Yet another adventure in the Chronicles of Acharn. This is post the events chronicled in the tale ‘Once Upon a Time’.
The Whipping Boy
“Now, Prince Blair, listen closely.” The tutor brought his hand down in a heavy slap on the school table.
Blair dragged his attention back from the view through the windows overlooking the castle orchard. The summer sun lacing through the trees beckoned. Robyn, the Dryad to the royal family of Acharn, was sunning herself, lying on a wide branch of her Oak. Apples, fresh crispy apples, hung on the trees on the southern face. It would be so much better to climb into the branches and feast as he read what he wanted to read rather than the boring, easy text that the tutor insisted that he drone over.
“What?” Blair snapped back. “I’ve read it. It’s boring. It’s stupid.”
Whitecap, the tutor, inhaled deeply, his sparrow chest thrusting out. “You will read this out loud.”
“No,” Blair said sullenly, he crossed his arms and slumped back in his seat.
Lord Daniel, sitting beside him on the wooden bench, looked at him – his blue eyes wide with trepidation. Classes had become slightly more interesting since Daniel had joined his lessons. But Whitecap still thought that he was a baby. He was six – he knew lots of things. Mags and Matilde, in the kitchens, had taught him herbs, Robyn taught him earth magics and Cindy – the physician – showed him around her apothecary. He had read more books than Whitecap had ever shown him during their morning lessons.
“You will read this passage out loud.”
“No.” Blair picked up the book and threw it at the spindly man with all the force that he possessed.
It bounced off his shoulder and clattered to the floor. The noise echoed through the silent classroom. Bright spots of colour bloomed on Whitecap’s cheek. Blair watched them fascinated, quite unconcerned at the man’s choler.
“Lord Daniel, come here.”
Daniel shot him a reproachful look and sidled off the bench. Dragging his feet, he crossed to the tutor’s side.
“You should not misbehave, Prince Blair.” Whitecap shook his head, dramatically. He reached behind his desk and withdrew a long, willow stick. Stunned, Blair watched as Daniel dutifully held out his hand and Whitecap brought the switch down with a wind whistling slap.
“Stop!” Blair shrieked. “STOP!”
The prince scrambled off the bench rushing round the table. He launched himself at Whitecap hitting him behind the knees. All arms and legs the tutor fell to the floor.
“Bad man. Bad man,” Blair yelled, planting himself firmly on the tutor’s chest and hitting him with his clenched fist. “JIM! JIM!”
Whitecap caught his hands. “Evil brat.”
The schoolroom door swung open, slamming into the wall. Blair’s protector stood in the threshold. Laird Jamie – Lord James of the d’Ellison Clan – held his broadsword, ready to do mayhem.
The laird strode into the room. “Stop!”
The tutor let go of Blair as if burnt.
“Jim!” Blair scrambled to his feet and ran to Jamie’s side. “He hit Daniel. He hit Daniel.”
Daniel stood quietly beside the bookcase, tears streaming silently down his cheeks as he clasped his wounded hand against his chest.
“Lord James.” The tutor gripped the school table and hauled himself to his feet with a huffing breath. His long white hair was adrift from its ponytail, he was flushed bright red. All in all, he looked quite the sight.
“What happened?” Jamie asked evenly.
“He hit Daniel with a stick,” Blair yelled, appalled.
“Lord James…” Whitecap said simultaneously.
“Quiet.” Jamie held out his hand. “Prince Blair first.”
Blair took a deep breath, then blurted, “He got a stick and Daniel held out his hand and he hit him. For no good reason. He just hit Daniel. Daniel wasn’t doing anything.”
Jamie’s eyebrow rose, suspiciously. “Whitecap?”
“Prince Blair refused to carry out my instructions. He threw a book at me.” Whitecap pointed sharply at the book on the floor. “I deemed it sufficient for punishment.”
Blair’s face screwed up as he contemplated the tutor’s words. “You hit Daniel… for me?”
“Why yes, Prince Blair, one does not whip a prince of the Crown.”
Confused, Blair looked at Jamie and then to Daniel, who still cried silently. Watching Whitecap like a hawk, he crossed to Daniel’s side. Carefully, he slung an arm around his new friend’s shoulders. Daniel didn’t move, just hung his head, hiding his face behind a veil of silky red hair. Blair’s mind was whirling; it made no sense. Cassie had smacked him all the time. Now Daniel was to be smacked when he didn’t do what he was supposed too?
