Raven God's Blessings

Story by Cheetahs on SoFurry

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**\ **This story is a commission for the fluffiest and loveliest of gryphons,* Arith(http://www.furaffinity.net/user/ariththegryphon/)****

At the beginning of this month, this gryphon friend of mine heard of my roof predicament and was awesome enough to help me out with a bit of cash in exchange for a story that features his gryphon sona. We both brainstormed ideas until we came up with what I believe it is a most satisfying read split into two chapters(for now; there may be more coming in the future!).

So, what's this story about? You probably already know, given the hints in the title and the suggestive cover, so why do I even bother? Just enjoy the read! :D

Arith belongs to Ariththegryphon: http://www.furaffinity.net/user/ariththegryphon/

The lovely artwork was commissioned by Arith and belongs to http://www.furaffinity.net/user/hornedfreak

Disclaimer: The Kaliri depicted in this story differ from the WoW universe in that they are given human intelligence.

Chapter 2 is out! Read it here ---> The Arrakoa's Secret Ritual

Chapter 1: Raven God's Blessings

Arith woke to the cacophonous screeches of a dozen kaliri. His vision swam for a moment, his head so heavy Arith barely raised it enough to crack an eye open. A sea of shifting colors greeted him, ever moving, ever screeching.

"Caw caw caw! Shrieeeeeeek eeeeeeek!" they screeched, only pausing to buffet each other with their strong wings and shriek some more. Arith couldn't make out their unintelligible words over the din. Only that they argued, their tone sharp, laden with fear and panic.

What was going on? Where was he? Where was his Rider, Jorn?

There was no Jorn. Only crude, metallic bars enveloping his narrow space from all sides, a cage too small to hold all of those entrapped kaliri. The ones sitting on the fringes couldn't even move, their wings held tight to their bodies while they sank to the ground, trying to make themselves smaller.

A cage? But how? Why?

Arith dipped his head under a wing, curling in a tight ball as he tried to collect his thoughts over the mighty pounding in his chest. He remembered sleeping with Jorn, curled in each other's embrace, his gentle hands stroking his feathers, lulling Arith to sleep.

Then, something roused Jorn, and the human grabbed his bow to scout. That was when the darts pierced Arith's flank, haunch, neck. So quick, so fast, so painful. He had tried calling for Jorn with a keening cry, but his voice left him, as did his senses.

Trapped,_the thought hit Arith like a crushing wave. _I'm trapped. Captured. Imprisoned. Alone.

That last thought left him cold and shivering, his tail pulled tight against his chest, the lush feathers sprawled over his head to cover the nightmarish landscape before him. The spicy scent of unwashed felines filled his nostrils, pungent, raw, enough to make his stomach lurch for a split second.

Saberon. A full tribe of them. A quick peek revealed their shambling forms as they milled about their crude encampment, only a few tents erected. None spared a glance to the Kaliri, but the huge metallic pot hanging over a raging bonfire meant only one thing.

Arith gasped, his heart turning to the size of a pebble due to overwhelming panic, then shrieked when something sharp pecked at his exposed hind paw.

"Eeek, strange feet! Too soft, padded, weak, vulnerable."

Arith whirled his head around to face an imposing kaliri, obviously male from the musk permeating his brown and gold plumage. Streaks of white swirled across his neck, weaving around his face and melting into the white color of his chest and underbelly.

He drew back a step when Arith' eyes fixated upon him, then snaked his beak forward to pinch Arith's pads a second time, making the gryphon yip and tuck his exposed paws under his belly.

That only served to spark the kaliri's interest in him. The smaller avian paced in front of Arith, cocking his head this way and that, assaulting his plumes with terse thrusts of his beak, then pulling hard enough to pluck them.

"Awk!" Arith cried out from the sharp sting. He fluffed up, trying to make himself look bigger, more intimidating, but the kaliri knew better than that. His attacks continued, that curved beak diving into the dense plumage of his tail, under a wing, always pinching, always plucking a feather or two.

"Reeeeeeeek! You reek!" the brown kaliri screeched after he spat out the feathers. "And you're weak! Big, weak, vulnerable. Taking too much space. Too much space, in a cage too small. Go to the pot, violet feather. Feed them, buy us time. Big enough. Lots of meat on those haunches."

He pinched Arith's haunch, clacking his beak with amusement when Arith yelped and did nothing to protect himself. Faced with such an intimidating creature, all he could do was tremble like a leaf, his visible shudders attracting a second bird, bigger than his original assailant, colored a deep forest green with iridescent azure hues streaking his wings and haunches.

"Too much space you take, awk awk," the emerald kaliri confirmed, spreading his impressive wings. "And you're no kaliri. No kaliri at all."

Arith cowered at the sight, raising two forepaws to shield his gaze from the monstrous birds. Thrice smaller than him, yet so strong and intimidating...

Arith had never fought his battles. Jorn did that for him. Jorn was the one who protected him, cared for him, treated him better than any other mount.

And now, when Arith needed Jorn the most, he wasn't here. Only the two birds were, their condemning shrill sending icy shudders through Arith's frame, making his ears and feathers droop in submission as his gaze raced back and forth.

No escape. Only cold, dark grey metal bars.

Arith wanted to hug a corner, make himself small, disappear, but the cold bars already kissed the smooth plumes along his back. Even when he shuffled onto his feet, with his wings tucked tight to his sides, the kaliri still shrieked at him, never satisfied.

"More space! Can do better, frail feather. On your haunches!"

Arith sat on his haunches, pressing his back tight against the bars, a forepaw raised in self defense when the emerald kaliri buffeted its wings at him.

"Eek, not good, not good at all. Need more space. More space to stretch wings, and you are taking the only good corner."

"There--there are other three you can..." Arith began, his shaky voice dwarfed by the cry of the brown kaliri.

"Want this one, want this one!" To prove his point, the brown kaliri snaked its beak forward with blinding speed, pinching one of Arith's toes hard enough to draw blood.

Pain didn't even register right away. Arith shook so hard, his tremors wiped away the pain, replacing it with a paralyzing fear. He squeezed his eyes shut, brought his wings around to engulf his head behind a feathery sanctuary.

As if that helped.

The two male kaliri trudged forward on their two, awkward feet, flapping their wings, swiping their talons at Arith, making him cry and squawk every time those dreaded birds plucked off some of his feathers.

"You're not one of us," one of them said. "Bulky frame, limp wings, soft feet, stunted legs."

"Awk, weird legs, all wrong," the other agreed. "Front are right, rear are are wrong, so wrong!"

"I'm....I'm a gryphon..." Arith said through a whimper.

"Erk, no no, you're not a gryphon. Gryphons strong, never get captured. You did, because you're weak!" The emerald kaliri said.

