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Wesley Lowe - Fantasy Novelist
Sharon Amber finds herself swept from her home by faerie magic and into a world distinctly different from her own. There, she meets a kindly old witch, who recruits her in ridding the land of the tyranny of the Dragon King. So with the help of a dauntless knight, a demon sorceress, a faerie enchantress, and a cursed bard, Sharon Amber embarks on a quest through the haunted Blackwoods to a griffin’s aerie to acquire the Griffin’s Gauntlet, the only weapon that can vanquish the tyrant and restore freedom throughout the land.
Sharon entered a chamber, which was illuminated by the brilliance of the sun. She squinted, covering her eyes until her vision became accustomed to the light’s intensity. Once they adjusted, Sharon lowered her hand and gazed upon a sight, which took her breath away. Countless mountains of priceless baubles, coins, and gems filled the enormous chamber. Rubies, emeralds, diamonds, gold, silver, and platinum were stacked from floor to ceiling in a magnificent display of such awe striking grandeur that it seemed to emit its own dazzling luminescence, as though to declare its worth and splendor.
"THIS is my treasure hoard, human," the griffin said with obvious pride. "Grander and larger than any dragon's, it is a collection I have accumulated over the centuries. Nowhere else will you find a greater and more immense assortment of earthly value in the world."
Sharon did not doubt the griffin’s boast, so dazzled was she by the wide variety of wealth spread before her. The gold, silver, and platinum were not just left in their natural state, they were also fashioned into statues and silverware; most of them decorated with many types of embedded gems. Among them were shields and armor made of ordinary metals like steel and iron, but polished to a shining brilliance that nearly matched the radiance of the surrounding treasure hoard. The griffin’s vast accumulation of wealth was flawless in its splendor and would easily exceed one’s most materialistic avarice.
But lost among the griffin’s riches, a particular item drew Sharon's attention. It seemed to call to her, beckoning her. Sharon turned her gaze toward the mysterious influence and saw a gauntlet. It appeared to be like any other armament that blacksmiths forge for the purpose of battle. It seemed to be made of regular steel, and no gold or gems adorned it. And yet, Sharon sensed that there was something extraordinary about it. Somehow she knew that this one gauntlet, the very gauntlet that the elves had fashioned so long ago, was the very gauntlet for which she and her companions sought. It was none other than the Griffin's Gauntlet! And now, at last, it was in view, just a few steps and a short climb up the slope of the pile of treasure upon which it rested.
"Such wealth is fit for a god, don't you think?" said the Griffin, interrupting Sharon’s thoughts.
"Yes," said Sharon. Her eyes darted from the tantalizing object of her quest and continued to gaze upon the magnificence of the griffin's treasure hoard. "Yes, it is."
"All the more reason why it is rightfully mine. Much of what you see has been bestowed unto me with many virgin sacrifices in acknowledgement of my godhood. And I am pleased that you acknowledge it as well."
Sharon blinked in bewilderment, not sure if she heard correctly. She turned her eyes toward the griffin, inquisitively. "A god?" Sharon said. "You consider yourself a god?"
The griffin's expression changed from pride to shock at Sharon's words. Then, in an instant, it altered to outright indignation. He slammed his great talon upon the cave floor before Sharon with such might, cracks appeared on the stony surface. "I do not 'consider' myself a god!" the griffin bellowed. In terror, Sharon stumbled backward and fell upon an incline of treasure before the power of the griffin's rage.
"I AM A GOD!!!" The volume of the griffin's voice shook the walls of the cavern as Sharon covered her ears, cowering before the mighty beast’s rage.
"Look at me!" said the griffin as he reared upon his haunches, spreading his great wings. His talons balled into fists as every muscle tensed in a striking display of power. "How can you look upon me and not consider yourself in the presence of the divine?!" The griffin beat its tremendous wings, fanning the air into a whirlwind, which pushed Sharon up the slope of treasure as gold coins and priceless gems swirled and clattered about upon the cavern floor. His point made, the griffin stopped beating his wings and folded them behind his back. Sharon gaped wide-eyed at the beast as she slid back down the slope of the treasure, impressed as well as terrified of the griffin.
