|Average Height:||6-8' at the shoulder, 15-20' wingspan|
|Average Weight:||Griffon: 2500-3500lbs Human/Mixed: 100-250lbs|
|Hair Color:||Wide variety and patterns of fur and feathers|
|Eye Color:||Brown, yellow, red, blue are common but any is possible|
|Country of Origin:||Griffon's Aerie|
|Significant Populations:||Griffon's Aerie, Secca|
|Languages:||Common, Vallarian, Ancient Griffon|
The Griffons of Griffon's Aerie are a sentient race of griffons capable of shapeshiting into humanoid forms. They are infamous for their arrogance and hubris, renown their strict notions of propriety, yet despised by many for the repression of all humans within their kingdom, who live in serfdom. Due to the Aerie's isolationism, Griffons and their culture are generally not well known outside of their western realm. Occasional diplomats and envoys have been know to visit Drache from time to time, though these are the exception rather than the norm.
Typical Racial Characteristics
"Griffon" technically refers to the male of the species; a "griffoness" is a female, and a "griffonkit" or "kit" is a child. The griffons of Griffon's Aerie are sentient creatures with plumage that comes in a wide variety of (sometimes mixed) colors. Naturally, they have the head, talons, wings and breast of an eagle and the hindquarters of a lion. A griffon's tail is feather-tipped; griffons sometimes treat the feathers to be razor-sharp for use in whipping.
Griffons generally stand six to eight feet at the shoulder, with a fifteen to twenty foot wingspan; griffonesses are slightly smaller. Their vision is piercing and they are formidable in combat. However, this is not the only form they will take, thanks to their symbiotic relationships with dryads. They have three forms: normal, humanoid with the eyes of an eagle and their great wings and entirely human with the last being looked down upon. Griffons have a natural extreme resistance to magic. Only the most powerful of magic users can cause damage to a griffon unless the damage is indirect. They speak and write in a handful of languages but all know Common.
Griffons are highly resistant to magic of any sort, although they are vulnerable to psionics, and magic may be used indirectly upon griffons (for example, in flinging objects at them). Only the most formidable of spell casters stand a chance of their arcana affecting a griffon. With their extreme magic resistance, griffon mages are unheard of. Instead, griffons enjoy scientific pursuits; indeed, griffon engineering is extremely advanced, and their medicine is also quite sophisticated.
Griffon prehistory is shrouded in mysticism and mythology, filled with many tales of heroes and heroines and great battles fought against dragons and demigods in the ranges known today as the Lunit Mountains. The most popular creation story is told by the druidic Rastra, a powerful religious cult in the Aerie. The story surrounds the creation of the world by a great eagle goddess who breathed fire and life into all creatures, and to the griffons it bestowed the 'hidden truths' of the five elements. Whether the story is true or not, it what the Rastra believe and is common in Griffon folklore.
Some anthropological studies were undertaken during the golden age of the Vallarian Empire. Most of these studies were questionable at best, but the consensus was that the Griffons were a tribal community living within caves and forests of the Lunit Mountains, not unlike the native griffon Sqree of today. Outside of the Aerie, the origin of the 'High' Griffon is a hotly contested subject. The most prominent explanation comes from Elvendeep sagas and legends that speak of an age long past, when griffons were created by the elves using powerful sorcery to aid them in a desperate war against dragons and giants. Some of these griffons eventually settled within the Lunit Mountains and were granted sentience by their attendant dryads, the others remain the familiar savage beasts living outside of the Aerie today. Such notions are of course rejected by the Griffons as blasphemy, given they see themselves as the racial superior to the ground-dwelling elves.
The traditional griffon home is built in the branches of a tree, and this architecture is reflected in the Aerie Inn located in the woods to the north of the capital, though many griffons have adopted houses similar to those originally built by humans. Griffon purists living in the more traditional homes sleep in carefully crafted nests, while griffons living in Vallarian style manses sleep in beds designed to resemble the nests of their ancestors.
Griffons are renown for eating horse meat; in contrast to other nations, equines are the Aerie's most common livestock. The griffons' customary drink is grifola, which does have intoxicating qualities. They are also known to make wine from the saps of trees, especially (but not limited to) elm and maple. Presenting wine distilled from the sap of one's own tree is one of the most valued gifts in griffon society.
