THE GRIFFONS LANDED in sequence with Loushka foremost. Alek gave me a swift hug then swung his leg over the saddle and slid down. I heard muffled thuds when the other men slid down. I stared wide-eyed across at Sian and Loi on one side and then to Kassie on the other. Turning back, I watched Alek and the others approach the group gathered to greet us. He stopped a few meters from the front of the group, the four men halting behind him. All those in the group waiting bowed deeply. Hmm okay, must bow when introduced, I thought, taking mental notes. Alek spoke briefly to someone then turned and beckoned us.

THE WOMEN EXCHANGED another glance, then slid down from the griffons. Kassie gave Kerak's leg a squeeze before she left and the griffon made a soothing noise like a purr. Feeling nervous, she headed toward the other three. She saw Audrey waiting for Cat by Loushka's foot and the dog shadowed them while they moved. They strode forward in a line and stopped just behind the men.

ALEK TURNED AND indicated, 'May I introduce Catherine.'

I bowed and he continued, introducing the others who bowed at their names. Then he turned to the other party. 'And may I introduce the matriarch of the Mestarn line, the Sorceress Elena.'

A beautiful woman stepped forward smiling and inclined her head in greeting. Alek indicated to the man on the left of the Sorceress and introduced him as Yakov, the late King's adviser. I felt a pang of homesickness when I stared at the man who smiled at us. He reminds me so much of dad, I thought, the open smile and blue eyes. Even Audi whined at him, something she only did to dad.

Yakov smiled. 'Alek, you haven't introduced us to someone.'

Alek laughed and bent down to give Audi's head a pat. 'This is Catherine's dog Audrey.'

He continued with his introductions and introduced the three men in uniform—the Lieutenants of the General Guard. 'Lieutenant Ignatius, Lieutenant Payton and Lieutenant Rashid.' The three men gave stiff bows, their faces curious while they observed us.

SIAN STUDIED ELENA. The woman's aura shone with power and Sian watched her in awe. Elena looked to be about Loi's height, with dark olive skin and large, almond-shaped eyes that you'd expect to be brown, yet instead were a brilliant blue; a very beautiful woman. She wore a lovely dark blue gown that was reminiscent of a robe, with its long wide sleeves and deep cowl neck.

Elena smiled at Sian who flushed at being caught staring, then the Sorceress excused the Generals and adviser. They bowed low to her, then to Alek, and left. Sian watched curiously, wondering why they had singled Alek out. Perhaps it's due to him being head of the Griffon Guard, she thought.

KASSIE COULD FEEL Lucky squirming in her bag and hoped they would be shown to their rooms soon.

'Alek, why don't you and the other men see that the griffons are well settled in. I know they'll want to rest.' Elena smiled at Alek and then turned her attention to the women.

Kassie froze for a moment; Elena's gaze felt like it went right through you, seeing everything. She nervously licked her lips. A flash of blue darted past Elena and Kassie's jaw dropped at the sight of the slender blue haired woman who'd just leaped into Gredel's waiting arms, smothering him with kisses.

Blue hair, she thought in astonishment. That woman has blue hair, even her eyebrows appeared a shade of blue; I must be tired.

'If you ladies will follow me, I will show you to your rooms.' Elena glanced at them and turned to a door in the turret before them.

Kassie felt another twinge of nerves when they walked away from the men and griffons, who launched back into the air.

Cat caught her eye and the two exchanged an anxious look. I wish the guys had been able to stay with us a bit longer, she thought, and with a sigh, followed the others through the doorway. Round and round and round they went. Kassie kept her hand on the wall while they descended. The walls were smooth, made of glistening white rock. Little niches in either side of the stairwell had glowing lamps tucked inside them, providing a gentle light. Finally, they reached the ground. Elena ushered them across a paved yard and into the castle, before leading them to another turret, which they climbed to the second story. Groups of people stood clustered about, pausing in their conversation to stare at the girls when they stepped out of the stairwell.

The Arrival, Book one of the Birthright TrilogyRead this story for FREE!