“That’s wrong,” Blair announced. “If you hit Daniel again I will have you--” he considered a suitable punishment, “--hung, drawn and quartered.”
He wasn’t too sure what that entailed but he knew that it was worse than brussel sprouts.
Jamie had crossed his arms and was viewing him with the flat expression that meant that he was disappointed. Blair huffed angrily; Jamie was going to lecture him now.
“Prince Blair,” Jamie began. Oh, yes, indeed, Jamie was annoyed.
“No,” Blair yelled over his words. “No. No. No.”
Jamie suddenly loomed over him. Blair could see the glowering black cloud encircling the laird. Little sharp lights flashed around the laird’s head almost like lightning. The cloud roiled uneasily, dark and leaden as a highland storm. The presence of the cloud meant that Jamie was really, truly mad.
“Quiet!” Jim yelled.
Blair clapped his hands over his mouth with a distressed meep.
“You… you… “ Words failed him.
Blair watched the cloud suck into the laird and then the bright light floating around him, smoothed to a flat, unemotionless silver. When the lights – the auras – he saw about people did that, he couldn’t read them. It also meant that they were controlling themselves or coldly angry.
“I am very disappointed in you, Prince Blair.”
That took the wind out of Blair’s sails. “But he’s bad…”
“Prince Blair,” Jamie said quellingly.
Blair desisted, hanging his head, like Daniel, letting his curls fall about his face. Locked in his misery, he almost missed the red-pain filled aura pulsing at his side. He chanced a glimpse at Daniel, he was still silent and tears plopped to the floor.
“Danny’s hurting,” Blair whispered, knowing his Sentinel would hear.
“What?” Jamie crouched before them, the hem of his kilt brushing the wooden floor. “Can I see, Daniel?”
Daniel refused to look up and shook his head. He kept his hand clasped against his chest.
“Please, Daniel, I’ll be very gentle.”
Reluctantly, Daniel held out his hand – cradling it in his other paw. A long red line dotted with blood marred the palm, and blue bruises were already rising.
“Lord James…” Whitecap began.
Jamie twisted his head and glared the man into silence. He turned his attention back to the boy. “That looks very sore, Daniel. I think we’ll take you to see Cindy Lou to make it all better.”
“Cindy will make it all better. She made my arm better when I fell on it,” Blair said helpfully.
Jamie smiled tightly and brushed away the tears on Daniel’s cheeks before picking the child up. Blair latched onto Jamie’s side, refusing to be left behind with nasty, old Whitecap. The Sentinel looked down at him. Since he was still shiny and silver, Blair couldn’t tell what he was thinking.
“Yes,” Jim said slowly. “I wish to get to the bottom of this.”
Blair trailed after Jamie down the stone dressed corridor. He had wanted to get out of the boring old lessons but he hadn’t wanted Whitecap to hit Daniel. His new friend probably wouldn’t like him anymore.
“Why did he really hit Daniel when I didn’t do what he wanted me to do?” he asked Jamie’s retreating back.
“Later, Blair, let’s help Daniel now.”
“I’m sorry, Daniel, I didn’t know he’d hit you. But it’s boring and horrible and boring.”
Cindy’s apothecary room was filled with all manner of interesting things. Blair poked around the shelves as Cindy clucked over Daniel’s sore hand. He knew that the sealed jars on the highest shelves were filled with the dangerous potions and he wasn’t allowed to play with them. But there were plenty of other bits and pieces to grab his interest. The frog hanging suspended in a jar with all its insides on the outside was gruesome.
Blue green healing radiance flared around Cindy grabbing Blair’s attention. She was bowed over Daniel’s outstretched hand. Blair watched the flickering lights and wondered if he could make those colours. He wiggled his fingers before his eyes; he was always bright, gleaming yellow when he focused on his own aura.
“All better.” Cindy patted Daniel’s head as he gazed open mouthed at his hand.
“Doesn’t hurt,” he said amazed.
Blair jogged over to Daniel’s side. “Are we still friends? I didn’t know he’d hit you if I was naughty.”
Daniel nodded slowly.
“I still don’t see why he hit you. He’s a bad man.”
Jamie unfurled from the corner where he had been standing, arms crossed. “Because he’s your tutor.”
Blair scowled. “So,” he argued.
“He’s there to teach you,” Jamie said patiently, “and you should show respect. I’ll have to think of a suitable punishment. I’m very disappointed in you, Prince Blair.”
