Max sat in front of the large fireplace in the parlor of Keene manor on a small stool. He looked at the potion bubbling in the pot and adjusted the fire. Once the potion seem to be settled, Max got up and walked to a chair close by, sitting down, he took a deep breath and watched the fire.
It had not been an easy time for Max. He still felt the grief from Issa’s death. Sometimes he could put it away for a few hours and enjoy himself with others, but it would come back and hit him hard when he was alone. Her memory followed him around the manor and its grounds. He could still see her curled up in a chair in the conservatory. He could see her smiling and shooting arrows in the backyard. He could imagine her in his room, kissing him.
Max poured himself into the work of the cure and finding ways to keep Griffa safe. He felt most at peace when he was working or when he was in Griffa’s presence. In the early days of Issa’s passing, Griffa and Nora would spend hours with Max. Griffa could always tell when he was feeling particularly low, and she would take his hand and hold it, letting him feel her magic, strength, and love.
Lately, she had pulled away from Max. She still checked on him. She would listen to him talk about Issa, but she wouldn’t take his hand as often. She wouldn’t share her own feelings, and Max felt that she was keeping her feelings from him for a reason. Max worried about Griffa as she seemed tired and lethargic even though she tried to carry on as normal. He knew something was wrong, but he couldn’t figure it out with the distance she was keeping.
Max remembered the visions he had last spring. He had seen Griffa as queen twice, each with a different king by her side. He knew both Ansel and Talon loved her. Max had thought Griffa would always pick Ansel, but he wasn’t as sure anymore. Either of those vision would be better than the other two he had seen. He still couldn’t shake the feeling that Griffa might have to sacrifice herself to save the kingdom. He had a feeling no matter what, she would have to give up something to make sure things were made right.
Talon came into the room and sat next to Max.
“The potion in the cellar should be fine for a while. It is brewing nicely,” said Talon.
“This one should be done by tomorrow morning,” said Max as he saw Talon looking at the clock on the mantle.
“I thought the others would be back by now. I hope nothing has happened.”
“I’m sure they are fine. You know how Griffa is. She is probably visiting with folk all over the village,” said Max.
“I’m sure you are right,” said Talon not sounding convinced.
“If they are not back by dinner, we can go check,” said Max. “The potions should be fine by themselves for a while.”
Talon sighed and leaned forward in his chair, looking at the fire as Max watched him.
“She’s fine, Talon,” said Max soothingly. “She has Ansel with her, and he will keep her safe.”
Talon looked at Max and flopped back in his chair. “I know you are right.”
“You don’t like being away from her,” said Max. “You love her.”
“Am I that obvious?” asked Talon.
“Yes, but also I’ve seen things. I know how you feel about her, and I have seen some of the bond you share with her.”
“I won’t do anything to hurt her or Ansel. You don’t need to worry about that,” said Talon.
“I believe you,” said Max. “What about you, though? Doesn’t it bother you to see them together?”
“I can’t lie and say it’s easy, but to see her happy is all I want. If I can help see her safely to the throne with Ansel by her side, I will be satisfied.”
Max nodded, and they sat in silence for a few moments before Talon spoke.
“Max, you have studied about protector’s magic this past year, haven’t you?”
“I have,” answered Max.
“How do you think it will work with Ansel being her protector and her consort?” asked Talon.
“I’m not sure. It has never been done before. It shouldn’t be possible she would want him by her side in that way, but she does. Why do you want to know?”
“Griffa and Ansel have both talked to me about it. I told Ansel I would help him do some research. I believe Griffa is having nightmares about losing Ansel.”
Max felt a sickness in his stomach at this news. “Griffa is having nightmares about losing Ansel?”
“Yes, I guess she hadn’t told you?”
“No,” whispered Max. He wondered if this was why she had withdrawn form Max. Was she scared that he might know something? If Griffa was dreaming about losing Ansel, it could mean something. The kingdom could be trying to tell her something.
