Griffa had never been so bored in her life. She wasn’t a person who could sit still easy. Maybell taught her etiquette lessons as a young girl, and Griffa lost count of the number of times Maybell had to tap her on the head hard to make her sit still. Griffa liked being outside. She enjoyed running or riding through the fields. She like to be in her cellar brewing potions. She loved to wander around the forest for days looking for herbs and flowers. She spent many weeks finding fun and excitement in villages all over the kingdom. She did not like sitting up in her bed all day.
Griffa threw her book down on her bed as Ansel came into the room.
“Is something wrong. Did you not like that one? I can fetch you another,” offered Ansel coming to sit by her side.
“No, it’s a fine book, I’m just tired of reading,” admitted Griffa.
“I never thought I would hear you say that. You love to read,” said Ansel.
“I do, but I’m sick and tired of this bedroom and this bed. Can’t I go downstairs and sit in the parlor for a while? Maybe even sit outside for a bit to get some fresh air,” said Griffa practically begging.
“Chiron said two weeks in bed. It’s barely been over a week,” said Ansel.
“Hang Chiron, I want to get out of here!” yelled Griffa. “I’m sorry I didn’t mean that. He’s a lovely man, but Ansel, I’m going to go mad. I’m really feeling much better. I’m not asking to go running around the village. I’m asking to go sit quietly in the parlor.”
“I suppose you will want to get dressed then?” questioned Ansel smiling at Griffa.
“Or course. I can’t sit out in the house in the middle of the day in my night gown,” said Griffa starting to get up.
“I’ll go get Maybell to help you,” said Ansel starting to get up out of the chair.
“Ansel, you know if you send her in her, I will never get out of bed. She barely lets me sit up,” said Griffa flopping back down in her bed with a huff.
“What do you suggest? Should I get you dressed?” asked Ansel with raised eyebrows.
Griffa smacked him on the arm. “Go get Issa. She’ll help me.”
“Griff, I really don’t think this is a good idea. It’s just one more week.”
“Ansel, I’m fine. Go get Issa. I promise I will only sit in the parlor until lunch. Then if I’m tired, I will nap all afternoon in bed. Please, Ansel, I’m going mad.”
Ansel got up. “Fine, but if I see one yawn, I will throw you over my shoulders and bring you right back up here.”
“Yes, sir!” said Griffa gleefully. She started to get out of bed.
“No, you wait right there until I come back up with Issa,” said Ansel.
Griffa nodded, happy to finally be getting out of her room. She ran her fingers through her hair as best she could. She couldn’t imagine what a mess it really was, tangled and frizzed. She sighed. It wasn’t that she wasn’t grateful to be alive. She was. She knew she had been close to death.
Those days and nights were a fuzzy dark nightmare of pain and noise. She thankfully couldn’t remember most of it, but it still made her shake to think of it. It also wasn’t like she was often left alone. Everyone would come spend time with her. There were times she would have to shoo Ansel away so he could eat or train with Max. He seemed scared to let her out of his sight. She supposed she could understand why.
There was a knock at the door, and Talon entered her room.
“Good morning, Griffa,” said Talon brightly. He walked over and kissed her cheek as he sat down in the chair next to her. “You are looking very well today.”
“I feel good today. I’m going to get dressed and go downstairs. I can’t stand another moment in this bed.”
“Are you sure that’s the best idea? It’s barely been a week since you woke up,” said Talon.
“Not you, too. I thought you’d be on my side. I just convinced Ansel to go get Issa to help me dress. I just want to sit downstairs for a few hours,” explained Griffa.
There was another knock on the door, and Ansel and Issa entered. Talon stood up as they approached the bed.
“Good morning, Issa. You will help me, won’t you?” asked Griffa.
“You think this is a good idea, Ansel?” asked Talon testily.
“No, I don’t think it is, but if Griffa thinks she can handle it I doubt we can change her mind.
