Sunday, August 01, 2004


Decided to come up with this two-part entry because some of you nice folks out there had asked about the origins of duskwatcher.

Aside from my susceptibility to being dazzled by sunsets (still trying to figure out if I ended up loving sunsets because my room faced the west or if it's the other way around), Duskwatcher is also the name of a character - a griffin - of mine from a few years ago.

This is one of the (unfinished) stories I've written about him, set in my version of a sword and sorcery type of fantasy world:

Except for a stone obelisk, the approach to the Defile of Rudram remained as Duskwatcher remembered it.

The griffin mused that the Defile had always looked lovely, as it did now, during autumn. It was this time of the year when the long, emerald valley that curved between the Peaks of Threthada transformed into a river of yellows and crimsons and coppers. And it was this time of the day, with the evensong (or owl's light as the humans call it) fast approaching, when the valley was at its loveliest.

Duskwatcher padded over fragrant grass streaked with shafts of late-afternoon light and the lengthened shadows, towards the obelisk. The griffin came to a halt before the sun-drenched monument, and sat on his haunches.

In the slanted light of the setting sun, the griffin's white aquiline head took on the hue of gold while his yellow beak and his yellow eyes looked golder still. As the feathers on his head gave way completely to feline fur past Duskwatcher's neck, so did the gold give way to a striking bronze on his normally tawny lion's body. The sleek, brown outer feathers of his wings - which were folded neatly against his body so that the white feathers underneath did not show - had streaks of ocher light.

As he sat on the warm grass and basked in the sun, Duskwatcher regarded the monument.

The obelisk was about a man's height. Being larger than a draft horse, Duskwatcher had to crouch slightly to see what was inscribed on it. The words chiseled in stone seemed starker in the gilded light.

Written in the Common Tongue, it proclaimed:

On the Twenty and Second Year in the Reign of

Lagrim the Fourth,

this Memorial is raised to those who offered their lives

for the Greater Glory of the Kingdom of Ledlowe.

"Kretch!" Duskwatcher's leonine tail swished in irritation almost the same time that he cussed aloud in High Gryphon. For the greater glory of Ledlowe indeed, the griffin went on in his head. What a stinking cartload of unicorn shit!

Leave it to someone like that arrogant fool Lagrim to give history a tweak that made what was nearly a massacre sound like a military triumph. Lagrim was merely lucky that a contingent of the Paladins of Ar'thar (with Duskwatcher, then an Honorary Novice and the only non-human, among the ranks) had been in Ledlowe's eastern limits, patrolling the area for marauding trolls and wandering mimes. Without the intervention of the independent knightly order, the army of the neighboring Baronies of Calreigh would have poured through the Defile. Ledlowe would have been another territory owned by Calreigh's powerful Leauge of Barons. And Lagrim would have been as dead as the last Calreigh monarch when the Barons took over.

Yet the Paladins had intervened. And the order paid the price with blood.

Duskwatcher sighed. His annoyance at the king's vanity slowly ebbed away to leave a dull sadness that seemed out of place in this valley of such breath-taking beauty.

All of a sudden, he had the urge to fly off to Black Abbey. He could use a tankard of the monks' miraculous ale. It was not really a sacred, magical sort of ale - Duskwatcher merely thought it was a miracle that the brew did not taste like garlic. The monks grew garlic by the acres. The pungent bulb was the Abbey's chief source of income. And, as Abbot Mateus would always say with a knowing wink, garlic kept the environs of the Abbey free from vampyres.

By wing, Black Abbey was about an hour south of the Defile. He would get there way after vespers and the frugal supper (particularly for a griffin - a creature made up of two carnivores) of thin garlic soup and flat garlic bread that the monks always had. Just in time for some ale with Mateus, thought Duskwatcher. He missed the friendly arguments on history with the hearty old monk.

The griffin realized that he had been staring blankly at the obelisk for quite some time and the words on it had turned into meaningless scratchings on stone. He turned away from Lagrim's monument to gaze at the valley where many of his contingent, senior Paladins and lowly Novices alike, had fallen in the defense of the pass.

Duskwatcher closed his yellow eyes and recalled the lines from the Remembrance, which was spoken before the funeral pyres (griffins believed that cremation was the only acceptable manner for creatures part lion and part eagle to be sent off into the afterlife: as they are consumed by flame, they return to the earth and, at the very same moment, rise up to the heavens) of his former Clan members. The Remembrance was a griffin eulogy, but it was the best way he could honor the memory of humans he considered his brothers.

The griffin then opened his eyes. He got up on all fours, and with a voice that rang clear in the crisp autumn air, addressed the gilded valley:

"Though we can no longer look upon you, we shall see you in our dreams.

Though we can no longer hear you, we shall listen for your voice in our thoughts.

Though we can no longer talk to you, we shall speak to you with our souls.

Though we can no longer touch you, we shall feel you in our hearts.

So shall you remain, honored and alive, as we continue to live of this world.

Until the day when we all shall meet once more,

To fly wing to wing and heart to heart in endless skies."

Duskwatcher lowered his head and gracefully spread his wings wide in the elegant griffin bow reserved only for those who deserved the greatest respect.

Then, with a leap and a mighty clap of wings, the griffin launched himself from the ground. In a few moments, Duskwatcher was high above and on his way south, swiftly leaving the Defile to its ghosts and the coming twilight.

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