Griffons are hatched from eggs. Not only are they naturally fiercely protective of their young, but griffon law has extraordinarily strict penalties for those who abandon their kits. As etiquette and cultural history are of eminent importance, a kit will be thoroughly educated in these matters in his early years, no matter his social status. Following this, a fledgling kit pursues education as far as his connections allow, per religion, social class, and cult. Griffonkits at play engage in such games as "winged willow."
Griffon funerals involve the Song of the Matria and the Dance of the Arbor, through which the deceased is returned "to the roots of life" and fused with his or her dryad. The dryad of the deceased is herself present at these events and conducts many of the proceedings. Dance and song are also an integral part of griffon society, both in ritual and in and relations, and has been part of Griffon culture since time immemorial.
Griffon courtship is initiated by the male. The courting ritual is complex and incorporates both Vallarian customs and traditional griffon rituals such as the mating dance and the adornment of gifts upon a griffoness' nest. Should a male be successful, his conquest will invite him into her nest. A male invited to share a griffoness' nest becomes indelibly marked with her scent.
Between hundreds of years possessing the ability to change forms and hundreds of years of exposure to human cultures, Aerie griffons are exceedingly comfortable in their more human skins. Indeed, griffonesses are known to amass great collections of fancy clothing to suit their "angel" forms (with well-concealed slits in the back for wings, of course). Conversely, some griffons have contended in recent years that true griffons would never parade about in a "groundling's" shape. And it is not uncommon for the humans who make their homes in Griffon's Aerie to treat with distrust and even disdain the non-griffon winged beings they may encounter outside the Aerie.
Griffons and Dryads
Each griffon is bound to a tree, or, more accurately, a dryad, from hatching. The relationship between griffon and dryad is somewhat, but not totally, symbiotic. To keep their health and the health of their dryads, griffons commune with their trees frequently (no fewer times than once a month) and protect them with their lives. In the relative peace of the kingdom of Griffon's Aerie, dryads and their trees have little to fear.
The most striking effect of this relationship is the ability the dryad confers on the griffon to change forms. By calling upon his dryad, a griffon is able to change shape into a "half" or "mixed" form -- he will appear as an eagle-eyed human graced with a large pair of wings. Griffons can also take a completely human form, although they do not do this often; they cannot hold full human form for long, continuous periods of time. Naturally, each transformation is somewhat taxing for a dryad in poor health.
Were his dryad to die, a griffon would not die himself, but become rather ill and demonstrate advanced aging. He would also be trapped, temporarily, in whatever form he held at the time of the dryad's death. Dryads are, however, regenerating creatures. Once one is killed, it is replanted in the Grove and eventually grows back. The new dryad would not be completely the same as her previous incarnation, but she would retain some of the memories that all of her predecessors had. Thus the knowledge of the dryads can be quite vast.
The period of time from a dryad's death to the time that she was once again able to step from her tree could be quite considerable -- anywhere from one to five years. As the sapling grows, the griffon gains very limited powers to change, but taxes the sapling and impedes her growth every time he does so, as well as taxing himself. A griffon learns to transform as a kit with a great deal of training.
The Aerie dryads and their trees are mainly confined to a large grove in the foothills of the Lunit Mountains. Its precise location is not widely known outside of Griffon's Aerie; indeed, griffon guards patrol the entire region, and trespassers tend to find themselves apprehended and incarcerated at the Seven Towers.
Oaks are not the only magic trees in the Grove; the dryads here come in all flavors of tree, from willow and birch to ash and cedar. It is important to note that the maple tree is the most important in griffon culture for its ritual and holy significance. Those bound to maple trees tend to be regarded as especially strong of character.
The Grove is the cradle of the symbiotic union between griffons and dryads. A migration of griffons, mere beasts from the Keulenesta Forest, settled in the Lunit Mountains over a thousand years ago, and by doing so inadvertently protected the mystical trees from early Orcish and Leturian incursions. Realizing the advantages of griffon guardianship, the dryads gifted the animals with sentience and the ability to change form.
