Ansel watched his blood mix with Kedan’s and fall into the potion below. It was almost as if it was in slow motion. The blood seem to hang over the potion in midair suspended by some invisible force. In that moment, Ansel felt his magic inside of him swell. It came to the surface of his skin and wrapped around him. He felt as if something was wound around his chest, restricting his breath.
Ansel closed his eyes and tried to breathe as many images flashed before him. He saw protectors from the past standing by their kings and queens. He saw a large tree with many branches and a large trunk in a barren field. Over it was a bright sun with a falcon circling in the sky. Finally, Ansel saw Griffa. He saw a cord of light coming from her that was connected to a cord wrapped around his chest. The cord tighten, and Ansel thought he would never breathe freely again. It tightened as the cord of light stretched between them.
Ansel opened his eyes and watch the blood fall into the potion. The bind around his chest broke and Ansel took a deep breath. He felt the magic on his skin fly away from him. Ansel let go of Kedan’s hand and stepped back. He felt so completely light. He felt as if a weight that he had been carrying lifted off of him.
Ansel closed his eyes and searched within himself. He looked for his magic, and he could not find it at first. He worried he had lost all of his magic in the transfer of the protector’s line when he suddenly felt something within him. It was like a strong second heartbeat. It beat in time with his own, louder than he had ever heard before. His magic flew to every part of him. It was as if it had been caged up and someone had unlocked a gate. Ansel flexed his fingers feeling the power within them. He breathed in and out, relishing in this new feeling that reached every part of him.
Ansel looked over to Griffa to see Kedan kneeling before her. He stared at Griffa. She was his queen, but she was something else, something more. Ansel realized he had been seeing Griffa as his queen first for so long. No matter how much he felt for her, she had been his queen first, and he had been her protector, but no more.
Ansel suddenly realized how much he loved Griffa. He thought he already knew, but he was wrong. He loved Griffa completely. He had no idea he could love someone as much as he loved her. He could see a new cord that tied them together. One that was light but strong. He felt overwhelmed with his love for her. He wanted to go to her and take her into his arms. He longed to be with her and show her the depths of his love. He held back as she spoke with Kedan, her new protector.
Ansel tried to control his breathing. He could not take his eyes off of Griffa as he tried to resist the urge to grab her. Eventually Kedan moved to Griffa’s side. Ansel glanced at Kedan and saw that he looked pleased. Ansel stared back at Griffa, and she looked at him with a questioning look. He tried to smile at her, but he felt too much for her in the moment. His licked his dry lips and took a deep breath. Griffa looked at Ansel with a raised eyebrow and a small smile. She lightly bit her bottom lip and then turned to Kedan.
“Protector, it has been a long day. You should go check on your son and then go to bed. We have much work ahead of us.”
“Yes, my queen,” said Kedan bowing. He took Griffa’s hand and kissed it quickly, before walking out of the room.
“Max,” said Griffa. “Do you need any help cleaning this up?”
“No,” said Max. “I can handle it. Do you feel alright, Griffa?”
“Yes,” said Griffa. “I feel very well, but it has been a long day. I think I would like to go to bed.” Griffa looked at Ansel. “You must be tired as well. Would you like to join me, Ansel?”
“Yes,” said Ansel quickly. He walked over and took Griffa’s hand, pulling her towards the entry hall.
“Good night, Max,” said Griffa as they left the room.
Ansel pulled Griffa up the stairs and led her to their bedroom. He opened the door and Griffa entered with him behind her.
“Ansel,” said Griffa as he turned to her. “Are you feeling well?”
Ansel looked at Griffa. His breaths where quick. He grabbed her hand and pulled her to him, crushing her against him as he kissed her. After some time, Griffa made a small noise against his lips and Ansel pulled back, looking at her.
“You are alright, aren’t you?” asked Griffa breathlessly.
Ansel nodded. He could not find the words to tell her how well he really was so he would show her. He pulled her close and kissed her again as he waved his hands down her back causing her dress to come undone. He helped her quickly step out of it. Ansel looked at her in the thin shift she wore and gave a grunt of approval.
Griffa put her arms around him and looked up at him smiling, “I take it this means you are not having second thoughts at the moment.”
Ansel gave her a smirk before kissing her again and guiding her towards the bed. Ansel found he was not having any thoughts in his head accept one.
Later, Ansel laid in bed with his arms around Griffa. She was asleep against his chest, but he was wide awake. He looked down at her and smiled. He would never have to let her go. He could hold her like this for the rest of his life. He almost couldn’t believe it was real. He could have everything he wanted.
