Blaise needed to return to his room and Arric offered to fly him back to his window.
“You can fly a carpet? I’m impressed.”
“Don’t be too impressed. I’ve just about got the hang of it.” Arric picked up the rolled rug. Jed opened the door and Arric went out followed by Blaise. He unrolled the rug and sat cross legged. “Sit behind me and hold on tight.” He said taking hold of the front corners with his hands. They lifted off and bumped down again almost immediately. Arric scowled and muttered and Blaise sniggered. The second attempt was successful and Jed watched the carpet wobble into the air and clear the roof of the cottage with about a foot to spare. Blaise rested his chin on Arric’s shoulder.
“This is fun. I’ve never been on a magic carpet before.”
Arric grinned “It’s easier than riding a horse. It’s spelled so you can’t fall off.”
Blaise nuzzled into Arric’s neck. “You’ve been riding? I thought you said you couldn’t?”
Arric giggled, the sensation of Blaise’s breath on his neck was making him shiver.
“I wouldn’t describe it as riding, more sitting on the horse and hoping it knows what it’s doing.”
“Are you sure that isn’t what you’re doing now?” Blaise asked as the carpet lurched round the corner of east wing of the palace.
“It’s only my second solo flight and on the first one I didn’t have any distractions, which is your window?”
“The one that’s open. Fourth one from here.”
“Right let me concentrate I don’t want to hit the building.”
Blaise did as he was told and Arric brought the carpet to a stop outside the window. It wobbled a bit but Blaise managed to crawl on to the window sill without too much trouble. He blew a kiss at Arric
“Until next Tuesday” he whispered “Love you”
“Love you too. Be careful.”
Arric turned and flew low over the stables. He gained a little height and crossed the town well above the roof tops. He landed in the yard by the back door of the Drum and Monkey. He bounced twice before it settled. He stepped off, rolled the carpet up and tucked it under his arm. Sir Hugo and Mordi had loaned him what they called the two seater runabout. He needed to get better at managing it in the week before he had to transport Smitty and rescue Blaise. He envied the ease with which Mordi had brought him and Mayfly back on the large carpet with sides. Mayfly had been less nervous than he was. Mordi had dropped him off in an empty field in the early morning and he’d spent the day at the Inn before riding into Whitecastle. He sighed as he stared round the yard. The Drum and Monkey had come to feel like home. More so than his own once his mother married Bork Grayling when he was ten. He’d been happy here and he’d miss Beattie and the Inn.
He eased the door open and crept into the darkened kitchen.
“So what time do you call this young man?”
Arric jumped out of his skin and almost dropped the carpet. “Beattie! I thought you’d have gone to bed long ago”
She chuckled “No I thought I’d wait up seeing as how this is the last night you’ll be spending here.” She turned the lamp up and pushed the kettle on to the hotplate.
Arric came and sat in his usual chair at the side of the stove. “I’ll miss being here. I’m sorry to leave you like this without time to get someone else in to do the heavy work.”
“Don’t you worry about it at all.” Beattie admonished him. “Thanks to your healing I’m feeling better than I have in a good few years. You not only got rid of the infection you sorted out the rheumatics in my back while you were at it. Now opportunities like the one you’ve got don’t come knocking every day. You grab it while you’ve the chance.”
Arric gasped in surprise “You knew about the healing? You never said!”
“No well I didn’t like to when you obviously keep quiet about your abilities. I just wondered why you hung around here working for a pittance when you could be getting rich as a healer.”
“I like it here. I had to leave home very rapidly when my stepfather found out I was a magic user so it made me cautious about admitting it.”
Beattie snorted “Your stepfather sounds like a prize idiot.”
The next morning Arric bade farewell to Beattie but not before he’d given her a turn round the Inn on the carpet which had both of them in fits of laughter. She stood in the yard waving until he became a spec in the sky then went back inside wondering if he’d be able to keep his promise of visiting in the future. It didn’t sound too likely given what he’d told her. She opened the bar and sat polishing glasses. She had hoped, no doubt like a lot of people in the kingdom, that once Prince Blaise got to twenty one things might get better.
Arric, once the Inn had dwindled to a black dot, set his face for Redfern Manor and his mind on the future. He’d a lot to learn if he was to get Blaise out of that place and safely away. He wished Sir Hugo or Mordi could come with him but Asgreen had spelled the palace to alert him to their presence. Mordi had taken a small risk bringing him nearly to Pudleston since they didn’t know the extent of the area Asgreen had spelled.
He made a neat landing on the grass in front of the house. Sir Hugo appeared before he’d finished rolling up the carpet.
“Arric my boy” he boomed happily “All go to plan?” Arric nodded but before he could say anything Sir Hugo carried on “Mordi’s setting everything up for your first try at a transformation. We’ve made you your own wizard’s robe. Come and have a snack and try it on.”
Arric followed him into the house torn between pleasure at the idea of having his own robe and dread that it would be pink and sparkly. Timmy greeted him with enthusiastic squeals and demands for attention when they came into the kitchen. Sir Hugo shouted ‘No!’, ‘Down boy!’ and ‘Basket!’ all of which Timmy resolutely ignored. Arric scratched him between the ears and eventually in response to the offer of a squashed fly biscuit he returned to his bed and flopped down with a grunt. Sir Hugo offered Arric a biscuit from a different tin though the contents looked disturbingly similar to the one he had given Timmy. Catching the fleeting look of doubt that crossed Arric’s face Sir Hugo gave a snort of laughter
“Don’t worry these ones have dried fruit in them. It’s just that Timmy likes to think he’s having the same as us. He probably shouldn’t have biscuits at all given he’s an insectivore but he does seem to like them.”
Mordi came into the kitchen carrying a parcel which he put down in front of Arric. He greeted him cheerfully then asked
“No trouble with the carpet then?”
None at all. A few wobbles but it was great. Much better than a horse.”
Mordi laughed “Exactly my sentiments. Horses are nice animals but it takes forever to get anywhere not to mention you smell like one after you’ve been on them.”
Arric opened the parcel under the expectant gaze of Mordi and Sir Hugo. They had been nothing but welcoming and kind and he really liked them both so even if the robe was pink and sparkly he was going to pretend he was thrilled.
“Oh it’s white!”
“Of course. All new wizards robes are plain white. What they become depends on the wizard. It will change with you as you develop. Mine was dark purple with gold while I was King Merrick’s chamberlain.”
“Mine went through all sorts of changes. So will yours. When I was young and wanted to impress people it was dark red with black collar and cuffs, now it’s my favourite peacock blue with a pink lining and lots of birds and flowers on it.”
“I didn’t realise. So a plain white robe is the sign of a very new wizard. Doesn’t it get dirty really easily?”
Sir Hugo chuckled “A robe is a magical garment Arric. A wave of the hand will keep it clean. You are now officially our apprentice.”