Gryphon

Physical Description

Gryphons have four legs, two wings, and a tail. Their front half is that of a bird, while their back end is that of a feline. One would describe their muscular structure as lean, but toned. With a size of up to 1.5 meters at the shoulders, their average size is roughly on par with the average size of Truzkul. However, they are build in a leaner fashion than the strong Truzkul, thus are slower but at least more agile.

Since their front-half is that of a bird of prey, their necks are rather short, but fully functional. They can rotate their head almost all the way around. Their hindlegs are stronger than their forelegs by far, and allow these semi-birds of prey to make long leaps after their prey, should they chase it on the ground. Gryphons are not fast runners though, due to their odd leg configuration. Their species specialized in hunting from the air or stalking and striking with one decisive pounce.

The forepaws of a gryphon are bird-like claws, thus they can appear a bit skinny. The hindpaws, however, are broad and offer enough area to support the gryphon's weight on them. Their beak and talons are akin to that of a hawk, the latter long, curved, and sharp. The wings of a gryphon are made for maneuverability, but can also carry the gryphon quick enough to hunt down any earthbound prey. Most kul can outrun a gryphon, thanks to their sheer size and the velocity generated by their wings. A gryphon will outmaneuver any kul though, with the exception of Aezkul born with kra-type wings.

Despite having the front half of a bird, gryphons have feline ears, which grant them keen hearing. They also have keen sight due to their eagle eyes. Having such great sensory organs, combined with their overall physical strength and the ability to fly, makes them great predators. Even the taiga gryphons have great sight, which makes them capable of spotting even the faintest movement among the snow.

Gryphons are almost entirely covered in fur, which fits their habitat in color. The head, neck and wings, however, are covered in feathers. Depending the region the gryphon inhabits, the fur and plumage can be very thick, giving them a rather fluffy look. Gryphons have a summer and a winter variation of their coat. The summer coat depends on the environment, but their winter coat is of a solid white color. An exception to this are the taiga gryphons, whose winter coats have black spots on them. Markings vary depending on race.

Many fear gryphons, not because they are violent creatures, but because that they can be dangerous if pushed to attack. Their beaks tend to be sharp and their long talons even sharper. With a length of easily over six inches, they can leave nasty wounds. Thanks to their fitting coloration and their cat-like motions, they are great at sneaking around, which just adds to the threat they present. Despite being about as tall as a Truzkul, a gryphon can sneak around softly like a fox.

Races

There are two variants of gryphons which mostly differ in the color of their plumage and fur and in the shape of their tail. Of course they inhabit different parts of the world, as their name suggests, and thus face different dangers and challenges.

Forest

The color of a forest gryphon's primary fur and feathers include hues of light brown with markings in the form of spots or stripes in a darker brown or black color. Wing feathers are usually edged or tipped with the same color as the body markings. The belly fur tends to be even lighter in color and can in rare cases be white. Being short-haired and long, their tail has many similarities with that of a house cat. Once the winter coat comes out, the tail gets a lot bushier. Their winter coat is gray with no visible markings to blend in with the bleak leafless and snow-covered trees around them.

Taiga

As their habitat mostly includes pine trees, taiga gryphons tend to have a much darker coat than their forest cousins. Even their bellies tend to be of a darkish brown. Sightings of gray or black taiga gryphons have been reported, although very rare. While normally sporting no markings, some may have black head and wing feathers which remain black even during the cold seasons. The winter coat of a taiga gryphon is pure white with black spots speckling all over the body. When compared to that of a forest gryphon, the tail is bushy all year round and tends to be thicker overall.

Behavior

Gryphons tend to be peaceful, but territorial beings. They always try to find good nesting grounds, preferably on or beneath a ledge or cliff, and then viciously defend it until the last drop. If the odds are heavily stacked against them, gryphons are smart enough to retreat if possible. They are not stupid; they wouldn't senselessly die if there are other options.

When it comes to hunting, then gryphons either rely on their strength and the ability to fly, or sneak up upon their prey. On the ground, gryphons are not very quick, making it impossible to chase most creatures down on foot. When the feathered beasts are flying, there is little that can escape them. Gryphons have also been reported to sneak around farms, then stealthily kill and eat cattle or even devour chickens in their coop.

Their level of intelligence also makes them hard to trick or trap. It is easy for a gryphon to recognize friend from foe and they are good at avoiding threats like spear- and bow-wielding lin. A gryphon is even capable of learning to understand speech, even if they are not capable of using it themselves. However, it would be possible for them to get their thoughts across in a different manner, like body language. Gryphons are sentient.

Social

Gryphons either live in pairs or in flocks. Some simply prefer to, or are forced to due scarcity of food, live in groups of two. These pairs always consist of a mated couple and the only addition to them would be their own children, which are expelled the moment they reach sexual maturity. Gryphon flocks on the other hand contain more than just two gryphons. The size varies between six and ten individuals. New members take the form of lone gryphons that were kicked out of their own flock. This ensures that fresh blood is always present and that incest is avoided, which would taint their bloodline.

