The Commencement of a Griffon Captain (Chapter 3)


(Art by @LessDraws unless otherwise stated! Thanks so much for your support!)

Cara Goldfeather had thought she had mastered the art of standing still.

As a young recruit, she spent countless hours on guard duty and for formal inspections.

She had developed various methods to perfect her technique, such as reciting the manual of arms in her head, mashing her toes down into her boots, or in extreme situations, even biting her own tongue.

But nothing she employed helped her now.Tried as she might, she found herself losing an unwinnable battle.

Against her own will and with utter regret…she sneezed.

A flutter of wings and surprised gasps erupted around her.

“Hey! Don’t move!”

“My hair!”

“Ew.”

Cara Goldfeather quickly recovered and apologized, much to the chagrin of her fellow griffon knights that surrounded her.

“Sorry. Sorry, I tried.

Like herself, each griffon knight was adorned in their ceremonial military regalia. Medals shone in hues of bronze and gold, a rainbow of ribbons earned for feats of victory and valor fluttered unabated, and deep crimson capes of ancestral pride followed their every movement.

They were the finest, most noblest warriors that Goldfeather ever knew.

And yet they busied themselves with menial tasks far beneath them.

One combed her hair while another polished her medals and talons to a striking sheen. Wrinkles were ringed out of her cape and another griffon knight even preened the feathers on her great golden wings. Each touch from her attendants, as gentle and respectful as it was, only magnified her own trepidation.

Another griffon with piercing gray eyes and short cropped silver hair stood next to her. Contrary to her imposing frame and with surprising gentleness, she took out a handkerchief, and carefully began to wipe Goldfeather’s chin.

“Better to get it out now than do it in there.”

Goldfeather wanted nothing more than to shy away.

In any other situation she would have refused such pampering.

But she couldn’t. 

In just a few moments, one of the most important moments of her life was about to begin and nothing could be left to chance.

She had already practiced the ceremony a half dozen times, already memorized each and every word that would be said. And even if she knew by heart how everything was supposed to go, it still didn’t quell how fast it was currently beating.

“Still nervous?”

“Yes,” Goldfeather replied instantly.

Inside her mind swirled a whirlwind of doubt. As if sensing her unease, the griffon beside her placed a reassuring hand upon her shoulder.

“You’ll be fine. You’re the best of us all.”

Goldfeather glanced at her, a question forming on her lips before the sound of an unseen bell echoed it’s dulcet tone three times. 

“That’s us,” The silver hair’d griffon announced. “Positions.”

Wordlessly, with the military precision one expected from the kingdom’s elite knight corp, Goldfeather found herself flanked by her former attendants. Each found their mark, and snapped to attention as they all faced the ornate black doors that towered just before them.

They waited in cold silence until three more bell tones echoed from beyond the doors. 

Goldfeather clutched the pole which held the banner of her order tighter in her hands as the ornate doors began to heave open.

Then, as if cued by an internal clock they all shared, the processession of griffon knights marched forward.  

But even with all her training and practice, Goldfeather couldn’t help but still feel nervous.

It wasn’t because of the fact she was marching into the single most important room in the entire realm.

It wasn’t because the ornate and massive chamber, normally filled with courtiers, officials, and other dignitaries was now eerily empty.

With each step she took, soft plush carpet greeted her lion-like feet and grazed the hem of her crimson cape, causing it to open little by little, revealing what lay beneath.

Like herself, the griffon knights that surrounded her were entirely nude.

Save for the crimson cloaks draped over their shoulders and what medals that were wrapped and tied around their limbs of their bodies, they wore nothing else that offered any protection to hide their exposed flesh.

And yet the procession of griffon knights marched forward undaunted by their own nakedness, and all Goldfeather could do was try and resist the urge to shiver as the cool castle air flowed across her bare skin.

In any other situation, such a sight would surely have been seen as nothing more than a debauched obscene affair.

But Griffon knights were proud and noble creatures; they found no shame in their own form. Armored or not, clothed or not, they were just as deadly and regal as any fully armored knight.

It was a romantic notion, and held true for many griffons.

But for Goldfeather, the idea was insane. 

She would have given anything to be wearing armor. 

Chainmail.

A woolen shirt.

She would have even settled for a dress.

How her fellow knights could tolerate such beliefs, even if they were steeped in tradition, was beyond her.

She’d never understand.

After all, she wasn’t raised into the nobility. 

Unlike her comrades that surrounded her, and the many griffons knights she trained and served with, she was an orphan, a peasant girl that once worked the hard fields of distant farmlands, until she ran away from her old life and began a new one with the Royal Griffon Knights. There they taught her how to fight. How to sharpen her claws. To hold herself with dignity and respect. They even taught her how to read.

They also attempted to teach her high-born etiquette, and traditions the Royal Griffon Knights still practiced. 

Or at least they attempted to. 

For weeks she had dreaded this archaic ritual she had to endure for the sake ceremony.

