Golnar sat in his room with his head against a chair feeling more tired than he ever had in his life. He wanted peace, but he could find none. His dreams were always haunted by her, and she never failed to come to him each night. She would taunt him with her goodness. She would tempt him with mercy and forgiveness. He didn’t need anything from her. He only needed her to leave him be.
Golnar wondered if his dreams would stop if Gryphon Keene was killed. Would she come from the grave to torment him? He didn’t know, but he wanted to find out. Golnar knew as long as this queen drew breath, he would never see Regventus as he knew it needed to be. He could never put the magical blooded folk in their right place of power. He could never get rid of all the non-gifted folk he needed to as long as Gryphon Keene lived.
They had tried to kill her. Philo had assured Golnar he could do it, but Philo had failed. They held her in their clutches for two months, yet they let her live and escape. Golnar didn’t know who she truly was at the time. If he had, he would have killed her himself immediately.
Golnar wished he could be the one to kill her personally now. He wished he could stand over her, watching the life go out of her dark blue eyes. He wished he could watch her blood drain out of her. He wanted to witness her last breath. He wanted himself to be the last person she saw as she left this kingdom.
Golnar knew that was impossible. What chance did he have against her? He had no use over his magic. He had no power. He could only stay in the palace and plan. He could only make potions and hope those he sent out did their job. He would have to trust that Philo would not fail this time.
There was a knock at the door and Philo entered before Golnar could say anything. He came over and sat next to Golnar, looking at him.
“Still not sleeping well?” asked Philo.
“No, not really,” replied Golnar sitting up straight in his chair.
“There are things you could take to help you sleep,” said Philo.
“Falling asleep isn’t the issue,” said Golnar. “It’s what happens once I’m asleep.”
Philo smirked. “She’s still coming to you each night?”
“Yes,” said Golnar angrily. “Hopefully when she is dead, this will stop.”
“I have some good news on that front. After killing the first two guards, I believe the third will help us. He has a betrothed in Abscon, and I have assured her safety for his cooperation. I think he will take us through the gates.”
“What is your plan once you get there? If the protector is with the queen, what use will it be to go?” asked Golnar.
“None, we will have to find a way to see that Ansel is out of the village and away from Gryphon.”
“I can send all the shadows I have to patrol the forest. It won’t guarantee that we will see every move the protector or the queen make, but it will be better than nothing.”
“I have a way to know when she is truly alone. I’ve had an old friend contact me. He has a score to settled with Gryphon. He is staying in the forest somewhere. I can have him keep watch as well. If Ansel leaves the village, we will know. I will be ready to strike at any time.”
“Do you know how you will kill the queen once you get to Abscon?” asked Golnar.
“I have a few ideas. I have spent a fair amount of time thinking on how to kill Gryphon. Some are more satisfying than others, but what matter is efficiency. She is a gifted magic user even when her protector isn’t around. I am determined the best way to kill her is to do something she doesn’t expect. I will have to find a way to lure her into feeling safe.”
“What would that be?” asked Golnar.
Philo smiled. “You let me worry about it.”
Golnar would have liked to hear his plan. He would like Philo to go into great detail on how he would kill Gryphon Keene, but Golnar could wait until she was dead. He could wait for the details once they had been done.
“You will see to it yourself, though, won’t you? I want to be sure she is dead.”
“Trust me, I will be one of the last things she sees. Killing off the last of the Keene’s has long been a dream of mine. To see that family destroyed is one of my greatest desires. They have ruled over Abscon and the magical folk for too long. They’ve always been weak.”
“What do you think will happen once she is dead? Will they pick someone else to lead?”
“I imagine they will have the young king take his place again. He doesn’t seem much for leading, but he has the full blood of Adalwen in him. I don’t believe they will be as strong. We will face the wrath of a few of Gryphon’s closer friends, including her protector, but I imagine they will lose support of much of the magical community. I can see the rest of the magical folk falling in line with us to keep the peace.”
“Good,” said Golnar. “Go do what you need to prepare. Keep me informed of when you will go. Tell me when the task is done immediately.”
Philo stood. “Very good. Our deal still stands? I will be regent and my family line will be the first advisor to the king.”
“Yes, yes,” said Golnar quickly. “You will get whatever you want. I will see to it with the Ancient Council. No go, I am tired. Hopefully with this news, I can sleep in peace.”
