Gryphons are Merlin’s preferred form of transport. It’s not that he does not have other options. He can mount horses from his stable, ride swans from his lake, or whistle up dolphins from across the waters. If he has to make a stunning display in the sky, he can always find a dragon who is happy to show off. But nothing compares to his gryphon. It is a timeless wonder of safe travel. It is a combination of the world’s most magnificent predators: the eagle and the lion. When he flies on one, everyone gets out of his way. They know that gryphons don’t take prisoners. If they see evildoers beneath them, they will fall from the sky, grab the wrongdoer in their sharp claws, climb to a dizzying height, and just let him go. Splat and that’s that.
On the ground, gryphons are symbols of immense earthly power. If they could ever be enticed to stand still long enough, a king would try to encourage them to guard their gold, knowing that the integrity of a gryphon cannot be questioned. Their wealth will always be safe in their claws. Merlin says that the two gryphons of his household, his and Emilia’s, prefer silence to chatter. They will speak only when they have something important to say. When they do speak, they prefer to quote an ancient Greek dramatist, a philosopher, or Homer. They insist on the Greek spelling of their name. Gryphons hero worship Alexander the Great. They claim that is because whenever he conquered a land he left behind him, not a nation of imprisoned slaves, but the freedom of the very best of Greek civilization.
Emilia calls her gryphon “Sat-Nav” because it can find its way in any dimension, and at any time. Merlin, however, keeps his gryphon’s name a secret. He says that “Emilia and I were given gryphons so that we could safely cross the abyss that separates her time and mine, fifteen hundred years apart. I keep my gryphon’s name a secret because the Master Gryphon asked me to for security purposes. I must ask the Master’s permission whenever I want to fly a gryphon anywhere unusual. When I returned from five years with the legions in Gaul, the first and only thing I wanted to do was kiss Emilia, but I could not find her. She was not at her home in Exeter, she was in Paris, and I needed to get there quickly and fly with the two gryphons, unseen by your radar systems, through the water systems of the earth, below modern France. The Master Gryphon, understanding the complexity and sensitivity of this route, sent me the master of time and navigation, Nicola Tesla, and our journey under the rivers was as smooth as silk.”
The gryphons Merlin knows are fast moving. They do not sit on columns or guard the gold of plunderers. His gryphons patrol the abyss, that vast empty darkness which lies between time. Their role is to stop stray people and sticky beaks from crossing from one world to the next. But gryphons will make exceptions. They value the same qualities in humans that they strive for themselves: courage, intelligence, wisdom, and integrity. Because they mate for life, they most value faithfulness. When they saw Merlin meet Emilia, they knew that they could serve them for as long as those lovers needed them.