over, rather than a wife, he seems fairly contented. He’s so relieved that he didn’t have to marry you after all that he shouldn’t give us any trouble.”

The duchess laughed. “If it had been up to me, I would have waited to go until the king and queen came back, but Ascelin is understandably in a hurry to get home himself.” He came across the courtyard toward us, and she looked at him affectionately. “It will be interesting seeing his city.”

I was not fooled by her comment about waiting for the king and queen’s return. Diana had always done exactly what she liked, and what she liked right now was making her new husband happy.

In a few minutes she and her knights rode out over the draw bridge, Nimrod-as I still couldn’t help but think of him-striding beside her saddle as he had the first time he came to Yurt. I wondered if they would ever find a horse big enough to carry him.

In my chambers, Evrard was hobbling back and forth, making a pile of some of my books by my best chair. “As long as I won’t be able to move around much for a while,” he said with a smile though not meeting my eyes, “I thought I should make use of the time and learn some of the magic the teachers at the school think they’ve already taught me.” But then his freckled face became sober. “After all, it will be embarrassing always to have to ask them things I ought to know.”

I sat down rather abruptly. “Wait a minute. I think I’m missing something.”

“I’ve resigned,” said Evrard, much too seriously to be joking. “I told the duchess just now, and she agreed.”

“But she thought you were a hero when we overcame the monster!” I protested, but Evrard wasn’t listening.

“She never really needed a ducal wizard in the first place, and she’ll need one even less now that she’ll be gone from Yurt for half the year. And let’s be realistic, Daimbert. You and I both know that I’m really not competent to be out trying to practice magic on my own. I only graduated by the skin of my teeth, and I could never have stopped the monster without you.

“There are always a lot of young wizards who stay on at the school for a few years, helping out as demonstrators and the like. Many of the City merchants also employ wizards, at least part time. Maybe Dominic will even want some magical assistance while he’s there! It won’t be a disgrace to go back to the City, and maybe with a few more years of experience I’d actually be qualified to serve some duke or count somewhere.”

I was caught between agreeing with him and feeling that he was much too hard on himself. “So you’ve fully recovered from the monster knocking all your magic out of you-” I asked tentatively.

“Oh, yes,” he said as though surprised. “I’d forgotten I said that. The monster didn’t suck my abilities out of me, or anything so dramatic.” He would have put a binding spell on my foot to show me how well he could still work magic if I had not stopped him in time.

“I think you’ll be a very good wizard someday,” I said, hoping I did not sound patronizing.

“I don’t want you to feel you’ve failed me,” he continued, looking down at the closed book in his hands. “I’ve learned a tremendous amount from associating with you, Daimbert. And of course, if I’d never come to Yurt, I would never have met the wood nymph!”

“I’ll miss you,” I said, entirely truthfully.

“There’s one thing I do feel badly about,” he said, looking at me fully for the first time since I had come in. “When I go, you won’t have anyone here to talk to but the chaplain. Who will you tell your jokes to? Who will put illusory frogs on your pillow?”

I smiled, glad he could not stay serious for long. “I’ll be all right. Joachim and I have been friends for a long time. Though I haven’t taught him how to do illusions, I have hopes of giving him a sense of humor someday. But if you can get away from the school sometimes, I’d very much like you to come visit.”

Evrard opened the first of the books and frowned at it as though he had never seen it before. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to stay here in Yurt until my leg is a little better. With all those young wizards, the school is no place for the wounded. And maybe by the time I go back, my beard will have grown out properly.”

“Of course, of course. Stay as long as you like.”

“I’ll telephone the school, to tell them what’s been happening, and find out if there’s a particular branch of magic they think they’ll need there so I can brush up.”

But before Evrard could call the school that evening, our glass telephone rang. It was King Haimeric, calling us.

The constable answered, and the king asked first about his roses, but then we all gathered around to talk to him. “I just got the message the duchess sent from her castle, via the pigeons, that she’d gotten married!” said the king.

“She and her husband left for his principality today,” said Dominic. “But they plan to be back in a month or so.”

“Well, then,” said the king cheerfully, “I can look forward to meeting him when they return. Has anything else happened?”

Dominic and I looked at each other. “The retired wizard, my predecessor, has died,” I said.

“Oh, dear,” said the king, sounding genuinely sorry, while also conveying the sense that this news would not trouble him for long. “Well, he’d already served, what was it, five generations of kings of Yurt?”

“He left me the ring you gave him,” I said. “I hope you don’t mind.”

“Of course not, Wizard. Well, is that all the news? I hope things haven’t been too dull in Yurt for you while we’re gone!”

There was a short pause while Dominic and I looked at each other again. The regent, for one minute, came very close to smiling. Before either of us could speak, the queen appeared beside her husband in the tiny image in the telephone’s base. She was even more beautiful than I remembered. She held the baby prince by the hand; he clung tightly but was indubitably taking steps on his own.

The queen’s Aunt Maria smiled from behind them. “Did we tell you Baby Buttons has started to walk?” she asked.

“Dromnick! Gizward!” said the little prince, looking toward us with a broad smile. I hoped he never found out what chaos his birth had caused here in Yurt.

“Yes, sire,” said Dominic, when the king’s face appeared again, “a few other things have happened, but we can tell you all about them when you’re back. Do you know yet when that will be?”

“Probably another week or two,” said the king. “So nothing’s happened that you can’t handle?”

Dominic nodded slowly. “Nothing that the wizard and I can’t handle.”

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