Until the Queen came back to court.
He was in awe of both king and queen and remained polite and careful, even when the king joked with him. He had not problems with either. Their son was a different problem.
Prince Jero had a magic instructor who barely taught the boy the basics. Woodlyn soon realized why. Jero had a temper and he was used to getting what he wanted.
He wanted to learn more magic.
They were headed for a collision and Woodlyn was already considering where he'd go to work next, if he survived.
"I'm telling my father to get rid of you," Jero said as he walked into Woodlyn's room without so much as knocking.
The twelve-year-old sauntered across the room. The guard stood at the door and with the boy's back to him gave a sign Woodlyn was starting to recognize. Jero was in one of his moods today.
Ink capped, quill put aside, magic book closed and locked; he took no chances. He gave the boy a bit of a nod, though not quite a bow. He saw Jero's blue eyes narrow.
"Is there something you need, Prince Jero?"
"Didn't you hear what I said?"
"Yes. What do you want?"
Jero stared at him, shocked.
Shouts in the courtyard interrupted any tirade.
The guard grabbed Prince Jero before he crossed to the window. Woodlyn moved cautiously to the opening, his hand ready, though he really didn't have much magic and suspected he couldn't do much.
There was a battle in the courtyard. And they had a real mage with them too. He looked over his shoulder. "Tell me Mage Amis is back."
The guard shook his head.
"What? You too cowardly to go do your work?" Jero demanded.
The guard actually shook the boy. "Be silent. Your life depends on it now."
Jero looked up at the tall man and then at Woodlyn . . . And maybe for the first time in his life he was reconsidering how rude he'd been before. He wisely shut his mouth and Woodlyn found he had hope for the spoiled brat after all.
"What should we do?" the guard asked. Asked him, as though he had any idea.
"Let's get to the king and queen. I might be the only mage of any power around here right now."
Which was a problem, because first he wasn't much of a mage. Second . . . He had the feeling Amis left for a reason.
They found panic out in the halls. No one knew where to go, and the servants were fast disappearing into their own little nooks and crannies, knowing the ways of invaders. Those people would be glad to find the servants alive later.
The three ended up in the south wing's hall where the king, queen and a few soldiers had gathered.
The king scowled when they entered, and that anger was turned to him.
"I thought you would be gone with the others," he said with a glare.
"They knew better than to ask."
He shocked the man with his answer, but won a nod of approval from the Queen. The guards accepted him without question. He'd been part of the army for a while. They had long memories.
So did he.
"Amis never believed I was smart or powerful. He was right in the one -- but you don't have to be powerful if you're smart."
"You have a plan?" General Ryfeb asked, frowning.
"Get them inside."
"And then?" the king said.
"There is something mages do to control apprentices who lose control of a spell. It's simple and blunt, but I think it will work, mostly because this mage isn't going to expect it. We have to make him think he's won."
So they sat up the plan -- simple and quick because they didn't have much time. The king, queen and prince met the invaders in the main hall. Others gathered there, including Woodlyn in the crowd. Most didn't know the plan, and the fear and near panic helped cover Woodlyn who had to work to get into the right position.
The invading general and his pet mage had walked right up to the throne. Foreign soldiers followed, weapons in hand -- that would a problem for others.
"You no longer rule here," the general said, a harsh accent -- northern.
"I refuse to step down," the king answered.
This surprised the man, but he gave a nod to the mage, who lifted his hands. People cried out in fear.
And Woodlyn moved.
He hadn't lied about the blunt force. He launched himself straight at the mage, his own power in hand, but it was the act of knocking him down that allowed him, a much weaker mage, to get the upper hand. Surprise. He couldn't have done it otherwise --
The foreign mage was strong. Power surged through him, and Woodlyn had to fight to keep it contained, to make certain no one else was injured --
General Ryfeb had the sword Woodlyn had done his best to make impervious to magic. The man rushed forward and shoved the weapon into the mage's back, the blade cutting a bit of Woodlyn's arm while a different battle took place around them. He only had to hold on to the magic. Keep it controlled. Save them. . . .
A light flickered by the bed. Candle. Night. Woodlyn opened his eyes, knowing he should worry --
No. He was alive, so they had won.
Jero leaned over the bed, surprising him. The boy had been very quiet until now.
"Please," Jero whispered. "Please teach me how to be brave."
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