Ch 29.4 — Felix the cat sat on the window shelf. “The gnome is right. The Tulgey Woods are no place for an unarmed boy.”
Ezra usually looked forward to the cat boy’s visits and enjoyed their battle of wits, but tonight he didn’t have time. “What do you want?”
The cat put back his ears. “How rude. I should just leave without giving you my message.”
Ezra sighed. “Sorry.” He opened his pack, took out a strawberry tart, and set it on the window sill. “Here you go.”
The cat devoured the tart and then washed his face. Ezra waited impatiently for him to finish.
“Old Bob sent me with a message. On your name day, the queen of the Fey granted you one favor. On the queen’s behalf, Old Bob is now giving that favor to you.”
Ezra put his hands on his hips. “Is it a jar of Miracle Mix?”
The cat laughed, exposing all his sharp white teeth. “Go up to the attic, to that room where you like to dream. Open the trunk that is full of old dresses, and look beneath them. Something you need is there.”
The cat waited for Ezra to thank him, but Ezra knew better. He thought for a moment and then grinned. “I happen to know that Cook hid a dozen strawberry tarts in the pantry for tomorrow’s breakfast. And I won’t be here to eat them.”
The cat’s ears perked up. “It would be a shame for them to go to waste.”
“I’ll just go check on them.” The cat faded away until only his smile was still visible.
Ch. 29.5 — The Hidden Sword
Ezra sped up the hidden winding stairway to the attic. After double checking to make sure he was alone, he went over to the trunk, opened it, and lifted out the old dresses. At the bottom of the trunk was a small sword resting in a plain leather scabbard.
Ezra stared at it. He knew the story of his name day, the dragon’s prediction that he would die by the sword, and the scramble to save him by the wizard Colin and the witch Bernice. In all his years, he had never been allowed to handle so much as a butter knife, let alone a sword.
He frowned. Ezra knew he shouldn’t touch the sword, but on the other hand, he couldn’t very well go out into the forest without some kind of weapon. There would be wolves, not to mention borogoves and bandersnatches.
Ezra slowly drew the sword from the scabbard. He tilted it so it caught the moonlight, and he admired its shiny blue blade, the way it felt light yet strong in his hand. It was a vorpal sword – made especially for children learning swordplay. It was more like a long knife than a real sword. Would it be enough to keep him safe?
Felix had said this was his name day gift from the Fey. Generally speaking, the fey couldn’t be trusted. Did that include the cat boy, who seemed to like him and enjoy his company?
After a moment, Ezra put the sword back into the leather scabbard, strapped it around his waist, and closed the trunk.
He slipped out of the castle and into the still, dark stable. He and Fritter saddled up their shaggy ponies. Not even a dog barked at them. The guards lay against the inside wall, snoring.
“Thank you, Butterfingers,” Ezra whispered.
The two friends were far from the castle by the time the sky began to turn gray.
When they reached the edge of the Tulgey Woods, Fritter reigned in. “Be careful, Sire.”
“I will. Safe journey to you.”
Fritter turned left onto the path that led to Connie’s gingerbread cottage. Ezra looked ahead at the towering trees that bordered the Tulgey Wood. He had never been this far from home in his entire life. A curious sense of foreboding rose in him.
Ezra urged his pony onto the left hand path and started into the forest.