tiger were both fifteen, and felt they were a little too old to be worried about Solstice presents from Jolly Red Elf. But Girl was twelve and it was important to her, not to mention to every other child who lived in Town.

“Where,” Gryphon asked, “is Jolly Red Elf right now?”

“Oh, it’s dreadful,” Girl cried, and it must have been so because Girl usually never fretted at anything. “Jolly Red Elf’s eight flying rhinos saw the zeppelins huddling around the tall silver zeppelin tower atop Town Central Station, and the rhinos thought the zeppelins were great big beautiful girl rhinos!”

Tiger blinked his gold eyes. “They did?”

Girl nodded. “I think the rhinos had snow in their eyes. Anyway, Jolly Red Elf in his sleigh tried to keep his rhinos from nuzzling the zeppelins, and before you could say pickled pepper partridge popovers, the eight flying rhinos crashed into a snowbank in the street next to Town Central Station! And now the rhinos are too cold to fly!”

Tiger smiled at Gryphon and said, “You know what this means, don’t you?”

Gryphon sighed and groaned. “I’m gonna get snow all over my wings again, right?”

The snow was falling so hard that Gryphon couldn’t fly; so with Tiger and Girl he slogged through the snow in the streets of Town to get to Town Central Station.

They found something of a fluffy kerfuffle at the Station, for Jolly Red Elf, in a desperate bid to keep his grounded and snowbanked rhinos warm, had waylaid eight of the King’s Dim Knights and stolen their hot water bottles.

“Oh dear,” said Jolly Red Elf while he fussed around his rhinos. “ ’Tis the night before Solstice and here I am quivering, with my poor rhinos all snowbound and blue, and quite shivering!”

The eight King’s Knights kept chasing Jolly Red Elf, and the Knights clattered and rattled because their rucksacks were filled with silverware they had stolen from the King’s castle to give to their wives as Solstice presents. (The Knights’ horses had already bucked off the Knights hours before and run off, because the horses were tired of getting their rumps stuck by forks.) But Jolly Red Elf kept moving from snorting rhino to snorting rhino, trying to warm them with the hot water bottles. The Knights kept slipping in the snow and couldn’t catch Jolly Red Elf, who was very nimble for a round little man.

Gryphon waved at Jolly Red Elf. “Hallo!” Gryphon said. “You look like you need help.”

Jolly Red Elf looked up with his twinkling eyes, and then sneezed hard enough that the twinkle went away for a few moments. Then Jolly Red Elf said, “It’s Gryphon and Tiger, the heroes of Town! The workers’ kids love them, but think me a clown.”

Tiger ran after the waddling Jolly Red Elf, who was dressed in red pantaloons and a red coat and a red turban, and had a red nose and red ears, and red eyes from too many rumballs; but his beard and his hair were silvery white.

“Jolly Red Elf,” Tiger cried. “We’ll watch your rhinos for you while you finish delivering presents to the children of Town!”

“I’m sure I can’t do that,” Jolly Red Elf said, “I’m a fair labor boss; and if a rhino got sick, ’twould be a sad, sorry loss.”

Girl leaped over a snowbank, tugged hard on Jolly Red Elf’s sleeve, and actually got him to stop moving. Behind Jolly Red Elf, all eight King’s Knights stopped short, and fell in a pile into a snowbank.

“Jolly Red Elf?” Girl said while she blinked her big, dark, pleading eyes.

Jolly Red Elf smiled, and his face glowed like a jolly red ball. “Why, isn’t it Girl! Such a sweet lovely child! I hear that you’re brave, quite adventurous, and wild!”

“Jolly Red Elf?” Girl said. “Stop talking like that. Seriously.”

Jolly Red Elf cleared his throat. “As you say, if you wish, my dear Girl! The children of the workers are the red stars of the worl—…er, um…future!”

“Good work, pops,” Girl said. “Look, let’s give the presents to these silly Knights back there and let them deliver the gifts to Town’s children while you take care of your rhinos.”

Jolly Red Elf leaned over and whispered to Girl, “D’ya think we can trust them?”

Girl said, “Why, did somebody bust ’em?”

“Well, you hear how they’re rattling.”

“Not over your natter… Aw, fer cryin’ out loud,” Girl cried. “Now you’ve got me doing it!”

“Ho-ho-ho,” laughed Jolly Red Elf. “Ha-ha-ha! Ho-ho-ho-ha-ha-ha!” And he kept on laughing until Girl gave him her most serious look from under her wild, dark curls, and put her hand on the pommel of her sword.

“Um, yes,” Jolly Red Elf said. “Girl, I like your idea! The strong legs and backs of the soldiers of the proletariat put to good use, for a change!”

Gryphon whispered to Tiger, “And I always thought they called him ‘Red’ because of his clothes.”

Tiger chuckled, while Girl helped Jolly Red Elf distribute the presents to the King’s Dim Knights. The Knights stood tall and swore they would not stop until every Solstice gift was safely delivered to its child. In fact, the Knights were filled with so much resolve that they forgot to ask for their hot water bottles back.

So off the Knights marched through the heavy snow, and their boots crunched and their rucksacks teetered and their toybags tottered and their legs trembled, and before long the King’s Knights slipped and tripped and fell. But they bravely stood up, brushed themselves off, and set out all over again, marching further and further down the street. Once more they slipped and tripped and fell, but again they regained their footing and soldiered on. Just as they were about to round a corner and disappear from view, the Knights slipped and tripped and fell again.

This time the Knights began crying, and refused to go any further.

“These Knights are hopeless,” Girl cried. “What are we gonna do?”

No one had a chance to reply because right then, from out of the side streets, Girl’s best friend Blue Girl came hiking through the snow. She was followed by Black Cat Boy and his great friend Fuzzy Bear Boy, and even Eagle, who swooped in and dropped her dear friend Boy into a snowbank, which gave Boy the giggles. Eagle helped the children gather up the presents from the Dim Knights, and took the gifts back to Jolly Red Elf.

