Garg the griffon meets an unusual meal.
|Snotty at Bay|
Garganvoltar Bimotan the Fourth shifted peevishly upon the bed of treasure on which he lay. Being a griffon was all very well but there were some duties that seemed beneath so noble a beast as himself. Guarding treasure was a necessary thing and he approved heartily of its essential nature in the panoply of life. Indeed, without its being guarded, any vile creature of humble and disgusting origin would be able to steal and take what he wanted. The net result would be that everyone would have treasure. And that would mean that treasure was no longer treasure, being merely the common and unremarkable knick knacks owned by even the lowest of fools and vagabonds.
No, if it were to be treasure, it must be guarded so that its rarity and desirability be protected. But Garganvoltar had never understood why it must be the griffons and dragons that did the guarding. Oh, he supposed that dragons at least had the motivation of ownership to justify their guarding the ancestral pile. But griffons did not bother with accumulating treasure; their sole interest was in guarding it. He had even heard older griffons refer to it as their sacred calling, their honourable profession.
Which meant, of course, that griffons invariably guarded the treasure of the owners of that treasure. And, by Garganvoltar’s calculations, that placed griffons squarely in the position of servants. Call them employees or staff if you will, but Garg (as the griffon’s friends called him) was not one to be fooled by such semantic evasion.
He was of royal blood, of the glorious house of Bimotan, and should justly be servant to no creature. Yet here he was, yawning with boredom atop some other fellow’s heap of ill gotten gains. His employer might be one of high regard amongst his peers, might even be of what passed for royal blood in the estimate of his countrymen, but what was that to one of the regal race of griffons?
The fact remained. Garg was employed as a guard by a being much lower than himself on the scale of greatness. The knowledge of this excruciating truth made Garg’s insides curl up in shame and, for one brief second, the flame in his heart flickered as though brushed by a cold wind from the abyss.
With an effort, Garg shook himself out of the dark mood that his thoughts were encouraging. There were compensations to this guardianship thing, after all. There was the respect paid him by all those who, intentionally or through some idiotic facility for getting lost, stumbled into the cavern where he guarded King Steven’s treasure. The fear on those faces almost made up for the long hours of brooding upon these piles of sharp, cold and uncomfortable trinkets so desired by men and dwarves.
These wanderers provided at least a few hours of entertainment as Garg interrogated them, watching their elaborate twisting and turning as they tried to convince him that treasure was the furthest thing from their minds when they found their way into the chamber. Garg laughed to himself in the knowledge that only treasure would induce anyone to risk life and limb in the labyrinth under Mount Uroz.
The fact that Garg let all but the most foolish of his captives go was not due to some softness of heart in his core. No, the plain fact was that the griffon was always well sated by the foodstuffs sent down to him by his employer. There seemed little point in physical activity against the miserable specimens come to steal a jewel or trinket. And besides, the tales they would tell, if allowed to escape, would warn off a horde of other would-be adventurers.
The thought of food alerted Garg to the demands of his stomach. Surely it must be time for the evening meal by now. He regarded the main entrance to the chamber expectantly.
It was not long before a troll emerged from the gateway. Behind it, two spearmen raised their weapons to urge it further into the chamber. It waddled a few steps closer to the waiting griffon.
“Ah, my favourite, trembling troll,” announced the delighted Garg.
The troll looked up at him, a scowl upon his face. “Ain’t tremblin’. I’s cold,” said the troll.
Garg laughed. “Cold meat on the menu then and I’ve no complaints on that score.” He lifted his gaze and spoke to the waiting spearmen. “No need to bother with salad, I think. Off you go then, before I decide on man-at-arms for dessert.”
The two turned away and disappeared in the darkness of the tunnel. Garg turned back to the troll.
“Of course, I do usually take my troll roasted.” He blew a sliver of flame in the troll’s direction. To Garg’s surprise, the troll spread his arms and beamed into the heat.
