Ansel looked everywhere in Keene Manor. He had to find Griffa. He had to make her understand that no matter what, he would never give her up. He could not give her up, it was impossible. His love for her had connected her to him in a way he could not separate himself. It would kill him to lose her.
Ansel finally went outside on the back lawn. The night was still and cold. In the moon light he saw her sitting by a tree. She wore no cloak, and she was slumped forward, shaking. He knew she was crying and his heart broke. He walked quickly over to her, sat down, and took her into his arms.
“Griffa,” said Ansel. “You cannot believe this. It can’t be true.” She cried harder as he held her to him. “I will not let it be true. I will figure this out.”
“There is nothing to figure out,” said Griffa hoarsely. “There is nothing that can be done. I cannot have you. It is not fair, but it is the way it is. The lines of Adalwen and Raya cannot be joined together in this way. They must remain separate for the protector’s line to go on.”
“Then the protector’s line will end with me,” said Ansel emphatically. “I will let it die with me. Losing you is not worth it for it to go on.”
“I would never let you give up who you are, but even if I would, it does not work like that. For the kingdom to go on as it should there must be a protector. The line of Adalwen and the line of Raya need each other. You will have to let me go. You will have to love another, and I will have to find a way to carry on the line of Adalwen without you.”
Ansel pulled Griffa up on his lap. He moved her so she was looking at him, and he took her face into his hands. “I could never love anyone else, but you. There will be no one else for me. The line of Raya will die with me either way. Let me be with you, Griffa.” He kissed her, and she responded, holding on to him tightly. “This feels right, doesn’t it? You and I have always felt right.”
Griffa leaned back and shook her head. “You resisted loving me for so long. I should have known you had a real reason. Your magic was trying to protect you. You were never meant to love me.”
“No,” said Ansel. “I loved you even when I was resisting. I loved you when I first kissed you at the spring festival. I wouldn’t admit it to myself, but I loved you then. You have always been the one thing that I have never wanted to lose. I think I have loved you your whole life. That loved changed and grew, and now there is no way back. You are a part of me, Griffa. If I lose you, I will die.”
Griffa laughed slightly. “Those are pretty words, but you know they aren’t true. You will go on, and you will live without me. You will find a way forward. One day you will meet someone you can love. It might be different than the way you love me, but you can be happy.”
“No,” said Ansel. “None of that is true. Can you put our love away so easily? Will you be happy with another?”
“I don’t know, Ansel. Right now, I would say, no. I have always only really wanted you, but it seems we aren’t right. We will have to find a way to go on. We will have to envision a new future for ourselves. If we can’t be together, why would the gods make us miserable for the rest of our lives? I can’t believe they would let us be tormented forever.”
“It’s because we are right together. Our love is right and good. I will find a way to make it right. I will do anything to make it right. Griffa, you have always said love is the most important thing. You said there wasn’t anything you wouldn’t do for those you love. You love me, don’t you.”
“Yes,” she whispered. “I love you above everything in this kingdom and beyond.”
“Then don’t give up on us, please. Trust me when I say I will find a way for us.”
Griffa shook her head. She stood up and wiped her the tears from her eyes. Ansel stood up and took her hands.
“Griffa, please, please say we will try,” said Ansel desperately as he felt tears fall from his eyes. He looked at Griffa pleadingly. He could not lose her.
“I do love you, Ansel. I will always love you. If I could change things I would. If I could run away with you I would, but the kingdom would never let me go. I have to let you go. This is bigger than you and me, and I have a responsibility to my people. I have love for them. This is not what I want, and I need you to know that. If I had any choice, I would choose you over everything, but I have no choice. I have to send you away from me.”
“No, Griffa, please don’t do this.”
Griffa swallowed and threw her hands away from Ansel. She stumbled backwards as fresh tears formed in her eyes. “Protector, you will need to leave. You need to go away. I will call you when you are needed.”
Ansel felt himself compelled to do as she asked. He shook and grabbed Griffa’s hand. “I’m begging you, Griffa, don’t send me away.”
“If I don’t do it now, I will never be able to. Nothing has every hurt me like this. If I wait any longer, it will kill me,” whispered Griffa. She took a deep breath and said in a commanding voice, “I am your queen, protector. You will do as I ask. You must leave my presence and my home. I will call you when I need your service.”
Ansel let go of Griffa’s hand, and covered his face as his tears fell. He could not leave her, he could not. He needed to fight for her. He needed to stay until she understood, he would never give up on her, but his protector’s magic would not let him stay. He had to leave. Ansel straightened up and looked at Griffa.