“That’s it,” Jolly Red Elf cried. “Solstice is finished! My rhinos are freezing, and I feel quite diminish— ”

“Mr. Elf?” Girl said very sternly.

“Ah, um, yes. Sorry.”

Girl got an idea and ran off down one of the side streets. The snow was still falling in big fluffy flakes, and the rhinos were all covered with a white fluffy blanket. Gryphon shook snow out of his wings amidst his own miniature blizzard.

“I could fly,” Eagle said, “and drop off presents as I go.”

“But,” Jolly Red Elf said, “that takes bags and lists and boxes galore; and you’ve got but two sharp-taloned feet, no more.”

Under his breath, Gryphon said to Tiger, “I hope Girl gets back quickly.”

Tiger said to Jolly Red Elf, “My cousins in Town Zoological Gardens might help us carry the presents. Tigers love snow!”

“The tigers might eat the children,” Gryphon said.

“Not if every child leaves out meat for them,” Tiger said.

Girl came back at last, leading a very irate and frustrated horse through the still-falling snow.

“Surly Horse!” Tiger cried. “Oh no, Girl, you didn’t steal Town Constable’s horse, did you?”

“Nope,” Girl said. “Town Constable let me borrow him!”

Surly Horse snorted. “Lucky for you, Girl, that he thought you were kidding with that s— ”

“Shh!” Girl said, and quickly put her sword away.

Jolly Red Elf cheered. “Hook the horse to the sleigh, while I watch my rhinos! Deliver all the gifts safely, and swiftly, and, um…uh…”

“Quick,” Girl said, “let’s get outta here before he finds a rhyme for ‘rhinos’!”

And soon Townsfolk heard a commotion pass by in the snow. They looked out of their windows and, in the pure white snow-covered streets, they saw what came to be known as The Great Town Solstice Blizzard Parade.

Gryphon marched through the snow leading the way, while Eagle scouted overhead since she didn’t mind getting snow on her wings when she flew. Tiger rode in the sleigh and held the reins of Surly Horse, who complained that the sleigh was much too heavy, and it was really too nasty out for anyone to expect Solstice presents to be delivered, and really, the selfish and greedy children of Town should just learn to do without. Girl came next, leading the eight tigers from Town Zoological Gardens. Each tiger carried a sack of presents, and the big cats romped and roared joyously in the thick falling snow. Down each street the parade marched, and Blue Girl, Black Cat Boy, Fuzzy Bear Boy, and Boy delivered presents to each house along the way. Very nice Townsfolk gave fresh meat to the tigers, which made the tigers extremely happy as tigers love nothing better than fresh meat. Townsfolk gave mugs of hot chocolate to the children, and between houses Girl walked very close to Blue Girl, and Black Cat Boy held hands with Fuzzy Bear Boy, and Gryphon nuzzled Tiger, and Boy watched everyone in love and sighed. Soon the snowbanks were so high that Townsfolk could barely see the parade in the street, so the Townsfolk stood on their stoops and sang Solstice carols to keep the gift-deliverers company. The snowfall grew lighter and, finally, just as the last snowflake fell and the first rosy light of a new day peeked through the clouds in the east, the exhausted marchers delivered the very last present to the very last house at the very edge of Town.

But no one had time to be tired, for all of Town burst out in joy!

The city bells rang and the Townsfolk came outdoors, and hot chocolate and eggnog and hot spiced cider flowed. Children shrieked with happiness over their presents, and the tigers roared, and everyone sang. Girl took Surly Horse back to Town Constable, and even Surly Horse smiled for a moment — but only a moment — when he saw the big bag of oats that Jolly Red Elf had left for him. In fact, the only unhappy people in Town were the eight Dim Knights, whose wives bashed the Knights over the heads with their rucksacks of used silverware, and made the Knights return the stolen stuff at once. Not only did the King look sternly at the Dim Knights, but the poor Knights had to requisition new hot water bottles since Jolly Red Elf’s frigid rhinos refused to give theirs back.

At last, all the Townsfolk went home to eat their Solstice feasts. Tiger’s family went over to Gryphon’s home for a combined feast, and Mrs. Tiger and Mrs. Gryphon got along so famously that Mrs. Tiger was never frightened of gryphons again.

After the feast everyone was sleepy, so they all napped in the Gryphon family’s great room; except for Gryphon, who invited Tiger to his room, and there the boys slept together for the first time in the very same bed, like spoons.

The rhinos soon moved into Town Zoological Gardens and declared they were through delivering Solstice presents during blizzards. So now, each Solstice Eve, Jolly Red Elf borrows the Zoo’s tigers, who are actually disappointed if there’s no blizzard to play in while they deliver presents, because tigers love romping in fresh snow almost as much as they love eating fresh meat. And next to the milk and cookies for Jolly Red Elf, the children of Town always leave out a big, juicy chunk of meat for the tigers.

This is exactly how it happened, and it is not at all true that Jolly Red Elf once had eight tiny reindeer that got eaten by the tigers, as some very mean people say. Admittedly, there was once almost a horrible accident, which is why Jolly Red Elf’s better-known cousin still refuses to speak to him, to this very day.



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Gryphon and Tiger and the Vanishing Books

One day, not long after Harvest Festival, Gryphon and Tiger went to Town Library because they needed new books to fuel new dreams. On the way they saw their good friend Eagle, who had taken her friend Boy to the Library and left him there while she did some shopping. Eagle loved books too, but she was too big to fit through Town Library’s big brass doors.

Gryphon and Tiger opened the big brass doors of Town Library, and entered. The Library had a very high ceiling, and stacks and stacks of books that climbed very high toward the skylight in the roof. People had to climb ladders to reach some of the books, and the ladders slid laterally on long steels tracks, clackity-clack; and the whole place smelled of rich paper and woolen blankets and cups of hot tea on cold winter days.

But all was not well in Town Library, for Gryphon and Tiger found their friend Boy wandering among some rarely visited and closely packed bookshelves near the back of the Library. Boy was ten, and had pretty blue eyes and long blond hair, and his clothes were very dainty, and he was very proud of them. But today his clothes were askew and his hair was mussed, and tears fell from his pretty blue eyes.

