This would be little more than a setback for Mikael. This was the one thought which ran over and over through Aedon’s mind. Tonight at the kings audience the alliance had scored a minor victory. But the war still loomed before them, and it would be long fought. Before the end, the alliance would be hard pressed to maintain the cohesiveness needed to carry them through till the end. And already, cracks could be seen within the ranks. Sitting on the steps of Connemara, Aedon watched the local wildlife at play. He had forgotten how much he loved this valley and the peace of mind and warmth of heart it had always brought him. The King's audience had gone mostly according to plan. Gillian had refused the Hands offer of protection, though it was clear not only to Aedon but to most in the room that she thought making Mikael protector of Yew would bring the safety she sought for her family. He thoroughly believed that she also thought it to be for the good of the people of the town, but He knew that in the end she would only be offering them up as a meal to a ravenous pack of wolves. Yew would know no peace under the dominion of the Hand-only a hard life of servitude under the hand of a tyrannical despot. The taxes would only be the beginning. They would be quickly followed by land grabs and beatings. In time the lucky ones in Yew would be the ones the Hand slaughtered straight out. Aedon feared greatly for the people of the area, but also for the safety and well being of Thom and his family. He felt a sense of responsibility for them. After all, he had encouraged Gillian to run for Governor, assuring her that Yew would offer her a safe place to raise a family. And had the Hand not returned this would have been so, and life in the Great Forest would have moved alone in its usual manner. His words now echoed over and over in his mind. Had he actually in his search for another to govern Yew lured Gillian into a situation which not only endangered her life, but those of Thom and the children as well? He had come to care deeply for this growing family over the months, and found himself enjoying the feisty way Gillian lived her life every day. But even the feelings that had grown for Thom and Gillian would not stop him from his duty. He had a sworn oath to guard and protect Yew and Aegis and nothing short of death would stop him from doing so. And so he found himself standing before Blackthorn and agreeing that Gillian could no longer be trusted to safeguard the people of Yew. He knew well that his words might mean the removal of a sitting Governor from office. But in removing her from her post could it also mean that what he had promised her when she came to Aegis might come true? Could there still be a life of peace for her and her family? She would now be a marked woman by the Hand. They would hunt her down and try to drag her before the ruthless gaze of Mikael. Tortured and humiliated beyond words, would she then have to watch as one my one the Hand killed her family before her eyes, and never herself be offered the sweet release of death? Sitting back a bit Aedon sat his cup aside and stood up. He knew now all too well what he had to do. Something or someone must draw their attention and anger away from Gillian. She must be seen as little more than a minor tool used by the puppet master in an attempt to draw Mikael into the open. Gillian and Thom must be allowed to find that good life they both sought. And at any cost, Aedon would see their family and Yew safe once more.