Max sat at the dining table for breakfast. He placed some toast and bacon on his plate and picked up his cup of tea, blowing on it lightly before taking a drink. He looked at the table to see Kedan constantly looking at the dining room door. Max knew he was waiting for Griffa to come into the room.
Ansel had taken Griffa to their bedroom as soon as they had arrived back at the manor. She had slept most of the afternoon, waking up to take dinner in her bedroom. Ansel only came downstairs to fetch her some food. Kedan paced throughout the house most of the day. He sat with Griffa after dinner, and Max went to check on her as well. She was sitting up in bed and seemed mostly well, only a little tired. She insisted she was well.
Max looked at Kedan as Kedan again looked at the door.
“Do you think she is alright, Kedan? Have you sensed anything?” asked Max.
Kedan shrugged. “She shields me when she goes to bed at night. I am usually thankful for that, but right now I am anxious to know how she is.”
Max gave him a small smile as someone came into the room. Kedan and Max both looked quickly to see Talon coming through the doorway. They both turned back and slumped down.
“Not a very enthusiastic greeting this morning,” said Talon sitting down across from Kedan. “I guess Griffa hasn’t come down yet.”
“No,” said Kedan. “I am hoping she feels better this morning. If she doesn’t come down soon, I am going to go up and check on her.”
“I am sure Ansel will let you know if you are needed. She has been working hard lately. She probably tired herself out as usual,” said Talon pouring some tea.
Griffa and Ansel walked in the room and Kedan stood up quickly.
“Are you well?” asked Kedan as Griffa came to sit down beside him.
“I am,” said Griffa smiling at Kedan. “I think I just needed sleep. I’m not sure why all the weariness hit my all the sudden, but I feel very refreshed this morning.”
Kedan smiled and sat down. He started to finally eat the food that was on his plate.
“Ansel, you are taking Kedan to train with the protector’s guards, today aren’t you?” asked Griffa.
Ansel looked up at Kedan. “I thought we might wait a day or two to do that after what happened yesterday.”
“No, you should go today, Ansel. I am well this morning. I will even take it easy if you wish. I will let Max and Talon handle the next batch of the cure if they are willing.”
Max nodded as Talon smiled at Griffa.
“Are you sure, Griffa?” asked Ansel looking at her. “If you aren’t feeling well, your protector will want to be near you. I will want to be near you as well.”
“I am feeling very well this morning. It isn’t as if you will be far away. You will still be around Abscon. I can have you both retrieved quickly if you are needed.”
“I will watch her, Ansel,” said Talon. “If she starts looking even remotely unwell, I will fetch you quickly.”
Ansel looked at Kedan. “What are your thoughts, Kedan? You are in charge of the queen’s protection.”
Griffa put her hand on Kedan’s arm. “You can tell that I am very well. I know you know how I feel at the moment. Please go do what you need to do today.”
Kedan gave Griffa a small smile. “If it will please you, I will go work with the guards today. You must not shield me, though. I would like to be able to check in on you at times.”
“I will not shield you. I do not like to shield you unless I feel it is necessary,” said Griffa. She looked up at Ansel and grinned at him.
Max looked at Talon and could tell they both had something to say. Instead, they exchanged glances and let it go. After breakfast, Ansel and Kedan left to meet with the protector’s guards while Griffa sat in the parlor. Max and Talon went to the cellar to start a new batch of the cure. Talon put the kettle over the fire and started adding ingredients to get the potion brewing there so they could go up and start a batch in the parlor.
“Max,” said Talon as he threw some herbs in the kettle. “Do you think Griffa was just tired yesterday, or do you think it was something else?”
“Like what?” asked Max as he passed Talon the next ingredient.
“Could something in the kingdom be affecting her?”
“I’m not sure. I think she would tell us if it was something like that unless she didn’t know.”
“I know the sickness has been around, but I wonder how things are in Aurumist. If it has gotten worse there amongst the new released magical folk, it could affect her, couldn’t it?”
“I suppose,” said, Max. “If things get bad in Aurumist, the kingdom will probably want her to act. I have been reading and studying the magic Golnar used to unleash the magic in the folk. I haven’t been able to figure out anything we can do for those who become corrupted.”
“Maybe it won’t be a widespread thing,” said Talon. “Maybe it was just Kedan’s wife and a few others. His mother hasn’t written of anyone else becoming ill has she?”
“Not yet,” replied Max. “I hope you are right, Talon, but I have a feeling we will hear of more becoming ill very soon.”
