Ben's mouth dropped open. Before him was a beautiful forest with meandering streams and bright green grass. The sky was as blue as ever, but when he looked closer, he could see that the whole area was covered by a large, glass dome. Pegasus wove in and out of the pine trees. To Ben's amazement, these pegasus were gold and silver colored.
Lizzie smiled. “I found Ambustus here.” She was back to her serious mood.
“I thought only pegasus are here.”
“Oh, they put all kinds of flying species in here, as long as they won't eat each other.” A beautiful golden pegasus caught his eye.
“Who's that?” asked Ben, pointing.
“Oh, that's Polleo. He's a good choice for you, I presume.” said Valencia.
“Oh. What do phoenix eat, anyway?”
“Fire. We eat coal if we have to, but a roaring fire is preferred. Now let's go to the griffin dome.” Ambustus led everyone through a small door in the pegasus dome. They emerged into another dome, but much larger. Beautiful creatures with an eagle as their upper body and a horse as their lower body swooped about, playing games in the air.
“This is the griffin dome.” said Valencia.
“Are all the griffins in here?” asked Ben.
“Why do the pegasus have separate stables while the griffins don't?”
“There are two reasons. One, there are not as many griffins that are in captivity. Pegasus are easier to tame, so it is easier to bring them in from the wild. They become very attached to their Amicus. On the other hand, griffins are proud creatures. They have a spirit hard to tame, and they like to live in large spaces, not in cramped stables. We prefer not to bring them in from the wild because they have, as I have said, very proud spirits, and also, they are quite vicious. So we just need the griffins' children, and we will have enough. Two, griffin colors do not make any difference in social level. Most of them are silver.” said Valencia.
“Warriors that like hard fighting prefer griffins, since they are more dangerous and can easily injure someone with their beak. Warriors that are faster and prefer agility use pegasus, because they can easily swoop, swerve, and turn in the air.” said Triarius.
“Pegasus are much faster than griffins, but griffins prove more fatal.”added Lizzie.
“Do you keep any creatures that... don't cope with pegasus?” Ben asked Lizzie.
“Yes, Why?” she asked, pointing at a small wooden trapdoor in the wall.
“Well, uh, I read about this kind of bird called a stimfalan bird or something, and I really want to see one. They have brass wings and metallic feathers or something.”
“Ah...” said Triarius, “the man eaters?”
“Oh.” said Ben. “I didn't know that.”
“That is fine, my friend. Actually, the only Stymphalian bird we have in captivity is quite... tame. She is named Clementia, which means peaceful or tranquil in Novomundsian. One of our Invenio, which means discoverers – your father was one of these - had her mind set on bringing at least one Stymphalian bird in to Verona from the Lake Stymphalis. She succeeded, but only because Clementia had not been as dangerous and had been rejected by the flock because she was too gentle and not vicious enough to guard the lake. Clementia and Juliana, the Invenio, became good friends. Clementia was quite friendly to Juliana and her friends, but was deadly toward her enemies. They had been Amicus, but Juliana died as a warrior in the umbra proelium, which means the Shadow Battle in Novomundsian, saving Clementia's life. The bird tried to save Juliana, but she was too late. Clementia had gotten injured also; she lay on the ground to die next to her Amicus. Later, she was rescued by some scouts right before she died. Clementia has not had an Amicus ever since.”
“I will bring you to Clementia, if you would like.” said Valencia, already opening the door back into the pegasus stables. Everyone followed her. Valencia whistled and spoke in some kind of strange language.
Immediately, a bird flew towards them and landed on the ground in front of them. Ben gawked. She had beautiful bronze wings and metallic feathers. She was about half the size of Ambustus.
“Let me introduce Clementia,” said Valencia. “She was cast out by her flock because she was too gentle. She is about eight, which is around sixteen in human age.”
The bird bowed toward everyone with a graceful dip of her head.
“Hello, Ambustus, Valencia, Triarius, Peacemaker, and Mighty One,” said Clementia in a sweet voice, but it was filled with pain and knowledge like that of one who had seen many years. Lizzie looked at Ben sadly.
“She still misses Juliana. And she is lonely. She spends her time reading and decoding the prophecies secretly, then tells Triarius the meaning. Triarius cannot say she is the decoder, because only the Council of Decoding Prophecies is supposed to look at them. So he has to take the honor, though he would rather Clementia take it. Clementia is actually really smart.” she whispered.
“Ben,” said Valencia. “Are you ready to hear your choices? I already have a few picks from each of the species.”
“Uh, okay, sure.” said Ben, looking at Clementia's sad eyes.
“Alright. He we are. You have three choices. Number one. Pegasus. Polleo. Traits given by stable manager: Fast. Strong. Broad wings. Pure Golden. Strong taking flight, but weaker at landing. Preferably for warrior that fights more in air than on ground. Number two: griffin. Cineraceus. Traits: Sharp beak and claws. Silver with black spots on flank. Also strong and fast. Can run well and fly well, but cannot swim. Preferably for warriors that will stay on land or in air, not on water. Not even on boat. Can get nervous if fully surrounded by water. Number three: Stymphalian. Clementia. Traits: good at shooting metallic feathers, high accuracy. Extremely fast, but not very strong. Preferably for warriors that can fight in air, on land, or can swim, and can land on their feet when they jump off bird.”
Ben didn't need to think about who he wanted for his Amicus, but Triarius said, “We will give you three days to think.”
Lizzie glanced at Ben. “You are like me. I didn't even need to think about who I wanted for my Amicus, but they gave me three days also.”
Ben nodded, thinking of the friendship he would have with his Amicus.
When he looked back up, Lizzie was already walking away. He ran to catch up, smiling.