Ansel had not slept the night before, but he was not tired. It was getting close to mid-day. He and his three guards were hiding in a group of trees outside of the East Village. They had constantly searched through the night for any signs of trouble, and found nothing. Ansel sat with his fellow guards in silence, waiting for Hector Delis to appear.
Ansel was very interested to hear what this information was. He hoped it wasn’t too dire. He hoped it wasn’t that the forces of Aurumist had found a way to infiltrate Abscon. He worried about Griffa and Max and the others. Ansel tried not to think of Griffa as he was working.
It was too distracting, but in quiet moments during the night she would float into his mind. He thought of kissing her, of the feeling of her in his arms. He remembered the way her body felt against his. He couldn’t wait to get back and see her. He wanted so badly to actually tell her how he felt. He thought of kissing her again, of holding her close. His thoughts were interrupted by Hector Delis appearing to the right of him.
“Ansel, how does it look?” asked Hector quietly.
“It seems all clear. We have searched the area several times and found nothing. I will go with you to meet this spy, and the others will go to the left and right and to watch. No one will get by us.”
Hector nodded. “It’s time; let’s get closer to the village.”
Ansel nodded to his guards, and they scattered. He walked with Hector through the edge of the forest, closer to the town. Ansel spotted someone in a dark robe to his left disappear into a group of trees. He tapped Hector on the shoulder and motioned for Hector to follow him. The silently went towards the group of trees, Ansel on his guard. They entered and saw a hooded figure standing very still.
Ansel and Hector faced the hooded figure, waiting and prepared.
“Hector Delis?” the figure asked in a whisper.
“Yes,” answered Hector. “It is I.”
“And who is this with you?” questioned the figure.
“I am Ansel of the line of Raya, protector to the king. Who are we speaking to?”
“It does not matter, protector. What I have to say you will want to hear and quickly,” said the hooded figure. “Do not come closer, or I will leave.”
Hector nodded. “Tell us then. What do you have to say?”
“I have heard you have a traitor amongst you. Someone who says they can get to the king.”
“Who is this traitor?” asked Ansel, a feeling of dread building in his stomach.
“I do not know, but this traitor did say he would kill the king,” answered the hooded figure. “He seemed confident.”
“Do you know when this will take place?” asked Ansel. He hoped they weren’t too late.
“No, only that it would be soon. You will need to hurry back, protector. Our king is in trouble. We will need him in the fight to come.”
Ansel felt his feeling of dread spread throughout his body. He wondered how soon this traitor would strike. He hoped it wasn’t happening at that very moment.
“Can you tell us more; how will they strike?” asked Hector
“I do not know. Hurry back, and keep the king safe,” said the figure as it turned and disappeared.
“I have to get back, now. Hector, find my guards and tell them to come back to Abscon, to Keene Manor. Tell them to find the others on the perimeter and join them on guard. Tell them to hurry.”
Hector nodded, and Ansel closed his eyes, feeling himself travel. Ansel opened his eyes and saw the gate of Abscon in front of him. He hated that he couldn’t travel directly to Griffa’s back yard, but they had set up wards against magical travel in Abscon to keep it safe. Ansel laid his hand on one of the bent trees of the gate and closed his eyes. The trees lit up, permitting him to enter. He ran as fast as he could towards Abscon and Griffa’s house.
He was scared of what he would find there. He knew Griffa was smart and strong. He knew Max could defend himself now, but that didn’t keep Ansel from fearing the worst. His magic was agitated, and it sat on the surface of his skin. He couldn’t tell what it wanted, but it felt angry and worried.
He finally entered Abscon. He was winded, but he didn’t dare stop. After what felt like forever, he got to the front yard of Keene Manor. Nothing looked out of place; maybe he had made it in time.
Ansel hurried up to the front door and let himself in. He stepped into the parlor to find Max, Issa, and Nora staring up at him.
“Ansel, you’re back! Is everything alright?” asked Max, jumping up.
“I think so. I don’t know,” said Ansel, very agitated and breathless. His magic was in a frenzy all around him. “Where is Griffa?” He scanned the room to make sure he hadn’t missed her.
The three looked at each other. “We aren’t sure,” said Issa. “Marcus came to see her, and she took him somewhere in manor. He left but she hasn’t come out yet. It was only five or so minutes ago.”