“No.” Blair shook his head vigorously. “I don’t see why I should do what he says just because he’ll hit me… or Daniel. That’s wrong. He doesn’t listen. We just read that silly book all day. It’s booooooring.”
“Prince Blair.” Jim pursed his lips. “You’ve misbehaved, you should be punished.”
Scowling angrily, Blair stamped his foot. He opened his mouth to speak.
“No.” Jamie pointed a fine boned finger at the prince’s chest. “Throwing temper tantrums will not be tolerated.”
“You going to hit me with a stick?” Blair growled. When Seah had been just Seah and not the Goblin Queen he had read a lot of her books. She had given him one really good one with little, naughty spells.
“Oh.” Blair decided against calling up the fire imp. “What are you going to do?”
“Well, you have to apologise to the tutor.”
Jamie fired a crushing glance in his direction. “And you can help me in the stables this afternoon.”
‘Stables,’ Blair mused, he had never been in the stables.
“Prince Blair, you’re going to learn the fine art of mucking out.”
A snigger filled his ears as Cindy grinned. The physician sometimes thought very loudly and he could almost hear her words. Blair wasn’t too sure what ‘mucking out’ entailed but he guessed that it was nasty. Still grinning she helped Daniel down from his chair.
Daniel shyly thanked her.
Jamie cocked his head to the side in his listening pose. “It’s nearly lunch. Go see Tutor Whitecap and apologise. I will see you in the Great Hall afterwards.”
Blair pursed his lips in the same way Cassie used to before she’d dumped his gruel in the garderobe.
“Prince Blair,” Jamie said with a cutting tone.
Blair grabbed a handful of reed wrack from Cindy’s medicine dresser and twisted it between his fingers.
He huffed, “I’ll ‘pologise.” Stamping his feet, he made his way crossly toward the door.
“Blair, put the reed wrack down.”
Fuming, Blair with deliberate care planted the ridding-herbs back on the medicine table.
Cindy raised a chastising eyebrow in his direction and the prince beat a hasty retreat. Outside the room he debated whether or not to obey, but Jamie had some pretty strange ideas when it came to right and wrong. Blair was of the opinion that if he didn’t get caught he hadn’t done anything wrong.
Grumbling, silently under his breath – ‘cos you never knew when Jamie was listening – and dragging his feet, he made his way back to the schoolroom.
Whitecap was sitting behind the school desk. He had his long feather pen out and was making precise notes on a sheaf of parchment. Quietly, Blair crept to stand at the man’s elbow.
“I *apologise * ‘cos Jamie sez I should,” Blair announced, loudly, making the man jump. The fine nibbed pen gouged a hole in the paper.
“Prince Blair,” he said precisely, “that was not a good apology.”
“Jamie didn’t say I had to make a good apology – he said I had to say the words. I’ve said ‘em. And you’re not to hit Daniel again. That’s bad.”
“I will be speaking to Lord Ellison about your intolerable behaviour. You quite the worst little boy I have ever taught.”
“Good.” Blair smirked.
“If you misbehave your whipping boy will taste your punishment.” Whitecap deliberately turned back to his parchment, his manner dismissing the prince.
Blair seethed angrily. Breathing in and out, he screwed up his anger. He felt ethereal hands fondle his curls and the winds around him began to churn. A gust ruffled Whitecap’s hair and surprised he brushed the strands out of his eyes. In that magic instant, Blair saw a figure, translucent, draped in a mantle formed from icy breath. It rode the winds whipping them to a frenzy around the tutor. Clouds boiled at Whitecap’s feet, slowly rising to engulf him. The icy figure grinned at Blair with sharp pointed incisors in a lipless mouth. Smaller fey plucked at Whitecap’s clothes adding to the winds.
“Goddess.” Whitecap clutched frantically at his long robe as it shifted this way and that. The winds buffeted his body. He stumbled and the storm caught him, lifting him from the floor.
“Blair, Stop it!”
Blair jerked around to see his protector once again barrelling into the room. The pointed toothed fey launched itself toward the Sentinel. Winds boiled and it rode the wind, teeth bared to rend the laird.
“Begone!” Jamie lunged and thrust his sword down the fey being’s throat.
The winds fractured and dissipated with a hollow clap of thunder. Whitecap fell to the floor with a heavy clump.
Both men turned to regard the small prince.
“Ooops,” Blair said innocently. He shielded his bottom with both hands.
Growling, Jamie thrust his sword in its scabbard and stalked across the room.
