Reuniting Galerir

an excerpt



Chapter One

Eyes drifting shut, Tomas knew he could easily fall asleep beside Griffin. With the battle over, Ator and Darvyn-the dragon and man who had intended to steal his throne-defeated, and Galerir no longer in immediate danger, a great burden had been lifted. There was much to do though, a funeral for Liora and others, assessing the losses from the battle, and dealing with the prisoners of war. He was certain too there would be repercussions for him announcing his love for Griffin to all who had been in the courtyard afterward. It mattered naught, Griffin had nearly sacrificed his life, and Tomas was done hiding. He only hoped they would be accepted. If they were not then they would handle it together as they had done with all other issues and obstacles that had arisen since he had become prince then king and they had reached Asham.

It seemed so long ago even though it was not. He and Griffin had come so far in such a short time. Yet, the Great Dragons had said their destiny had only begun. He thought on that, knowing he still had to unite Galerir with the lands beyond and heal the split in the kingdom which had been torn apart for a hundred years. He imagined that was what they were alluding to. There would be time for it now, along with winning the people over so they accepted magik and lost their prejudices. It would be difficult he knew, especially without his uncle, Antony, and Liora. Still he had Griffin and their dragon, Sera, who would aide him. As the king he would heal the kingdom no matter what it took.

His only priority now though was making certain Griffin rested and recovered from his injuries and the curse Ator had cast on his knight. He had come so close to losing his lover, he had felt his life slipping away in his hands. If not for the magikal elixir, he would be mourning rather than holding onto Griffin.

He kissed Griffin's shoulder and nuzzled into his knight's neck, breathing in the scent of him. Griffin's blond curls ticked his nose, and he smelled of the soaps from the bath they had shared. Relaxing, he started to give in to sleep when there was a quiet rapping on the door. With a bit back groan, Tomas untangled from Griffin's embrace and slipped out of their bed, pleased when Griffin did not stir. Sera, their red dragon who was lying beside the bed, opened one eye and regarded him.

"Rest, Sera," he whispered. "Watch over Griffin for me. It seems as if my respite is over."

"I will stay with Griffin," Sera assured, trying to answer back quietly, but as a dragon she rumbled when she spoke.

After slipping on his boots, Tomas grabbed his tunic, tugging it on as he went to the door and opened it slightly. Symas, his steward, was clearly as exhausted as he was. The elderly man tried to straighten before him, but his stoop was more pronounced, and his kind eyes had dark circles under them.

"Your Majesty, pardon me for disturbing you, however there are matters that require your attention if you are able."

Tomas glanced back at Griffin, wanting to stay with him, but Galerir was his kingdom now, and the responsibilities fell to him to take care of it and his people. "Of course, could you have the Council gather in my study?"

"Already done, Your Majesty."

"You are always one step ahead of me." Tomas reached out and squeezed Symas's shoulder. "Thank you. You should get some rest."

"When you do." Symas stepped back. "Until then there is much to be done. Master Kohan needs assistance without Lady Liora. Lady Leah and I have offered to help him with the wounded." His face fell. "A tragic loss, Your Majesty."

"Indeed it is." Tomas sighed and closed the door quietly behind him as he left the room.

"Is Sir Griffin well?"

"With rest he will be."

"That is good to hear." Symas clutched his pendant. "He is a brave man. You know, Your Majesty, he is the only one who has ever survived Ator's dark magik."

Steps nearly stumbling, Tomas tried to collect himself. "I did not know that, though after facing the beast I am grateful we both survived."

"The gods' blessing indeed." Symas gave him a kind smile. "He will rule this kingdom well with you."

"I am glad you think so." Tomas had believed Symas was on their side, he had trusted the steward since the moment they had met. Together they entered the study, and he stopped the Council before they could stand. The four men were gathered around a table, lounging in high back chairs.

"Please, we are all exhausted. Formalities are not needed." Tomas pulled out a chair and sat down at the head of the table. "Let us handle matters so we can all rest." He regarded High Officer Ryan Lefield and Captain Russell Alard, noting both had minor injuries as he did. Ryan's arm was bandaged from wrist to elbow. "Are you well, Ryan?"

