Chapter 18: Knave Prince Sorrel

 

So, after some disapproval and wriggling, the Lock Fairies, four of the Raggedy Knights and the four spidery bundles were shown down to the dungeons, and Fredrick the Butler escorted everybody else to the top of the Blackest Tower. Jenny complained about having to climb another steep spiral staircase, but finally they were all standing outside the Prince’s study and once again Sir Lucas banged with his fist:

‘Prince Sorrel, Your Highness, Her Majesty the Queen demands an audience with you!’

There was no reply. Jenny remembered her trick with the chocolate buttons, but they were all gone and besides, that had been an easy trick to play because King Persimmon’s head had been quite empty but Prince Sorrel’s head probably wasn’t empty. She looked at Grandma Lily who seemed to be completely out of ideas. Then she heard the sound of people climbing the stairs and one at a time the King’s Men stepped onto the wide landing, which was beginning to look quite crowded. Jenny realised that the Fairies must have been able to open the dungeon lock and set the King’s Men free: ‘Will the Lock Fairies be able to open this lock?’ she asked.

‘Unfortunately not,’ said Grandma Lily. ‘This is a magical lock, sealed by an unbreakable spell. Our only option is to break the door into splinters around it.’

‘It is a very thick door,’ said Frederick. ‘It is quite unbreakable, and I am not sure the Prince can hear us through it. The servants can never make themselves heard.’

The Queen sighed: ‘Why would Sorrel behave like this? Doesn’t he understand what he is doing to Raggedy Lyme? This will be the end of us all!’

Jenny looked at Molly and Molly nodded her head, so Jenny said what they were both thinking: ‘Your Majesty, perhaps Prince Sorrel really doesn’t understand what he has done. Sometimes people do things without thinking. Then they just keep doing things because of what they’ve already done. And then that makes everything worse. Perhaps the Prince stole the King’s memories for a reason. And then he had to stop anyone finding the memories. And then he had to hide himself away and lock up the King’s Men and try and frighten us away, just because of the thing that started it all. Perhaps he doesn’t realise how bad everything is.’

‘Perhaps we should tell him,’ said Molly.

‘But perhaps he will not hear,’ said the Queen.

‘Well, perhaps he will read!’ said Grandma Lily. ‘We must write him a letter. Do you think we will be able to slip a piece of paper beneath the door, Frederick?’

‘I think not, Grand Witch.’

‘Well, in that case,’ said Queen Peony, ‘I will have my Fairies carry it outside to his window and hold it there until he reads it.’

So paper and a pen were found and the note was written, describing the terrible state that Raggedy Lyme was now in and what was going to happen if the King did not get his memories back. Then several of the Fairies were persuaded to carry the note outside and suspend it against the Prince’s high window.

Tea and hot chocolate were served on the landing while everyone waited. And time passed. And more time passed.

Jenny watched the Raggedy Knights playing dominos. Sir Lucas seemed to win most of the time. Jenny thought that he was not only very brave, he was also very clever. And she liked his Green hair as well. But now the Queen was becoming more impatient than ever. So Sir Lucas stopped playing dominos and opened a window to see whether the Fairies were still outside, and as he did so the Fairies buzzed back in. And they were no longer carrying the letter!

‘Where is our letter?’ demanded the Queen.

The Queen listened to the buzzing and squeaking and then she folded her arms and frowned: ‘It seems that Prince Sorrel opened his window and snatched the letter inside!’

‘Do you think he’s reading it?’ said Jenny.

‘We will have to wait and see, ‘said Grandma Lily.

So they waited some more. But finally, Sir Lucas got to his feet: ‘Majesty, do you wish for me to …’

But before Sir Lucas could finish his sentence, everybody’s attention turned towards the door to the Prince’s study. Without the slightest creak or the turning of a lock, the heavy door had started to open. The Raggedy Knights immediately placed themselves in front of the Queen to protect her against any possible madness. But when the door was finally open there was nobody there. And nothing happened.

After a while, Sir Lucas stepped forward and looked inside and instantly a miserable voice said: ‘You can all come in, if you like. I’m on my own.’

Sir Lucas and Sir Henry went inside and looked around and after a few moments they returned to the Queen: ‘The Prince is alone, Majesty,’ said Sir Lucas. Then he lowered his voice: ‘He is sitting on the floor over in the far corner and he is … he is …’

‘Majesty, The Knave Prince Sorrel is crying,’ whispered Sir Henry.

Everybody stared at the open door.

‘Crying?’ said Queen Peony.

‘Yes Majesty,’ said Sir Lucas.

Queen Peony looked at Grandma Lily and then back at the door. And then she made a decision: ‘Grand Witch Lily, Princess Molly, Sister-witch Jenny, come with me. This is not a matter for soldiers. Frederick, order more hot chocolate. And a large plate of cream cakes and another of cheese and pickle sandwiches.’

With that the Queen strode into the Prince’s study and Grandma Lily, Molly and Jenny hurried after her. Jenny was not at all sure what she expected to find inside the Prince’s study so she was prepared for anything. Anything apart from what she actually saw! The King’s brother, Knave Prince Sorrel was cowering in the corner, wrapped in a blanket. And he was sobbing into a lacy handkerchief.

Queen Peony walked right up to him and folded her arms: ‘What is all this, Sorrel?’

‘I am so sorry, Majesty,’ whimpered Prince Sorrel. The room is a terrible mess because the servants have not cleaned it for some time.’

‘That is because you have locked them out!’ snapped the Queen. ‘But I am not talking about the state of your room, I am talking about the state of Raggedy Lyme. And well you know it!’

The Prince cowered even further into his blanket and hid his face.

‘Tell me, Sorrel!’ demanded the Queen, ‘why are you behaving like this? Your brother, King Persimmon the Wise is in his Castle with a completely empty head. The Dome of Lost Things is in Chaos, the Errors are not being repaired, the Valley is full of your Fairies frightening people and TIME IS BEING WASTED!

The Prince wailed his reply from under his blanket: ‘Oh, Majesty, I did not mean for this to happen. But one thing led to another and now I do not know how to make things better.’

The Queen turned to Grandma Lily in frustration: ‘It is as Sister-witch Jenny Berry said: one bad thing leads to other bad things.’

So Grandma Lily folded her arms and made a suggestion: ‘Then, Majesty, why don’t we let the Sister-witch try to make sense of the situation?’

The Queen nodded then turned to Jenny: ‘Jenny, will you please speak to the Knave Prince Sorrel? I am beyond patience!’

So Jenny sat down on the floor next to the sobbing Prince and gently touched his blanket: ‘Prince Sorrel,’ she began, ‘I am the Sister-witch Jenny Berry. I am from the Real World. And I am here to help, because both of our worlds are in danger. If you can tell us what started all this, then perhaps we can make things better. Will you tell me why you took the King’s memories?

The Prince’s nose and then the rest of his head emerged from the blanket. As he spoke a large tear ran down his cheek and dripped onto his hand: ‘Because I did not want the King to remember.’

‘Remember what?’ said Molly moving closer.

The Knave Prince peered past Jenny and another big tear dripped off his chin: ‘I didn’t want him to remember where the LOST things came from.’

‘Why?’ said Jenny.

Prince Sorrel burst into floods of tears and through the tears he managed to say: ‘Because if he couldn’t remember where to send things back to then they would have to stay in Raggedy Lyme. And I wanted the Most Beautiful Bead to stay here with me!’