Griffa followed Kedan in the long passageway that led from the river into the palace. She held up on old branch that was lit with magical fire, helping them to see their way as they walked along. The passageway was long and narrow, and it seemed to go on forever. Kedan moved quickly, and Griffa stayed close behind him.
“Where will this passageway come out?” asked Griffa as they walked.
“We will come out in my old rooms. We will have to sneak down the hallway to the other wing. I believe Teryn has been staying down there since I left. I hope we can find her quickly.”
They walked on. Griffa could soon tell they were getting close to the palace. She could feel old magic surround her. She breathed in deeply, feeling the magic fill her with power. She smiled slightly as her magic raced through her body. She could hear it sing to her lightly.
“Are you alright, Griffa,” asked Kedan looking back at her.
Griffa smiled at him. “Yes, I am very well. I am coming home.”
Kedan gave her a curious look, but turned around and kept walking. Soon they took a left. A few more minutes passed, and they took a right. They then walked on straight until the came to a wall. Kedan looked at the wall and turned to Griffa.
“I’m not sure how to open it.”
Griffa walked in front of Kedan and touched her hand to the wall. She closed her eyes for one second and then opened them. A door appeared and opened. Griffa put out the branch and left it by the door. She walked out into a dark bedroom, and Kedan followed behind her. Griffa looked up at the ceiling, seeing its stars and suns. She smiled as she quietly heard the palace whisper to her. It was welcoming its queen.
Griffa turned and walked through a door into the dark sitting room found there. She turned and looked at Kedan.
“I will check out in the hallway to make sure everything is clear. When we are moving in the palace, you will stay close to me at all times.”
Kedan nodded as Griffa walked to the door. She opened it slightly and looked out before looking back at Kedan and nodding. She opened the door wider and stepped out into the hallway as Kedan walked out and stood by her side.
“Which way do we go?” she asked.
Kedan took her hand and lead her down the hallway towards the stairs of the entrance hall. They moved quickly and quietly. When they got to the stairs of the entrance hall, Kedan stopped her. He peered around the wall and down before turning to look at Griffa.
“There are a couple of soldiers down in the entrance hall.”
Griffa nodded. “I’ll take care of it.” She walked quietly around the corner and stood on the landing overlooking the entrance hall. She raised her hand and smiled. The soldiers looked at each other and then left the room, heading into the throne room.
“Come on,” said Griffa quietly to Kedan.
Kedan took her hand again, and they walked on to the other wing of the second floor. There were many doors, and Kedan started slowly opening them, peering in. Each one was dark and deserted. Finally, Kedan opened the next to last door to see a light in the bedroom beyond the small sitting room. He looked at Griffa and nodded.
They walked in quietly and shut the door behind them. Griffa went in front of Kedan and walked to the door of the bedroom. The door was slightly opened, and she peered in to see Teryn lying in the bed. Camelia Belles was in a chair next to the bed laying her head back with her eyes close. Griffa opened the door and walked in, followed by Kedan.
Camelia’s eyes flew open. She stared at Griffa for a moment, as Griffa adjusted the skirt on her dark blue dress. She pulled a curl back from her forehead, touching the golden crown that rested there.
“My queen,” whispered Camelia. Her eyes then turned to Kedan. Camelia gazed at her son for a moment, not seeming to trust what she was seeing.
“Kedan,” she whispered. Griffa could see tears fill Camelia’s eyes. Camelia walked over and took Kedan into her arms as Griffa moved to Teryn’s side. She bent down close to Teryn to see that the poor woman did not look well. She was sweating heavily, and her breaths were short and quick. Her eyes were closed but she was moving around constantly. Griffa carefully put her hand on Teryn’s forehead. Teryn’s eyes opened quickly, and she looked up at Griffa. Griffa smiled down at her.
“I know you,” said Teryn quietly.
“Yes, Teryn, you do. I am Gryphon Keene. I was there when your son was born,”
Teryn shook her head lightly and gazed at Griffa. “No, you are the queen.”
Griffa nodded slightly. She kept her hand on Teryn’s forehead and put her other lightly on Teryn’s chest. Griffa closed her eyes and felt her magic search Teryn. Griffa listened as her magic talked to her. She sighed and felt tears come to her eyes. There was no hope for Teryn. Teryn’s magic was corrupted. It had destroyed her body. Griffa took her hands off of Teryn, and she bent down kissing Teryn’s forehead.
