Lell raced through the vale, following her friends among the other foals of the herd. The others turned back one by one as they neared the Gryphon mountains to the north, but Lell did not turn back. She always liked to push her boundaries, but being the daughter of the prince, she did not get as many opportunities to truly test herself as she would like.
The unicorns were at war with the gryphons. They had been for hundreds of years, older than even the oldest histories of the unicorns knew. Gryphons were bigger than unicorns, and often stole unicorn foals no bigger than Lell herself in the spring to feed their young, but Lell was not afraid. Perhaps it was mere stubbornness, but she had a gut feeling she was not destined to die in the claws of a gryphon.
Her true name, Álell, meant "wing," so it was no surprise to her mother that she had always been drawn to the winged creatures. Lell was no seer, but every now and then she would dream of flying, and somehow she knew one day it would come to pass.
Lell was half grown, still a filly, but eager to take her place among the herd's warriors. She was tough, and brave, and though a bit reckless at times, she knew she would one day prove her worth, if she were only given the chance.
This day, she felt ready to take her chance. She rushed forward, well beyond the safety of the valley floor and grottos there. No one who noticed could catch her now, she could feel it in her hooves, pounding over the earth faster than any other unicorn. If only she had wings so she could take flight and catch every last bit of wind at her back to give her speed.
Only a sudden screech overhead stopped her in her tracks. She was in gryphon territory now, but she hadn't expected to run into one so quickly. There was a flash of bright green, then he landed in front of her, a giant male gryphon, bigger than even Lell's father, but not as large as described in the stories Lell had always heard in the unicorn's poems.
Lell stood, stopped dead in her tracks. If she ran, he would catch her, so she merely stared him in the eyes. She was small, and her horn unsharpened, but she would put up a fight if she had to.
"You shouldn't be here," the gryphon said in a deep, raspy voice.
Lell tossed her mane to one side. "No. But I needed to see a gryphon for myself."
The gryphon seemed confused by this, but he did not tense to attack. "I could kill you now, where you stand."
"You won't," Lell replied. "If you wanted me dead, I would be dead. You're curious, just as I am."
The gryphon made a breathy sound that almost resembled a unicorn's nickering amusement. "What is your name, little one?"
"I am Lell, daughter of Korr, prince of the unicorns of the vale."
"Good to meet you, Lell. I am Illishar. Please do us both a favor and leave before you get killed. You're right, you pique my curiosity, and I'd hate to see you die."
"Will I see you again, Illishar?" Lell asked.
"Only if things go very wrong. But then, things have been going very wrong quite frequently as of late. So who knows?" Illishar then spread his giant green wings and with a great gust of wind he was airborne, flying back North the way he had come.
Lell watched him leave, before turning around and heading back south herself. Her curiousity was not fulfilled. Far from it, she knew this would not be the last time she came this way, nor would it be the last time she saw him. Illishar. The name was not a unicorn name at all.
She liked the sound of it on her tongue.
Credits: overlay by Faber and Kestrel, character based loosely on the one of the same name by Meredith Ann Pierce in The Firebringer Trilogy. Story/profile by Faber. Watercolor graphic from freepik. Background pattern from .