After that, nothing
seemed to go right for the rest of his morning. He was hustled
downstairs to the Great Hall steps to greet the King and Queen and the
Orsal while still somewhat damp from his second bath and wearing his
blue tunic which was somewhat outgrown. For all the good it did him,
as the King and the Orsal didn't appear to notice his presence at all.
Mummy did notice him, but she still did not smile and let him know
everything was all right again.
Still distressed over Mummy's displeasure,
Kelric couldn't keep his mind on the letters of the alphabet or which
numbers came after ten during morning lessons although he'd been able
to recite all twenty-six letters and count to twenty the week before.
Even though Father Tagas was normally a gentle, patient tutor to
himself and Briony, he was plainly displeased by Kelric's inability to
concentrate by the end of the lesson. Even his riding lesson went
poorly although it was normally his favorite part of the day. He fell
off his pony twice even though White Boots was in one of his
motionless moods and it took a great deal of squeezing and even
kicking to make him trot.
When Kelric and Briony returned to their nursery
at noon, Mummy still had not sent for him, which was a deep
disappointment. She almost never stayed angry with him for this long.
No sweet was served after the noon meal, and Nurse's stern expression
kept Kelric from complaining about this lack. But he felt aggrieved by
Mummy's neglect and Nurse's cheerlessness nonetheless. Why should they
be this angry about the honey when he made some sort of mess every
Briony had wandered into a window alcove after
lunch and was busy with setting her dolls around a toy banquet table,
complete with a toy feast. Kelric hesitated as dolls were only of
marginal interest to him. But then he collected some of Brendan's and
his own toy knights and went to join her. It was something to do, and
at least Briony hadn't been cross with him all morning.
But Briony scowled when he came over. Nor did
she appreciate the addition of his toy nights at her carefully
arranged table, and particularly not when he jostled two dolls off
their small chairs with his mounted wooden knights and made the dishes
rattle on the table when one of the knights fell over onto the table
"Kel-ric, *STOP* that!"
"But they want to have a feast, too."
"This is a doll feast, no knights
allowed," she told him firmly hands planted on her hips.
"They're too big, and you can have a horse
eating at the same table as people."
"Be-cause silly, horses eat hay! Does Papa
ever have horses in the Great hall when he gives a feast? Have you
ever heard of the King eating his supper in a stable?"
Kelric thought this over. All sorts of delicious
treats were served at feasts that didn't appear on the table for
ordinary meals. But to balance that, he was always being told to
behave or to be quiet, or being marched out of the feasting hall when
he wasn't quiet or well-behaved. If there were horses in the hall
during feasts, maybe nobody would be that worried about how HE
"No. But it might be more fun if they did.
An' the King told me that Al Rasoul once rode *his* horse right into
the Great Hall in Rhemuth." He moved another one his mounted toy
nights closer to the doll's table. The toy knights were considerably
larger than the dolls, and this time he bumped the table itself,
making the toy dishes roll and clatter over the white napkin Briony
had used for a tablecloth.
"No knights!" Briony insisted.
"Go 'way and leave me alone!"
Kelric gave up and stalked away with a mounted
knight tucked under each arm. "Stupid dolls!"
He'd have his own feast, then and it would be
much more fun than Briony's. Kelric plopped down cross-legged in the
center of the nursery floor and planted one of the knights on the
floor, too. It promptly fell over sideways, making him frown. More
carefully, he picked up the knight and stood it back up. It was the
largest of his set, and had been painted to look like the King, with
black hair, bright yellow mail and a scarlet surcoat. It even carried
a little scarlet shield with a tiny yellow lion on it. The horse was
painted black with a red saddle and bridle. The wooden king and his
horse had been carved all in one piece, making it impossible for the
King to sit in a proper throne at this feast. But Kelric didn't have a
proper table, either so it didn't really matter. Kelric gathered the
rest of his knights two by two and lined them up on either side of the
king down the sides of an imaginary table, then added his fleet of
little wooden boats and his toy lamb to round out the company.