“I will go, my queen,” he said. He started to walk off, but he forced himself to turn towards her. She had to know. Through gritted teeth he said, “I am not giving up on us, Griffa. I will find a way. Do not give up on me.”
As he walked away, he heard Griffa break down into sobs. He wanted to run to her. He wanted to take her into his arms and love her, but he could not. Everything in him told him to run back to her, but he was not allowed to do it. He walked into the house and through the parlor towards the front door. Talon was standing at the fireplace with a glass of wine.
“Ansel,” said Talon gaping at him. “What has happened?”
Ansel walked past him to the entry hall, and Talon followed him. Ansel grabbed his hat and cloak, putting them on.
“Where are you going?” asked Talon staring at Ansel with concern.
“I am going to my home. My queen has ordered me away. She will let me know when she needs my service.”
“What on earth are you talking about?” asked Talon. “You cannot leave her.”
“I must,” said Ansel. He felt fresh tears fall from his eyes. Ansel closed his eyes and shuddered. He fought against the urge to leave immediately. He opened his eyes and struggled to get the words out. “She is on the back lawn, Talon. She cannot be alone. You must go to her. Do whatever is needed to keep her safe while I will find a way to fix this.”
Talon looked at Ansel with wide eyes and nodded. Ansel opened the door and walked out going toward the home he had grown up in. He would find a way to be with Griffa. He would never love anyone else. He would be with her, no matter what it took.
The next few days were agony for Ansel. He could barely sleep. He ate little. He sat and worried about Griffa as he missed her at every moment. He read all the books he could on protectors of the kingdom. At night he felt cold and alone. During the day he thought of a million things he wanted to tell her. He missed holding her in his arms. He missed her smile. He even missed the way her eyes went dark when she was angry.
In the afternoon, after the night he left, Max and Kedan came to see him. Max brought him some more books on protector’s magic. They all three sat in Ansel’s little parlor.
“How is she?” asked Ansel as soon as they all sat down.
“She is quiet,” said Max. “She cries a lot. We have all tried to make her eat and sleep, but I don’t think she has done either since you left. Talon hasn’t left her side.”
“What about you, Ansel?” asked Kedan. “How are you holding up.”
Ansel looked at Kedan and shook his head. “I cannot stand to be apart from her. For one, my protector’s magic searches for her constantly. More than that, I love her. The thought of never being with her again is agony.”
“What is your plan, then?” asked Kedan. “I assume you won’t just let her go.”
“I will find a way to make this right. There has to be a way, doesn’t there?” asked Ansel looking at Max.
“I don’t know, Ansel,” said Max sadly. “You are her protector. There is no changing that.”
Ansel looked at Max, a thought ran through his head. “Are you sure there is no changing it? Is there no way to break this bond between Griffa and me?”
“Without destroying the whole kingdom? I don’t think so. There has to be a protector and a sovereign. It was made into the kingdom when King Nathin united the lands and formed Regventus.”
“Why does Ansel have to be the protector?” asked Kedan.
“He is the only folk of the line of Raya alive in the kingdom. The line of Raya is bonded to the line of Adalwen,” said Max.
Ansel knew this. He had been taught this all his life. He was the protector of the kingdom and the protector of the true ruler of Regventus. It was who he was, or at least he always thought it was who he was. Now, he wasn’t so sure. He would gladly give up anything to be with Griffa. Who he was now was wrapped up completely in her. He wanted to be her husband. He wanted to be her king. Being the protector didn’t mean to him what it once did.
“The bond was made with King Nathin and the first protector,” said Ansel. “Could it not be remade into someone else now? Could a new line be made?”
“I don’t know,” said Max. “Even if it can, are you sure you want to do that? You would be taking away this duty from your line. Your future heirs would not carry the line of protectors anymore.”
“It does not matter to me. If I am not with Griffa, there will be no future heirs for me. I will not have anyone else,” said Ansel with conviction. “Do you think it could be possible, Max?”
Max closed his eyes and took deep breaths. “Yes,” said Max. “I do think it could be possible. In one of my visions, I do see you with Griffa as her consort. There is someone else with her as her protector, but Ansel this has all just happened. Do you not want to wait a while and see how you feel? If you take the line of protectors from your line, you cannot get it back. You should take some time first.”
“No,” said Ansel. “I will not waste one moment. If there is a way for me to be with Griffa I will do it. I need your help, Max. You have to help me find a way to transfer my line.”
Max sighed. “I want to help you, Ansel, but who would you even transfer the line to? It is a big responsibility. One that will affect not just one person, but a whole family line. Who would take on such a thing?”
