Max walked quickly just behind Ansel as they left Keene manor. He had many different emotions swirling inside of him. He was so worried about Griffa. He couldn’t imagine his life now without her in it. He hadn’t known her very long, but she had quickly become someone very important to him. She was warm, kind, and brave. She would teach him important spells, and then help him play a joke on Ansel. She had taken him into her home while barely knowing him and treated him like family. He wasn’t sure how he would fit into his life in Abscon without her.
He was also worried about Ansel. He had never seen Ansel like this. In the time he had known him, Ansel had always been calm. Max felt like he always knew what to do even when things looked bad. No situation every seem to faze him, but now Ansel was falling apart. He knew that Ansel cared about Griffa deeply, and he wasn’t sure if Ansel could recover from such a loss.
Above all, Max was angry. He was angry at himself that he had let this happen. He shouldn’t have let Griffa be alone with Marcus. He should have checked on her sooner. He had sat in the parlor happily chatting with Issa and Nora while Griffa was dying just a few feet away. If he had gotten to her sooner, perhaps they could have purged the poison before it did too much damage. He could have looked closer at the flowers and noticed the last breath. Max shook off these feelings and focused on the one thing he knew most in the world at this moment, Marcus Quick would pay for what he had done.
Ansel stopped on the path outside Griffa’s house as a couple of protector’s guards came up to him. They looked at Ansel and could tell something was very wrong. Ansel looked down, but he couldn’t hide his tear streaked face or his red eyes.
“What happened? Is everything secure?” asked one guards looking at Ansel and Max.
Ansel looked at his guard like he didn’t know what to say, like he couldn’t form the words.
“Gryphon Keene was poisoned,” said Max. “They were probably trying to get to me, but she stopped it.”
“What should we do? Do you know who was responsible, who the traitor is?” asked the guard looking back at Ansel.
“Watch the house,” commanded Ansel, finding his voice. “If you see anything, anything at all that looks out of place, let me know. I know who did this, and I will deal with it.” Ansel nodded to the guards and walked on. Max followed.
They walked in silence. Max could hear Ansel’s breaths coming hard and fast. He caught up with Ansel and walked by his side, looking at his face. Ansel was not crying anymore. His eyes were hard, and his mouth was drawn into a straight line. Max wanted to say something to him, but he had no idea what to say, so he just walked besides him thinking of his own fury, thinking of what Marcus had done to Griffa.
They finally arrived at a large house. Max saw that it was a little smaller than Keene Manor. It was made to look very grand with none of the warmth of Griffa’s home. Ansel walked up to the door and pounded loudly until it opened. A thin man opened the door and looked out, fearfully.
“Can I help you?” asked the man. He looked Ansel up and down.
“I need to see Marcus Quick, now,” answered Ansel coldly.
“Let me tell him you’ve arrived. Please wait here,” said the man, his eyes darting between Ansel and Max.
“We will go in now,” said Ansel. He put his hand on the door and pushed it opened almost knocking the man over. Ansel paid him no mind and walked into the entry hall. Max followed.
“Marcus!” Ansel yelled in the entry hall. “Marcus!”
Max saw Marcus come out of a door on the right side of the entry hall.
“Ansel? What is the ma….,” started Marcus, but before he could finish his question, he was thrown against the wall and pinned. Max looked at Ansel who had his hand raised. His eyes were cold and hard. The thin man at the door squeaked and ran somewhere in the house.
“Ansel, what is going on?” asked Marcus frantically. “Let me down.”
Ansel pushed his hand down, and Marcus fell hard on the marble floor of the entry hall.
“Why are you doing this?” asked Marcus from the floor. He sat up and pushed his hair back with his hands.
Ansel laughed coldly. “I know Marcus. I know you wanted to kill the king. What did they offer you?” Ansel threw his hand to the side and Marcus was thrown into the staircase. Marcus grabbed his back, laying on his side.
“Kill the king?” repeated Marcus from the floor. Ansel walked over to stand directly over Marcus. Hel had his hand raised, ready to strike.
“You think we are stupid? We know about the flowers; we know what you hid in them. Griffa saw it, and she knew what it was. She destroyed them before they could hurt anyone, but herself. If she dies…” faltered Ansel. Max could feel Ansel’s magic coming off of him. He was barely in control.
“Griffa, die?” asked Marcus as he got up slowly looking at Ansel. “Something has happened to Griffa?” Marcus steadied himself against the banister of the staircase.
Max was angry. How dare he act like he didn’t know.
“You’re going to act like you didn’t know? Like you didn’t bring last breath into the house to release it on all of us?” Max felt his own magic building in him, wanting to get out. He wished he had brought his staff with him to help him control his magic.
“I don’t know what you are talking about. I never wanted to hurt any of you, especially Griffa. I don’t know what’s going on,” said Marcus wildly.
He pushed by Ansel and strode through the side door. Max and Ansel followed him into a large parlor. Marcus sat heavily on a large chair looking up at Max and Ansel.
“Why did you bring a poisonous flower to Griffa. You had to know what would happen.” asked Max.
“I didn’t know there was anything poisonous in that bouquet. My father gave them to me. He said women liked flowers. He told me to take it and visit Griffa, ask her one more time to marry me,” explained Marcus looking very confused. “I went to see Griffa. She said she would never marry me. I wished her well and left. That’s it. I would never hurt her.”
