Characters © Dee Dreslough

By the end of the week, each party had learned enough of the other's language to hold simple discussions, and learn some basic information about each other. By that time also, the other two groups, headed by Sinclan and Rillon, had gotten wind of the situation, and had flown in to look for themselves. With over a hundred gryphons and nearly three hundred and fifty humans and Arrallins, the beach had gotten very crowded. After sending a couple of messengers off to the north to inform the Plains Aerie council, the extras moved to the next bay over. Fortren enjoyed a happy, but brief, reunion with Alla, and before he had to go, he managed to sneak in a few words and caresses with her while no-one was watching. Well...almost no-one. Some who knew of their great friendship pretended not to see anything, chuckling quietly to themselves. Sinclan had frowned at such idle merriment, and had immediately sent them off to do something useful.

Kira, Keryss and Etayne had established a firm friendship with Alla and her group leader Galmin, and were now sitting down to a cooked lunch of deer, the Arrallins whuffling happily over such a fine meal. "After all those synthesised meals we had on the ship, this is just heavenly!" exclaimed Etayne, who was ripping into a haunch with barely disguised voracity, dripping meat juices down her front. Keryss wasn't much neater.

The others glanced at each other, then burst into laughter. "Really, I've never seen such...enthusiasm for food," commented Galmin, watching the two dining. "Even by our standards, those two are..." He stopped, unable to think of a word suitable to express his opinion.

Kira nodded, a grin on her face. "Believe me, you don't want to know them when they're starved." Shifting her position, she tore another chunk of meat off the steak she was eating, and chewed thoughtfully. "Now that we seem to have picked up enough language to communicate effectively, we can discuss our...living arrangements, as it were. We can't continue to live on this beach as we are indefinitely. We were sort of hoping to build a town somewhere, if it was agreeable to you gryphons, of course."

Galmin nodded. "We'd have to call a caucus of the Aerie leaders, and get a majority vote, but in the meantime, I'd imagine you could establish a settlement here." He paused for a moment of thought. "Well, perhaps not here, exactly. Maybe another bay nearby, as this one is currently occupied." Galmin grinned at his wit. "And besides," he continued, "if you do build and get yourselves settled, the others may find it harder to evict you, though why they'd want to do that, I have no idea. No-one lives on this continent, so you'd might as well have it."

"Thanks, Galmin. I...we...really appreciate what you've done for us." Kira stopped, and looked at Keryss and Etayne, who were just finishing off their meat, then turned her gaze back to Galmin again. "At the risk of imposing on you again, do you think you could rustle up a few builders for us? Being space-farers, we didn't really need permanent accommodation." She watched as the Arrallins got up and bounded down to the sea to wash themselves, and smiled.

Alla spoke up, a sly wheedling tone to her voice. "Fortren's a Builder," she said, turning a sharp eye to study Galmin's reaction. "He may not be very good, but he knows the basics. And I haven't seen him in such a long time." She batted her eyelids for a final touch.

With a mock heavy sigh, Galmin relented, rolling his eyes at Alla's blatant disregard for what was proper. "All right, all right, I get the hint." He laughed, a strange sound to Kira's ears, halfway between a normal laugh and a strangled bark. "If you're that eager. And while you're at it, bring along Dalzin, Garien, Loreta..." The gryphon trailed off, trying to think of more names. He gave up. "And get anyone else who's a Builder."

Alla cheered inwardly. Her charm had worked its magic yet again! Had she tried it on Sinclan, however, she would not have gotten very far. An old codger like that was hardly likely to give in to feminine wiles.

Within the hour, she was back, with fifteen other gryphons in tow, Fortren flying beside her with a smug look on his face. She backwinged to a neat landing, raising a small cloud of sand as she did so. The others weren't so graceful, and created a miniature sandstorm.

"Fifteen Builders ranging from barely capable," Alla stared at a small black-and-brown gryphon who blushed under her heavy gaze, "to one Journeygryphon." The latter nodded his head graciously in acknowledgement.

Kira was impressed, if anything, by the fact that these creatures could, indeed construct things, a remarkable feat considering they didn't have proper hands. Stepping up to the select group, she nodded and smiled. "Thank you for volunteering your services to help us. We're indeed lucky to have landed on a world with such skilled artisans." She stopped, and paused, looking back to the wreck of her ship. "Are you any good at working with metal?" Four raised a leg in answer to her question. "Good. I was thinking we could use some of the ship's metal to form walls and roofs, to save on wood. We have some equipment that will cut the steel into manageable sizes."

Nods of approval met her suggestion. "Take what you have, and fly with it," said a gryphon mottled in deep cocoa and gold. "I like that. Did you have any plans in mind? If not, Garien and I could draw up some sketches."

"Er, well, actually I didn't," Kira admitted sheepishly. That should have been one of the first things on her agenda.

The gryphon grinned. "No problem. If you'll just step over here... Oh, name's Hewlan, by the way. He's Garien." He gestured to a large golden-furred gryphon with contrasting black feathers. He led Kira over to a free patch of sand, and with a swift claw began drawing a sketch of a three-roomed hut.

