Friday, December 15, 2017

Book 2 - Chapter 3 – A Boy

 Toadmila was fuming. Even before Gwendolyn left, she'd found it hard to hide her anger. Of course, Gwendolyn would have said that this very anger at the King's wishes was what would have made her a poor adviser indeed. A dead one, perhaps, if the King found her outbursts annoying enough to execute her. Which was why she didn't have any outbursts while Gwendolyn was around. It was only after Gwendolyn had left, and the door had been firmly closed behind her, that a shower of red and orange sparks flew out of the chimney, lighting up the sky before it dissipated into thin air. Perhaps it was a little too early, a little too fast, before Gwendolyn had had the time to take more than five steps away from the house, and perhaps it was impossible for Gwendolyn to miss it, but as the sparks were not followed by any other explosion, or the earth cracking open, or the sky darkening into a sudden storm, even Gwendolyn allowed herself to think that Toadmila had adapted splendidly to the news.
Toadmila, on the other hand, did not feel that she could adapt to knowing that Lefroy had taken the job she coveted right from under her nose, simply for being a boy. She busied herself for the rest of the day, tending the garden of poisonous herbs with unnatural dedication. She was so caught up in this work, that she even failed to notice the howling sounding in the distance. What she could not fail to notice was a frightened deer, dashing out of the woods and crashing into the wards she'd placed to protect the garden. It fell to the ground, thrown back by the impact. Toadmila barely had time to turn to look at it, before the deer scrambled back up and ran away. Then she heard the hounds barking, somewhere far into the woods, and an arrow sliced the air, pointed straight at her. It hit the wards and bounced back. Toadmila couldn't see how far it had gone, but she heard a horse neigh, and then the sound of hooves galloping. For the moment, she thought the arrow had hit the unfortunate animal, but when she saw the horse galloping past her garden, it looked unharmed. Yet, in spite of the bright red bridle and gold-studded saddle it wore, it had no rider. Toadmila straightened her back. Her first instinct was to run after the horse and calm it down, stop it before it could hurt itself. But when her feet started moving, she found herself running in the opposite direction.
She found the arrow firmly lodged into a tree. There was no sign of blood on it. But on the ground, motionless, dressed in clothes of red and gold, there was a boy.

She recognized the coat of arms embroidered in gold thread on his tunic. The king's coat of arms. And yet his blond hair was short, in a style used by servants and peasants. His face, youthful, almost childlike, looked familiar. Toadmila inspected him for any wounds. He looked as though he'd fallen off his horse and hit his head. Toadmila considered what to do. She listened for the hounds, who were no doubt accompanying other men, perhaps his servants, but their howls sounded weak and distant. She turned her attention to the boy. She could find nothing wrong with him, other than that he'd been knocked out. But the textbooks warned that a blow to the head could leave serious damage that could only be assessed when the sufferer was awake. Toadmila wished she could just get his servants to take him home. She had no doubt they could find another witch to look after him. But his men were not there. And the sky was going dark. Toadmila sighed and began to wave a spell, a spell that could carry the boy to her house.

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