Gryphons

Average Lifespan: 230-300 years
Average Height: 6’ to 7’ feet at the shoulder
Average Healthy Weight: 1000 to 1200 pounds for females, 1500 – 2000 pounds for males
Pregnancy Duration: Gryphons lay eggs three weeks after conception, often in clutches of 3-5. These eggs take six months to hatch.

For all that their appearance screams “predator”, with their sharp beaks, lithe, cat-like bodies and lethal talons, the Gryphons are a surprisingly refined and cultured people. Close companions of the Elves, with whom they were created to live in a mutual partnership, Gryphons are renowned for their loyalty, strong code of ethics, and fierce pride. It is not unusual to see a Gryphon closely bonded to an Elf, much as a fledgling raptor might bond to its handler, and it is very rare that the Elf in turn does not feel a strong reciprocation. A bonded pair will live close to or with one another, and this occurrence is so common that most Elven homes are designed in multiple levels, with the Elven family living on the bottom and the Gryphon’s family living on top in their “aerie”. Unbonded Gryphons make their home in a series of stacked caves, similar to an open construct apartment, which are usually created for them near any major Elven settlement.

Though they tend to be on the large size, with appetites to match, Gryphons prefer to live in cities whenever possible. They find that while they are cramped places that do little for their need to stretch their wings, they are well suited to supplying endless amounts of music, jewelry, and fine cuisine—passions of the Gryphon people. Above all, cities provide ample people for them to protect, and this desire to do so is a strong urge in most Gryphons. They will willingly give their lives for those under their care, and so many of them are employed as guards or constables within Elven territories. Their sharp vision, employed from tremendous heights above the cities, ensure that they are able to spot danger or crime long before many on the ground become aware of it. The piercing scream of a Gryphon’s challenge is often the first warning constables on the ground have that something is amiss, and because of this people seldom dare to commit crimes without keeping one eye fixed on the sky above.

Physical Characteristics

Gryphons are roughly the size of horses, and are possessed of a body similar to that of a large cat, though they bear the head, forelegs, and wings of a bird of prey. The color combinations they may sport are many, with some Gryphons have wings like a snowy owl and a body like a snow leopard, others appearing similar to a combination of black hawks and panthers, and oftentimes the “classic” mix of an eagle-like form with that of a lion. Though they walk most naturally on all fours, they have front “hands” that are as nimble as any parrots, possessing thumbs and proper joints necessary for writing, pouring tea, or picking locks. They may even rear back on their hind legs and do an odd, waddling sort of shuffle that passes for a walk, though this is a bit uncomfortable and only really done when they need to keep their hands free.

Gryphons are a People bred for battle, and so most of them tend to look quite fierce, although there have been rumors that some factions of Gryphons are striving for a more “showy” appearance by blending magic with selective breeding. This has led to light-hearted joking amongst Elven territories that any day a Gryphon with a peacock tail will be born, and that Elves breeding for rainbow hair surely can’t be far behind. Enaryn, the seat of the Ivy Throne, seems to take these rumors more seriously, however, and has issued bans on breeding programs, perhaps fearing that it is all far too similar to the god-projects of cultists who attempt to breed Aspects.

Atop their head they have feathered, tufted ears, and males may have a crest of feathers. The points at which fur and feathers mingle on the body normally whirl and twist, so that they appear to be puffy and somewhat against the normal growth of both. These are troublesome spots for Gryphons and more prone to itching than other areas as they bear the oil glands which can become clogged if they are not able to preen often. The oil has a musky, cinnamon-like scent which is not unpleasant to most people, and Elves have often remarked that they find the scent “comforting” as it reminds them of home.