But with each step she took, little by little she began to shed the weight of her fear.

Goldfeather was a knight, more than that, a Royal Griffon Knight. 

She reminded herself of that nobility.

She told herself that if others could endure this, so could she. 

She refused to succumb to embarrassment now. She could do that later. 

Instead, she employed the one technique she had left.

She clad herself in an imaginary armor of nobility and pride, and reminded herself of the long and proud history of her order.

She remembered the battles she fought, the obstacles she had to overcome. Years of fighting, training, and countless acts of bravery. Her deeds spoke for themselves.

Now masked in both duty and resolve, she held her head high. 

Even with her facade built up, she was still thankful at least the great throne room was empty.

Or at least nearly empty.

At the far end of the hall stood the throne, a monolithic seat carved from black marble. Streaks of gold ran through it like veins, and it’s magnificent height towering over the three individuals that awaited them.

Standing to the left, was an older looking man, his robes were decorated with intricate black trim, marking him as a high ranking priest of the First Goddess.

To the right of the throne was a much younger woman with fiery red hair. Goldfeather did not recognize her, but whoever she was, she was clearly a mage who proudly wore the distinct black-blue uniform of the Royal College, complete with the red braid of rope coiled around her shoulder.. 

And between them sat upon this ancient throne and venerable throne, was her king.  

King Beric the IV.

Goldfeather dared not to make eye contact with him. Instead, she focused her attention squarely upon the massive banner that hung above the throne, displaying the heraldry of her kin, a golden griffon. She tried to remind herself of the duty and pride it represented, but she could already feel a flush rise to her cheeks as they approached. 

Abruptly, the procession of nude griffon knights came to a practiced stop. 

Goldfeather and her fellow knights snapped to attention and waited. 

A long moment of silence passed and with each second Goldfeather felt her heartbeat grow faster.

A single voice solemnly rang out.

“What business do the Royal Griffon Knights have here today?” 

With her eyes trained on the banner, Goldfeather could just make out as the silver haired griffon beside her stepped forward and saluted.

“My king, after deliberation and with the full support of our order, we have chosen…Cara Goldfeather…as Captain of the Royal Griffon Knights!”

Her voice boomed across the great hall with authority and conviction and Goldfeather felt a swell of both excitement and pride as her name rang out.

The silver haired griffon then saluted again, stepped back, and then in unison with her fellow griffon knights turned and marched back the way they came, leaving Goldfeather standing there,  naked and alone. 

Another long pause of awkward silence ensued as they waited for the procession of knights to leave. After what seemed like an eternity, their departure was signaled by the closure of the doors behind them.

Goldfeather’s mask of a noble warrior was firmly set in place. But inside, she was wracked with nervousness, her stomach nearly tying itself in knots. 

“Wing Leader Cara Goldfeather,” the voice rang out again. “…step forth.”

Still without daring to make eye contact, Goldfeather took several steps forward, but kept her focus trained on the banner hanging before her; 

Already she could feel her cloak begin to slip open, threatening to reveal even more than she wanted. 

Finally she stopped and stood in place just before the steps leading up to the throne.

And she was naked.

She was absolutely naked, with nothing to cover herself with.

And the king who she served, was just sitting there, right before her, staring at-

No! Stop it!

Goldfeather forced herself to change her train of thoughts. 

Honor. Duty. Nobility. Honor. Duty. Nobility. A billhook halberd has four opening stances and four finishing stances…  

She repeated her mantra over and over again, desperately trying to get her mind to focus on anything else.

Meanwhile, the ceremony continued.

The priest of the First Goddess, an older man with striking height, left his place beside the king and descended down the steps with ease. An impressive feat, considering that he, like all true believers, blinded himself with a black strip cloth over his eyes, emulating the Goddess’s sacrifice during the Great War.   

How he was able to move so deftly, and without the use of his eyes, could only be attributed to divine grace.    

At the very least, she was grateful that he couldn’t ‘see’ her.

With a golden chain censer in hand, the priest began to circle around her, waving an orb that emanated smoke around her with each step he took. His footsteps were steady, careful, and calculated. The burning scent made her nose wrinkle but thankfully this time she was able to resist the urge to sneeze.

Two more times he passed around her, until finally the priest stood before her, bowed, and then bowed to the King.

“I detect no ill will, machinations, or treachery. This is indeed Cara Goldfeather,” the priest spoke in a deep booming voice before once more bowing to the king and then proceeding back up the steps and taking his place beside him.

The mage then stepped forward.

She raised a gloved hand, and with a soft snap of her fingers, Goldfeather felt a wave of warmth briefly flash across bare flesh.

Unlike the practiced movements of the griffons or the blind priest, she then unceremoniously turned to the King.

“No magicks or glamours. She is who she says she is,” she announced flippantly, before returning to her original position beside the throne.

Goldfeather immediately didn’t take a liking to her. She had always heard the aloofness of mages, especially to figures of authority, but to witness such a candid tone at such an important event, much less in the presence of her own King, made her want to jump forward and discipline the impertinent mage herself.

