This time it would be different.
Although, just how different that different would be, Melch wasn’t quite certain. All he knew was that the king should not be able to get away with it. Even if he was king… especially if he was king.
After all, this was no longer the Century of Filing Cabinets, this was the modern world.
As court wizard, Melch felt he had a particular responsibility. He was one of the inner circle, the High Privy Council.
Melch shuddered. That was another thing; the king ought to be persuaded not to take the ‘privy’ in Privy Council, so literally. Especially not in cabbage season.
Although, this was the Autumn Kingdom, its only real season was cabbage season. It rarely had a summer, and you could only tell the winters by the increased amount of rain you had to empty out of your boots.
Melch had been ambitious once. He’d wanted to see the world, see the highest mountains, deepest rivers, strangest and fiercest animals and to see if what they always said about the Girls from the Summer Islands was true.
But now here he was, old and grey… old and white… and still stuck in the Autumn Kingdom serving a king who’s idea of sophistication was to wipe himself on the curtains after visiting one of his serving wenches in the middle of the night.
No wonder the queen spent her time down on the jousting field watching the brave young knights wielding their lances.
It was probably why the king had so many bastards running around the castle and no heir… except for… but who had ever heard of a queen ruling any land?
Melch shook his head and stroked his beard. He knew you couldn’t allow women to run things. They were too good at it. Kinging and wizarding – he stood a little taller as he made his way down the crumbling corridor – they were things that only men could bugger up properly.
Although, how his wizarding had over the years morphed into now becoming a tutor for the little… little princess he had no real idea.
Melch had a vague memory of him and the king, rather drunk… well, drunk enough to start waxing philosophically without too much embarrassment. The king had suggested he’d look favourably upon any of his court who could as he put it ’civilise the stuck-up little bitch’. So that when it came time to marry her off they wouldn’t have some prince knocking on the castle gates a couple of days after the wedding demanding a refund of the bridal price.
Melch was sure there had also been some talk of a high-level diplomatic mission to the Summer Islands for anyone willing to help the king out in this regard. Although, since Melch had volunteered, the King had not mentioned the Summer Islands again. Melch wished he’d got the deal in writing, but since the king didn’t read or write, he wasn’t sure how much help that would be.
Two maids ran down the corridor past him, one bleeding and screaming, the other crying and limping. They’d left the door open in their haste to leave, but still Melch knocked.
‘Your Highness,’ he said.
The teenage girl in the room did not look up; she was wiping blood from the blade of a dagger. ‘Servants, these days.’ She shook her head, and then looked up. ‘Ah, Melch. I have decided.’
‘What have you decided your highness? If I may ask?’
‘I’ve decided to become a wizard,’ she said, checking the sharpness of the blade in her hand.
Melch swallowed. ‘Very g… good, your highness.’
‘I ‘m sure it will help me when it is my time to rule this kingdom,’ she said. ‘Now come and teach me everything you know.’
‘Yes, your highness.’ At least that wouldn’t take him too long.