Tiger gave Boy a hug. “What’s the matter?”

“All of my favorite books have vanished,” Boy said. “The one where the brave girl finds the stolen gold and kills the evil dragon, and the one where the brave girl beats the miserable mean prince at jousting and becomes Queen of all the realm, and the one where the dreamy boy becomes friends with unicorns and they work a magic spell on him, and he gets to become a girl.”

“Maybe someone else,” Gryphon said, “has checked out these books.”

“Yes,” Tiger said to Boy, “there might be other dreamy girly-boys who want to read those books, too.”

“No,” said Boy, “the books aren’t checked out. I asked Town Librarian, whose son is named Darien, what sort of barbarian would steal such fine books.”

Tiger said, “Someone perhaps opposed to librarians?”

Gryphon said, “In that case, I’d look for a mean libertarian.”

Boy shook his head. “Here’s a clue I found.” And Boy showed Gryphon and Tiger a page from one of his favorite books. The page had been ripped from the binding without any care and then been chewed up. The marks of very large teeth left holes in the page.

“Those are the marks of wolf teeth,” Gryphon said.

“Why would a wolf eat books?” Tiger said.

“Let’s set a trap and find out,” Gryphon said.

The three friends ventured deeper into the Library, past where a sign on a rope said, “Don’t go;” where the oldest of old books were stored and waited and hoped that someday someone might want to read them again. The light between the old, dusty shelves was dim, and Gryphon said it was the perfect place for a wolf to hide.

Tiger was fretful. “Do we have to use my favorite book as bait? That’s the one where the bad boy is sent to his room and then goes to a place where he finds wild things.”

“This book-eating wolf has taste,” Gryphon said, “and only eats quality books.”

Gryphon, Tiger, and Boy set the trap and then hid very close by to wait. Before long they heard the slow thump of big padded feet, and the harsh hiss of hot steamy breath, and the slurpy-delicious licking of black lips by a long pink tongue.

Gryphon, Tiger, and Boy popped out just in time, because the wolf was about to eat Tiger’s favorite book.

“Stop!” Tiger cried.

The wolf cringed back. “Don’t hurt me!”

“You’re not a very brave wolf,” Tiger said. “Who are you?”

“And why,” Boy said, “have you eaten all of my favorite books?”

“I’m Book Wolf,” the wolf said, “and I eat books because I love to be filled with lovely dreams.”

“But Book Wolf,” Tiger said, “you’re supposed to read books, not eat them.”

“Are you sure?” Book Wolf said. “Those two words sound very much alike.”

“Positive,” said Tiger.

Book Wolf shook his big furry head. “Maybe I’m just dyspeptic.”

“Dyslexic,” Boy said.

“That’s what I said,” Book Wolf said.

Gryphon said to Book Wolf, “You’re not from Town, are you?”

“No,” Book Wolf said. “A wizard from Little Farm Village brought me here so I could eat all of the best books in Town Library!”

“What wizard?” Tiger said.

“Follow me,” Book Wolf said, “and I’ll show you.” And Book Wolf led Gryphon, Tiger, and Boy back even further in the Library, where the books were very dusty. The books were so old that they didn’t even have those funny little numbers that librarians put on book spines so children can find the books they love.

Book Wolf took Gryphon, Tiger, and Boy to a room that was very small but also very, very tall, and it had its own skylight high above. But the skylight had been painted over with grey paint, and the walls of the tall room were painted over with more grey paint. On the shelves were books that were so old and boring they had turned grey, too. In between the shelves in the center of the room stood a man in long grey robes with long grey hair and a long grey beard, and on top of his head sat a pointed grey cap. He stood over a table with a toy village atop it, with little toy children on the toy village streets. The village was grey and the streets were grey, and the man was using his magic wand, topped with a cobwebby grey star, to turn each of the colorful little village children grey, one by one.

“So that’s what’s wrong,” Gryphon whispered to his friends. “It’s Wizard Dreameater.”

“Are you sure?” whispered Book Wolf. “I could swear he told me his name was Wizard Eggbeater.”

Boy shivered, and said, “Who’s Wizard Dreameater?”

“Wizard Dreameater is a very small wizard,” Gryphon said, “with a very small mind filled with lots and lots of very small rules he thinks everyone should follow.”

“I bet he doesn’t like girly-boys,” Boy said.

Tiger shook his head. “Nor boy tigers who fall in love with boy gryphons.”

Wizard Dreameater looked up and said, “Who’s there?”

Gryphon, Tiger, and Book Wolf stepped forward into the grey light.

“They caught me, master,” Book Wolf said, and he hung his head bashfully.

“Worthless wolf,” snarled Wizard Dreameater. “You’re too fond of dreams! Once you had eaten all of the dangerous and good books in Town Library, I was going to make you grey, too!”

“But,” Book Wolf said, “I already have grey fur.”

This answer puzzled Wizard Dreameater, for it was far too complicated for his grey little mind to sort out.

Gryphon ruffled his wings in an irritated way and said to Wizard Dreameater, “What are you doing to all of our best books?”

“There are too many dreams in Town,” Wizard Dreameater said, “and too many children dreaming them. Dragons and pirates and wild things and wolves! And nobody in these books follows my rules! Why, see here; this horrible book has Little Red Riding Hood carrying a bottle of wine in her basket for Grandma!”

“How shocking!” said Gryphon, who of course didn’t mean it.

“How dreadful!” said Tiger, who didn’t mean it, either.

“How ridiculous,” said Boy, who meant it very much.

Book Wolf snickered behind his paw.

“These dreamy children,” Wizard Dreameater said, “must learn to live by the rules and stop dreaming all the time! If this keeps up, the children of Town will grow up to do what they want to do and not what I say they should do!”

“That’s not right!” shouted Boy, which startled Gryphon and Tiger, for Boy never, ever shouted. But Boy hated it when anyone threatened his dreams.

