Episode 4 Chapter 21

Theodore was blinded by harsh daylight as he emerged from the dungeon with Conrad.

“What are you going to do with her now?” Theodore asked.

Conrad massaged his wrists. “She’s given us no choice. If she won’t budge then her case will go to trial. It will be a waste of time, though. Illegal enchantment on royalty? Refusing to help us locate the victim? There isn’t a Justice serving in the court who would settle for less than a death sentence.”

No. There had to be another option. Theodore wracked his memory for loopholes.

“There’s no evidence she’s done anything. We still haven’t found the boy. The spell can be undone.”

Conrad gave him a skeptical look. “She’s given a full confession, Grayweather. There’s no room for argument. The heir could be dead for all we know and she’s all we have to blame.”

Theodore wanted to say that he was the one to blame. Oboe warned him this might happen and he chose to ignore her. This was his fault.

“She doesn’t deserve this. She would never hurt anyone. The prince must have forced her.” Those were the words he settled on.

“Perhaps you’ve been living among wild creatures for too long,” Conrad said. “Do not forget the purpose of your role. The Ranger Deputy is meant to placate and keep the creature population under control. I understand you have history with this fairy but don’t let that blind you. They aren’t human. A creature can be your friend, but tempt them with enough and they show you how wild they really are.”

Theodore felt a spark of anger but said nothing. He was already too close to playing his hand. Conrad studied his face. His silence must have given something away.

“Forgive me,” Conrad said. “I don’t mean to imply you are naïve. You are good at your job and perhaps that means caring more for magic creatures than is normally wise. I’m grateful for everything you’ve done and am counting on your continued support.”

Something clicked in Theodore’s mind. “You asked the king to task me with helping.”

Conrad nodded. “I’d like you to head the search party with me.” He looked away. “I think we’d work well together.”

Theodore hesitated. “No.” The prince would flee if confronted by a party of armed knights. What Theodore needed was to talk to the him one on one. That was his best shot at persuading him.

“I work better alone. I will do an independent search.”

The Knight Detective raised an eyebrow. “I don’t see the benefit of that. My team will be far more effective if we have access to your expertise.”

“No. I can’t.” Theodore struggled to find a more concrete excuse. “I’m going to do this my way.”

Conrad looked hurt. “I suppose I can’t force you.” He reached into his coat and retrieved the tracking device he had used in the valley. “Then take this. I’ve had more aura trackers made up from hair samples. It should help, but only if you can find where he has been recently. If you can manage that, it will conjure a visualization of the direction he went.”

Theodore took the device with some relief. It was handheld with protruding antennae and a complicated array of switches and buttons. “Thank you.” Perhaps there was hope after all.

“Good luck,” Conrad said. “We’ll both need it.”

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