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Since Murr’s request for an audience has to wend its way through multiple levels of protocols, I have plenty of time to update father and Mynar on what Tmal has reported and what we have subsequently found out.
“I should probably talk to him.” Mynar and I both ignore father’s muttering about ‘should have dumped the chest in the ocean’. Because Murr has to know about the chest; everyone in town knows about the chest, gossips about the chest, and periodically produces new and even more outrageous speculations about the chest. Sorcerers had fought in the city, it will take years for the gossip to die out.
We both wait, but father neither approves or says ‘no’ to Mynar’s proposal. Instead he gets up and pokes at the fire as if it were an enemy needing slaying. “And you are sure he isn’t a Sorcerer.”
“He isn’t,” I assure him, because my Sword has assured me.
“Then make him wait until next week, so he doesn’t think we attach any importance to him.” Father stares at Mynar for a moment. “Even if he isn’t a Sorcerer, he consorts with them, hires them, so I don’t want you to see him without at least two guards being present.”
Mynar nods his agreement. “And Lej, and maybe Alan?”
“Not Alan,” father disagrees. “And not Adava. Let him think we now consider the chest a matter of history, not magic or power.”
I couldn’t disagree with that.
After the meeting, I go to tell mother that Mynar and father had a whole conversation without yelling.
According to the court clerk who dealt with Murr, he was rather put out that Mynar wouldn’t see him immediately, so I half-way expect him to show up at the weekly court, and keep scanning the crowd. He doesn’t come, and I waste time trying to decide if that means he is very cunning or just boring.
Court business is much the same as it always is this time of year: warnings of expected Outlander attacks (they like to attack once the crops have been gathered), warnings to fix any leaky roofs before the first snows (which will probably be ignored), and lists of places that wood for heating can be obtained by those in need (no one needs shelter, our population is still only 70% of what it was before the plague).
Only a few people step forward when father opens the floor for general business. The usual merchants are there trying to reduce their taxes, or raise competitor’s taxes. I asked father once why he didn’t just appoint some court official to deal with them, and he told me that their illogical arguments amused him. I mostly ignore the discussions to look at what is clearly a father and son pair. The father determined and the son sulky. But he is a mid-teen, so sulky is probably his default. Alan shifts beside me, looking in the direction I’m staring, but saying nothing.
The father steps forward as the disappointed merchants leave. “Your Majesty.” He pauses for a moment as if he doesn’t really know what he is going to say. “Your Majesty,” he starts again. “My son…”
The boy beside him looks startled, as if he didn’t expect to be the topic of conversation.
“My son,” he starts again, “Wants to be a Sorcerer. Is determined.”
The boy looks down, hiding his face. When he looks up again, he has regained his sullen, and his eyes are blank.
“I came to ask, to plead with you to allowed him to be apprenticed to Lord Alan.”
“I am most certainly not going to provide training for Sorcerers,” my father begins angrily. I glare at him; he pretends not to see, but he adds, “And, anyway, Alan is a Mage.”
I glance at Alan, but he is just looking confused. I risk an almost whisper only my Sword is going to hear, “Is he a Sorcerer?”
“I can only identify those who use Sorcery, not those who just want to use Sorcery.”
I sigh. Why can’t something be easy, just once.
“I know Lord Alan is a Mage, your Majesty. It is the only way I can think of to save my son.” His voice almost cracks, and his son looks at the floor again. His shoulders are tense; his whole body tense. Even the top of his head looks tense.
“Let me talk to the boy,” Alan suggests.
The father looks hopeful, and the boy keeps looking down. Father nods his agreement—sending me a look that clearly says ‘fix this’. I don’t know what he thinks I can do, but Alan isn’t looking worried, so maybe he does. Hopefully something that doesn’t include an apprentice.
Alan leads the boy to a side chamber, ignoring that I am following them.
“So why do you want to be a Sorcerer.” Alan asks the question, but doesn’t really seem interested.
“They are powerful, respected.” He produces the answer as if he has said the same thing many times before.
“Not respected, feared,” For the first time he looks at me instead of Alan, then carefully doesn’t look at the Sword.
“I didn’t know he was going to do this.” I’m not sure if he is talking to us or to himself.
“What is your name?” I can’t keep calling him boy, even just in my thoughts.
“Damon.” He’s back to looking at the floor.
“Well, Damon, I think it’s time for you to tell us the truth.” Alan’s voice has a lot of patience in its tone, but underlying steel too. Impressive. I wonder if it is some sort of minor spell.
Damon looks at Alan with wild eyes, and I move in front of the door, just in case he decides to run instead of answering. His shoulders slump. “I don’t want to be a Sorcerer,” his words come out in a flood, “I want to be a soldier, but I knew father wouldn’t like that so I thought if he really believed I wanted to be a Sorcerer…then soldier wouldn’t sound so bad.” He pauses, looking more miserable than sullen. “He is soooo overprotective.”
I’m glad Damon is looking at Alan and has his back is to me, so he doesn’t see my smile.
“Didn’t work out so well for you, did it?” Alan doesn’t wait for an answer he isn’t likely to get. “So let’s try the truth.”
Court has been dismissed by the time we return, so I am able to talk to father in private while Alan calls Damon’s father to join them.
Before I say anything to father, I send one of my guards to watch the chamber door, and tell him to ignore any yelling. I expect there will be yelling.
Father is amused by the tale. “We need to be sure this story is spread.” He correctly interprets my silent reaction. “No, it isn’t mean. What would be mean, would be to leave people thinking he really wanted to be a Sorcerer.”
I have to admit father is right, and I make a mental note to visit Webb.
Later, Alan and I watch the sun set from the top of the outer wall of the castle, pretending we are alone, and not that we have just turned our backs to the guards.
“I always thought,” Alan tells me out of nowhere, “That kings spent their days dealing with high matters of state.”
“Nope. Of course, father gets more trivial stuff because he is also the Governor of the city. The king always is; why would you want divided power in your stronghold. Other cities have their own mayor or Governor, depending on size, but Misthold only has father.”
I snuggle again Alan, and he puts his arm around me. “Once thing for certain, no bard will ever turn our courtship into one of the great romantic sagas.”
“All that really matters,” I comfort him, “Is that it was a successful courtship.”