“The children of Town love dreams,” Tiger said to Wizard Dreameater, “because dreams tell us that life is more than grey little villages and grey little people.”

Wizard Dreameater shook his head, stood up as tall as he could, raised his magic wand with its cobwebby grey star, and proclaimed, “The One Way…is Grey!”

Boy was so upset that his lavender neckerchief had almost come untied. He stomped his foot and shouted at Wizard Dreameater, “You’re wrong! There’s more than your way to the world! And you can’t make us believe that grey is the truth!”

“It is!” cried Wizard Dreameater. “Come closer, Boy.”

Boy stepped away from Tiger’s side toward Wizard Dreameater.

“Be careful!” Tiger said to Boy.

Because he lived in a world wrapped in grey, Wizard Dreameater failed to see the shadow of worried Eagle pass over his grey-painted skylight.

“You,” Wizard Dreameater said to Boy, “are filled with dreams, and think that life can be any lovely thing that you want. And a vicious Eagle stole you from your loving Mother so you could live with Aunt, who even lets you be a girl sometimes!”

“My Mother tried to crush my dreams,” Boy cried, “but Eagle wouldn’t let her!”

“It is an abomination!” cried Wizard Dreameater. “Before long, boys like Gryphon and Tiger will want to get married! It is not the Grey Way!” Wizard Dreameater raised his grey and cobwebby wand, and shouted at Boy, “Prepare to become Grey, little fiend!”

Gryphon saw this and became enraged, which is a very dangerous thing to do to a gryphon. He shrieked and flared his wings wide, and prepared to attack Wizard Dreameater. But it was a mistake, for the room was so small that Gryphon’s wings got stuck, and pressed Tiger and Book Wolf so hard against the bookshelves that they couldn’t move.

Boy looked about with his wide blue eyes; he was alone.

Wizard Dreameater laughed so loud that he didn’t hear Eagle cry out far, far above Town Library.

“Ha-ha-ha!” said Wizard Dreameater. “Life never goes the way you think, Boy. That is why you must follow the rules!” And he prepared to fling a grey spell at Boy.

But with a crash, the skylight above shattered, and sunlight spilled into the room around a swift black shadow that belonged to Eagle, who had heard Gryphon’s shriek and then knew where to find her missing Boy. Gryphon freed his wings with a mighty pull and swept them about, and used his wings to protect his friends from the falling glass. Eagle dived down and knocked Wizard Dreameater off his feet, then grabbed him with her talons and slammed him up against a bookshelf.

Eagle snarled at Wizard Dreameater. “Don’t ever threaten my good friend,” she said, “the Boy filled with dreams.”

And with a swift move of her head, Eagle did something to Wizard Dreameater with her beak that we won’t describe except to say that when the wizard’s blood splattered over the grey books and the grey toy village and the grey toy children, the grey spells he had cast were lifted, and the tall little room was no longer grey. Book Wolf thought he even saw the little colorful toy children dance with joy. But Book Wolf shook his head and figured it was just an illusion caused by his dyspepsia.

Then Book Wolf hugged Eagle and thanked her for saving the eggs in Town Market, which confused them all until they overheard Book Wolf telling a reporter from the Town Chronicle about the horrible fate of Wizard Eggbeater.

Boy made sure the reporter got the correct name.

Book Wolf now guards Town Library and protects the books and their dreams, and watches over the children who read the books and then dream. Boy taught Book Wolf how to read books better so his dyspepsia didn’t make the letters dance around on the page so much. And Book Wolf now eats only dull and pretentious books, but every time he does, he rubs his sore tummy and says, “Those bad books give me dyslexia.”

Eagle donated new copies of Boy’s favorite books to Town Library, and Town Librarian had a new brass door built just for Eagle, because it would have been very expensive to repair the shattered skylight every time Eagle wanted to read a book.



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Gryphon and Tiger and the Fuzzy Bear Boy

Harvest Festival was approaching, and all the people of Town prepared for their bounteous Harvest Festival feasts. Good cheer abounded, though good cheer was sometimes forgotten over a cart vendor running out of chestnuts or sweet potatoes, and the King’s Dim Knights would have to break up the ensuing fight by slapping the adversaries with their hot water bottles.

One afternoon, Gryphon and Tiger went to visit their friend Eagle in her nest home deep in the forest north of Town, and they learned from her how to make her yummy partridge popovers. Both Gryphon and Tiger wanted to surprise their families by making the popovers for their Harvest feasts. Tiger was a very good cook and learned quickly how to make perfect partridge popovers. But Gryphon had a harder time of it, for his paws were so very big and the partridges were so very small. Gryphon became grumpy and Tiger gave him a hug, and told Gryphon that his popovers tasted better than the ones Tiger made, which was not only very sweet but true, as Gryphon had had to try harder.

When they returned to Town, Gryphon and Tiger saw Black Cat Boy slinking catlike down the street in his black catsuit. Black Cat Boy carried an armload of sweet potatoes and he was trying to go home, but he kept wandering off the sidewalk and bumping into lamp posts and dropping his sweet potatoes all over the place. Once Black Cat Boy almost got run over by a horse-drawn cart carrying jars of pickled-persimmon plum pudding. Black Cat Boy nearly bumped into Gambling Man, who was very mean and would have been very angry except that Gambling Man was too busy studying his Dragon Racing Form, and didn’t notice. A very impatient Dim Knight yelled at Black Cat Boy when the boy got in the Knight’s way, but Black Cat Boy seemed not to notice these things.

Gryphon and Tiger went up to Black Cat Boy and made sure his eyeglasses were in place, for Black Cat Boy had very bad eyes and often bumped into things if his glasses slid down his nose. But Black Cat Boy’s eyeglasses were in perfect working order, and even though he kept bumping into lamp posts and dropping his sweet potatoes, Black Cat Boy would not stop smiling.

Tiger made sure that the hood of Black Cat Boy’s black catsuit wasn’t too tight on his head, and then said, “Is everything okay, Black Cat Boy?”