“I didn’t do it on purpose,” Blair wailed. “It just happened.”
“You are in so much trouble.” Jamie loomed over him.
“I didn’t do it on purpose. They came. I didn’t even think about them. He said he’d hit Daniel again if I was bad. That’s wrong.”
Whitecap crawled on hands and knees out of the schoolroom.
“You can’t call up air elementals to bite your tutor just because you don’t like him.”
Jamie snatched the prince up and braced him against his hip. Blair flailed his arms as his bottom stuck up in the air.
“What the feck am I going to do with you, Chief?”
Jim curried his war horse with firm, calm strokes despite his inner turmoil. The massive grey, Pern, leaned into his brushing. On the other side of the stable, Blair manhandled a too large spade trying to shovel up straw and manure from the grey’s stall.
‘What to do?’ he wondered. The prince had previously shown an affinity with air elementals, but for the most part he had seemed oblivious to them ruffling his curls and playing about him. But now Blair, in a moment of pique, had instinctively called up the werefey to do his bidding. It had been lucky that Jim had had his doubly forged iron broadsword to dispel the elemental. If the child had called them once he would be able to do direct them again. A simple chastisement had almost driven him to commit bloody murder.
The legacy of evil that had taught a wee boy to know true wickedness had made him open to things of which no child should be aware.
Blair was the heir to the Land, if manhandled he could become a tyrant. Yet how did you teach a child that could call up the werefey at a whim to shred the flesh from your bones?
It was frustrating being a child. Who knew what Blair would do if someone dared to yell at him?
Blair tripped over his feet and fell face down in the straw. Despite his dark thoughts Jamie laughed. The prince’s head snapped up, looking at him hopefully.
“Jim!” Suddenly, he launched himself across the stable. Jamie barely had time to catch him. Blair flung his arms around the laird’s waist.
“I’m sorry, I wasn’t trying to be bad.” He wailed into Jamie’s stomach.
“Ssssh,” Jamie soothed.
“I don’t like Whitecap – he’s boring.”
“That’s no good reason for hurting him.”
“He hurt Daniel.”
Jamie sighed and bowed his head. He let his hand rest on Blair’s soft cap of curls. “Well, I’ve been smacked a few times for being naughty. My daddy smacked my bare bottom when I climbed up on the roof of the west tower when I’d been told not to.”
“But--” Blair leaned back in Jamie’s grasp to look at his face, “--he hit Daniel because he didn’t want to hit me. And it wasn’t for any good reason. I was just bored, we’d done that book again and again.”
“Oh, Blair.” Jamie disengaged Blair’s hands and squatted down at the child’s level. “You have to listen to your tutor, he’s been chosen to teach you.”
“I don’t want to go.” Blair leaned against Jamie’s shoulder. “He’s boring.”
“Just because you don’t like the man doesn’t mean that you can ignore him.”
“You’re not listening.” Blair pushed away from Jamie’s shoulder. “He’s small. He doesn’t do anything except Letters. And I don’t want Daniel to be hit. I don’t want to be hit.”
Jamie caught Blair before he could escape. “You haven’t finished mucking out the stall. That’s your punishment for setting the werefey on Whitecap and misbehaving.”
Blair wriggled in his grasp. “I….”
“No.” Jamie deftly set him on his way back to the grey’s stall.
Blair glared at him reproachfully.
“I am listening to you, Blair. I’ll figure out what to do. I’m going to talk to Whitecap. Now--” Jamie clicked his fingers, “--move that manure.”
Heavy hearted, Blair dragged himself back over to the stall. Wielding the over long shovel he continued, cackhanded, trying to clear the muck.
“I’m going to talk to a couple of people. You’re to stay here and continue working. I’m trusting you, Prince Blair, to behave. Do you promise?”
Really far too clumsy to easily do the work, Blair barely looked up as he struggled with the spade. “Yeth, Jim, I promise.”
Jamie set the currying combs on the stall shelf and secured his grey with a short tether. The horse snuffled at his hair affectionately.
“Blair, stay away from the horse, I don’t want you getting in the way of his hooves.” The grey was perfectly trained, Blair could probably play underneath Pern’s legs and he would simply stand stock-still until the child moved.
Hoping that he was doing the right thing, Jamie ducked out the stable.
“Sire.” Jamie bowed humbly to the Wizard Sultan. “A word if I may?”
Simon, sitting at his work desk, set down his pen. “Of course, Lord James.” The sultan beckoned the laird further into the room.
