Chapter 10

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It took only a week in Tremora for Kusarel to learn a painful lesson: No matter where they went, they would always be second-class gryphons at best.

The inn that finally accepted them was a run-down old shack, with thin walls and no doors to shield them from eyesight--anyone could walk down the hall and see all the gryphons sleeping there, the walls between them only giving the illusion of privacy. Between the two of them, they hardly had enough space in their "room" to turn around, eerily similar to Elkeri's den back at home. Still, as cramped and uncomfortable as they were, it was still far better than going out in the city.

Just about everywhere they went, the other gryphons either ignored them like they were invisible or shot them disgusted glares. More than a few stared at Kusarel openly, their eyes gawking at her lack of power feathers. It was clear they were wondering if she was an adult blank, and the thought made her want to curl up and hide herself from view, far from their judging looks. Even Elkeri, with all her inner fire, couldn't stand up to them anymore; after more than a few screaming matches with merchants who refused to sell them even the most basic of goods, they had resorted to staying in the slums, only purchasing the muck that was allowed for the lowest of gryphons, some water, and a scratchy patch of hay to throw in their inn room.

Kusarel flexed her legs and rammed straight into Elkeri's stomach, making her friend hiss and glare at her. Her feathers drooped with crud from a week of not washing, unable to find a bathhouse or local river they were allowed to use. Kusarel herself didn't look much better, and the build-up of dirt around her talons drove her nearly mad; no matter how she scrubbed at the grime, it refused to come off without water, and neither of them were willing to waste the little drinking water they had on bathing.

"I swear Kusarel, if you kick me one more time, I'm pushing you out of here," Elkeri growled, flicking her ears back.

She muttered a quick apology and tucked her legs underneath her, squishing herself into a tight little ball. The agitation from being in a foreign place made her want to pace back and forth or fidget, yet she had no choice but to sit with as little motion as possible.

Still, it was getting close to Xaiel's arrival...today was the day he should be arriving. She couldn't wait to wrap her wings around him, maybe poke him with a talon in good fun like they did in the old days. Any hint of normalcy sounded amazing to her right now.

"Elkeri, do you think we can head down to the gate? Xaiel should be here soon."

"Is that today?" Elkeri's ears perked up and she leapt to her feet, making Kusarel squawk as she pushed herself against the wall to make room. "Dear Godslayer, let's get out of here!"

Elkeri nearly pranced down the hall as she ran out of the inn, the other visitors casting her disgruntled glances at her obvious enthusiasm. Kusarel followed behind at a slower pace, doing her best to keep her head down--if she lowered it enough, other gryphons may not notice her lack of power feathers. And the less attention I get, the better. I don't need anyone questioning me. Let's just get out of here quietly.

"Come on, Kusarel! We're gonna get OUT of this dump!" Elkeri called with an excited trill, gathering the attention of the gryphons on the path outside as they stared at the two of them.

Or Elkeri can just shout at the top of her lungs for everyone to hear. That works too, she thought wryly, but her exhaustion kept her from berating Elkeri. She didn't have the energy for an argument.

The two of them arrived back at the main gate half an hour later, Elkeri humming to herself the whole way. They stopped right at the entrance, and the same two guards from before waved at them.

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