Philo nodded and walked out the door. Golnar leaned back in his chair and smiled. Soon, Gryphon Keene would be out of the kingdom for good. Golnar would never have to face her again. Golnar’s eyes felt heavy. He felt content. He let them close and did not fight sleep.
He was behind the castle. He walked towards the cliffs that overlooked the great river. He saw her standing there looking over the cliffs. Golnar wished he could turn around and go back to the castle, but he was drawn to her. She was standing with her back to him. Her red curls were flying in the wind. She was dressed in a simple black dress, and she held her staff. Golnar walked up and stood beside her looking out over the river with her.
“You think you have it figured out, don’t you,” said Gryphon not looking at him.
“I believe so. Soon, you will not be a problem for me.”
“You seem pleased. I think you will find if you do this, it will hurt you more than you know.”
“You think I will regret ordering your death?” asked Golnar with a cold laugh.
“I know it for certain,” said Gryphon. She turned to look at Golnar. “I am your queen. You can’t help but love me.”
“I don’t,” said Golnar emphatically. “I despise you.”
Gryphon laughed. “Oh Golnar, you do love to lie to yourself.”
“I am not lying to myself. I will be glad when you are gone. You are everything that is holding me back from getting what I want.”
Gryphon smiled at him kindly. “You don’t know what you want. You were hurt as a child. You suffered a great loss. You are a man who is lost and full of fear. Killing me will not fix that. You will still have to deal with the demons that torment you.”
Golnar looked away from Gryphon. He turned slightly. He felt sad, scared, and small. He felt so powerless. He turned and looked at Gryphon. She was back to looking over the river. Golnar wanted to push her off the cliff. He wanted to watch her fall to her death and smack against the rocks below. Instead, he walked closer to her, standing by her side.
“Are you not scared of anything?” asked Golnar.
“I have plenty of fears. Everyone is scared of something,” said Gryphon. “They are not fears for myself. I have fears for those I love. I have fears for my folk. I am scared for you, Golnar.”
“Me? Why would you have fears for me? I want you dead.”
“You are of my folk. I have seen what will happen to you if you do not change your course. I have seen the rest of your short life. I have seen how you will spend eternity. If you do not choose peace soon, you never will,” said Gryphon. She turned to look at Golnar. “I do not want that for you. I want you to find peace. I want you to let go of this fear and hurt that makes you act so evil.”
“Do you not think I might just be evil?” asked Golnar. He had never thought of himself as evil. He wasn’t sure why he was asking this question.
“No, you are not evil, not really. You have done many evil things, but you were not born this way. You were made by the gods. You were made to do good. You could still choose to do good.”
“I think our definitions of good might not match,” said Golnar. “If I kill you, will I be rid of you?”
Gryphon smiled at him. “You can’t kill me, Golnar. If you try, you will only hurt yourself.”
“I can and will kill you. There is already a plan in place. You will be dead soon. I know you will.”
Gryphon smiled at him. She looked behind him at something coming from the palace.
“Kedan,” said Gryphon. “Come with me. We need to go do what we came for.”
Golnar looked behind him to see Kedan walking up to them. He looked at Golnar as he settled at Gryphon’s side.
“Kedan, why do you serve this queen. I made you a king. I gave you everything you ever wanted.”
Kedan smiled and took Gryphon’s hand. “You entrapped me with lies. You put me in a gilded cage of pretty words and false love. My queen has set me free. I serve her now and always.” He raised Gryphon’s hand to his lips and kissed it reverently.
“Kedan, we need to go do what needs to be done,” said Gryphon. They turned together to walk back towards the castle. “I will see you soon, Golnar.”
Golnar felt rage grow within him. He lunged for Gryphon. Kedan let go of Gryphon and caught him.
“You will not touch, my queen, Golnar,” said Kedan. He pulled Golnar to the edge of the cliff and threw him over.
Golnar felt himself falling. He closed his eyes and accepted his fate. Just as he knew the rocks were coming up, Golnar bolted awake in his chair. He sat up, breathing fast. His heartbeat so fast he thought it would escape his chest. Gryphon Keene had to die and soon. Golnar would not be able to survive much longer in the kingdom if she lived.