“I will find someone. I will find someone I can trust, and I will make it happen. You just find a way to do it. Please, Max, I cannot lose her.”
Max smiled sadly. “I know what it is to lose the person you love most in this world. If I can spare you and Griffa from that pain, I will do whatever I can. You start with these books. I will find more. When I find a way to do this, I will let you know.”
Max stood up as Kedan and Ansel stood as well. Ansel walked them to the door. Kedan patted Ansel on the shoulder and smiled at him as he walked by. Max stopped and looked at Ansel.
“I should tell you I have also seen a vison where Talon is at Griffa’s side. I don’t know what will happen, but I can’t guarantee even if you find a way to make this work, that she won’t chose him over you giving up your line’s duty.”
“I understand,” said Ansel. “I have to try, Max. I have to try and trust in our love.”
“Will you still come to Nora’s wedding? She told me to make sure you knew you were still welcomed. It is in two days in the afternoon. She would like it if you could come.”
“Tell her, I will be there,” said Ansel.
“Good,” said Max. “I will see you soon. I will keep you informed of what I find out.”
“Take care of Griffa when you can Max. I know how much you mean to each other.”
Max smiled and walked out the door.
In two days, Ansel walked to the temple after lunch. As he approached, he saw Max and Kedan walking into the temple followed by Talon with Griffa on his arm. They turned and paused as Cillian greeted them. Ansel watched as Griffa smiled slightly at Cillian offering her congratulations. She went to walk into the temple when Ansel caught her eye. She stopped and stared at him. Ansel looked back unable to breath Everything in him told him to go over and take her into his arms. Instead, he gave her a small smile. She looked like she might cry, but she only nodded. She let Talon lead her into the temple, and Ansel approached Cillian.
“I am glad you are here, Ansel,” said Cillian. “I have heard a bit of what has happened. I am very sorry.”
“It is only temporary,” said Ansel. “I will find a way to be back at her side. Today, I am happy to celebrate with you. Nora is a fine woman. You are very lucky.”
“I know that for certain. I do wish you much happiness, Ansel. Wherever you might find that happiness.”
Ansel nodded and walked into the temple. He would only find happiness with one woman. Ansel looked for a place to sit when Talon waved him over. Griffa and Max had gone to be with Nora, leaving Talon sitting with Kedan.
“Sit with us, Ansel,” said Talon scooting over.
“I’m not sure that is wise,” said Ansel. “I don’t want to cause any distress,”
“There will be distress wherever you sit. We are all still friends. There are no sides here. Sit with us and celebrate Nora and Cillian.”
Ansel nodded and sat down next to Talon.
“How is she?” asked Ansel as soon as he was settled.
“You know the answer to that without asking,” said Talon. “She is not well. I’m not sure she sleeps. She won’t go to her bed. We have all offered to switch with her, but she will not do it. If she is not working on potions, she spends her nights mostly in the chairs in the study by the fire. Sometimes I can get her to doze on the sofa.”
Ansel felt his heart break all over again thinking of Griffa sitting in the old chairs in the study staring at the fire. How many nights had they sat together in that room reading and arguing over something?
“You don’t let her be alone do you?” asked Ansel. “She is scared to be alone for too long.”
Talon looked at Ansel. “I would never leave her side if she did not make me sometimes. Even when she makes me, I still keep her within my watch.”
“Good,” said Ansel.
“She still loves you very much, you know,” said Talon quietly. “She didn’t want to send you away. I think it was the hardest thing she ever did. When she does sleep, she calls out for you, frequently. It’s sad. You’re the one person who probably has the ability to comfort her, but she cannot ask you to do it.”
“I am going to find a way for us,” said Ansel. “Max is working on it as well. I will not lose her.”
“I know,” said Talon. “If I can help, let me know.”
Ansel couldn’t say more as Cillian, a man Ansel didn’t know, and Griffa walked up in the front of the temple to take their places. Nora had asked Griffa to be her witness. Max escorted Nora to Cillian. Ansel glanced and saw that Nora looked very pretty in her light blue gown, but he stared mostly at Griffa.
She was so beautiful it hurt for Ansel to look at her. She wore a dark blue gown with the sun of Adalwen stitched on the skirt in silver. Her hair was up in braids with a few of her curls coming down to rest on her neck. She wore her crown on her forehead. She smiled sweetly at Nora as Max escorted her to Cillian.
Cillian and Nora pledged their lives to one another. The promised to love, respect, and cherish one another. They joined hands and the cleric bonded them together magically. They swore to live this life together as one, and they vowed to find each other in the next life to journey together forever.
