Griffa sat in her cellar in front of the fireplace. She had a book propped on a stool in front of her. She waved her hand, and the fire lit in the fireplace in front of her. She waved her hand again and the large kettle nearby lifted itself on the hook over the fire. She pulled out the small vial of gold potion out of her pocket and looked at it.
“I need to find out what you are,” she said to herself.
Griffa magicked some water from a nearby bucket into the kettle. She added many different ingredients from around her small room. The liquid inside bubbled high. Griffa waved her hand, and her fire burned lower. She found a dropper next to her and took a very small amount of the potion in the vial and added it into the kettle. The liquid in the cauldron turned dark green and foamed. She looked at it and nodded her head.
“I guess that looks right,” mumbled Griffa, reading the book she had propped open. “Now I have to let it sit for a few days. “
Griffa got up off the stool she was sitting on, stretched her back, and yawned. It had been a long day. She had trained with Max in the morning, studied with Issa about blood potions in the afternoon, and spent several hours after dinner in her cellar trying to find out how to do the potion in front of her. She felt herself sway a little. Her head was spinning. She was feeling stronger every day, but perhaps she had overdone it a little. She steadied herself as best she could, opened the door, and walked up the stairs.
She didn’t think she could make it up the larger stairs to her room so Griffa went into the parlor and fell onto the sofa. It was very comfortable. A night there wouldn’t be so bad.
“Griffa,” said Ansel in a sleepy voice.
Griffa looked over and saw Ansel was slumped in one of the chairs by the fireplace.
“Ansel, what are you still doing up?” asked Griffa sitting up on the sofa as best she could.
“I was waiting for you, but I guess I dosed off. How long have you been working?” Ansel rubbed his eyes.
“Too long, I think. I guess everyone else has gone to bed?” said Griffa.
“Yes, ages ago. I knew I should have gone down there and got you. What were you working on?”
“I think I’ve found a way to find out what’s in that potion. It will take a few days, but if I’m right we will know at least some of the ingredients in it. I added all that I could find that might be in something like that.” She yawned at the end of her sentence.
“You need to go to bed,” said Ansel standing up. “Come on.”
Griffa looked up at him. “Don’t be smug about this, but I don’t think I can make it upstairs.” Griffa gave him a look she hoped wasn’t too pathetic.
Ansel smirked at her. “Finally going to admit you overdo it sometimes? Well I guess you can sleep down here. That sofa doesn’t look too bad.” Ansel started walking away.
“Ansel, really?” huffed Griffa. He came back and picked her up.
“I can definitely tell your eating better lately,” said Ansel giving her a little squeeze.
Griffa swatted him. “If that’s how you’re going to be, I’ll just crawl up the stairs.”
“No, I’ll make it somehow,” smiled Ansel.
He carried her up the stairs and into her room, placing her on her bed. He closed the door and came over taking off his boots and shirt. Griffa pulled down the covers, and he walked over and lay beside her pulling up the covers over them both. He pulled her into his arms, and she immediately started feeling warm and sleepy.
“I should probably get cleaned up and undressed, but I don’t think I have the energy,” said Griffa with her eyes closed. She knew her hands and face were probably filthy.
“I can help you if you like or don’t bother with it. You can have a bath in the morning,” said Ansel. He kissed her on the cheek as she fell asleep.
Griffa dreamed of her father. She was around seven years old and was sitting by the fireplace in the parlor when her father came in and smiled at her.
“There’s my little queen. What have you been doing today?”
“I made Ansel teach me how to jump my horse over the fence by the pond, but it didn’t go so well for him. I on the other hand jumped the fence twice,” said Griffa triumphantly.
“Already ordering young men around?” said her father. “I will have to find some very special young man to marry you some day.”
“Will I marry? Do I have to?” asked Griffa looking up at her father. He came over and sat down in the chair in front of her.
“No, you don’t not have to marry, but why wouldn’t you want to?” asked her father.
“Because then I’ll have to leave you. And what if my husband won’t let me ride with Ansel?” asked Griffa sadly.
“My sweet, you will never have to leave me if you don’t want to. Any man that marries you will have to live here with you. You are a Keene, and this is your home. As for seeing Ansel, I doubt any man could not give you anything you asked for.”
“I would like to fall in love someday, but I want to do all kind of things. I want to see the whole kingdom. I want to brew every potion ever written and come up with new ones. I want to read all the books in the town library. I want to dance at every festival in every village I can find. Do you think if I find a husband, he will let me do that?”