Somewhere in the midst of this forest stands the Sainted Maple, a queer ancient tree with a trunk and branches of milky white, blossoms like jewels in the spring, and bright green leaves with soft silver undersides in the summer. This is the dryads' emissary to the griffons, a tree that sleeps for two hundred years until her counterpart is hatched in the Aerie. The Sainted Maple and the Restara confer, more symbolically than anything, to keep griffon-dryad relations sound. Any but the Restara who venture into the Grove seeking the Sainted Maple will find himself confused and lost in short order. Occasionally, a griffon will come upon it unexpectedly. This is considered a sign of unfathomable luck.
The chaotic magic and mischief of the dryads serves to protect the grove from intruders, whether by means of illusion or powerful spells against would-be saboteurs. It is this power that has kept the grove untouched for centuries, even during the kingdom's most tumultuous times. Legend has it that the usurping wizard Rewop found a way to use the griffon's own druidic magic against them and thereby subjugate the entire kingdom, though most griffons deny this rumor at face value.
Outside of Griffon's Aerie, a small community of griffons living in Secca are known to keep a grove of their own outside Griffon's Crossing in order to commune with their dryads while maintaining their busy lives. Most Seccan griffons still prefer the sanctity of the Sacred Grove, however.
Small settlements of griffons descended from those who wanted nothing to do with the Vallarian kingdom and its human ways still exist in the Lunit Mountains. Willfully unacquainted with the Lil, these populations, known as the Sqree, are viewed by the Aerie at large as frightening, aboriginal, unenlightened shaman-warriors. Little is known about their culture beyond the understanding that they are accomplished hunters, and a rumor that Sqreeish homes are still bare nests in the treetops.
Along with the orcs of Zul Kiras, the Sqree are favored villains in spooky stories. More than one griffonkit has been frightened into good behavior by the belief that Sqree tribes descend from the mountains to kit-nap the recalcitrant young and boil them alive. This is based on the fact that Lilist missionaries who venture into the mountains never return.
Recent years have seen an invigoration of interest in the Sqree, however, and a handful of griffons with university connections have been brave enough to live among them. Papers on these tribes are pending publication.
Griffons and Humans
It was while fleeing the bloody coup of Southern Vallaria over a millennia ago that Relandos V discovered an ancient griffon civilization living high within the Lunit Mountains. Seeking their help, the griffons aided in his civil war to reclaim the throne as essentially bodyguards and militia, an act that was repeated numerous times. As repayment for their services, Adrovos V offered the griffons noble titles and lands throughout the Vallarian kingdoms. Over time, with careful political maneuvering, the Griffons of Vallaria slowly rose to power until they were an accepted part of the Valliarian Diet of ruling regents and lords.
After the usurping of the Vallarian throne the griffon Neskos, human nobles who did not raise arms against him retained their titles and lands, however they were merely puppets to their griffon masters. Other humans during this time were relegated to a sort of middle-class, and while there were some reports of hostile takeovers of human lands, most humans enjoyed a relatively moderate level of freedom within Griffon society.
Following the failed and bloody human revolt of 7BT, the griffons ultimately stripped humans of all their rights and possessions, with human lands deemed property of the griffons. Many humans were persecuted during this time, leading to a massive exodus across the continent to the lands now known as Secca, Orjana, Aslar and Tollor. Human merchants and tradesmen were also taxed heavily during this time to help rebuild the kingdom after the fires of human rebellion were snuffed out.
Five hundred years have passed since then, and humans living in Griffon's Aerie nowadays lead similar lives to most peasants throughout the continent, renting their plot of land to their griffon landlords whom in turn serve the griffon regents of the ruling Diet. Some might argue that humans under griffon rule are afforded far more freedoms than peasants of other monarchies; indeed the Lil has strict guidelines on the correct treatment of servants and the peasantry. Unfortunately, most humans in the Aerie are illiterate and therefore ignorant to such laws and rights, leaving them at the mercy of their griffon overlords. While maltreatment has been known to occur, most griffons see it as their duty to protect their human serfs. Humans are therefore treated well provided they remain good and faithful citizens of the crown while living the life of second-class citizens.