"A scratch." Ryan shrugged. "The man who gave it lost his head. I say I fared better."

Russell chuckled. "I say we should be proud of our victory. Our strategies and plans were sound, Your Majesty."

"Thank you both for leading the men while I dealt with Darvyn and Ator. Tell me of the outcome, please."

Ryan cleared his throat. "We outnumbered those who managed to reach the shore four to one. We lost less than a hundred men while their loss was triple that. We have a few hundred prisoners as well, the cells are overflowing, Your Majesty."

Tomas thought for a moment, rubbing his chin. "Most of these men were merely hired, yes?"

"Indeed. Only a few true loyalists survived."

"Loyalists and those in charge will be punished accordingly, perhaps indentured or ransomed," Tomas decided. "The rest will be exiled back onto the ships they came from."

"I will see to it." Ryan wrote down his orders on a parchment he had at hand.

"They only have two seaworthy ships, but it should suffice for the surviving men," Russell told them. "The remaining ships either sunk or might as well have."

"And ours?"

"The Princess Lili sustained minor damage as did the Queen Helena. We lost fifty men, yet that is a drop in the bucket compared to their losses. A few hundred drowned at sea or went down with the ships."

"The Captain recovered Darvyn's private ship," Edric, the treasurer, added in. "It appears the dragon's hoard is in the hold."

"Edric, I want you personally to take account of everything and store it all in the vaults. Be careful, as well. I think we may need a few persons of magik to help us be certain there are no curses or wards on the hoard."

"Perhaps we should acquire help first then?" Edric spun his gold coin between his fingers, looking squeamish. "I would rather avoid a curse, Your Majesty."

"Yes, of course." Tomas almost told them he would have Griffin assist, but he had already given away one of their secrets today. It was Griffin's choice whether he wanted others to know he had magik, not his. He would wait until his knight was well then bring it up. He knew Griffin would want to inspect the hoard. He did, as well, curious to discover what the dragon had brought to Galerir. Silently he prayed it was nothing that would put them all in danger. "Is there anything else?" He noticed his father, Franklin, had remained silent. Realization struck, Liora had shared Franklin's grief and love for Antony, and now she, too, was gone. His heart went out to Franklin, but they could not speak here in front of the Council. "Chancellor, anything to add?"

Franklin's head snapped up. "No, Your Majesty." He scrubbed a hand over his face. "Everything is being taken care of. I expect to hear news from the Border soon. Hopefully there was no fighting there."

"Let us hope so." Tomas folded his hands together. "Thank you all. Today was a great victory though it came with a sacrifice."

"Lady Liora." Ryan bowed his head. "May she soar with the gods."

That made Tomas smile. "May she do so. She gave her life for us. Ator could not have been stopped if she had not weakened him."

"It was Sir Griffin who dealt the killing blow?" Russell asked.

"Yes." Tomas wanted to close his eyes against the memory. "Ator tossed aside poor Liora as if she were nothing...I was dueling Darvyn, and then I saw Griffin run forward and throw his sword right into the dark heart of the beast."

"By the gods," Edric gasped, dropping his coin.

"Ator cursed him and hit him with the full force of his tail," Tomas managed to say without his voice cracking. "I saw him fall...I do not remember killing Darvyn, but I did and then I rushed to his side."

"How did he survive?" Ryan asked in wonder.

"Sera healed his injuries and..." Tomas floundered as he was not sure if he should tell them more. The elixir was gone, Griffin was healed, so it did not matter he decided. "I had a gift from the Great Dragons, a magik elixir. It rid his body of the curse before it could kill him." He raised his gaze and regarded Edric, Ryan, and Russell. "Griffin nearly gave his life for this kingdom and for me. I will no longer hide the support and love he gives me. I am proud of him, and I intend for him to help me rule this kingdom. If any of you have a problem with that, you had best tell me now."

Russell removed his glove from his right hand and held out his palm to Tomas. A circle with a slash was branded onto his skin. "Do you know of this mark, Your Majesty?"

Tomas did, and it made him feel ill. A war in Elysia had ravaged the lands, and many refugees had fled across the sea to Galerir. Many went into servitude as they had no other choice or means to survive. He had not known that Russell had survived the horrors of that war in his homeland. "I do, indeed."