“Do you know where we might start looking for something that could help them? Are there any books you have read?”
“None of the books I have read have much that will be helpful with their situation. We will need to find information on the first few protectors. Maybe find out more on how and why the first protector was made. I know it was blood magic, but I’m not sure how it was done, or why the line of Raya was chosen,” said Max.
“Can you help with this? I know you are working hard on the potion, and I know this hasn’t been an easy time for you.”
“I will help,” said Max quickly. “Griffa is one of the most important people to me in this kingdom. I will do anything to ensure she is safe and happy.”
The front door opened, and Talon jumped out of his chair. He walked over to meet Griffa, Ansel, and Kedan as they entered the parlor.
“Did everything go well?” asked Talon quickly, taking Griffa’s hand and leading her to the fireplace.
“Yes, it was fine,” said Griffa taking her hand from Talon and looking at the potion in the kettle. She rubbed her hands to warm them by the fire. “It is my fault we are so late. I visited with several people, and I made Ansel and Kedan accompany me in the forest so I could gather a few ingredients we were running low on.”
Max saw Ansel put a small basket on the low table. He stood by Griffa as Kedan sat in the chair Talon had just vacated.
“Did you have any messages from your mother?” asked Talon to Kedan.
“No, there was nothing,” said Kedan sadly.
“I’m sure she, Teryn, and your child are fine, Kedan,” said Griffa sympathetically. “She probably just hasn’t had any news to write, or maybe she hasn’t had time. We will check again in a week.”
“Come on, Griffa,” said Ansel taking her hand. “I bet Maybelle has dinner ready, and you need to eat.”
Griffa let herself be led away by Ansel, and Kedan got up and followed them. Max stood up and looked at Talon.
“We can go to the library of Abscon tomorrow to see what books we can find.”
Talon nodded. “What will happen if they can’t carry on the line of Adalwen and Raya?”
“I’m not sure,” said Max. “The lines were integral to the kingdom for a thousand years. I believe they are both needed to bring the kingdom back to order, and I don’t know what would happen if one or both of the lines couldn’t go on.”
“Let’s hope this is not a problem,” said Talon as he walked to the dining room.
Max watched him go as he felt dread sneak its way through his body. He hoped it wouldn’t be a problem, but he doubted it.
The next day Max and Talon went to the library in Abscon. They spent a couple of hours finding all the books they could on protectors of the kingdom, and they came back to the manor carrying many books each. They entered the parlor to find Griffa alone. She looked at them with wide eyes.
“What are you planning on doing with all of those?” she asked.
“We are researching about protectors,” said Talon sitting a large pile of books down. “We are going to find out everything we can to see if we can help you and Ansel better understand your relationship.”
Griffa looked at Talon shocked. “You want to help with this?”
“Of course, I want you to be happy. Now, are you going to help us?” asked Talon smiling as he held out a book to her.
She smiled and took it, and they all settled in to read. They read through most of the morning, though Griffa stopped at one point to bottle up the potion that was done cooling. Talon and Griffa read off and on throughout the day, but Max would not stop. He liked having purpose. This felt like another riddle he needed to figure out, and he would not be at peace until he did.
By the next day, Ansel had figured out what they were doing, and he joined in. Kedan even picked up a few books to read. By the end of the second day, they had found nothing. After dinner, Max went to the conservatory to read by himself. He settled down in Issa’s favorite chair with a large old book on protector’s magic.
He read for hours, though it didn’t seem that long. Max read the stories of the first protectors. He read their attributes and their adventures, but he could find nothing about how the line of Raya was chosen. He could find nothing about the blood magic that sealed the line of Raya into Adalwen’s fate.
“Max,” said Griffa as she came into the conservatory, sitting down next to Max. “You need to go to bed soon.”
“I will, Griffa,” said Max not looking up. “I just want to read for a little while longer.”
“No,” said Griffa as she grabbed the book out of his hand. “It is very late, and you should sleep. These books will be here tomorrow.”