Due to the ability of griffons to adopt both human and humanlike forms, griffon-human matings do occur. Half-griffons can still adopt a griffon form, but quarter-griffons cannot. It is important to note while human-griffon matings are not unusual, the circumstances surrounding them are anything but egalitarian. Like most kingdoms, griffon society is fiercely patriarchal, so while it is acceptable for male griffon to adopt a human mistress or concubine, a griffoness with a male paramour would be seen as scandalous and would only occur were she were in a position of power.
Human-griffon marriages are very uncommon, and two star-crossed lovers would quickly find themselves ousted of all family ties and inheritances if their secret was discovered. There are exceptions, of course, and griffon history is dotted with human-griffon relations. However the majority of these were strictly political as the griffons of Neskos' era often saw it their duty to breed out human stock from the monarchy and nobility. Moreover, King Menglos' marriage to a human wife was seen as justification for his assassination by griffon extremists in 8BT which in turn led to the human revolt of 7BT and further compounded the issue.
As for the mutual offspring, half-griffons hatched from a griffoness' egg receive far better treatment than those born of a human mother, since griffon superstition asserts that a half-griffon born of the egg ritual carries far less 'tainted' blood than those born of the womb. While half-griffons with griffon mothers receive all the freedoms and privileges of their full-blooded forebears, most human born half-griffons are outcasts and declared to be abominations by the Rastra. Like many half-castes living in Veth they are distrusted by both races of their inheritance.
Half-griffon births are also marred with complications since most humans are not permitted proper treatment by advanced griffon medicine. Human mothers carrying a half-griffon child will also find themselves shunned by the very human communities they previously relied upon. Their offspring are not generally accepted into griffon society either and don't receive the required training and initiation from their dryads to learn to transition into their other griffon forms. This can lead to problems during adolescence and adulthood, in rare cases the transformation can result in death or insanity, but most simply lack the knowledge of how to harness the ability, burdened with the lack of their dryad guardian.
In contrast, human-griffon marriages in Secca are more commonplace, as aspiring griffons and griffonesses often seek to marry human merchants in order to obtain higher prestige and social status. Such discrimination against half-griffons does not occur on the same level either as Seccan law asserts strict penalties against Griffon customs deemed too authoritarian. Of course, any aspiring pilgrimages to the Aerie by Seccan half-griffons are often fraught with complications.
The Vigilant Talon
A more radical organization that came to light in recent years was a secret society known as the Vigilant Talon. Its goal was to remove, in one way or another, the human population from the Aerie and place the griffons in their rightful status -- that of world rulers. Proponents of this cult were once recognized by a black band worn upon their talons, which bore the red image of a laurel wreath gripped in a griffon's talons. Members still recognize each other by a number of secret gestures and counter-signals.
The Talon saw strong leadership in the late 460's, but a number of its activities incurred powerful counter-measures by the government: a plot by its incipient to bring the Restara under his control; violent uprisings and butcherings of Aerie humans (to which they referred as their "Prey"), the degradation of diplomatic relations with the Independent City of Secca; and, most egregiously, the murder of King Karos IV. Although the Talon has long since been driven into hiding, the sentiments fueling the group remain a palpable undercurrent in the kingdom to this day.
Naming conventions in Griffon's Aerie are a legacy of the ancient kingdom of Vallaria, and Aerie humans and griffons alike follow them. Vallarian families follow paternal lines. As such, it is customary for males to use their family name. In the case of griffonesses, who belong ultimately to the family into which they've mated, they usually identify themselves by their tree. (Examples: Plessea of the Strong Willow; Selena of the Blue Spruce; Seriesha of the Juniper's Jounce.) This is not so for Aerie human women, who obviously have no trees by which to name themselves.
Male given names usually end with the suffix "-os" or "-ost" (Wylcros; Larkos; Salinost). The names of females invariably end with "-a" (Moira; Katrina; Nikea).
Family names tend to be two- or three-syllable affairs, the last of which is "-ibi," denoting "descended from." (Examples: Taltibi; Gagibi; Neskibi.) This form is derived by taking the name of the line's founding father, removing the "-os," and applying an "-ibi."