Episode 4 Chapter 5

A fox scurried away from the clanking footfalls of the royal guard. Theodore led them through the darkened bends of the Whirlwood while the Knight Detective consulted a strange handheld device. He adjusted an array of knobs and the machine replied with whirs and clicks.

“Grayweather…” Conrad muttered. “Are you related to THAT Grayweather?”

Theodore did not need to guess who the detective meant. “Yes. He was my father.”

Conrad slowed his pace, looking at Theodore with new and unearned respect.

“I had the honor of being trained by the Hero Champion,” he said.

“You and everyone else.” Theodore felt his skin crawl at this turn of conversation. “He liked to think he was a great teacher.”

“He was more than that,” Conrad said. “I owe a great deal to him. He was my inspiration to serve.”

“I’m happy for you,” Theodore said, wanting to roll his eyes. Whenever his father’s name came up it was the same. People prattled on and on praising the Hero Champion while he stood there hating every moment of it. It was like walking on a splinter you could never get rid of. “I wish I could say the same, but the truth is I hated my father.”

Conrad looked shocked. “Oh.” He kept his stride. “I’m sorry to hear that.” He turned his head to look for signs of their target. “You must have your reasons.”

Theodore focused on the trail head of them. “It’s fine.” He regretted making this awkward. “He was better at being a hero than a father.”

“I never would’ve guessed. He was always so warm with me.”


The detective was eager to talk about it. “I always wanted to become a knight but I was born too small. I was told to give up, but not by your father. Lance knew I could find a place of duty. He was certain anyone could.”

 “He was stubborn about that.” Too stubborn. Perhaps Conrad would’ve made a better son. Theodore snuffed the flicker of anger and looked for something else to talk about. “What is that machine you are using?”

The Knight Detective twisted a dial and the device let out a crackling squelch. “It’s an aura tracker. It’s tuned to respond if the prince is nearby. If we can find his trail again, it will create a magical projection of the path he’s taken.”

Theodore decided to keep a wider berth from the cottage. “It’s not working?”

“We appear to be way off.” He growled with irritation. “The ambient magic is interfering with the signal. Try taking us North.”

They double backed. One of the guards tripped on a tree root and swore.

“This would be easier by lantern light,” Theodore said.

Conrad shook his head. “The prince will be harder to catch if he sees us coming.”

Theodore needed to feign ignorance. “You make it sound like he doesn’t want to be rescued.”

“Of course he doesn’t!” One of the gruffer knights said. “It’s not like he was kidnapped. He ran off! Not the first time, either. Willful brat.”

Theodore led them uphill. “I thought you said a fey creature abducted the prince.”

Conrad shrugged. “If a lamb wanders into a den of wolves, do you blame the lamb or the wolves? The prince was warned. He is an influential human, the future of our kingdom. Lawful or not, there’s no fairy alive who can resist a prize like him.”

No fairy alive? Theodore stifled a laugh. He trusted Oboe with his life. Still, what would happen if the knight detective found out? “What do you plan to do when we find them?”

“We make an arrest. Failing that, we must slay the threat.”

“Slay?!” Theodore balked. “The fairies here are citizens!”

The Knight Detective narrowed his eyes. “Do not forget that our first duty is to protect order in Laien. History books are filled with the meddling of the fey. They have caused kings to fall and usurpers to rise. Their magic profits in tipping the scales of society, in creating chaos.”

Had the detective actually seen Oboe? “Do we know what creature we’re looking for?”

“Yes,” Conrad said. “A doe faun. Based on the colors I’d wager it was a Fallow Summertail. She snatched him and ran before we could stop her. We’ve been playing cat and mouse since then. For all we know, she may have already enchanted the prince. It could account for why the trail has gone cold.”

Theodore took another deliberate wrong turn. “What happens if we can’t find the prince?”

The Knight Detective kept his eyes forward. “It cannot come to that. If we lose the only heir to some fairy’s mischief, the whole kingdom stands to suffer. The Stonewall dynasty has been stable and fair. It is our duty to ensure it continues.”

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