The Miserable Prince and the Would be Wizard

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Chapter 11

If time hung heavy on Blaise’s hands it was the opposite for Arric. If he thought he’d been working hard the first three days they were nothing compared to the pressure of the next few. Mordi and Hugo were worried. Arric had dark shadows under his eyes and a tendency to fall asleep while eating but he needed to master the spells and they were not easy. Arric understood this and reassured them he could cope. Even when they sent him out for his obligatory half an hour of fresh air morning and afternoon he took his notebook with him. He’d just done his first live transformation under Mordi’s step by step instructions and he had sagged with relief when the mouse had become a parlourmaid complete with apron, cap and feather duster. It had already had a miniature feather duster clutched in its paw but Arric felt entitled to claim credit for the whole thing. Mordi had shouted to Hugo who had come bustling in and slapped Arric heartily on the back.

“Off you go my boy. Relax, have a walk and when you get back Lily will serve you lunch and then you can pop her back to her true form. How’s that Lily?”

The mouse bobbed a curtsey and held out a hand. Mordi opened a box and gave her a sweet. “Here you are Lily, milk chocolate filled with a parfait of cream cheese. That’s your favourite isn’t it?”

The mouse nodded. She took the chocolate and sniffed it then started nibbling it.

Arric wandered round the garden and then up the grassy driveway to where there was a bench under a beech tree. He felt exhausted, not just from learning the spells but from the tension of worrying in case he got them wrong and either killed the mouse or turned it in to something awful. He sank on to the bench and closed his eyes. After a few minutes he sat up and pulled his notebook out of his pocket. He should write up the spell and the feeling of using it while it was fresh in his mind. He hadn’t got pen or ink with him but he’d learnt a useful spell for fetching things. He recited it and the pen and bottle of ink from his room appeared beside him. He allowed himself a moment’s pleasure at how far he’d progressed since Sir Hugo and Mordi had started teaching him. Then a jaw cracking yawn overtook him. He dipped his pen in the ink and started writing. To help him concentrate he said the spell aloud as he wrote it. What should have been the final full stop turned into a jagged scrawl as something heavy landed on him.

“Oof! Wha...” Arric gasped as he toppled forward off the bench and face planted into the ground.

The heavy thing flopped about and cursed then rolled off Arric who relieved of the weight pushed himself up on to his knees. He found himself face to face with an angry looking squirrel that was the same size as he was. It wasn’t exactly a standard squirrel since it had a human body with a tail and a squirrel head. As their eyes met it shook a fist at Arric

“Bloody amateurs! How am I supposed to go about my business this size? Not to mention I can’t get in my own house.” It leant over and jabbed a stiff finger in Arric’s chest. “Well?”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t realise anything was around. I was just writing up the spell.”

“Apologies don’t cut it. Bloody do something.”

“I could try turning you back.”

“After you botched the first spell? Not bloody likely.”

In the end the squirrel man took matters into its own hands or paws or whatever and stormed up the driveway towards the house with Arric trailing in its wake. The door was opened by Lily who Arric was sure sniggered at the sight. Mordi appeared almost instantly to be greeted by a belligerent squirrel man demanding that they keep their tame idiot out of the woods.

“We don’t bother you and you don’t bother us. That’s how it is. I’m a squirrel and that’s how I like it. Now someone turn me back but before you do I want some compensation for the pain and suffering not to mention the bloody embarrassment. Lucky the idiot didn’t get rid of my fur.”

“I’m sure Arric didn’t mean any harm. Of course we’ll turn you back and would a basket of your favourite nuts be adequate compensation?”

“Two might do it.” The squirrel fixed Arric with a glare “And no more practising on innocent passers by.”

“I didn’t do it on purpose. I didn’t know you were there. I was just writing up the spell.” He turned to Mordi “I said it out loud while I was writing to help me remember it. Then he fell out of the tree right on top of me. There can’t have been much pain and suffering since I broke his fall.”

“There was also shock.” The squirrel man added then after a moments pause “And I might have whiplash to my tail. Possibly the compensation should be three baskets. Hazel, walnut and mixed, no acorns.”

Sir Hugo appeared from his study to find out what all the noise was about. He grasped the situation with all the speed and acumen acquired from years of dealing with squabbling courtiers and within a minute compensation of two baskets of nuts, no acorns, plus a bag of sunflower and other seeds had been agreed and the whole party with the exception of Lily set off back to the beech tree. Mordi floated the squirrel man into the tree and once he was sitting on the branch sent the baskets up. The squirrel man emptied them into the hole in the trunk. Once that had been done Sir Hugo returned the animal to its proper size and form. It gave a wave of its paw and disappeared into the hole. Arric retrieved his bottle of ink and his pen which had not survived point down impact with the ground and the three of them returned to the house. Mordi gave way to laughter half way there. By the time they entered the house both he and Sir Hugo were in the grip of hysterical mirth. Arric apologised again and Mordi wiped his eyes and controlled himself enough to say

“Don’t worry. Becoming a wizard entails making mistakes same as with any other profession. I did stuff like that and worse. Best laugh we’ve had since Timmy peed on Bentim Johnson’s leg while he was banning us from the ARA.”

“Don’t worry Arric at least you haven’t turned me orange and twice my normal height. Took me ages to reverse it because he muddled up the words of the spell and then couldn’t remember what he’d said.” Sir Hugo said with another gust of laughter. “In future look above as well as around especially with transformation spells. Now go and put your feet up and have a nap until food is ready.”

Arric was only too happy to follow Sir Hugo’s instructions, he’d been tired before the contretemps with the squirrel and now he kept having to force his eyes to stay open. He kicked his shoes off and fell on the bed. Next thing he knew Mordi was shaking him awake

“We left you to sleep.” He said with a smile in response to Arric’s startled exclamation when he realised it was going dark. “No more work today. Come and eat, have some wine and relax.”

Arric sat up “But there’s so much to learn. You said so yourself. There’s barely time. I need to return Lily.”

Mordi perched on the edge of the bed and smiled at him.

“No I’ve done that for you. Hugo and I realised we’ve been pushing you a little bit too hard. A tired wizard makes mistakes. Better to know a little less than to be unable to think clearly.”

Arric followed him downstairs and accepted a glass of wine from Sir Hugo. Over supper he asked why the squirrel had only partly transformed when he’d actually said the whole spell aloud while writing it down.

Sir Hugo answered him “Intention and focus are as important as the words. You were just concentrating on memorising the spell so there was no intention and no focus. The words of the spell have power but the other two aspects are even more important. You get to the point after a while where you don’t need to say the words but you never get to the point where you don’t need focus and intention.”

“That’s why we decided you needed a rest and an early night.” Mordi said with a big grin. “We don’t want any more squirrels alleging whiplash and demanding damages!”

Arric blushed “I’m so sorry about that.”

“Don’t be my boy. Mordi and I had a good laugh. No harm done and you learnt something valuable about spell making.”

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