“You will have to find someone very special. It might take a while. That’s good, though, because I won’t give you up anytime soon. You will have to find someone fit for the queen that you are. Don’t settle, Griffa. It took me a while to find your mother, but when I did, I knew almost immediately she was the love of my life.”
“I wish I had known her,” said Griffa sadly. “I hope she would have liked me.”
“She loved you, and she would love you even more now. You do know her. You are so much like her, Griffa. She was strong, brave, and kind. Your eyes are just like hers. I could always tell what mood she was in just by looking at them. Just like I can do with yours. I think yours say you are hungry right now. Run into the kitchen and see if it’s time for dinner.”
Griffa stood up. “Father, I don’t want to leave you anytime soon. I love you.”
Her father walked up and touched her little nose. “And you won’t. You will be the lady of my house for many years. I love you, my dear. Now run a long.”
Griffa woke up from her dream in the middle of the night. She smiled at the memory of her father. Griffa looked over at Ansel sleeping soundly next to her. She had found someone very special. She wondered what her father would have made of her and Ansel’s relationship. She had to think that if her father saw how much she loved Ansel, he would approve. Griffa snuggled into Ansel side and fell back asleep feeling very happy and very loved.
The next day found Griffa outside in the yard with Max. They had an ottoman from the parlor in front of them. It was large and green.
“I wish we could actually send this thing somewhere outside of Abscon and be able to go check on it,” said Griffa looking over the ottoman. “But we can’t travel anywhere unless we leave the gate.”
“I know, but we can at least try something larger than an apple. Where do you want to try to send it?” asked Max.
“Umm, how about by the back door,” replied Griffa.
Max nodded and took her hand. Griffa concentrated and felt the magic pulsing through Max’s hand. It intertwined with her own creating a warm feeling in her palm. It was strange how his magic felt with hers. It was not the first time she had felt her magic react to others. She remembered how it felt to feel her father’s magic combine with hers when she was younger and learning to do new things. She was always aware of Ansel’s magic seeking hers when they were close. With Max it was different, it was as if their magic was working to create something new, something more powerful.
Griffa took a deep breath, envisioning the ottoman by the door, and squeezed Max’s hand. She opened her eyes and the ottoman disappeared. She looked over and it was in front of the door. She glanced at Max to find him smiling at her.
“I think we are getting better at this.” Max let go of her hand.
She nodded and messaged her palm feeling how hot it was to her touch. “It’s strange that we can only manage it together, but I suppose it takes powerful magic to make it happen.”
Max nodded. The spent the rest of the morning moving the ottoman around. They added other objects with it. The found success moving the ottoman with an apple, a broom, and a teapot all in one try.
After moving five different objects at once, Griffa moved over to the nearby bench and sat down, messaging her hand.
“Are you alight?” asked Max looking at her with concern. He flopped down on the bench next to her opening and closing his hand over and over as though trying to get feeling back in it.
“Yes, I’m fine. I just need a break,” said Griffa. She put both her hands on the bench and stretched her back.
“Has anything new been heard from Aurumist?” Max stopped flexing his hand and moved it around.
“No, we have not heard from our spy,” replied Griffa sitting up on the bench. “I wonder if Philo has found his way there yet.”
They were silent for a while until Max asked, “Have you ever seen Aurumist in person?”
Griffa nodded her head. “I have. I visited there about a year before I met you. There was a time I traveled the kingdom for a while, sometimes with Ansel, sometimes with other friends, and sometimes on my own. Why do you ask?”
“What’s it like? What does it look like?” asked Max.
Griffa smiled and stood up. She held out her hand and Max took it. She pulled him up. “Come on, I’ll show you.”
Griffa took him to the large map of Regventus that was located in a room off of her father’s study. The map laid on a huge table that took up most of the room. Griffa smiled, thinking of the times she had spent with her father in this room as he taught her about the kingdom. She walked over to where Aurumist was located, on the east side of Regventus next to a large river that ran through the kingdom. She put her hand over the spot it would be and raised it.
The city came to life before their eyes. Five rings appeared all with their own buildings, paths, and roads. It started small, with scattered buildings on the outer ring and became crowded with mismatched buildings in fourth and third rings. The second ring was full of sprawling buildings and lawns. The fifth was all large homes with neat gardens and stables. In the middle was a large palace with many towers and courtyards.
