Ansel walked out onto the back lawn to find Max and Griffa standing in the middle of various objects from the house. They were holding hands and had their eyes closed. Close to them where their two horses, grazing nearby. Ansel stopped and stared at this odd site.
“Griffa what in the kingdom are you two doing,” asked Ansel looking all around.
“Shh, be quiet, Ansel. Wait,” said Griffa sounding irritated.
Ansel watched in silence as Max and Griffa stood quietly with closed eyes holding hands. Suddenly their eyes flew open and everything on the lawn disappeared. Max looked at Griffa and smiled. He dropped her hand and quickly mounted his horse. Griffa ran to hers as well, jumping on the back of her large mare and pulling herself up. She turned to Ansel.
“Well, come on. Come see if we did it,” said Griffa with a broad smile.
Ansel gave her a confused look but walked over and mounted behind her on her horse. They took off, galloping toward the fields. Max followed close behind. They rode until they came to a large tree in the field. Ansel’s eyes widened. Every object from the back lawn was arranged around the tree. Griffa and Max hopped off their horses. They looked around in gleeful excitement. Then turned to each other as Griffa launched herself into Max’s arms. He caught her and swung her around.
“We did it!” said Max sitting Griffa down. Ansel hopped off of Griffa’s horse and walked over to them.
“You two did this? You moved all these objects at once with magic?” asked Ansel looking around.
“Yes,” said Griffa happily. “Isn’t it wonderful?”
“We should move it back now,” commented Max picking up an apple on top of a table.
“We should,” said Griffa. She turned to Max with a cocked eyebrow and a smirk. “Do you think we can put it all back where it goes? Could we send it all to different areas of the house?”
Max looked at her with a huge smile. “I don’t know, but now I want to try it.” Max held out his hand, and Griffa grabbed it.
“Okay,” said Griffa taking a deep breath. “We have to imagine everything where it goes. Can you do that, Max?”
Max nodded, and they closed their eyes.
“Are you two sure about this?” asked Ansel standing back. “What if you drop a table on someone’s foot, or that pillow ends up in Nora’s stew?”
“Quiet, Ansel. Positive thoughts. We can do this,” assured Griffa.
They stood in silence as the late summer wind blew around them. They opened their eyes, and everything disappeared again. Max ran to his horse. Ansel helped Griffa up this time, jumping up behind her. They rode to the house quickly. On the back lawn, Griffa and Max jumped down.
“Can you take the horses to the stable for us, Ansel?” asked Griffa.
Ansel wanted to see what mischief they caused in the house, but he nodded. Max handed Ansel the reins to his horse, and Ansel rode off on Griffa’s mare to the stable.
After seeing to the horses, he walked to the house. He entered the parlor to find Griffa turning the table in front of the sofa right side up with a flick of her hand.
“So, how’d it go?” asked Ansel watching them work.
“Not too bad, actually,” said Max. “A couple of pillows where in the wrong spot. This table was upside down, and Issa got smacked a little with a book.” Max looked over to Issa who was sitting by the fireplace. He gave her an apologetic look.
“But everything was in its general area, so for our first try, I would call it a success!” declared Griffa as she held one hand with the other and sat down on the sofa.
“What’s wrong with your hand, Griff?” asked Ansel sitting down beside her.
“Oh, it’s nothing. It’s just a little burned from the spell. It happens,” said Griffa. “I can put some ointment on it later. Max, do you need some?”
Max looked at Griffa and nodded while holding up his hand.
Ansel took Griffa’s hand gently and looked at it. It was very red and had blisters all along the palms. “This spell causes this? I’ve never heard of anything like this, have you?”
Griffa shook her head. “No, but it’s not too bad. No real harm, not when you see what we can do.”
Ansel released her hand and shrugged. “You two might want to take a break from this; at least until you find out more about it.”
“It’ll be fine, Ansel. Is it almost lunch? I’m starving,” said Griffa getting up.
Ansel knew in Griffa language that meant drop it, so he did for now. They all went in for lunch.
“Issa, have you heard from your father this week?” asked Griffa putting some food on her plate.
“I have. He’s arrived in the West Village. Everything is ready for the wedding. He is hoping we will make it,” replied Issa.
“Of course, we are going to make it,” said Griffa picking up a glass of water. “Everything is in place, right Ansel?”
Ansel nodded. “My guards are leaving today. If there isn’t anything out of place, we will leave in three days as planned.”
Issa smiled at Ansel. “I hope my father is very happy with his new wife. I can’t wait to meet her.”
“You will soon enough,” said Griffa. “How are we going to do this Ansel?”
“We will have to walk to the gates of Abscon. The wedding is after lunch, so we will need to eat early here and leave. Between you, me, and Max we can take Nora and Issa and travel magically just outside the West Village. That should leave us plenty of time to say hello before the wedding starts.”