Black Cat Boy grinned so wide that even his freckles looked happy. “Have you ever met Fuzzy Bear Boy?”

“No,” Tiger said; and Gryphon added, “Isn’t he the star ball boy for the Town Firebreathers?”

Black Cat Boy nodded and said, “He was buying sweet potatoes for his mom, too.”

Gryphon said, “So?” But Tiger waved his paw right in front of Black Cat Boy’s face, and even though his glasses were right where they should be, Black Cat Boy didn’t even blink.

Gryphon and Tiger saw this and said, “Ah.”

It was a week until the big Harvest Festival Dragonspike game between the Town Firebreathers and the Big City Spikewings. Black Cat Boy cared nothing for sports, but he learned everything he could about Dragonspike, which is a game with dragons and riders and three balls and very long racquets with netted baskets at their ends. Black Cat Boy bumped into things all day at Polytechnic Academy, but as soon as classes ended he ran to the school that Fuzzy Bear Boy attended, and followed him home. One evening, Black Cat Boy ran back to the place where Gryphon and Tiger helped build the Polytechnic Academy’s float for the Harvest Parade. Black Cat boy sighed, leaned up against Tiger, and said, “He talked to me!”

It was hopeless to try to get Black Cat Boy to stop bumping into things, for he was as smitten as a boy can be.

Fuzzy Bear Boy was eleven, the same age as Black Cat Boy, and he had green eyes and shaggy blond hair, and looked overall to be very cuddly and fuzzy. He not only liked being a boy very much, he also liked other boys very much, and the brave Gryphon and Tiger had made everyone in Town realize this was a good thing. Fuzzy Bear Boy loved being a ball boy for the Town Firebreathers, because ball boys were a very important part of a Dragonspike game; and besides he liked to run and feel the wind in his shaggy blond hair and the sun on his strong body. Fuzzy Bear Boy thought it was funny at first that Black Cat Boy followed him everywhere, because Black Cat Boy liked books and sitting still, and became easily winded if he ran anywhere. But Fuzzy Bear Boy liked having Black Cat Boy cheer him on during Dragonspike practice, and thought that the way Black Cat Boy admired him was adorable; and soon Fuzzy Bear Boy became very fond of Black Cat Boy.

One crisp afternoon after practice, Fuzzy Bear Boy bought Black Cat Boy an ice cream. Afterwards, Black Cat Boy bumped into so many lamp posts that Town Constable had Gryphon guide the boy home.

The day of the big game arrived, and everyone in Town poured into Town Coliseum, and the sharp white autumn sun made everyone’s bright colorful banners and bright happy smiles even brighter. The Town Firebreathers were favored to win by a large margin, and only someone with a mean heart like Gambling Man would bet against them. But everyone ignored Gambling Man, who wore dark glasses and a shiny green topcoat with a stained pink vest. Gambling Man smelled like spoiled fish salad and he kicked children who got in his way, because gambling was a very serious business.

Gryphon and Tiger were almost as clueless about Dragonspike as Black Cat Boy had been, but just for him they got tickets to the game, and all three friends sat right behind the Town Firebreathers’ bench. Black Cat Boy wore a yellow and purple ribbon around the neck of his black catsuit because those were the team colors, and he jumped and cheered so much that Gambling Man, who was sitting behind Black Cat Boy, almost kicked him. But Gryphon, who was so big he took up three seats, gave Gambling Man such a look that Gambling Man simply shut up, which made everyone around him happy while they waited for the game to begin.

But Black Cat Boy’s cheering grew quieter and quieter until he finally asked Tiger, “Where’s my Fuzzy Bear Boy?”

Gryphon and Tiger looked around at the cheering crowd and the excited dragons and the happy riders and the laughing ball boys, and the dancing bears and ballerinas who were about to perform the Town Anthem; but Fuzzy Bear Boy was not among them. The Town Firebreathers’ Coach was big and gruff, but he was worried too, and he sent another ball boy to go look for Fuzzy Bear Boy. The ball boy returned, and said Fuzzy Bear Boy was nowhere to be found.

Black Cat Boy was worried, and twisted the long fluffy tail of his black catsuit. Soon it was game time, and Coach pointed at Black Cat Boy.

“Can you,” Coach said to Black Cat Boy, “sub for Fuzzy Bear Boy?”

Black Cat Boy swallowed hard. “I’ve never played Dragonspike in my life!”

“It’s easy,” Coach said. “All you do is catch the balls when they go out of bounds and pass them back to the players on our team, just like Fuzzy Bear Boy does at practice.”

But Black Cat Boy was very nervous, and really he was no good at sports, and although he tried and tried because he knew Fuzzy Bear Boy would be proud of him, it wasn’t long before the Town Firebreathers were down by three goals.

Gambling Man chuckled at the score, but no one paid any attention to him.

Tiger worried about Black Cat Boy, and twisted his tail while he watched Black Cat Boy run frantically. The riders banked their dragons through the air and batted at the three balls with their racquets, and shouted at their dragons, who roared at their opponents. Gryphon was bored, and he watched the crowd and wondered about Fuzzy Bear Boy, who would sooner die than miss a game of Dragonspike. Finally Gryphon looked up to see if there were any clouds to watch, and instead he saw a big shadowy beast circling in the air high up over Town Coliseum.

“Tiger,” Gryphon said, “I think that’s Other Gryphon up there.”

Tiger looked up, too. “I think you’re right.”

“If Other Gryphon is around,” Gryphon said, “there’s something bad going on.” Gryphon waited for a time out to be called in the Dragonspike game, and then he stood and spread his huge eagle wings, and flew up into the sky.

Black Cat Boy nearly cried, for he thought Gryphon left because Black Cat Boy was ruining the game.

“It’s okay,” Tiger called out to Black Cat Boy. “Don’t flinch when the ball comes at you! Stand fast and catch it!”