Before she could, Goldfeather’s gaze shifted to her King as he then stood.

He was young, without even a speck of stubble on his chin. His was of average height, his figure unassuming, and his soft features emanated a calming presence. At first glance, it would have been easy to mistake him for a scholar or perhaps a friendly poet, if not for the ornate clothing and golden circlet that ordained his blonde head.

His dark brown eyes locked onto hers.

Underneath the gaze of her liege, a swirl of emotions flooded through Goldfeather. 

Should she break eye contact?

Did she look weird?

Could she shift her stance in an attempt to hide herself? 

No! Griffons aren’t ashamed of themselves!

“Wing Leader Cara Goldfeather,” he announced in a loud tone.

She instinctively snapped to attention at the sound of her title, taking the chance to alter her gaze to the golden circlet sat on his head.

Honor. Duty. Nobility. Honor. Duty. Nobility.

“We are gathered here today to accept the confirmation of your station as Captain of the Royal Griffon Knights. I, King Beric, humbly ask of you…to uphold the laws of these lands. To be protector and guardian of these realms. To be a pillar of honor, duty, and nobility for our peoples…do you accept?”

Goldfeather swallowed hard, fighting past the knot in her throat as she momentarily, forgot how to speak.

“…I do!” she finally bellowed.

A well of pride bloomed within Goldfeather.

In just eight short years, she had gone from a runt of a recruit to Captain of the most prestigious Knight Orders in all the continent.

She practically shivered in excitement.

But the ceremony was not over yet.

Again as if on cue, the Priest of the First Goddess turned and presented King Beric with a yellowed stain scroll, an ancient piece of parchment that looked as if it threatened to tear at the slightest misuse. Her King accepted the scroll with two hands and carefully unwound it, and held it before him before he began to speak in a completely forgotten dialect.

She couldn’t understand any of it, but it was supposedly the language that was spoken centuries ago during the founding of the very Kingdom she now served. Thankfully, none of it required her input, as it was just the titles, duties, and responsibilities that were to be expected of her. A formality. All she had to do was stand there. Then wait for him to finish his speech, close the scroll, and bow to her, and then it was all over.

In actuality, Goldfeather still didn’t know what to think about that.

King Beric ruled one of the most powerful nations in the world. 

And yet he was required to bow to her.

The very idea must have been seen as absurd; a King bowing to one of his own subjects, much less his own knight.

But it was all grounded in ancient history. 

It was the reason why the banner that hung above his throne held the emblem of a griffon.

It was the reason why Griffon Knights were held in such high regard by both nobles and common folk alike.

Goldfeather remembered back to the lessons her mentor had taught her when she was just a new recruit.

During the great cataclysmic war against the Demon Lord long ago, the greatest kingdoms of the land had just been destroyed. As the unholy menace and its endless armies cast its malevolent gaze eastward, the last of the human kingdoms soon found themselves on the brink of annihilation.

Instead of banding together, petty kings fueled by desperation and suspicion, began to squabble and war with each other just as frequently as they fought the demon hordes. 

One kingdom, a small piece of land barely a legible speck on a map, resolved to forge a different path. Tired of infighting and betrayal by its so-called allies, the King of this land set aside his crown, and endeavored on a quest to find the most honorable and noble warriors he could think of.

He traveled to far distant lands, to where the very mountains themselves began to tear and split the sky apart. 

No one knows how long he climbed the cold, insurmountable stone, or what dangers and trials he faced. But as he crested the final summit, he finally found the beings he was looking for.

Griffons.

Near mythical bestial creatures combining the head, wings, and talons of an eagle, and the body and tail of a lion. Prideful. Powerful. Their legendary status struck both fear and awe. They were formidable adversaries, and the most stalwart allies.

But only to those that earned their respect. 

The king approached these fearsome creatures, and made his case to them. 

He had nothing to offer.

He was a king in name only. No crown lay upon his head. What little regal attire and trappings he had were traded long ago for now ragged clothes and worn climbing rope.

To the Griffons, he surely must have been seen as nothing more than foolhardy prey.

No one knows what was truly said or how long they spoke.

But in the end, the griffons accepted. 

The largest of the griffons swooped down from its roost and landed just before him, a mighty creature with feathers as sharp as razors and claws that scarred the very earth it stood upon.

Instinctively, the king recoiled in fear.

Even he was aware of the great and terrible power griffons possessed.

Upon seeing this, legend says that a white light suddenly enveloped the griffon, a sign from the Goddess herself, blinding the King. When his vision returned, he found that standing where the griffon once stood, was a woman. Upon her back bore the wings of an eagle, her arms ended with talons, and her legs were that of a lion.

As the tale goes, she looked upon the king and simply asked, “Would this form suffice?”

The King soon returned to his homeland with his newfound allies, and quickly liberated it from the demon hordes that gnawed at its borders. Together with winged griffon warriors, they began to fight back against the great foe.

