Last time on The Autumn Keep
Griffin and the Beast escaped death and Autumn ended. More questions get added to the mystery surrounding the Autumn Keep.
It is now @zakludick's turn to add a link to the story in Chainlink 11.
Artwork by @veryspider
He watched them go.
He saw them arrive for the first time.
He observed as they returned once more, altered by their travels.
He watched them go.
The creatures that infested the Keep had devoured his body, yet they had failed to kill him. The Castellan made his way to the large kitchens to have supper.
The creatures would kill him again.
Griffin ran as fast as his little legs could carry him.
His father was down by the river. Papa was smaller without all the armor on but was still a big man. Papa was the strongest man alive. Strong like a hero. They were going to do fishing today. Papa was so good at it. Griffin could not really make a cast of the line far into the water, but he was learning.
“Papa!” He cried as he came near.
Papa disappeared. The landscape disappeared. Darkness replaced it all. The light was dim but Griffin still ran onwards. There was a faint light ahead. He needed to get to Papa… to his Father.
His strides were longer now. He was faster. He could make it.
The area around him came into focus. The open field and the river were gone, replaced by a deep dark forest. He ran along the forest path. Ferns brushed his leggings, making them damp.
He was not alone.
Massive predators ran through the greenery in the forest either side of the path. They were monstrous, they were fierce, they were family.
He did not fear them.
He needed to find his father.
Consciousness was a relative term.
Griffin knew that he was not always in the present. He knew it could not be. His father was sometimes visible to his eyes. Sometimes he saw things as though he was a child and he was fearful.
Other times he had family, but they were not human. He did know if he could really count himself as human any more.
It was bitterly cold. He could hear the wind howling all the time. It gusted and whipped around his figure. It bit like knives. The wind invaded even his visions and dreams.
The only true constant between wakefulness and the dreams was the cold and the wind. It did not matter what he saw before him, his memory or fantasy would be invaded by the twisting stab of entropy.
If the cold reached his heart then it would seize. There would be one last wrench of pain as the muscles in his heart froze solid and tore themselves apart. He could not move his arms or legs. He was numb. Perhaps it was too late.
Perhaps he was already dead.
“I am sorry Papa.”
There was a warmth closing in around him.
It pressed all around him and made the noise of the howling wind seem distant. The warmth smelled of family and it did not smother him. He could not see but he could hear breathing and the beating of hearts.
The hearts beat each on its own turn, but in a pattern that did not change. One of the heartbeats was his own. It sounded a little different, but it beat to the same tempo.
The feeling in his limbs began to return again. It felt like metal skewers were impaling his thighs, calves and arms. The pain began to fade, and with it, the visions ceased. The dreams became less like his wakeful state.
Finally, he thought that he would live. The smell and the warmth lulled him once more into a deep sleep, this time without sound, feeling or thought.
The only thing that remained was the pattern of heartbeats that surrounded him.
When he finally woke properly he was instantly concious of a ravenous hunger and a thirst to quench the dryness in his throat.
Griffin did not manage to get up, the press of bodies over him made this impossible. He was laying on his back and there was something over him to every angle. They were the Beast's offspring, arranged around him like a sleeping huddle of pups.
They were keeping each other warm from the cold. He had become the center of this huddle. Perhaps because he had no fur of his own and compared to these juveniles he was small.
“Lionbird.” The Beast's voice came to him in hushed tones. “I know that you are awake. I can feel your hunger. Your kind was not made to have the Great Sleep. You will need something to eat.”
Griffin opened his mouth to give answer but all he got was a mouthful of soft downy fur.
“Lay still. My mate will watch over the den. I will return.” There was movement nearby, and then nothing.
Griffin lay there, pinned. If he got out from the huddle then he would probably freeze to death and he would not have the strength to drag them on top of himself again. He could survive this, after all that he had gone through. If he couldn't survive this much then there was not much point in trying to do anything else.
What was he doing? What was he trying to achieve?
He could not remember. Something was missing. He had gone into the Keep. He and the Beast had survived the attack. They had spoken to the Castellan... who had told Griffin about his father.
His father was alive... and the Castellan wanted to show him and they... He could not remember what had happened after that. There had been pain and soon after that, there was the cold and the wind.
The wind... it was still out there. It was howling like a thirsty spirit, seeking to rend his soul from his body. The series of heartbeats and warm bodies kept it at bay.
Weight was lifted from Griffin.
It was the Beast. It gently took one of its young in its jaws. That must have been how Griffin had been carried. The Beast set down its pup and nudged him on his side.
“Stand up Lionbird. You need to eat.”
Griffin did his best to comply. He crawled out from the press of bodies and to the edge of the den floor that was dry but cool. On a large flat stone, there was a steaming mess of some small woodland creature.
“We do not share the kill with the fire as your kind does Lionbird. Do you have the means for creating a flame-child?”
Griffin looked around briefly. “My pack is gone. So are all my tools. I think I...” He was filled with a feeling.
It drove him forwards to the prey. “No matter. I just need it.”
He sank down on his knees before the carcass. He took up a piece in his hands. It was still warm to the touch. The blood ran down his arms as he raised it to his mouth and took a savage bite. He chewed the bloody, coppery morsel.
It was rather tasty.
Chainlink 11 completed!
Now the torch is passed back to @fromage to add in Chainlink 12 of the story!