Meanwhile, Gryphon flew higher and higher until Town Coliseum was just a tiny oval shape far down below. Before long, Gryphon recognized the ill-kept fur and feathers of Other Gryphon, who had a very bad reputation because he took gold from humans to do their dirty work for them. And as Gryphon got closer he saw, on top of Other Gryphon’s back, the cuddly and fuzzy shaggy blond head of —

“Fuzzy Bear Boy!” cried Gryphon. “Other Gryphon, what are you doing with him?”

Other Gryphon laughed, but it was a very mean laugh that felt like a grey cloud passing over the sun.

“Gambling Man has a bet on this game,” Other Gryphon said, “and he paid me to fly around with Fuzzy Bear Boy until the game is over. How bad is Town losing?”

“Bad,” Gryphon said. “This is a wicked thing you’re doing, Other Gryphon!”

“All the more reason,” Other Gryphon said, “why I enjoy doing it!”

“Gryphon, help me!” cried Fuzzy Bear Boy. “Other Gryphon snatched me right up from the sidewalk while I was walking to the Coliseum!”

“Hang on,” Gryphon ordered Fuzzy Bear Boy, and then he said to Other Gryphon, “You’ll pay for this!”

“No,” Other Gryphon said, “I’m getting paid for this! Ha-ha-ha!”

Gryphon reared back, swept in fast toward Other Gryphon, and began to fight.

Meanwhile a cheer rose from Town Coliseum, for Black Cat Boy had finally helped a player score a goal. Black Cat Boy wished Fuzzy Bear Boy could have seen it, and the thought nearly made him cry.

Far above the Coliseum, the two gryphons fought, and there was much shrieking and roaring and slashing. The people in the stands looked up, but the game was almost over and the Town Firebreathers were about to lose, so the crowd didn’t pay much attention to the gryphons fighting way up in the sky.

Gryphon slashed and clawed at Other Gryphon, and kept trying to reach around Other Gryphon’s head to snatch Fuzzy Bear Boy off Other Gryphon’s back. But Other Gryphon kept ducking away just in time.

“I beat you once,” Gryphon cried to Other Gryphon, “and I’ll beat you again!”

“Not today,” Other Gryphon said. “This time, they paid me more gold!”

“No one,” Gryphon said, “can pay you enough gold to defeat me!”

Fuzzy Bear Boy hung on tight to Other Gryphon’s tangled and dirty mane, and called out to Gryphon, “Is Black Cat Boy down there?”

“He’s…” Gryphon slashed at Other Gryphon. “Playing…” Gryphon shrieked at Other Gryphon. “Your…” Gryphon whapped Other Gryphon’s face. “Position!”

Fuzzy Bear Boy shook his head, for although he was falling in love with Black Cat Boy, he knew his adorable new friend was hopeless at sports.

Other Gryphon was bruised and bleeding and getting soundly beaten. Finally he decided Gryphon was right and he wasn’t being paid enough for this. So Other Gryphon bucked and jerked and rolled over twice, and knocked Fuzzy Bear Boy off his back.

“Gryphon,” cried Fuzzy Bear Boy as he fell, “help me!”

Gryphon took one last slash at Other Gryphon, and left a deep cut on Other Gryphon’s face. “If the boy dies, I’m coming after you,” said Gryphon, and then he dived down after Fuzzy Bear Boy.

There was less than a minute left in the Dragonspike game, and all over the field flew battling dragons and the three game balls. No one looked up to see the tumbling Fuzzy Bear Boy, nor could anyone hear him scream over the roar of the crowd. But Gryphon pumped his wings furiously and got closer and closer, and finally grabbed hold of Fuzzy Bear Boy’s arms just a few yards above the playing field. Gryphon swooped across the field in between battling dragons, and everyone in Town Coliseum cheered. Gryphon set Fuzzy Bear Boy down right next to Black Cat Boy, pulled Black Cat Boy away, and hollered, “Go, go, go!”

Fuzzy Bear Boy was tired and dirty, and he was covered with Other Gryphon’s blood and shorn fur and broken feathers. But he stepped into the game as if he’d been there for the whole thing, and very quickly he helped score three goals, and when the final whistle blew, the Town Firebreathers had won 21-20. The crowd cheered wildly and the band played brassily while Gryphon grabbed Gambling Man and threw him to the ground. Gryphon would have beaked out Gambling Man’s heart right then and there if Town Constable hadn’t stopped him. Then Town Constable arrested Gambling Man.

Gryphon laughed at Gambling Man and said, “Now you’re both wicked and poor!”

Down on the field amidst confetti and balloons and firecrackers and dancing dragons, Fuzzy Bear Boy and Black Cat Boy hugged each other very tightly, and didn’t move for a long, long time, and they both cried happy tears because they had thought they would never see each other again.

Finally, Fuzzy Bear Boy kissed Black Cat Boy, which nearly made Black Cat Boy faint. Then Fuzzy Bear Boy said to his friend, “C’mon, I’ll buy you an ice cream.”

Gryphon and Tiger watched the boys, and they smiled, and held hands; and Tiger said to Gryphon, “The best thing in the world is to have a friend who will always buy you an ice cream.”

Black Cat Boy never got anywhere near sports again, except to cheer for Fuzzy Bear Boy. He didn’t even want to play chess anymore, but Tiger convinced him that chess was still a good thing to play.

So Black Cat Boy played chess, and beat Tiger three times in a row.



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Gryphon and Tiger and the Dim Knight Boy

Sometimes the King’s Dim Knights came to Polytechnic Academy and gave a grand presentation about being King’s Knights and how exciting it was to have your own bright shiny armor and your own long sharp sword and your own fine dashing charger and your own hot water bottle in the color of your choice. Gryphon and Tiger were not very impressed by all this foofaraw, even before they became best friends and the heroes of their pretty little Town.

But Dim Knight Boy saw the shiny armor and long swords, and he fell very hard for the promise of becoming one of the King’s Knights; so, he signed up for their training program. Before long even the friends of Dim Knight Boy thought he had become insufferable, though his list of friends kept getting shorter by the day. The Dean of Polytechnic Academy had to constantly reprimand Dim Knight Boy for using his sword to hack the arms off the statues of the Academy’s founders, and for forcing the smaller students to polish his armor over and over until it gleamed.

One afternoon after the last class of the day, Gryphon and Tiger walked along the flagstone paths of the campus quad and laughed at each others’ jokes and tried to guess when the last of the valiant autumn leaves that still clung to the trees would let go and jump to the ground. The bite of cold autumn air under the bright sun felt good, and Gryphon and Tiger held hands while they walked. Then, without warning, Dim Knight Boy rattled up the path in a self-important strut, and stopped in front of Gryphon and Tiger.

Dim Knight Boy was fifteen, like Gryphon and Tiger, and his eyes were dull brown and his hair was dun and spiky. His ill-worn armor rattled because, at long last, he no longer had any friends left to help him put it on.

Dim Knight Boy puffed up his chest and announced to Gryphon and Tiger, “I am going to kill a dragon!”

Tiger rolled his big gold eyes, while Gryphon said to Dim Knight Boy, “Put your silly sword away before you hurt someone.”

Dim Knight Boy did what Gryphon told him, since Gryphon was bigger than anyone else at Polytechnic Academy, and sometimes had a temper.

“Why,” Tiger said to Dim Knight Boy, “are you going to kill a dragon?”

“Yes,” Gryphon said, “ever since Tiger and I slew Gold Dragon, the dragons in the mountains north of Town have left Town alone.”

“Because,” Dim Knight Boy said, “killing a dragon will prove that I am heroic and worthy of being in the King’s Knights Brigade.”

Gryphon said, “Why do we need to know this?”

Dim Knight Boy laughed heartily, as if Gryphon and Tiger were his friends. “Because, since you slew Gold Dragon, I am willing to let you help me slay my dragon, and when I become a King’s Knight you can both be my squires!”

Gryphon and Tiger really did know better than to laugh so hard right in someone’s face, but truly Dim Knight Boy deserved it; and besides, they couldn’t help themselves.

“We don’t need to prove how brave we are,” Tiger said to Dim Knight Boy. “You’ll have to kill your dragon on your own.”

Gryphon thought Dim Knight Boy looked pale all of a sudden, so Gryphon said to him, “Which dragon are you going to slay?”

Dim Knight Boy puffed out his shoulders and said, “Purple Dragon!”

“You’re kidding,” Tiger said.

“Purple Dragon is harmless,” Gryphon said, “and collects stuffed animals instead of gold coins, like other dragons do.”

“Still,” Dim Knight Boy said, “Purple Dragon is a dragon, and must be handled the way all dragons should be handled. I’ll slay Purple Dragon all by myself, and then I’ll be the best hero in Town, and then I’ll force you two to be my squires!” Dim Knight Boy pushed rudely past Gryphon and Tiger, announced, “I’m on my way to the Dragon Caves,” and proceeded on his way.

Tiger looked at Gryphon with his big gold eyes and said, “Purple Dragon has never hurt anyone. I don’t think he even knows how to defend himself against a knight, dim or not.”

Gryphon didn’t even need to ask. “We have to rescue him.”

Tiger grinned a very big grin, and gave Gryphon a kiss.

* * *


The cloudless afternoon sky was almost silver with autumn sunlight, and Purple Dragon sat in the mouth of his cave and sorted through his stuffed animal collection, which was the biggest in the kingdom. Purple Dragon had purple scales and purple paws and purple claws and a purple tongue, but his wings were a bright and happy shade of lavender. He suspected his fire-breath might even be purple too, but being a very peaceful dragon, Purple Dragon had never breathed fire in his life.

Purple Dragon looked up when he heard bustling footsteps running through the fallen leaves on the forest floor, heading right for his cave. Upon hearing intruders, most dragons roared. But Purple Dragon smiled, for even though he loved company, he rarely had visitors.

Girl and Blue Girl came bustling out of the woods and stood on the ridge across the yard in front of Purple Dragon’s cave. Both girls were out of breath.

“Girls!” Purple Dragon cried. “Oh, how splendid! We can have a tea party!”

“We don’t want any tea,” Girl said. “We came here to — ”

“Would you rather hold one of my stuffed animals?” Purple Dragon said.

“No!” Blue Girl said.

Purple Dragon squinted at the girls. “You are girls, right?”

“Yes,” Blue Girl said, “but we aren’t very girly girls.”

“We know some rather girly boys,” Girl said, “but that’s not why we’re here. Dim Knight Boy is coming to slay you, and he’s not very girly and he’s not very brave; he’s just really, really stupid! You have to hide, Purple Dragon!”

“Why, that’s perfectly silly,” Purple Dragon said. “I’ll just put up some tea and offer him a stuffed animal to play with instead.”

“But Purple Dragon,” Blue Girl said, “Gryphon and Tiger told us to come warn you while they delay Dim Knight Boy and try to get him lost in the woods.”

Most dragons would become very frightened at this news, for they all knew that Gryphon and Tiger feared no dragons and had actually slain Gold Dragon, the most vicious dragon that ever lived. But all Purple Dragon did was smile, and he said, “I’m going to need my big teapot to make enough tea for everyone!” And Purple Dragon rearranged his teddy bears for the tea party, and lined them up neatly in front of his cave.

Girl and Blue Girl ran up to Purple Dragon, and they tried pulling on his lavender wings and tugging on his purple horns, but Purple Dragon simply laughed and asked the girls to help him make tea.

Because Girl and Blue Girl wished they were boys, neither of them had ever made tea in her life. While they tried to explain this to Purple Dragon, he dusted off some very dusty stuffed mice that had gotten under the bed, and said, “Well, I don’t understand why anyone with any sense wouldn’t want to be a girl!”

Then from beyond the ridge came a slow clop-clopping of horse’s hooves on the forest path, and someone was grumbling about the trip, and someone else said, “Shut up.” Before Girl and Blue Girl cried out, Dim Knight Boy appeared atop the ridge on a horse, and his armor shone and his sword was long, though his horse was neither fine nor a charger, and in fact the horse rather grumbled about the whole thing.