“Teryn, someone is here to see you,” said Griffa. Griffa turned to see Kedan staring at her. She walked over and took Kedan’s hand, bending close to Kedan to whisper in his ear.
“I am sorry, Kedan. There is nothing that can be done. She doesn’t have long left.”
Kedan looked at Griffa. “Are you sure?”
“Yes,” said Griffa. “You need to be here with her. She will want to spend these last few moments with you. I know what she did to you was wrong, but she loves you. I know you love her. Just stay here and be with her.”
Kedan nodded. Griffa squeezed Kedan’s hand, and he passed her and kneeled next to Teryn. Camelia came and stood by Griffa’s side.
“I am sorry. There is nothing I can do,” said Griffa sadly. “She is too far gone. Her magic has been corrupted, and it has destroyed her body.”
“Why did this happen?” asked Camelia.
“I think whatever blood magic was used to unleash the magic users in the city was tainted. I am afraid this could be happening to others.”
Camelia looked stricken, and Griffa understood. Camelia’s own magic was released using the potion. Griffa felt anger rise within her. How dare this be happening to her folk. They did not deserve this. So many would be destroyed because of one man’s quest for power.
“Is there anything that can be done?” asked Camelia.
“I don’t know,” said Griffa angrily. “But I am going to go find out. Make sure Kedan stays here with Teryn. I also need you to prepare Kedan’s child to travel. He will want to take his son with him. His son will be welcomed by my folk. He will be very safe. I will be back shortly, and we will have to leave.”
“Where will you go?” asked Camelia.
“I am going to have a chat with a friend I met here when I was guest. I believe he has been wanting to speak with me, whether he knows it or not.”
Camelia looked at Griffa like she didn’t know what to say. Griffa smiled and turned to go.
“Griffa,” said Kedan walking over to her. “Where are you going?”
“I’m going to go see what I can do to stop this from happening to others. I’m going to make sure the one responsible for this is punished.”
Kedan took Griffa’s hand. “You can’t go to him, Griffa. He will have you killed. I can’t let anything happen to you.”
Griffa reached up and touched Kedan’s face. “I am in no danger here. This is my home, and no one will touch me. Go be with Teryn. She needs you. I will not be gone long.” Griffa took her hand off of Kedan’s face.
Kedan looked at Griffa and nodded. “Yes, my queen.” Kedan kissed Griffa’s hand and let it go. He walked back to Teryn, and Griffa quickly left the room.
Griffa walked back towards the stairs. She was not afraid. She walked with purpose holding her head high. A couple of palace servants passed her in the hallway, and she walked by them without a glance. She got to the stairs and walked down to the first floor. She walked through the entry hall and into the throne room. Two soldiers stood close to the dais. They called to her, but she paid them no mind. She continued to walk towards the dais as the guards walked quickly up to her. Griffa raised her hand and threw it out, and the soldiers flew against the wall.
Griffa walked up to the dais and stopped. She stared at the throne that sat at the back of the dais and smiled slightly. After a moment she turned and walked out the door to the back hall. She took a right and then a left until she came to a long flight of stairs. Griffa paused for a moment. She put her hand in the pocket of her dress and fiddled with a small vial there.
Griffa looked up at the stairs and began to climb. After three steps a warm feeling on her chest stopped her. Her hands flew to the pendant she wore there. She fingered the pendant, feeling the carving of the tree on it, the sigil of the line of Raya. She had never taken off Ansel’s necklace, even though she thought she would have to give up Ansel forever. It seemed her protector had noticed she was missing. She thought he probably could guess where she had gone. Griffa pressed her pendant and took down the shield she had put up against Ansel.
“I’m fine, Ansel,” whispered Griffa. “I know what I am doing.”
Griffa continued to walk up the stairs. She had no fear. She was not the one who should be afraid. He was intruding on her home. He had no right to be here, hurting her folk. Griffa got to the top of the stairs. She turned and stood in front of the door.
Griffa paused, and she took a deep breath, placing her hand on the door handle. She opened it and walked in, looking around the room. She spotted him in the sitting area in the middle of the room. He was sitting in a chair with a book in his hand. He looked up at her with a shocked expression on his face. Griffa saw her staff laying on the wall by the door.