"Many humans have made the same faulty conjecture as you have. They thought me a beast, a monster, merely an animal no more cunning than any other predator. But I demonstrated the error of such notions. At first, they gave me their virgin daughters to appease my appetite. But they quickly learned that such sacrifices were not enough. I demanded earthly wealth as well, for I was not merely a carnivorous beast whose only instinct was to forage food. So they delivered their most precious and prized possessions. Even treasures once possessed by the elves themselves from centuries past were willingly bestowed unto me lest they incur my wrath! But there were others who refused to acknowledge me as their deity. So I descended from the heavens and wreaked my divine vengeance upon them. And nothing could resist my holy might. Not their armies! Not their fortified cities! Nothing! Yes, human. Many have paid dearly for forsaking me! So have a care about questioning my divinity."
Sharon stared at the griffin in a state of disbelief at his egotistical rants and selfish vanity. "So you have terrorized and killed to get this treasure hoard of yours?" said Sharon, gathering all of the courage she could muster.
"I have," the griffin replied. "And what of it? I am a god! My needs are far superior to those of mere mortal humans."
Sharon remained shocked at the griffin's profound selfishness and sociopathic stupidity. What reply could there be to such insane pronouncements? There could be none. For, obviously, one who held such delusions was far beyond reason and sanity.
"So what will you do now?" Sharon asked. "Will you kill me? Is that it?"
"Kill you?" said the griffin. He paused to consider, and then shook his head. "No, human. Though I see in your eyes that you fear and respect my size and power, as well you should, you still perceive me as a beast. So if I kill you, it shall be at the hands of a monster in your mind, instead of the divine retribution that it is."
Sharon rose cautiously to her feet, closely watching the griffin. He seemed to undergo considerable mood swings as well as suffering delusions of godhood. The creature seemed composed now. But the griffin could swing back to a hostile bearing at any time. Indeed, all it would take is one ill chosen word to provoke the beast to tear her to shreds.
"No, human. I will not kill you," said the griffin, shaking his head. "Such an act would do little to serve my needs. But it is foreseeable that in time, you will come to acknowledge me as your god. So I shall award you the honor of being my slave."
"Slave?" Sharon said in a tone of distaste. To her, the very word reeked of negative connotations.
"Or 'pet', if you prefer," said the griffin in an atypical display of consideration. "Indeed, that would be a better term. You see, human, I admit that I am unsociable and extremely competitive by nature. Yet I have lived alone for far too long and yearn for some form of social and physical contact. You seem suitable enough to fulfill that need, being a female of your species. “Therefore, as my pet, you obligations will be to caress me, sing too me, call me 'master', and accompany me whenever I wish. In return you shall be pampered and spoiled within my aerie. All of the treasures of my hoard will be yours to play with, as long as you remember that they are mine and mine alone!"
Sharon listened to the griffin’s proposal in disgust. She found the thought of being this narcissistic monster's groomer and songbird to be absolutely abhorrent. She must find her way out of here as soon as possible and find Justin and Darklin Reed. She searched her mind for a plan of escape.
"Well, human? Is this arrangement suitable?" asked the griffin. The look in the creature's eyes told Sharon that since the offer was suitable to him, it damn well better be suitable to her.
Wishing to live through this encounter, Sharon saw no other choice but to go along with the griffin's demands, for now. Not daring to say anything else, Sharon muttered; "Yes."
"YES, WHAT?!!!" thundered the griffin, glaring at her with ferocity. Sharon sprawled on the ground in shock and terror.
"Y-y-yes, master!" Sharon cried in fear. She cringed in disgust at the words forced out of her.
The griffin nodded in satisfaction.
"You learn quickly, human. That is essential for survival in my home." The griffin turned and headed toward the tunnel leading out of the chamber, his tail flicking in the air. "You may acquaint yourself with my treasure. Make yourself a nest, if you wish. In the meantime, I am off to exterminate your companions. They will not take me by surprise again."