Purple Dragon saw the knight and the armor and the sword, clapped his forepaws together happily, and cried, “Company! Where’s my teapot?”

Dim Knight Boy sat atop Surly Horse, who was surly because Dim Knight Boy’s ill-worn armor was chafing his hide. Plus, Surly Horse was really Town Constable’s horse, which Dim Knight Boy had borrowed from the front of Constable Station House without asking permission.

Surly Horse gave Dim Knight Boy a surly glance over his shoulder, and said in a surly tone, “Now you’re going to slay a dragon?”

“Stop complaining,” Dim Knight Boy said. “Someday they will sing of our heroism in song!”

“I would rather no one sang,” Surly Horse said, “and go back to my stable for a bag of oats.”

Dim Knight Boy ignored Surly Horse, raised his sword, and cried, “Prepare to die, wicked Purple Dragon!”

“Oh, nonsense,” Purple Dragon said. “It’s much too nice a day to die. Will Earl Grey do for tea?”

Dim Knight Boy had no use for tea, so he sat up in his saddle, spurred Surly Horse (who complained back), and charged!

It was a rather slow charge, for Surly Horse was not in the mood for this nonsense.

Purple Dragon looked with wide purple eyes at his upset visitor, and wondered what could possibly have gone wrong with his little, impromptu tea party. Dim Knight Boy kept on charging, and got closer and closer to Purple Dragon. But Dim Knight Boy didn’t reckon on Girl, who carried a bigger sword than he did. Girl jumped in front of Purple Dragon with her sword drawn, and Blue Girl joined Girl with her dagger at the ready.

Girl cried, “En garde, you stupid Dim Knight Boy!”

And they clashed with slashing steel and shouted with angry words. But Dim Knight Boy could not get past Girl and Blue Girl, who were both braver than he was and had nothing to prove. The girls were careful not to hurt Surly Horse because it wasn’t his fault. Purple Dragon watched the very exciting fight and cheered on the girls because, although he wasn’t totally sure, he suspected they were trying to protect him. But suddenly, a horrible thing happened.

Dim Knight Boy slashed at Girl and Blue Girl with his sword. The girls ducked safely away, but the sword sliced off the heads of the row of teddy bears sitting in front of Purple Dragon, waiting for tea.

That did it. Purple Dragon’s nose huffed frightful purple smoke, and Purple Dragon’s eyes glowed dangerous purple anger, and Purple Dragon started to rise on his massive purple feet with their deadly purple claws. And then — before anyone could do anything to stop him! — Purple Dragon snatched up his headless teddy bears and cried.

“They were just waiting for tea!” sobbed Purple Dragon.

“Ha!” cried Dim Knight Boy, for he saw that when Purple Dragon reached for his headless teddy bears, he accidentally knocked Girl and Blue Girl right off their feet, and the girls had dropped their weapons.

Dim Knight Boy declared to Purple Dragon, “Prepare to die, thou wicked, fire-breathing vermin!”

Purple Dragon’s tears only made his nose smoke harder, and the smoke stung his eyes and made him cry even more.

Then a shadow passed over the sun, and down from the sky swooped chocolate and gold wings, and nattily-attired orange and black stripes. It was Gryphon and Tiger, who had been delayed by a message from Town Constable about his missing horse. Tiger rode on Gryphon’s shoulders and held on tight while Gryphon flew down and knocked Dim Knight Boy off Surly Horse. Surly Horse turned and trotted back to Town at once, muttering all the way in a surly voice about those wretched King’s Dim Knights.

Meanwhile Gryphon landed, and Tiger leaped from Gryphon’s back to the ground. Girl and Blue Girl found their weapons, and all four of them approached Dim Knight Boy. But Dim Knight Boy stood up and swept his sword around him in a circle, threatening everyone.

“Don’t come near me,” cried Dim Knight Boy, “for I am brave, and I will slice to sandwich meat anyone who dares oppose me!”

Purple Dragon blinked tears out of his eyes and saw Dim Knight Boy waving about the awful sword that had beheaded his beloved bears. Purple Dragon set down his headless bears very gently, and then snatched the bad sword out of Dim Knight Boy’s hands. And Purple Dragon huffed, and Purple Dragon puffed, and for the very first time in his very purple life, Purple Dragon breathed fire!

It was a very, very little purple flame.

Dim Knight Boy saw the tiny little flame and said, “Ha!”

But then his sword, touched just for a second by the very little purple flame, melted on the spot.

Gryphon and Tiger cried out together, “The purple dragon-flame!”

And everyone was very respectful to Purple Dragon, except for Dim Knight Boy, who fell to his knees and cried. For, as every child in Town learns when they are very little, no dragon-flame is hotter and more destructive than the rarest of rare purple dragon-flame.

When this was explained to Purple Dragon, he shivered and said, “Well, very obviously I must never breathe fire again! It’s much too dangerous.”

Of course there was tea, and Tiger sewed the heads of the headless teddy bears back on, though he mixed up two of them and Purple Dragon almost cried until Tiger made them right again; and finally everyone said good-bye. Girl and Blue Girl promised to come back and visit Purple Dragon again, and they did, even though they hated stuffed animals almost as much as they hated tea parties.

The King’s Knights took a dim view of Dim Knight Boy and made him start his training all over again, and for months afterward the Knights’ armor shone brighter than any armor in the world because it was all polished by Dim Knight Boy, who was often as surly as the horse he had stolen. And he polished armor until he finally admitted that hard work and persistence always counted for more than bravery in the end.

Purple Dragon wound up hosting many tea parties because the other dragons in the forest wanted to know what the fearful dragon-killers Gryphon and Tiger were really like up close. None of the other dragons believed Purple Dragon when he told them the mighty dragon-slayers were really just two very sweet boys in love.

If you ask Purple Dragon very nicely, sometimes he will throw all caution to the wind and use his purple dragon-flame to heat up the tea. But he will only use a very tiny purple flame, or else the teapot will melt and spill hot tea on his stuffed animals, which makes Purple Dragon cry.



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