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“Just breathe,” Amelia ordered the girl, who immediately complied, taking several short inhales and then a quick exhale. She threw her head back and let out another agonized cry and Gryffon’s heart went out to her. If only there was something he could do.

“Push!” yelled Amelia, and Layna’s grip on his hand tightened, her knuckles turning white with the pressure. She groaned through clenched teeth and strained, collapsing into an exhausted heap a moment later.

A new cry pierced the suddenly quiet room, a baby’s cry, and Gryffon pulled against the hand still restraining his to try and catch a glimpse of their little one. Amelia washed the girl and swaddled her in a clean blanket before handing her to Layna.

The glowing pride in her eyes as she looked lovingly down at their daughter made Gryffon’s heart soar. She gently put her finger into the baby’s hand, “Welcome to the world, our little angel, Princess Phoenix.”

She held the baby up for Gryffon and he beamed at her, tenderly taking her from his wife. The little girl had a birthmark on her right temple, in the shape of a flame. It was the blessing from the Three and her namesake, Adrastea who had been nicknamed ‘Phoenix’. Layna moved over in the sheets and patted the bed next to her. The servants took their leave - though Gryffon hardly noticed, he was so caught up in his own happiness - and he lightly settled himself and the babe onto the bed with Layna.

This moment was perfect.

It was hard to believe the events which had led up to this instant, but Gryffon wouldn’t change any of it for the world. Less than two years before, he had been a spy in the foreign country of Gelendan, having infiltrated the household of the vile Lady Jezebel in order to observe the dealings of her father. He had been unable to deny the incredible draw that he had felt towards Layna, who was but a maid at the time, and their friendship had blossomed into the bond that they shared today. Neither was complete without the other, and together they were an unmatchable force.

Their association had led them into a wild chain of events which culminated in a world-saving quest and the discovery that Layna was not simply the farm-girl and maid she believed herself to be, but actually the rightful heir and now Queen of Gelendan. Unfortunately, King Nathair, with the help of the Bloodstone containing the tainted essence of the dragon-god, Nuko, had made a mess of the country before he and Layna had become reigning monarchs.

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