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


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)


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.


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.

Return to Gryphon & Tiger Stories

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.

Return to Gryphon & Tiger Stories

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.

Return to Gryphon & Tiger Stories

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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Gryphon and Tiger and the Black Cat Boy

Halloween was just around the corner, and there wasn’t a person or critter in Town who didn’t love the spooky holiday. The people of Town assembled their fabulous costumes and bought candy and made treats for the children, and hung orange and black bunting from anything that didn’t move. The King was, however, forced to issue an edict requesting that Townsfolk made sure not to hang bunting from any of his Dim and Trembly Knights who might happen to be napping of an afternoon in Town Park.

On the fine afternoon the day before Halloween, when jack-o’lanterns grinned their yellow grins and the rust and yellow confetti of autumn leaves tumbled through the white bath of the sun, Gryphon and Tiger visited Town Zoological Gardens to see the animals. Being semi-beasts themselves, Gryphon and Tiger were admitted to Town Zoological Gardens for free, though they brought along meat to give to the big cats and birds of prey to show their love and appreciation.

A small cloud shadowed the day, as Gryphon and Tiger had had a little fight over their Halloween costumes that morning. Gryphon was going to be a big scary dragon, and he wanted Tiger to be a troll because trolls were “the ugliest things imaginable.” Tiger failed to see the humor in this, and the fight with Gryphon made him pout. Gryphon tried to explain that being an ugly troll was funny because Tiger was so cute and handsome, and besides it was just for Halloween and he didn’t mean anything by it. But Gryphon and Tiger were both fifteen, and boys, and of course their pride got in the way of their love.

Gryphon and Tiger approached the tiger habitat at the Zoo, and Tiger waved and chuffed at his walk-on-all-fours cousins. Suddenly Tiger was hit in the legs by a small, swift-moving black bundle of fur that wasn’t watching where it was going.

The black bundle of fur looked up with surprised eyes behind the black-frame glasses on his curious and round human face.

“I’m sorry,” the black bundle of fur cried, “but I have to get help!” And he almost ran away until Gryphon put his huge lion paw on the black bundle of fur’s shoulder.

“What’s all the fuss about,” Gryphon said to the black bundle of fur, “that you go rushing about bumping into my friend here?”

“I’m Black Cat Boy,” the black bundle of fur said, “although when I’m in my black catsuit I like to be a girl.”

This would have confused Gryphon and Tiger were they not already friends with such interesting people.

Black Cat Boy’s black catsuit covered all of his body with thick black fur, except for his face. Atop his head sat black triangle cat ears, and from his backside swept a fluffy black kitty-cat tail.

“I’m in a hurry,” Black Cat Boy said, “because I just heard a horrible thing!”

Tiger finished rubbing his knee where Black Cat Boy had run into him, and said, “What sort of horrible thing did you hear?”

Black Cat Boy talked while waving his arms and pointing with his fingers and twirling his body about in slinky girl-cat moves. “I was over there in the corner by the tiger fence,” Black Cat Boy said, “right beside those bushes. And I was talking to the tigers, arr-ROOM, arr-ROOM, and they were talking to me, arr-ROOM, arr-ROOM, and we were having a grand conversation about Halloween and how nice and cool autumn is, which is especially important to those of us who wear fur. And suddenly I heard an evil voice hidden in the bushes say, ‘Heh-heh-heh! Tomorrow night while everyone in Town is distracted with their trick-or-treating, I will kidnap these tigers and show everyone in Town that I’m the toughest guy of all!’ ”

Tiger was usually very placid, but when he heard the threat to his cousins he became angry. “Who,” Tiger said to Black Cat Boy, “swore to commit such a horrible deed?”

“I don’t know,” Black Cat Boy cried. “When I peeked into the bushes, the evil man was gone! I have to find the great Gryphon and Tiger for help, because I’m only eleven, and Gryphon and Tiger are the brave heroes who slew Gold Dragon and vanquished evil Wizard and rescued the children, and they even saved the silly shrieking Princess from the trolls!”

This announcement confused Gryphon and Tiger quite a bit, until Tiger bent down and poked Black Cat Boy’s glasses back into place atop the bridge of his nose.

“Oh!” Black Cat Boy blinked at Gryphon and Tiger. “You’re Gryphon and Tiger! I can’t see well with my glasses out of place because I have very bad eyes. Will you help me, Mr. Gryphon and Tiger?”