“Cor, that’s better. You wouldn’t believe the cold and stinkin’ dungeon they been keepin’ me in. I could use a bit more of them flames, if yer don’t mind. Just to melt some of the icicles off me nose, yer see.”
Garg frowned. “A bit talkative for a troll, aren’t you? You know, you’re supposed to be scared out of your wits by me. Adds to the flavour, I’m told. Though I’ve never really noticed a great difference. I’ll take them roasted, toasted, fricaseed or cold, it’s all the same to me.”
“Talkative I may be,” replied the troll. “I dare say ol’ Granny Grunchleg weren’t wrong when she reckoned I could talk the ‘ind leg off a donkey. But I ain’t afraid o’ yer and why should I be? Yer might be a bit bigger’n me but I reckon I got the beatin’ of yer even so. It was me sent that dragon Perflicky packin’ last year and I’ve took on many an ogre in my time. Yer wanna add griffon to me list, that’s fine by me.”
Garg’s eyes narrowed. “Hmm, not only talkative but a bit boastful as well, I see. Perhaps I should just blast you with fire and accept that your edges will be burned. Spoils the taste dreadfully however. And I have to admit you’re very entertaining. For a troll, I mean.”
“‘Ere, wot’s yer name? I likes to know the names of fellers wot I mangle. ‘Elps me to keep score, yer see.” The troll crossed his arms and looked belligerently at Garg.
Garg was a bit taken aback. “I don’t usually exchange pleasantries with my meals,” he said. “But I suppose it’s a reasonable request. My name is Garganvoltar Bimotan the Fourth, the Magnificent and the Terrible.” He paused to allow this to sink in, then added, “And what name do you go by?”
“Cor, that’s a mouthful,” said the troll. “I only caught ‘Garg’ so that’s wot I’ll call yer. And my friends call me Snotty. Although my real name’s Snotgrubber Roachslime. That’s the Roachslimes of Meavin’ Bog, I’ll ‘ave yer know.”
The griffon considered him for a moment. Unaccustomed to conversing with his meals as he was, he found himself toying with the idea of letting this one live. Entertaining and unusual as the troll’s banter was, there was also something about him that Garg found quite attractive. After years of guarding treasure in a dark hole under a mountain, he found this uncouth fellow almost a revelation. Surprisingly, it was a pleasure to be addressed by someone who clearly had no fear of him. After all, it would be no hardship to continue this relationship and make do for supper by grabbing one of the spearmen when they came to remove the bones.
“I’ll tell you what, Snotty,” said Garg, “I have decided that no purpose would be served by us fighting and possibly both getting hurt. How about I take you on as my assistant and you help me to guard this treasure?”
Snotty looked at the huge pile of treasure as though noticing it for the first time. “Blimey, yon’s a bit of a stash, ain’t it? Wot the ‘eck yer guarding it for, anyway?”
“Well, I umm guard it for King Steven. To keep it safe, you know. Thieves and brigands constantly trying to steal the odd thing here and there.”
“For King Steven, ‘ey?” Snotty laughed. “Yer lookin’ after all this for that ol’ bastard, are yer? Tell yer wot, Garg, me ol’ mate, why don’t we slip the noose and go out into the world together? We could even start collecting stuff like this if yer miss it. ‘Ave yer own treasure heap and all.”
Garg drew back, eyes wide with astonishment. “But it’s a sacred trust. You don’t understand. A griffon’s honour, his promised service. I don’t think I could…”
His voice tailed off as he recalled his thoughts before Snotty had appeared. How strange that this creature should have hit upon his dissatisfaction with the whole business of treasure guarding. It was almost as if the troll could read his thoughts.
Then Snotty raised his voice again. “Well, if it’s that difficult, that’s okay. But don’t expect me to stick around in this ‘ole with yer. I’m for the open sky and the forest trees, if you don’t mind. And I should be leavin’ while yer still of a mind to let me go.”
“No, wait,” said Garg. “I’ll show you the way out. And I’ll be going too.”
Word Count: 1,564
For The Lair Contest, November 2022
Prompt: Illustration of a griffon.