Things did not get much better when I arrived back in the city, for one thing, Prince Uther had left without permission and to say the King was furious about this was quite an understatement. He seemed even more enraged to discover the offer had been accepted, he did however refrain from giving full expression to this anger when addressing Sir Christian. He was very polite to him, but to my terror he requested I remain behind because he had a few things to discuss with me.

That I didn't faint clean away the second the great doors closed behind Sir Christian and the King rose from his throne face red is something I can never explain.

"I have been told by Cedas that you are an intelligent boy, quick to understand any given situation," the King began calmly, rather more calmly than I'd ever seen him, which was really the Dreiser thing of all. "Why then did you believe there was nothing the least bit strange about a prince of the blood accompanying you with no guard and no seal to identify himself?"

I swallowed unsure how to answer, the truth was the senior royals cared so little for Prince Uther I hadn't even considered they would wish to waste resources, but of course, I could hardly say such a thing to the King, not if I valued my life that was. Plus, I wasn't even sure the King wanted an answer, who knew with royalty?

"And then to go to our stauchest ally, as if the boy was a foundling and request a place as novice," the King's voice was steadily getting louder. "Or worse as if we thought such a place was guaranteed? Do you have any clue, any inkling of the danger you put our treaty with Cornwall in? For that...worthless child?"

I could have pointed out the fact that the offer had been accepted spoke of the fact that Prince Uther wasn't considered useless and furthermore the treaty remained strong, but I knew with certainty the King really didn't want that answer.

"And now that he's been accepted we are indebted! We owe the Duke of Cornwall something in return! Do you have any idea what that is? Do you even have the ability to guess?!"

I did not, not least because I was trying not to make the fact I was trembling with fear too obvious.

"I'll tell you what it is! The Duke has requested that I assign some worthless novice to one of my worthy knights! Do you think I want to waste my time with such trivialities? I should throw you out of this kingdom!"

I truly was shaking now, thrown out of Camelot? I supposed it was preferable to being executed, but all the same! After all the work I had done and now that I was in a position to return to my studies full time?

"But I won't and do you know why?" The King growled.

I shook my head wordlessly.

"Because my son, Prince Kentigern, has pleaded for your case, I cannot imagine why, but he has and because he is my son and Crown Prince of this realm, I have granted his request."

The King glared at me as if he would like nothing more than to throw me across the border back into Caerleon personally.

It was quite amazing to me that I was still standing, I couldn't believe that the Crown Prince had done this for me. My relief was almost overwhelming.

In fact it was overwhelming and I actually fell on my knees in reverence to the King.

"Thank you, thank you, your Majesty!"

If I expected that to assuage his anger I was mistaken, instead I was stunned by a blow, which sent me sprawling across the floor.

The King had struck me.

"Do not speak to me, boy, you have no right!" The King raged at me, looking a thousand times more threatening then he ever had, growlering down at me. "You are to be punished for your insolence."

Punished?

"Until Samhain, you will be taken daily at noon to the stocks where you will remain for two hours." The King snapped, then imperiously waved his hand to dismiss me. "Get out of my sight."

Rubbing my cheek, which was throbbing with pain, I scrambled to my feet and hurried for the great doors, which were pulled open by two guards, who I avoided looking at as I ran past.

Immediately, I sought Gaius, even though it was probably more proper for me to go to Cedas and tell him of my return.

I almost crashed down the door of the Physian's Chambers as I entered, giving poor Linus quite a shock.

I immediately saw that Gaius was nowhere in sight, which was quite unusual. "I'm sorry," I stuttered to Linus, "I didn't mean to... I was looking for Gaius."

"I imagined so," Linus remarked dryly. "But you won't find him here, at least not for an hour yet. He's at the stocks."

"The stocks?" I was confused, why would Gaius be there? He'd never struck me as the sort who would enjoy throwing rotten fruit and vegetables at the sorry souls on display.

"For punishment," Linus explained slowly, "King Aureulius was more than a little upset about him not trying to stop Prince Uther from leaving."

My stomach dropped and I felt ill, Gaius had been punished as well? It wasn't his fault!

I have to admit I was terribly impolite to old Linus that day, almost as soon as he'd finished speaking I was running from the Physician's Chambers and for the courtyard just beyond the castle wall where the stocks were set up.

I found Gaius there, with a semi-circle of mostly children laughing and pointing at my friend, she they weren't throwing rotten things at him, of course.

My face fell at the sight and I was wracked with guilt, I felt it was my fault that Gaius was in this mess, after all if I hadn't wanted someone to accompany me, at least at the start he never would have been in a position to know about Prince Uther leaving without permission. This was definitely not a proud moment.

"Geoff!" To my surprise Gaius called out my name and not in a manner you would usually expect someone to address you with when you were responsible for getting them into the stocks.

The crowd had dispersed even though it wasn't on the hour, I wondered if they were showing Gaius mercy by leaving early but when I came over to him, he gave a wry grin.

"Off to rearm themselves, they'll be back soon." He explained in a resigned tone.

"I'm sorry," I aplogised somewhat inadequately.

"Sorry? What are you apologizing for? It's not your fault I'm here."

It was nice of him to say so, but I still felt guilty.

"I take it you were successful and Prince Uther remains in Cornwall under the eye of the Duke?"

I nodded. "The King was less than pleased, apparently I've been given this punishment as well," I gestured to the stocks. "How bad is it?"

Gaius gave a shrug, or at least a the approximation of one given his position. "In all honesty, the worst part is been bent over in this position for a couple of hours on end. Although admittedly the rotten food part isn't all that fun either, they wait until it's really rancid. Not that you can blame them though, no point throwing passable food at a person."

Despite Gsius's good humour I wasn't the least bit comforted by his description of what the stocks were like, but then I supposed that was the point of them.

"You ought leave now," Gaius suddenly remarked, "if you don't want to start your punishment early, some of them don't have the best aim."

Indeed the children and few adults who enjoyed participating in such acts were on their way back and clearly the food was going to fly once more.

The only thing I could do was apologise again and scurrying away, taking one last look over my shoulder as Gaius was put under a hail of mushy tomatoes, pears and several other things so rotten they couldn't even be identified.

It was going to be a very grueling three months to Samhain.
 
 
Current Mood: distressed
 
 
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