Tiger looked at Gryphon and said, “We must do something.”

Gryphon shrugged and sulked like fifteen-year-old boys sometimes do, except his shrugs and sulks were much bigger because he was a gryphon.

“But Tiger,” Gryphon said, “tomorrow’s Halloween!”

Though Tiger was also fifteen, he was usually more sensible than his best friend Gryphon, and Tiger said to Gryphon, “So?”

“I was gonna be a dragon tomorrow night,” Gryphon said, “and I’ve always wanted to be a dragon for Halloween. But I was always too shy.”

“He’s right,” Black Cat Boy said. “When I’m not wearing my catsuit, I hardly ever say a word. And the Dean of Polytechnic Academy won’t let me wear my catsuit to school, so everyone there thinks I’m shy.”

Gryphon gently patted Black Cat Boy on the head, but his paw was so huge that he nearly knocked Black Cat Boy out.

“But,” Gryphon said to Tiger, “now that I’ve met you I can relax and have fun and be myself.”

Tiger stamped his big foot-paw, which made Black Cat Boy jump.

“But Gryphon,” Tiger said, “some evil man wants to kidnap my cousins!”

All of the tigers at home in the Zoological Gardens’ tiger habitat roared.

Gryphon, being part lion and having Tiger for a boyfriend, was not fazed by tiger roars.

“They’re tigers,” Gryphon said to Tiger. “They’ll eat the evil man up!”

“Maybe not,” Black Cat Boy said. “The evil man chuckled and said he had a magic potion to put the tigers to sleep.”

“Yeah,” Gryphon said, “but…still…it’s Halloween.”

Tiger folded his arms across his chest. “Well,” he said to Gryphon, “first you wanted me to be an ugly troll, and now you want to let my cousins get kidnapped.”

Gryphon said, “But, Tiger — ”

“Just so you can go trick-or-treating,” Tiger said. “Well, go on! Be your silly dragon or whatever. Black Cat Boy and I will save my cousins.” And Tiger put his paw on Black Cat Boy’s shoulder, and led him away from Gryphon.

Gryphon watched Tiger walk away and he felt so bad he couldn’t think of anything to say. But his gryphon-pride overcame him, and made him turn and walk in the other direction, though one furtive tear did roll from his right eye down the feathers of his face.

* * *

For Halloween, Tiger decided to be something much better than a troll, and instead he was — a tiger!

It was Halloween night and Town Zoological Gardens were closed, and the only creatures in the Zoo who didn’t live there were Tiger and Black Cat Boy. Tiger had taken off all of his fine clothes, which is all he needed to do to look like his cousins. Black Cat Boy carried a long rope and walked very close to Tiger, because from over the park walls came ghostly moans and sinister chuckling, and sometimes even a blood-curdling scream, followed by the laughter and wails of small children.

Tiger made his cousins promise not to eat him, which they did with chuffs and moans since they couldn’t talk like Tiger. Then Tiger climbed over the fence into the tigers’ home.

“Don’t ever do this,” Tiger said to Black Cat Boy, “since you’re not a tiger.”

Black Cat Boy nodded, and hid in the bushes to wait. Tiger got down on all fours and sniffed at things on the ground, like his cousin-tigers would. He was still sad about his fight with Gryphon, but there was no time to think about that right then.

Suddenly there was a rustling in the bushes, and Black Cat Boy screamed. A big man came out of the bushes, and he was as ugly as a troll, but didn’t have the excuse for it. He held Black Cat Boy over his head, and laughed. Black Cat Boy dropped his rope.

“It’s Town Tough Guy,” Black Cat Boy cried. “Let me go!”

“Ha-ha-ha!” said Town Tough Guy to his captive. “Let you go? I am going to take all of these tigers away to my home, and put on my very own tiger Tough Guy show! Every night I will charge Townsfolk to come see me beat up these eight…er, nine tigers! And everyone will know I really am the toughest guy in Town!”

“Tiger,” Black Cat Boy cried, “help me!”

But Tiger was still on all fours, and dared not give away who he really was before he could think up a way to beat Town Tough Guy. Tiger would have simply leaped on Town Tough Guy, but he didn’t want Black Cat Boy to get hurt.

