Good day everyone. It's been a while. It was strange picking up the boys again after so long but thankfully they've forgiven me and are not only speaking to me but speaking so fast I'm struggling to keep things under 1000 words. Exciting things to come.
The woods are as familiar to me as my garden. Indeed, the woods are my garden. When I was younger, I would play here, with my nurse, then my governess, then my guard. Friends too, of course, although I have always tended to count more animals among them than people. I have somehow built up a reputation as an indulged little prince, and that might be true. However, I believe the reason most children either did not wish to be my friend, or didn’t last very long in the position, was my curious impetuousness – or impetuous curiosity – that led as often to trouble as it did anything else.
I leave behind a string of friends who were irreparably changed – some physically; some mentally – and in the end it was a relief that no one was ever free to play. It pleased me, but not so much my parents as, without someone to check my fearless nature I got into even more trouble – like being snared by or enemy and falling in love with their prince. Despite the whole misery and torture part at the very beginning, this has been one adventure-gone-wrong I would never have missed, and it’s not over yet.
I know that Malik is speaking to Castien inside his head. I also know I could “tune in” if I wished, however, I feel it important that Castien have something to himself, something to be his anchor in all the crazy that is to come. The change was the easy part; now comes changing everyone else. For all that Castien is a prince, he is more sheltered and indulged than anyone every whispered I was.
He seems relaxed and happy, even though he must be unnerved by the woods – if he notices. Our forests are much as those he is used to, but they are more alive. Small faces peep out from everywhere. Some would love to scurry out and say hello. Other’s would be more inclined to sink their teeth in and say “Goodbye.”
Today, everyone is on their best behaviour. I wonder why. It could be that I am here. I am more than familiar with every creature who lives in the forest. Most I could best with my bare hands. I think, though, that the main reason they keep their distances is because of he presence of magic so old and powerful they can’t understand it any more than we can. To be truthful, if I had the choice I would avoid it myself.
I don’t understand this change. In some ways it is subtle and in others as blunt and basic as can be. We are physically different, in subtle ways, mentally too. I think the mental changes are far deeper and more profound. Castien may have lost his freckles to unblemished skin, but he has gained so much confidence and is so full of magic I can see it leaking out of his fingertips and the top of his head. Do I look like that too? I raise my hand but I can’t see anything. That doesn’t mean anything. We are often unable to see our own power.
We are deep in the woods before Castien looks around and draws close to me. Until now, he walked slightly ahead with his hand on Malik’s haunches.
“Do you know where we are?”
I put my arm around his shouders and he melts into my side.
“You are shivering. Are you cold?”
“No, just….” He pushes away slightly and straightens his spine. “I know I have nothing to be frightened of, but it’s getting dark, and I don’t know my way home.”
“Do you think I would abandon you alone in the woods?”
“No.” He swirls to face me. “Don’t ever believe I have no faith in you. It’s just…I’d never been among trees like this until I came here.”
“You’re right about that,” I said, smiling as a nearby oak winks at me. “Don’t worry, we’re almost there. There is a shrine to the Great Mother just ahead. I believe that is where we are going.”
Castien nods and me, but he still appears nervous. I lace our fingers tightly and I notice Malik walks very close to his other side.
“He has a long way to go.” Malik’s voice falls over my mind like refreshing rain. His touch is warm and familiar, although I have not felt it before.
“I will be at his side at every step.”
“As will I. We must be prepared though for there are those who would destroy him if they could. Inside and out. They would do the same to you, but know you have the power to defeat them without a thought. They will exploit his innocence. You must make him see this.”
I am taken back, although a moment’s thought convinces me he is right. There are many who would corrupt Castien if they could; who would hurt him, and as powerful as he is, his mind is still his own, still innocent, confused and uncertain. His body might be stronger, but words could shatter him as well as arrows.
“I’ll be careful. I’ll try to talk to him, but he is naïve and trusting. We must both be watchful.”
It was strange coming to an agreement with an enormous, predatory animal who speaks like a scholar direct into my mind. It is my turn to wonder at my naivety. I had always been sure animal were more intelligent that we ever give them credit for. Now I am surprised I was right? Although, I have a feeling Malik is a very singular cat.
We're a little thin on the ground this week, guys, but still stories well worth reading. If any of my lovely readers feel a tug toward trying their hand flashing then please give any of us a shout and we'll we happy to welcome you on board. Enthusiastic amateurs welcome.