Chapter 8.1 Banished —
Colin and Bernice were hauled before the king the next day. Eli watched from his usual hiding place as the witch and wizard humbly apologized, but the king was in no mood to listen.
“Because your magic salve healed the children’s burns, your lives are spared. However, the gifts you gave my son were a joke. I expected much, much more. You are both banished from the city. Your membership in the Nelsonia Magical Guild has been revoked.”
The king took their membership cards and tore them up. “You are forbidden to give any more gifts at baby name days in this kingdom. Now get out of my sight.”
Two guards escorted the unhappy witch and wizard from the castle. Eli and his mother caught up to Colin and Bernice just as they were leaving the courtyard.
“Wait!” Queen Natalie called out.
Queen Natalie and Eli both wore long cloaks with a hood, but Colin and Bernice recognized them and bowed to them. “Your Highnesses.”
The guards frowned at each other, then stood at attention and saluted. “Your Highness.”
Eli’s mother gave the guards a stern look. “This meeting never took place.” She motioned with her hand. “Some privacy, please.”
One of the guards cleared his throat. “Yes, your Majesty.” They stepped away, turned and looked through the gates and out over the busy town.
With tears in her eyes, the queen handed a bag of gold to Colin. “You saved my sons’ lives. You deserve so much more than to be cast out. You also deserve payment for your magic salve. This is all I can manage right now, but if you are ever in need, please send a message to me, and I will find a way to aide you.”
Ch. 8.2 — The Queen’s Gift —
Colin and Bernice sank to their knees.
“Thank you so much,” said Colin. “And we too will come and help you in a time of need.” He paused. “If we can get back in.”
Eli danced with excitement.
“Where will you go now?” asked the queen.
Bernice pointed to the west. “We’re due in Saltonia to give gifts to the baby princess on her name day. After that, I’m not sure.” She glanced over at Colin and blushed.
Eli giggled. “I know! You should get married, build a house in the Tulgey Wood, and live happily ever after.”
His mother smiled. “My son has been reading too many stories, but he is right. You are perfect for each other. Now, I happen to know that the priest spends this time of day meditating alone in the church. Shall we pay him a visit?”
Colin took Bernice’s hand. His eyes twinkled. “What a wonderful idea. Bernice, would you do me the honor of marrying me? It seems I will be buying some property out in the country. I will do my best to make you happy.”
Bernice blushed again. “You don’t really know me.”
He kissed her hand. “After spending a few days with you in prison, I’ve seen your best and worst sides. I think we would do very well together.”
Queen Natalie led them to the church, where Colin and Bernice married quietly without fanfare. Eli and his mother, both in disguise, were their only guests. Afterwards, the happy couple set out on the back road to the land of Saltonia.
Eli and his mother returned to the castle. “Best not to mention this morning’s events to your father,” said Queen Natalie when they reached the nursery. “He has enough to worry about.”
Eli hugged her. “Of course not, Mama. Thank you for helping them.”
She hugged him back. “Dear little Eli, try to stay out of trouble for the rest of the day.”
Eli kissed her cheek. “I will.” Then he scurried down to the kitchen to see if Cook had made any tarts.