“Ha-ha-ha!” Town Tough Guy held Black Cat Boy up even higher. “Those tigers won’t help you! But I think I will let you go, pesky boy…to be the tigers’ dinner!”

And Town Tough Guy threw Black Cat Boy over the fence into the tigers’ home.

The four-footed tigers roared when Black Cat Boy hit the grassy ground, but Tiger scampered over and grabbed hold of him.

Then Town Tough Guy pulled out an ugly gun, which he thought showed everyone how brave and tough he was. He said, “This is my magic spell! I have potions in my gun to make the big kitties sleep! Heh-heh-heh!”

Tiger stood up, holding Black Cat Boy tight in his arms. He cried out to Town Tough Guy, “I won’t let you hurt these tigers!”

“Oh,” said Town Tough Guy, “no wonder I counted an extra tiger. It is the famous hero Tiger who rescues children from evil wizards and ugly trolls! But not this time, Mr. Tiger! I will cut off your head and mount it on my wall! Then no one can deny that I, defeater of wicked tigers, is truly the toughest guy in Town!” Town Tough Guy laughed, raised his gun, and pointed it right at Tiger.

Black Cat Boy sniffled and said to Tiger, “Thank you for helping the tigers, even though we failed.”

Tiger hugged Black Cat Boy and said, “I wish Gryphon were here.”

Then the night air was ripped by a huge, terrifying squawk-roar, just like a gryphon would make. But a dragon appeared instead, diving out of the night sky. The dragon shimmered in bronze and dark blue, and swept out of sky on blue and gold wings, and headed straight for Town Tough Guy. Yellow streaks like fire shot from the dragon’s snout, and there was another ear-splitting squawk-roar, and then the dragon shrieked, “Let those kitty-cats go!”

Town Tough Guy, who was deathly afraid of dragons, fainted.

Then the dragon landed next to Tiger and Black Cat Boy, and even Tiger was scared for a moment until he saw the dragon’s eyes.

“Gryphon!” Tiger cried. “You didn’t leave us!”

“Of course not,” Gryphon said. “Look, isn’t this the best costume ever? My mom sewed all of this satiny stuff and made the streamers to go on my wings! And look, see how I rigged this yellow fabric so it shoots out from my dragon-snout like fire, and…and…”

A few low growls were heard, and Gryphon, Tiger, and Black Cat Boy turned slowly to see eight quizzical and hungry tigers watching them.

“Maybe,” Black Cat Boy said, “we’d better go.”

Gryphon flew his friends out of the tigers’ home and landed on the ground outside the fence. Tiger made Gryphon take off his dragon-mask so they could share a very, very long kiss. Black Cat Boy giggled because Tiger forgot to put him down, and Black Cat Boy liked getting squished between the two bigger boys while they kissed.

Then all three of them went trick-or-treating, and Gryphon and Tiger let Black Cat Boy keep all of the candy they received. And the very next day they took fresh meat to Town Zoological Gardens for the tigers to eat.

Gryphon and Tiger were usually obedient students, but this time they stood up to the Dean of Polytechnic Academy, and Black Cat Boy got to wear his black catsuit to school every single day, where he slinked like a girl-cat and was very, very happy.

Wise Judge sentenced Town Tough Guy to a year of cleaning up animal poo at Town Zoological Gardens. The tigers always made sure to leave the greenest and stickiest poo just for Town Tough Guy to pick up.

And, believe me; it is very, very easy for tigers to make green and sticky poo.

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Gryphon and Tiger Learn the Truth About Stories

One autumn Sunday when the air had turned cool but the sun was still warm, a picnic lunch was held on the beach near Town. Gryphon and Tiger hosted, and Eagle brought along Boy, who was dressed finely but was disappointed that the water was too cold for him to show off his new amethyst bathing suit. Girl and Blue Girl also came, and built sand castles, and then knocked them over, and made Boy cry when they threatened to knock over his sand castle. The girls felt bad about that, so they made it up to Boy by letting him decorate their hair with little live sand-crabs.

After the late lunch, the picnickers waited until twilight, and then Gryphon and Eagle flew Tiger and Boy up to the clifftops overlooking the beach to watch the sunset. They were far from the troll caves since Chief Troll hated Gryphon and Tiger and Girl, and swore revenge on them all for stealing his holiday dinner.