Max gave an angry breath and looked at Griffa as she stared back at him.
“Have you found anything?” asked Griffa as she put the book to her side.
“No,” said Max as he continued to stare at Griffa.
“I am beginning to think it is hopeless we will find anything. Why would we? Our situation is not one that has happened before.”
“It isn’t,” said Max with trepidation. “Griffa, I think there might be a reason it has never happened before.”
“What?” said Griffa. “Do you know something?”
A strange feeling came over him, and he grabbed her hand forcefully.
“Max,” said Griffa startled. “What is wrong?”
Max held her hand tighter as he felt their magic come together. He felt the blood of Adalwen in her veins, and he felt his own blood flowing through him. He looked in Griffa’s eyes and saw the history of their family. She opened her mouth slightly and stared back as the history of their kingdom flashed before Max.
He saw everything. He saw their triumphs and their defeats. He saw King Nathin standing proudly with his protector at his back. He saw Queen Agatha fleeing from the palace with her protector. Max blinked, and he saw the future, or at least different versions of the future.
They went by so fast Max only got glimpses. He saw Griffa. He saw Talon. He saw Ansel. He saw so many faces. He saw those that would come after them. He saw kings, queens, and protectors. Max also saw Regventus be a desolate place; a place where life struggled to happen. It looked like a place that was cursed, and then Max knew. He knew for Griffa to marry her protector was impossible. She could not as it would not work. The lines could not be joined together in that way.
Max gripped Griffa’s hand and looked at her as he saw tears fall from her eyes. She shook her head.
“No,” she whispered. “It can’t be this way. It can’t”
“Griffa,” said Max as he felt tears come to his own eyes. He felt her deep love for Ansel and her dependence on him. He felt her despair and her heartache. “I’m so sorry.”
Griffa ripped her hand from Max before she stood up ran. Max stood up to follow her, but what could he do? What could he say? There was nothing to be done. Griffa would have to give Ansel up. There was no way she could be with her protector.
Max walked slowly from the conservatory into parlor and sat down on a chair. He didn’t know what to do. He sat in silence, grieving for Griffa. He could still feel the depth of her heartache.
“Max,” said Ansel walking into the parlor. “Have you seen Griffa?”
Max felt tears spill from his eyes. He looked up at Ansel not knowing what to say.
“Max,” said Ansel worriedly. “What is wrong? Is it Griffa?”
“Yes,” said Max.
“Is she alright?”
“No,” answered Max. “She is not.”
“Where is she? What is happening?” asked Ansel frantic.
“Ansel, I’m very sorry. I wish it wasn’t like this.”
Ansel looked at Max. “What do you mean?”
Max wasn’t sure what to say. He stood up and walked to the fireplace, looking at the low fire there.
“Max, what is going on?” asked Ansel. “Where is Griffa?”
“I don’t know. She ran when she realized the truth.”
“What truth?” asked Ansel. His voice was laced with dread.
“She cannot marry her protector. The lines of Adalwen and Raya cannot be joined in their current bond.”
Ansel took two steps back from Max.
“How do you know this? Did you read this?”
“No, but I know it is true, and so does Griffa. I’m sorry, Ansel, but you will have to give her up for the lines to go on. You will have to let her go if Regventus is going to survive.”
“No,” said Ansel shaking his head. “I don’t believe you. There is something that can be done.”
“There is nothing. Your fates where sealed long ago. You cannot be he protector and love her as you do. It will not work.”
Ansel looked at Max, leaning on the back of a chair. “No, this isn’t the only way. There has to be another. Everything within me, tells me this is not true. I will do something to fix this. I will not live this life without her by my side. I cannot love anyone but her. I have to go find her.”
Ansel walked quickly for the room.
Max sat down in a close chair and covered his face with his hands. He didn’t know what Ansel could do to fix this as there was now to fix for this. Max cried quietly and wondered how Griffa would ever truly be able to let Ansel go.