The Prince of Galerir

an excerpt

Rushing up the stone steps of the northern keep, Griffin Dalison took them two at a time as he made his way up to Tomas's chambers. Tomas had chosen the room at the top of the highest tower as soon as he was old enough to, saying he loved the view. Griffin's chambers were a floor below, and the servant's quarters were below them. His chambers were close by in case his lord, Tomas, was ever in need of protection. He knocked briefly then pushed open the large wooden door and stepped inside.

Tomas, who had been polishing his sword, stared at him in surprise. Tomas was a few inches taller than him, muscular where Griffin was slender, tan where he was pale, strong and fast where Griffin was graceful and even quicker. Graced with his mother's auburn hair and stormy blue eyes, Tomas also took after her with his charm, comely features, and bright smile. He was dressed in his usual attire: breeches, a blue silk tunic, leather boots, and his sword belt.

"Griff? You are early to help me get ready for my training."

"No, it is not that," Griffin shook his head, catching his breath. "I saw something in the sky last night. I could not explain it, but I swore I saw it land in the forest-"

Quickly, Tomas got to his feet, sheathing his sword in its leather scabbard. "We should alert my father. He can send some men out."

"No!" Griffin stepped forward, barely able to contain his excitement. "I found what it was. I want to show you. It is not far, merely a few hundred feet inside the Silverwoods. Can you sneak away?"

Tomas gave him a wide grin, and Griffin blushed. He had to stop forbidden thoughts at that smile, knowing nothing could happen despite the feelings he had. They had grown up together in the castle, thick as thieves and best friends throughout the years. It had been that way ever since Griffin had been sent to serve as a page for Lord Franklin Roland. He had been eight years old and terrified of the forest when he had arrived - used to the beaches and rolling waves near Castle Dalison until Tomas showed him there was nothing to fear. Now, he was a knight, sworn to serve Tomas.

He had adored Tomas since then, and as he grew older he realized it was more than that. He grew attracted to him and was in love with him, not that he could ever tell Tomas. At times he thought the other man felt the same; he knew giving into his feelings was too much of a risk to take, even if his heart often said otherwise.

Griffin did not see Tomas as a young lord, and Tomas did not see him as a knight: they were simply Griffin and Tomas around one another. Though Griffin would lay down his life if it ever came to it, he was going to become Tomas's right hand man when his time came to rule the castle. As of right now, they were almost nineteen, and the days of Tomas's rule were a long way off.

"I suppose I could, for you," Tomas said with a wink. "Can you tell me what it is?"

"Promise as my friend you will not tell anyone else?"

Seeming curious, Tomas stepped forward and took his hand, squeezing it briefly before they both pulled back. "You know there is nothing you could tell me in confidence that I would tell another soul."

"I know," Griffin broke into a smile, "but we could both get into trouble if your father found out."

"When am I not in trouble?" Tomas shrugged. "Father is always saying I will never grow out of my childish phase. He does not understand I find court life dull and want adventure. I want to be a knight like you, Griff. I want to ride off to the Great Divide and discover what is beyond. You would go with me, would you not?"

"You know I would. What is this all about? Is something troubling you?"

"Audrey is coming to visit." Tomas grimaced. "You know they want to betroth us, and my nineteenth name day is near. Father says we should have already been wed."

Griffin's heart sank. There was his other problem. Since they were sixteen, Tomas's father had been trying to play matchmaker between Tomas and Audrey. Tomas would never be his; he had his responsibilities as a lord.

"Do you have to?" he asked, though he knew the answer.

"It is expected of me," Tomas said bitterly, running a hand through his thick brown hair. "I do not want to marry out of obligation. What sort of life is that?"

Griffin gave Tomas an apologetic look. His friend needed assurance, and he always helped, even if he was hurt in the process. "Your father loved your mother," he reminded Tomas. "Theirs was a marriage of duty as well."

"Not the same," Tomas disagreed, locking gazes with Griffin. "Audrey's not the one I want or could find happiness with."

"Tomas…" Griffin swallowed hard. He knew without it being said that Tomas was talking about him, yet he could not let that thought go further. They had denied it for so long. "Do not say that. I was going to show you-"

"I know you feel the same." Tomas pressed a finger to Griffin's lips. "I do not care if it is forbidden. I have wanted you for a long time."

"It would never work," Griffin tried to argue, putting his hand over Tomas's. He had to distract himself before he did something he should not, something he had longed to do for years. Tomas being so close, touching him, was making it impossible to focus. Then he remembered what he had come to tell him. "I want… The dragon. I found a dragon."

"A dragon?" Tomas appeared surprised. "There are no more dragons. They have been dead for hundreds of years."

"I saw it with my own eyes. I can prove it. We have to hurry, though, before Hugh leads the guards through the forest for the daily watch. If they see her they will kill her." Griffin couldn't explain it, but somehow the dragon had given him the impression it - she - was female.

"No, they would take her to my father, who would have to deliver her to the king, and that is worse because of the laws forbidding the use of magik." Tomas sighed then stepped away. "Let us hurry." He walked to the door then turned back to Griffin. The hurt in his eyes made Griffin's heart clench. "If you do not feel the same, then be honest. I may be a lord, but I would never force you to-"

"Stop!" Griffin stepped forward and without thinking cupped Tomas's face and pressed a chaste kiss to his lips. He wanted nothing more than to deepen it, but he pulled back. "I want you; the gods know I do, but there is too much risk. We could never be together like we want."

"You would be worth the risk," Tomas gave him a tender smile. "You are my guard, my knight, my best friend. We spend our days together; no one would ever suspect a thing."

"Until you wed," Griffin pointed out, resting his forehead against Tomas's own.

"I told you I am not marrying Audrey," Tomas growled, "not on my nineteenth name day or my fortieth or even my hundredth."

Griffin chuckled, wanting to believe what Tomas was saying but knowing it would likely never happen outside his dreams. "And how will you avoid it?"

"You and I will take the dragon back to the Great Divide," Tomas decided on a whim as Griffin knew he was prone to do.

Shaking his head, Griffin said, "Your father will never approve."

"Who cares? I am tired of being told what to do." Tomas pressed a kiss to Griffin's lips. "Take me to the dragon, and we will figure it out from there."

"As you wish." Griffin smiled as they broke apart then teasingly ran his hand along Tomas's chest. He was eager to show Tomas the dragon, but a part of him wished that they could stay there and kiss some more. He had hidden his desires for too long; he wanted to make the most of whatever time they had together. He knew, dreams aside, it would not be long enough, but he would cherish every moment. To have Tomas be his for even a day would be enough. It had to be.

Tomas grabbed the dark blue cloak that brought out the color in his storm-blue eyes and slung it over his shoulders. Griffin opened the door, and together they left the keep.