Girl and Blue Girl were not interested in sunsets, though they still had the wriggly sand-crabs tied in their hair because wriggly sand-crabs were very boyish. So the girls wandered north up the beach, holding hands. Tiger was a little concerned because he heard one of the girls mention trolls as they left.

“Will the girls be all right?” Tiger asked Gryphon.

“Hmpf,” Gryphon said. “Pity the poor trolls that run into those two.”

Eagle chuckled; she lay on the clifftop with Boy nestled against her breast. Gryphon and Tiger built a fire for their marshmallows, and sat next to each other very close.

Boy cuddled his favorite stuffed bear and said, “Tell me a story, Gryphon.”

“Me?” Gryphon said. “I can’t tell stories.”

“Yes, you can,” Tiger said. “Try.”

“Tell us,” said Boy, “about Girl and Blue Girl meeting a troll on the beach!”

Gryphon harrumphed, and fiddled with the kindling, and wanted to get out of it by saying he had to flint-start the fire. But Tiger, who was very practical, pulled a small box of phosphorus matches from his vest pocket, and Gryphon could delay no longer.

The story started on the beach, and Boy was in it, and Girl and Blue Girl saved him from being eaten by a shark in his amethyst bathing suit. Boy giggled, especially when Gryphon said Girl and Blue Girl hugged boy in-between them after they saved him, and said he was too handsome to drown.

“Pretty,” Boy said.

“Sorry,” Gryphon said. “Too pretty to drown.”

Boy hugged his bear, and snuggled closer to Eagle.

“Then,” Gryphon said, “Boy ran the girls off by chasing them with sand-crabs.”

Everything was silent except for the crackle of the newborn fire and the sound of chirping crickets.

“Um…” Tiger said.

“Er…” Eagle said.

“Uh…” Boy said.

“Oops,” Gryphon said. “The girls chased Boy off the beach with sand-crabs.”

“I ran to Eagle,” Boy said, “and she made me stop crying about the sand-crabs.”

“I baked him partridge popovers,” Eagle said.

Then Gryphon told how Girl and Blue Girl walked up the beach —

“Holding hands,” Boy said. “Don’t forget.”

— holding hands, and how night fell, and how the girls came across a trio of the King’s Dim Knights. The Knights were very sad because they had been robbed by trolls, who stole the Knights’ swords and horses and rabbit’s foot charms and hot water bottles. Girl placed her hand on the hilt of her sword and vowed to avenge the sad Knights, who were very grateful not to have to go after the trolls themselves. Blue Girl had a dagger, and she vowed to go wherever Girl should go.

Tiger passed roasted marshmallows to Boy and Eagle, and Boy said, “I want flowers and zeppelins.”

So Girl and Blue Girl left the sad Knights and followed the horse tracks up the beach. But soon the rising tide wiped out the horse prints, and the cliffs jutted into the sea.

“The trolls could not take the horses past those cliffs,” Blue Girl said.

“No,” Girl said, “but see where the cliffs shallow out just before? They could take a horse up there.”

So the girls climbed the hill, and atop the hill was a vast field of sweet-smelling flowers. Girl and Blue Girl didn’t care about flowers, for they preferred to wear wriggly sand-crabs in their hair. But the girls were very thoughtful, and each asked the other to remember to take back flowers for Boy.

“That was sweet of them to remember me,” Boy said.

“Then,” Gryphon said, “a zeppelin appeared overhead.”

“Where did it come from?” Boy said.

Gryphon thought for a moment, stuffed five roasted marshmallows into his yellow beak, and said, “Ih wah hust dear.”

“It was what?” Boy said.

“I think,” Tiger said, “he said, ‘It was just there.’ ”

“No,” Boy said. “There has to be a reason.”

Gryphon swallowed his marshmallows and said to Tiger, “I told you I’m no good at this.”

“Perhaps,” Tiger said, “the zeppelin is coming from Big City, up the coast, to deliver travelers to Town for a visit.”

“Yes,” Boy said, “that’s right.”

Girl and Blue Girl called up to the zeppelin, and the zeppelin pilot called back and asked if Girl were the famous Girl who had recently rescued Princess.

“Yes,” Girl cried, “and she was pink and frilly and shrieky and the whole thing was just dreadful! Until we dived into the sea and Princess swallowed a gallon of salt water.”