“I can handle it!” assured Griffa, throwing off her covers. She put her feet on the floor and pushed up. Her legs were very wobbly, and she was a little dizzy. She fell back sitting on the bed.
Talon reached for her, but Ansel stepped in front of him quickly. Talon backed off slightly.
“See, this is why I don’t think this is such a good idea,” said Ansel.
“I’m fine. I just haven’t been out of bed much. It’ll just take a bit to get my strength up. Now help me get up, please,” said Griffa, giving Ansel a smile.
“Alright, come here,” said Ansel holding out his hand.
He pulled Griffa up into his arms. She leaned against him trying to steady herself. It felt good to be held by him. He had barely touched her since her illness. He was often in her room well into the night, but he stayed in the chair next to her bed. He seemed to think she was made of glass. She rested her head against his chest and closed her eyes.
Talon cleared his throat.
“Should I come back later, then?” asked Issa.
Griffa pushed back from Ansel, “No, no, I’m good.” She stood up straight and let go of Ansel completely. His arms hovered by her side. She didn’t fall back. “See! I can do it. Ansel, you can go. You too, Talon.”
“Are you dismissing me?” said Ansel with a half-smile. “Let me see you walk over to Issa first.”
Griffa lifted her head and very carefully and slowly walked over to Issa. She was proud she only stumbled twice. Griffa raised her arms in celebration and smiled at Ansel.
“Fine. Issa, if she gives you any trouble, just shout. I’ll be right outside this door. Griffa, I will see you outside in a second, if you have the energy after this,” said Ansel. He bowed and left through the door.
“You can leave, Talon,” said Griffa staring at him.
“Are you sure, Griffa? I don’t know about this. I can stay here in case you need help. I can turn around for the interesting parts.” Talon gave her one of his sly smiles.
“Talon,” said Griffa sternly.
“Fine, I’m going. I’ll be right outside as well.” He walked out the door and closed it.
“Are you really sure about this, Griffa?” asked Issa worriedly. “I’ll help you, but I don’t want you to overdo it.”
“I can do this, Issa,” reassured Griffa carefully going to her vanity and sitting down in front of her mirror. “Now will you go into my closet and find a light blue dress. It’s short sleeved and very simple.”
Issa disappeared into Griffa’s closet, and Griffa tried to catch her breath. She didn’t want to admit to Issa the small walk from the bed to her vanity had worn her out. She was determined to go downstairs. She felt the only way to regain her strength was to push herself.
“Is this the one you want, Griffa?” asked Issa popping out of the closet with a dress.
“Yes, exactly, thank you,” replied Griffa.
Issa helped Griffa into her dress and sat her down to comb out her hair. When Issa was done, Griffa examined herself in the mirror. Her face was thin and still pale, with dark circles under her eyes. Her hair was untamed, but at least she wasn’t in a nightgown. Issa came over and helped Griffa up from her chair.
“Well, I guess that’s as good as it’s going to get right now. It’s no matter,” said Griffa pushing up off the vanity and holding on to Issa to get up.
“You look great, Griffa. I’m just glad you’re here,” said Issa happily.
Griffa squeezed her arm. “Let’s go.”
They walked out the door to find Ansel and Talon, both leaning against the wall, waiting for them.
“So, you are really going to try to do this?” asked Ansel tilting his head and looking at Griffa.
“Of course, I told you I was fine,” said Griffa. She started to walk very slowly towards the stairs stumbling a little. Talon caught her hand and steadied her.
Ansel clucked his tongue.
“Oh yes, you look absolutely fine,” said Talon holding on to her arm. “You should go lay back down.”
“I am determined to make it to the parlor,” said Griffa pushing away from Talon. She swayed a little but stayed up right. She started slowly walking towards the stairs.
Ansel came and swept her up in his arms.
“Are you serious, Ansel?” asked Griffa. “I am perfectly able to make it down the stairs.”