“Thank you so much for making this happen, Ansel. I know it’s a lot of work and bother. I wish I could repay you somehow,” said Issa looking at Ansel.
Ansel waved her away. “You help us every day, Issa.”
“Not to mention what you did for me,” said Griffa quietly. “You are very brave and kind, Issa. We are all glad to be able to do this for you.”
After lunch, Ansel took Max outside to work on some blocking spells. He figured Griffa would join them, but he did not see her until dinner. After dinner she disappeared down into her cellar. When she didn’t come up for two hours, Ansel went down to check on her.
“What are you doing down here?” asked Ansel. Griffa was sitting at a table with many different vials of ingredients lined up on it. She had a book opened next to her.
“These are the ingredients I could separate from that potion we received from the spy. I’m trying to look through these books and see if it matches any of the spells in here. Maybe I can figure out what potion was used and find out any known effects.”
Ansel reached over and shut her book. She looked up at him with a frown.
“You’ve worked long enough today. Come to bed,” said Ansel.
“There is so much we don’t know, and I feel like I am so close to finding out more. If I can figure this out maybe it will help me with that potion Max used for me,” said Griffa reopening her book.
Ansel kneeled down beside her, and gently made her turn towards him. “Griffa, for someone who doesn’t take prophecy as truth, why are you so sure about blood magic superstitions?”
Griffa shook her head. “I know what they can do. I just do. Now let me get back to it.”
“Griffa, what is it? What is it you know?”
Griffa propped up her elbows on the table and laid her face in her hands. She eventually looked up at Ansel and said, “I did something terrible, Ansel. I think I killed my father.”
Ansel leaned back. “Griffa, what are you talking about?”
“Before he died. I was sneaking down here, reading about blood potions. I wanted to try one. I wanted to try one that said it would let me talk to my mother. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I was sixteen, and I was lonely. Father was wonderful, but I always wondered about my mother. I wanted to know her so badly. I brewed the potion using my blood. I was letting it brew when father wanted to go on a ride with me. I left it down here. You know what happened on that ride,” said Griffa. She wouldn’t look at Ansel.
“Griffa, you don’t actually believe you caused Renweard’s death, do? It was probably just something that happened with is heart. He may have had magic, but he was still a man. People die all the time from many different things.”
“He was so healthy, and he looked so young. He was barely forty-five. It’s the only thing I could think of that would kill him.” Tears started falling from her eyes. Griffa stood up abruptly and walked over to her cot. She sat down and wiped her eyes.
Ansel walked over to her and sat next to her. “You mean to tell me all this time, you think you killed your father because of some stupid potion you found when you were sixteen? Griffa, you realize that’s madness, right? I’m not saying blood magic doesn’t have a price, but do you even know if what you were trying to do was a real spell?”
Griffa shrugged. “I got rid of it as soon as I got home that day before I locked myself in father’s study. I messed around with something I shouldn’t have.”
“You can’t blame yourself for your father’s death. It wasn’t your fault. You also can’t blame yourself for what Max, Issa, and I did for you. We were all willing to take the consequences whatever they may be if they exist. You can’t go through life with all this guilt. Come here.” He pulled Griffa into a hug, and she wept in his arms.
“What you need is to sleep and not worry about all this for a while. We will be going to Issa’s father’s wedding in a couple of days. Take a break from all this until we get back. Can you do that, please?”
Griffa nodded in his arms. She pushed away from him and sat up. She wiped her eyes with her the back of her hands. “Ugh, once again I’m a weepy mess.”
“Come on, let’s go upstairs. You are filthy. We can get you a bath, and you can sleep.”
Griffa nodded. “I’m sorry, I’m sure you didn’t think you were taking on such a chore when you decided to love me.”
“Griffa, I knew exactly what I was taking on when I decided to love you. You may be a chore sometimes, but you’re worth it.”
A few days later found them all walking to the gates of Abscon to travel to the West Village. They were all dressed simply for the wedding. Max and Ansel both dressed in simple black tunics and pants with boots. Max carried his staff. Nora wore a long light blue gown with short sleeves. Her hair dark hair was loose and curled. Issa wore a high-waisted white dress. She had braided her blonde hair with white summer flowers.
Griffa wore a muted yellow dress that Ansel quite liked. It had mid length sleeves and the neckline was scooped. It fit in at her waist and flowed out into a simple skirt. A red ribbon was tied around her waist. She left her hair loose with her curls spilling over her shoulders. She carried her staff with her, and its red ball gleamed in the sunlight casting a soft light that surrounded the top of her head.
Griffa and Ansel walked besides each other in the back of the group. As they passed the gates of Abscon, Ansel looked around them on all sides.