Other kings and princedoms noticed his successes and began to vie for his favor, hoping to gain his support, and more importantly, his new allies. They offered him gold, marriage offers, guarantees of partnerships and talks of grand alliances. 

But the King remembered their duplicitness and replied with a simple offer.

Either they would relinquish their crowns and submit to his rule, or he would leave them to be consumed by the demonic hordes alone. 

At first few accepted. 

But as the King and his new allies began to score victory after victory, more began to flock under his banner. That once small kingdom barely a speck on a map soon encompassed the entire southern continent. It wasn’t long after the forces of humanity began to push back the demon hordes with the newly established Royal Griffon Knights leading the way.

After countless trials, hardships, and many long years, the war was at last won.

In gratitude and in recognition of their aid, the King changed his standard to that of a golden griffon on a background of crimson red, signifying the blood and sacrifice they had spilled for him and his people.

Centuries later, the Royal Griffon knights still continued to honor the traditions of their forebearers.

The ritual she found herself now performing was an emulation of what the first Captain of the Royal Griffon Knights had done.

And although she couldn’t have been more proud to be standing there today, Goldfeather silently wished that when that first griffon appeared before the king, she’d had at least been wearing some clothes. 

The sudden lull in silence brought Goldfeather’s attention back to her King.

He had finished his speech. Carefully he rolled the ancient parchment and returned it back to the priest with outstretched hands.

Goldfeather afforded herself a sigh of relief as the priest accepted it.

The ceremony was almost over.

All she had to do was wait for him to bow, she would then salute, turn around, and leave.

She waited with baited breath as the King turned to face her.

With practiced and refined grace, he bowed to her.

She gave her salute.

It was over.

She was now Captain of the Royal Griffon Knights.

The realization filled her with both joy and humility. She was no longer just another soldier or griffon knight, but now the living embodiment of all that was good and honorable for her kingdom and her order.

She made a silent vow that no matter what happened, she would do her predecessors proud. 

But all of that could come later.

For now, all she had to do was leave.

But before she could lift even a foot, something unexpected happened.

Goldfeather looked on in complete disbelief as King Beric began to descend the steps from his throne. And make his way towards her.

She froze.

This wasn’t part of the ceremony.

This wasn’t wasn’t supposed to happen.

Her mind raced as she quickly ran through the entirety of the ceremony, thinking perhaps she may have missed a vital step. She couldn’t think of anything. The ceremony was over now. She was supposed to leave.

And yet he continued to approach.

King Beric was approaching her at a leisurely pace, and she could feel her King’s gaze fixated upon her.

And she was still naked.

Panic flashed across her mind, and the barest hint of a flinch escaped her rigid stance as she fought the urge to turn away and cover herself.

No! You’re Captain of the Royal Griffon Knights; Act like it!’ 

She held firm and kept position of attention even as her King finally stood just beside her.

“Captain Cara Goldfeather. I must say, I am honored to have your service. Forgive me for being so selfish, but I wanted to be the first to congratulate you.”

He spoke in a warm and friendly manner, chatting with her as easily as if she was just another passerby conversing about the weather. Any hint of gravitas or authority the King had previously exuded was gone.

Goldfeather couldn’t believe his candidness.

She was still practically naked. The only thing protecting her was a simple cape draped across her shoulders. And yet he acted as if nothing was wrong. 

She struggled to think of something, anything to say.

“The honor is mine…my king,” Goldfeather managed to get out in a hushed tone, all the while trying to remember how words worked while also fighting to maintain her composure. 

“When I heard your name was first nominated, I admit I was surprised, but hopeful you might accept. I’ve always heard tales about your feats. And having you as Captain will honestly allow me to sleep a little easier at night,” he confessed.

Goldfeather couldn’t think of a response.

Instead she stood there, staring forward.

She heard him sigh.

“…I suppose we both found ourselves in positions we never thought we’d find ourselves in.”

The shift in tone piqued Goldfeather’s attention.

Curiosity getting the better of her, she afforded herself the barest definition of a glance towards her King.

From the corner of her eye, a faint shadow of doubt marred his otherwise youthful features as he gazed off into the distance.

A moment later, his dark brown eyes flicked back towards her. 

Startled, Golfeather hastily corrected herself. 

“Please! There’s no need to be so proper with me, Captain!” he said, chuckling at her reaction, his mirthful tone returning.

A griffon shouldn’t have been embarrassed, but at that moment she didn’t know what else to feel.

“I had heard that you were no fan of formal procedure. And if it’s any consolation for you, you may be surprised to learn that I am not as well.” 

The off handed comment shocked her.

“…Really?” she cautiously asked aloud in disbelief.

King Beric nodded.

“Public speaking was never really one of my strengths. In fact, and I hope you keep this a secret, I’m always terrified whenever I have to address people,” he readily admitted to her. 