Russell folded his hand inward. "I was marked for death when I was only six years old. A child who had no control over his heritage... After my family was murdered, I fled and stole onboard a ship. My salvation and my life from that point on. King Antony knew of this, and still he trusted me not only to join his navy but to eventually command it. It mattered naught to him, my heritage, for he saw me for who I truly am." His eyes met Tomas's. "If you see who I am, Your Majesty, I will gladly return that favor."

Tomas put his hand over Russell's. "Thank you, my friend."

Edric was idly turning his coin. "I love coin and full coffers. Sir Griffin is not a frivolous young queen who will empty those coffers, so I see no problem here."

Everyone laughed. "Edric, you are too much," Ryan said gruffly, clapping the other man on the back. He turned to Tomas. "The matters of your heart are not my concern, Your Majesty, only that you have a sound mind and lead our men to victory as we did today. I imagine with his bravery and skill, Sir Griffin will help us as well, and that is fine by me."

Another weight lifted from Tomas, and relief flowed through him. "I know not everyone will accept us right away. I have my worries of a few in particular, however, I am glad to have you all on my side."

"Who concerns you?" Ryan started to ask as a cry pierced the air from the next room.

Tomas knew it was Griffin and jumped from his chair. He dashed from the room and back into his quarters, barking at the guard to send for Leah as he did so then shutting the door behind him. Sera stood on her hind legs, peering at Griffin who lay tangled in the covers, thrashing. A pitcher shattered as Griffin threw his arms out, either seemingly lost in a nightmare, or something was seriously wrong. Why had Tomas not thought to send for Griffin's mother? Once again he had mistakenly disregarded the effects of magik and how they impacted Griffin. He had believed the elixir had cured Griffin, but had not thought of the consequences.

"Griff," Tomas called out to him quietly as he approached the bed. "Sera, do something!"

Sera shook her head. "I cannot wake him. He is too far into the dream. See if you can."

"Griff!" Tomas carefully leaned over Griffin and cupped his lover's face in his hands. "Griffin, you need to wake up. Whatever you are seeing is not real. You are safe, and I am right here." He dropped his head and pressed a kiss to Griffin's temple. "Right here, my love," he whispered. "Please, wake."

With a pained gasp, Griffin's eyes flew open. Terror filled his ice blue eyes, and they were still unfocused. He reached out, grabbing Tomas by his tunic, fisting it and pulling Tomas closer. Tomas slid a hand under Griffin and pulled him up, wrapping him in an embrace. A strangled sob, and then Griffin was hugging Tomas tighter than he ever had before. "Tomas," he whispered. "It was so dark and cold. Something tried to grab me in the darkness."

A shudder traveled through them both. Tomas brushed their lips together. "It was only a nightmare."

"Where did you go?"

"To hold Council."

Griffin stiffened and pulled away, looking to the door that was closed. "They heard me? Gods, they will see me as weak! How am I to win them over now?" He dropped his head in his hands.

Tomas pulled his lover's hands away and rested a knee on the bed beside him. "You have already won them over by slaying Ator. No one thinks you are weak." He kissed both of Griffin's palms. "Now, I will not have you worrying over that. Are you hurt? When I heard you..." He sucked in a breath, trying to get his fear in check. "C'mere." He tried to tug Griffin closer.

"You need to get back to the Council," Griffin protested, trying to pull away but only halfheartedly. "I am fine. It was merely a nightmare. They will be wondering-"

With a growl, Tomas silenced Griffin with a kiss, climbing into his lover's lap. "What have I told you before? You come before the kingdom. I am not leaving our bed or your side until I am certain you are well. Now be honest with me about how you truly feel."

Eyes bright, Griffin nuzzled into Tomas's neck, and he let Tomas hold him once more. "It did not feel like a dream," he confessed. "And I am still in pain."

"I sent for your mother. She will know if this is a side effect from the elixir. Perhaps she can help ease your pain as well." Tomas ran a hand down Griffin's bare back. "I am sorry, my love. I thought you only needed rest. I should have sent for her sooner."

"No, this is not your fault." Griffin's hands once again tangled in Tomas's tunic.

