“Come on you big, stinky pile of stink,” muttered Morgaine, as she pulled on Blackbeak’s reins.
Nisrioch shook his head. “Now, now, Morgaine. You know what Manny would say if he saw you yelling at good old Blackbeak like that…”
“Yes,” said Morgaine, clenching her teeth. “Because our little brother is the only person in the entire Lands of Night who finds these disease-ridden balls of filth endearing.” Blackbeak stared at the little Dark Lord balefully for a moment, then dived forward. “Ahh! Ahh!” shrieked Morgaine. “I take it back! I take it back!” Blackbeak licked her face, and then backed away.
Mansemat and Viviane entered just as Nisrioch doubled over in laughter. “What is going on here?” asked Viviane.
Morgaine wiped desperately at her face. “I am in covered in gryphon stink, that’s what’s happening,” she said bitterly.
“Come again?” said Mansemat.
“Blackbeak licked her,” replied Nisrioch, straightening.
Mansemat smiled broadly. “Awww! That just shows he wuvs you!” He moved up to the gryphon. “You wuv Morgaine, don’t you, you big sweetie? Don’t you?” He began to pet its head. “Yes, you do! Woogie woo! You big sweetie, you! Ooogie-ooogie-oogs!” Blackbeak began to lick his face. “Dat’s right! Kiss daddy! Give daddy big kisses!”
Morgaine stared at Viviane. “How do you live with him? Really, I have to know this.”
“Baths in rosewater are a major component,” said Viviane.
“For you or for him?” asked Morgaine with a frown.
“Yes,” answered Viviane.
Morgaine nodded. “Right.” She considered it for a moment. “Hmm. I wonder if Despi would be up for that…?”
“I just missed an incredibly disturbing conversation, didn’t I?” asked Jean Crow, as she joined them.
Nisrioch waved his hand. “Only mildly disturbing,” he declared. “From your point of view, I’ll add. I find it rather sweet.”
“Yeah, well, you’re a degenerate,” said Jean.
“I prefer the term ‘libertine’,” replied Nisrioch. “It sounds classier.”
Jean nodded. “Right. So… what insane contraption are you having me take now?” She grimaced. “I warn you, if it involves pedaling, you will regret it.”
“Alas, I have brought none of my remarkable inventions with me,” said Nisrioch. “We are traveling by gryphon.”
Jean blinked. “Ahh. That… sounds… dangerous.”
“It’s perfectly safe,” said Mansemat. “An ancient pastime of the Southern Kings!”
“Yep,” declared Morgaine flatly. “Why it’s just like riding a horse. Through the air. A meat-eating horse. That smells of rotting death.”
Jean nodded and looked at Viviane. “Do you have room in the mortar?”
“Yep,” said Viviane.
Jean nodded again. “Thank you,” she said.