Ansel didn’t say another word and walked quickly out of the room. He needed to see Griffa to make sure all was well. He peeked in the study and found it empty. He checked the conservatory, and it too was deserted.
“Griffa!” Ansel called looking through rooms. A familiar sense of foreboding came over him. He felt like he was living his nightmare. He called for her again, “Griffa!” There was no answer. His breath was rapid, and his magic felt almost out of his control. He finally opened the door to the music room, and he heard himself give a cry of anguish.
She was laying on the floor on her side, and her hair was covering her face. Ansel’s heart was beating out of his chest. He felt like he couldn’t breathe. He didn’t want to look, but he knew he had to. He walked towards Griffa and took his hat off, letting it fall out of his hands and on the floor. He bent down and gently turned her towards him, moving her hair out of her face.
“Griffa,” he said quietly. She opened her eyes slowly and then blinked rapidly.
“Ansel,” she whispered. “It was the flowers, last breath.” Her face was very pale and dark blood ran from her nose, down her face onto her chest and the floor. “I’m sorry. I should have known.”
Ansel picked her up slightly and held her. “Shh, it’s alight. It’s going to be alright. I’m here.”
The others found them.
“Griffa!” cried out Max, sounding lost.
Issa broke into tears, and Nora took charge.
“Ansel, get her to her bedroom, now. Max, go get Maybell. Is there a healer or an apothecary in the village?”
“Yes,” said Ansel gently lifting Griffa up and into his arms. “Chiron, he lives close to the town center.”
“Issa go find Wallis, tell him to get Chiron here as quickly as possible. Ansel, let’s go. Get her to her bed.”
Ansel walked as quick as he could with Griffa in his arms. She groaned but didn’t speak. At least she was alive, thought Ansel. He walked up the stairs and heard Max and Maybell behind him. Ansel hurried to Griffa’s room and softly placed her on her bed. She was shivering and coughing causing more blood to come from her nose.
“What happened?” asked Maybell. She hurried to stand behind Ansel.
“She said it was a flower, last breath.”
“Ansel, take Max and go get a green bottle that’s in the cabinet above the sink. Nora and I will get her undressed and cleaned up. Hurry!”
Ansel didn’t want to leave her, but he grabbed Max who seemed paralyzed and walked swiftly out of the room. He went down the stairs and into the kitchen with Max on his heels.
“I’ve read about last breath. Griffa told me about them. This isn’t good, Ansel,” said Max as Ansel looked for the green bottle.
“What do you mean?” asked Ansel as he found the bottle and grabbed it.
“I mean if she inhaled enough of it, it’s lethal. There isn’t a lot that can be done,” said Max. “Ansel, I think she might die.”
Ansel stopped and looked at Max. “She’s not going to die. She can’t.”
Max stared at him, with tears in his eyes. “Ansel…”
Ansel didn’t want to hear whatever Max was going to say next. He pushed by him saying, “Come on.”
They walked quickly back up the stairs and knocked on the closed door. Maybell answered and let them in. Ansel handed her the bottle and rushed to Griffa’s side. She was in a clean night gown and under the covers. Her face was clean but dark blood still dribbled out of her nose. Sweat had formed on her forehead, and she was tossing and turning in the bed.
“Griffa,” mumbled Ansel. He knelt down next to her and put his hand on her forehead pushing sticky, wet hair out of her face. Maybell handed him the bottle.
“Get her to drink some of this. It will help flush some of the poison out of her system. Max, grab her washing bowl over there.”
Ansel held the bottle up to Griffa’s lips. She opened her eyes at the sensation. “Drink some of this, Griffa,” said Ansel.
She opened her mouth slightly, and he tilted the bottle. Some went into her mouth while some dribbled down her chin. He pulled the bottle away and sat it on the bedside table.
“Ansel, move back,” ordered Maybell holding the bowl Max had given her.
Ansel moved back as Maybell took his place. Griffa took two heaving breaths and then leaned over and vomited in the bowl. She did this twice and then settled back down into the bed, Maybell wiping her mouth and nose with a small towel. The towel was red with Griffa’s blood.