Tomas believed it was. He was the reason Griffin had fought Ator and been hurt. Still, Griffin would only say he had done it willingly to protect their kingdom. So rather than argue a moot point, he held Griffin tighter, kissing his head. There was a rapid knocking on the door then Leah let herself in.

"What happened?" Leah set her satchel on the bed. Tomas kissed Griffin on the lips before reluctantly leaving the embrace so Leah could help. She too was clearly exhausted. Her long blonde hair had come loose from its braid and was disheveled. There was dirt on her dress, and Tomas grimaced when he noticed a spot of blood she had missed. With a wave of her hand, Leah's dress smoothed out and was clean. She winked as Tomas gaped at her. Even with Griffin having magik, he was still getting used to it.

"Tomas is overly worried," Griffin said with affection. "I merely had a nightmare, Mother, and I am in pain but it is lessening."

Before Tomas could glare at Griffin for glossing over the matter, Sera's voice was inside his head. She is his mother. He does not want to scare her.

With a tut, Leah came around and gestured for Griffin to sit beside her. "Show me where it hurts, and tell me the entire truth this time."

With a hidden grin, Tomas was glad Griffin's mother had seen right through him. He knew Griffin was in good hands, and she would take care of him. "I am going to dismiss the Council. I will only be a moment," Tomas told them. He quickly reentered the study to find his Councilmen anxiously awaiting his return. "My apologies, sirs. Griffin is in pain from the curse, and I had to be certain his condition had not worsened."

"You need not apologize." Russell stood with Ryan. "I hope he recovers quickly."

"We all do," Edric added in.

Franklin joined him. "Why don't we end this meeting and meet later after some rest?"

"Agreed."

Tomas bid them all farewell and went back to check on Griffin.

"You are a powerful sorcerer, Griffin," Leah said as he entered. "Still, you have only begun to use magik and learn the strength of your powers. Surviving Ator's curse is proof that you are strong-"

"The elixir rid my body of the curse," Griffin interrupted.

"Yes, but if not for your magik, you would have been killed instantly," Leah admitted, and Tomas's stomach plummeted.

Griffin shuddered. "I understand. Will these nightmares be recurring?"

"Likely they are an aftereffect of the curse and will fade in time, as will the pain. Be sure to take the draught I gave you. It will help you recover faster and ease your discomfort."

"Thank you, Mother." Griffin gave her a hug, and Leah kissed his cheek.

A loud roar split the air and sent Tomas dashing for the balcony. He threw open the doors as another roar had his guards scurrying along the walls of the castle. With his hand shading the sun, he peered up into the sky. A fiery red dragon that reminded Tomas of Sera flew toward them. He realized who the dragon was and wondered how he managed to get so far so quickly in his state. He saw bows being raised at the dragon who could not see the danger and was likely roaring to determine his surroundings by the echo of sound. "Guards, halt!" He shouted as loud as he could. "He is friend, not foe! Do not fire!"

Griffin was at his side immediately, a spell under his breath made Tomas's voice boom as he spoke. Sera shot into the sky, flying to her father. The guards lowered their weapons as Sera helped Cale reach the balcony. As he landed, he transformed into his human form. Tomas and Griffin both grabbed ahold when Cale nearly collapsed to his knees. "My mate is gone."

Tall and muscular, Cale towered over him and Griffin, exuding both grief and power. He wore a plain forest green tunic and brown trousers. Long copper red hair flowed past his shoulders, and Tomas noticed with horror that his eyes were closed and scarred. He recalled Liora telling them that Cale had been blinded as a child, yet to see the damage was something else entirely.

Sera dropped beside him, and Tomas with Griffin helped Cale inside, leading him to the chair by the fire. Leah had it started with a spell then passed Cale a cup of water, making certain he was able to hold it.

Cale drank as Sera draped herself over him, and he wrapped an arm around her. Her head rested on his chest. "Father, how did you get here?"

"I do not know," Cale admitted, his voice quiet and deep, reminding Tomas of a river. "What happened to Liora?" His face turned toward Tomas. "Your Majesty?"

Careful not to startle Cale, Tomas put his hand over the dragon's. "Yes, I am King Tomas. I have wanted to meet you for some time though I regret it is under these circumstances. My partner, Griffin, is here as well, along with his mother, Leah. We all offer our condolences, and I am so sorry."

