CHAPTER SIX

The Cursed Prince

Glory woke to a light in her room. The glowing specter floated before her. Glory sat up. “You again?”

The ghost smiled and reached out, then turned and passed through Glory’s closed door.

Glory rose and pulled a robe over her sleeping gown. She padded down the hall behind the woman. Glory stopped across the hall from a door.

“Listen to me, beast,” Xander snapped.

What had that dirty gryphon gone and done now? She remained in the shadows.

“You must make her believe there is a prince in this castle. Do you understand?”

The gryphon screeched. “Do your past sins teach you nothing? She will never love—”

“She must believe there is a prince in this castle or all is lost. If you cannot do the job I have set you about, then it is I who will wed her in her sixteenth year and become king.”

Glory pressed herself against the wall. Her knees buckled. Oh, gods!

“Either way,” Xander vowed, “she will fulfill the purpose for which she was brought here.”

The gryphon rumbled resentfully.

“Be a good little beast and run along now,” Xander said.

Glory rose and bit her lip. She darted down the hall. The door creaked behind her as the gryphon told Xander, “You sicken me.”

Glory bolted out of the bailey and into the field surrounding Blackthorn. Torchlight danced on Blackthorn’s high walls. Glory placed her hands on her knees and tried to catch her breath. There was no prince. Glory stared out across the field. She sucked in a deep breath. The sea crashed against the cliffs. The air was rich with salt and mist. She shivered. She looked down a moment and tried to steady her racing mind. When she looked up, a cloaked figure stood in the middle of the field. They stared silently at each other. Slowly the figure began to slip back his hood. Glory caught a glimpse of short, blond hair and a chiseled face. Her heart leapt. Colin! The name caught in her throat. She moved toward him just as the gryphon landed before her, blocking the way.

“What are you doing, Glory?”

Glory froze. The gryphon paced around her. Had he seen Colin? Glory stared straight ahead. Colin had vanished. Glory blinked twice. Had she been seeing things? Glory shook her head. “Nothing.”

“Why are you out of bed?”

Glory glared at the gryphon. “What concern is it of yours?”

The gryphon growled. “It’s not safe outside at night.”

Glory closed her fists. “Why? Is the great protector not so great after all?”

The gryphon paused and stared off into the woods. “Years of being hunted in the north have driven certain creatures south.”

Glory’s eyebrow perked.  “Certain creatures?  Is it monsters you speak of?  They are only fairytales.”

“Are they?  You are talking to one, need I remind you?  I suppose you think unicorns do not exist either.”

"My father denies the existence of such creatures." Glory said under her breath, "I wanted so badly to believe him."  She shivered as the roar of a donestre echoed in her memory.

"Your father keeps secrets."  The gryphon’s tail twitched.  He motioned toward the woods.  “Look there.”

Glory followed his gaze. A tall, lean, magnificent horse glowed in the woods. A single horn spiraled forth from the center of its head. Glory gasped.

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