She blinked in surprise

She had always viewed the King to be a near devine figure, the perfect embodiment of humanity who could do no wrong. 

The thought that he was nervous during the ceremony had never even crossed her mind. 

The realization that was just as human as anyone else, brought a comforting grin to Goldfeather’s face.

Instantly, King Beric’s expression changed to one of pure panic.

“Not that I would imply that your ascension to Captain is anything less than important! Of course! It’s just that – I appreciate you! Your candor! I appreciate your candor. Is what I’m trying to say,” he quickly declared, correcting himself even as he continued to trip over his own words.

He coughed awkwardly into his fist and resumed a dignified expression.

“You’re candor is what I appreciate most of all.” 

His eyes then suddenly lit up.

“Oh! That reminds me.” 

The king reached within his robes and produced a thin piece of parchment, as long as her forearm and as wide as her hand. She immediately recognized that it was a Commendment; a simple award whose deed it warranted was written upon it.

Though Golfeather couldn’t fathom as to why her king would present one to her now. She had just been granted the rank and title of Captain. Such a simple award greatly paled in comparison to such an honor.

“I felt it was best to give this now, while you’re here.”

He stepped forward, holding out the parchment for her to read. 

But the fine slanted penmanship made it near impossible for her to make out what was written.

“It’s signed. By everyone in your home village,” the King explained, as if sensing her confusion. 

Goldfeather looked at him in astonishment as he explained.

“A bard had the idea. Apparently he was in your village when the news broke that you were to be Captain. Everyone signed it, or he signed for them I suppose. I admit, his motives were not entirely altruistic as he did slip that he charged a ‘modest signer’s fee’. But you needn’t worry on that matter though. I’ll see to it your people are properly compensated.”

Goldfeather’s jaw dropped, and for the second time that day, Goldfeather struggled to remember how words worked.

She looked over the parchment once more, attempting to recognize the name of anyone from her home village. But each name she scanned became more scribbled and scrawled out with even greater flourish, until she came to one signature she couldn’t help but recognize.

Old Man Orten was one of the most cantankerous, red-faced, meanest person she ever knew. He owned the only sizable water mill in her village, and thus everyone was forced to deal with him. She could easily remember all the times he chased after her and the other children with his  rusty bent pitchfork when they were caught sneaking through his fields. In recompense, on those rare occasions when they knew he was gone, they would sneak to the water wheel and take turns grabbing onto the spokes, riding to the very top before jumping off into the cool water below. 

It only earned themselves greater scorn.

And yet Old Man Orten’s name was instantly recognizable. The letter ‘O’ in his name was drawn in such a way that it had several spokes encircling it, resembling a water wheel. No doubt he had forced the bard to flourish his name in such a way.

And just beside it, a small bird fly away from the wheel.

Goldfeather couldn’t help but smile at the sight of it.

“Captain?”

Goldfeather’s attention snapped back to her king.

“Is it…to your liking?” 

“Of course… I mean -yes- I humbly accept this award,” Goldfeather said, quickly correcting herself.

He sighed in relief.

“Thank goodness. I was hoping you’d find it satisfactory,” he said moving towards her. “I know it may be considered a simple award by most means, and I know after…ah…” 

He froze and began to fiddle with the parchment in hand. 

“I just remembered…this award is typically stamped onto the armor or clothes of the recipient. And seeing as how you…are…at the moment…”

His sentence trailed off.

But Goldfeather quickly understood what he meant.

“I can still accept it,” Goldfeather quickly blurted out, attempting to quickly remedy the situation. “It’s of no trouble to me.” 

King Beric looked at her with raised eyebrows.

“Really? Are you sure?”

She nodded affirmatively.

A look of relief washed over him.

“Again I must thank you, and ask for your forgiveness for my own short sightedness. But at least let us see if we can make you more comfortable…”

He turned and beckoned back towards the throne, to where the mage with the fiery red hair stood patiently. As if broken from a meditative trance, the mage’s attention instantly locked towards them. With arms crossed behind her back, she made her way towards them, gliding down effortlessly from the steps until she arrived where they stood.

“Yes, my King?” she spoke in a respectful, but expectactant tone to her King.

“Would you be so kind as to cast a minor flame protection enchantment on the Captain here? Nothing serious. Oh, and if I can also borrow a flame as well.”

Goldfeather watched as King Beric produced from within his robe, a small rectangle block of bright red wax, no thicker than his finger, while the mage simply bowed and began to crack her fingers.

A bolt of panic shot through Goldfeather as she realized what was happening.

“I thought -” 

She cut herself off as both her King and the mage stopped what they were doing and turned their attention towards her.

Goldfeather held her tongue, trying to figure out how to say what she wanted to say.

She had thought that he would simply give her the award.

She hesitated, searching for the right words as the silence grew only more deafening.

“Is something wrong, Captain Goldfeather?” King Beric asked innocently.

Goldfeather paused. 

The use of her newfound title with such casualness brought a surprising moment of clarity to her panic stricken mind.