Ansel kissed Griffa’s forehead and ran his hand down her bare side. He stopped when he came to the small rough spot where she had been stabbed. She had healed, but a scar remained from the poisoned knife. He placed his hand over it and pulled her even closer to him. They still had such a long way to go before she was safe on the throne. There were so many dangers they would have to face. Ansel realized he could never be the one to always stay by her side in a fight. He would have to give up that right to her new protector.
Ansel didn’t doubt he had made the right choice. He knew he was meant to give up the line of protectors. He was meant to be with Griffa as her husband and king, but it would be hard to place her life in the hands of another. He knew Kedan would do everything he could to keep Griffa’ safe. Ansel trusted Kedan. He knew Kedan understood the responsibility he was taking on. Ansel would not leave Kedan alone to figure his new duties out. He would guide him and help him train. Ansel would ensure everything was done to keep Griffa safe.
Griffa stirred slightly against him. He looked down to see her blinking her eyes and looking up at him.
“Ansel,” she said quietly. “You are well? I mean I know a lot has changed, but you are feeling alright, aren’t you?”
“Yes, my love,” said Ansel smiling at her. “I am very well. Are you feeling at peace with everything that has happened?”
“Yes,” said Griffa scooting up so her face was closer to Ansel’s. “It will be strange at first, I think, but I believe this was the right thing to do.” She leaned forward and kissed him.
Ansel rolled her over slightly to hover over her. “I knew I loved you before, but now I feel as though I love you even more. It’s hard to explain, but I feel as though a wall has been torn down between us.”
“I understand,” said Griffa as Ansel went to kissing her neck. “I feel it too.”
“I didn’t mean to wake you,” murmured Ansel into her neck.
“It’s not bother. I find that I am not tired,” sighed Griffa.
They stayed in bed later than normal the next morning, but both woke in unusually good moods. After dressing and coming downstairs, most of the household was finishing breakfast as they came into the dining room. Griffa sat next to Kedan who was drinking a cup of tea. Ansel sat down next to Talon who looked like he could use more sleep.
“How are you feeling, Kedan?” asked Griffa as she put some food on her plate.
“I feel well. It is odd feeling magic so strongly, but I believe I will get used to it,” replied Kedan.
“We will start training later today,” said Ansel. “I don’t imagine it will be too difficult for you to learn most things. Your magic is already unleashed due to the blood magic used to bind you to Griffa.”
“What about you, Ansel,” said Talon. “You will need to learn some things as well with your new abilities.”
Ansel looked at Talon confused. “What do you mean?”
Talon smiled slightly. “It seems our dear Griffa might have a type. You are a mage, Ansel. You will need work on your elemental magic. You should also watch out for changes in the weather. Luckily, your love there, already has experience dealing with a mage during weather events.”
Griffa gave Talon a smirk. “Maybe we will find some mages can handle their emotions better than others.”
Talon gave a short laugh. “I will help you, Ansel. We can train later today after you are finished with Kedan.”
Ansel nodded. “Thank you, Talon, I would be glad of your assistance.”
Talon and Kedan left the table as Griffa and Ansel finished breakfast. Soon they were all on the back lawn in their cloaks. The day was cold and cloudy. Talon and Ansel watched as Griffa worked with Kedan.
“How are you feeling, Ansel?” asked Talon.
“Different, but it is not bad. It’s a little unsettling, but I think I will get used to it.”
“And you are confident in Kedan’s ability to do this?” asked Talon as they watched Griffa move Kedan’s arm to a certain position.
“Yes,” replied Ansel. “I have every confidence in Kedan. I am trusting him with the most precious thing to me in the kingdom, Griffa’s life. I wouldn’t just let anyone protect her.”
“Hmmm,” replied Talon.
“I take it you aren’t convinced that Kedan was the right choice.”
“What matters is you and Griffa think he is the right choice,” replied Talon watching Kedan levitate a stick off the ground. “Besides, it has been done now. There is no going back.”
Talon walked over to Griffa and Kedan as Max came out of the house and stood by Ansel’s side.
“I know this will be hard on you in some ways, Ansel,” said Max.
“Perhaps,” said Ansel looking at Max. “Knowing that I am depending on someone else to keep her safe will take some time to accept, but I am not having any doubts.”
“Good, doubts won’t help us at this point. What’s done is done. Kedan will need all of us to help him on this journey.”