Stripes, the black and gray nursery tabby cat
wandered over to see what he was doing and planted herself right in
the midst of the knights where the High Table should be and blinked
her pale green eyes at him. He stroked her back, but thought the king
and the knights looked very disapproving when their 'table' began to
elegantly wash one hind leg right in front of them.
They looked bored, too. He couldn't give them
any food since the lunch had been cleared away and Briony had all the
toy dishes at her own feast. There was always some kind of
entertainment at a feast though. But he didn' t have any toys left
that could be jugglers or acrobats, or even dancers. Then he
remembered that sometimes minstrels or troubadours like Gwydion sang
at feasts. He found most music dull, but Gwydion always sang at least
one funny song for him whenever he entertained at Daddy's feasts.
"La-la-la, lalalalala," Kelric sang
softly, remembering the tune although not the words of one of
Gwydion's songs. It seemed to him that the king and the wooden knights
didn't look quite as bored now. He stood up and bowed to his toy King,
mimicking the fancy twisty gestures Gwydion always made with his hands
when he bowed to Mummy and Daddy at the close of each song.
"La-la, lala, la, la lalalala, laaaaa,"
Kelrich began his second song curving his arms and hands to hold an
imaginary lute, and sang more strongly. Not so much to the toys
anymore, but just enjoying the range of sounds he could make.
Sometimes, he really liked just being *loud*. How could God know he
was down here if he was always quiet?
Kelric threw back his head and gave himself full
voice, no longer singing la-la, or any recognizable tune, but made his
voice go high then low where he sounded like a frog croaking, then up
high again, "eeeeeee," sounding very much like a mouse.
Stripes gave him a disgusted look and bounded away, knocking over
three knights as she went.
crooned, then looked up in surprise to see Briony standing in front of
him. Her face was red and all screwed up as if she'd just tasted
something she didn't like, and she was screaming at him to be quiet.
Kelric couldn't see how he could be disturbing her when she had her
fingers in both her ears and was being very noisy herself.
Then Nurse was upon them with amazing swiftness,
escorting both of them to their respective bedrooms with a grip on
their arms that was too strong to break, talking rapidly about
"children who were excited and overtired and needed a nap."
Kelric blinked rapidly while staring at his
closed bedroom door in astonished indignation. This was another thing
he didn't understand about adults, and Nurse in particular. Why was
she always making him lie down for a nap or go to bed when she could
see very well that he wasn't in the least bit tired? He clambered up
onto his bed and began to bounce up and down and kept on with his
singing. The bed felt beautifully springy under his feet making his
head brush the underside of the canopy at each jump, but it creaked
"Lord Kelric, I _told_ you to lie down and
take a nap!" Nurse bustled back into the room, his toy lamb
tucked under her arm.
"I was only telling God where to find
"You're being just as naughty as can be, as
if you hadn't caused enough trouble this morning!" Nurse twitched
the rumpled bedclothes straight and then thrust his stuffed lamb into
"God is all-knowing, and I'm sure he knows
quite well where to find you without your making all that
"But I'm not sleepy -"
"Lie _down_ Lord Kelric! I daresay God
would appreciate a bit of peace and quiet from you, young man. Heaven
knows that *I* would."
Kelric gave up and lay down on his bed, knowing
that Nurse wouldn't be satisfied by promises today. Not when she stood
with her feet spread apart and her arms crossed that way. She twitched
off his short boots and shook out an extra blanket and spread it over
him, then closed the bed curtains around him. "I don't want to
hear so much as a squeak from this room for the next two hours,"
she told him emphatically before leaving him alone.
Kelric lay still under the blanket but fumed as
the door shut behind Nurse. She was not as smart as Mummy who always
seemed to know when he was about to try something forbidden, but for
all that, she was hard to fool. He had to lie here because she'd come
back to check on him soon to make sure he was doing as she'd told him,
and she was very close to the end of her patience. Very well, he'd lie
still and be quiet, but she couldn't make him go to sleep...