“Hold! Magus, I cannot go to the King’s presence as I am! I maun change. Do thou step outside, whilst I don fitter garments.” She stepped to the wall, hand up to take down a new gown.
“Nay, Gwyneth, stay not for your dress! We must away instanter! The young Prince may even now be dying!” Nemausus pulled Gwyneth away from the wall, shaking her arm. She looked at him, shook her head, and said “Aye, what was I thinking? Come, then.”
Almost in one motion, she lifted her cloak and slung it around her shoulders as she lifted her bag of herbs and balms and looped it over her shoulder. Then she snatched up her broom and followed Nemausus out. In an instant, they were in the air, streaking toward the town and the castle. Puck stood in the entrance and watched them for an instant, then turned and banked the fire. Outside, he waved his hand over the cave opening and muttered something, then disappeared with a bang.
He reappeared in the corridor outside the throne room just as Gwyneth and Nemausus were led in. Gwyneth looked upset, and was muttering about forgetting to tend the fire. Puck stepped over and said “Fret thee not, good dame, I did tend to all for thee. The fire is well banked, and thy cave is sealed ‘gainst intruders. Gwyneth stopped in mid step, looked at him and said “Oh, thou art a good friend, Robin. Accept mine heartfelt thanks.”
There was no time for more, as they were led into the throne room. For a moment it seemed to be all chaos, people moving around, the sound of sobbing and cursing making a scene of confusion. Then all resolved into order. The King was pacing the floor and muttering and cursing under his breath. The Queen was huddled on her throne sobbing, with three ladies in waiting around her, patting her shoulder, stroking her hair, and tying to soothe her with the usual inanities. A few courtiers were gathered in a corner, talking softly, and a dozen Guardsmen stood near the east wall, ready for the King’s orders. Everything stopped except the Queen’s weeping when the Magus and Witch entered.
“Nemausus, Gwyneth, thanks be to God thou art here!” the King exclaimed. “Canst thou find Avery? Canst thou?”
“Majesty, we shall ben every effort, all of our powers, to find him and return him to you. But first, we maun talk with his nurse, an it please your Highness.”
At the King’s nod, young woman clad in a grey gown, with a white apron over it, wearing a white linen mob-cap covering her hair came forward. “I am the Prince’s night nurse, hight Abigail. What dost thou wish, Magus?”
“Tell all that did hap as thou didst prepare the Prince for sleep, an thou wilt, good nurse.” Nemausus and Gwyneth stood quietly, waiting to hear the tale and find what they could to explain the Prince’s disappearance.
“I didst bathe him, and help him don his bedgown, and tucked him into his bed. As always, I began to read a tale of history to him, but he grew restless and overexcited when ere I read of battles. I know well how hard it is for him to sleep when he grows thus, so I put the history aside, and read instead from a book of fantasy tales. He doth know of elves, but loves to hear the imaginary stories men have penned. He grew quite, and soon his eyelids did droop, and anon he slept. I blew out the lamp, checked the fire, and saw that the rush light was burning. I then went to his classroom, and started straightening up. But I heard a sound, like a sharply drawn breath, and ran to see what ‘twas. I took up a candle, and held it up. His bed was empty, and he was gone, as were his robe and slippers.”
“Was there any sign of another having been in the room?” Gwyneth asked.
“Nay, nothing disturbed, the window was closed tight. There was no feel of any presence but the Prince.” Abigail glanced quickly at the King, fear in her eyes. He glared at her.
“Didst I not forbid fantasy books? How darest thou! Go, thou art dismissed. Get thee out of the castle!”
The Queen gasped, and jumped to her feet, running to his side. “Oh, no, my Lord! Blame not Abigail. ‘Tis I who bade her read those books to Avery. He is, after all, part Elf. He has some abilities like unto those of Magus Nemausus. He has been so unhappy, wishing for your approval, yet all he gets of you is criticism and orders.” She stopped, looking into the King’s face, eyes wide with worry and fear.
The King stared at her. “Have I then been so cruel to him? Mine only aim hast been to train him to Kingship.”
“Aye, my Lord, that I know. But he is yet very young, and to him it seemeth you love him not. Let us wait now on what these two of magic say.” She turned to Nemausus and Gwyneth. “What canst thou do?”
Gwyneth said “give me a moment, Majesty,” and closed her eyes. She cleared her mind, and reached, searching for the Prince’s presence. “Softly, eyes still closed, she said “I have him. He is in converse with his Uncle Selig.” She opened her eyes, and grasped Nemausus’s arm. “We must away, quickly. I felt Lorcan’s mind, nearing them. Now, the Prince is in danger.”
Nemausus nodded, and said “Pardon, Majesties, we will be back anon. They disappeared with a bang, leaving the Royal couple staring at the spot where they stood. The King drew in a breath as he turned to the Queen, but before he could speak, the air whooshed, and there before him stood Nemausus, Gwyneth, the Prince, and a tall, white haired elf.
The King stiffened, but the Queen reached out her arms “Avery, oh my son, thou art returned to me!” she cried, and the Prince ran into her arms. “Ooh, Mother, I felt such a need to learn if anything in those stories could be true.”
“The King put a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Son, how didst thou go out from thy room?”
“Even as I didst return, Father. Only I have learned to do it slowly, so there is no loud noise.” Nemausus looked surprised. “Who taught you that? Only the most practised Warlocks are able to do so.”
Avery turned his head to look at Nemausus. “No one, Magus. I but wished to visit with mine Uncle unobserved. He hath been teaching me of Elven ways, so that one day, I can be King of Elves, as hast my Father been teaching me to be King of People.
The King finally looked at the elf. “I thank thee, Selig. I own I hast been wrong in denying Avery his other heritage. Wilt thou now accept my apology, and take a post here as tutor in elven ways to the Prince?”
The elf bowed. “Gladly, Sire. And I ask that you consider ridding us of Lorcan. He is not fit to rule, his cruelty is unbounded. We would be overjoyed to have him gone. Our King is old and weak, and can no longer rein him in. Without Lorcan, he can rule long enough for Avery to grow to manhood, and he will be a great King.”
The King paused in thought, head bent. Then he looked up, and said “it shall be as thou wish. We will march within the week. Go thou home, good Selig, and prepare thy folk. We would not battle any but Lorcan and his minions. Then thou canst return with us and take up thy new duties.” He turned to Abigail. “Nurse, I am sorry I have miscalled you, and if thou will, stay and care for Avery. I know thou doest love him.” She smiled and nodded. “I will, Sire, gladly.” She took the Prince’s hand and led him from the throne room.
Two weeks later, all was well. Both kingdoms were at peace. Selig continued to teach Avery the legends, laws and ways of elves, while his human tutors taught him all he needed to know of human ways. In time, he became King Avery, the wisest elf counsel ever, and as good a king as his father had been