“Max, what is you’re feeling about all of this? We didn’t even ask you.”
“What matters is Griffa is sure. I could feel her certainty last night. She is the one who will have to trust completely in Kedan. If we want her to live to rule over Regventus, we will all have to trust in Kedan.”
Ansel turned to Max. “Will she live?” asked Ansel quietly. “You must have some feelings or visions on the matter.”
Max breathed in deeply. “I’m not sure, Ansel. I have seen many visions. I have had various feelings. There is a possibility saving Regventus could kill her. There is also a possibility she could live to reign as queen.”
“Any feelings you have, any visions you see that could help us know more about how to keep her safe through this, tell me immediately,” said Ansel adamantly.
“Right now, we need to focus on getting Kedan trained and ready. Griffa will need to go out into the kingdom soon, and she will need her protector.”
Ansel and Max joined Talon and Griffa in training Kedan. By lunch Kedan had learned many basic spells. Griffa said after lunch she would work with him on shielding charms. She also wanted to test her own magic in his presence. Max agreed to help her, leaving Ansel free to work with Talon.
After lunch Ansel stood by Talon on the far end of the lawn. Talon summoned a breeze that swirled around them.
“It shouldn’t be hard for you,” said Talon. “You will just have to learn how to feel the elements and work with them. I know you have summoned breezes and manipulated fire and water before, but you can do so much more with them now.”
Ansel worked on moving wind around using different methods. He manipulated water in ways he thought impossible. He noticed that Talon’s gaze often went towards the side of the lawn by the stables where Griffa was working with Kedan.
After working for a while, Ansel sat down looking towards Griffa, Kedan, and Max. Talon sat down next to him, and they watched as Max sent spells towards Griffa and Kedan. Griffa worked with Kedan to set up a shield around them. A spell broke through causing Kedan to fall backwards. Talon made a noise and shook his head.
“It’s just the first day, Talon. You will have to give him some time,” said Ansel.
“We don’t have a lot of time, Ansel. You know the forces in Aurumist won’t leave us be forever. You know Philo won’t just sit back and wait. Every moment it takes for Kedan to get this right, Griffa is in extreme danger.”
“She is safe in Abscon. I will not leave her. I am sure you will not either unless it is to go deal with business in the Valley. She is hardly unprotected,” said Ansel as Griffa sent a spell at Max knocking him over.
“I will not be going to the Valley anytime soon. The council will come here and work with the Ring when they need to hear from me. Clara can handle the rest.”
“You are sure that is wise?” asked Ansel. “Griffa would not want you to neglect your duties as leader of the village.”
“All that matters now is Griffa’s safety and seeing her to the throne of Aurumist. The rest can wait. The Valley has carried on for 300 years. I think it can withstand my absence for a few months. Besides, I don’t think Griffa will be staying in the safety of Abscon much longer. She will have to go out in the kingdom to build her forces to take Aurumist.”
“We still have some time,” said Ansel. “We know they have barely started on releasing magic users in the fourth and third rings of the city. They won’t move to the lands of the kingdom until the city is in order.”
“I hope you are right, Ansel, but I have a feeling things may move faster than you think. I don’t want us to be caught unprepared. You need to have the new protector ready to fight with Griffa as soon as possible.”
Ansel nodded his head as he watched Kedan set up a protective barrier around Griffa. Max threw a spell that bounced away safely. Griffa turned and smiled at Kedan.
Talon hopped up off the ground and started walking towards Max, Kedan and Griffa. Ansel stood up quickly and walked with him.
“Max, take a break for a second. Let Ansel and I have a turn seeing if we can break through Kedan’s barrier.”
Max looked at Ansel who nodded. Ansel turned to Talon who had his hands up. “I think we need to provide Kedan with a little incentive to make sure that barrier is strong.”
“You don’t need to go hurt our new protector, Talon,” said Ansel standing next to Talon ready to send a spell at Kedan.
“I won’t hurt him, not permanently anyway,” replied Talon sending a spell towards Kedan.
Kedan moved his hands, but the spell broke through throwing him back. Griffa looked angrily at Talon who only stared back at her. Kedan hopped back up, and Ansel pushed his hands out. The spell broke through again, knocking Kedan down. Kedan popped up quickly, looking angrily at Talon and Ansel.
Talon and Ansel looked at each other and nodded. They both pushed out their hands sending two strong spells towards Kedan. He was spun backwards, landing hard on his side. Griffa checked on Kedan and then angrily walked up to Talon and Ansel.