"Weak, weak, weak," his companion emphasized, stepping up to Arith and pressing his foot upon Arith's forepaw, his talons closing it around Arith's wrist, the sharp tips biting into his scutes.

"Leave me alone..." Arith pleaded, still cowering behind the shelter of his wings, too afraid to glance upon them. "Please..."

Cacophonous bird laughter filled his ears, making him melt to the ground and hide his head under a haunch, where the kaliri couldn't reach his ears to nip at them.

"We won't leave you," the emerald kaliri said.

"Not until you leave us. Leave us this corner, this space. Space to stretch wings," the other added.

What space did they babble about?! This cage was barely tall enough to accommodate Arith, least allow him to spread his wings. They wanted his corner, when the other Kaliri simply rested in each other's embrace, soft, desperate chirps wafting from the opposite side of the cage. A dozen birds packed into a narrow space, while they shrieked and shrilled and screeched their displeasure, even when they had the entire middle of the cage to them.

"Stretch your wings elsewhere. That corner is his."

That wasn't one of the two monstrous kaliri. Their voice was sharp, painful, condemning, whereas the kaliri who spoke had a firm, rich tone, so smooth and elegant. Arith only chanced a glance in the direction of the voice when the patter of talons signaled him that his two bullies turned to face the female kaliri who had spoken, a radiant creature with pristine azure feathers. She disentangled herself from the bundle of entrapped kaliri, walking towards Arith's two assailants with uncanny certainty. It even gave the two males pause, to see such unwavering stance from a smaller creature.

"Corner is ours. Cage is ours. You are ours, female," the brown kaliri said, clacking his beak menacingly at her.

Arith' heart leapt in his chest, his beak opening to shout a warning to the benevolent female.

Don't fight them. They're too strong. They'll hurt you.

No sound came out, however, the lump in his throat blocking his timely advice.

"I'm Raki Skyterror. I plucked the eyes of a hundred saberon, adorned my nest with the feathers of insolent males like you, and I am hungry enough to rip both of you apart."

Arith flinched at her misplaced threat, his eyes widening with terror. They would kill her, these two. She was one, so frail, so small, and his assailants were two...

The males knew that as well, and shrieked out their challenge as they attacked Raki in turns, the cage too small to allow them to fight side by side. Raki hurled herself forward with a mighty flap of her wings, her talons sinking into the wing joints of the brown male, dragging him down underneath her in the blink of an eye. Her beak held his neck in a tight enough embrace to draw blood, the brown kaliri left with no choice but to chirp his submission.

The emerald male attacked her as well, buffeting his wings to keep her away, but Raki simply charged him, pinning him down so fast the emerald male screeched his submission before her beak even found purchase around his neck.

"Your lives belong to me. Know that I can claim them at any moment. Go back with the others, unless you want to have your wings ripped off."

They shuffled towards the opposite side of the cage, snapping at each other, arguing about who was the weakest of the two. It brought Arith no relief to see them gone, when a killer stood before him, a being who had slain Saberon on a whim.

He shuddered at the mere sight of her, the deep blue of her wings so stark, so cold. Lighter nuances colored her tail and underbelly, and ribbons of white decorated her back and tail. Her strong chest presented streaks of violet, the same nuance that colored the tips of her wing and tail feathers.

"Sprawl if you'd like. Relax. They won't pester you again."

As if Arith could do that, when his beak rattled from the potent shivers wracking his frame.

"Are you cold? I can warm you, but you're so big..." her voice trailed off as the smaller bird wrapped a wing around Arith's neck, making the gryphon recoil and yip in panic.

Raki drew back, blinking her golden eyes in confusion without criticizing Arith, like so many others did.

"I'm not cold," Arith said, his beak as stiff as his muscles. "Just...confused."

"Confused about what?" Raki inquired, beginning to preen a wing with practiced nonchalance. Imprisoned, surrounded by potential enemies, and this bird still chirped with obvious satisfaction as her dark beak waded through her exquisite plumes.

About how I ended in here, Arith wanted to say, but his beak spat out, "About you."

She lowered her wing, her gaze making Arith stare down at his forepaws, unable to look into her eyes.

"What's so confusing about me?"

"You...killed so many saberon..." Arith' talons drew soft rakes across the ground, the lines shaky, unfocused.

"If I truly did, would I still be trapped in this cage with you and the others?"

"So you didn't?" Arith sounded a bit hopeful, in spite of himself. He didn't know this bird, nor cared about her past. And yet, it puzzled him, how a stranger stood up against two bigger and stronger birds for his sake.

"There are times where one has to appear stronger than she truly is."

"Which you are."

"Meep, doubtfully. I may not have plucked the eyes of a saberon, but I have protected my nest from enough males to know exactly how to handle them."

What an intriguing creature. The way she spoke, with such ease and confidence, soothed Arith, her musical voice unraveling the knots within his muscles and reducing his shudders to a manageable level.

"Every kaliri builds a nest," Raki added when she noticed the confusion plastered upon Arith's features. "Then, she bides her time and waits for a potential mate. I have waited so long, that my nest has slowly turned into the most dazzling sight in all of Arak. I'll show it to you, awk?"

"I...would like that," Arith responded, looking to the side to conceal his distress. He liked Raki's confidence too much to tarnish it with his dark thoughts.

The little kaliri shifted in front of him, however, lowering herself onto her belly. Arith wanted to turn his head around, away from her, but her wings engulfed him from every side, freezing him in place.

"We're not going to end in that pot. Those featherheads simply wanted to intimidate you. Saberon despise the taste of kaliri, and the feathers even more so."

He wasn't a kaliri though, and his haunches had more than enough meat for...

"Eek!" Arith yipped when Raki pulled something from his haunch. Something thin, dark, sharp, with an acrid reek to it.

"So that's what they resort to in order to overpower a majestic creature such as yourself. Foul poison."

She spat it out, clacking her beak in irritation while Arith shifted on the spot, his beak half opened in surprise. Majestic? Him?!

"I'm not majestic," he said, his voice harsher than intended. "I can't fight, can't fly, and always rely on my friend Jorn to care for me. Now that he isn't here, I feel so lost, so powerless..." his voice faded into a drawn-out sorrowful warble as Arith settled his beak onto his forepaws, looking at Raki with the corner of his eyes.

Just like before, the little Kaliri sprawled a wing over him, her chirps high pitched, joyous, almost encouraging.

"There is power in all of us. Whether you find it or let it wither away, it's up to you."

What did that even mean?

Arith wanted to prove Raki wrong, to convince her that he was nothing more than a ground mount left without a master, but the kaliri was already up on her feet, pulling off the other three remaining darts from Arith's muscles. He winced at first, but Raki proved to be more than gentle.