“Good evening, Golnar,” said Griffa walking closer to him. “I hope you don’t mind, but I let myself in.”
Golnar dropped his book and stood up abruptly. He stared at Griffa.
“Don’t get up on my account. Please have a seat. I would like a word or two with you, if you don’t mind.”
Golnar continued to stand. He did not take his eyes off of Griffa. His mouth opened slightly as though he would say something, but no words came out.
“I asked you to sit down, please sit,” said Griffa pushing her hand down. Golnar sat quickly back in his chair.
“Would you share a drink with me, Golnar?” asked Griffa.
She went to a side table that held some cups and a pitcher of wine. Griffa quickly reached in her pocket and took out the small vial there. She poured what was there in the one of the glasses with wine. She walked over and handed Golnar a glass. She sat down across from him with her own glass of wine.
“It’s rude to ignore a request of your queen. Drink your wine, Golnar,” said Griffa sipping from her own glass.
Golnar nodded. He picked up his glass and sipped his wine staring at Griffa.
Griffa drank a bit more wine, then put her glass down on a small table next to her.
“Do you have nothing to say to me?” asked Griffa.
“Am I dreaming?” whispered Golnar.
“I don’t believe so,” answered Griffa. “I think this is very real.”
“But it can’t be,” said Golnar. “You are dead.”
Griffa smiled. “I know you thought I was. Perhaps I even was for a minute or so, but I am quite alive now.”
“Why are you here?” asked Golnar.
“I’ve come to take care of one of my folk. She is very ill. I’ve come to ease her suffering. I’ve come to help Kedan save his child.”
“I shall call my soldiers. You will not leave here alive.”
“Call them, please. Call them and see what happens,” said Griffa. “I will leave here with what I came for, Golnar. I will leave for a while, but I will come back to claim what is mine.”
“Why did you come to my room? If all you wanted was to come for Teryn and the child, why wander through the halls of the palace?”
“I needed to see you. I believe you have some information I need. You have been hurting my folk, and you continue to hurt them. I will need you to show me what you have done to them.”
“Why would I do that?” asked Golnar.
“Because you want to follow your queen’s orders. I know you do. Of course, I could just kill you.”
“Why don’t you,” asked Golnar drinking his wine. “It wouldn’t be hard for you.”
“No, I could kill you in a second, without a thought. I know the kingdom would be better for it, but I don’t think I will. Now, you will give me what I have asked for. I would like to see what blood magic you have used on the folk of the city.”
Golnar drained his glass of wine. He stood up and walked over to a table full of books. Griffa stood up and followed him. Golnar looked through a pile of books. He pulled two, and turned to Griffa holding them out.
“Do these contain the magic you used?”
“Yes, they are both marked, my queen,” said Golnar.
Griffa took the books and opened one, looking at where it was marked. She read over the page when she saw Golnar’s arm move. Griffa threw up her hand and looked up. Golnar’s hand was out towards Griffa, and he held a knife in it. Griffa held her hand up and closed the book with her other hand.
“Golnar, were you going to kill me?” asked Griffa.
Golnar looked at her shaking. He was breathing very hard. Griffa walked up to him with her hand out. She walked up close to him and stared into his eyes.
“I don’t believe you really want to kill me. I think you were rather sad when you thought I had died. Why do you think that is?”
“I was not sad. I despise you. I was glad you were dead. I want you dead now,” said Golnar angrily.
Griffa sighed and threw her hand down, and Golnar’s hand flew down. The knife hit the floor and spun away. Griffa threw out her hand and Golnar flew to a wall. Griffa kept her hand out, pinning Golnar to the wall.
“I could kill you so quickly,” said Griffa. “I want to kill you for all you did to me while I was in the palace. I want to kill you for all the poisons you forced on me. I want to kill you for letting Philo hurt me. Mostly I want to kill you for what you have done to my kingdom. I want to kill you, but I will not.”
“Why?” asked Golnar looking down at her.
“Because you aren’t worth it. You are nothing. You have no power. You will sit in this tower and wait for my return. I have taken every drop of magic from you. You will get weaker and weaker. By the time I come back, you will be nothing but a frail old man who cannot leave his room. You will turn to dust as you watch me take my kingdom back from you.”
