After three hours of riding in Prince Gilbert's company, Toadmila was convinced that if there was one thing that men were better at than women, it was the art of being annoying. She'd thought Lefroy was good at it. Prince Gilbert was even better. She was having second thoughts about her decision to not turn him into a worm before reaching the palace and getting her ten gold coins. As she rode her broom by the side of his horse, she wished she didn't need the money. She was certain he didn't need her to come along for the ride, the two-day long ride that was going to take them to the palace. The more he talked, the more convinced she was that he'd only asked her to come along so he could annoy her.
“Are you listening, Toady? I said Lefroy thinks I'm in danger.”
“That would be a very sensible thing to think,” Toadmila answered. She had stopped calling him “Your Highness” a few hours earlier, and his countless attempts at convincing her of his manly superiority had been keeping her from reviving her long-lost courtly manners.
“He says he's seen great danger in that crystal ball of his, but he can't see it clearly.”
“There are de-fogging potions for crystal ball use,” Toadmila pointed out. “Expensive ones, but I'm sure a Royal Adviser can afford them.”
“He's tried those,” Gilbert said,” or at least I think he has. The problem is that he sees too many things. Several wars, several assassination attempts, several everything. He says he can't focus.”
“Well, he'd better,” Toadmila said, gripping her broom a little more tightly. “It's an Adviser's job to not let any wars happen. Regardless of what the King wants.”
“I don't think Father's too eager for the wars either. But he's given orders to keep the army ready. And he sent me to Grimwood. Lefroy told him I'd be safe if I go there. I wonder what Father will say when he hears I've almost been killed.”
“It's not Lefroy's fault that you can't ride a horse without falling off,” Toadmila pointed out. As much as she hated to be the one defending Lefroy, in this moment, she hated the prince even more.
“There was an arrow,” Gilbert said. He frowned, and it looked like he wanted to say something more. Toadmila waited for him to speak, but instead he just spurred his horse to run faster, and galloped for a while in silence. When he slowed down, his expression had changed into a playful smile.
“Maybe,” he said, turning to wink at her, “maybe he meant that I'd be safe if I find you.”