I think I promised a post on August 20, way back when I was warning you about schedule interruptions. Well, just goes to show you should never promise a post right after you make a flight back home… I’ve been exhausted and battling a cold all weekend. But I’ve recovered enough to post this! But first, the usual recap:
Polly, while impersonating the princess, has been kidnapped by an enchanter and his trainee, and taken far, far away from her home… where she meets the very princess she was impersonating. It is revealed they all are being threatened by a malevolent magical being known as a jadess. Can she get along with the arrogant enchanter long enough to figure out how to survive with a jadess after them? And … why does the jadess want Polly? Chapter 1 is here
Chapter 11B: Results of a Broken Silver Screen
Casper seemed to be spending a lot of time in his workshop, though things didn’t seem to be going very well with the screen. There was a lot of loud bangs and yowling magic from in there. But I had learned my lesson with Radagast, and made him stay outside when Casper was in there. When Stefan came in he and the Enchanter would talk in hurried, whispered voices. Stefan looked perpetually worried, but Casper, as usual, looked as cool as ever. Often Stefan would walk around my kitchen while I tried to cook, blasting the jadess under his breath and generally getting in my way, so I sent him outside to play with Paulina and Radagast.
“The whole key to this business right now,” I heard Casper say to Stefan, “Is to keep the jadess from getting her hands on the Rajah.”
“If only the Most Exalted Rajah (may his years increase) were married,” Stefan answered with a sigh. “At least then the Queen would be jealous enough not to let all those girls into his Palace all the time. But the Most Exalted Rajah (may his years increase) lets them try and win his heart. He must think it funny. Blast it, the jadess could be any one of those girls, and no one would ever know until it was too late.”
I thought about this as I finished making dinner. It did not seem like a good idea to let the jadess get her claws into the ruler of Chaldea, especially if Casper couldn’t leave Chaldea. I had to admit, I was rather worried about the enchanters. If there was anything I could’ve done to help, I would’ve. But I was only a plain flower-girl from Angaria.
All Paulina and I could do was conspire to cheer the enchanters up. I’d been baking dewberry pie more and more often lately, and Paulina usually played Chaldean chess with Stefan in the evenings to try and chase the worried look off his face. We were awfully fond of them, even though we were trapped here in the Magician’s Peak.
Paulina had just started setting the dinner table when Casper came in the kitchen. He looked at Paulina, slim and beautiful in one of her new dresses, and at me, in my pale blue, and draped himself down casually over one of the benches by the fireplace. Stefan looked in from the door, and, seeing the Enchanter sitting there, came in too.
“I’ve got your protection charms finished,” Casper said.
“Really?” Paulina asked, a note of excitement and dread in her voice.
“Yes,” he replied. “But Polly,” he turned to me, “I need you to do something for me.”
Just ‘I need you to do something for me.’ Not ‘could you’ or ‘would you’, but implying ‘you have to’. Inwardly I bristled.
“Why me?” I asked.
“Because the Rajah’s met Paulina before, and me and Stefan are both not of much use against the jadess,” he replied. “Even if we get inside the Palace. Besides, the jadess would recognize us.”
“You want me to go to the Palace and keep the jadess from getting her claws into the Rajah?” I asked incredulously, putting two and two together.
“Yes,” he answered. “I’ve got everything worked out. The jadess won’t enchant anyone if someone’s watching, especially if it’s a woman watching, because they’ll throw her out of Chaldea if they find she’s a jadess. So you’ll just have to stay by the Rajah at all times, and pretend you’re only trying to get the Rajah to marry you. You know, like every other woman in the place? Except you can’t leave his side for a moment while the other women are around. And the protection charm will keep you safe from another jadess-kidnapping if you wear it.”
“I am not going to chase a Rajah,” I said, firmly and almost angrily.
“You have to,” he replied, looking at me with his wide, gypsy eyes. He was trying the pity routine again.
Stefan looked at me too, nervously. “He’s right,” he said. “There’s no other way. We’ve lost track of the jadess completely, and have no idea where she is now. Besides, it won’t be so bad. All the women chase the Rajah.’
“Yes,” I snapped. “That’s exactly it.”
I was silent, then said, “Anyway, I wouldn’t know how to act in a Chaldean court.”
“I thought of that too,” Casper said. “Someone is coming here tomorrow to give you a crash-course. Then the day after I’ll bring you to the Palace and introduce you to the Rajah, and say you’re my cousin, or something.”
For some reason that made me even more furious. I had wanted to help, but this was plain embarrassing, and I did not like the way he expected me to go along with it. It was only because the worried look had returned to Stefan’s face that I finally consented.
“So I go the Palace,” I said, “You introduce me, and I act all smooth to the Rajah, and make him think I’ve set my sights on having him as a husband. Meanwhile I’m really keeping him from the jadess, and trying to discover where the jadess is?”
“Exactly,” Casper affirmed, sounding pleased. “You shall stay at the Palace during the day, and come here at night. And Paulina,” he looked at her, “May return home. I would not dream of holding a princess here against her will.”
Yet he held me here. Of course, that wasn’t strictly true – I knew he would have let me go home if I refused to help him. But he had to be so much more polite to Paulina. He’d always been.
“I’m not leaving,” Paulina said. “Not if Polly has to stay. When she can go, I’ll leave too.”
I looked at her in surprise, grateful, but slightly sad at the same time.
“You don’t have to,” I told her quietly.
“But I want to,” she said.
“You won’t have much to do during the day,” Casper said to her. “Polly will be at the Palace.”
“I know,” she replied. “But the Royal Family of Angaria is not known for deserting their friends.” She lifted her chin in a stubborn sort of way.
“You really didn’t have to,” I told her later as we went up to bed.
“I know,” she answered quietly. “But it would be almost – dull to go back to Angaria. And I don’t want to leave you here. I know you need to help. I would too, if I could.” She sounded slightly wistful.
“Well, thank you,” I said. I smiled at her.