The wizard Calavus shook his head, stroking his beard as he allowed the young teenager to examine it. “They could be… Or, as the story goes, they could not. I shall have to consult my books before I can say for certain.”
“What story?” Peter asked.
“Schrödinger’s, maybe?” Cerys suggested. She looked to Himeko and winked, seeming as though she were trying to hold in a giggle.
Peter scoffed and shook his head. “Always a nerd,” he hissed. The he looked up at the wizard. “What story?”
“Only the most ancient tales, I suppose,” the wizard told him.
“I think our esteemed wizard was speaking figuratively,” James explained.
“Ahh… Yes, perhaps,” Calavus said. Then he seemed to become lost in thought.
Peter rolled his eyes. “Is he the one who is supposed to get me back home?”
King Leonars turned his eyes to James as soon as he heard those words. “What is he talking about, Lord James?”
James sighed and lowered his head. “This journey has taken a lot out of Peter,” he began to explain. “Having come all this way, the knowledge of the dangers ahead is too much for one so young.”
Cerys looked between James and her brother. She knew that the baron’s son was exaggerating, and even though it was for Peter’s sake, she felt bad that he’d had to be deceptive towards his king.
“Is the really necessary?” King Leonars asked. “Goodness knows that you could use a skillful archer on the next leg of your journey.”
“That is very much true, sire,” James agreed. “I implore you, however, to think of his mother. Surely she will be worrying about him…”
The king sat looking at James, and then Peter, for several minutes. He seemed to be contemplating what to say, what he ought to decide to do with the boy. At last he let out a heavy sigh and said, “If he cannot do this, then perhaps it is best that we prevent his mother from facing such grief. Still, I cannot send him home from here.”
“But sire–” James began; he stopped when he remembered whom he was addressing, and the respect due to him.
“I might have the power to send him,” Calavus began to explain, “but the crystal is not here. I can do nothing without it.”
“What do you mean?” James asked. “What happened to it?”
“I took it to the Forest of Shallavaughn,” a low voice said. Cerys looked up and realized that it had come from the robed man who stood back from the others.
“Can you tell me who that is now?” she whispered to James.
He shook his head. “You will find out in good time.” He looked over at the robed man. “Was there reason to believe that it was in danger?”
“Things have been strange around here lately,” King Leonars answered for him. “All these noir beasts have us worried.”
“Not to mention some of the nobles– Duke Emerias especially–” Sir Carter added, “acting so… unusual.”
“Indeed,” King Leonars nodded. “The Forest of Shallavaughn is so far from all of this… I felt that it would be safest there.”