“And I have told you to call me Simon.”
“Yes, Sire,” Jamie said perfunctorily, more concerned with the reason that brought him to plumb the Wizard Sultan’s wisdom.
“Sit.” Simon pointed to the leather backed chair on the other side of the table.
Jamie sat with a sigh. Oblivious to Simon’s furrowed brow, he paused a moment putting his thoughts in order. Allowing him time, the sultan rang a tiny bell for service. Such was the Sentinel’s concentration that he missed the chiming sound. Silently, Rhonda, the Wizard Sultan’s mistress, served them with glasses of foaming sherbet on a fine silver tray.
The laird started. Covering his unease he reached for the yellow beverage. “Something happened today which might escalate out of control.”
“Yes?” Simon said patiently.
“Blair objected to his tutor caning his whipping boy.”
“Caning? Whipping boy?”
“It’s customary for members of the royal family to have a surrogate for punishment.”
Simon leaned back in his chair, his expression contemplative. “You should be proud of the boy. It sounds barbaric.”
Jamie snorted. “‘Tis something I’ve never given much thought. I sent Blair back to his tutor to apologise for misbehaving.”
“I don’t understand. You’ve missed something out.”
“Tutor Whitecap beat Daniel – hard enough – that I took him and Blair to the physician. I then sent Blair back to apologise. Luckily I followed Prince Blair back to the schoolroom. Blair – purely accidentally – called up a werefey on the man.”
Simon sat up straight in his chair. “A werefey?”
“The dark side of the elementals around us.” Jamie gestured aimlessly. “The bringers of storms. The high winds that kill crops. The driving sleet that chills you to the bone. It was about to bite off Whitecap’s head when I entered the room.”
Simon was phlegmatic. “We have always known that the child wields magicks.”
“Aye. But he is a babe – yet he’s figured out how to kill a grown man.”
“Where is he now?”
“I gave him punishment to clear out my grey’s stables.”
“And did he call up the djinn in response to this cruel and unusual punishment? Did you make young Daniel clear up the hay in Prince Blair’s stead?” Simon said in a tone akin to sarcasm.
“No,” Jamie said slowly – knowing that he was missing an undercurrent to the Sultan’s words. ”He’s up to ears in horse shit.”
“So he knows that he has done wrong and has accepted his punishment?”
Jamie nodded his head infinitesimally, seeing where the Wizard Sultan was leading.
“Jamie, Prince Blair loves you. He will accept your fair discipline. I, however, fail to understand your ‘whipping boy’ – I too would have objected to that. I also would have objected to being beaten most strenuously. That Daniel required the services of your physician does not bode well to the character of the tutor.”
“Blair, most emphatically, doesn’t like his tutor.”
“Blair did not like his nursemaid, Cassandra – and look what she did to the child under the aegis of the Goblin Queen. He was almost ruined as a guide.”
Jamie pondered his way through Simon’s words. “Whitecap said that Prince Blair refused to carry out his instructions and that he threw a book at him. Blair in turn says that Whitecap is boring.”
“You know as well as I that Blair is a thousand steps ahead of the tutor’s schooling. He teaches himself after classes and learns from the denizens of the castle. Whitecap is merely a person he endures in the morning before running off to play with his friends.”
“He’s only six… I don’t think it’s fair to force him.”
“Neither is it fair to hold him back. Daniel, no doubt, suffers. The child was chosen as Prince Blair’s companion as he too is a little bookworm.”
“I am going to have to speak with Whitecap and probably dismiss him from royal service, aren’t I?”
“Yes and find decent, capable tutors for two bright little boys. I also think that you should set a moment aside to dwell on this ‘whipping boy’. How do you expect Blair to grow up serve his people when he is responsible for injuring one?”
“That actually sounds like governing the Land,” Jamie said introspectively. “When he is king he will send his people out on dangerous missions.”
“Yes, but Blair is a small child not the king.”
Simon smiled paternally. “So, Jamie, do you have the answer to your problem?”
Jamie half coughed and half snorted. “Yes, sire, your work here is done. Thank you.”
“Excellent.” Simon decanted some more iced sherbet into Jamie’s glass. “It’s nice to be needed.”
Jamie trudged back to stables. He loosened the reins on his hearing. Heavy huffing and puffing filled his ears. On tiptoes he crept into the stables. By the sounds of it, Blair was tucked in behind a wooden wall, still working in the stall opposite the tethered Pern. Jamie bestowed an absent pat on his grey. The young laird then leaned against the wall and overlooked the stall, resting his chin on his crossed arms.