"Were you with Liora?" Cale's face filled with heartbreak. "The bond between us snapped. I remember little after that other than the driving need to reach her."

"Her body lies at the temple," Griffin told him. The tears in his eyes reflected the ones Tomas could feel welling up. "We were with her battling Ator. She gave her life and allowed us to defeat him."

"He is dead?"

"I ran a sword through him myself afterward." Griffin sank down into the other chair, and Tomas was concerned. His lover needed rest and should not have used magik in his weakened state. "Liora was our friend and meant a great deal to Tomas and I. I cannot believe she is gone."

"More than that, she was like a mother to me," Tomas added in. He sat on the arm of Griffin's chair and reached out to rub his knight's neck, tense muscles bunched under his fingertips. "We are both at a loss without her. She helped me become king, and her guidance and friendship will be sorely missed."

A sob escaped from Cale as he dropped his empty cup and buried his face in his hands. "I should have been here. I feared Ator was too strong. Please tell me he did not make her suffer."

Sharing a look, Griffin shook his head, and Tomas agreed that Cale did not need to know the gruesome details. "No, it was a quick death." Tomas paused. "I wish I could have done more to prevent it."

"We did all we could, though I wish that, as well." Griffin leaned back into Tomas's touch. "Liora saved us with her sacrifice, and I will never forget that."

"She will be remembered," Tomas vowed. "I was thinking of creating a memorial for her."

"I would like to see her." Cale stroked Sera's head then tried to stand.

"You are exhausted from your flight." Leah rushed to Cale's side when he stumbled. "You should rest for a few moments."

"No." Cale growled low in his throat, and Leah took a step back. "I must see her. Now!"

In an instant, Griffin was in front of Cale, blocking him from Leah. "Cale, I understand your grief, yet you need not snap at my mother."

Shoulders slumping, Cale withdrew into himself as he fidgeted. "I am sorry, Leah. I did not mean to frighten you," he said with sincerity. "You all do not understand the bond I shared with my mate. I cannot control this desire to find her and mourn. Please, if you do not take me, I will go myself. I cannot rest or think of anything else."

"I will take you then. You may stay with her as long as like," Tomas told him. "And when you are ready we will prepare a memorial service and a pyre."

"Thank you, Your Majesty." Cale bowed his head.

"I will come with you as well," Griffin said along with Sera.

Tomas shook his head. "You need to take the draught you were given and rest, Griff."

With a tug, Griffin pulled him away from everyone. "I will not let you leave the castle's walls without me."

"I will take a guard if it puts you at ease," Tomas compromised.

"No. How can I rest if I know I am not guarding you?" Griffin held onto Tomas's arm a little tighter. "I will be fine. Let us take Cale then I will rest."

Griffin was too stubborn for his own good. Tomas sighed. "If you do not rest, I will order you to when we return."

"Oh an order?" Griffin's eyebrow raised and Tomas could see he was amused. "Yes, Your Majesty."

"This is not a joke!" Tomas's voice cracked as he clutched Griffin's face in his hands. "You nearly died, and I fear what will happen if you push yourself too far."

Griffin's features softened. "I am sorry, love. I promise when we return I will not leave our bed until morning."

Tomas fought a smile as he knew Griffin was trying to get his mind off his fears. "Good, but only for sleeping."

"Mm, of course." Griffin moved forward to brush his lips to Tomas's. "Trust me, I know my limits and will be careful. I know too that even though the battle is over, there is much we have to deal with, and I will be at full strength when we have to."

"Yes, I am dreading news from the Border." Tomas caressed Griffin's cheek. "I need you by my side."

"I am not going anywhere." Griffin glanced over to Sera trying to calm Cale, who was becoming agitated once more. The dragon made his way to the balcony. "Let us help Cale before he tries to take flight again and hurts himself."

Tomas nodded, his heart breaking at the thought of having to take Cale to see Liora. Cale thought he did not understand, but he did. He and Griffin were not bonded, but still he was the other half of him. To lose that would mean losing everything, and sadly there was nothing he could do for Cale to take away that pain.