History

When the Dragons retreated from the known parts of Valindir and the Drakiens claimed the southern lands of Huldova for their own, it was clear to everyone that they wouldn’t be satisfied for long with its deserts and its swamps. One of the first Gryphons, a hero in the wars named Orvic, led numerous espionage missions across the territory lines to keep a close eye on the Drakiens. It was he who first learned that the Drakiens were attempting to poison the water supplies and the trees upon which the Elves depended, in order to kill the Elves and claim their richer land for themselves. Leading a wing of his Gryphon comrades, Orvic killed the Drakiens responsible and took the poison, then flew high over Huldova and unleashed it upon the Drakiens’ land instead. It is said it took many, many years for the land to recover from the poison, and that many of the Drakiens that had been forming an army died during this time from its corruption. Orvic was hailed as a hero and a savior both by his People and the Elves, and the first Elven queen is said to have Pledged to him in gratitude and thanks.

There have been many modern Gryphon heroes as well, such as Hourus, who ended a long and bitter drought by carrying a magically prepared ice up into the clouds and inducing rain; and Gresdaen, a Gryphon noted for his inky black feathers who was said to have almost single-handedly driven off a plague of trolls that threatened Enaryn itself.

Culture and Religion

Many Peoples find that the most striking aspect of Gryphon culture is their intense devotion to the Elven People. Even more amazing, perhaps, is that the Elves return this love, and that two Peoples, seemingly so very different, should be so utterly inseparable. The bond between Gryphon and Elf is absolute— once formed and recognized in a ritual known as “Pledging” it is all but impossible to break. It has happened, of course, but the one responsible for the betrayal is often driven out of the community, and many feel that ritual suicide is the only way to seek redemption in these matters.

Perhaps it is not surprising that in a land steeped in symbolism, the Gryphons have developed a form of their own. Exchanging feathers among Gryphons is of great importance, with the primary feathers being the most valued and generally only given to Pledges or mates. These feathers are normally collected after a molt, both to give to others and to be used to repair their own feathers should they break.

While Gryphons can eat most anything they please, by and large they favor meat over any other type of food. Wild meats are better, but Gryphons living in the city are accustomed to more domesticated fare, such as goat, cattle, and chickens. Still, they will prefer wild game whenever they can get it, the bloodier the better.

Relations with other Races

It is a constant complaint amongst the other Peoples that one cannot become close to a Gryphon without becoming close to an Elf. Many Gryphons see little need to seek allies outside of their relationship with the creations of Yarowe, and it is all but certain that whenever this occurs it is to the benefit of Yarola’Sia, rather than a genuine desire to form outside relationships.

Alubra – The connoisseurs of feathers, Gryphons scour the world searching for rare colors and patterns. They’re especially drawn to the bright plumage of some of the Alubra People, possibly because their own coloration tends more towards that of large birds of prey, among which bright colors are normally lacking. The desire to possess Alubra feathers has led to a few Gryphons diving down upon them from higher elevations, snatching fist-fulls of feathers, and flying away from the scene of the crime as fast as possible to crow in delight over their “find”. Embarrassed Elves almost always make restitution to the victims.

Centaurs – In the Centaurs, the Gryphons see one of many possible futures for themselves. Suppose the Elves should one day banish them? Suppose their loyalty should be betrayed? What has happened to the Centaurs is the stuff of nightmares for the winged People. A great pity and greater sympathy accompanies this fear, however, and the Centaurs have been given friendship and aid many times from the Gryphons. They do not condone the company the Centaurs are keeping lately, specifically the Orcs and the Drakiens, but they feel it is not their place to urge the Centaurs away from any possibility of a new home.

Danava – It has almost become a game to the Gryphons to lead the Eiltia Empire on with the possibility that they might one day join it. No doubt this is because the Gryphons greatly enjoy the gifts, foods, and drinks the Danava shower them with, and the vain birds are quite tickled with the praises they receive from them. Still, like the favors of would-be suitors to an engaged girl, every once in awhile the attention can get a bit tiresome, and so the Gryphons have made another game their past time as well—that of distracting Empire recruiters and foisting them on hapless individuals who “could most definitely use some direction in life”.

Daphinae – Gryphons have been asked before why there are none of their kind living amongst the Daphinae in the Helios. When the hissing and beak snapping stopped, they have often remarked that the Daphinae remind them of small, tasty monkeys. Most Gryphons would find the vines and tightly growing trees too confining and dangerous a space for flight, regardless, but all that aside it is quite evident what a low opinion the Gryphons have of “those nasty little wood-chimps”. The feeling certainly seems to be mutual, as Daphinae make a habit of enjoying roasted bird whenever a Gryphon is nearby.

