The Miserable Prince and the Would be Wizard

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Chapter 7

Tuesday seemed even more forced and tedious to Blaise than it normally did. The Queen asked him the usual stock questions but made no pretence of being interested in the answers. No mention was made of the forthcoming nuptials and he returned to his quarters and changed trying not to glance at the clock. He wondered if Jed had managed to meet Arric or if something had prevented it. The day crawled by until six o’clock. Blaise put his book down and announced he'd change for dinner informing his gentlemen in waiting not to disturb themselves. He went through to his bedroom shutting the door in everyone's face. He looked out of the window and sagged in relief. Jed was standing by the bushes at the end of the path. That meant he’d met Arric and things were moving. Blaise risked a quick salute and then turned as the door opened to admit his valet.

Over the years as his twenty first birthday approached the Queen had restricted his freedom more and more. By the time he met Arric he was to all intents and purposes a prisoner in the palace. He had refused to admit that fact to himself or to accept that the Queen and Asgreen could and would prevent him from claiming the throne. To allow himself to think that would have been to give up hope. He’d been stupid. His dream of returning the kingdom to benevolent rule had been just that, a dream; but his scheme of running away had some hope of success. Arric was clever and provided they could get a head start they could make a life together somewhere. It wouldn’t help the people of Alcheron but then neither would his being married to Letitia. No doubt Asgreen would kill him off quite soon after the event.

Blaise resisted the temptation to scream from frustration and eventually the days crawled by and Monday afternoon came. He intended to repeat his stratagem from last week and exhaust the toadies so he’d have an opportunity to speak to Jed. When they returned to the stable yard three hours later the toadies were suffering. Blaise had not only ridden non stop he’d done a lot of it at the canter down muddy rides. He caught Jed’s eye and had to bite his lip to prevent himself from grinning. Jed came to the horse’s head and took hold of the bridle. He tweaked it so the horse turned broadside as Blaise dismounted hiding him from the toadies who were being helped off their horses.

“Arric’s back. He’s in my cottage. Can you get out tonight?” Jed muttered urgently.

“Yes.”

“Good” Jed pushed a note into his hand and Blaise quickly tucked it into his glove. Jed twitched the reins again causing the horse to toss its head and sidle. He raised his voice “Sorry Your Highness I don’t know what’s got in to him today.”

Blaise stepped away “Probably not enough exercise. We’ll have a longer ride next week.” He noticed the expressions of the gentlemen in waiting darken at his words and suppressed a smile. He made his way back to his rooms. He gave his hat to his valet and said he did not like the yellow waistcoat and to fetch the green one. While his valet was getting it out he transferred the note to his book. He retired to his bathroom taking the book with him and read the note which apart from a declaration of love was brief. They weren’t running away this week but he had something for him from Sir Hugo. All would be explained when they met. He tore the note up and threw it down the privy.

When he’d changed he sent a message to the three gentlemen in waiting that he would be pleased if they join him for tea. Last Monday they hadn’t reappeared for a couple of hours and Blaise had welcomed the respite from being watched but they’d recovered by dinner. He’d noted that they often stayed up playing cards after he retired and tonight he needed them to go to bed early and sleep soundly. Not giving them a chance to rest should ensure that.

The three gentlemen groaned when the message was delivered but to be invited to partake of tea instead of just watching was an honour they couldn’t refuse. Blaise plied them with cake and chatted away until it was time to change for dinner. After the meal he discovered a desire to play whist which required four people. By ten o’clock the gentlemen were smothering yawns but just to be on the safe side Blaise kept up the chatter and the cards for another hour. After which he yawned and confessed himself ready for bed. When he gave them permission to withdraw they couldn’t get out of the room fast enough. Blaise was pleased with his stratagem. Normally they accompanied him to his dressing room and stood around while he was getting ready for bed. He’d have liked to stay dressed but his valet would hover until he got ready for bed.

Once he was attired in nightshirt and dressing gown he dismissed the man saying he would read for little before he settled down. After a few minutes he blew out the candles and listened to the sounds of his valet tidying up and going to bed. Blaise couldn’t get his clothes because the valet slept on a truckle bed in the dressing room. Luckily his dressing gown was dark coloured. He waited another hour to be sure then eased his window open. No lights showed in any of the windows of this section of the palace. He shoved his slippers in his pocket and swung himself out of the window and on to the wisteria. He reached the ground without mishap. He put his slippers on and made his way cautiously along the side of the building and through the grounds to Jed’s cottage beside the stables.

Arric and Jed had been waiting anxiously for Blaise hoping nothing would prevent him getting out. When there was a scratch at the door Jed leapt up and hurried to open it.

The sight of Arric standing there with an anxious expression on his face put all thoughts of discretion out of Blaise’s head. He hurried over and pulled him into an embrace.

“I missed you so much!”

“I missed you too.” Arric responded returning the embrace with enthusiasm. After a minute or so when they showed no signs of letting go of each other Jed coughed.

Blaise blushed “I er..” he stopped and looked self conscious.

Jed put him out of his misery. “No need to explain Your Highness. I already worked it out.”

“How did you...”

Jed roared with laughter “You young people always think us oldies don’t notice what’s going on. All those whispers and hand holding while old Jed napped by the fire.”

Blaise bit his lip. “You never did miss much.”

“No and you can stop looking anxious. I don’t disapprove. I reckon you deserve a bit of happiness and you won’t get it here. I’ll do what I can to help. Now I’ll just go and make a last round of the stables on the basis the less I know the better.” He unhooked the lantern and went out.

Blaise stared at the door and shook his head

“What would I have done without Jed looking out for me all these years.” He turned back to Arric who was smiling at him. Blaise returned the smile “There’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.”

“Really? I wonder if it’s the same thing as I’ve been thinking about.” Aric leant in and their lips met. They broke apart reluctantly but time was pressing.

Blaise asked “So what’s the plan? Letitia gets back a week tomorrow and the ball announcing the betrothal will be on the Friday so we haven’t any time to lose. The invitations have already been sent out.”

“We’re going to substitute you. Sir Hugo has sent you this.” Arric took a black velvet bag out of his pocket and handed it to Blaise. “It’s a memory cache. It’s important only you touch it. It’s in a locket which you can wear round your neck. You put the lozenge in your mouth and hold it there while you think of memories that Smitty will need to have to take your place.”

“Smitty?”

“It will take to long to explain in detail but Smitty is a rodent that will look like you and take your place so your escape is not discovered. After a couple of weeks he’ll revert to rat but by that time we’ll be safely away.”

Sounds brilliant.” Blaise kissed Arric again “I knew you were clever and resourceful.”

“Well it’s Sir Hugo and Mordi who are that but they’re teaching me what I need to know. Lady Letitia gets back Tuesday week?” Blaise nodded “Then that night is when I’ll rescue you. You’ll have had your audience and Smitty will have three days before the ball to get used to being Prince Blaise.”

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