Ansel walked away for a moment and then turned around, “Where is your father, Marcus?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t seen him since I left to go see Griffa. He told me to come back quickly to meet with him. When I got back, he was gone. I thought maybe he decided to go join mother at the house in the Valley, but I don’t know where he is.”
Ansel stared at Marcus. Max could feel Ansel trying to keep his magic in check. “Your father is a traitor, and he tried to kill Max. If you know where he is, you need to tell me now.”
“I don’t; I really don’t,” said Marcus quickly. “I can write mother and see if he went there. I can let you know.”
“You do that,” said Ansel.
“You think my father wanted to kill the king? Why would he do this?” asked Marcus.
Ansel didn’t answer him. Max closed his eyes and took deep breaths willing his magic to calm within him. Griffa had taught him that.
“Is Griffa really going to die?” asked Marcus pathetically.
Ansel stared at him coldly, and then turned and started to walk from the room, Max following him. When Ansel got to the door, he turned and looked at Marcus.
“I would leave Abscon soon, Marcus. Go somewhere far way, because if she dies, I will hunt you down, and I will end you. I don’t care how long it takes. I don’t care if you are telling the truth and didn’t know. I will kill you and your father,” vowed Ansel before he quickly left the room, and Max hurried to catch up.
They walked back to Keene manor in silence. Max felt shaky and tried. Ansel looked defeated. As they walked in the front door the sun was low in the sky.
Ansel said, “I’m going to go check on Griffa.”
Max watched him slowly walk up the stairs. He went into the parlor to see Issa curled up on the couch, crying. Max felt his blood run cold.
“Has something happened? Is she…” asked Max walking up to Issa.
Issa looked up at Max and shook her head. “She’s still alive.”
Max felt his legs go weak, and he fell onto the couch next to Issa.
“It’s so awful, Max. She is so sick. I’ve never seen anyone that sick. She doesn’t deserve this. She doesn’t,” sobbed Issa. Max automatically reach out for her and pulled her into his arms.
“Issa, it’s ok. She will get through this. She will.”
Max told this to Issa, but he didn’t really believe it himself. He knew the effects of last breath. He knew how hopeless the situation truly was. What would they do? Griffa felt essential to all of them. Max held Issa as she cried. He rubbed her back and started thinking. There had to be something he could do.
He went over all the potion lessons Griffa had given him. Surely there was something he could make that would help Griffa. Max started thinking about the books he had upstairs under his bed. He suddenly knew there was something he could do. Griffa wouldn’t want him to, but if there was a chance to save her, Max would try.
There was a loud knock at the front door. Issa sat up and looked at Max.
“I’ll go see who it is,” said Max. He got up and went to the entrance hall. He opened the door to find Madam Sidora, the diviner of the ring, staring at him.
“Hello,” said Max. “Do you want to come in?”
Madam Sidora nodded and walked into the entrance hall. She looked at Max and then took his hand.
“I knew there was something terribly wrong here. I can see it now. Young Gryphon is very sick, isn’t she?” asked Madam Sidora staring at Max.
“You know what you must do. It is a sacrifice, but it must be done. She must not die. You need her, and the kingdom needs her. Do what you must to save her,” said Madam Sidora as she gripped Max’s hand very tightly. Issa walked in and stood behind Max. Madam Sidora looked at Issa. “Help him, girl. Help him do what he must.”. She slipped her hand out of Max’s and turned. She then opened the door and walked out.
Issa came to stand by Max. “What was that all about?”
Max said nothing. He turned and ran up the stairs into his room. He dug under his bed and pulled out two large books. He picked them up, ran out of his room, and downstairs past Issa, who was still standing in the entry way.
“Max, what are you doing? Where are you going?” asked Issa as he passed.
Max stopped in the doorway to the kitchen. “I’m going to save Griffa, and I need your help.”
Issa nodded and followed him into the kitchen, down the stairs, and into the cellar. Max walked in and threw his books onto Griffa’s cot on the side of the wall. He waved his hand to light the candles that were scattered across the room. The room became dimly lit. He waved his hand again, and a fire sprung up in the fireplace. He then went and sat on the cot and picked up a book. He handed the other one to Issa.
“Issa, I need you to start searching this book. Look for anything that mentions giving life or preserving magic. If you find anything you think could be important, show it to me. I’d rather be bothered a hundred times than miss the one thing that might work. Do you understand?”
Issa nodded and took the book. She went to the chair by the fire and started reading.
“Do you think we can find something in these books to help Griffa?” asked Issa as she skimmed a page.
“I know we can; it will just take some work,” said Max. He looked up at Issa. She must have felt his eyes on her because she raised her head to meet his gaze. “Issa, I want you to know what we are going to do might be dangerous. It’s very old magic and it might have consequences. I don’t want to put you in danger.”
Issa looked at him, her eyes steady, “Max, do you think we can actually save her?”
“Then it’s worth it. You can do this, and I will do whatever I can to help. We will deal with the consequences as they come,” said Issa. She went back to skimming pages.
Max looked at Issa for a moment and marveled in her bravery and determination. He felt hope blossom in his chest. They would save Griffa not matter what it took.