12~Peryton are Friends, not Food

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Recap:
After freeing the gryphon and setting up camp for the night farther off, the four friends get a visitor: Aric, who explains he did not want to be part of this war and did not get along with the rest of the scouting party. With Aric's help, Autumn is able to figure out where they are and how to get to the outpost where friendly faces -and food!- are waiting for them.
And so Hailey and co. + Aric + two peryton set off to find the outposts they should have reached two days ago.

Chapter 12

    We had been flying above the canopy of the forest for barely thirty minutes when a familiar –yet still as terrifying– shriek halted us. Something shot up like a bullet from the trees beneath us in a blur of sand-colored fur.

    The peryton dived away in alarm, and Aiden, though just as panicked, barely managed to catch our tent as it was thrown off Juno's back.

    "It's him!" Chase exclaimed as the gryphon slowed down, hovering at our level. The animal flew closer and head butted him playfully in the chest. Cautiously, Chase extended a hand and caressed the top of its large, feathered head.

    With another raucous shriek, the gryphon dropped back down and looked up at Chase expectantly, repeating his antics once again.

    "You want me to follow you? Is that it?" Chase asked.

    "Don't do it!" Aiden interrupted. "It's a trap."

    "I am in agreement with him." Aric was hanging back, clutching his spear with a worried expression.

    "Now that we know our path, it would be stupid to get lost again," Autumn reasoned.

    "True, but I have to admit I'm curious to know what he wants." I wished I was brave enough to pet its thick fur like Chase, but I was afraid to get my fingers eaten.

    "Well, I guess we have to get down anyway to get the tent back on Juno's back." Autumn looked at the two peryton hanging back out of reach and ready to bolt should the gryphon turn his attention to them.

    "Lucky you guys weren't riding them," Aiden commented. "You'd have been thrown off just like the tent."

    "Maybe I could have held on," I couldn't help saying, even though I knew he was right.

    He snorted. "Sure."

    "So, is that a yes for going down?" Chase asked. "I think this one is going to headbutt me to death if we don't follow." He scratched the gryphon's neck.

    "We just can't spend too much time down here," Autumn said. "There are scouts about."

    We followed behind the gryphon, which had found a small break between the foliage and crashed through the remaining branches so that we had little trouble passing. Autumn and Aric hung back to coax the peryton back down once the predator was out of sight.

    My feet touched the ground, and I let myself down on a rock with a sigh, glad for the break. Chase leaned against a thick trunk near me, and the gryphon sat down to preen his wings.

    "Wow, look at these." Aiden pointed to some red, pear-shaped fruits high in a tree. "D'you think they're eatable?"

    "I'd rather not find out the hard way." Chase made a face. "No eating any strange forest things."

    Aiden pouted. "I knew I should have brought more cookies." He jumped over a thorny bush and pushed a branch out of the way. "You really could get lost forever in here." He stepped forward, and screamed as he was suddenly yanked upwards and flipped upside down.

    Chase and I jumped up. Aiden was hanging upside down, a rope linking his ankle to a branch high above us.

    "Stay here," Chase told me as he drew his sword to go free his friend, who was struggling to reach his foot while swinging upside down from a tree.

    Chase kept an eye out for any more traps and was able to safely reach Aiden. He flew up high enough to grab the rope.

    "Stop moving." He was about to saw at it when Aiden halted him.

    "Hold up. I don't wanna fall on my head. That would hurt."

    "You should have thought of that before you walked into a trap."

    "It's not like I did it on purpose!"

    "How about I saw off the rope," I suggested, "and Chase you get ready to catch Aiden when he falls?"

    The gryphon had stopped preening and was watching us with interest.

    "Be careful," Chase said as I stepped closer.

    I beat my wings so that I hovered a few feet off the ground. "Is that better?"

    "Here." He handed me his sword and alighted below Aiden.

    I started cutting the rope, and the threads snapped one by one. "Get ready, it's almost done." The last thread finally gave away.

    Our only warning was the gryphon's sharp caw as a heavy net fell down right on top of the three of us.

    Aiden yelled out in pain as he crashed to the ground. Chase, distracted by the new, unseen trap hadn't been able to catch him. I wasn't in much better condition, as the net had snatched me down and caught my wing at an awkward angle.

    The gryphon was by us instantly, but hesitant to try out anything as we thrashed around.

    "Everyone stop moving," Chase ordered. We froze, and the gryphon ventured closer. "You need to lift up the net," he told the gryphon, gesturing with his hands. "Can you do that? Grab the nest and fly up."

    The gryphon seemed to understand, but had trouble grabbing the thick ropes in his beak in a way that didn't guarantee us getting our heads bitten off as well.

    "Ugh, what are Autumn and weirdo-boy doing?" Aiden complained.

    Just at that moment, we heard Autumn gasp. "What happened?"

    "Careful where you step!" Chase warned as she and Aric ran up to us. The peryton were with them, but quite unhappy to see the gryphon again.

    "Try to lift the net off," I said.

    "I think it's weighted down by stones." Autumn said as she and Aric strained against the weight. "It's too heavy."

    "Cutting it will be long, but will function," Aric reasoned.

    "Unless the gryphon can somehow lift it, it'll be our only solution," Autumn agreed.

    "Guys, I just realized something." Alarm was clear in Aiden's voice. "Two things, actually."

    "What is?" A shiver of fear ran down my back.

    "One, these things didn't appear by themselves. Two, that was a face."

    "What?" Autumn's eyes widened.

    "A face, in the trees."

    Chase swore, and Aric picked up his spear and spun around, peering into the thick foliage.

    "Are you sure?" Autumn whispered.

    Aiden nodded as best as he could while trapped by a net.

    I managed to grab Chase's hand. "What do we do?"

    Aric glanced at us. "This net isn't from Outlanders. You know what it means."

------
Do you know what that means?
So is the gryphon a good or bad thing?

Some of you must have noticed that I did not update of Friday like usual.
I suffer from a bad case of school trying to crush me under piles and piles of work.
I might have to revert to the two weeks schedule from before... More on that next chapter! (Which should be on the 11th)

The wonderful cover you can see at the top of this chapter was made by @Star-lupin !

By the way, anyone get my title for the chapter?


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