“What do you two think you are doing?” asked Griffa angrily.
Talon gave her a half smile. “Training Kedan. He needs to know a little of what will happen if he can’t make his barriers stronger.”
“This is his first day training, Talon. This hardly seems fair,” replied Griffa loudly. “This is no way to help him.”
“This is the perfect way to help him. He needs to learn to defend himself,” replied Talon. “Back me up, Ansel.”
Ansel looked at Griffa whose face was very red. She eyed Ansel as though daring him to comment.
“He’s not wrong, Griffa,” said Ansel quietly. “He will have to learn quickly to defend himself.”
“No, you are both wrong,” said Griffa. “He will have to learn quickly to defend me. If you really want to test him, send your spells at me.”
Griffa turned to walk back to Kedan.
“Are you serious, Griffa?” asked Talon as she walked away.
“Yes,” said Griffa looking back at Talon. “If you really want to test Kedan send all you can at me.”
Talon looked at Ansel. “What do you think,” he asked quietly.
“She’s the queen. It’s not as easy for me to know for certain anymore, but that sounded like a command.”
Ansel turned and looked at Griffa talking with Kedan. Kedan nodded at Griffa and stood at the ready.
“Alright, let’s see what you can do,” said Griffa standing straight with her staff by her side.
Talon looked at Ansel who nodded slightly. Talon pushed his hand out. A spell shot out and hit Griffa who fell hard on her back. Kedan helped her back on his feet.
“Again,” said Griffa.
Ansel pushed out his hand. His spell hit Griffa, and she landed next to Kedan’s feet. Kedan helped her up again and glared at Talon and Ansel.
“Go again,” said Griffa.
“Griffa,” said Talon. “I’m not sure this is a good idea.”
“Go again,” said Griffa angrily.
Talon sighed and pushed out his hand. His spell hit Griffa right in her chest. She fell back making a noise of pain. She laid on her back for a moment, and Kedan kneeled down beside her. Talon started to walk towards her when Ansel stopped him. Griffa sat up and whispered something to Kedan. Kedan helped her up, and Griffa stood straight looking at Ansel and Talon.
“Ansel,” said Talon quietly. “We need to stop this before one of us hurts her in some way.”
Ansel stared at Griffa. “No, she knows what she is doing.” Ansel pushed out his hand and his spell hit Griffa in her shoulder. Kedan caught her before she fell. He looked at Ansel and Talon, and Ansel could tell he was breathing hard. He stared them down as Griffa stood close to Kedan.
Talon pushed out his hand, and his spell flew towards Griffa. Kedan raised his hand. The spell rebounded off the shield he put up. Griffa pushed out her hand before Ansel or Talon could even react, her spell hit them, throwing them back several feet hard on the ground. Ansel sat up and looked at Talon who was sitting up as well. They both turned to Griffa who was grinning, standing straight by Kedan.
“Are you two done, or would you like to go again?”
Talon smiled at her and hopped to his feet. Ansel stood up by Talon.
“We’re just getting started, aren’t we?” asked Talon as he pushed his hand out.
The finished a few hours before dinner. Kedan had gotten much better at protecting Griffa by the end. Ansel walked over to Griffa, Talon following in his wake. Kedan was holding Griffa’s hand as they approached. He had his eyes closed, and Ansel realized he was healing her in some way.
“Are you alright, Griffa?” asked Ansel as she let go of Kedan’s hand.
“Yes,” said Griffa smiling at Ansel. “My shoulder was just sore from that last fall, but it is much better now thanks to my protector.”
Kedan smiled down at her. “I am pleased to serve my queen.”
“Good, but now you need a rest. Go see to your son and get some rest before dinner, protector,” said Griffa. Kedan bowed slightly and walked towards the house.
“He certainly listens better than Ansel,” said Talon watching Kedan walk into the house.
“If only it was as easy to get you to do as I bid,” said Griffa to Talon.
Talon smirked at her and walked slowly towards the house. Griffa and Ansel followed.
“You really have nothing to say to that?” asked Griffa as they caught up with Talon.
“I have plenty to say to that, my dear, but I’m not sure me saying any of it will do any of us any good.”
Griffa shook her head and took Ansel’s hand. “I am tired, Ansel. I could use a quick nap before dinner if you would like to join me. It is only a request and not an order.”
“I am happy to oblige you, my queen,” said Ansel pulled Griffa close to him. A nap sounded very refreshing.