“Humor me,” replied Ansel walking with Griffa in his arms. Griffa huffed, but didn’t struggle.
Ansel walked down the stairs with her in his arms and into the parlor. He sat Griffa gently on the sofa and sat down beside her. Talon sat in a chair next to her. Max looked up from the book he was ready to smile widely at Griffa as Issa sat in a chair beside him.
“Griffa! I didn’t know you would be coming down so soon,” said Max happily.
“She shouldn’t be down here, but you know how she gets. It’s like arguing with a wall. So here we are. Remember one yawn and I will take you right back upstairs,” said Ansel looking at Griffa.
She ignored him. “It is so nice to look at something besides my bedroom walls. What have I missed?”
“Just you almost dying,” grumbled Ansel under his breath.
Griffa shot him a look and then turned to Max expectantly.
“Not much. I’ve been reading and studying about shielding charms. I’ve also been reading an old book about making things appear in places far away. Like I could send an orange to someone in Clarton. I didn’t know you could do that,” said Max.
“I’ve heard of it, but I’ve never seen it done. I’d like to look at that book when you are done,” said Griffa to Max.
“Or course, Griffa,” replied Max.
“What about you, Issa. Have you had a chance to practice archery this week?” asked Griffa turning to Issa.
“Yes, a little. It’s harder without you there to help me, but I did manage to hit the target a few times.”
“Good, hopefully by next week I can join you again.”
Ansel let out a laugh.
“What?” asked Griffa.
“Nothing,” said Ansel.
“He’s probably thinking it’s funny you think you’ll be outside shooting arrows by next week. You’ll be lucky to make it to the bench by the back door,” said Talon dryly.
Griffa rolled her eyes and continued to talk to Issa about archery until there was a knock at the door. Everyone turned to the door and waited. Nora came in with Hector Delis and his daughter. Hector smiled at everyone, and when he saw Griffa he started a little.
“Gryphon, I didn’t expect to be able to see you today. I would have brought you something. Perhaps not flowers but maybe some fresh fruit,” said Hector coming over to her.
“Thank you, Hector, but I don’t need any presents. I’m glad to see you and Desmona,” said Griffa pleasantly. “Please have a seat. Hector why don’t you take the chair there by Max. Desmona, there is room on the sofa with Ansel and me.”
Ansel shot Griffa a look, but she only smiled at him. She knew she shouldn’t tease him especially about Desmona, but sometimes it was too tempting.
Desmona sat down on the couch and turned to Griffa and Ansel, “Griffa, I was very concerned to hear about your accident. I am glad you are better.”
Griffa raised her eyebrows, surprised at how sincere Desmona sounded.
“You don’t have to look so surprised. I know we haven’t gotten along, but I never wished any harm to come of you,” said Desmona. “I may have wished you disappeared sometimes, but I also hoped you went somewhere far away and nice.”
“The feeling is mutual, Desmona,” said Griffa with a smirk.
“Talon, I see you are still visiting, as well,” said Hector looking over at Talon.
“Yes, I wanted to make sure Griffa is truly well. I have also been wanting a word with you about the Ring, so it is advantageous you have stopped by today.”
“Oh,” said Hector, “What were you wanting to speak to me about?”
“There are many things the Valley has concerns over that need to be addressed by the Ring. We have not had a representative from the Ring contact us in some time,” answered Talon looking over at Hector.
“I have not had any word from the council of the Valley,” said Hector carefully. “We cannot address concerns if we do not know them.”
“I am in constant contact with the true leader of the Ring,” said Talon. “Which brings me to my first point. I am very concerned with your lack of concern for the safety of our king and particularly your leader, Gryphon Keene.”
“Talon,” said Griffa alarmed. “Hector holds the first chair of the Ring.”
“He shouldn’t,” said Talon forcefully. “He should have stepped aside for a while now. He should have encouraged you to take your place.”
“I am willing to step aside anytime Gryphon is ready to lead,” said Hector with sincerity.