"I heard of this poison," Raki said as she shifted a dart between her dark talons. "Essence of Fireweed mixed with budding Nagrand Arrowbloom. The latter numbs the senses and shuts down your body slowly, without a sliver of pain, while the first humiliates the victim by eliciting signs of arousal, similar to heat. I heard of saberon using it on the females of their enemies, but never on avians."

Arith would have been horrified by the side effects of the poison if the reality of his situation didn't weigh so hard on him. He was going to die in here, alone and forgotten, in a saberon camp of all places...

"You smell strange. What are you?"

"A gryphon of mixed genders," Arith said, pressing his tail tighter against his privates to muffle his creeping scent.

"I've never heard of one such gryphon," Raki said, her beak almost shuddering with pent-up excitement. "That's so intriguing. Whoever your friend is, he should relish every moment spent at the side of such special being."

"I'm not special. I'm nothing without him. I'm nobody."

"You are the one who promised to see my nest, and that's a promise that I expect you to keep after saving you from those two."

"I will, and thank you...for that," Arith said, lifting a wing slowly, tentatively, enough for Raki to crawl under.

"Mrawk, your feathers are soft, so soft, and your scent, rawwk, more pleasant than any kaliri's," Raki said as she brushed her head along Arith's side, making the gryphon's tail twitch and his feathers ruffle a bit from the soft tingles rushing through his side.

For a moment, he forgot about his predicament, Raki's gentle song so pleasant to his ears that Arith pressed his wing tighter against her warmer form. Unlike the other kaliri, Raki cared enough about Arith to fight for him, to comfort him, to draw him out of the pit of despair in which he slowly sank.

"I'll help you find your friend." Raki poked her head out through the layer of violet plumes, her beady eyes fixated on Arith. "I shall be your wings and eyes in the sky, and the only thing I require are a few of your pristine feathers for my nest. They're a violet unlike any other, so beautiful and unique."

"I find them bland."

"Bland? There's nothing bland about this." Raki grabbed a feather in her beak, looking at Arith with an expression that said, "I told you so."

"I still like your feathers more," Arith continued. "The way whites blend with dark blue is exquisite, and the glistening indigo of your wing and tail feathers is much more vivid than my coloring."

A soft crooning sound escaped Raki, the little bird taken aback for a moment. Blood rushed to Arith's cheeks as realization struck him. He just complimented a female, one who admitted her loneliness just moments ago.

"You're most kind." She stopped abruptly, then cocked her head to the side. "You know my name from my little jest, but I never heard yours."


"Arith," Raki repeated, testing the sound of it. "Flows very well. I'll name one of my chicks after you, when the time comes."

"I...are you sure you..."

The shrieks and screeches of the other kaliri drowned Arith's words. Both he and Raki looked to the side, where a scarred saberon with midnight colored pelt approached with slow but certain steps.

"Little birds," he drawled, his voice rough, just like his features. "And a bigger bird, with four legs. Innnteresting."

Arith cringed, shifting his gaze away from the saberon's stark amber eyes. Raki stepped in front of Arith, spreading her wings to shield him from the saberon's malicious eyes, cawing her challenge at him.

"Amber eyes. Just the contrast I need to decorate my nest."

The burly bipedal feline shifted his focus on Raki, his lips twitching with the urge to pull up into a snarl.

"There's fight within the kaliri, even when imprisoned, yes, yes. I sense Rukhmar within you, little bird. Her fierceness, her splendor."

The saberon wove around the cage, his steps awkward, his shoulders too slumped.

"There's something odd about him," Raki said.

His actions confirmed it, as he unlocked the crude lock of the cage and hurled the door open to allow the imprisoned kaliri to fly off.

"Fly, fly away, friends. Stick to the shadows, the ever protecting shadows."

Roars and shrieks engulfed the encampment. Arith twisted his neck, his beak shut tight to suppress a panicked cry as he watched the arakkoa talonites and talonpriests descend upon the saberon. The warriors, equipped with twisted warblades, held the lines while the talonpriests twisted the vulnerable minds of the primitive saberon, making them crumble to the ground without shedding one single drop of blood.

When he turned around, Arith didn't see the reflection of the saberon, but a hunchbacked arrakoa, with stunted legs, useless wings, piercing sapphire eyes, and wearing the flowing black and blue robes of the shadow sages over his coal black feathers.

"Fly, kaliri. Fly, violet feather."

"I can't...can't fly," Arith stuttered, his heart acquiring a rhythmical pounding from the panic welling within his stomach.

"Mrawk, you're cursed! Cursed by Sethe! You belong with us, violet feather. Follow! Follow quick!"

Without much of a choice, Arith stumbled after the shadow sage, flapping his wings to steady himself as they clambered a hill. Raki flew at his side, chirping her obvious mirth at using her wings once again.

"I'm not cursed. I'm just...not strong enough," Arith tried to explain, but the shadow sage simply cawed sharply and pointed them forward.

"Kaliri, fly off. Rejoice the freedom that our kind has lost."

"Not unless I make sure Arith is safe."

"He will be safe in Skettis, among the cursed. It's where he belongs, yes, yes."

Arith's throat was too tight, his beak too parched to argue with the shadow sage. To make it worse, his emotions ran rampant, each tugging at a sliver of his being.

Jorn. He had to go back and save Jorn.

But that meant dealing with a possible saberon ambush if they had managed to call for reinforcements, not to mention the rest of the arakkoa outcasts. Besides, chances were that he already escaped his fetters, that bloody resourceful hunter, and now scouted for Arith himself.

Following the shadow sage seemed like the most sensible plan for now, both for him and Raki. The arakkoa outcasts treated her kind like humans treated royalty, and, as long as they believed that Arith was cursed by Sethe himself, they would treat him like one of them.


That became increasingly unlikely as they passed between the towering hills that led into Skettis. The arakkoa sentries dipped their heads in respect for Raki, only to glare at Arith with troubling suspicion. The look within their eyes made the gryphon's stomach churn with nerves and his feathers to ruffle as the trio entered the city proper.

The arakkoa outcasts had no walls, no palisade. They relied on the thick shadows provided by the huge canopies of the trees, their thick trunks also accommodating their small, cozy, colorful dwellings. Some preferred to live in the shadows, at the base of the trees, while others built sprawling bridges that connected the treetop dwellings.

A few other kaliri danced between the broad leaves, chirping their greetings at Raki, who replied back with the same suave chant. Arith tensed up every time Raki ventured too far from him, jolts of panic rushing through him at the thought of being left alone with the arakkoa outcasts.

More of them began to materialize from the shadows, wearing sumptuous robes to cover their misshapen bodies. Arith increased his pace, his feathers standing on end from the encroaching visitors, but the shadow sage maintained his current pace, too slow for comfort.

