It no longer had wings. Only chrome and steel.
It no longer had talons and claws. Only wheels of black rubber and gleaming spokes.
It no longer had beak, burning eyes, or a piercing shriek that could tear apart the sky.
Only a cowling of metal, a single blazing headlight, and the roar of its powerful engine owning the road.
It had been one of the most noble creatures to grace the Mystic Earth. It had ruled the air, undisputed by any but other majestic beasts for the title of Lord of the Clouds. Its life was one of soaring, hunting, and greeting the rising sun each day with an avian aria.
Once, it had been a griffon.
Then came the years of Denial, when Mankind slowly forgot his magic and relinquished his grace to the cold forces of reason and mundane law. There had been hunts to be sure and many had fallen to the weapons of the Purge, but that wasn't what had killed the Enchanted Age. Something far more insidious had brought about its doom. Like poison, neglect and dolor took their tolls. The mountains became cold, forbidding peaks; the seas lost their deep mysteries. Man no longer dreamed and without flights of fancy, flight itself became impossible.
On its stereo, a new song began to play. The Turning Away by Pink Floyd. Its voice had been reduced from the cry of an eagle to stolen moments from the history of music. It could no longer speak save in the voices of artists from the dawn of melody to the bloodiest edge of new industrial grind. Right now, it felt like playing a lament.
Its name was Zephyr and before being reborn into this two-wheeled metal body, it was a trapped Ethereal in a soulcage crystal. Used as a battery for the spells of a Dark Order wizard, its fate was to be racked with agony each time its "owner" tore out parts of its existence to fuel his bestial magic. It was worse than death; many times Zephyr had tried to end itself but the same power that trapped it kept it from fading. An eternity of slavery was all it was ever going to know.
Or at least, so it had believed. Then a new mage came into possession of its gem, taking it from the pocket of its tormentor after beheading him with a entropically charged hubcap. It had believed it was just changing possessors again as it had so many times, but the new wizard was not like the rest.
Unable to free it directly, this owner had done something none of the rest could or would attempt. He performed a Rite of Imbuement, a high magic used to create Incarnates - possessed objects. The spell was a difficult one, a power usually too complex for even experienced magus to perform. A thousand things could have gone wrong, most of them disastrously. But they didn't.
And when the glow of enchantment faded, Zephyr was no longer a trapped soul in a jewel. It was once again alive, in a sense. Zephyr could move, could be free, and could act through its potent new form. If it had desired, it could have bolted for its freedom and none could have stopped it. No longer a slave. No Master any longer...
...but it hadn't. This new mage had given it freedom without asking a price. In the Old Times, such a gift would have demanded a return. Those days were gone but Zephyr still remembered them. It... HE.... still honored the old code.
And so it began. Zephyr became Matthew's familiar, a motorcycle with self-motivation and so much more beyond. They had been inseparable, acting as two halves of a greater whole. His respect for his magus had only grown with each new example of the young caster's power. Though Matthew had made some mistakes in judgment and seemed incapable of expressing his emotions properly, that was to be expected of fledglings. If he survived this time out of the nest, the human would become so much more than he was now. Zephyr was determined to stay at his side until that day came.
That, at least, had been the plan. Then came the Great Deathling and her interference once again. There had been a terrible explosion and in the midst of the flame and chaos, his Master was captured. Thrown in the back of a warded car and banded with some kind of Higher Magic talisman, Matthew could no longer be sensed or felt. The fires took their toll and Zephyr learned a new kind of suffering.
Time had passed and he had healed but his Master was still gone. The Deathling actually helped put him back together, though her every touch was painful, and his opinion of the female was better than it had been before. She was still not good enough for his Master but she was at least bright enough to realize she needed to serve Matthew properly. She had loaded Zephyr's saddlebags with food and supplies, then released him to try and return where he belonged.
The road had been a long one. There had been bad weather, broken pavement, near-wrecks, not-so-near wrecks, an encounter with a truck full of hunters determined to reap his spirit for their own purposes, and areas of dead power where magic was so scarce he had actually needed normal fuel just to move.
All of this was just another source of suffering. For eeks, now more than a month, he had roamed the highways, desperately seeking a sign of the Master. Anything, any psychic echo of where his magus might be.
He silently idled up to the front of a white building tucked away in a grassy meadow and surrounded by tall hills. Chattanooga, Tennessee. A hospital. Somehow, it did not surprise Zephyr that he would feel his magus in a place of healing and death. Both were very fitting for the Master. Very much what his life was about right now.
In the distance, he finally saw Matthew approach, a young female human in his arms. The Master looked tired and in need of rest. Easing his back wheel down to make mounting easier, Zephyr rumbled his engine in greeting and played "We're in This Together" by Nine Inch Nails. It was one of his Master's favorite bands and even at this distance, he thought he could see a relieved look on the male's face.
Then Matthew was at his side, belting the small unconscious human to the back of his tall seat. The Master slung one leg over the leather bench, adjusted his coat, and pressed the throttle switch on his handlebars. After a moment's silence, his magus said in a low, grumbly voice, "Damn well took you long enough. Stop for a car wash before getting here?
Inwardly, Zephyr sighed. One really couldn't expect better manners from fledglings. Of course, if fledglings did not eventually learn better manners, fledglings could always be taught them by driving swiftly towards a wall and then stopping suddenly.
This thought made the motorcycle purr warmly as he drove away into the night, finally whole.