But when the griffin reached the threshold of the tunnel, he paused, and then looked over his shoulder at Sharon, frowning in an expression of curiosity. "One more thing, human," he said. “When I asked you why you three were on my plateau, I had assumed that you were after my treasure hoard. But you were unaware that I had one until I showed it to you. Do not deny it!" Sharon did not. But she remained silent, eyes dropped to the floor to avoid the griffin’s stare.
"So if you did not come here for my treasure hoard, what did you come for?" he asked.
Sharon timidly glanced at the griffin, shuffling her feet. She knew she should say something in response; think up some lie. But her mind was completely blank. Her fear began to build beneath the griffin’s scrutiny. Once again, she felt the pull of the gauntlet's influence on her mind, urging her to look in its direction, but she dared not.
The griffin slowly approached Sharon. "Answer me, human!" he demanded, his eyes blazing with building rage.
Sharon’s fear of the creature rose to its peak. She wanted to look at something else, anything else but the griffin's threatening glare. And before she could catch herself, she turned her eyes toward the item that beckoned to her, and looked directly at the Griffin's Gauntlet.
The griffin followed her line of sight to the gauntlet, his eyes still stern. When his eyes found the armament, his expression changed from one of suspicion to realization as fear emerged in his widening eyes. Then his fear transformed into rage, his uneasy expression converting into a vicious scowl as he glared once more upon his captive.
"My gauntlet," he said. "The very thing I took form Oresteia after the failed attempt to kill me." The griffin's voice became louder with each word, expressing his growing fury.
Sharon rushed toward the exit in terror, but the griffin moved quickly, blocking her way. His eyes flared in rage as his muscles bulged with lethal might.
"The very item I wrest from the blackened corpse of King Devon after I smote him in divine retribution for thinking to possess a god!" the griffin shouted. "AND YOU WOULD DARE ATTEMPT THE SAME?!"
The volume and force of the griffin's voice knocked Sharon off of her feet and sent her sprawling upon the stone floor. The griffin towered over her as rivulets of electricity swarmed around him.
"Wishing to raid my hoard I could understand, and forgive! But you have come to do far worse. You have come to steal my soul! The soul of a GOD!” Sharon scrambled across the floor in a frantic effort to flee; but the griffin's talon pinned her, rendering escape impossible.
"For such a sin, there can be no forgiveness!” he shouted. “Forget my offer for a new life! Forget the luxuries I would have bestowed upon you as my pet! For you, there will only be death! I cannot destroy that accursed gauntlet, but I can destroy you! Feel my godlike might slowly crush the life out of your pitifully frail form!"
Helplessly pinned to the stony surface, Sharon felt the tremendous weight of the monster compress her as the talon's pressure against her chest increased, slowly crushing her to death.
Then, a miracle happened.
"GRIFFIN!!!" roared a familiar voice.
The griffin reared his head and perked his ears at the unexpected sound. Distracted, the pressure inflicted by the griffin ceased as Sharon struggled for breath.
"Griffin!!! Where have you hidden the girl, you cowardly half-breed freak?!! I will either rescue her, or avenge her! And the gods help you if it must be the latter!"
The voice came from the griffin’s main chamber. And Sharon knew to whom it belonged.
"Justin! Justin, I'm in here!" Sharon cried.
"Sharon?!" said Justin, his voice filled with relief. "Thank the gods you are still alive!"
The griffin's expression betrayed the slightest scowl. "So, the knight has finally come, eh? And the sorceress is no doubt with him as well."
He removed his talon from Sharon and glared straight into her eyes. "Would you like to watch as I kill your companions? It will be quite a show, and I do enjoy an audience," he said with a malevolent sneer. He turned and headed boldly toward his main chamber. "And after I devour your friends, I shall have you for dessert!" And he disappeared into the tunnel, his lion's tail speeding behind him.