Gryphon chuckled. “Girl really liked diving into the sea. It made Princess shut up.”

Tiger said to Boy, “Princess is a very girly princess.”

Boy said, “I wish Princess and I could play together.”

“In the next story,” Gryphon said.

“There’ll be another story?” Boy said.

Gryphon shook his head, and wondered what he had gotten himself into.

Girl and Blue Girl asked the zeppelin pilot if he had seen any trolls, and he said yes, he had seen three trolls riding three fine horses of the kind the King’s Knights might ride, toward the north where the trolls’ caves are.

“But be careful,” the zeppelin pilot said, “for the trolls called up to us and swore that if they ever found Girl again, they would chop off her head!”

“Did they?” Girl said. “Ha! Let’s go find these head-chopping trolls, Blue Girl.”

“I wish,” Boy said, “I was brave like Girl.”

Girl and Blue Girl thanked the zeppelin pilot and marched on through the flowers. And then…and then…

“I don’t know,” Gryphon said. “The trolls, they’re on horses. The girls won’t catch up.”

“Unless,” Tiger said, “the trolls stop for supper.”

Girl and Blue Girl spotted a fire in the distance, and they sneaked closer, and they found the three trolls who had robbed the Dim Knights and made the Knights sad. The trolls were gathered round the campfire, roasting…

“Marshmallows,” Gryphon said.

“For supper?” Eagle said.

“Rabbits’ feet!” cried Boy.

“Pigeons,” suggested Tiger.

“Seagulls,” Gryphon said. “It was seagulls, definitely. Anyway…so the girls saw the trolls, um, roasting seagulls…and, um…”

“The girls took the sand-crabs out of their hair and threw them at the trolls,” Tiger said, “and the trolls screamed because they hate seafood.”

Boy giggled. “And Girl said to them, ‘You’ll never cut off my head!’ ”

“That’s right,” Eagle said.

Gryphon rolled his eyes. “Okay. And then…then there was a big fight and the girls rescued the Dim Knights’ fine horses, and Girl chopped off the head of one of the trolls, and the other two ran away with sand-crabs hanging by their pincers off the trolls’ warts. The End.”

“Um…” Eagle said.

“Was there blood?” Boy said.

“Yes,” Gryphon said, “but I didn’t want to scare you.”

“It’s okay if it’s bad guys’ blood,” Boy said.

Gryphon said, “And Girl got blood all over her hands while she chopped off the troll’s head, and she rubbed it on her face and Blue Girl’s face like warpaint.”

Boy shrieked, squealed “Eeeeeuuuw!”, and giggled.

“A bit rushed at the end,” Tiger said, “but very nice overall.”

“No, it wasn’t nice,” Gryphon said. “I’m no good at this.”

“Write your story down,” Tiger said. “It’s easier, sometimes.”

“My handwriting is atrocious,” Gryphon said.

“I’ll copy the stories over for you,” Tiger said. “I have very nice handwriting.”

Gryphon turned his eyes from the fire to look at Tiger.

“You would do that,” Gryphon said, “for me?”

“I would do anything for you,” Tiger said. And then Tiger did something.

Tiger rolled to his knees beside Gryphon, not caring if he got dirt on his fine trousers. Tiger leaned close to Gryphon, toward the soft place at the corner of Gryphon’s mouth just behind Gryphon’s beak, and very gently, for the very first time, Tiger kissed Gryphon.

Gryphon stopped breathing. “You kissed me.”

“Yes.” And Tiger kissed Gryphon again.

Gryphon felt like he was falling, and that the sky and the ground had traded places.

Then Gryphon said, “That was so…so very nice…Tiger.”

“You want to know the truth about stories?” Tiger said.

Gryphon nodded.

“Stories,” Tiger said, “are something you share with someone you love. And if your story is nice enough…it will come true.”

Gryphon said, “Do you have a story…Tiger?”

“Yes. And the next thing that happens in my story is…you kiss me.”

Gryphon barely heard Tiger, for all he could see were Tiger’s huge and beautiful gold eyes. But he heard, “kiss me,” and though it took a moment for eagle-beaked Gryphon to figure out how to kiss his Tiger, he did. And he kissed Tiger again. And then again.

Then Gryphon and Tiger cuddled close and watched the fire. Boy squeezed his bear, and sighed.