Griffa smiled at Max, “This is Aurumist. It has five rings. The outer ring is mostly inns, stables, and some older homes. The poorer citizens live in the fourth and third rings. The shops are also mostly contained in the third ring. The second ring has the largest library in the kingdom and places for children from the upper rings to learn alongside older children who have been chosen from all over the kingdom. The first ring is where the most powerful and wealthy of the kingdom live. Of course, in the center is the palace. It was first built by King Nathin and then added on to by several other kings and queens for various reasons. Some good, some bad.”
Max looked closely at the city. He seemed to be studying it, trying to take in every detail. “What is your favorite place in the city, Griffa?” asked Max.
“Oh, the library here,” said Griffa pointing to a large building in the second ring. “I also really like this pathway behind the library that leads to this large field. It’s a pretty place to walk, and the field had a large celebration going on one day when I visited with Talon. You know there are many paths there, some of them quite secluded…” She trailed off, lost in her own memories for a moment.
Max snapped her out of her short daydream by saying, “I can’t imagine living there. It is so different than anything I’ve ever known.”
“You will get used to it, Max. Remember how strange and different Abscon seemed when you came here. I think in the short time you’ve been here; you seem very comfortable. It’s because you were meant to be amongst the magical folk. Maybe you will feel at home in the palace because you were meant to be king,” said Griffa looking at Max.
“I thought you said no one is meant to do anything. I thought we make our own choices.” Max stared at the palace.
“We do. We choose what we want to do and who we want to be, but if we are secure in those choices, I think it makes a difference. If you are sure in your choice of being the king, you will grow into the role. You will become comfortable with all it takes to rule Regventus. I’m not saying it will happen magically, but you will do what you need to do to adapt, to become the king you need to be for the kingdom.”
“I hope so, Griffa,” said Max looking up at her. He didn’t seem very sure.
“I know so, Max. You won’t be alone. You’ll have Issa, and Ansel, and of course me,” said Griffa.
Max looked over Aurumist for almost another hour, asking Griffa questions. She didn’t mind, but eventually she did drag him to lunch.
After lunch she checked on her potion and adjusted her fire. She spent the afternoon with Issa researching blood magic. They found some very interesting information on how blood magic had been used through the ages, but nothing very helpful. By dinner, Griffa was wondering when Ansel would be home. He had been with his guards all day, training.
After dinner everyone went their separate ways. Griffa read for a while in the parlor. She was hoping Ansel would come home soon. Eventually she got bored, threw her book aside, and went into her cellar to watch her potion. Time went by as she watched her potion bubble. She looked over the book in front of her, searching for anything she might have done wrong. She knew it was getting late and was thinking of heading to bed when the door open and Ansel walked into the room.
“Here you are. I thought you would have been in bed, but when I didn’t find you there, I went looking for you,” said Ansel. He came over to her and bent down and kissed her. He sat on a stool next to her looking very tired.
“Long day for you,” said Griffa looking at him. “I didn’t know you would be gone so long.”
“Neither did I, but I haven’t trained with my guards in a while. They also had many questions about what happened here. Then I had to go over the plan to go to the wedding in the West Village. They day just got away from me.”
“Have you eaten?” asked Griffa with concern
“I have,” said Ansel looking at her. “What book do you have there?”
“It’s one of the books I could find on blood potions. I used it to find out how to make this potion. I’ve been trying to learn more about the consequences of participating in blood magic, and maybe how to offset them, but I haven’t found much. I can’t believe all the people who are taking this potion without their knowledge. I shudder to think what might happen to them.”
Ansel turned his eyes away from her and stood up. He walked over to her small cot and sat down.
“What’s wrong, Ansel?” asked Griffa standing up as well. She walked over and sat next to Ansel.
Ansel was quiet. He rubbed his face with his hands and turned to look at her. “There is something I need to tell you. I should have told you sooner, but I wanted to make sure you were well. This may not be the right time, but I don’t like keeping secrets from you.”
Griffa sat up straighter. A bad feeling crept over her. “What is it, Ansel? Just tell me.”
Ansel turned to face her, he took her hand, “Griffa, I want you to know how close we all were to losing you. You were dying in front of us. It was awful. I can barely think about it.”