“I know that, Hector,” assured Griffa. “We all know that.” Griffa turned and looked at Talon. She wondered what his point was to all of this.
Talon glanced at Griffa with a half-smile. “We will see how true that statement is. I hope very soon. The Ring could use Griffa’s leadership. I’m afraid you have grown rather complacent.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way. You are welcome to join us for a meeting at any time, Talon. We would like to have input from the Valley,” said Hector bowing his head slightly.
“I will take your invitation when Gryphon Keene takes her place,” replied Talon. “Until then, I’m afraid the council of the Valley has little faith in any promises made by the Ring.”
“I am not sure this is a conversation we need to have today,” said Ansel. “When Griffa is ready, she will lead. She doesn’t need this stress right now. She needs to focus on healing.”
Talon gave a loud sigh of exasperation.
“So, what brings you by today, Hector?” asked Griffa, trying to change the subject.
Hector looked at Talon and then answered.
“I wanted to let you know that we have seen no sign of Philo Quick. He did not go to meet his wife in the Valley. We have no idea where he is.”
“I know this,” said Ansel. “My guards have been searching of course. We will find him eventually.”
“He is not in the Valley. I have heard from my contacts back home. His house is empty. We will continue to keep it under watch,” said Talon.
Hector nodded. “I also wanted to let you know we have heard from our own informant again. They want to meet. This time outside of Clarton. They say they have new information and something to give us as well.”
“When do they want to meet?” asked Griffa
“In three days at sunset,” answered Hector. “I figured you didn’t want to go, Ansel, but perhaps you could send some of your guards ahead and a few with me.”
“Of course,” said Ansel. “It will be no problem.”
“Why wouldn’t you go, Ansel? You could at least escort Hector there. You would only be gone a couple of hours at most, probably less than that.”
“Griffa, I don’t think...” started Ansel.
“You can’t stay here at the house forever because of me. You have your duty to attend to. We need information to win the kingdom and more importantly to keep Max safe,” said Griffa passionately.
“I’m sure I’ll be fine with guards that Ansel assigns, Gryphon. It’s not a problem,” said Hector looking between Ansel and Griffa.
“Of course, it’s not a problem, Hector. Desma, can I speak with you for a moment over by the desk?” asked Ansel.
Desmona looked surprised but nodded, and they both stood up and walked to the writing desk in the corner. Griffa turned around to try to see what they were doing as Max and Hector talked. Before long Ansel and Desmona came back.
“Father, I think we must be going. We don’t want to wear poor Griffa out,” said Desmona. Ansel came to stand by her.
“Of course not, Desmona,” said Hector standing up. “It is so good to see you doing so well Gryphon. Please take care of yourself. Ansel, let me know what your plans are with your guards for the meeting. Talon, if there is anyway the Ring can serve the Valley, I am ready to listen.”
Ansel nodded as Talon said, “I have told you where we stand. I will await Griffa’s word that she has taken up the first chair.”
Desmona came up to Griffa and put her hand gently on her arm. Griffa looked up at her.
“It is good to see you up and about, Griffa. Please don’t exhaust yourself. I’m afraid you are going to make yourself very tired,” said Desmona looking intently at Griffa.
Griffa looked at Desmona and suddenly felt very peaceful and very sleepy. She found herself in the middle of giant yawn before she realized what had happened.
“There we are. Goodbye, Hector, Desmona,” said Ansel. He saw them out and came back over and scooped up Griffa off the couch.
“You cheated and you did it with her,” pouted Griffa.
“You invited her to sit by me. She has to be good for something, right?” asked Ansel. “But I did cheat, so I won’t throw you over my shoulder; how about that?”
Griffa frowned but nodded as Ansel took her upstairs and laid her on her bed. Griffa angrily picked up her book and opened it.
“I know your miserable, but this won’t last forever,” said Ansel smiling at her.