“I wanna share a story with someone,” Boy said. “Someone like Gryphon and Tiger.”

“You will, angel,” Eagle said. “Someday, you will.”

It was all very peaceful and beautiful, and everyone nearly fell asleep in happiness, but such marvelous moments never last. About a half-hour later there was whooping and cheering and jumping, and Girl and Blue Girl returned from their walk, and Blue Girl paused for only a moment to hand flowers to Boy, who sniffed them and thanked Blue Girl, and wished he had a boy of his own to give flowers to also. And then Girl and Blue Girl danced around the fire, and the firelight lit up their happy gold faces and the red marks of their warpaint, and Girl tossed the stinky troll’s head on the fire, and Girl and Blue Girl cheered while the head sizzled and burned.

“See?” Tiger said to Gryphon. “What did I tell you?”

“There’s another kiss, isn’t there?” said Gryphon, and whether Tiger planned another one or not, there was another kiss anyway.

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Gryphon and Tiger Trick the Trolls

Crisp autumn arrived in Town, and leaves of red and gold and purple fell all across the campus of Polytechnic Academy. Acorns fell with clicks and pops on flagstone walks and bronze statues. Homecoming Festival approached, and the rumor on campus was that the Homecoming Dance would, for the very first time, have two Kings; namely the brave Gryphon and Tiger. The thought made Tiger nervous because he was shy despite his friendliness, and didn’t like to be stared at even when it was because people liked him.

It didn’t help poor Tiger’s nerves on the day when, right in the middle of classes, the King’s silver zeppelin, all sputtering and chattering engines, came to a halt above the quad. The King was lowered from his zeppelin on a golden chair, using a golden rope. All of the students, teachers, and deans rushed out to see what was going on, and everyone bowed their heads to their good and gracious King.

King scanned the assembled faces and said, in his best kingly voice, “Where are the famous Gryphon and Tiger?”

Gryphon tossed back his elegant mane and strode toward the King, while the crowd parted in front of him. Tiger walked alongside Gryphon, and his paws trembled.

“Are we in trouble?” Tiger asked Gryphon.

“I can’t imagine,” Gryphon said.

The King wanted Gryphon and Tiger for a mission; namely, to retrieve his lovely little daughter Princess, who had been carried off by trolls the night before.

Gryphon, being a gryphon, sometimes forgot his manners, and he asked the King, “Was there no guard at the castle?”

The King arched an eyebrow at Gryphon, but he had no time to be angry with a mere subject; and besides, the King was mighty frightened of gryphons.

“I had some Knights guarding my darling child,” King said, “but as you know, most of my Knights are dim and trembly.”

Tiger was more practical, and said to the King, “Where have the trolls taken your daughter?”

“Don’t be silly,” Gryphon said to Tiger. “They’re trolls, and trolls have no imagination. They simply took Princess to their caves.”

Tiger would have blushed if he didn’t have fur. “But the trolls’ caves are in cliffs that are very steep and hard to reach,” Tiger said, “and below the caves lay sharp rocks and crashing seas.”

The King said to Tiger, “Are you not brave enough, young hero?”

Tiger wrung his tail in his paws, and assured the King he was brave enough. But really, all Tiger wanted to do on this fine, crisp, sunny autumn day was to be alone with Gryphon while they held hands and counted the falling leaves.

Nonetheless, Tiger said to the King, “We’ll have Princess back by evening.”

“Very good,” said the King, and with a little twitch of his finger, the King’s golden chair was hauled by its golden rope back up to the silver zeppelin. The zeppelin’s engines huffed and puffed and rattled and chattered, and they turned the airship back toward the castle very quickly so the King could get home and make sure his Knights weren’t pilfering the silverware.

This time Gryphon and Tiger didn’t ask permission to leave school for the day, since everyone saw that were charged with a mission by the King.

No sooner had Gryphon and Tiger stepped out through the gates of the Polytechnic Academy and into the gold and red tree-lined streets than they were accosted by Girl. She no longer wore rags, but instead sported a sturdy outfit of brown leather pants and a loose white cambric shirt that had patterns of beads and trimmings of fringe. And Girl now had a proper leather scabbard for her sword, though she still had Tiger’s green scarf wrapped around her waist. Girl folded her arms and blocked the sidewalk, and though she was only twelve, she refused to give ground to Gryphon and Tiger.

