Ch. 13.6 The Royal Family —
“Hello, everyone,” Ezra said cheerfully as he slid into his seat at the table.
At that moment, Franklin burst into the dining room. His face was bright red with the exertion of running down three flights of stairs and across the great hallway. He scowled at Ezra as he mopped his brow.
“Franklin, what took you so long?” Ezra grinned.
Esther frowned. “Stop teasing him. He can’t help being slower than you.”
“And fatter and stupider,” Ezra muttered under his breath. Esther kicked him in the shins. “Ow. Sorry.”
He looked over at his brothers, who were shoveling in great mouthfuls of mashed potatoes, roast beef, and creamed beans. Their great, tanned arms bulged with muscle, and their shoulders burst out of their vests. They were manly warriors, brave and handsome, all three of them. Ezra looked down at his thin, wiry body and sighed.
His father looked up from his meal. “Ezra, I’ve had six complaints about you today.”
“Only six? I’ll have to do something about that.” He winked at Eli.
King Frances glared at him. “You certainly will. I had twelve complaints about you yesterday.”
Ezra’s brothers snorted with laughter.
Ch. 13.7 Complaints — The King squinted at the list that his attendant handed him. “You set all the horses in the stables free into the meadow. It took three hours to recapture them.”
“Father, they needed a holiday. Do you know what it’s like to carry those suits of armor all the time? Brutal.” His brothers snorted and coughed as they tried not to laugh.
King Frances cleared his throat. “The cleaning staff caught you swinging from the chandelier in the ballroom. The guards said you climbed out your third floor window and scaled down the wall.”
“So? I was checking the latest damage done by the Toves.”
“Yesterday, you left the castle without your bodyguard and dived from the high cliffs into the lake.”
“That was fun.” He and Eli exchanged glances and snickered.
Ezra pointed at Matthew and Mark. “They dared me to do it.”
His brothers began to snort with laugh, but sobered quickly at their father’s scowl.
“The mayor said you stopped a city council meeting and told them how to solve their argument over the Center Street Well. Now, you know I like to let the local people solve as many of their problems as possible.”
Ezra folded his arms and frowned. “I thought you’d be happy about that one.”
“And worst of all, your teacher said you brought cookies to the Royal School, and when the other boys ate them, they turned into donkeys.”
“Really? The potion worked then. That’s fantastic.” Ezra ate a previously sliced piece of pear and smirked. “How does Bernie like being a donkey?”
“He feels right at home,” said Eli.
His brothers all laughed, but one thunderous look from their father silenced them.
“Your mother is very disappointed in you.”
Ezra glanced over at his mother, who was trying very hard to be stern, but her mouth was twitching. His brothers continued to eat ravenously. Esther and her sister-in-law, Ella, were flushed, but ate daintily and pretended to ignore the conversation.
Ezra pushed his bangs out of his eyes. “Father, the Royal School has not turned out to be a good idea. Master Fitzswitch has no idea how to control his students.”
“Now, Ezra, I know the other boys are hard on you…”
“They have been bullying me since my first day of school four years ago. Especially that troll, Bernie.”
“Your cousin is not a troll.”
“You’re right, now he’s a cute little donkey!”
His brothers all burst into howls of laughter. Ezra stood up and bowed to them.
The king’s face went red as he pounded the table and bellowed. “Enough! That’s enough!”
Ch 13.8 Ezra’s Punishment —
The room was suddenly silent.
“Deep breaths, dear,” said Ezra’s mother. “Remember what Doctor Pill said about your heart.”
The king took a deep, cleansing breath and unclenched his fists. “Because of your prank, my brothers and their families aren’t here for our monthly dinner. They are deeply insulted. Now I will have to ask the Fey to un-enchant your cousins. You’ve put me in a bad position here, both with our family and with the fey.”
Ezra was angry now. “I saved Bernie’s life. He would have been dead meat if I hadn’t seen those two fey carrying him out of the tavern. And did he even thank me? Not once.”
Bernie had been convinced that the fey had meant to honor him with a great banquet, and that Ezra had messed up a great opportunity. However, Ezra could see beneath their glamour, and he had known that they were up to no good.
Ezra ground his teeth together. He should have been thanked. But no. Instead he had been insulted, knocked into the dirt, and called a girl. Turning his cousins into donkeys had been a fitting revenge.
His father glared at him. “Why don’t you grow up?”
Ezra stood up and spread his arms wide. “Grow up? I’d love to! Give me a sword. Let me learn to fight.”
“Then let me do something useful. Every time I find anything interesting to do, you forbid it.”
“That’s because everything you want to do is dangerous!” The king pounded on the table. “Blacksmithing? Training horses? Digging in the mines? Hunting bandersnatches? Honestly, Ezra, how do you expect me to protect you?”
“I don’t want to be protected. I want to live!”
The room was silent. Everyone stared at him. Ezra slumped back down in his chair.
King Frances’s face was grim. “I’m sorry, Ezra, but this is for your own good. For the rest of the year, I am confining you to your room, except at mealtimes. You will be under constant surveillance. If I have to tie you to your bed, I will.”
His siblings gasped. Ezra leaped to his feet. “What? You must be joking!”
“I am not joking. I will keep you safe. And you will stop defying me.”
“I won’t, and you can’t make me.”
The king gestured, and two guards seized him. “Take him to his room. He can finish eating there.”
Ezra kicked, punched, and bit the guards, but they tied his arms and legs and carried him all the way down the great hall, up three flights of stairs, and down the long hallway to his room. There he was released. The maid brought in the rest of his dinner on a tray and set it on the table.
As soon as the key turned in the lock, Ezra threw his dinner tray at the door. Then he sat down on the window seat and stared morosely out through the newly installed iron bars at the darkening countryside.