Maybell got up to go empty the bowl, and Ansel took her place by Griffa’s side. Griffa was still now. Her breathing was shallow and fast. Ansel touched her face, and she was hot. Sweat was on her brow. He got up and ran down the stairs after Maybell, Max following him.
He followed Maybell into the kitchen. “What else can we do?” he asked Maybell in a pitiful voice as she emptied the bowl out the back door.
“We wait for the Chiron and pray,” said Maybell.
Ansel nodded but didn’t know what to say. Maybell left the room to go back to Griffa. Ansel turned to Max.
“What happened? What did Marcus do?”
“I don’t know. He came to see her. He had a bouquet of flowers, but I never thought… He asked to see her privately,” said Max as he paced around.
“You let him?” answered Ansel loudly.
“Why wouldn’t I? Griffa agreed. They went to the music room, I guess. He didn’t stay long. He came to say goodbye, and said he had to get back to his father quickly. I though Griffa just needed time by herself or something. I didn’t know, Ansel.”
Ansel took deep breaths, trying to calm himself. He nodded and patted Max on the shoulder. “It’s not your fault, Max.” Ansel walked from the kitchen to find Chiron entering the front door with Wallis.
“Ansel, what is going on? Is it Gryphon?” asked Chiron. He was an older man with little hair and big glasses. He was carrying a large case.
Ansel nodded. “Yes, come on. She’s upstairs in her room. She said it was a flower, last breath.”
“Where is the flower now?’ asked Chiron sharply. “It’s not in the house is it?
“I don’t know,” said Ansel.
“I think Griffa burned the flowers,” said Max walking behind them. “Something was smoking in the fireplace in the music room.”
“Clever woman,” remarked Chiron. “Let’s hope she didn’t inhale too much.” Ansel opened the door to Griffa’s room and let the Chiron in, Ansel and Max following behind him.
The healer examined Griffa. He looked into her eyes and nose. He opened her mouth and looked down in her throat. He listened to her chest and shook his head.
“It doesn’t sound good. It will depend on how much she breathed in of the toxins and how strong she is. I will leave some potions to keep her comfortable. You will need to keep her calm and as cool as you can. I will check back in the morning or if something changes come get me any time in the night.” said Chiron. He took a few vials out of his case and put them on the bed side. “Give her a drop of each, every four hours. They will help her to rest and keep her fever down. Ansel, walk me out.”
Ansel nodded and followed Chiron out of the bedroom door and down the stairs.
“Ansel, I’m not going to lie to you, it doesn’t look good. She is already having trouble breathing and isn’t responding much to light or touch,” said Chiron as they go to the entry way.
“Surely something else can be done, something?” pleaded Ansel. “Please, there has to be a way.”
“She is young and healthy. It will be a rough few days, but if she makes it through the next two nights, she might live. I think you need to prepare yourself and the others,” said Chiron, he patted Ansel on the shoulder. “Contact me if anything changes, immediately.” Chiron opened the door and walked out.
Ansel was in shock. He couldn’t catch his breath and his legs felt numb. Before he knew it, he was sitting down against the wall in the entry hall. He hung his head down trying to take deep breaths, but they wouldn’t come. The fact that Griffa could die didn’t seem real to him.
He sat up, letting his head hit the wall behind him. How could this manor feel so solid when the very heart of it was fading upstairs? How could everything around him be standing and still when the world was crumbling down?
Ansel rested his head against the wall, feeling tears in his eyes. She wouldn’t die. She couldn’t. He felt sobs wracking his body. Tears fell from his eyes, and he felt like screaming. His head fell forward, and he covered it with his hands as he sobbed. He wasn’t sure he had ever cried like this, but he had never been faced with a loss like this. After a time, his tears lessened, and he sat up with his head back against the wall.
Max had joined him at some point, sitting by him on the floor. He looked over at Ansel. “She’s still alive, Ansel. There’s still hope. Don’t give up on her.”
“I’m not, Max. I just feel so useless. There is nothing I can do.”
“Yes, there is,” said Max handing Ansel his hat.
“What can I do?” asked Ansel.
Max got up and offered his hand to Ansel. “We can go visit Marcus Quick.”
Ansel took Max’s hand, and Max pulled him up. Ansel put on his hat and nodded at Max. He opened the door and they both walked out.