Indeed, there was nothing wrong.

She could think of no other griffon knight that would feel so ashamed at such a moment.

“I was going to say…I don’t need the enchantment.”

The words left her mouth before she could stop them.

At the very least, she didn’t want to imply that she was weak.

“Are you sure? It will be quite warm,” her King cautioned her.

Goldfeather nodded again, resolute in her decision. 

“I can take it.”

The King and the mage both exchanged confused glances, before returning to their respective tasks. From the mage’s outstretched finger, a tiny flame flickered to life. King Beric brought the small wax block to it, holding it just above the flame, which slowly began to soften and shimmer. Carefully, he hovered the wax block over his other hand, just above where a sizable golden ring adorned his finger. Goldfeather watched as the wax melted, and drip by drip, pooled atop the golden ring.

Keeping his hand level, King Beric turned towards her.

“If you’d please.”

Trapped and with no other recourse, Goldfeather hesitated if only for a moment to process the request. She passed the banner she held to her other hand, and grabbed the hem of her crimson cloak with the other.

In one smooth methodical motion, Goldfeather lifted the cape up and brought it over her shoulder, unveiling herself.  The side of her naked body now freely exposed, a rush of cool air immediately whisked over her naked flesh.

One of her greatest worries during the ceremony was that her cape might have snagged or somehow managed to untie itself, leaving her standing completely naked for the entire duration of it all. 

This however, was a close second.

Nevertheless, she tried her best to remain stoic. 

She reshifted her stance to a position of attention, back straight and legs pressed together, wings tucked behind, even as her own instincts betrayed her and she covered her bare breast with her free hand.  

Though from the angle at which her king stood, little else was left unknown.

She glanced at him and found that her King was staring right at her.

A moment later, she caught his eyes drift slowly downwards towards her now revealed naked body. The sudden attention sent a shiver through Goldfeather, causing her to instinctively tighten her grip on the banner.She could feel her face flush red once more. Even her feathered ears began to feel like they were on fire. Thankfully, her King was too distracted to take notice, even as her heart felt as if it were about to leap out of her chest.

“Hmmm,” he audibly mused, as if he were appreciating a work of art.

A look of incredulousness managed to slip past Goldfeather’s otherwise statuesque facade.

“Oh! My apologies!” he quickly and innocently offered. “I’m just trying to find the right place to cause the least amount of discomfort for you.”

Goldfeather bit her tongue, lest a snappy retort escape her lips, when the red headed mage stepped forward.

“Perhaps it would be best to place it in an area where the heat would be allowed to dissipate the most efficiently, while minimizing any potential damage,” she offered.

King Bering turned to her.

“And that would be…”

“Upper thigh, my King.”

“Ah, of course,” He replied with a sheepish grin, turning back towards Goldfeather.

He leant forward, examining her as a sculptor would inspect a piece of marble before they began carving.

“If you could offer…just a bit more of your leg, Captain, I think this will work,” her King suggested. 

Goldfeather complied, much to her chagrin, stepping out of her militaristic stance and placing her leg closer to him. But even unable to hide the smooth apex of her legs, she continued to hold her head high.

“On three then. One…”

She began to prepare herself as best she could, stifling a shudder as she felt him calmly exhale across her bare skin.

“Two…”

She winced ever so slightly, holding back her surprise as she then felt him gently place his fingertips upon her, to guide what was to come next.

Immediately she realized something was wrong.

“Three…”

In an instant, she felt intense heat and pressure as she felt him firmly press his wax-laden signet ring into her side. She inhaled sharply, her muscles tensing and pushing back against him while she clutched the banner in her hand for support, gritting her teeth against the pain. 

The moment lasted mere seconds.

As quickly as it began, it was over.

Gradually, the searing painful sensation ebbed away into a warm tingling glow that radiated outward. A moment later, she felt her King gently withdraw his hand away from her.

A wave of relief washed over Goldfeather

It was over.

She finally allowed herself a shaky breath and relaxed.

Meanwhile, her King stood up beside her and readjusted his signet ring.

“Well…I think that turned out well,” her King declared.

Goldfeather followed his gaze and twisted her body to the side to inspect herself.

There she found the glossy red wax seal of her King adhered to her, affixed stubbornly to her skin. Unearth it and reaching to her knee, the parchment with the signatures of her home village hung proudly on her.

But to her own dismay, her worry had been realized.

It would not have been so bad, had her king actually stamped the Commendment Award on her upper thigh.

Instead, she found the red wax seal had found its home on her outer hip, just at the edge where her thick leg muscles transitioned to the more malleable flesh of her rear.

Goldfeather stood there, her mind blanking at the sight, before she questioningly looked back up at her king, wanting to protest it’s placement.

However, she soon noticed that he wasn’t gazing at her with a sense of self-satisfaction; rather, she could only interpret his expression as one of pure admiration. There was no ill-will behind his placement. In that moment, the feeling of embarrassment disappeared from her mind and was replaced with a new feeling she wasn’t quite sure of.

