Ch. 6.1 — Back at the castle, King Frances was also in a temper. He shouted as he strode back and forth across his conference room, while his advisors waited in trepidation. Eli, who was hiding in a secret passageway behind the tapestry on the wall, watched the proceedings through a hole in the weaving as he ate a juicy meat pie that he had grabbed from the kitchen counter when Cook wasn’t looking.
“Can’t something be done?” the king said. “We’re being invaded by terrible beasts from the east, and that dragon isn’t doing his job. Can we fire him and hire someone else?”
Crumby, the court lawyer, shook his head. “Sorry, Your Highness, but Guardian of the Eastern Mountains is a hereditary job. Jay’s father had it, and his father before him. If you try to fire him, he’ll come down and destroy the kingdom. We’re just going to have to send out our armies to guard the borders.”
The king groaned. “What can they do against Toves and Bandersnatches? And what am I going to do about that curse? My poor son.”
Duncan, his chief advisor, looked up. “You could get rid of all the swords.”
“That’s a wonderful suggestion,” said the king. “Except for the fact that we need those swords to defend the kingdom from this invasion of monsters. And don’t forget about our enemies, who would love to get their hands on Nelsonia.”
Duncan shook his head. “Our spies have seen no unrest in the troll’s kingdom. They’ve never recovered from the beating King Frederick gave them. I’m sure we’ll be fine.”
“The best thing to do,” said Crumbly, “would be to have guards protecting Ezra twenty-four hours a day. They’ll have axes, staves, and knives, but no swords. Everyone who lives here in the castle, or who comes into the castle, must give up their swords, which will be kept in the barracks under lock and key. Ezra will be banned from the barracks and forbidden to learn to use the sword. The practice swords that the children use must be destroyed. Especially the one that wounded the dragon.”
Eli stopped eating. No! Not his sword. It may have been only a vorpal blade, dull on the edges and suitable for children to practice with, but it was his birthday present.
The king stopped pacing and tugged on his beard. “Hmmm. You may have something there.”
Eli wiped his hands on his pants and stepped out from behind the tapestry into the open. “But Father, why are the monsters leaving Wonderland and invading our country? They’ve never come here before.”
The king leaned over and scooped his son up into his arms. “Why? I know why. It’s because that irrational dragon isn’t doing his job. And how did you get in here?”
He patted Eli on the head. “Now, don’t you worry about things. We’ll figure it out. And isn’t it past your bedtime?”
He kissed Eli, set him down, and swatted him on the behind. “Off you go. Your mother will want to tuck you in.”
Eli trotted from the room through the main door, but he had no intention of going to bed.