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.
“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.