"Mmmm feeeemale. I smell female," one of the arakkoa half said, half chanted, his head held aloft to sniff Arith's fragrance. "Sweet, rich scent, so promising, so full of desire."

"Female, yes, but also male. Musk. Sharp musk," another bird croaked, tilting his head this way and that as he attempted to peer under Arith's tail. The gryphon folded his wings tighter across his sides, and thrust his tail between his hind legs to cover his slit from their lustful gaze.

"Beautiful, so beautiful. The colors of kaliri, vibrant, alive, untainted."

"What is she?"

"Is she cursed, like the rest of us?"

They kept talking to one another, forming a wide circle around Arith, only parting when the shadow sage flicked a limp wing at them, along with a sharp caw.

"Isn't cursed. Look at her, fool. Does she look like us to you?" one of them said as he plucked a feather from his companion's shriveled wing, making him caw and swat him over the head.

"Is cursed. Can't fly. Would have flown away if he could."

"Isn't cursed," the same arakkoa from before insisted. "Has wings, beautiful wings, whole wings."

The two arakkoa began screeching at one another, their clamor making the other birds bolder, more inquisitive. They shuffled closer to Arith, some even reaching out with their frail limbs to touch his feathers, crooning in both awe and envy.

Noticing Arith's shudders, Raki began swiping her talons at their bold wings, squawking at them, flaunting her sharp talons at anybody who dared approach Arith.

"Touch him again and I'll pluck every feather there is to pluck from your bodies."

She settled on Arith's back, her weight as comforting as her suave chirps.

"Crrrawk, much attention, you attract. The Raven God will sure take an interest in you, bird of two genders."

The Shadow Sage pointed Arith forward, towards a lavish hut big enough to accommodate him. "Stay in there. Wait. Rest. The Raven God will seek you out when the Raven God wants to seek you out."

With that, the Shadow Sage turned around and left, wobbling away on his stunted legs.

Arith rushed into the hut, turned left to put the safety of the wooden wall between him and the arrakoa, and shuffled towards a bedding of hay sitting in the corner, where he crashed onto his belly with an audible sigh.

"Arith..." Raki said, swooping down from his shoulder and circling him. "You're safe here. Those birds won't dare lay a wing on you while I'm around."

Arith smiled faintly at Raki's bold words. Quite the claim, coming from such a tiny creature.

"Why would you want to be around? You're free to fly where you please," Arith said.

Raki cocked her head in disbelief, squawked once, then flapped her wings twice to perch onto a ledge in front of Arith, a few feet above him.

"Isn't that clear by now?"

Answering a question with a question. Typical of a featherhead like her. Arith would have chirred in amusement, if his wings didn't feel so heavy, or his head so clouded.

He shifted onto his side, looking around the hut, at the gaudy ornaments dangling from the ceiling, at the mana infused orbs embedded within the walls to cast a soft, violet light upon the barren interior. It must have been a visitor's hut, meant for rest and relaxation, with only a nightstand in a corner upon which sat a vase filled with shimmering liquid. Its silvery touches rippled across the walls, creating slithering serpents that Arith followed for a moment before his attention switched to Raki.

"You could have flown away. Join the other kaliri."

"The other kaliri aren't like you, Arith. They don't see me or my nest. All they notice is my gender, as if that is the only thing that matters."

Sudden heat rushed through Arith's frame at the mentioning of her gender. It made his frame turn taut, his hide to simmer underneath the generous layers of feathers. He shouldn't have felt so excited by it, so...alert all of a sudden.

He licked his beak, flopping back onto his belly, the strands of hay poking at his plumes, tickling his slit. That made Arith squirm from side to side, taken aback by how sensitive he became.

"They're unworthy of you, Raki," Arith said, his mind churning with the urgency to change the topic. Raki beamed from his words, however, her feathers ruffling from the shivers that crept through her.

"I believe...you are worthy of me," she said, stretching a wing to preen, almost afraid to gauge Arith's reaction. "Of my attention, I mean."

Her words stunned Arith, knots forming within his stomach from the nerves that wracked his frame. Nobody had ever spoken to him like that. Nobody but Jorn. And this little bird--this sweet, little bird, was now preening herself, almost as distressed as he was.

She kept stealing a glance at Arith every now and then, her mischievous eyes never settling on him for too long.

"I also noticed the way you're looking at me, taking in my feathers, without peeking once under my tail. That's what every male is interested in. My sex. But not you, Arith. That's what makes you different. That's why I enjoy your company."


Arith's nether muscles convulsed upon hearing the word, his member twitching, shifting, growing out of its own accord.

Oh no... no, no, no.

Arith began to look around the hut frantically, trying his hardest to fight back the tingles rushing through his slit. He curled tighter around himself, shuddering as his member poked out of his slit to brush against the rough strands of hay he rested upon.

"You're shuddering again."

"I'm not...I'm just..."

Too late. Raki had already glided off her perch, blanketing a wing over Arith's head, pushing her little body tight against his cheek. The inviting warmth of her feathers, coated with her alluring fragrance, elicited a croon from Arith.

"I will stay with you for as long as you want me to, Arith." She trilled to emphasize her point, resting her head upon his brow. "But warmth alone isn't going to abolish the poison coursing through you."

The poison!

Arith lifted his head, struck by the realization, forcing Raki to stumble away from him and let out a worried caw.

"Raki, can you find a healer among the arakkoa?"

She flew away without even answering in her rush to fulfill his request.

Left alone, without anybody to notice his shame, Arith lifted a haunch, scrunching his eyes at his damp, glistening folds. Thin, milky juices slithered through his crevice, fresh and musky, laden with unnatural craving.

He shouldn't have been wet! Shouldn't have been so hard! It was all because of that accursed poison, the same one that began numbing his wings and tail, bit by bit. Arith tried flapping them with slow, steady movements, but he could barely bring them all the way up before the stiffness within his muscles protested at it.

Curses! If only Jorn was here, to wrap his strong arms around Arith's neck and whisper comforting words into his ear...

It's not your fault. It's the poison. Fight it, Arith, or at least clean yourself. Nobody likes a messy bird, Arith imagined him saying, the reassuring thought giving him the courage to lower his beak upon his slit and poke his tongue out to roll it across the length of his crevice.

"Mrrk," Arith grumbled at the pungent touch of his juices. His slit sweltered, as if he reached the first stages of his heat, and his now erect member began writhing, the tapered tip ever moving, craving for the shelter of a paw, or the warmth of Arith's tongue wrapped around it.