“Do you sense anyone, Griffa?” asked Ansel looking at her. She looked all around.
“No, it seems all clear to me. Are we ready to go?” She took Nora’s hand and brought her close to her side. “Ok, Ansel you go with Max to make sure he and Issa get to where they are going. Everyone ready?”
They all nodded. Ansel watched Griffa disappear with Nora. He touched both Max and Issa and felt himself travel. They soon arrived in the forest on the edge of the West Village. Max and Griffa stowed their staffs in a tree just on the edge of the village. The West Village like the East Village was just two rings. The wedding of Issa’s father would take place in the meeting hall of the second ring. Griffa led the way as Ansel stayed in the back to keep an eye on everyone. As they approached the meeting hall Ansel heard Issa give a happy shriek. She ran and ahead and was taken up in a hug by her father.
“Issa! I was afraid you wouldn’t be able to make it,” said her father, Edan Finn, releasing Issa from his hug.
“I didn’t want to miss this. I can’t believe you are getting married. I mean I’m happy. I really am. Can I meet her?” asked Issa with excitement.
“Of course, she’s dying to meet you. She’s on the other side of the building. I haven’t told her about Max’s, umm, abilities. She thinks you are both studying over in the East Village. She is a little confused as to why you aren’t spending the night, but hopefully she will be too preoccupied with her new husband to worry much about it,” smiled Edan
Issa shook her head with a frown. She then took Nora and Griffa with her to meet her future stepmother. Edan approached Ansel and Max. He shook both their hands.
“I want to thank you for bringing Issa. I hope it wasn’t too much trouble,” said Edan to Ansel.
“No, we didn’t want her to miss this. We appreciate Issa and want to see her happy,” replied Ansel.
Edan nodded. “I’m going to tell her this, and I want you to know that Issa can live here with me and Meriam if need be. We would both be happy to have her in our home.”
Max looked at Ansel with wide eyes. Ansel chuckled.
“I don’t know if you will be able to convince Issa to leave, or Griffa to let her leave. They are great friends. Issa is very useful as well. If you are comfortable with her staying with us, I don’t think there will be any reason for her to leave,” said Ansel.
“All I ask is that Issa is happy and safe. She’ll be reaching her majority soon. I suppose some girls get married at her age,” pondered Edan. He looked carefully at Max. “Not that I want her to go rushing into anything.”
Max blushed and dropped his head as Edan laughed.
Griffa, Issa, and Nora came back from around the building. Issa smiling and practically skipping.
“Father, she is lovely. I know I only just met her, but I believe she will make you a wonderful wife. She invited me to stay with you. Do you want me to come back?” Issa looked at her father carefully.
“I want you to be happy. If you are happy living with these people and they don’t mind you being with them, I have no problems with you staying put. I wouldn’t mind you coming to visit now and then. Don’t forget about me.”
“I could never forget about you, father. I will come visit. I’ll wait a bit so you can have time with your new bride, but maybe next summer. I’ll write you often as well.”
Issa’s father took her hand and gave it a squeeze. A man stepped out from the community hall and waved at Edan.
“Oh, it’s time. You all need to get inside to grab a seat,” said Edan giving Issa one more hug. She leaned up and kissed his cheek.
Max took Issa’s arm and escorted her in as Nora followed closely. Ansel offered Griffa his arm who took it, and he led her inside. They sat just behind Max and Issa on a bench in the middle of the room. Everyone took their places for the wedding as the bride came in and walked to her future husband. The ceremony was simple. It was one used by non-magical people in the kingdom. It was not like one’s Ansel had been used to in Abscon, but as they couple pledged their love and lives to one another, he couldn’t help but look at Griffa.
Ansel had not thought too much about marriage in his life. He knew he would have to marry at some point and have children. His father had married only for advantage and only for the sake of having boys to carry on the protector’s line. Ansel knew he wanted something different than his parent’s relationship. He wanted someone who he could talk to, and who would challenge him. Someone who would be a partner in every sense of the word.
Griffa was the answer to every one of his wishes. She wasn’t afraid to tell him what he needed to hear. She was adamant about the things she believed in, but she was kind and most times understanding. She made his life better in every way. He would never find a woman who he would want to spend his life with more than Griffa.
Ansel took Griffa’s hand and held it. She turned and looked at him. He stared at her. One day, perhaps, when things were settled, he could ask her to marry him. Ansel squeezed her hand, and she scooted closer to him. He couldn’t help himself from giving her a broad smile.
“What is it?” Griffa asked in whisper.
“I love you,” said Ansel simply.
Griffa patted his arm. “You really are becoming quite a sentimental fool.” She then leaned up and kissed his cheek affectionately.