“I saw the King’s zeppelin,” Girl said. “Where’s the adventure?”

No amount of dissuasion could make Girl relent, so Gryphon had her climb aboard his back. Tiger sat behind Girl, and they held on tight while Gryphon flew them to the cliffs by the sea, where the trolls lived. On the way, Tiger came up with an idea to fool the trolls, but it required that Girl give up her sword to Tiger and pretend to be helpless. Girl protested in language that both Gryphon and Tiger thought quite unbecoming a young lady, but neither of them dared point this out to her. But when Tiger assured Girl that her role in the rescue of Princess was the most dangerous job of all, Girl’s eyes lit up, and she nodded at once.

Gryphon landed atop the cliffs. Tiger looked all the way down at the crashing surf and jagged rocks, and he almost took hold of his tail for some nervous wringing. Girl jumped right off Gryphon’s back, landed two inches from the cliff edge overlooking the sharp rocks and foaming sea, and said to her friends, “Let’s get a move on, eh, fuzz-butts?”

Gryphon, Tiger, and Girl carefully picked their way down a narrow troll path on the cliff wall, and Tiger whimpered every time his foot kicked a small rock off the path to fall way, way, way down below. Soon our rescuers were confronted by a troll guard who hunkered down and stared at them with little yellow eyes in his bulbous green face. The troll waved his spear like a club, and took Gryphon, Tiger, and Girl to Chief Troll’s cave.

Chief Troll was squat and green and smelly, and had warts on his nose and warts on his chin and warts on his ears, and each wart had a single wiry hair growing out of it like a sickly potted plant. Girl almost laughed at Chief Troll before she remembered that she was supposed to be helpless, so she tried to look frightened, which was a very difficult thing for Girl to do.

Gryphon spoke to Chief Troll. “We hear you have a girl who might need a playmate.”

“She doesn’t need a playmate,” growled Chief Troll, “because we are going to roast her for our holiday dinner.” Chief Troll squinted at Girl. “But we can always use a second course!”

Girl had to use all of her smarts and strength to refrain from popping Chief Troll on his warty, runny nose.

Gryphon and Chief Troll sat down and played cards, and Gryphon pretended to want to win lots of Chief Troll’s gold, and he didn’t complain when Chief Troll changed the rules in the middle of a hand. Of course, Gryphon lost.

“Your Girl is mine!” cried Chief Troll.

Tiger stood beside Girl and wept profusely. Then he looked down at Girl and nudged her.

“Cry like you’re very upset,” Tiger whispered to Girl, and Girl did, even though the thing she hated most in the world was to cry.

Then Tiger gave Girl a hug and whispered to her, “Find Princess and be ready to escape with us when we return.”

Gryphon flew away from the troll caves carrying Tiger on his back, and the trolls laughed at them for losing their little friend to Chief Troll. “Don’t forget to bring us another girl for dessert!” cried one of the trolls. Then the trolls took Girl to meet Princess. The trolls had not locked Princess in, for they figured girls were too scared to escape along the sheer cliff wall overlooking the jagged rocks and the crashing sea.

Princess wore a pink fluffy dress with a pink fluffy bow in her curly blonde hair and pink fluffy satin rosettes on her pink satin shoes, which would have been fluffy too, except it was hard to walk in fluffy shoes. Princess was ten years old, and was busy trying to make a troll child’s doll look pretty by pasting dried flowers onto it.

Girl approached Princess, and Girl’s black curly hair was tangled, and she had dirt on her face and mud on her boots and scuff-marks on the knees of her brown leather pants. Princess stuck out her tongue at Girl and said, “I don’t play with stinky boys!”

Girl sighed; this was going to be much more difficult than she first thought.

Meanwhile, Gryphon and Tiger went to ask their wonderful friend Eagle for help. Eagle came with them at once, and flapped her huge wings while her white feathers with their russet and black arrow-shaped markings shone in the sun. Eagle showed Gryphon and Tiger how to fashion a flamethrower from a barrel of pitch, a hand-pump, and a nozzle.

“I’ll carry the barrel in my claws,” Eagle said to Tiger. “You ride on my back and shoot flames at the trolls.”

“I don’t want to roast trolls,” Tiger said.