Drakien – Referring with delight to the Sigil Night Massacre as “when the Dragons got their wings clipped”, the Gryphons always take special pleasure in attacking their Drakien foes from a safe vantage point high above them. A few even let loose droppings to rub in the insult. Perhaps because of this, Gryphons who are captured by clever Drakiens are tortured mercilessly, with extra attention paid to their wings. There are rarely survivors, and those who are rescued are almost never able to fly again.

Dwarves – Gryphons have an almost pathological fear of going underground, breaking out into near hysterics whenever the option of doing so is presented to them. Caves are all well and good, they feel, but only so deep and only so narrow. Because of this fear, they are intensely suspicious of the Dwarves, a People who intentionally make their home underground. Certainly they enjoy the metals and gems that come from underground, but Gryphons seldom put much thought into where such luxuries came from, viewing such thoughts as “dirty” and “distasteful”.

Elves – The bond between the Gryphons and the Elves is legendary, and goes far beyond the bounds of common loyalty or love. It is not the invention of fanciful poets that the two Peoples were made for one another, but rather it is recorded in some of the oldest surviving literature from Al’Drenra, and it is a friendship that has been depicted time and again in stories, art, and song. A bonded pair of Gryphon and Elf almost think and act as one being, and such partnerships may last even when marriages and other friendships fail.

Humans – More forthright than the Elves, the Gryphons have let it be known in no uncertain terms that the split with the Centaurs have drastically lowered the merit of Humans in their eyes. Those Gryphons visiting Danzibar who have had too much to drink will, at very little prompting, break out into old songs that make a point of praising the Centaurs who have given their lives for the city, which has caused no small amount of shame and embarrassment among some people in Danzibar who are forced to remember what they’ve lost.

Kithras – It is often the Gryphons who handle trade relations with the Kithras, as the Gryphons are apt to see charm in a People the Elves tend to view as sly and squirmy. These are the very traits the Gryphons find so entertaining, however, and the interaction between the two Peoples can often push a Gryphon into losing its self control and acting downright silly. The Kithras are lithe and agile enough to keep up with a frolicking Gryphon, and so most negotiations are normally begun with furious bouts of play.

Kren — Great admirers of what their communities are able to accomplish, the Gryphons do their best to prevent hostilities between the Kren and the Elves. It is their belief that the two civilizations could learn much from one another, and it pains them that the two should be so much at odds over a few luxuries. Gryphons have tried for years to convince each side to relent, even a little, but often they simply end up frustrating themselves.

Melrog – Crude people and those of few manners will sometimes make allusions to the bestial appearance of some of the Peoples. Gryphons do nothing to hinder this unfortunate practice when they are in the vicinity of Melrogs, upon whom they have a great enthusiasm for perching and posturing. The Melrogs bear this indignity with their usual stoicism, though on occasion there have been noted to be rather large clumps of feathers near serenely smiling stone folk.

Minotaur – Viewed as wise philosophers and kindly tenders of the land, Gryphons have always been rather fond of the Minotaur People. They see them as one more example that great strength does not have to mean a thirst for conquest or competition, and admire that they know when it is appropriate to use their muscle, and when it is appropriate to use their words.

Mithyrn – The Gryphons have a deep-seated cultural fear that the Mithyrn are actually a cross between demons and exiled Elves, and so they have a marked revulsion towards them. Though they do not like to admit it, the Mithyrn may be the only People the Gryphons are truly afraid of. Mothers tell stories to their fledglings of cannibalistic orgies the Mithyrn hold deep underground, and of how their very favorite delicacy is Gryphon flesh. For some reason, the Gryphons are convinced that the subterranean People have a creature existing alongside them that looks and acts like a demonic copy of a Gryphon, and they have dubbed this beast the “Shuggroth”.

