Chapter 10: Secrets to Keep

by Scotti Cohn
Copyright Scotti Cohn

copyright Christina Wald


Chapter 10
Secrets to Keep

 Once the letter was safe again in the royal treasury, King Omicron ordered a day of celebration. The knights marched through the village of Atoz. At the head of the parade rode Wordsworth on Starfire, the king's favorite horse.
I am the luckiest boy in the kingdom, Wordsworth thought, patting Starfire's glossy black neck. Even so, he found himself wishing that he were riding on Klause instead. He wanted everyone to know what the cavabok had done. But Klause had made him promise not to tell. He was afraid people would find out he could talk, and that would cause all sorts of problems.

After the parade, the citizens of Atoz gathered in the courtyard for a party. The town's merchants piled food and drink of every kind on large tables. When it was time to eat, the king came out on a balcony in his royal robes. Wordsworth, Sir Clooney, and Lord Reading stood behind him. Wordsworth smiled when he saw the signs over the banquet tables. One read "Chocolate Chip Cookies!" Another said, "Fresh Carrots and Cabbage!" "Roast Chicken" was written on a third. The letter "C" was back where it belonged.

"This is a great day for the Kingdom of Atoz!" the king declared. "The letter C has been restored to us. We have learned a hard lesson about the true value of the Royal Alphabet. Henceforth, guards will be posted not only outside but inside each room of our treasury. The windows have been sealed up. Never again will we allow one of our letters to be stolen!"

The crowd clapped and shouted its approval. The king raised his arms to quiet them.

"We owe our thanks to the Royal Knights and to my young page, Wordsworth, whose courage has made it possible for me to say the word courage!"

Everyone laughed. King Omicron turned and drew Wordsworth forward to stand beside him. The crowd cheered. Wordsworth was filled with a confusing jumble of feelings.

I don't deserve this, he thought. If it hadn't been for Phrasia and Klause and Rho and Dash ...

But what could he say? As far as the king and most of Atoz were concerned, there was no dragon. Klause was a beast of burden. Princess Rho was the king's daughter, not a sorceress who could change herself into a falcon. Phrasia was an ordinary servant woman who had loaned Wordsworth her cavabok, not a friend of a dragon or even a witch (the townspeople figured a witch wouldn't have needed Wordsworth to save her!) 

As much as Wordsworth hated it, he knew that was how it had to be. That was the way his friends wanted it. His hand went to his chest. He could feel the Dragon's Troth stone through the material of the pouch around his neck. Soon after the letter had been returned to the treasury, the king had given him a new pouch and a new royal emblem. Wordsworth had summoned the stone to him using the words Phrasia had taught him: I summon thee from far or near. Dragon's Troth, thy way is clear.

The people in the courtyard grew quiet, waiting for Wordsworth to speak. He had to say something.

            "Thank you!" he shouted. "You are all very kind! But I didn't do it by myself. I had a lot of help!"

"Such a modest lad!" boomed the king. "Such a brave, humble lad!"

The crowd started cheering again.

"Good work, my boy," said Sir Clooney, shaking Wordsworth's hand.

"Thank you, Sir..." Wordsworth hesitated out of habit but quickly recovered. "Clooney," he said firmly.

The knight smiled. He shook Wordsworth's hand again and clapped him on the back. Lord Reading stepped to the front, an open book in his hands. He cleared his throat and began to recite his favorite poem in a loud, proud voice: "While chipmunks scamper through the dale, we'll linger till the sun grows pale, to hear the chirping crickets praise the simple charms of summer days!"

Wordsworth was extremely relieved when the program was over. He sat with his parents at the king's banquet table and kept his mouth stuffed with food so no one would expect him to say anything.

That evening, he and Princess Rho got together to play cards. Lady Craddish sat knitting beside the fireplace. Princess Rho's spaniel, Bracket, was curled up on the hearth.

"I know I can't talk about what you did," Wordsworth whispered to Rho. "But I wanted to. Everybody thinks I'm a hero, but I'm not."

Princess Rho giggled. "Papa would be so angry if he knew about me using that spell, he would zoom straight up through the ceiling of the throne room and land on the moon. Besides, you are a hero, Wordsworth. I know how you snuck into the Village of the Muddletongues and I heard about how you tried to rescue Phrasia from the cage. You were very brave."

"But you're a hero, too," Wordsworth insisted. "And Klause. And Dash."

He laid a Jack of Hearts on the table.

"I know," Princess Rho said. "But we all know what we did. We can be proud of ourselves and of each other. That's enough. So--do you still want to be a knight, Wordsworth?"

"Yes!" Wordsworth said. "Only not the kind who fights dragons."

He leaned closer to the princess so Lady Craddish wouldn't hear him. "How did you get Queen Mu's book, anyway?"

Princess Rho's braid fell forward. She flipped it back over her shoulder. "I was in the Royal Library one day," said Rho, "and I pulled a book of poems off the shelf. That's when I saw it. It was wedged sideways behind the other books. I took it and hid it in my jewelry box."

"So--will you teach me how to turn into a falcon?"

Princess Rho smiled and placed a Queen of Hearts across his Jack. "Maybe," she said.

Bracket gave a frightened yip and scooted under Lady Craddish's chair.

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