“Just scare them, then,” Eagle said, “so Gryphon can rescue Girl and Princess.”

Gryphon shook his head, and said to Tiger, “You are being so contrary today.”

Tiger pouted because back in Town, all the autumn leaves were falling without him and Gryphon being there to catch them and run through them and roll through the leaf piles until, exhausted, Gryphon and Tiger would laugh and hold hands and say nothing at all.

Gryphon, Tiger, and Eagle waited until dusk, and then they flew to the troll caves. On the ledges in front of the many cave mouths, the trolls all bustled and swept, preparing for their holidays.

But Gryphon ruined the trolls’ holiday plans when he swept in and batted at the trolls with his claws extended. The trolls scattered away with grunts and shrieks. Tiger worked the flamethrower and was careful not to burn any trolls, because he didn’t want to hurt someone unless he absolutely had to. More trolls wobbled out of the caves and shook their fists and called our friends funny names, and threw their spears at the attackers. But trolls were very poor spear-throwers, and did no harm.

Tiger worried how they would find Girl and Princess, but he needn’t have bothered. Girl heard the fighting, grabbed Princess by the hand, and hauled the pink beribboned girl to the cave mouth. Princess took one look down at the twilight-ghostly crash of surf on the jagged rocks far below, and shrieked.

“Serves ya right,” Girl said to Princess, “for making me play with your stupid dolls!”

Gryphon turned and dived toward the cave where Girl waved and Princess shrieked. But Chief Troll appeared in the next cave mouth up from the girls’ cave, and he began to climb down the cliff wall toward them.

“No one,” cried Chief Troll, “is stealing my holiday dinner!”

Eagle swooped toward the cliff, just above Gryphon. She cried back to Tiger, “Let go of the nozzle!” Tiger let go of the nozzle, and Eagle threw the barrel of pitch at the cliff wall beside Chief Troll. The barrel exploded, and knocked Chief Troll off the wall.

“Oh, no!” Tiger cried, for the explosion also knocked Girl and Princess out of the cave mouth, and they tumbled down toward the jagged rocks and the crashing sea below.

Gryphon moved fast, and used his wings to thrust his body after the falling girls. He got there just in time and grabbed both girls to his chest, and then veered sharply away from the jagged rocks. But his momentum was too great, and Gryphon and the girls crashed into the sea.

“Gryphon!” cried Tiger. “Oh, no! Gryphon!”

Eagle banked down toward the sea to look for her dear friend. “Wait.”

“Eagle,” Tiger cried, “Gryphon can’t be gone! We never got to run through the autumn leaves together! And now we’ll never — ”

A huge splash threw seawater on Eagle and Tiger, and Gryphon burst out of the ocean carrying Girl and Princess. Gryphon shook his body wildly to throw off the water. Princess spat up seawater and shrieked. Girl tossed water out of her hair and cried, “That was the most fun I’ve ever had!”

Somehow Chief Troll managed not to get smashed on the jagged rocks, and he cursed and shook his fist at the heroes while they flew away, and Chief Troll grumbled that the trolls would now have to eat cold potted meat for their holidays.

Girl and Princess rode atop Gryphon, and Tiger rode on Eagle, as they flew to the King’s castle. Girl had really had enough of Princess’ shrieking, and used her green scarf to tie up Princess’ mouth.

The King gave gold to everyone for rescuing Princess, and Gryphon and Tiger received cheers when they returned to the Polytechnic Academy. The Dean offered Girl a place in the school, and though Girl felt she needed no education, she accepted. And she was partly right, for even though she was twelve, she was placed in the same class as Gryphon and Tiger, who were fifteen.

The next afternoon, Tiger chased Gryphon through a pile of fallen leaves, after which the boys curled up close together in the leaves, and slept.

At the Homecoming Dance, Gryphon and Tiger were voted Kings, and Girl was made an honorary Queen. But Girl refused to be Queen and so she traded titles with Tiger, who rather giggled when he was pronounced Homecoming Queen. Girl met another girl whose favorite color was blue, and Girl and Blue Girl danced together all night long.

Gryphon held his Tiger very close while they danced, and Tiger no longer felt the least bit contrary.

The King had almost been upset when he saw that Girl had gagged his precious Princess. But five noisy minutes after he removed the green scarf from Princess’ mouth, the King asked Girl if he could have the scarf back.

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