The poor child was a mess. Straw was caught in his chestnut curls. Jamie didn’t need sentinel eyes to see a smudge of dust on his upturned nose. Blair liked to wear comfortable clothes, but Jim had never seen him dirty. Scruffy, yes – dirty, no.
The young laird wondered if it was a really suitable punishment for Blair’s transgression.
The child sighed deeply and continued hauling on – what Jim was surprised to see – was a long chain. Straining, the prince managed to pull out a body length of the interlocking chain. With a startled bleat, he let go and fell back, sprawling flat out on the stable floor.
He simply lay there – arms askew – tired out.
“Jim?” Blair’s head flopped to the side. “I can’t move it, it’s too heavy. Will you help me?”
“Of course.” Jamie skirted around the wall. Blair had made a haphazard job of cleaning the war horse’s stall. It wasn’t a deft job, but it was heartfelt job.
The laird traced the chain along the far wall. The stable master must have stored it in the far corner. He made a note to have words with the man – he didn’t want his horse’s hooves damaged.
“Are you still angry with me, Jim?”
Blair was staring up at him hopefully.
“Not any more. But you know that you were naughty, don’t you?”
“‘Cos I threw the book at Whitecap or ‘cos of the thingy with the teeth?”
Jamie glanced sideways at the prince. “What do you think?”
Blair huffed miserably, before bending down to scour up an armful of straw. “I think both.”
“Got it in one, Chief.” He ruffled the prince’s curls.
“Ah, Jim…” Blair batted his hand.
“I’ve spoken with the Queen, she’s sending for a new tutor. Whitecap has been dismissed.”
“Yes!” Blair exulted.
“Ah, a, ah,” Jamie chastised.
Blair deliberately reigned in his enthusiasm, but the glint was in his eyes.
“Whitecap shouldn’t have hit Daniel so hard that he had to see Cindy…”
“He shouldn’t hit,” Blair said emphatically.
“You match the punishment to the doer and the crime,” Jamie said profoundly. “He shouldn’t have hit you.”
“If I was really, really, truly bad you’d smack me?”
“I don’t know.” Jamie started to haul out the chain. “What are you planning on doing that is really, really, truly bad.”
“Uhm… put reed wrack in Whitecap’s porridge?”
Jamie pondered thoughtfully. “No, I wouldn’t smack you for that. I might make you clean out the garderobe afterwards, though.”
“Uhm, Daniel and me ‘xploring the secret passages without permission?”
“Really?” Jamie decided that that was the voice of naughtiness speaking. “That would probably mean porridge for breakfast, dinner and tea and lots of stable cleaning.”
“Hmmm,” Blair said profoundly. His little face scrunched up as he thought. “What would I have to do to get you to hit me with a stick, Jim?”
The laird set down the chain to give better attention to his charge. Blair was waiting, not even joggling in anticipation. The smudge of dust on his nose gave him a gamin quality, but it wasn’t a six year old looking out of those sapphire blue eyes. The man that Blair might grow up to be gazed up at him.
“I can’t think of anything that you could do that would make me think you deserve a beating,” Jamie said seriously. “And I’m pretty sure that you won’t do anything that deserves a beating.”
“Even that toofy thing again?” Blair hazarded.
“That was very bad. Blair -- and this is serious… very serious –- you can’t do that again. Because you did that you’re going to get new tutors. You’re going to have to learn why that was bad and why you should never do it. The toofy thing was a werefey. If I hadn’t come into see you when I did, Tutor Whitecap would have been hurt. Did you want that?”
Blair shook his head vigorously. “I just got angry and it come.”
“Yes, I know. That’s why you’ve got me. If I’m not there – and I bet you I won’t be far away – come and tell me what the problem is and together we’ll sort it. I didn’t listen straight away today, and I’m sorry about that. But we both have to learn to be…”
“Sentinel and Guide.” Blair smiled proudly.
“Guide and Sentinel.”
Blair laughed exuberantly – his chortles were joyfully infectious. Today had been a stressful day; Jamie had feared for his prince knowing that wielding such violent magicks could have corrupted Blair in a heartbeat. But that laugh, that happy, joyful laugh did not come from a diseased soul. Jamie opened his arms and Blair needed no second encouragement. He leaped, flinging his arms around Jamie’s neck, his hug a promise of their future.