Orcs – Expressing a fierce delight in attacking Orc settlements, Gryphons understand them to be no less dangerous than their Drakien foes. When facing an Orc, seasoned Gryphons have learned that the sky is their only true advantage, as a land-bound Gryphon is simply no match for the crushing power of an Orc’s arms, or the swing of an axe blade. Fighting the Orcs is seen as a serious duty, and defeating one a matter of pride and accomplishment. Gryphons who manage the feat most often take some sort of memento, such as an Orc fang, from the vanquished. Orcs, none too pleased by this, have responded by taking heads.

Sidhe – Highly skeptical of the pearlescent, flimsy wings the Sidhe bear on their backs, Gryphons cannot help but worry and fret over the Sidhe whenever one comes into Yarola’Sia. They do not doubt that they are capable in their own way, but if one were to injure themselves in the Elven lands the Gryphons would see it as extremely embarrassing on their part for not taking proper care of the Sidhe. They are also highly curious as to their nature, seeing them as similar and yet more otherworldly than their own charges, the Elves, and it is not unusual to catch a pair or two of curious Gryphons trailing behind visiting Sidhe.

Senai – Entirely too tickled by the separation between the Senai and the Danava (and perhaps not seeing the parallel between them and the Sylvan split), Gryphons take a great deal of pleasure in stirring the conflict between these Peoples. Because they have more readily available access to the Danava, this often places the Gryphons on their side, at least on a superficial level, and as an added bonus it brings harm to the Daphinae, whom the Gryphons despise.

Talmori – Living in small tribes as they do, away from the glories of a city, many Talmori are viewed by Gryphons as being “little victims”. Their very lifestyle almost condemns them to one day be slaughtered, they feel, much as the Talmori were once almost wiped out by Orcs. While the Gryphons would not wish this fate on anyone, it frustrates them that they cannot convince the wolfish People to seek asylum within the safe haven of Enaryn, or at least consent to let them sent architects to help the Talmori create safe walls and cities of their own.

Language

Gryphons possess a beak, not a pair of lips, and so their speech can tend towards trills, hisses, and clicks. This is politely referred to as their “accent”, though Gryphons are embarrassed when too much of it colors their speech, and as a result they may speak more slowly and deliberately than others, enunciating their words carefully. Being as they are so close to the Elven people, Gryphons speak and write Elvish as their native tongue, and indeed it is doubtful they ever possessed a separate one of their own.

Names

Though it must surely be difficult for young Gryphons to learn to pronounce, most of their kind have the same names as the Elves. Granted they might have quite a few more “harsh” sounding names, but there is still the same lyrical flow, the same grandiose titles and bloodlines, present in the Gryphons as there are in their friends.

Male Names: Sarissal, Kreshiliss, Aarianic

Female Names: Arishtila, Quessili, Parvatie

Player Difficulty Level

Medium – Wherever an Elf is welcome, wherever they have a foothold, so too do the Gryphons. This means that though they are a very “unique” race when compared to some of the more humanoid options, they are still able to enjoy many of the societal benefits that a more commonly played People, such as the Elves, would enjoy. It should also be stressed that a Gryphon is not a slave or a pack animal, so though they have a long history with the Elves and the two of them live alongside one another, no Gryphon would allow another creature to disrespect them, and that includes an Elf who may have forgotten their manners. Also keep in mind that while the partnership between an Elf and a Gryphon is the norm, the Gryphon has just as much right in choosing their partner as the Elf, and just as in courtship people can be rejected and have their feelings hurt.

Notes on Role Playing this Race

It can be challenging to remember that you’re playing a four-legged creature that is a bit large, and that your appetite is a bit bigger. Figuring out how a completely different creature from yourself moves, too, can be a bit daunting. It may be helpful to study cats when trying to picture the easy, gliding movement of a Gryphon on all fours, or watch a hawk to understand how a Gryphon might soar through the air. The Staff would like to recommend books by Mercedes Lackey if a very good look as Gryphons as an intelligent race is desired, and in fact these books were the very first bit of inspiration we received on creating this special addition to Valindir.

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Posted September 21, 2011 by belimedra

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