“We will need to figure out some way to help them then. If Griffa will have to do something, we need to know what it is.”
Max nodded as Talon added the last ingredient. Max stirred the potion as Talon adjusted the fire.
“That should be good for a while. Let’s go see about starting one in the parlor,” said Talon as he gathered up some ingredients.
Max gathered up the rest and followed Talon up to the parlor. As they entered, Max could see Griffa resting against the side of the sofa. As he got closer, he could see she was asleep. Talon sighed as he put down the ingredients on a table close to the fireplace.
“I suppose she wasn’t feeling as good as she thought,” said Talon. He walked over to her and looked at her. “She appears to be sleeping soundly.”
“She has lost a lot of sleep over the past few months,” said Max putting the kettle over the fireplace. “Maybe she is finally able to catch up on her sleep.”
“Maybe,” said Talon as he continued to look at Griffa.
Max quickly put everything needed in the kettle for the potion, and Talon settled in on the sofa watching Griffa. As Max stirred the potion, he heard Griffa make a noise. He felt his head swim slightly and a knot form in his stomach. Max quickly put the stick to the side of the fireplace and turned to look at Griffa. She again made a noise and Max felt his head pound.
Max walked over and sat in the chair next to Griffa. Talon looked at Max as Max took her hand. He squeezed it and let their magic mingle together, feeling something very wrong.
“Talon,” said Max urgently. “Help me wake her up.”
Talon immediately turned to Griffa and shook her. Max let his magic mingle with hers, flowing through her. Her magic responded. It felt frantic and confused. It felt like it was being pulled away from her.
“Griffa,” said Talon loudly as he shook her. “Griffa, wake up.” Talon moved her so she fell onto him, her head laying against his shoulder. Max let go of her hand.
“What is wrong with her?” asked Talon as he continued to try to shake her.
“I don’t know,” said Max. “But I think it’s bad.”
Griffa suddenly opened her eyes and looked at Talon.
“Talon,” she whispered.
“Yes, Griffa, what is it?” asked Talon quickly taking her hand.
“I don’t know,” she answered. She seemed to be in pain. “Something is wrong. I’m afraid.” Griffa put her head back down on Talon’s shoulder and shivered.
“Griffa,” said Talon fearfully. “It’s going to be alright. Try to tell me what’s wrong.”
Griffa shook her head.
“Max, you have to go get Kedan and Ansel,” said Talon looking up at Max. “They have to come here quickly.”
Max stood up as Griffa suddenly gasped. She sat up and looked at Talon. She was breathing hard. She looked all around before looking directly at Talon again. “Helmer,” she whispered confused. “Forest.” She reached for Talon, and suddenly, she was gone.
“Griffa!” yelled Talon jumping up. “Max, what has happened? Where did she go?”
“I don’t know,” said Max. He felt dizzy and disoriented. He tried to think. “What did she say before she disappeared?”
“She said Helmer and forest,” answered Talon. He took a moment and appeared to be thinking. He looked at Max darkly. “Go get Ansel and Kedan and let them know what has happened. I am sure Kedan has already felt something. Get them and meet me by the gates of Abscon. I think I can find out where she is.” Talon immediately left the room. Max heard the front door open and close.
Max summoned his staff and quickly followed, grabbing his cloak on the way out. He watched Talon jog down the pathway towards the road. Max thought of following for a second, but decided he better do as Talon asked. He walked swiftly towards the outside of Abscon where he knew Kedan and Ansel were with the protector’s guards. He got almost to where he knew they would be when he was met on the road by Kedan and Ansel. Kedan walked up to Max and grabbed him.
“Where is she? Is she alright?” asked Kedan holding on to Max’s arms.
“I don’t know where she is,” said Max shaking his head. “She was sleeping on the couch. We couldn’t wake her up. She finally woke up and said something was wrong. She then disappeared.”
“Disappeared?” asked Ansel angrily. “What do you mean she disappeared?”
“She said two words, and then she just disappeared,” answered Max. “I don’t know where she went. Talon said he thought he knew, or he went to find out or something.”
“What two words did she say?” asked Ansel as Kedan let go of Max.
“She said Helmer and forest. It seem to mean something to Talon. He said he would find out where she was and meet us at the gates of Abscon.”
Ansel walked a quick circle while Kedan rubbed his head. Max stood there and try to stay on his feet. He felt weak and dizzy. He knew wherever Griffa was, she was in trouble. Kedan seem to know it as well.