Garien joined them, and soon all three were embroiled in a discussion of architectural styles, faults and ideas. Over the course of the day, more and more gryphons joined in, until all were babbling at each other trying to convince others of the feasibility of their ideas.

While all those with building knowledge bickered amiably, Alla managed to spirit Fortren off to a secluded spot as far away from everyone else as possible.

"Oh, how I've missed you," sighed Fortren, gently preening Alla's head feathers. He moved up to nuzzle her ear tufts, tugging at them in affection.

"Same here, dear one," Alla murmured, leaning into his caresses to get the full benefit of his actions. "Isn't it terrible not being able to communicate? Feeling so alone? Wondering what the other is doing..." She sighed.

Fortren stopped his affectionate preening and nodded. "Just a tad. I suppose the whole point of this experience is to keep us so busy that we don't think of each other." He grinned, chuckling quietly to himself. "I must admit, though, that it doesn't seem to have worked very effectively."

Laughing, Alla agreed. "Don't tell Sinclan that. He'll keep you here until you're old and grey if he has to."

Fortren shrugged nonchalantly. "Don't worry. I won't." He looked up at the sky, noting the position of the sun. "We'd better get back soon, otherwise someone might start looking for us, notice we're missing and put two and two together. But first, a little more..."

By late afternoon the details were finalised. The settlement would be located two bays over, where a large flat area of grassland came within half a mile of the ocean. Huts of two rooms, with an optional third, about five metres by ten would be built, with streets laid out between them. Six larger buildings would provide food and ablutions. Alternative designs for those who were single were also designed. Overall, the plans suited most of the colonists very well. Construction of the first communal kitchen would begin in the next few days, after the usable metal from the ship was salvaged.

The colonists and their gryphonic allies made rapid progress over the next week, erecting over a third of the planned buildings. During this time Kira wondered when the council members would arrive to debate their continued existence on the planet. Privately she thought that they would be perfectly amenable to letting them stay on the southern continent, not daring to think what the alternative might be.

While they worked, and waited, the colonists met to discuss leadership issues. Some of the refugees - now thinking more and more of themselves as being colonists or residents - wished to vote some of their number to the council being established, and Kira, Keryss and Etayne listened patiently to each of the reasons given for the prospective candidate. All voted for Kira and her Arrallin support team to be joint Heads of the Council, and from the remainder, ten were chosen to act with equal powers of authority.

The second week drew to a close, and another third of the settlement was constructed. Near sunset on the last day, shouts rose up from the beach that visitors were spotted flying in. In the encroaching dusk, Galmin calmly announce that the Council was flying in.

Nearly twenty minutes later, the incoming gryphons landed, a group of around fifty, ranging through all shades of brown, grey and black. Everyone milled around, chattering up a storm, until one of the new arrivals bellowed out in a loud screech, "QUIET!"

The resulting silence was almost deafening. "Thank you. For those you who you have not had the pleasure of knowing me, you're extremely fortunate." A ripple of laughter washed through the assembled colonists and gryphons. "Seriously, though. I am Elder Ciprin, Head of Plains Aerie. As you can see, I've brought along a few friends. With us are the council of Narvi Straits, and East Rivki, and a few from other minor Aeries. Now," The large pale brown gryphon paused to look around the gathered people. "Would the leaders of the - what do you call yourselves?"

Kira stepped forward from behind a row of people, and bowed respectfully. A few steps behind came Keryss, Etayne, and the members of the newly elected Colony council. "We are humans," She pointed to herself and some other humans, "and they are Arrallins." She repeated the gesture with Keryss and Etayne. "As for personal introductions, I am Captain Kira Mastersson, formerly of the cargo ship Arralla's Victory, and now Council Head of our colony." She made a mental note to herself to bring up the subject of choosing a name for the new settlement at the next meeting. "To my left is Keryss, on my right is Etayne, and both are my second-in-commands." Gesturing to the others, she introduced them as well.

Ciprin nodded as Kira made the introductions. "Thank you, Kira. We hope to meet with you tomorrow morning to discuss your inadvertent...residency." The greying gryphon chuckled at his weak wit. "Right now, I think, some dinner would be nice. It's been a long flight. I'm sorry we didn't get here earlier, but you know how slowly bureaucracy goes." He shrugged, his dull black feathers rustling as he did so.

A grin spread across Kira's face. "Oh, I do indeed. Earth bureaucracy was terrible. Often I was kept waiting months for new orders, and during that time I could have been making money." She shrugged.

A chuckle rumbled out of Ciprin's throat. "I'm glad you understand. Now, if you'll excuse us..." The large gryphon turned to one of the 'resident' gryphons, and asked for directions to a good meal, following their guide into the darkness.

"Hmm," Kira mumbled to herself. "He seems like a nice enough fellow. I shouldn't think we'd have too many protests about us being here." Sighing she headed off to the mess hall for a quick bite before retiring for the night. She had some thinking to do.

On to Chapter 10