At the head of each flock is the alpha. This position is usually taken up by the largest, strongest male, but sometimes it can be taken over by a female instead if there is no male fit for the job. In these matriarchal flocks, the males still care for the nesting females and still breed all of them, too, but they do not guide the flock anymore. A flock has place for more than one male in general. The subordinate males assist the hunters, the alpha and any available females, but also may breed with the females the alpha doesn't want.

Flocks might fight each other over territory. If a pair is faced with having to deal with a flock, the pair often just moves away. In many cases, pairs have to live a semi-nomadic life, because the flocks often push them away. Sometimes this ends in pairs simply becoming flocks as they get fed up with having to abandon their nesting grounds so often.

Reproduction and Development

As stated, gryphons either live in flocks or pairs. In flocks, the alpha male will breed most females and leave the rest to the subordinate males. Females who are gravid will simply rest for most of the day and are fed by the males. Once the eggs are laid, the males and females take turns keeping them warm. A small melon would be a comparison for the size of their eggs. Thanks to their intelligence, gryphons even take care of eggs that they did not lay, meaning that any member of the flock sees it as their responsibility to keep the eggs safeguarded and warm. Whoever isn't keeping the eggs warm leaves to hunt and feed themselves, so they are well fed when it is their turn to warm the eggs with their own fluff. This also applies to pairs - male and female simply take turns.

Both genders also build the nest. As gryphons are too large for trees, the nests are always on the ground. Preferably, they build on hills, cliffs, or other sorts of ledges, in order to have the high ground when defending their brood from predators.

The heat cycle of gryphons takes a year. The get into heat during spring, so that they may lay their eggs during early summer. This causes the hatchlings to hatch during fall. Since they have to be kept warm during this season and the following winter, the flock will have to take great care in keeping the gryphon chicks warm or they will freeze to death in the winter.

Gryphons hatch in clutches of one to three eggs. They are a lot like eaglets, given that their eyes are open and they are capable of eating solid food from birth. The present parent will free them of remaining egg shell after what is easily a day long hatching process. Directly after, they will feed them bits of meat or fish. Movement wise the young gryphons are helpless though and will remain in the nest for about two months before they begin to explore the surroundings of the nest. During cold spells they must retreat into the nest to be warmed by their mothers again, as they do not grow their winter coat yet.

After around four months their first winter coat sets in and they can finally explore a bit on their own, however, they are not capable of flight until they have reached their first hatchday. At this point, they are nearly full sized. Once they have taken their first flights and made their first kill, they are kicked out of the nest to start a life of their own, hitting sexual maturity around three years of age, when they will join a flock. Females will look for a male's flock to join, while males will try to either take over another male's flock, start one of their own, or become a subordinating male in another flock.

Ecology

The forest gryphons live in the forested areas between the taiga and the rain forest, but some stray into the taiga during summer. If forest gryphon flocks do enter the taiga during summer and stay there, then they will migrate back to the forested areas during winter as their winter coat is not thick enough for to efficiently survive in the taiga.

Taiga gryphons whoever inhabit their cold home all year round.

Habitat

No matter if it is the forests or the taiga, trees are growing all over the habitat of the gryphons. Just taiga gryphons get to see more pine trees than forest gryphons do. The habitats are hilly and in some places even mountainous, which makes for many ledges to build nests on top of. A flock's hunting territory is usually quite large in order to be able to easily feed all its members. In both the taiga and the forest, seasons are present. Although, the summer in the taiga does not get nearly as warm as the summer in the forest.

Diet

Gryphons mostly eat fish and meat. While eating vegetables or fruits would not kill them, their digestive system is not laid out to make a lot of use of them. Their guts are short and made for quickly dissolving meat and expelling the waste, so the gryphon is not slowed down by a large meal for long.

Competition and Predators

The forest gryphons face few dangers due to their size and numbers. However, the creatures that they do face are often far larger and stronger than a single gryphon. These creatures include Trezkul and wyverns. Sometimes a flock might also be challenged by smaller beings that come in larger numbers though, like wargs or ravagers. The gryphons can flee into the air should they be overrun by these creatures, but they would have to give up their eggs and nests.

Taiga gryphons do not have to face creatures that are larger than themselves, apart from the woolly mammoths and other large mammals. Since this mammals are not predators though, they can't be considered threats. Truzkul and Truzlin are both dangers to the taiga gryphons though. The former because they are equally large, but stronger and the latter because of their weapons and canine pets. Truzkul are incapable of flight, but will likely beat a gryphon on the ground in a duel. Truzlin hunt gryphons, using their wolves to find their nesting grounds.