Pride? Profound gratitude?

Goldfeather didn’t know.

But whatever it was, she embraced it.

Emboldened by this newfound feeling, she returned the banner to her dominant hand, and turned towards her King. 

With one-half of her cape still draped behind her shoulder and half her body still exposed, she gave him the best salute she could muster.

“Thank you, my king,” 

He blinked in surprise for a moment, but then although it was an unrequired, bowed to her once more. 

“Fly high and true, Captain Goldfeather,” he replied in kind with a warm smile.

With the ceremony definitively concluded, she finally began her long march back towards the ornate black doors. 

Left a fervent daze, she felt as if she was walking through a dream, still not fully accepting what had just transpired.

It was only the soft rustling of parchment paper joining the melodic clinking of her medals with each step she took that brought her back to reality.

She glanced downwards, and was relieved to find the red wax still held firm upon her flesh even as her muscles rolled beneath.

What had just happened wasn’t a dream.

She really was Captain of the Royal Griffon Knights now. 

She began to recall the events of the day just to confirm if it was really true. 

She remembered the apprehension she felt as soon as she woke up.

She remembered the long march to the throne and the judging stares she received as she stood there.

She remembered the pride she felt upon first being called Captain.

And the heartfelt thanks she had for the simplest of awards.

It all happened.

And she had done it all without making a fool of herself.

Even if she was naked. 

As if on cue, the great ornate doors opened for her.

Her pace quickened ever so slightly, eager to be free of watchful eyes so that she could then salvage what little remained of her modesty.

But there was one more surprise left for her.

No sooner as she exited the throne room did she stop entirely in her tracks.

Standing at either side of the hall, lined row upon row, were griffon knights.

A hundred and more stood at attention, their wings tucked behind them, each donned in their finest regalia with stoic expression. Polished armor shone, medals gleamed, banners of her order flew proudly. Some, like herself, simple wore the the ceremonial uniform; wearing nothing save what achievements they had earned and crimson capes draped upon their shoulders.

Goldfeather marveled at the sight when a sudden shout went out.

“Captain on duty! Company! Salute!”

In unison, the griffon knights saluted, slapped their fists to their chests, a deafening sound of steel and claw clashing together. 

The unexpected gesture took her breath away.

With tears welling in her eyes, she returned the salute.

A moment later, the great stone doors behind her finally closed shut, and a momentous roar of cheers and applause instantly erupted. Suddenly Goldfeather found herself surrounded by a storm of griffon knights, all barraging with her congratulations and well wishes.

“Congratulations, Captain Goldfeather!”

“Best of luck, Captain!”

“I always knew you could do it!”
“Three cheers for the new Captain!”

They clapped, patted her shoulders, cheered, or offered their own salutes to her. Someone took her banner from her as she began to give so many handshakes she thought her arm might fall off. She returned salutes. Accepted thanks and well wishes. Someone slapped her across her rear. She went to her toes in surprise, when another griffon in ceremonial garb dashed into her arms in a hug, their nude bodies colliding into each other.

“You did it!” The much smaller griffon in her arms beamed. “You’re actually Captain now! I told you, you could do it!”

Goldfeather smiled in relief and returned the hug with a tight squeeze, picking up the smaller griffon in her arms.


“Thanks for believing in me, Raine,” Goldfeather thanked her friend, before finally letting go. 

The little griffon inhaled deeply upon being freed.

“So how was it? How did it go? Did you freeze up? What was the ceremony like? Is it true that the ghosts of past Captains were there? What was the King like? Was he cute at least? Wooooah! Whats this thing?!”

The griffon’s excited barrage of questions were cut short upon noticing the red wax seal adhered to her side. Other Griffons soon followed her gaze and began examining the award along with her.

“Oh that. It’s just a little thing the King decided to do. While I was already there. As a matter of convenience,” Goldfeather replied innocently, trying to remain humble.

Another griffon knight lifted the parchment, attempting to read it while the griffon beside her simply whistled at the sight of it.

“Brave of him to stamp it on your ass.”

Goldfeather’s ear’s perked up.

“It’s not on my ass! Its on my side. Upper thigh!” Goldfeather claimed defensively.

“Its not a bad idea,” the brunette griffon with blue ribbons in her hair remarked to her companion. “Maybe we should start doing it. Does it feel like it would fall off?”

Goldfeather shook her head.

“Surprisingly, it feels pretty good.”

She twisted her waist, letting the parchment flutter about amongst the clinking of her medals, much to the delight of her onlookers.

“That’s great!” Raine chirped. “I bet it will look wonderful during the parade!”

Goldfeather watched the bemused reactions of her impromptu audience before a moment later she finally processed what the shorter griffon had just said.

“Parade?” Goldfeather asked, turning her attention to Raine. “What parade?”

The shorter griffon looked up to her quizzically, before pointing behind her.

