“It's all right,” Toadmila said, trying to use her most soothing voice. “The bed isn't going to move again.”
Kitty and Patch looked at the bed from their corner of the room, as if expecting it to jump off the floor and bite someone.
“It's all right,” Toadmila insisted. “There's nothing to be afraid of.”
Kitty looked at the bed, then looked away and began arranging a strand of loose hair behind her ear. Patch made one brave step forward, then another. He had nearly reached the bed when the doors of the antechamber were slammed open, sending Patch running back into Kitty's arms.
“Toady! I need your help!”
Prince Gilbert was most obviously not used to knocking. He was already in the middle of the antechamber when he noticed Raven.
“Who's that?” he asked, pointing his finger.
“That's one of my new familiars,” Toadmila answered.
“You mean servants?” Gilbert asked, eyeing Raven circumspectly.
“No,” Toadmila corrected him, “I mean familiars.”
“Slaves?” Gilbert tried again. “I think we have a law against that...”
“No,” Toadmila said again impatiently. “A witch's familiar is neither a slave, nor a pet. They are like family.”
“And how exactly is that?” Gilbert asked.
Toadmila tried to think of what her own idea of a family might be, but she felt that her personal experience, having grownup in an orphanage, was not exactly to be trusted in the matter of family life. She reverted to her old lessons, reciting the definition from her textbooks.
“A witch's familiar is an animal of exceptional intellect who forms a bond with the witch. The witch will offer her familiar food, shelter, and her protection, and, in exchange, the familiar offers loyalty and assistance to the witch.”
“Like our feudal lords,” Gilbert noticed. “Only we don't have to house them and feed them unless they are here as guests – which tends to happen a lot. So he's not really human?”
“He's a raven,” Toadmila answered with a shrug.
“Can you make him look like a raven?” Gilbert asked.
Toadmila suddenly felt that she did not want the prince, of all people, to know that there was something she couldn't do.
“You said you wanted my help?” she asked.
“Oh, yes,” Gilbert remembered. “Father wants to talk to me, and I need you to convince him that he's wrong.”
“What about?” Toadmila asked.
“Well, he hasn't told me yet. But whatever he wants to talk about, he's wrong. He always is.”