“I don’t believe you. You cannot take my magic,” said Golnar.
“That’s right, you love to tell yourself comforting lies don’t you,” replied Griffa as Golnar’s eyes widened. Griffa gave a small laugh. She dropped her hand and Golnar fell to the floor.
“I am going, Golnar, but I will be back. I wish I could have helped you, but you are beyond help. Even if you begged for mercy, the gods would not grant it. You are past even their mercy.”
Griffa turned and walked to the door. She tucked the books inside the deep interior pocket of her cloak. She took one last look at the old man on the floor. She felt some pity for him, she couldn’t help it. “Goodbye, Golnar. I am sorry it is like this. I hate to see any of my folk suffer.”
Griffa grabbed her staff, opened the door, and left the room. She quickly walked down the stairs and back through the throne room. She hurried back to Teryn’s room. She opened the door quickly and walked in the bedroom. Kedan was sitting by Teryn on the bed, and Camelia stood close by holding Kedan’s son.
Griffa stopped and looked at the boy. He was a good sized, healthy child with blonde curls like his father. He had his mother’s green eyes.
“What is his name?” asked Griffa to Camelia.
“Zayden,” answered Camelia.
“He is very handsome,” said Griffa as she offered the child her hand. The child grabbed two of her fingers. “He will be a very strong magic user as well.”
Griffa turned and walked over to Teryn and Kedan. She kneeled by Teryn and put her hand over Teryn’s forehead.
“Have you said goodbye, Kedan?” asked Griffa quietly.
“Yes,” said Kedan softly.
“I can ease her passing if you like. She is suffering greatly.”
Kedan nodded as he grabbed Teryn’s hand.
Griffa bent her head down close to Teryn. She whispered in Teryn’s ear. “Teryn, your child will be well looked after. Kedan will be taken care of as well. You can rest easy. I will let no harm come to either of them.”
Teryn’s eyes were closed, but she took a deep breath and nodded. Griffa closed her eyes and concentrated. She felt Teryn relax and slowly drift away. After a few minutes, she was still.
Griffa took her hand off of Teryn’s forehead, and bent down. She kissed Teryn’s forehead and whispered, “Journey well, dear one.”
Griffa stood up and looked at Kedan to see he had tears in his eyes. He looked up at Griffa and nodded. He squeezed Teryn’s hand and let it go before standing up. Griffa came to him, and he took her into his arms.
“I am sorry I couldn’t save her for you,” said Griffa letting tears fall from her eyes. “I wanted to be able to save her.”
Kedan held Griffa and said, “It’s not your fault. I know you did all you could. I am grateful to have been here for her at the end.”
Griffa stepped back and nodded. “We have to go.” She walked over to Camelia. “Will you come with us, Camelia?”
“No,” said Camelia. “I will stay here and do what I can in Aurumist. I will keep you informed of what is going on. I have helped unleash this illness on the folk. I will work to make amends.”
“Are you sure, mother?” asked Kedan. “You could come with us and still help. You won’t be safe here.”
“I will be fine, Kedan,” said Camelia. “I have played the power game for a long time. I am not afraid.” She kissed her grandson and handed him to Kedan. “Keep him safe. Make sure he knows how much his mother loved him.”
Kedan held his son and nodded at his mother. Camelia leaned over and kissed Kedan’s cheek. “I am sorry for all of the pain I caused in your life. I do love you.”
“I love you as well, mother,” said Kedan. “I will see you soon.” Kedan walked towards the door.
Camelia looked at Griffa. “You will take care of them both, won’t you?”
Griffa took Camelia’s hand. “Yes, I will see that they are safe. When I am on the throne, I will work to make sure all my folk are safe.”
Camelia squeezed Griffa’ hand. “I look forward to your reign, my queen.”
Griffa released Camelia’s hand and followed Kedan’ out of the room. When they stepped out into the hallway, Griffa paused. Kedan turned and looked at her.
“Griffa, we need to get back to the passageway and get out of here,” said Kedan.
“No,” said Griffa. “We don’t need to go anywhere to be able to leave. Kedan, come close to me.”
Kedan looked at Griffa confusedly, but he did as she bid. She put her arm around Kedan’s and held him close.
