Kelric sat up and
yawned, rubbing his eyes. The sunlight no longer made a bright stripe
across his bed through the gap in the bed curtains, and the nursery
was very quiet. He eased his way out of the bed and tiptoed over to
his stool beneath the bedroom window. The shadows on the grass in the
garden below looked as they did late in the afternoon and the Green
Tower was bathed in golden light. Kelric felt cross with himself -
he'd slept through almost the entire afternoon.
Nurse was sitting by an open west-facing window
in the Nursery, working on the new dress she was making herself for
Michaelmas. She smiled at him in her friendliest way when he poked his
head out the door, herself again.
"Quite a nap for a boy who wasn't
sleepy," she teased as he joined her, and stroked his
sleep-rumpled fair hair. "I was wondering if you'd sleep all the
way until supper, little imp."
Kelric looked around the empty and now tidy
room. His knights had been lined up on their shelf again, with
Briony's large family of dolls sitting on the shelf above them. There
was no sign of his sister.
"Your Lady Mother sent for your sister to
come make her curtsey to Her Majesty and the Princess Husniyya more
than an hour ago," Nurse explained. "Lady Moira hasn't
brought her back, so she must still be there."
"An' Mummy didn't send for *me* too?"
Kelric was crushed.
"Well you _were_ fast asleep, poppet,"
Nurse comforted, once again caressing his hair.
Kelric sniffed, unimpressed. Mummy was still
angry with him about the honey, then, or she would surely have wanted
him to come to her chambers, too.
"Sometimes girls and ladies like to keep
apart from gentlemen, even very small ones," Nurse said.
"Cook sent up a shortbread cake for your afternoon treat. After
you've finished it, then we can go for a walk in the garden, and maybe
you'll see His Majesty."
Kelric brightened a little and ate the special
shortbread biscuit that accompanied his customary afternoon cup of
milk with pleasure. But even the treat didn't make up for Mummy's
sending for Briony and not for him. He pulled on his boots again, and
suffered Nurse to wash his face and hands and comb his hair although
he was impatient to go outside. If he got to see the King, then he
wouldn't feel so bad about not seeing Mummy.
It was a warm, bright late afternoon with a
pleasant, sea-scented breeze wafting over the garden. Kelric felt
better while Nurse walked with him down one of the garden paths that
led to a summerhouse that looked down over the city of Coroth and
Coroth Bay far below. Wistaria vines had been trained over the wooden
trellis overhead, turning the late afternoon sunlight into a pleasant
green-gold speckly pattern on the flagstone path. Three men stood in
the summerhouse, looking out to sea and they turned at the sound of
his and Nurse's footsteps on the path. Kelric saw at once that the
tallest and darkest of them was indeed his royal godfather, King
The king smiled and bent down low as soon as he
saw Kelric, then clapped his hands before extending his arms - the
familiar signal that he might be approached at a run. Kelric pelted
toward him was swooped up and held high over the King's head at the
full length of his arms. Then he was pulled down for a quick hard hug.
"Kelric Alain Morgan, where have you *been*
all day?" the King asked. "I didn't see you this morning
when we arrived."
Kelric threw his arms around the King's neck and
hugged him tightly, feeling happier than he had since before
"Thank you Nurse, you may go." The
King nodded pleasantly to Nurse in acknowledgement of her curtsey.
"We'll send for you if Lord Kelric needs you." Nurse bobbed
obediently and turned back down the flagstone path.
"Has your Daddy been keeping you in a
locked box somewhere today?
"We-ell," Kelric drawled.
"What was it this time?" King Kelson
asked laughing. "You didn't push your sister into the fountain
again, did you?"
"No, but Mummy was just as cross."
"Why don't you come sit in my lap and tell
me what happened then?"
He sat down on the window seat of the
summerhouse with Kelric perched in his lap. Kelric told his godfather
the whole story. One had to obey the King, after all.
"I didn't _mean_ to make a mess, I was just
interested," Kelric concluded.
The King burst out laughing as did Lord Dhugal
and Bishop Duncan. Kelric was ashamed of himself; He had forgotten to
say hello to the other two and they were nearly as nice as the King.
He was too happy to feel ashamed for long, though; he'd made everyone
laugh. If a King and a Duke and a Bishop thought it was funny, then
maybe his playing with the honey hadn't been so very bad.
"What is it?"
"Can you order Mummy to forgive me? She was
awfully cross with me, and I haven't seen her all day."
"I could do that," the King said
slowly. "But Kel, forgiveness doesn't quite work that way."
"Oh." Kelric hung his head in
"Forgiveness is like love, Kelric,"
Bishop Duncan said kindly. "It has to come from the heart or it
doesn't mean anything."
"I'll bet I know what would work much
better than my ordering your mummy to forgive you," King Kelson
said. "If you give her a hug the next time you see her, and tell
her you're sorry you made a mess this morning, I think she 'll want to
be friends again. She loves you very much no matter how messy or dirty
you get, I promise you."
"I dunno-oo," Kelric drawled.
"She was terrifical angry this morning."
"Being clean and tidy is more important to
ladies than it is to us," the King consoled. "And it's
especially important to a lady when she's your mother. "Your
Mummy is a very important lady, and she's the mistress of a very great
castle. That's a lot of work even on an ordinary day. And when I come
for a visit, it makes a lot of work on top of that. No matter where I
go, I always seem to bring a lot of people with me, don't I?"
"And so does the Orsal, and this time, we
both brought our wives along, which has kept your Mummy very busy all
day. She was probably hoping to find you all clean and ready to go
downstairs when we came, and instead, she found you playing with the
honey and getting it all over yourself and your best new tunic."
"But you thought it was funny, Sire. Why
"I wasn't the one who had to clean you up
afterwards, was I?" King Kelson said chuckling. "There's
nothing stickier in the world than a sticky three year-old. I didn't
have to make your new tunic, either and I'll bet Mummy worked very
hard to have it ready for today."
"Don't worry too much about it, Kelric,"
Lord Dhugal comforted. "Your Mummy will forgive you, I'm sure.
You should hear about some of the things your godfather used to do
when he was a boy."
"Don't go corrupting an innocent child,
Dhugal," the King rebuked, still laughing. "And don't look
so superior. You know very well that you were my accomplice more than
half the time--"
"If not all the time," Bishop Duncan
added, eyeing Lord Dhugal sidelong with a knowing grin.
"And Rhemuth Castle is somehow still
standing after all the pranks the two of you pulled together,"
Daddy's voice came from the entrance to the summer house. He made the
King an easy half-bow as he came up the two shallow steps to join
them. "What do you say we all go up to my study before supper?
We've nearly an hour. Duke Matyas has just sent me a very interesting
scroll from Beldour - he says it's a Healer's text from an old
Torenthi schola, but it's all written in Greek, and the copy hand is
not easy to understand in places. Duncan, your Greek is infinitely
better than mine."