Arith hated his twisted arousal. But more than that, he hated being wet, and have those juices leak all over his pristine feathers. He began lapping at his dainty vent, his ears erect to pick up any foreign sound, his eyes constantly darting towards the empty space where a door should have been. The thought of being caught in the middle of his grooming sent icy snakes down his spine, making the gryphon double the speed of his tongue strokes.

Raki flew inside the hut like an azure arrow.

His reflexes sluggish from the pleasant tongue strokes, Arith barely noticed her, his haunch falling over his member to conceal it one moment too late.

"He will come," Raki said, her gaze darting towards Arith's haunches, then at him. "You should continue preening yourself. The arakkoa--they have strange customs, Arith." Her voice faded off gradually, her drooping beak instilling a pang of fear within Arith's heart, more potent than his embarrassment at being caught in the middle of his grooming session.

"What--what sort of customs?" Arith croaked, his throat tight, his beak dry from nerves.

"Every female arakkoa or avian large enough to receive the Raven God unto herself is required by custom to do so during her heat."

"But...I'm not in heat..." Arith murmured, whimpering as his cock began to squirm underneath his belly, brushing against the rough strands of hay. He couldn't control it, just like he couldn't control the nefarious effects of the poison.

"I know you aren't, and not even the Raven God himself will take you away from me. I'm not going to let him," Raki said as she inched forward, her unfurled wings engulfing Arith's head from both sides.

The gryphon melted into her embrace, rubbing his beak against her chest before he dabbed the tip of his tongue at her neck. Raki demanded more through her mellow chant, and Arith thrust more of his tongue out to plant a curt lick upon her fine plumage.

Raki stumbled back from it, her song fading within her throat for a moment as the two stared at each other.

"Arith, let us leave these arakkoa. They won't understand your condition, and your scent is so--"

"SHEREEK! In heat, you're in heat!" The bird-like cry came from outside. It made Arith fluff up from its sheer intensity and cower behind the cover of a wing.

The same Shadow Sage from before stumbled into the hut, his wings sprawled invitingly, his beak clacking with obvious satisfaction.

"I smell heat, glorious heat. The Raven God knows as well, yes, yes. He's on his way as we speak. There's nothing Anzu doesn't see or smells. Nothing one can hide from him."

"He's not in heat, bird brain. It's the poison, the same one the saberon use on your very flock," Raki said, but the Shadow Sage shook his head vehemently.

"Crawk, big bird is aroused, leaking her fertility, begging for Anzu. No poison ever does that." He tried to take a step forward, but Raki lashed out, buffeting her wings and screeching at him.

"Take one step closer to him, outcast, and you shall taste my talons."

"EEK! No fighting, not within Skettis, not between Arakkoa and Kaliri."

"Then you will turn around, leave, and find somebody who can cure Arith," Raki said, her wings spread defiantly.

"No cure, no cure for heat, apart from the Raven God's essence within her womb."

"That is for me to decide," a smooth, regal voice wafted into the hut, forcing Arith to pin his ears across his skull in submission from the mere sound of it. "Give me a moment with her, Nyshak."

Arith trudged across the bedding of hay, retreating further into the back of the hut as Nyshak the Shadow Sage bowed in submission and fled the hut.

In his stead entered the Raven God himself, Anzu, as ancient and beautiful as Arak itself. His luxurious tail shifted from side to side, speckled with azure hues, stark against his pitch black plumage. A pendant hung about his thick neck, cast from the same pristine gold adornments that covered the upper portion of his beak and his wing joints. His perfectly curved talons flexed against the ground, making the rune etched bracers encompassing his ankles that much more obvious.

The Raven God was a true sight to behold, instilling awe within Arith's heart. His flaming blue eyes burned with raw intensity, gentle yet fierce, and every single plume decorating his sleek body seemed to shimmer with an azure aura, barely noticeable, yet making Arith's feathers tingle.

"What's your name, sweet feather?"

As soon as his head turned towards Arith, the gryphon froze, his beak sprawled open without even a peep leaving it. His heart turned to the size of a pebble, and he felt equally small compared to the raven god whose eyes seemed all knowing.

"His name is Arith, Anzu," Raki said, a tinge of spite coating her voice. "He's a gryphon of mixed genders, and your adder brained Shadow Sage summoned you for naught."

The little bird stepped in front of Anzu, clacking her beak menacingly at him. "Arith is not in heat. He's under the effects of the Saberon poison, so turn around and leave. I can take care of Arith better than you."

Anzu lowered himself onto his belly, tilting his head to the side to catch a better glimpse of Raki. "I do not doubt that, yet I would still like a moment with your friend. Alone."

Raki held her ground, even when Anzu shifted onto his feet. "I'm not leaving him."

"You should," Arith said, making Raki caw in surprise and Anzu's crest feathers to sprawl with obvious curiosity. "Please Raki."

"But what if he's going to--"

"Nothing of that sort shall happen," Anzu interrupted. "Arith is free to make his own choices, and, just like every other avian under my care, he needs my attention."

His powerful voice made Arith tremble on his perch, yet he dipped his head in agreement at Anzu's words, urging Raki to fly off without as much as a squawk.

Sudden coldness engulfed Arith after her departure, contrasting with the heat of his sweltering vent. As much as Arith hated to be left along with Anzu, it was a favorable outcome. He didn't want her to notice his member, so hard against his will, or be disgusted by the juices oozing from his slit. His pent-up embarrassment won over the fear coiling around his limbs, immobilizing him, leaving him open for the Raven God's inspection.

"Intriguing. You saved me the need to argue with a beloved Kaliri. I don't suppose you had my best interests at heart."

Arith turned his head around to glance at his side and make sure nothing showed, that his tail still covered his privates.

"Ah, that explains why. It's always easier to discuss private matters with a stranger than a being you are growing closer and closer to."

"She's a friend," Arith blurted out. "The only one I have, now that Jorn is..." he snapped his beak shut at that, well aware that he revealed too much to a god he knew too little about.

"Gone? Captured? Imprisoned, like you were?" Anzu brought a wing around to tap the pendant with one of the sharp ends of his wing ornaments.

"You mortals call it the Eye of Anzu. Its power is to reveal that which wants to be revealed, and concealed those who require it. If Jorn is avian in nature, I'll point you straight towards him."

"He's not," Arith said, a look of defeat plastering upon his face. "He's a human. The best there is."

Anzu grinded his great beak in amusement. "You sound quite certain of that."

"Because I am. And I will find him, on my own if I have to."

"You won't have to, not when my Kaliri can scour the skies while my talonites, talonpriests and shadow sages scout the ground."

Arith perked his ears, the offer too generous coming from a god who everybody knew as the patron of avians, nothing more.

"I'm...grateful for your help, but I'm going to join the effort of searching for Jorn as well."

