Kedan walked by Griffa on their way to a Ring of Nine meeting with Talon, Ansel, and Max walking behind them. Griffa looked at him and gave him a small smile as they turned from the pathway of Keene Manor towards the center of town. Kedan looked down at her. He had been concerned about Griffa. She looked pale and tried, and she had not been herself lately. She had been quiet and a little withdrawn. He noticed at meals, she hardly seemed to eat.
Kedan knew Griffa had been working extremely hard. She seemed to be brewing potions day and night. Max and Talon would help her, but she would often sit with them instead of resting. She would visit different villages in the kingdom each week, bringing the potion and her comfort. Kedan wondered when she found time to actually sleep at all, and she must have been constantly tired. Still, Kedan wondered if something else was bothering her.
Kedan knew he probably didn’t look much better than Griffa. He had not been sleeping well. He worried continuously for his child and. if he was honest, Teryn as well. He was still angry at her for what she he done, but he could not dismiss the feelings he still had for her. At night when he was alone, he would miss her. He would miss holding her. He would miss the sound of her voice, and her light laugh.
Kedan had been corresponding with his mother. While she wouldn’t divulge much of Golnar’s plans, she did tell Kedan she was concerned. Some new magic users in the city where having trouble with their magic. A few had even become somewhat ill. Camelia had been at work in the fourth and third rings of the city all summer, but she had found ways to stall the use of the potion. She was worried what it was doing to the citizens of Aurumist. She assured Kedan that she and Teryn were doing well.
“Kedan,” said Griffa as they walked. “Have you heard from your mother lately?”
“It’s been a few weeks,” replied Kedan. “I haven’t checked at the mail house in the East Village in a while.”
“We should go later this afternoon,” said Griffa nodding at a person who passed by them.
“You don’t have to go with me, Griffa. I’m sure Talon would take me.”
“I should like to go,” said Griffa. “I want to see how things are in the East Village. I need to get out in the kingdom.”
“Are you sure it is wise?” asked Kedan with concern.
“Ansel will go with us. I have learned from my past mistakes, and Ansel will not leave my side. There should be no danger.”
“You seem tired, Griffa. Perhaps, you should rest this afternoon. Let Max work on the potion. Talon and I can run to the East Village.”
Griffa smiled. “I feel quite well today. You on the other hand, look like you haven’t slept in a month. What is worrying you? Is it your wife and child?”
“And my mother,” said Kedan as they neared the town center. “The last letter said new magic users were becoming weak and sick. I worry what will happen to my mother, Teryn and my child. Also, I think my mother and Teryn may be interfering with Golanr’s plans. I worry what will happen when he figures it out.”
Griffa gave out a loud breath. “We will have to find a way to help them soon,” Griffa said as she stopped close to the front of the statue of the gods. She looked at Kedan and took his hand. “We will get all of them out of Aurumist soon, Kedan. I promise I will find a way to save them for you.”
Kedan squeezed her hand and nodded.
“Please trust me, Kedan. I will think of something,” said Griffa with conviction, still holding his hand.
“I do trust you, my queen,” said Kedan. “But I don’t want anything to happen to you either. Whatever you plan, you must keep that in mind.”
“Come, Kedan,” said Griffa holding his hand and walking with him to the statue of the gods. “Let us pray for their safety.”
Kedan watched as Griffa gave a bow in King Nathin’s direction and then put her hand on the foot of the statue of the sister. She held on to Kedan’s hand and closed her eyes. Kedan felt her hand warm under his as he closed his eyes and felt Griffa’s magic run up his arm.
He could feel her concern for him and those he loved. He could feel the power she held within herself. He opened his eyes and looked at her as she prayed. He felt pulled towards her as his queen. He knew there was nothing he would not do for her, and he knew there was nothing she would not do for him or the kingdom.
Talon, Ansel, and Max had come close to them, watching Griffa. Max turned and looked at Kedan. Max’s eyes unfocused for a moment, and then he stared hard at Kedan as thought he was trying to figure something out. Griffa opened her eyes and took her hand off of the statue. She gave Kedan’s hand one more squeeze and let go before walking over to stand between Ansel and Talon.
“Are we ready for the meeting?” asked Griffa smiling at them all.
They all nodded. Griffa walked between Ansel and Talon to enter the building as Kedan and Max walked behind her. They entered the meeting room to find Clara, Malchom, and Sidora already in their chairs. Griffa stood in front of her chair while everyone else found their place to sit.
Griffa smiled and called the meeting to order before she sat down.
“I am pleased to welcome Malchom Delis to our Ring officially. I have no doubt he will serve his kingdom and his queen well.”
“I am committed to do all I can to help Regventus and serve you, my queen,” said Malchom solemnly.
“Very good,” said Griffa. “Today, I want to discuss the situation with the sickness around the kingdom and what we know is happening in Aurumist. I know we have to continue to fight the sickness in our kingdom, but our ultimate goal is to take the kingdom back from those who would destroy it.”
“The Lakelands are doing much better since you visited this summer. They have a stockpile of the potion you have made,” said Malcolm. “You also caused quite a stir amongst the non-gifted in the area. They weren’t sure what to make of you. Some thought you might have been a god coming to visit them. There was talk you might be the sister come to life. I think you might have unintentionally sparked a return to the old true gods of Regventus in the Lakelands.”
