I SCRUBBED THE gunk off the daggers with handfuls of river sand, relieved to see the blades shine again. Even my clothes survived a vigorous wash while I made sure no trace of gragnoll remained. After rinsing everything a last time, we walked back to the campsite and spread our clothes over low bushes in the sunlight. The men waited for us and when we'd finished we all sat on the logs in the dining area.

ALEK CLEARED HIS throat then began, 'Have any of you seen griffons before?'

The women paused, glancing at each other for a moment then Laura said, 'No, never.'

Alek nodded. 'I thought so.' He indicated the men and griffons. 'As griffon riders we're linked with our griffons from a young age. Griffons use telepathy and when you link with a griffon you can speak with them via telepathy. It's useful, because it'd be hard to communicate in the air otherwise. Griffons can roar when challenged but not much challenges a griffon, especially not five of them.'

WOW, IT LOOKS like we'd fallen in with the right people—I wonder how? I shifted in my seat and exchanged impressed glances with the others.

Telepathy, I guess that explains Gredel and Phroma this morning; I froze when I realized something else. If you use telepathy couldn't you then exchange images? Such as when Alek viewed my beetroot face when I tore off from the riverside. I smothered the blush that tried to rise at the realization they'd probably seen me fleeing the river... Guess that explains the hilarity.

Alek continued so I tuned back in.

'The Griffon Guard is under the command of Elena, the Sorceress of Elion, our acting Regent since our King passed. The heir made a promise to the King before he died and until the promise is fulfilled won't accept the throne. Elena commanded we find you when she foresaw your arrival.'

KASSIE'S EYES WIDENED at that and she glanced at the others. They wore the same expression of surprise. A happy coincidence or another part of the spell? I hope so, she thought. Maybe that means the Sorceress knows where we came from. Maybe she can help us get back. A surge of hope went through her at the thought.

'Elena has asked us to bring you all back to the castle so she may meet you. The journey will take us about a week.'

'A WEEK?' I interrupted, 'We were told it'd take a month.'

Alek smiled at me and a breath caught in my throat for an instant. Whoops, I thought, blinking rapidly, pay attention, he probably has a beautiful wife or girlfriend back at the castle anyway.

'Griffons can travel quite far in a day.'

'You traveled a week to find us?' Loi stared at Alek and he turned his attention to her. The pang of jealousy I felt when Alek's eyes moved from my face to Loi's astonished me and I swallowed, shaking the bizarre sensation off, and listened to Alek's response.

'NO, WE LEFT the castle at dusk on the evening we found you,' Alek could see the astonishment on their faces. 'Elena told us she had seen your arrival and that you either were, or soon would be, in grave danger and she needed us to protect you.'

Sian spoke up, 'But that's only a matter of hours? How did you do that?'

Alek explained, 'It only takes moments for us to travel that far but it took a bit longer to pinpoint where you were.' He took a seat and the other men settled themselves comfortably, they knew the story well.

I WATCHED WHEN he closed his eyes for a moment, a slight frown on his forehead. A lock of his dark hair fell over one eyebrow and my fingers tingled with the urge to brush it away. I decided to sit on my hands for the moment, it seemed the safest course. Kassie caught the slight movement and smirked. I gave her my best innocent look. Alek cleared his throat and we turned our attention back to him.

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