"In your current condition?" Anzu countered.

Arith's tongue turned numb within his beak, his mind blank from the onrush of blood that filled his cheeks, making them simmer. "I'm not in heat," he croaked. "I would know if I was."

Nevertheless, the Raven God took a step forward, craning his head to take deep whiffs of Arith's musk, his beak shuddering from its potency. "But you are in heat, my dear, innocent Arith. That's what essence of Firebloom mixed with budding Nagrand Arrowbloom does. It triggers your heat, faster for females who had never experienced it before."

All this talk of heat made Arith's slit throb in unison with the thundering beats of his heart. Although his mind vehemently opposed the irrational idea of being in heat, his body acted out of its own accord. Involuntary spasms rippled through Arith's vent, making him leak a few droplets of arousal. Anzu smelled them right away, his slow, careful steps drawing him closer to Arith's side.

"Don't come near me!" Arith said, snapping his beak at Anzu before letting out an apologetic chirp. "Please don't..."

Anzu stopped, his pendant swaying in unison with the movements of his head as he tried to steal a peek. Not that he would ever succeed. Arith made sure to keep himself well covered, his haunches pressed tight against his sides, his tail adding an extra layer of protection.

"The mind doesn't always know better, Arith. There are several cures to this poison, yes," Anzu said, then raised a talon to snuff out Arith's surge of excitement, "but each is more damaging than the rest. I can have my talonpriests give you a draught of purifying shadows, but you will never go into heat again. Chewing frostweed roots will take away your lust for good, Starflower pollen will make some of the numbness permanent, and so on. Is this worth the hassle of an untimely first heat?"

"And if I do nothing?"

"You will be almost paralyzed for a day, constantly leaking arousal, sometimes accompanied by an orgasm, which is the body's way to fight back the poison."

To be a husk, unmoving, soiled by his own seed and juices. The thought made Arith gag in disgust, while the rest of the options simply left him cold and shivering, without Raki's warmth to soothe him.

Anzu took that as the cue to make his approach, his massive beak poking at Arith's haunch.

The gryphon shrieked from the sudden contact, jumped onto his feet and swiped a taloned paw at Anzu's neck. No feathers fell, and no pained screech fled Anzu's beak. His talons simply glided across his godly plumes.

"I--I told you not to approach," Arith stammered, his limbs trembling in fright from the possible repercussion. He struck a god. Unwillingly, yes, but his talons connected with his neck. They slid across his plumes, even though they caused no damage.

"Every female says that at first, and every female lashed out without a good reason." Anzu's beak parted to form a sly smile. "Your gender may be different. Your mind may oppose this. But in the end, every female in heat craves for relief."

Thick shadows blinded Arith. They engulfed him, swallowed him, the panicked gryphon stumbling in the penetrating darkness, cawing in distress.

Then, the shadows cleared and reformed around Arith, revealing an alcove surrounded by a clutter of trees so tall, with a canopy so thick only a few errant dapples of sunlight lighted the eerie landscape. Few shadows still whirled around Arith, coal black ribbons that flew in erratic patterns, thinning and widening out of their own accord.

"Where...am I?" he inquired, awestruck.

"The shadow realm--my realm," Anzu added, stepping next to Arith. "The safest, most sacred of places to the arakkoa outcasts and the dread ravens."

Arith curled his tail inwards across his obvious erection to cover it as he distanced himself from Anzu, pretending to take in the purple mottled leaves of the trees.

"And why am I here?"

"Because you value your privacy more than any female in heat I've ever met. You don't have to hide from me here, especially not the parts that interest me the most."

To prove his point, Anzu conjured an ephemeral gust of wind that swept away Arith's tail, leaving his squirming member naked for a fleeting moment while the gryphon stumbled and flapped his wings for purchase.

"RAWK!" Arith cried out, throwing Anzu a most venomous look while the Raven God hid his mirthful expression behind a wing. "Don't do that again."

"You're right. It gets old. Let's see how you fare in pitch black darkness."

The same shadows from before took away Arith's sight. He instinctively dropped onto his belly, then flopped onto his side with a squawk when his vulnerable member touched the dusty ground. To Anzu, it was all a game, but Arith's muscles turned taut with fright, and his breath hitched in his throat as he looked around with wide, useless eyes.

"AWK!" he uttered when something moist and fleshy ran across his haunch. He kicked his hind paws at the source, hitting nothing but empty air while Anzu's deep, mirthful caws filled his ears.

"Chiiiiirrrr your scent is exhilarating, and your folds look so tight, so inviting. I should lick them, drink the nectar from its dainty source, take your squirming appendage into my beak, drain it dry."

Arith turned livid, his head suddenly heavy from the overwhelming embarrassment that flooded his being. He was seeing him! His slit, his cock, everything! Although he tried curling on the ground, the damned god had a tongue so agile it speared through the feathers of his tail and touched his folds with its tip, making Arith yelp and jump onto his fours.

"What do you want? What will it take for you to leave me alone?" He shrieked from atop his lungs.

"You coming to terms with your need for desperate relief," Anzu responded, plain and simple. It infuriated Arith, but at the same time, his honesty took the gryphon aback.

"No gryphon as wet as you is going to leave my realm before you express your need of me."

"I don't need...don't need relief," Arith huffed, drained and overly stressed by these mindless games. "I want you to stop pursuing me, to release me from this prison, to let me be on my way."

"But you do need relief. Your body begs for it. And it will feel good, Arith; so good, you will offer yourself to me."

Arith's stomach turned from the mere mentioning of it. "I won't allow you. Not ever."

Anzu clacked his beak with amusement. "It all starts with a rejection."

The shadows vanished, revealing the Raven God's majestic form, along with the raging erection he sported.

Spit stuck in Arith's throat at the sight of it. Tapered towards the tip and with increasingly prominent ridges towards the thicker base, the glistening blue shaft bobbed underneath the layers of pristine feathers, the musky touch of Anzu's pre enough to make Arith bring a wing over his beak to muffle it as he gagged from its foreign touch.

"Don't come any closer. Please!" Arith chirped. "I don't want your thing anywhere near me."

As if Anzu cared. His eyes burned with his noticeable intent, and the low chant rumbling in his throat climbed a pitch higher as the raven broke into a stride, too steady for a bird of his size.

Arith's heart leapt in his chest for a split moment before he broke into a maladroit dash, flapping his useless wings to gain speed. Luckily, his prehensile member allowed Arith to keep it tucked against his belly, while Anzu didn't have that luxury. His bobbing length made him caw harsher and harsher as it slapped against his belly, yet that didn't stop his reckless pursuit.

"ARK!" Arith cried when Anzu's beak poked under his tail to plant a lick across his rump. "Awk awk awk awk."

