尖嘯撕心裂肺地叫了一聲，用頭輕輕地頂了頂紮克。擁有鷹鷲一般的頭和翅膀，獅子一般的身體，尖嘯對於一般人來說是一個可怕的怪物。紮克歎了口氣說：“我隻是擔心與你的第一次飛行，我真的不認為...... ” 鷹鷲將長滿羽毛的頭埋進紮克的手，紮克輕柔地撫弄著，鬆了一口氣，他找到了停止說話的理由。在尖嘯出生的那一天，紮克就與他相互結盟。在一年的時間裏，尖嘯已經長大得像一匹高大的小馬 - 而且他還在不斷地長大。紮克的思緒被尖嘯的一聲長歎打斷，“我的食物在哪裏？”他哀怨地問。
“紮??克，我今天來幫助你與尖嘯的第一次飛行。如果你害怕也沒關係，大家都會害怕...... ” 騎士教練快速地念了一通按部就班的獅鷲騎士宣言，然後說： “我們去訓練場。”
紮克偷偷地瞥了她一眼。“嗯......”他停頓了一下，“尖嘯，呃，我要騎上你。不要 - 不要突然移動或做這類事情。”
Griffin Riders were heroes, diplomats, saviors of worlds. Many of the people of Valora had, at one point or another, wished that they were part of the elite ranks of the Griffin Riders. It was the dream of young children to be selected to join them… but even these selected people weren’t guaranteed of becoming a Griffin Rider.
Zak was sure that he was destined to be one of those not-quite-riders, able to bond with a griffin but failing miserably at everything else. Sure, people reassured him that he was courageous, kind, valiant, and had all the qualities of a good Griffin Rider, but they forgot one thing: he had an intense fear of heights. For a person bonded with a winged creature, that spelled trouble.
A hard beak jabbed insistently into Zak’s hand. Despite his worries, Zak smiled. “Screech, its nothing to do with you.”
Screech gave a piercing cry, and head-butted Zak lightly. With the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion, Screech was a fearsome sight for most to behold. Zak sighed and said, “I’m just worried about my first flight with you. I don’t really think...” The griffin burrowed his feathery head into Zak’s hand, and Zak scratched it obligingly, relieved that he had an excuse to stop talking. Screech and Zak had been bonded the day that Screech was born. In one year, Screech had grown to the size of a large pony - and he was still growing. The imagery was broken when Screech let out a long-drawn sigh. “Where’s my treats?” he asked plaintively.
That was when the Ridermaster appeared with a monstrously huge griffin by her side. Tall, muscular, and wielding a big broadsword, she was the epitome of a perfect Griffin Rider. Of all the Griffin Riders, she was the most well-known, having been with the Griffin Riders for 20 years. Next to her, Zak felt like a failure. He probably was one.
“Zak, today I’m going to be watching you with your first flight with Screech today. It’s okay if you’re scared. Everyone feels scared…” The Ridermaster rattled off the time-honored speech that all Griffin Riders were supposed to say. “We’ll go to the Training Grounds.”
What she didn’t mention was that those who failed to complete their first flight often were kicked out of the Griffin Rider Academy. The rationale was that people who didn’t trust their griffins wouldn’t be able to work as the elite griffin-rider team that they were supposed to be, but the result was the same.
It took a short while to reach the Training Grounds. Set at the edge of a cliff, it was the place where Griffin Riders learned how to ride their griffins. Zak resisted the temptation to look over the edge. He didn’t want to end up vomiting on the Ridermaster.
Zak briefly glanced at her. “Um…” He paused. “Screech, uh, I’m going to ride you. Don’t - don’t move suddenly or anything.”
Screech headbutted Zak and gave a hurt squawk. “I won’t let you fall.”
Zak awkwardly settled onto Screech’s back. It was surprisingly soft, as if all of Screech’s feathers had formed a giant cushion for Zak. He shifted a bit. This wasn’t so bad after all, was it? The Ridermaster smiled encouragingly at him.
Suddenly, Screech let out a piercing cry and lurched upward, propelled by unsteady wings. Zak grabbed Screech’s feathers and closed his eyes tightly. He didn’t want to look downwards. He could hear Screech straining as the griffin flapped his wings as hard as he could.
After a while, Zak felt Screech leveling out. The wing flaps weren’t nearly as deafening anymore, and there was little to no lurching. He slowly opened his eyes.
The view was breathtaking. So were the heights. Far below him, Zak could see the Griffin Rider’s base, which was set on the side of a huge mountain. Clouds floated by Zak, and his stomach immediately started tightening. Zak had to shut his eyes again just to make sure that he didn’t throw up. If he fell from this height…
Finally, after what seemed like a millennium, Zak felt Screech land down on the Training grounds again. He opened his eyes again. Compared to the wobbles of flight, the ground felt a little too steady. He hopped off of Screech’s back.
Zak smiled. Despite the heights, flight with Screech was… indescribable.
The Ridermaster smiled and asked, “How do you feel?”
“I’m going again,” Zak declared.