“If she said Helmer, do you think he is involved in her disappearance?” asked Ansel.
“I don’t know,” answered Max. “It must have meant something.”
“We can’t just stay here. We have to do something,” said Kedan. “My queen needs me. I have to find her.”
“Talon seemed to think he could find out for sure where she was,” said Max. “I think we need to trust him. We should go to the gates of Abscon.”
Ansel looked at Kedan. “I can’t tell where she is,” said Kedan continuing to rub his head “But she is not safe. Let’s go meet Talon. If he says he can get her location, we have to trust him.”
Ansel nodded. He quickly turned and started walking towards the edge of Abscon and the gates. Max and Kedan followed. Max took deep breaths, trying to clear his head. He felt as though the blood in him was running fast through his veins to fast. It made his heart pound, and he felt sweat form on his forehead. He followed Kedan keeping his head down and focusing on putting one foot in front of the other.
They arrived at the gates of Abscon, and Talon was not there. Max leaned against the tree, taking deep breaths, and he felt his head clear a little. His heart still pounded, but it was easier to concentrate and stay on his feet. Ansel stood still with his arms crossed, but Max could see he was agitated by his hard breathing and his toe tapping slightly. Kedan walked around in small circles while trying to take calming breaths.
“Did he say how long he would be?” asked Ansel looking at Max.
Max shook his head. “He just said he knew a way to find out where she was and to meet him here.”
Ansel threw his arms down and looked at Kedan. “How is she?”
“She’s alive, but something is very wrong. She’s panicked,” replied Kedan. He stopped to answer but then continued to walk in small circles. “I think someone is hurting her.”
Ansel closed his eyes and shook his head. “If Talon isn’t here soon, we will have to think of something else.”
They waited in silence for a few minutes. Max looked through the gates to see someone coming towards them. Whoever it was, was dragging someone with them. Max realized it was Talon pulling a large man along. Ansel motioned to Kedan and both men looked at Talon as he walked up. Talon pushed the man ahead of him, so he stumbled slightly next to Ansel.
“Darron,” said Ansel looking at the man. “What brings you out here?”
“Talon,” said Darron unhappily. “He dragged me out of my home, saying some nonsense about my father.”
“Your father has our queen somewhere, and I think it is in the forest,” said Talon. “You said your father has a forest home, a tree dwelling, correct?”
“Yes,” said Darron.
“Then you will travel with us there, now,” said Talon.
“Why?” asked Darron. “I told you my father left Abscon like your queen ordered him. He has done nothing.”
“He killed Griffa’s father,” said Ansel.
“It was an accident,” said Darron. “He may have been angry at Gryphon, but he would never do anything to hurt her.”
“If you really believe that, take us to his tree dwelling,” said Talon. “Take us now, and we will see. If nothing is out of place, we will leave you alone.”
“What if I don’t want to travel there now?” asked Darron frowning at Talon. “You can’t make me.”
Talon smiled at Darron. “Do you really want to try me, Darron.” Talon raised his hand, and a hard wind blew causing two sharp branches to break off from a nearby tree. They landed on either side of Darron just scrapping by his arms.
Darron looked at Talon with narrowed eyes. He then turned to Ansel. “Are you really going to let him treat me like that?”
“If it were me, I would have at least nicked your arm to draw blood,” said Ansel causally. “Take us to your father’s tree dwelling now. Explain it in detail.”
Kedan shuddered. “My queen.” he whispered. He turned to look at Ansel and Talon. “We don’t have much time.”
“Take us now, Darron,” said Talon fiercely.
Darron looked at Talon who had his hand up, Ansel who was staring at him with his eyes narrowed, and Kedan who was pacing like a caged animal. “Fine,” said Darron. “It’s a large tree not far from the East Village. It is an oak so the leaves should be just about gone right now. It has one large branch that is crooked in the front. It is on a slight hill.”
“You will take us there,” said Ansel. He put his hand on Darron’s shoulder and nodded at Max. Kedan put his hand on Ansel’s shoulder. Max came over and put his hand on Talon’s shoulder as Talon grabbed onto Darron’s arm.
“I will take you there, but when you find nothing, I will expect some sort of apology.”
“Fine,” said Talon, “but if your father has the queen, you might not want to stick around and watch, because I am not in the mood for mercy at the moment.”
Darron looked daggers at Talon but then closed his eyes and bowed his head. Max felt himself travel.