His panicked sounds had no effect on Anzu; on the contrary, they stoked his delight, turning his croon a richer tone as the Raven God closed in on Arith. The gryphon swerved out of Anzu's reach at the last moment, the turn too sharp, his limbs too feeble to support his weight.

Arith crashed on the ground in a pile of ruffled feathers and noisy squawks. Not a moment too soon, Anzu towered above him, his beak hovering above Arith's squirming member.

"No!" Arith said, kicking his beak with a hind paw. "Don't even think of it."

The distraction was enough to recover his footing and engage Anzu in another ungainly dance. All the while, Arith's heart threatened to burst in his chest from the flood of emotions whirling through his head, but Anzu seemed to relish this foreplay a great deal. He only approached Arith when the gryphon slowed down; only licked at his private parts when Arith presented him with undesired openings. Each brush of his tongue upon Arith's most sensitive parts made the gryphon chirr involuntarily, the spikes of pleasure too much to bear.

He eventually stopped, his beak spread wide open to draw deep, panting breaths as he shuffled away from Anzu.

"I don't want this. Let go of me. Find another female to breed."

"Even when you are so willing?"

To prove his point, Anzu thrust his beak under Arith's tail, his tongue sliding across his slit so hard and fast the gryphon paralyzed for a moment. He hated the brushes of that warm, slick appendage upon his lips, yet at the same time, it felt so good, so soothing to his heat drenched folds.

"Don't...don't lick me...stop...please..." Arith stammered, turning this way and that, swatting his tail against Anzu's neck, twisting his head around to grab and pull off some of Anzu's neck feathers.

Anzu still didn't stop. His beak followed Arith's rump everywhere, the raven god's neck lowered to give his tongue complete access over Arith's slit.

He lapped at Arith's folds with ravenous efficiency, slurping away his juices with audible sounds, the squelches making Arith's stomach twist and his frame to tense up from the waves of pleasure crushing against him. His vent began to shiver for more, and his legs parted ever so slightly to give more room to Anzu, enough to poke his tongue through those tight lips and into the gryphon's virgin depths.

"Ca....cawwwwwwwwww!" Arith's talons dug into the ground as he stopped his shuffle to enjoy the Raven God's tongue. His head slammed against his fluffy chest, eyes scrunched to fight back the perverted pleasure and the disgust rising within his churning stomach. Anzu drank it all. All that pungent arousal. And he still wanted more, enough to swirl his tongue within Arith and make him jump from the too overwhelming sensation.

"Mrawk!" Arith whirled to face Anzu, putting an end to his feast. "You had enough. You satisfied your curiosity."

"But you haven't." Anzu closed in the distance between them, his beak touching Arith's. "You want this."

Arith's feathers fluffed up with a mixture of dread and excitement. "Not at all."

Anzu simply stepped to Arith's side, poked his beak under his belly, and wrapped that slimy, azure tongue around his squirming member.

Arith's haunches buckled from the onrush of pleasure, his wings trembling in their sockets, his vent leaking renewed arousal. He always licked his member, yet never squeezed it as hard as Anzu did. Once he secured Arith into his beak, the Raven God began to suckle on his writhing meat, each brush of tongue more satisfying than the previous. Arith squeezed his eyes shut, a jagged trill piercing through as spurts of pre wet Anzu's tongue, making him warble in appreciation before drawing back.

"What about now?"

"You're...a disgusting creature..." Arith said through his hefty panting, barely able to recover his breath.

Anzu didn't give Arith any pause. His tongue returned upon his folds, thrusting deeper, faster, then fleeing just as Arith prepared to clamp down upon it and hold it within him. What a tease. What an effective tease. By the time he finished eating Arith out a second time, Anzu's beak dribbled with female juices.

Arith shivered from every corner of his body, his ruffled feathers a mess, his eyes half closed with unreasonable desire. He didn't want this. It was so gross, the way Anzu's tongue rolled across his beak to slurp away his juices.

And yet, Arith's haunches shivered with want, his tail swishing slightly, enticingly, urging the Raven God to close in on Arith, his wings and haunches engulfing him from every side.

Arith's eyes widened in an instant as his strong chest kissed the feathers of Arith's back. That was a mount!

"Arrrrrrk!" Arith protested, flapping his wings against Anzu's frame and striding forward, out of his clutch. "Leave me. Leave me alone."

Anzu didn't bother with words over the steady warble vibrating within his throat. He padded after Arith, wings stretched forward to enclose upon Arith's frame, his hindquarters following suite. The superior weight of his chest made Arith's stumble and trip, his rump thrust towards the skies, exposed and vulnerable.

Anzu used that opportunity to press his haunches tight against Arith's, making the smaller gryphon screech in panic as the Raven God's beak waded through the thick plumes of his neck.

"Lie still. Stop struggling. You will love this, my little gryphon. You just don't know it yet."

"I won't," Arith retorted by twisting his neck around and pecking at Anzu's wing joint in desperate attempts to free his own wings from Anzu's grip. "You will hurt me. Your member...it's just too big."

It wasn't that big, and the tapered tip only made it seem less daunting. Besides, it had ridges. Soft, fleshy, perfect for scratching away the itch welling within Arith's heated vent.

Arith shook his head to dispel this errant thought, embarrassed beyond belief that his need clouded his mind enough to justify Anzu's atrocious act.

"It will feel just right, my lovely mount, and you are so wet you will croon my name when I stick it inside."

"No, I...I...awwwwk," Arith's voice faded into low chirps as Anzu's tongue slid across his neck, the licks slow, broad, tantalizing almost.

"Yes. Relax. Nothing good comes from being uptight during such a special moment of your life." Anzu's words mirrored the intimate caress of his tongue upon Arith's nape. They flowed like honey, so smooth and warm that Arith fluffed up instinctively from the reassuring tingles racing through his frame.

For a moment, Arith basked in that slick warmth running across his feathers. It felt so good, to be groomed by the Raven God himself, that he only remembered the reason behind Anzu's affection when his hips thrust forward to drive his length straight into Arith's fleshy crevice.

"Cra....craaaaaaaaaaaak," Arith whimpered, his voice shuddering in unison with his body. He squirmed at first, wriggling from side to side, shaking his head, trying to flap his wings, but the deeper Anzu speared through his tight depths, the more Arith's struggles lessened.

"Mrawk, so tight, so slick. You feel so good, little gryphon. Rawk, so good."

Arith wanted to screech, to fight back the great pleasure surging through his body. Only, he couldn't. His limbs turned stiff, rigid, and breath left Arith's throat as he scrunched his eyes shut, his beak shuddering in unison with his folds.