Griffa smiled slightly. “I do not wish to parade around as a false god, but the results of a return to the true gods is not one I want to argue with.”
“You need to be more intentionally of saying who you are,” said Talon. “You are the Queen of Regventus, and you should be announced when we visit. We aren’t hiding anymore from the powers of Aurumist. Let the people know you are their true queen that sees to their well-being.”
“What of those who might be Aurumist loyalist in the villages?” asked Kedan. “I would hate to put our queen in a dangerous situation.”
“As long as she is near Ansel, she is safe. When we are out, he must never leave her side,” replied Talon.
“Ansel, what is your opinion?” asked Griffa looking at her protector.
“If we are going to take back this kingdom, you will need non-gifted folk on your side. As much as I hate to put any additional targets on you, I agree with Talon. I think you need to start declaring who you are to the people.”
“You need to look like a queen,” said Madam Sidora. “You need something people can look at and see and know for sure.”
“What do you suggest?” asked Griffa.
“A crown,” said Sidora.
“The crown of Regventus can only be taken in Aurumist,” said Griffa. “I know we have it here, but I can only claim it in Aurumist.”
“We have others,” said Sidora. “Ones worn by the princes and princess of Regventus. I have one in mind for you.”
Sidora stood up and walked to the wall on the far side of the room. She touched the wall and a small door appeared and open. She walked in and disappeared for a few moments as everyone around the Ring looked at each other. Sidora eventually reappeared. She walked over to Griffa holding in her hand a thin golden grown. It was round and smooth. In the middle was a small sun with a single red gem in the middle
“This was the crown of the princess of the blood of Adalwen. I believe Malin Keene was the last to wear it on her wedding day. It has been kept with the crown of Regventus and others in the secret room. It is yours, my queen. I believe you should wear it.”
Griffa nodded and lowered her head. Sidora slipped the crown over Griffa’s head, and it rested on her forehead, the sun perched just below her hairline. It fit her perfectly. Griffa looked up and around the circle. Kedan gasped as the air around them changed. He looked at Griffa and her pull as his queen was undeniable. Kedan looked around at the others.
Ansel was staring at her intensely as though awaiting her to give him an order. Max was smiling slightly as he looked at Griffa. Malchom and Clara seemed to sit up straighter, and Kedan thought Talon looked at Griffa as though she was the most wondrous thing he had ever beheld.
“I don’t believe you will even have to announce yourself now, my queen,” said Sidora sitting down. “Anyone who takes one look at you won’t be able to deny who you are.”
Griffa looked around and everyone nodded.
“If you think it is necessary, Sidora, I will do as you recommend. Now, let’s talk about Aurumist. Kedan, you had some news a few weeks ago.”
“Yes,” said Kedan shaking his head lightly to focus. “My mother has been corresponding with me. She says some new magic users are losing their ability to do magic, and a few have fallen ill. She isn’t sure if they are connected.”
“We shall have to watch it closely. If the folk of the city suffer, I cannot ignore it for long,” said Griffa.
“You will not go into the city until we have a plan of taking it for good,” said Talon looking at Griffa.
“If my people suffer, it will be hard to stay away,” answered Griffa looking at Talon.
“He knows that, my queen,” said Ansel. Griffa turned to look at him. “But the best way to help your people is to find a way to take back the kingdom. You must look at your larger responsibility. You must be safe during this war. You must sit on the throne of Aurumist.”
“I can’t promise anything,” said Griffa looking around the Ring. “But I will listen to all of your counsel.”
“And you will not leave Abscon without your protector,” said Talon.
“Of course not,” said Griffa.
The rest of the meeting they talked of the forces they were collecting to take Aurumist. Many magical communities had come to their side. Griffa talked of visiting more communities in the near future, and they adjourned at lunchtime.
“Ansel,” said Griffa as they left. “I plan to go to the East Village today with Kedan so he can check for messages and see how the village is doing. You will accompany me, won’t you?”
Ansel took Griffa’s hand. “Of course, I go where you go.”
“I can go as well,” said Talon coming up to Griffa’s other side.
“No, I need you to stay here and help Max with the next batch of the cure. We will not be gone long.”
Talon looked like he would argue, but Griffa walked away from him to walk by Max. She took Max’s arm, and they walked ahead talking to one another.
“I know she needs to be out in the kingdom, but I hate her being so vulnerable outside of Abscon,” said Talon walking with Kedan and Ansel.
“I will be with her,” said Ansel. “I will keep her safe.”
“I don’t doubt you, Ansel, but sometimes Griffa has ideas of her own. If she orders you away from her, there isn’t much you can do,” said Talon with concern. “I wish she would let me go with you.”
“I will watch over her, Talon,” said Kedan as he watched Griffa walk with Max. She turned for a second and smiled back at them all, her golden grown catching the fall sun.
“I know, Kedan. The truth is I don’t like being away from her,” said Talon. He walked faster to catch up to Griffa and Max.
Kedan cut his eyes over to look at Ansel to see Ansel’s eyes were slightly narrowed watching Talon walk up to Griffa’s side. Kedan wondered what Ansel’s thoughts were at the moment, but thought it would be better not to ask.