The Miserable Prince and the Would be Wizard

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Chapter 22

There was a large wrought iron knocker and a bell pull. Mordi applied himself to both with vigour. The sound of distant clanging and the reverberations of the knocker had barely died away when a menacing voice boomed across the courtyard.

“Go away. The Princess Serafina does not wish to be rescued. You have been warned. Depart now.”

Mordi yelled “I don’t suppose she does since she could have up and left you any time these last thirty years.”

Silence greeted this statement and then the door was flung open. A man in a gold robe with his dark red hair pulled into a top knot from where it hung down his back stood framed in the opening. Only the faint tracery of lines on his skin gave away the fact he was not human. His amber eyes were alight with laughter.

“Mordecai Rich! Well don’t just stand there come in, come in.” He said in a voice that was not menacing and didn’t boom at all.

“How are you Wym? Still fighting off questing knights?”

“Not these days Mordi though very occasionally some young sprig does turn up. Serafina answers the door and they usually go away immediately. I suppose I ought to change the auto response.”

“How are Serafina and the children? I suppose they’re grown up now.”

“They are. Seems only yesterday they were toddling about wetting themselves and falling over. The twins are twenty would you believe!” He shook his head in wonderment. “They’re all fine, Serafina’s out. She’ll be back later. Sami and Suni are off questing. Don’t know where or what. I mean I’m only their father so of course I’m the last to know what they’re up to. Arturo’s doing really well for himself. He’s on Helyn at the moment studying at Dowson’s academy. That boy will go far. He’s serious minded and responsible unlike his sisters.”

He led the way to a richly decorated and spacious room with a panoramic view over the valley. A samovar stood on a low table. There were comfortable chairs grouped around it. Wym gestured and Mordi sank into one. Wym arranged himself opposite and proceeded to dispense strong, dark tea into glass cups. Dishes of sugar cubes and blueberry jam were on the table next to the urn. Wym snapped his fingers and plates of little cakes and pastries appeared. He asked after Hugo and they settled into discussion of families, aardvark racing, the weather, young people today, and wandered into happily reminiscing over Wym’s destruction of the hanging bridge when the Duke of Borland cheated him on a deal and Mordi’s doubling of the sum the Duke had tried to bilk Wym out of as the price to repair it. It would have been the height of bad manners to mention the exact reason for his visit until the tea drinking and cake eating had been completed. When after forty minutes Wym asked Mordi what brought him here after all these years it was the signal that it was now acceptable to talk business.

Wym listened attentively to Mordi’s account of events in Alcheron dating from King Merrick’s marriage to the widowed Countess Lamotte right through to the events of yesterday. When Mordi finished Wym regarded him gravely; he steepled his fingers and tapped them against his teeth then lowered them so the fingers were pointing at Mordi

“You omitted to mention what it was that you thought I could do about it Mordi.” He said with a smile.

“Neither Hugo nor I can get within five miles of the palace. Someone needs to protect Arric until we can think of a way of getting him out of there which doesn’t involve sacrificing Blaise.”

“That’s a relief. I thought you might want me to crisp Asgreen and Serafina has strong views on that sort of thing. Says it sets a bad example for the children.”

“Much as I’d like to make Asgreen an exception to the precept that killing people is wrong I don’t think it would actually solve the problem. I have a shrewd suspicion that he’ll have some hefty protection spells in place and any attempt to attack him directly will trigger some very nasty consequences for innocent third parties. He plays very dirty Wym.”

“Oh I know of him by reputation and it’s about as bad as it gets. I’m sure you’re right. So, hmm...” He lapsed into thought and stared at the view.

After a couple of minutes he said “Two identical princes are useful but as far as securing the Kingdom goes so long as Letitia is married to someone who looks like Prince Blaise he can then dispose of both of them at his leisure. No Mordi we need to approach this from the other end.”

“Other end?”

“Letitia. If she refused to marry either of the Blaises that would spike Asgreen and Karmella’s plans. They want that Kingdom for their daughter and the only way they can get it legitimately is to marry her to the rightful heir. They could just seize it of course but then that would tear up the tripartite non aggression pact and I’m sure the Duke would like to add Alcheron’s prosperous farmland to his Duchy not to mention Lannerden’s ambitions to expand. Between them they’d give even Asgreen a headache.”

“I agree Wym. Your reasoning is flawless. There’s just one problem. Letitia wants the kingdom just as much as her parents. She’s got one hand on the crown with the betrothal. No one knows it was to a rat. She isn’t going to let go.”

Wym sat up and sparkled “Not even if a very handsome prince from a far off Kingdom that is twice as rich as Alcheron comes calling?”

Mordi burst into laughter “Serafina will kill you.”

Wym resumed his normal appearance “I should of course only do it with my wife’s full permission. I am a very good pet dragon!”

“The only accurate word in that last sentence was dragon.” A woman’s voice said and they turned to see Serafina smiling broadly. “Mordi it is good to see you again. If Wym wasn’t such a reclusive old cumudgeon people might visit more often.” She came across to where they were sitting “So what are you two plotting? What is Wym only going to do with my permission?”

Wym applied himself to the samovar topping up the tea from the boiling water. Serafina clicked her fingers and fresh pastries appeared. Mordi explained the reason for his visit all over again. Serafina nodded a couple of times but didn’t interrupt and when he’d finished said

“So I take it from what I overheard I will kill Wym because he’s thinking of going back into the kidnapping and ransom business.”

Wym grinned “Just pretending. We ransom Letitia for giving up their claims to Alcheron.”

“Sorry to spoil your fun but you might just catch a cold at that. They have a big bargaining chip in Arric and they might decide to tough it out and not ransom Letitia. You haven’t got a counter move to that.”

Wym sighed and rested his chin on his hand “True but what else can we do?”

“Wym was going to go and protect Arric as a first step. That buys us a bit of time to come up with a better plan.”

Serafina shook her head “I’ve a better idea. I’ll go and protect Arric. Nobody will take any notice of me.” She shimmered into a nondescript, plump, middle aged woman. Mordi grinned. Wym had been making a fortune from the kidnap and ransom of princesses and the odd prince until he failed to do his homework sufficiently well. Serafina was quite happy to allow herself to be kidnapped because she was bored stiff. After that Wym’s plan unravelled completely. His career came to an abrupt end because not only was Serafina a very competent mage who saw right through his enchantments but also he tumbled head over tail in love with her since when he’d been a respectable and, mostly, law abiding dragon.

Mordi’s offer to help tidy up was refused so he sat admiring the view while Serafina put away the herbs she’d been out gathering and Wym busied himself with turning off the samovar and taking it to the kitchen. Serafina returned with a rolled up carpet and two overnight bags. Seeing Wym scribbling a note she gave him an enquiring look

“On the remote chance that one or other of our offspring decide to check and see if their parents are still alive I thought I’d leave a note saying we’ve gone to visit Mordi and Hugo for a few days.”

“Good idea. I’m bringing our carpet since you can hardly fly us round Alcheron. Someone might notice.”

“Good idea in fact I think maybe I ought not to fly us anywhere. Dragons tend to get noticed.” Catching Mordi’s expression he crowed with laughter “Mordi I do believe you came here just to get a ride!”

Mordi laughed “You’re faster. It’ll be gone midnight before we get back by carpet.”

Wym nodded “Good point. How about I take us as far as Trespassers? We can cross Borland more discreetly.”

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