Comet was waiting for us not far into the forest. The horse was a welcome sight as my legs were numb and my body ached. Ella did the best she could to tend to the physical wounds, but the mental toll of our meeting with the Gryndel was still weighing on us. Why did he want her to thank her father? And how did he know me? Answers were waiting for us back at our camp.
It was well past midnight when we rode into the grove. My Lord’s spectral form glowed like moonlight in the middle, a smile upon his face. “Ella, John, you have succeeded I see!”
The sword she took was still strapped to her back. “Father, not only have we gained weapons, but we gained questions.”
“The Gryndel was Tremaine’s former husband! Did you know that my Lord?!” If my anger seemed misplaced, maybe it was. At the time, he was the only person for me to direct it at.
A fire was roaring – I wasn’t sure how that happened. My Lord moved closer to it, his shape losing visibility in the light. “Come, warm yourselves. Now that you have confronted him, I can give you more information about the war you are in.”
I did as he asked. The fire felt too good not to enjoy it. Ella seemed annoyed at her father as well, not addressing him. She took her sword off her back and began using a rock to resharpen the edges.
As the moments passed, I got the impression he was looking for a place to begin. “Forgive me for not telling you the awful truth about the Gryndel. Before your grandfather and I went to meet him Ella, we decided to keep that information to ourselves.”
“If you knew that witch enchanted him, then you are as guilty as she for the harm that has come to our land.”
“I did not know. She came to us, saying that her husband was a demon in disguise. As a heartbroken man who had just lost his wife, I was too foolish and believed her words.” He floated closer to her. “It was only in the days before my death did I find out the truth. When I went to him to fetch my father’s blade, he taunted me with the truth.”
I thought I saw a tear fall from her eye. “Is that the reason she poisoned you? You knew too much?”
“That, amongst others. I figured there was a new man involved, one younger and with more wealth.”
This was all very much interesting, but it didn’t answer my question. “Why did he recognize me? How would he know a stable boy?”
“Because he was your father first. And before you ask, you are not Tremaine’s son just as those awful girls are not his daughters. Lord Conrad, the Gryndel as you knew him, had an affair with a maiden in his fiefdom.”
I’d helped kill my own father. “What?”
Ella looked equally appalled, but my Lord kept talking quickly. “Cruxley was originally in his employ and Conrad knew his time was at an end. Under the strictest of secrecy, he ordered Cruxley to come to the neighboring estate and hide you. Again, I knew nothing until the very end.”
The world felt empty. My stomach churned, begging me to empty what little I had in it. As I struggled to keep my bile down, “Father, you have asked much of us. I know Tremaine has done great harm to our land, but your secrets are almost as bad.”
“Ella, I only tell you the truths as you need it. This may seem harsh, but it is for your protection. You do not understand the lengths Tremaine can go to break a man’s mind.”
With my dagger in my hand, “I’m going to kill her once and for all.”
Both of them looked alarm at my declaration. “John,” Ella’s eyes pleaded with me, “please do not do something foolhardy in the face of adversity.”
“No, she’s taken my father from me and yours from you. As far as I’m concerned, her life has become forfeit.”
“Ella, if he feels this is what he needs to do, let him.” My Lord bowed to me this time. “It is a man’s right to seek revenge for his house and father.”
“You won’t try to talk me out of this?”
His head was still hung low. “No John, I owe you this much. You have successfully infiltrated the main estate house once; I feel you can do it again.”
My anger was reaching levels never before seen. “When I finish this task my Lord, we will have much to discuss.”
“I know. All I ask is that you do not hold the sins of the father against the daughter.”
Ella looked to be in shock by what had transpired. “I will honor your request.” And with that, I was off into the night, my task needing to be completed.
*Come back next week for Issue #10 – Forbidden Love
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