Ansel stared at Griffa the whole time. He silently pledged to Griffa to love no one but her. He vowed to find a way to be at her side and to never leave it. One day when he passed to the next journey, he would find adventure after adventure with her. Griffa had said he would find someone else, but Ansel knew that was not true. Even if Max’s vision of Talon and Griffa came true, Ansel would serve her as her protector. He would take no wife. He would serve her, keep her safe, and pass on his protector’s line to someone else.
The wedding ceremony ended, and Cillian left the temple with Nora as his wife. As everyone found their way out of the temple, Ansel walked out to find Talon congratulating Cillian. He looked and saw Griffa on the other side of the statue of the gods away from everyone else. Ansel couldn’t help it, he went to her. His magic tried to pull him away, but he fought through it.
Griffa looked at him as he approached. She nodded her head and said, “Protector.”
Ansel walked up quickly and grabbed her hand. He dragged her over to the side of the temple away from everyone else.
“What are you doing?” asked Griffa.
“I have to talk to you,” said Ansel pulling her close. “Please do not send me away.”
“Very well, Protector, what do you have to say?” she asked looking up at him. Her mouth was set in a hard line, and tears were in her eyes.
“I need you to understand that I am not giving up on us. I think I have found a way for us to be together.”
Griffa frowned and looked confused. “What do you mean?”
“Max has seen a vison where we are together. I am your king, and someone else is your protector. I think I can transfer the protector’s line to someone else.”
“I could never let you do that,” said Griffa stepping away from Ansel. “You whole life is about being the protector of the kingdom. The line of Raya has carried the duties of the protector since the beginning. I can’t let you give that up.”
“You will because it is what I want. The protector’s line means nothing to me compared to you. I want only to be by your side.”
Griffa turned and shook her head.
“Do you love me, Griffa?”
Griffa looked at him, tears falling from her eyes. “You know I do. You don’t think I would forget our love so soon do you? I will always love you. I love you too much to let you do anything to betray who you really are. You are a protector of the kingdom and the line of Adalwen. It is who you are. How could I ask you to give that up?”
“You aren’t asking. I am telling you that is what I will do. You will not stop me.”
“I will. You know I can. I have that power,” said Griffa angrily. “I will not see you throw away everything you are because of me.”
Ansel grabbed both of her hands and brought her close. “I will not let you throw away what we are for some notion that I don’t know what I want. I want you Griffa. I need you. I will never have anyone else. Either way, I will give the protector’s line to someone else because I will not have anyone to pass it on to if I am not with you.”
Griffa looked up at Ansel. She took her hand and brought it up to his face, and stroked his cheek. “You say that now, but you don’t know what will happen in the future. I do love you, and I want you to be happy. We both have a duty to our kingdom. If you can’t do what you were meant to do, I don’t know if you can be truly happy.”
Ansel grabbed her hand and kissed it slowly and tenderly. He brought it down and held it “Will you at least consider that I might want and need you more than any stupid legacy and duty. Please tell me you won’t give up on us.”
Griffa sighed and kissed Ansel gently. He held her close. “I don’t see how this will work. Who would even take on such a thing?”
“I will find someone. I will do it a soon as you are safe on the throne,” said Ansel. He kissed both of her cheeks, holding her tightly.
“Then I guess we will see,” said Griffa as she stepped away from him. “Until then I think it is best if we stay apart when possible. I couldn’t take having you in my bed every night, loving you, only to send you away again.”
Ansel closed his eyes and nodded. “I understand, but say you have hope for us. Please tell me you have hope.”
Griffa smiled slightly. “I might be a fool, but I can’t help but have at least a little hope.”
“That is enough,” said Ansel with a smile. “You will send for me if you need me, won’t you? Please don’t leave Abscon without me.”
Griffa nodded. They both turned as they heard Talon calling her name.
“We should go,” said Griffa. She went to walk past Ansel, but he caught her hand and pulled her to him.
He kissed her, holding her to him tight. He felt her tears on her cheeks as she kissed him. He pulled back and held her.
“I’m sorry,” said Ansel breathing heavily. “I had to kiss you one more time. I won’t kiss you again until I know how to change things for us.”
Griffa reached up and kissed him one more time. “Don’t be sorry, but be sure with what you want. If you change your mind and you can’t give up your line’s duty, I will understand.”
Griffa walked out of his arms as Talon came around the corner to find her. She took Talon’s arm and looked back at Ansel one more time. Ansel would not change his mind. A way would be found for him to give up his protector’s line, and he would be with Griffa.