“Kedan, think of the mountain pass in the Valley. Have complete trust in me that I will get you and your son there, safely.”
Kedan looked at Griffa and nodded. Griffa closed her eyes and imagine where she wanted to go. She felt herself travel. They soon landed in the mountain pass of the Valley in the middle of a violent fall storm.
Griffa raised her hood on her cloak and helped Kedan do the same. Kedan tucked Zayden under his cloak. Griffa raised her hand giving them some barrier from the rain. They walked quickly to Wendell House. As they walked up the pathway, Griffa saw Max, Talon and Ansel waiting for them under the portico. Talon had his fists clinched. Ansel’s arms were folded, and he was frowning. Max stood behind them with wide eyes.
Griffa walked up under the cover followed by Kedan. She took down her hood and looked at Ansel and then Talon. Ansel looked at her calmly. Talon’s eyes were bright, and he was breathing heavily. She wasn’t sure if he was going to kiss her or curse her. She stood there with Kedan by her side.
“Kedan, take you child inside. I am sure some of the house workers can provide appropriate arrangements for your son.”
Kedan nodded. He looked quickly at Talon and Ansel and then walked between them inside. Talon stared him down as he passed.
“Perhaps, you could help him, Max?” asked Griffa looking at Max. Max glanced at Ansel who nodded. Max walked inside.
Griffa stood in front of Talon and Ansel. “I am quite drenched. Do you mind if I go in and take off this cloak?”
“Griffa,” said Talon with exasperation.
Griffa held her hand up. “Let me get inside first, please.” Ansel moved slightly and let Griffa pass. She kept her head down even though she could feel Talon’s eyes on her.
Griffa entered the entrance hall, and laid her staff against the wall. She took off her cloak and hung it up, taking out the books in the inner pocket. She shook out her damp hair as Talon and Ansel entered behind her. She quickly walked to the parlor, dropping her books on a small table. She stood in front of the fireplace. Ansel walked in and stood at one end of the fireplace. Talon walked in and came up to Griffa and looked at her.
“What were you thinking?” he asked angrily.
“I was thinking that Kedan’s wife was very sick and his child was in danger. I wanted to help, so I did.”
“So instead of finding me or calling your protector, you ran off to Aurumist with no thought to anyone or anything else. Do you realize how mad that is? Do you realize how we have all suffered when we realized you had gone?”
Griffa turned quickly towards the fire. “There was no time to think. Besides, I knew what would happen if I told you where I needed to go. You would have tried to stop me, Talon.”
“Of course, I would have stopped you, because what you did was the stupidest thing you have ever done,” yelled Talon. He grabbed Griffa and turned her towards him. Ansel made a noise and moved towards Griffa. Griffa looked at Ansel as Talon let go of her arm.
“Protector, is there something you would like to say?” asked Griffa.
“I am glad you are back safe, my queen,” said Ansel looking at her.
“I see you brought back the son. Would his wife not come along?” asked Talon.
Griffa turned and looked at Talon and took a breath. “She could not,” said Griffa quietly looking down. She felt tears prick her eyes. “She did not make it. I could not save her.”
Talon inhaled deeply, and she heard him whisper her name. Griffa looked up at Talon. He grabbed Griffa and held her to his side. “I am sorry, Griffa. I am sure you did all you could.”
Griffa stepped back. “It was awful. Whatever Golnar did to release magic in the magical blooded people of the city is slowly killing them. I hope the information I got from him will help.”
“The information you got from who?” asked Ansel looking at Griffa.
Griffa turned to Ansel. “From Golnar. I went to visit him while I was in the palace.”
“Griffa you truly are mad, aren’t you?” asked Talon loudly. “Not only did you travel to Aurumist with no protection, but you visited the evil man who held you captive for two months.”
“Yes,” said Griffa. “I had to get the information about that potion. I got my staff back as well. I wasn’t in any danger. He is no threat now anyway.”
“What did you do, Griffa?” asked Ansel as Talon rubbed his head with his hand.
“I took a special potion with me. I was glad to see you had some of what I needed on hand, Talon. All I had to do was add something to it to make it work. I made Golnar drink it. He has no magic now. He will not last long.”
Talon continued to rub his head. He started taking deep breaths. Ansel just looked at her.
“I need to go check on Kedan and make sure he has everything he needs for his son,” said Griffa. She started to walk from the room.
Talon grabbed her hand and pulled her to him. He wrapped his arms around her and kissed the top of her head. “Don’t ever do anything like that again. Promise me, you won’t go out into the kingdom without your protector again. You are too important to the kingdom, Griffa. You are too important to me.”
Griffa looked up at Talon and nodded. Talon held her for a moment, before Griffa backed away. She looked at Ansel. “I’m sorry,” she said quietly. “I shouldn’t have gone there without telling you.”
Ansel only looked at her. “Do you have nothing else to say, Ansel?” asked Griffa.
“You are my queen. I serve you and do as you command. I shouldn’t even be here now.”
Griffa sighed. She had ordered Ansel away from her. She had not called him back to her. Griffa walked up to Ansel and took his hand. “Protector, you will accept my apologies.”
Ansel nodded slightly.
“Will you please stay here for the time being? At least until the weather clears?”
“Does my queen wish it?”
“Yes,” said Griffa smiling slightly. “Your queen would like it very much. Please don’t leave until I come back to see you off.”
Ansel grinned at Griffa. “Then I will stay. I await your further instructions.”
Griffa turned and walked to the entry hall. She took the stairs and saw Max standing outside an open door in the hallway. She walked to him and stood beside him. The room before them was the Wendell nursery. Kedan had placed his son in a large cradle and was sitting by him.
“A couple of the house workers quickly fixed the room up for Kedan,” said Max when Griffa came to stand beside him.
“Good,” said Griffa watching Kedan look at his son.
“I am glad Kedan has his son back, but Griffa what you did was insane. You do realize, that don’t you?”
Griffa nodded slightly. “I know it seems that way now, but I didn’t know what else to do. I couldn’t just do nothing when Kedan told me Teryn was sick. I had to go. I was never in any danger.”
“If you were in the palace you were in constant danger. What if Philo had gotten a hold of you or Golnar?”
“I actually went to see Golnar,” said Griffa with a smile. “I think he will remember our visit very well.”
Max looked at her and shook his head. “Kedan’s wife died, I understand.”
“Yes,” said Griffa sadly. “I was too late to help her. It was awful, Max. Her magic was so corrupted. Whatever blood magic Golnar did, killed her. I am afraid it will spread throughout the city. I brought home books I took from Golnar. It has the spells and potions he used. We will have to figure out some way to help.”
Max nodded. “Have you talked to Ansel yet?”
“Just for a moment. I asked him to stay for a while, here.”
Max turned to Griffa and took her hand. “You need to talk with him quickly. Griffa, we found out how to do it. He can release his line from the duties of the protector.”
Griffa looked at Max, shocked. “You are serious? You actually figured it out?”
“Yes,” said Max. “I can do it. I know I can. I can create a new line of protectors.”
Griffa took a deep breath and looked at Max. “I don’t know if I can let him do it, Max. This is bigger than just him and me.”
“He wants to do it, Griffa. He knows what this entails. He understands what he is doing, and he still wants to do it. You need to talk with him, before you decide if you are against this.”
Griffa shook her head.
“Unless,” said Max looking at Griffa closely. “You don’t want to be with Ansel anymore. Have you chosen another?”
Griffa let go of Max’s hand and stepped back. “Of course, I want to be with Ansel. I love him.”
“But you love Talon as well. You can’t tell me you don’t love him too.”
“I do,” said Griffa quietly. “I am awful.”
“You aren’t awful, Griffa. We can’t control who we love, but you can’t have them both. You know that. You will have to make a choice, and you really do have a choice now.”
“If I really have a choice, I know who I would choose.”
“Then you better do it,” said Max. “You will need to do it quickly.”
Griffa nodded and turned from Max. “Tell Kedan I will check on him and his son later.”
Griffa walked down the stairs and into the parlor. She found Ansel alone still standing by the fire.
“Where is Talon?” asked Griffa looking around.
“He said he had some things he needed to attend to. He went into his study if you wish to speak with him.”
Griffa looked out the window. The storm had blown over. The rain was very light. “Actually, do you think you could take a walk with me, Ansel? Maybe we could walk to my house here in the Valley?”
“If my queen commands it I will happily go,” said Ansel with a smile.