The parade. Did you already forget about it?”

Behind Raine, Goldfeather noticed a slowly forming column of griffon knights. They lined themselves up in ordered rows, standing wingtip to wingtip. At the rear of the column, griffon knights wore their full armor, shined to a bright finish, their medals and awards displayed proudly for all to see. Some carried banners like the one Goldfeather held while others had elaborate but otherwise impractical halberds upon their shoulders. The ranks at the front however, contained a contingent of griffons knights who proudly wore only their ceremonial military regalia; a deep crimson cloak, what medals and awards they had earned, and nothing else. 

A parade of naked griffons prepared themselves to march throughout the city.

She had forgotten all about it. 

She had buried the thought, convincing herself that getting through the initial award ceremony was far more important than what happened afterwards. She would worry about that later. 

For what felt like the seventh time that day, Goldfeather had discovered a new depth to the pit of her stomach.

As if sensing her trepidation, Raine placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

“You’ll be fine! C’mon! If we’re lucky we can still get some spots at the front!”

Raine took her hand and began to pull her away with surprisingly little resistance when a commanding voice suddenly cut through. 

“I’m afraid there won’t be much time for that.”

A tall silver-haired griffon, accompanied by two senior griffon knights at either side, parted through the sea of griffons with effortless grace, stopping just before Goldfeather. Like Goldfeather, they wore only crimson capes, yet noticeably more medals, awards, and even faint scars graced their otherwise flawless nude bodies than that of their peers standing beside them.

Instantly, Goldfeather and Raine, along other nearby griffons, stood at attention and saluted.

“Wing Commander Siegfynn!” her military training instantly taking over, Goldfeather earnestly greeted her superior; the very same griffon knight who just earlier that morning, coddled and wiped her chin.

Piercing gray eyes scanned the once exuberant griffons before she peered quizzically at Goldfeather before they softened. 

“You can just call me Siegfynn,” she smiled reassuringly. “As a matter of fact, I should be the one saluting you, Captain.”

Goldfeather watched as the taller griffon closed her fist to her chest. Goldfeathers chest swelled with pride at the honor, but couldn’t help but feel awkward. She barely managed to give a humble nod of thanks after they both dropped their salutes.

“I’m afraid Captain Goldfeather has other priorities to attend to,” Siegfynn continued, addressing the nearby crowd, before once more turning her attention to her.

“Captain Elowen is waiting in her office to speak with you. Though…I suppose I should say, ‘ your office’, now. ” Siegfynn said thoughtfully.

Goldfeather’s feathered ears perked up.

“Captain Elowen? She’s here?”

Siegfynn nodded. 

“She has enough strength to meet with you.” 

Goldfeather understood the gravity of the situation.

Without hesitation, Goldfeather splayed her wings, and prepped herself with all due haste when Seigfynn held up a hand, stopping her.

“The matter isn’t so urgent that you’re needed right now. I did tell her that you’d probably want a few minutes to gather yourself after the ceremony.”

Goldfeather looked at her.

“Gather myself?” Goldfeather asked, concerned.

Siegfynn couldn’t help but grin.

“Well, knowing your disposition to our more ancient customs, I’d figure you’d probably want to wear something more…modest.”

Confused, at first Goldfeather couldn’t understand her meaning. 

Until it finally clicked.

Goldfeather face flushed red as she immediately grabbed the hem of her cloak and wrapped herself up, cocooning herself, much to the dismay of her crowd of onlookers, who let out a simultaneous sigh of ‘aw’s and teasing snickering.

Her face only grew redder as she wished for the ability to suddenly die on command.

“Aww, so she can’t join us in the parade?” Raine asked despondently, oblivious to Goldfeather’s display of embarrassment.


Siegfynn shook her head. 

“Not this year, young one.”

She strode past them, flanked by her two knights as they began to make their way to the front of the parade formation.

She called back over her shoulder.

“But there’s always next year!” Goldfeather however, didn’t share her optimism.

“Well that’s a shame, I really wanted to go with you,” Raine pouted, placing a hand on her hip before suddenly brightening up. “But hey! There’s still the royal portrait! Have you given any thought to that yet?”

Goldfeather let out a long, pained sigh.

“I don’t even want to think about it.”

Obstinate as ever, Goldfeather swore to herself that she would never participate in any parade, any portraits, or any more debauched nonsense so long as she served as Captain.

She then turned to Raine. 

 “Now, as my first order as Captain of the Royal Griffon Knights…find me some damn pants!”

  

Chapter 1: The Portrait of a Griffon Captain
Chapter 2: The Dance of a Griffon Captain

 

Once a year, members of the Royal Griffon Knights participated in a ceremonial parade through the city. After successfully ducking out for years, Cara could only hold her breath as she took her first steps and her cape began to open.’ (Commission by @Sayanestia)

Chapter 1: The Portrait of a Griffon Captain
Chapter 2: The Dance of a Griffon Captain

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