The Miserable Prince and the Would be Wizard

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Chapter 4

Winter at the Drum and Monkey was quiet. When the snow drifts were fresh and the roads impassable they didn’t even bother to open though Arric kept a path clear from the door to the lane and Beattie always lit a lamp and put it in the tap room window. Snow clearance was a good opportunity to put his book learning to practical use and he devised a good sweeping spell. He gradually cleared a pathway down the road to Pudleton. After that they had a trickle of customers from the village on fine days.

Arric had plenty of time on his hands and divided it between studying and pondering the folly of falling in love with someone you know nothing about. Just when you’re thinking you’ve found the person to spend your life with and who might share your ambition to run your own little business you find out they already have their own business and it’s running a kingdom. He ought to pack up and leave because the idea of anyone letting Prince Blaise settle down with a barman was ludicrous. The trouble was that his head told him he should be sensible and go but his heart refused to budge a step. Blaise’s parents had clearly spared no expense on a fortune fairy for their baby and the fairy had been expert. Blaise had everything going for him but the one thing a fortune fairy couldn’t do was make a honey drop out of a sour lemon. Your nature was your nature and Blaise was pure honey drop.

Beattie succumbed to a chill in January and though she tried to say it was nothing it rapidly worsened and settled on her chest. Arric became increasingly concerned by the hacking cough and wheezy breath and finally persuaded her to go to bed. Beattie was not one for what she called mollycoddling but she felt far from well. Arric made a good fire up in her room and told her to bang on the floor if she needed anything. The next morning he looked in on her to make up the fire in her room and found her flushed and sweating but complaining of being cold. She didn’t want anything to eat but took a cup of tea. Her condition worsened during the day despite herbal remedies and cold compresses. By evening her fever had worsened and she was tossing and muttering.

He spent the night watching her and wiping her face and hands with cold cloths. By morning he was seriously worried. He gave her a drink of water and retired to his room to search through the book Blaise had loaned him to find the section on fevers. When he’d first discovered his talent he’d no thought beyond being a magic user. There was a vast difference between magic users and wizards. Wizards trained and studied for at least seven years under the supervision of an experienced practitioner whereas magic users were unlearned and relied mainly on instinct and innate talent. As a result they were more limited and less powerful in their use of magic. When he discovered the library his idea had been to learn enough to make sure that he could apply his magic to the brewing of excellent beer and other skills necessary to run a small tavern.

He’d gradually become interested in learning more. Healing magic appealed to him and he’d been thrilled to get the chance to study one of the best treatises on it. He never thought to be applying it in practice but Beattie was seventy and there was no doubt she was dangerously ill. He still hesitated but by lunchtime she was delirious. He understood her body was fighting the infection that had settled on her chest but the mounting fever meant it was losing. He took Beattie’s hands in his and took a deep breath, He reached inside himself and sent strength and healing energies into her. It was very tiring and after a minute or two he started to feel dizzy. He let go of Beattie and sat panting until the dizziness subsided. She’d stopped tossing and turning and she felt a lot cooler.

When she slipped into a sound sleep he staggered down to the kitchen and disposed of the best part of a loaf of bread and two big bowls of stew after which he felt better. The next morning Beattie was free of fever. She spent the rest of the day in bed but the morning after declared herself well enough to come down and sit by the kitchen fire to save him running up and down stairs. She said nothing about his healing and he assumed she had been too ill to realise what was happening. He felt a sense of relief that his secret was still safe.

When the thaw started Arric began to wonder how soon it would be before Blaise could resume his visits. The first Monday after the thaw started in earnest he was disappointed when the afternoon passed without Blaise appearing. He assumed, however, as there was still snow lying along the hedges the weather was had prevented him riding out. The following Monday the snow had all gone and it was sunny with the promise of spring. When it became obvious the Prince was not going to appear Arric was cast into deep gloom. His heart told him that Blaise wouldn’t play fast and loose with someone’s affections but his head lectured him on the folly of supposing an infatuation would last. Clearly the Prince had found something else to amuse himself with over winter. Beattie remarking on his downcast face spurred him to make the effort to be cheerful. He spent a sleepless night feeling wretched and almost didn’t go to Whitecastle but decided it would be better to go to the library and learn something than to sit in his room moping.

By the time he reached Whitecastle the hour and a half’s walk with the sun shining and the birds singing had made him feel better. He was at the foot of the library steps when he heard his name called. He scanned the crowd of people in the square wondering who was calling him then he spotted Jed.

“I was beginning to worry you weren’t coming. I’ve a letter for you.” The old man glanced around “You know who is in a spot of trouble. He can’t get out to see you.”

Arric’s fears that he about to receive an ‘I’m sorry but it’s over’ missive vanished and his mood lifted. “What’s happened?”

Jed jerked his head “We can’t talk here. Too many people.” Arric fell into step beside the old man as he led the way out of the main square. They walked down to the river and then turned off the road an onto the promenade. Jed made for one of the benches and sat down. He handed Arric a tightly folded note. Arric unfolded the small piece of paper.

‘My dearest Arric I missed you so much and I was counting the days until it thawed. Alas the Queen has curtailed my freedom. I can no longer ride out on Mondays with only Jed in attendance. He will explain what has happened. I dreamt that we would live happily ever after in the palace but now I need your help. Please say you will run away with me so we can be together. The Queen plans to wed me to Count Asgreen’s daughter who is vicious, spiteful and as bad tempered as her father. I will die before I marry Letitia or anyone else come to that. I love you. Blaise.’

Arric’s thoughts were a jumble, guilt at doubting Blaise, elation at his open declaration of love and worry about the current situation.

He looked up to find Jed regarding him. “I’ll do whatever I can. He wants to run away. Why can’t he just sneak out?”

“Prince Blaise has minders. Three gentlemen in waiting who are the Queen’s toadies. They report on his every move to her. The only good thing was they aren’t keen on exercise that’s how he could slip the leash for a short time on Mondays. When she told Prince Blaise he’d to marry Lady Letitia the Queen decreed his gentlemen in waiting must ride out with him whether they like it or not. I reckon she knows he’d do a runner if he could. Anyway he rode round and round the park all afternoon yesterday. By the time they got back the toadies could hardly dismount and they tottered straight off in search of embrocation and a lie down which gave him the opportunity to tell me what had happened and to give me the note.”

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