It was in this moment, shaking the hand of the Crown Prince, that Toadmila realized how badly she needed a crystal ball. The horse could have been anywhere by now, and “anywhere” included the bellies of several well-meaning wolves, who might have been sorry to see the poor creature lost and wandering around on its own. With a crystal ball, she could have known in seconds where to look for the horse. Without one...
“Are you going to get my horse, or are you going to just stand there and wait for him to come here on his own, Toady?” the prince asked, nudging her shoulder.
“I'm going to wait for him to come here on his own,” Toadmila decided, inching away, out of his reach. “I'll need something of his to summon him. This won't hurt, Your Highness. Just stay still.”
Toadmila flicked her wand, and a single horse hair jumped up from the place where it had been clinging to the prince's clothes, just above his left boot, and flew into her hand.
“Can you clean all my clothes, Toady?” he asked. He looked impressed.
“I can, but I won't,” came the answer through the door.
She had not stopped to curtsy, on her way to the garden. The sooner she could summon the horse, the better, she thought. And summoning a horse indoors was never a good idea, even in a house with so few breakable things as hers.
The prince followed her, steady on his feet now that her potion had worked its magic. Out in the garden, Toadmila placed the hair on the ground an d began the incantation. It was a long one, and the prince managed to stand still through it and not call her “Toady” even once. She'd anticipated he'd be a distraction, but he just stood there, fascinated, watching the rapid movements of her wand. Toadmila added a puff of smoke at the end, for effect. When the smoke cleared, the horse was standing before them, no longer wearing his saddle and bridle, and chewing placidly. His eyes grew wide at the sudden change of scenery and he dropped the half-chewed piece of apple I had in its mouth. Toadmila expected there to be a stable boy, somewhere, holding on to the rest of the apple, and looking just as scared at the sudden disappearance of the horse that had been in front of him a moment earlier.
“Can you do that with anyone?” the prince asked, patting the horse's neck to calm him down. “Can you summon me here anytime if I leave something behind?”
“Not you,” Toadmila pointed out, remembering at the lastmoment to add “Your Highness.”
“Your Royal Adviser,” she said, stressing the title through clenched teeth, “has, as is his duty, cast proper spells to make the royal family unsummonable. It's a basic set of spells, and they only need to be renewed once a year. Without such measures, any foreign power could summon any neighboring king at will, and hold him prisoner.”
“Or have him jump back and forth between kingdoms, while his own people try to get him back,” Gilbert noticed. “I didn't know Lefroy was so useful.”
“It's a simple set of spells,” Toadmila repeated. “Any witch could do it.”
“Yes, but a wizard can do it better,” Gilbert said stubbornly.
“Because the King says so?” Toadmila couldn't help asking. She couldn't help glaring at the prince either, in spite of his rank.
“Because men are better,” the prince answered. “We're stronger. Here, let me show you. Do you have an axe? I could throw it all the way to that tree over there. No woman can do that.”
“I could turn that tree into firewood from over here without an axe,” Toadmila pointed out, waving her wand under the prince's nose. “So, no, I don't have an axe.”
“It doesn't count if you don't use your muscles,” Gilbert said, as if that were obvious. “Anyway, there are plenty of things that girls are good at... like cooking. Can you make me breakfast, Toady? I'm hungry.”
“I could turn you into a worm,” Toadmila answered, forgetting his rank altogether.
“Oh, and get something for my horse too,” Gilbert added, waving off her threat. “He likes apples.”