I stroke Clive’s neck, leaning against his muscled haunch as Emilia and Krunchy debate tactics. I’m more of a sneak in and kill them quietly kind of halfling, but to each their own. Clive shakes his head, letting out a small caw and digging his talons into the dirt. I know, I say into his mind. I’m restless too.
Emilia glances over as I hop onto Clive’s back, disappearing behind his giant head.
Where are you going?
Clive needs to stretch his wings. Taking him to visit the docks.
She scowls at me and turns back to her conversation with Krunchy. Kriv, Chibli, and Nehko step out of the tavern and join the debate as Clive shoots into the sky. I guide him toward the sea, letting the salty air fill my lungs. I let him circle a few times, hitching my legs in the saddle and laying on his back. He caws loudly, diving toward the ground as I sit up, landing with a loud thud at the end of Pete’s dock.
“Oy! Neyra! What’d I tell you about bringing that beastie down here?”
“Sorry, Pete. He missed you.”
“Ah, who could stay mad at ye, ya scamp. Came for fish, I s’pose?”
I nod, telling Clive to stay put before following Pete down the dock. He pulls a basket of fish from his boat, putting it on a small wheeled cart for me. I thank him in the traditional way of my people, tapping my forehead and gesturing out. He shakes his head, taking the coins I hold out.
“Ye always overpay, lass. They’re just fish, ye hear?”
“It’s worth it. You’re the only one who sells to me.”
His face falls for a moment, mask slipping, something sad and angry beneath. Not everyone welcomes outsiders, especially those with violent pasts and large, dangerous pets like Clive. I wheel the basket of fish back, Clive shifting and cawing as I get close.
I tip the basket over, emptying the fish onto the ground in front of him, pulling one off for my dinner later. Clive digs in, biting entire fish in half with his powerful beak, making a few of the dock workers take a step back. He’s almost finished with the lot by the time I’ve returned Pete’s cart. I smile and pull a scrap of skin scales that hangs from Clive’s beak. He shakes his head as I ruffle his feathers, smoothing them into place and brushing off the scraps of fish. I clean the area, sweeping what I can into the surf below before hopping onto Clive.
We take the long way back to the tavern, Clive lazily drifting over the town. Emilia is outside when we land, tapping her toe as I tell Clive to stay.
Did you have fun?
He was hungry. Pete sold us fish.
We have a plan for tonight.
Care to fill me in?
Ay, but you’ll have to buy me a drink, wee one.
I smile and head into the tavern. It’s going to be a long night.
Picture of Clive the hippogriff: