Griffa woke up from her nap with a headache. She had felt exhausted after giving her blood to the potion Max was making, and upon waking, she didn’t feel much better. She could hardly believe what was happening. Ansel was giving up his family duty that they had held a thousand years. Kedan was taking up this burden, and she was letting them both do it.
It was not something Griffa had done without reservations or much thought. She had asked Ansel over and over if this is what he wanted. He assured her again and again he did want it. Still, she worried that when it was over, he might live to regret it. What if when he lost his duty as protector, he decided Griffa wasn’t worth it? What if breaking their magical bond caused him to lose all love for her?
The choice for Kedan to take over the line was easier. He was convincing in his argument. When Griffa placed her hand on Griffa’s son and held Kedan’s hand she could feel the bond they already shared. It felt right to enter into this new relationship with Kedan and his line.
Griffa sat up in her bed and rubbed her eyes. She needed to get up. She told Ansel she would come down before dinner. She had slept too long as it was. Talon was expected at the manor soon. That was another problem she didn’t want to deal with. She knew Talon understood where she stood with Ansel, but she still didn’t know how to face him after all they had shared the past few weeks. She knew they would need to have a conversation and soon.
Griffa got up out of bed. She glanced in the mirror to try to fix her hair somewhat. She gave up quickly after making notice of the dark circles under her eyes and her pale face. A little tousled hair would make no difference. She left her room and walked downstairs to find an empty parlor. As she stood by the fireplace, she wondered if Max and Ansel were still in the cellar. She had almost decided to go down and see them when she heard the front door open.
Talon walked into the parlor with a small case. He smiled at Griffa as he walked in and then looked around the room.
“Where is everyone?” asked Talon.
“I think Kedan is probably with his son. Max and Ansel are down in the cellar.”
Talon nodded. He sat his case by a chair and came to stand by Griffa.
“How has it been going here? Have I missed anything?” asked Talon.
Griffa looked at Talon with wide eyes. She raised her hand to push her hair back when Talon caught her hand.
“What have you done to yourself this time?” asked Talon looking at her bandaged hand.
“I think we should sit down and have a chat,” said Griffa taking her hand away from Talon.
Talon looked at her worriedly. He sat down quickly in a chair nearby, and Griffa sat across from him.
“We have found someone to take up the line of Protectors. The first part of the blood spell has already been done. I have given the blood required, which is why my hand is bandaged.”
Talon look taken aback. “Who on earth have you found to do this? I thought it would take at least some weeks if not months. How could you have found someone so quickly who would be willing, and Ansel would actually trust to do this?”
“It was easier than you think,” answered Griffa. “It turns out someone had been thinking of doing this for a while.”
“Who?” asked Talon leaning forward.
“Kedan,” answered Griffa.
Talon stared at her with his mouth opened. “You are joking, surely.”
“No, of course not. Kedan has offered to do this.”
Talon jumped up out of his chair and walked in front of the fireplace. “And you are going to let him do this? Ansel agreed to this? You think Kedan can adequately protect you?”
“Yes,” said Griffa fiercely. “I trust Kedan with my life, and so does Ansel. My only qualm was letting him take on this burden for him and his son.”
“Griffa, you were stabbed right in front of him. He almost let you die.”
“I don’t see how that was his fault. I was caught off guard so, why would he be any different?”
“He let you go to Aurumist. He put you in danger.”
“You know that wasn’t his decision. He couldn’t have stopped me if he tried. It was my impulsiveness that led to us going to Aurumist. I wouldn’t change it now, anyway, not seeing the results.”
“I still don’t think he is a good choice to be your protector, Griffa,” spat Talon. “I can’t believe this.”
“Oh, do you have a better option in mind?”
“Yes,” said Talon. “I told Ansel I would do it.”
“That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. You cannot be my protector, Talon.”
“For one, your family is too important to take on this burden. The Wendell line already has a calling in the kingdom. You are also the second on my Ring, and you have agreed to serve me in this way. Above all, I don’t think you serving as my protector would be good for either of us. We both feel too deeply about one another to ever be impartial with each other.”
“I still don’t think Kedan is the right choice,” replied Talon angrily
“Well, the two people that really matter in this decision do. It is up to Ansel and me, and we both trust this is the way to go. It is our decision, and it is final,” said Griffa loudly.
Talon shook his head and turned away from Griffa as she stood up and walked to stand beside him.
“Talon, I understand you want to keep me safe, but you will have to trust me with this decision. I know Kedan is the right person to do this. I would not let him, if I didn’t believe this is right. I need you to understand I am taking this very seriously.”
“I know how badly you want to be with Ansel, Griffa. This just seems too convenient of a choice.”
Griffa gasped and stepped back, angry and hurt. “Do you really think I would be so flippant with my kingdom’s future? Kedan’s line will serve the kingdom and my line for years and years. The success of him and his family will determine the success of Regventus. As much as I love Ansel, I would never throw away the whole future of the kingdom just for us to be together. Surely you know that seeing what I have been through these past few weeks.”
Talon’s head fell forward, and he turned to look at Griffa. “I do know, Griffa. I don’t think you take your responsibility to your kingdom so flippantly. It’s just hard for me. Everything about this is hard for me. I want to keep you safe, but when it comes down to it you aren’t mine to keep safe.”
“No,” said Griffa, “I’m not, but that does not mean I don’t understand.”
Griffa took Talon’s hand, and he turned to face her.
“Talon, I don’t believe I would have made it through these past few weeks without you. You got me through the hardest time of my life. You did everything for me. You even kept me from making a huge mistake and throwing away what I have with Ansel. It wasn’t fair to you. I know it.”
“Please don’t go through all of that again, Griffa. I don’t care what is fair to me, I wanted to be there for you. I would do it all again in a second. I knew from the very beginning your heart was engaged by someone else. I never expected you to give up on Ansel. You did nothing wrong.”
“I feel like I did. Let me apologize, Talon, please. The last thing I have ever wanted was to hurt you in any way, but I felt like I have. I feel like I took advantage of your love. It was wrong no matter how badly I felt. I love you too much to have treated you in such a way.”
“We will have to disagree, Griffa. Everything I did, I wanted to do. I will never regret doing it. So, you can apologize, but I don’t want you to feel bad about it. I don’t.”
“So, what do we do now?” asked Griffa. “How will this work between you and me and even Ansel?”
“I will serve as the second on your Ring. I can’t stop loving your Griffa, but I meant it when I said I only want you to be happy. I know Ansel is who you need to be with. I will never try to interfere with what you have with him. I will do everything in my power to see you safely on the throne. I will help you save Regventus.”
“And after that what will you do?” asked Griffa.
“I will serve with you as you rule Regventus. I will serve on your Ring.”
“No, I mean for yourself. I want you to be happy, Talon. I want you to find someone to love someday. Someone who can love you back as you deserve.”
Talon smiled slightly. “It will be hard after loving a queen. How do you follow loving someone like you, Griffa?”
“Talon,” said Griffa, “Do be serious for one moment.”
“I am being serious,” said Talon. “You are quite wonderful, my dear. But to answer your question, you know I wasn’t made for melancholy. I shall be fine. I can’t promise anything, but I believe there will come a time when I will be open to finding someone to love.”
Griffa smiled at Talon. “I cherish what we have, Talon. I know it might not be what you want, but it is important to me. You must understand that Ansel will always come first for me, but it does not mean that I do not value you and what we have.”
Talon kissed her hand “I do understand, Griffa. I am glad you have found a way to be with him. I will try to accept Kedan as your protector. I can’t promise I won’t keep a close eye on him, but I will support you in this.”
“Thank you,” said Griffa. “Now, why don’t you go settle into your room. Dinner will be soon. I am sure we will all have much to talk over.”
Talon walked over to grab his case. He turned to look at Griffa with a small smile. “I do regret one part of the last few weeks.”
“Oh, what is that?” asked Griffa.
“I should have kissed you at least one more time, before I pulled away that night in my room.”
Griffa smiled back at him slyly. “I would not have been opposed.”
Talon looked at her with his smug smile. “I will always say you still owe me one kiss.”
Griffa gave a short laugh. “You better choose carefully when you claim it then.”
Dinner was full of quiet conversation. Talon asked a few questions of how the line would be transferred, and Max responded to each one. After dinner, they all sat in the parlor with one another for a while. No one seemed to know what to say or do. After a time, Max excused himself to go sit with the potion in the cellar. Griffa offered to come with him, but he declined saying she needed to rest. Griffa agreed and Ansel offered to take her upstairs. Once upstairs, Griffa sat on her bed, and Ansel sat beside her, taking her hand.
“What are you thinking?” he asked quietly.
“I don’t really know what to think. So much will change tomorrow,” answered Griffa as she looked at their conjoined hands.
“I know,” said Ansel, “but I think this is right. You must remember that I want this. Kedan wants this.”
Griffa nodded, but she felt tears come to her eyes. Ansel looked at her closely.
“What is it? Have you changed your mind?”
“No,” said Griffa using her free hand to wipe away her tears. “I want to be with you. If there is a chance I can after this, I will take it.”
“There is no doubt, Griffa,” said Ansel, squeezing her hand. “This will free me to always be by your side.”
“Aren’t you a little worried that breaking our bond might change everything?” asked Griffa looking up at Ansel. “What if when you are released, you realize you don’t want me?” Griffa tried to take her hand away from Ansel, but he held it tighter.
“Do you worry that you will not want me after the bond is broken?” asked Ansel.
“No,” said Griffa. “I can never imagine not wanting to be with you. I can never imagine not loving you.”
“Then why in the kingdom would you think I am any different?” asked Ansel. He grabbed her other hand and forced her to turn to him. “I am not saying things won’t be different, but it won’t change how I feel about you. I love you. You know this. It has nothing to do with me being your protector. I loved you long before I realized who we both were.”
Griffa nodded. “This is all just so strange. I worry about you. I cannot help but worry you will come to regret this decision. I know you say you want this. I know I have to trust you know what you want, but I still worry.”
Ansel took her into his arms. “I could tell you over and over again I am sure if you want. We could spend the whole night going over this again and again, but it will not change anything. I want this very much, and I will have no regrets. You see me as giving up so much, but in reality, I am gaining everything.”
Griffa pulled back from Ansel and stood up. “I am tired. I want to get ready for bed.”
She turned to leave to go to her closet when Ansel stood up and grabbed her hand. He pulled her to him and put his other hand on her back. He kissed her gently as he waved his hand down the length of her back. Griffa felt the buttons come undone on her dress. Ansel kissed her again as he helped her step out of her dress, leaving her standing in the simple shift she wore underneath. Griffa stepped out her slippers and looked up at Ansel.
Hel turned from her and pulled down the covers of the bed. “Come to bed, Griffa. You need rest. Things will change tomorrow. Let me hold and comfort you one more time.”
Griffa moved to the bed and sat down. She pulled her feet under the covers and scooted over to her side. She watched as Ansel prepared for bed quickly. He laid down next to her and took her into his arms. She laid against his chest, feeling his protector’s magic wash over her. She felt a sigh of contentment leave her lips, as she looked up at him.
“I love you, Ansel.”
“I love you, Griffa. Nothing will change it, but I am afraid you will miss this. I won’t be able to comfort you like this anymore.”
“I think you are wrong,” said Griffa yawing. “No one will ever make me feel safer or more wanted than you. I don’t think that will change.”
Griffa felt Ansel kiss her forehead as she drifted off to sleep.