NaNoWriMo Day 8 Part 1
posted at: 11/9/2014

"It all started 70 years ago..." For the next two hours, Herford described the history of his rivalry with Galloway, a wizard from the South. It was a thrilling tale--filled with fireballs and wind storms and floods and more creative stunts like the time Herford had turned all of Galloway's belts into snakes or when Galloway had turned all of the stilts on Herford's house to rubber. Matilda may have dozed off once or twice, but she managed to rouse herself. Halfway through the telling, the kid reappeared and fell onto the bed. Instantly asleep.

Finally, the narrative began to wind down. "...and you can see why I had let my guard down. I thought he had finally given up. Or at least run out of ideas. You can imagine that I was surprised to find myself a rabbit, but once I find out how to change myself back, I'm going to think of something that'll finally end this."

Matilda shook herself fully awake. "Why didn't I know about all of this? You never mentioned it in all the years I've known you."

The rabbit shrugged. "It's wizard business. We don't really talk about it."

"But you were stuck outside. In the winter. As a rabbit. Wasn't that a little, well, inconvenient?"

"Oh of course it was, but it's these things that help you grow. As a person and as a wizard."

"And you don't know how to turn yourself back."

"Not yet. Just give me a few days to look through my library and I'll find something."

"I don't have a few days, Herford. I need your help."

"Ah yes. I had forgotten about that. What can I do for you, Maddy?"

Matilda slumped in her chair. "I honestly don't know. You really don't know anything that's been happening in the kingdom since you became a rabbit?"

"Nothing at all."

"I'll have to summarize, then." She hestitated before starting--holding back tears. It was going to be difficult to say it all out loud. Herford looked on with concern, but didn't interrupt. "You know that Kevin had been

sick for quite a while. He, well, he passed away. Shortly after I sent you that last letter."

Herford's ears drooped. "I'm so sorry. He will be greatly missed."

Matilda sighed. "He will." She paused for a few seconds before continuing. "And of course, Francis took the throne. He had been practically ruling for so long while his father was ill that it seemed natural." Herford nodded and Matilda kept up her summary. "Things were going so well but Charles..." She stopped and shook away more tears before picking up the narrative again. "Charles decided that it wasn't fair. He wanted the throne. I think there was something about Kevin saying before he passed that he had always thought Charles would be a good king. You know what he was like when he was sick, Herford. He said all kinds of things. He told me once that he thought we should keep more mice in the court to scare away elephents. I've never even seen an elephant. Anyway, for months Charles kept telling me that he thought I'd understand that it was what his father had wanted--for him to be king--and that everyone would get used to the idea. Then..." She stopped again. "then, he had Francis killed."

Herford gasped and fell out of his chair. On the ground now, he shook his head slowly to clear it. "He...what? He..." Matilda looked at him sadly and he hopped over and patted her foot with his paw. "Oh, Maddy. I'm sorry."  After a few minutes of silence, both of Herford's ears shot up. "How are George, Marissa, and Stephen?"

With her head in her hands, Matilda murmured. "George was at his country estate in Delphshire. And Marissa and Stephen were visiting his parents. I talked with some of the castle servants. You know how they always know everything. Anyway, the talk among them was that Charles is planning a banquet to honor the memory of his brother and father and George, Marissa, and Stephen are coming. The servants were all certain that there would be three assasinations at the banquet."

Herford's jaw dropped open. "How...barbaric. When is this banquet supposed to be?"

"Ten days from the day I left. So, eight days from now."

"And you sent them a message?"

"I tried. My messages don't make it out of the castle anymore. I'd go and meet them on the road, but I'm not exactly fast. Or stealthy. And Charles has hired bandits to patrol the villages posing as royal guards. I guess

Captain Herman wouldn't give him any real royal guards for that task. That's a good sign at least."

"True. It would be hard to keep Charles from becoming king if the Captain of the Guard backed him."

"And I think he was having me followed. They knew when I left--before I even reached the village they were looking for me."

Herford scratched his whiskered chin. "You didn't leave on Frederick's boat did you?" Matilda nodded. Herford continued. "And are there guards posted on the walls at night?"

Matilda slapped her forehead with her palm. "Ah! That's obvious isn't it? I should have known the wall guards would see me."

"You can't think of everything. You had a lot on your mind already."

"That's no excuse. I'm slipping. It's been too long since my questing days."
 
"Well, not that long considering the circumstances. Tell me more about the quest you've been on. Who's kid is that?"

"I don't know who he is. He won't tell me his name. He said his Pa told him not to tell anyone his name or his father's profession."

"That's suspicious."

"It is. I wonder if his father is an official in the castle. He knows Cagil and, apparently, Cagil knows he and his father."

"Hmm."

"He did rescue me from a pair of thieves. And he's been good to have around."

"Maybe you should start at the beginning."

As quickly as she could, Matilda summarized the events of the last day and a half. She was tired and wanted to go to bed but knew that Herford deserved an explanation. When she had finished, he yawned and said "We'll have to think of something to do in the morning, but for now I think it's time for bed." He conjured up a cot for Matilda and small cat bed for himself. Soon, all three had drifted off to sleep.