The great hall had fallen silent. When the King spoke, his voice resounded like thunder.
“Our son, you may keep at the palace any lady that you find entertaining. But to give her a title, and an official position, at our Court, that is unthinkable.”
Toadmila did not dare straighten her back, or even raise her eyes, but her cheeks were burning with anger at the king's implied insult. And then another voice broke the silence, a humble voice, hushed and unctuous.
“Your Majesty, if I may advise...”
“Of course, Auggy,” the king answered, somewhat appeased. “Come closer. Maybe you can make our son listen to reason.”
Light steps treaded closer. Toadmila threw a sideways glance in their direction, and saw Augustus Lefroy, just as he bowed to the king. He looked thinner than she remembered him, and paler. Yet he seemed to be doing well. His chestnut-brown curls were styled in the latest fashion, and his shiny black robes were of a fabric much to expensive to be standard uniform.
“Your Majesty,” Lefroy said in that soft voice, so different from the proud young man she remembered from school, “Prince Gilbert is headstrong and reckless.”
“Indeed he is,” the king said.
“He needs guidance and restraint,” Lefroy went on.
“Indeed he does,” the king agreed readily.
“And perhaps an adviser can provide such guidance, an adviser raised in a prestigious witchcraft Academy, an adviser gifted in the arts of magic.”
“We already trust your judgment, Auggy,” the king said.
“Miss Wartly and I were in the same year at the Academy,” he said. “And her grades were excellent. She is the best witch of her year–”
“The best of the girls,” the king interrupted him, waving his hand to dismiss any claims Toadmila might have to an impressive intellect.
“The best nonetheless,” Lefroy said cautiously. “And she seems to have gained the trust of the Crown Prince. Perhaps he might listen to her. I can vouch for her perfect training as a witch, and for her character. She would be a guiding light to him.”
The king did not answer right away. Toadmila felt that her back and her legs with explode with pain from keeping that impossible pose before him for too long. She looked with envy at Lefroy's straightened back, though his face had hardened into a mask of humility that had to be equally difficult for him to keep on.
“I trust your judgment, Auggy,” the king finally said. “And your recommendation of Miss Wartly's character. You may rise, Miss Wartly, our Adviser to the Crown Prince.”