“It might with the way you’re treating me,” replied Griffa angrily. “Ansel, I’m not going to break or disappear before your eyes. I’m getting better.” Griffa threw her book down to her side
Ansel continued to smile at her as he sat down on the chair next to the bed.
“Oh, and you will be going with Hector to that meeting in a few days. You know you have to go. I will be fine here at the house. I’ll even stay in my room the whole time you are gone if that is what it takes. You have to go.”
Ansel continued to just smile at her.
“Aren’t you going to say anything?” asked Griffa. Her face was very hot, and it was probably bright red.
“I think you are doing just fine without me. Go on with your argument,” said Ansel happily.
“So, you’re enjoying this, me being upset, fussing at you?”
“Yes, I like you being able to fuss at me,” said Ansel. He picked up her hand and held it. “Griffa, can you please be patient with me? I thought you were going to die. I know how hard this is for you, but please just let us all take care of you for a while.”
Griffa felt her face soften. “Fine, but will you at least think about going with Hector? You wouldn’t be gone long.”
Ansel nodded, “I will think about, but if I can’t leave you this time, you will have to forgive me.”
Griffa smiled a little and picked up her book. “Well, don’t just sit there all day and stare at me. Go do something productive.”
Ansel sighed and stood up. “I will be back later to check on you. I’ll even bring you some different books.” He bent down and kissed her forehead gently, and Griffa closed her eyes.
As Ansel turned to go Griffa asked, “Will you stay with me tonight?”
Ansel turned to face her, “Of course.”
“I don’t mean in the chair; I mean with me in the bed,” said Griffa. She felt her cheeks go warm. “Like before… before all this.”
Ansel looked at her for a moment like he might argue with her, but he gave her one of his half smiles. “If that’s what you would like, I will do it”
“Good, now go do something interesting so you can tell me about it later,” said Griffa picking her book back up.
Ansel looked at her for a moment more before walking out of the room and closing the door.
A few moments later, there was knock at the door. It opened and Talon walked in. He came over and sat down next to Griffa.
“Did you enjoy that conversation with Hector?” asked Griffa laying her book by her side.
“I did. It needed to be said. Griffa, it’s ridiculous he is leading the Ring. You are of age, and you are very capable to lead the Ring. Why is no one encouraging you to take your place at the table?”
“We’ve been over this, Talon. Most don’t think I am suitable for leadership. I have different ideas than most people in Abscon, definitely than those on the Ring.”
“Good, they all need to be shaken up a bit,” said Talon. He put his hand on Griffa’s. He messaged the outside of her hand, before threading his fingers with hers. “What does Ansel have to say about it?”
Griffa looked down at their joined hands. She flexed her hand a bit and then turned it over. Talon took to tracing the lines of her hands with his finger. “We don’t really speak of it.”
Talon sighed. He picked up Griffa’s hand and kissed it. He held it between both of own, staring at her. “You would think the man who loves you would be encouraging you to become who you were meant to be.”
Griffa looked down. “You say that like it’s a settled thing. I’m not sure how he feels about me.”
“Griffa,” said Talon impatiently. “It’s clear to everyone that Ansel is completely in love with you. You must see it.”
Griffa shrugged lightly. “I don’t know how I can be sure when he won’t tell me himself. He barely touches me since my accident. He did kiss me the night of the summer ball, but he’s done that before and taken it back.”
“Why do you put up with this? You should move on. You deserve so much more.”
“I disagree with you, and you know why I can’t move on, Talon.”
Talon sighed again and kissed Griffa’s hand. He let it go. “Fine,” he said standing up.
“Where are you going?” asked Griffa. “What are you going to do?”
“Never you mind. You just rest and focus on getting completely better.”
“Please don’t go make things worse than they already are,” begged Griffa.
“When have I ever done that, Griffa?”
Griffa raised her eyebrows at Talon. He gave her a brilliant smile and then turned and walked out of the room.