NaNoWriMo Day 11 Part 1
posted at: 11/12/2014

Cindy blushed slightly and turned to the rabbit. "Oh! I'm sorry about that. It's just, the pheasant was the one talking."

Herford made his best attempt at a bow. "That's quite alright. You couldn't have known." When he spoke, Cindy glanced over at Reginald, as did the eyes that were peeking out from behind the corner. It was difficult to look at the rabbit while the voice came from the pheasant.

The company moved inside and found themselves in a cozy sitting room that connected to a spacious kitchen. It smelled like baking bread and wood smoke. Mrs. Weisgarber caught the owner of the pair of eyes that had watched their conversation--a tall, skinny boy, not many years older than Amaranth--and said, "Pete, could you move a chair over to the fire. The Queen Mother will want to rest her feet. The boy nodded and silently stalked off to find a chair. While he was accomplishing this task, Mrs. Weisgarber began preparing a meal for the hungry travellers. "And I assume your driver will need his dinner, too. Will he be joining us inside or will he stay out with your, er, animal?"

"Oh no, he's not a servant, Cindy. He's one of my travelling companions."

Mrs. Weisgarber blushed again. "I didn't know. It's just that, he's so young and he went off with the cart so naturally I thought..."

Matilda waved a hand. "I know. It was a perfectly natural thing to think. Just don't let him know that you thought he was a servant. He'd probably be offended. You know boys his age."

Cindy looked slightly confused by this last statement, as if she had an entirely different idea of boys his age, but she only said, "I suppose" and kept chopping carrots. It wasn't long before a hearty stew was bubbling above the fire in the hearth.

Mr. Weisgarber and Amaranth returned shortly before it was finished. The boy was glowing with news about the inhabitants of the stable. "...And they have a big grey one names Hermes! Do you know who Hermes was? Mr. Weisgarber says Hermes is the fastest horse they have but he's really tricky and always tries to escape. And there's Apollo, who kicks everyone he can. They have to keep him in a special pen." It was a few minutes before he had told the Queen Mother about every horse in the stable. By the time he had finished, the soup had been served and the travellers were sitting down to eat it. The Weisgarber's, including the reclusive Pete who sat in a quiet corner, chatted lightly with the trio while they ate their soup. Well, Amaranth and Matilda ate the stew while Herford crunched on raw carrots and celery.

When the meal was over, Cindy gathered up the dishes and gave Mr. Weisgarber a look. Jack nodded and turned to Matilda. "Now Amy, we've been hearin' a lot of rumors about you all around the kingdom so we were hopin' you'd be able to set some of those straight for us. Do you mind tellin' us your story, startin' this January? That's when things seemed to start gettin' a little out of hand at your castle over there."

"I'm surprised you don't know everything already. Haven't you been keeping up with things?" Matilda asked.

Jack sat back in his chair and put his hands behind his head. "Oh, we've been keepin' up. It's just that it seems like everyone I talk with has a different opinion on it."

Once again, the Queen Mother recounted the tale of the last six months of her life. When she had finished, Mrs. Weisgarber looked uneasy and Mr. Weisgarber let out a low whistle. "Now Amy, let me tell you what we've been hearin' on our runs. Pete takes the potions up for the barrels at the castle and he heard talk there that you had gone crazy in your grief and killed Francis" Everyone looked at Pete, who hunched his shoulders up and nodded timidly. His father continued. "I didn't believe any of it and I didn't think anyone would be silly enough to believe it, but then I stopped at a few of the villages to check on the trap doors and such. I started hearin' the same sort of thing from the townsfolk. They were all whisperin' about how sad it was and how they hoped that someone would find you. There's shady lookin' mercenaries in a lot of the towns, tryin' to find you 'for your own good.'" Matilda furrowed her brow and started fiddling with the hem of her cloak, but Jack had more to say. "I didn't hear a bit of sense about it until I stopped at the Blue Pigeon and had a talk with Cagil. He said that he had seen you and talked to you and that he knew you weren't crazy. He's been tellin' everyone who mentions it to him that same thing, too."

The Queen Mother smiled slightly, but she still looked worried. "Good old Cagil."

Cindy had finished up washing dishes and came to stand beside her husband. "And we know you're not crazy and that you're telling the truth about what's been happening. We'll help you in whatever way we can."

During this conversation, Amaranth had edged his way over to the corner where Pete was sitting. Pete shrunk away and tried to ignore the newcomer but Amaranth insisted on being heard. He tapped pete on the shoulder and said in a whisper, "Hey. Hey! HEY!" The reluctant youth finally turned towards his accoster who whispered, "Why're you putting potions in barrels at the castle?"

A sense of family pride overcame Pete's natural timidity. He spoke. In a whisper. "You haven't heard of the Weisgarbers?" Amaranth shook his head. "It's supposed to be a secret." Pete glanced at his mother, who was busy in the kitchen, before continuing. "We're the reason the adventurers survive."