“Then don’t,” said Griffa. She put her hand on Ansel’s cheek. “It’s done. I didn’t die. I got better.”
Ansel took her hand in his own. He kissed her palm and brought it down. He stared at their joined hands. “You did get better, but for a reason. Chiron said there was no hope. He said you had less than a day left, but Max said he knew a way to save you. He had been studying things on his own. He said he had found a potion that would heal you.” He looked up at her slowly. “Griffa, it was blood magic.”
Griffa took her hands away from Ansel. “What? Blood magic? You used blood magic on me?”
She felt shocked. He could not really mean it. She stood up and walked over close to the door. She grabbed her chest; it felt hard to breath. Ansel stared at her from the cot.
“Griffa, we had to do something! We couldn’t let you just die. I couldn’t lose you, not when there was something that could be done.”
“Whose blood did Max use Ansel?” asked Griffa coldly.
“Mine and Issa’s,” replied Ansel. His head fell forward and he looked at the floor. “Max was going to use his, but I said I wanted to use mine. Issa’s blood was to save you, mine was to preserve you magic.”
Griffa felt her anger rise. “You let Issa do this? She has non-magical blood, Ansel. I can’t even begin to imagine what this will end up doing to her. And Max brewed this potion? You let them do this, and you gave it to me? You knew how I felt about blood magic and you let this happen?”
Ansel stood up and glared at Griffa. “I didn’t let Max and Issa do anything. They were determined. We didn’t do this without great thought, Griffa. It was the only way. You are only here right now, because of that potion made with blood magic. I am not going to apologize for it. I would do it again hundred times if that’s what it took for you to be standing there angry at me.”
Griffa stared at Ansel not knowing what to say. She was angry and confused. She felt betrayed and hurt. She just wanted to get out of there. She turned, opened up the door, and ran up the stairs. She got to the entrance hall before Ansel caught her. He grabbed her hand and pulled her to him.
Ansel gently tilted her head up to look at him. Griffa lifted her eyes and looked into his face. His eyes were red with dark circles underneath. She could see tears on the surface. She wanted to be angry. She wanted to throw his hands away and run, but looking at him, her anger started fading away. She felt his magic reach out for hers, and her own respond. She felt calmer. She took a breath and felt at peace.
“Griffa, don’t punish me for this, please, at least not like this. Don’t run away. I understand you are angry and hurt, but don’t pull away from me. I know what we did sounds wrong, but it was the only way. I was told you were going to die. I was watching you get weaker and weaker. I had to imagine, really imagine what my life would be like without you in it. It was awful. I don’t think I could have handled it.
“We all knew the risk. We know them know, and we don’t care. I don’t care. All that matters is that you are here with me now. So, go ahead, yell at me, tell me how wrong I was. Do what you need to do, but don’t leave me. Don’t push me away. Do what you need to do so we can get through this, because I’m not ever going anywhere.”
Griffa saw his tears fall, and she felt tears come to her own eyes. She was angry. She was hurt, but she could understand. If she was faced with losing Ansel, wouldn’t she go to the same lengths to save him? There was no doubt she would. Griffa took a shuddering breath. She reached up and pulled Ansel’s face down. She kissed him. She felt him collapse on her a little and felt his tears fall on her face. He grabbed her and pulled her into him. She wrapped his arms around him, and he held her tight.
“Griffa, I’m so sorry. I am. I just couldn’t,” apologized Ansel.
Griffa pulled back to look up at him. “I know. I do, Ansel. I’m not going to let this come between us. I’m not going to let this do anything to any of us. We will find a way to deal with whatever happens.”
Ansel smiled at her. He kissed her forehead, and Griffa closed her eyes. Ansel kissed her eyes, and her nose, before claiming her mouth in a hard kiss. He pushed her over to against the wall, covering her body with his. He kissed her again and again. He moved on to her throat, placing little kisses there down to her shoulder as he pulled the neckline of her dress down. She heard herself make a small noise of satisfaction.
She pulled Ansel as close to her as she could as he moved back to kissing her lips. Her hands were buried in his hair as she moved her body against his. His hands started at her hips, and one was making its way up her side. They heard a door open upstairs, and broke apart, hiding back into the shadows. They looked up to find Max looking out of his door with Issa behind him. They watched as he kissed her before she walked quickly to her own room.
Griffa looked at Ansel and they both started laughing. She then grabbed his hand and led him up the stairs to their bed.