The sensation of having his vent filled for the first time made Arith light headed. So intense it was, that his member flared to full mast, jets of pre spurting out of his tapered tip to wet the ground while his female parts clenched around Anzu. His girth felt so tight, so demanding to Arith's virgin depths, but perfect at the same time.

Arith leaned forward against his will, his talons digging into the ground when Anzu pushed his entire shaft inside him, the ridges lined along his base scratching his lips in the most delightful of ways.

"Yes. That's it, little Arith. Your body knows what it wants, what it needs."

Did Arith?

His stomach churned with nerves, and a rumbling, drawn-out caw left his beak as Anzu began to pull out and arch his back for a second thrust. Arith's caw became a low shriek when that blue shaft plunged inside him once again, spreading his dainty folds and forcing his walls to clench around him in repeated strokes, each more pleasurable than the last.

Arith clacked his beak in irritation, glaring at one of those ancient trees, so useless and impassive to his predicament. He wanted to cry out his frustration, but there was nobody around to hear it. Nobody but Anzu, whose hips acquired smooth, flowing thrusts, driving his member in and out of Arith with fluid grace.

If only he was stronger! He would have hurled Anzu off him, press his talons against his throat, threaten him to never mount him again.

Instead, Arith found himself shuddering every time those ridges kissed his lips. Soft, needy whimpers broke loose from his half opened beak, and his member throbbed and writhed uselessly in the air, searching for purchase through feathers too soft to latch onto. It smeared Arith's pre all over his belly, making the gryphon shiver in disgust for a fleeting moment before another thrust took his breath away.

Anzu's chest pressed tighter against Arith, and his haunches squeezed him harder as the Raven God surrendered himself to the thrill of mating. His licks upon Arith's neck became sluggish, erratic, unfocused, Anzu's efforts entirely focused on breeding his gryphon to the best of his abilities.

Arith would have objected in quite the audible way at being pinned so tight in Anzu's embrace if he didn't trill so loud already. Those blissful ridges stroked his lips in all the right ways, while Anzu's tapered tip brushed against his overly sensitive walls, making them ripple with renewed shudders and leak more of those milky juices.

"Rawk, so wet, so tight. I cannot last. Cannot last....rawwwwwwwwwwwwwk," Anzu screeched towards the skies as he lodged himself deeply inside Arith, his sheer girth forcing the gryphon's walls to clamp down upon him and hold him in place. Throbs wracked Anzu's member, his ridges flared to their fullest, trembling with ecstasy as Arith felt Anzu's essence rush through his member.

It burst inside Arith so hard, that the gryphon's hindquarters rocked, stumbling for purchase as a most foreign sensation took hold of Arith's senses. It burned; a gentle, mystifying fire that slithered through Arith's privates, urging him to let go of all the terrible pressure welling within him. Arith tried to hold on at first, to grind his beak and shut his eyes tight, yet Anzu's seed felt so good inside him, and the Raven God's feeble thrusts only served to stoke Arith's lust.

He couldn't contain it. Had to let go. Had to release.

Arith tucked his head against his chest, trying his hardest to contain his trembling moan, yet failing to do so. The thin sound broke loose from his beak, just like the hearty gushes of female cum that he couldn't keep in. They splattered upon Anzu's shaft, coated his azure underbelly feathers with a cloudy film, before dribbling onto the ground. So gross, so disgusting, but so amazing at the same time.

Every feather on Arith's body quivered from the waves of pure bliss rushing through his frame. They stole away his anger, guilt, shame, leaving behind a feeling of ecstasy so potent Arith unleashed his seed as well, no longer worried of what Anzu might make of his squirming male appendage that emptied its lust through thin, hearty jets.

And then, it ended, as suddenly as it began. Anzu knew it as well, his licks acquiring their customary smoothness along Arith's nape.

"You wanted this bad enough to keep milking me."

Arith kept his head low, ashamed of how his insides milked Anzu's length with such passion. The Raven God had long tapered off inside Arith, yet his walls still craved for his tightness, still begged for his seed.

"I should...be going," Arith said through panting breaths. "Need to find Jorn. Promised him."

Anzu licked Arith one more time before he pulled out of his vent, a rush of combined juices following in his wake. The gryphon's stomach turned at the sight, and Arith wasted no time in stepping away from the mess, flopping onto his side, and shielding his messy privates under a wing. He would lick them later, where Anzu wouldn't see him.

"The wilds are a dangerous place, Arith. I would suggest you stay in Skettis, but your mind seems already set."

"It is. I'm not staying. I'm going."

"Raki can't come with you."

His words stunned Arith, and Anzu's flaming gaze only served to emphasize his point.

"Kaliri face more dangers than just a pack of Saberon. Although the false Adherents of Rukhmar have been banished from Skyreach and Rukhmar returned to her people, some of them still roam the Spires of Arak, capturing kaliri, enslaving them, fusing them with raw mana and turning them into mindless, flaming servants."

As soon as he finished, Anzu lied down onto his side, lifting a haunch to gain access to his juice coated feathers and seed coated member. Arith turned his head from the vulgar sight. Way too messy, even for a god.

"Then I'll go alone," Arith said without a tinge of doubt. The haze of his afterglow numbed his senses and suppressed his cowardice enough to allow clarity to flood Arith's thoughts. How could he protect Raki, when he failed to protect himself from Anzu's member? Raki also had the gift of flight, an agility to envy, a place in Skettis where every arakkoa practically worshipped her kind.

And Arith? What did he have?

A slit filled with seed, he thought wryly, then got onto his feet.

"Arith," Anzu called from behind. "One of my clutch can accompany you in your journey. A band of arakkoa, even I if you are willing to--"

"No. I'll go alone." It was his penance. His own. Not Anzu's. Not Raki's. Nobody's.

Arith heard the Raven God let out a concerned caw before the wet sounds of tongue against member made his ears shift forward.

"Then you should move through the Shadow Realm. Raki cannot see you."

"When will I shift into the normal plane?"

"Whenever I deem it safe," Anzu said. "I will watch over you, Arith."

The Raven God's words bolstered Arith's courage enough to take the few frail, sluggish steps forward, the gryphon trying his hardest not to glance back at Anzu.

If I look back, I'll falter. If I look back, I'll falter, Arith thought, clinging onto this mantra until wilderness surrounded him from every side.


I know, I know. A lot of teasing going on in this chapter. First, Arith is approached by Anzu, only to refuse his aid. Then, he agrees to leave Raki in the Raven Lord's care, thinking that her safety is more important that his desire for companionship. Will that fierce Kaliri actually heed his words and stay put? Only chapter 2 can reveal that, along with a surprising cure to Arith's troublesome condition.

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Gryphon's Persistence

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A Leopard's Warm Embrace

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The Serpent and the Gryphon

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