Ansel sat in the Ring of Nine meeting room next to Griffa. He stared at her, seeing she looked pale and tired. Her eyes looked almost black. She was so young, much too young to have lost all of her family. At just sixteen she had lost both her mother and father. She was now the head of a great family. She was the rightful leader of the Ring.
Griffa was the most important thing in Ansel’s life. He would not let her be harmed. He would make sure she was not taken advantage of. Her father, Renweard, had asked Ansel some time ago to watch out for his only daughter if something ever happened to him. He would honor his promise he made to Renweard. He would do it for Renweard and for Griffa. Ansel took Griffa’s hand. She looked at him and smiled slightly.
“Hector, you were Renweard’s closest friend, can you take the girl?” asked a man named Gorm.
“I could. If Gryphon wants to stay in Delis House, she would be welcomed.”
Griffa looked at Ansel with wide eyes and lightly shook her head. Ansel understood her. He did not want Griffa in Delis house. He would not have her under the watch of Hector’s wife and daughter.
“Gryphon should come to Wendell House in the Valley. She will be very cherished there. I am very fond of Gryphon, so is my wife. My son is a close friend of hers,” said Ryker Wendell.
Ansel sighed. He did not want Griffa spending years in Wendell house with the rascal that was Talon Wendell. Ansel had seen the young man and how he acted at festivals. He knew Ryker would love to unite the Keene name with his own. Ansel would not have Griffa used in such a way. She would make her own decisions when she was ready.
“Gryphon will be the leader of the Ring when she is of age,” said Madam Sidora. “She needs to stay in Abscon.”
“Is it Delis house then?” asked a brown-haired witch.
“No,” said Griffa quietly. “I will not leave my home.”
“You are not of age. You can’t live on your own,” said Helmer angrily.
“I wouldn’t be alone,” said Griffa looking up. “I have Maybelle, Jonthon, and Wallis. Ansel is there most of the time, too. I want to stay in Keene Manor.”
Hector smiled at Griffa. “Of course you are attached to your home, but Gryphon, at sixteen, it is not proper that you live on your own without family. You need someone to watch over you.”
“I can watch over her,” said Ansel. “I promised her father I would. I will let nothing happen to her. I can stay in Keene Manor permanently.”
Hector shook his head. “It is not proper, Ansel. Perhaps if you married, it could work.”
Ansel leaned back and rolled his eyes. “I have no plans to marry any time soon.”
“Well, then we are back where we started,” said Hector. “Griffa, you can come stay with me and my family. You will not be far from Keene Manor. In a couple of years, you will be of age and you can live as you wish.”
“I will not go to Delis House,” said Griffa firmly. “I will not go anywhere but my own home.”
“You can come to the Valley for a few years, Gryphon. You can still learn how to lead the Ring from there. You know you will be very much loved by all of us,” said Rikard.
“You will not take her to the Valley, Rikard,” said Hector. “I know it is very attractive to have your family united with the Keene’s, but she is still a girl.”
“I will not push her to do anything,” said Rikard with disgust. “I was very close to Renweard. I am offended you would suggest such a thing.”
“You can’t tell me you don’t think about it,” said Hector. “I know you had mentioned it to Renweard a few times what a grand thing it would be if Gryphon and Talon married one day.”
“Why wouldn’t it be?” asked Rikard. “The Wendells and the Keene’s are the most powerful families left in our kingdom. Why wouldn’t my son be appropriate to marry Gryphon one day?”
Griffa turned bright red and covered her face with her hands.
“I can think of many reasons I would never let your son come near Griffa again,” said Ansel, dangerously quiet.
Rikard looked at Ansel with narrow eyes. “He is young. He will settle down by the time Gyphon is of age.”
“I don’t want to go to the Valley,” said Griffa taking her hands off her face. “I want to stay in Keene manor. I will stay there. You will not stop me.”
“She should stay at Keene Manor,” said Sidora supporting Griffa. “Let the girl stay in her home. She has those who live with her. Ansel is the protector of the kingdom. He is to be trusted.”
“I can check in on Gryphon every day,” said Hector. “She should stay in her home. Renweard would want her to stay in Keene Manor. He trusted Ansel with his daughter. Between the two of us, we can keep an eye on her.”
There was a multitude of voices arguing loudly. Hector slammed his hand down. “Until Gryphon is of age and takes her place in the Ring, I am the leader. This is my command. Gryphon will stay at Keene Manor.”
Griffa turned and smiled at Ansel. Ansel squeezed her hand as the meeting concluded. After thanking Hector, Ansel and Griffa left the room with most of the others. Outside Ansel offered his arm to Griffa to escort her home, when her hand flew to her throat.
“My necklace is gone. The one father gave me for my birthday this last spring. The falcon with the jeweled eyes. I must have lost it in the meeting,” said Griffa as she turned back towards the building.
“I will go see,” said Ansel. “Stay here, I will be right back.” He watched Griffa walk over and sit by the statue of the Gods. She looked up at them and closed her eyes.
Ansel walked quickly back into the meeting hall. He looked on the floor of the hallway for her necklace as he walked slowly. He got to the meeting room’s doors to find one slightly ajar. He heard Helmer talking with Hector.
“Do you think this is wise, leaving the girl with the protector?” asked Helmer.
“What other choice do we have? She has been through enough. She needs to be in her own home.”
“You should have let Rikard take her to the Valley. She could marry that Wendell boy. Perhaps she would have stayed there forever. We could have gotten rid of her for good,” said Helmer.
“No, after all that has happened, I couldn’t do that to her. I couldn’t do that to Renweard.”
“She will be the ruin of us all if she figures out her rightful place,” said Helmer with disgust. “You know this.”
Ansel walked into the room and looked hard at Helmer.
“Ansel,” said Hector quickly. “Do you need something?”
Ansel stared at Helmer. “Griffa has lost her necklace, and I came to look for it.” Ansel waved his hand, and the necklace flew to him. He caught it. “I want you both to know that Griffa is under my protection. If anyone threatens her in anyway, I will see to it quickly.”
Hector nodded. Helmer glared at Ansel.
“You better keep her in check, then,” said Helmer. “That girl is wild and dangerous.”
Ansel felt his magic rise to his skin. He was ready to curse Helmer where he stood.
“You know nothing about Griffa. She will be your leader one day. She will be the leader of the Ring when the king comes of age. I have a feeling she will be the making of this kingdom.”
Ansel turned and walked from the room. His only thought was getting back to Griffa and keeping her safe.