Watson gave Mrs. Hudson a gentle hug and she pulled away. "I know what you're doing. You're not coming back for dinner, are you?"
He gave her comely face a gentle smile and a sweep of his deep brown eyes, his mutton chops bouncing slightly as he grinned. "You read me like a book, dear Mrs. Hudson."
"No, I read you like a scoundrel. When will you stop running off on those fool's errands for the Prince?"
His smile tightened. "They are not fool's errands."
"They most certainly are." She replied, her voice becoming shriller and angry.
A shadow fell across them.
"I will see to him, Mrs. Hudson." Sherlock said as he stepped onto the porch, slipping on his deerstalker hat and adjusting his cape so that it fell back over his shoulders, so he could reach his pockets more easily. He finished comporting himself, then turned to Watson. "I would like to have a talk with the Prince."
"Sherlock, stay out of this." Watson warned. "This is between Mrs. Hudson and I."
"It certainly is not!" She warned, wagging a finger at him.
"I hate it when you wag the finger."
"Get used to it, Watson. It's what a good woman does when her man has been led astray." Sherlock explains, the hint of a smirk on his lips.
Watson is about to explode for a second, then he lets it go. "Very well. Come then. But it will be boring and tedious."
"I thrive on boring and tedious." Sherlock responded, a wink at Mrs. Hudson as he did so.
She laughed, then gave Watson a light peck on his cheek. "Go with your friend. At least I know someone with good sense will be watching over you."
She turned her back to the both of them, closed the front door and they could hear her shoe clapping on the hardwood steps as she went upstairs to pick up, as was her wont in the early hours of t he morning.
Sherlock put a hand lightly on Watson's arm. "So. Where shall we begin?"
Sherlock and Watson climbed out of the T-Cab, or Tesla Cab as they were sometimes called, and straightened their clothes as they faced Marlon Castle, the current residence of Prince Edwards, a distant relative of Queen Mary of Scots, and quite well off, but a bit on the eccentric side. They stood at the end of a large drive paved with red cobble stones and hedged with fine shrubs, shorn to resemble hearts and spades, like those of a deck of cards. Red flowers poked their faces from green beds of moss at the feet of the shrubs.
The tall gates, which were mounted on ancient hinges imported from the Scots Lands, hailed from a period where Kings had magic and ruled by the might of their dragons and Elves had not yet fled their world to a parallel one, safe from the expanding immorality of humanity.
Sherlock smiled at that thought, because humanity preyed ever day for the help of angels, and yet had driven living ones from their lands by their greed, avarice and lust for power. He noticed that the mighty walls that precluded the public from seeing the castle more clearly appeared to be more clean than usual, and he suspected some magic in that, but gave it no second thought as he turned back to look at the two Royal Guards, courtesy of the Queen, who stood at the entrance, blocking their path.
"Please tell His Highness, Prince McMurphy, that I am come to meet with him for our appointment." Watson declared.
One of the Royal Guards nodded, then stepped inside.
A few minutes later after some small talk and the viewing of small flocks of blackbirds flitting from one sunflower shaped basket garden of flowers to another that spread across the lawns of the castle, a very, very tall man stepped outside, his ruddy face beaming with pleasure.
"Ah, my good Doctor, so good to see you again. And Mister Holmes. You honor me with your presence. Come in. Come in."
They gave him a polite nod and followed him inside. His footsteps were quick and lively, almost as if he were half floating as he guided them through the labyrinth of corridors and walkways until they reached the rear of the castle and embarked cross a miniature drawbridge over a moat below which were all manner of dimpled fish swimming about, their tiny mouths clutching at the air above and spots of bread that the Prince had been throwing them and which he immediately sought the silver plate of, which he had left on a highly polished marble table set near the moat.
He clutched a shred of bread, an d began breaking it up and tossing it into the moat, causing the tiny creatures there to become frenzied with movement and motion as the crumbs struck the thin layer of water meeting air.
"You see, Watson, how dearly they respond to the smallest of kind gestures."
He turned to face Watson, but his eyes were on Sherlock. "Small acts of kindness can steer creatures into any direction we desire."
"And you believe to any requisite end?" Sherlock asked.
"Astute observation, Mister Holmes. Exactly."
He turned back to his friends of the moat and broke more bread and tossed it. "When I was but a lad in my father's castle in the Mount Marres of the Scotland Sea, I learned a very great secret. One that I stumbled upon, but one which has followed me on light footsteps all these years since."
"Which is?" Sherlock asked politely.
The Prince turned to him and fixed Sherlock with a stare that made Watson wince, but stirred Sherlock not in the least. "That men always have a motive for everything they do. Even the kindest of things."
With that he turned away from the moat and began walking towards a smaller castle in the rear, which was made of brick and wood, and gave more the appearance of a fairy tale home, than the castle it was, though it stood a good three stories in height and had ramparts and weapons mounts on its roof.
They entered the smaller castle and the Prince guided them into a smaller room where all manner of magical equipment was gathered on large wooden desks and lengthy tables. In some smaller glass containers were odd looking substances, of which Watson knew at once were similar to Harry's magical works, but some of which were unknown to him and gave off a variance of energy that he couldn't put a finger on. At their right stood a remarkably detailed wooden statue of the Prince.
"I have a case for you, Sherlock."
Watson started to clear his throat. "Don't worry, Watson, it won't affect our work."
"I'm listening." Sherlock replied, his face immovable.
"I wish you to resolve a mystery for me."
"I will do my best. But if it involves magic..."
"It does. But I suspect a man of your caliber of mind will find this too titillating to avoid inspecting with the e scrutiny of your giant intellect."
"The clarity of my thoughts are far too exaggerated." Sherlock interrupted.
The Prince began loosening the tunic about his chest, then thrust it aside. Watson gave him a startled look. "There is more to me than meets the eye, dear Watson."
The Princess unlaced his undershirt, thrust it open and both Sherlock and Watson stared in shock and amazement at what was revealed. There in the center of the Prince's chest was a wooden door, much as you might find on a Cuckoo Clock. The Prince fidgeted with the tiny doorknob a moment, then opened it to reveal a wooden heart.
"Dear God in Heaven." Watson exclaimed.
"How does one undo what was foolishly done in one's youth?" The Prince demanded of Sherlock.
Sherlock stepped closer to examine the interior of the chamber revealed. "May I?"
"Be my guest."
Sherlock took out his magnifying glass and examined the interior of the Prince's chest, his heart cavity and the wooden heart that pumped there for a long time, not breathing or saying a word. Finally, he carefully shut the door to the chamber, then stepped back as the Prince began composing his shirt and tunic again to a more normal state.
Sherlock looked at the Prince. "First. You say this happened when you were a child?"
"Yes. The age of ten. I had the ill gotten humor of a jaded and spoiled brat and offended a Druid Warlock."
"He turned my heart to wood."
"I see. And you believe this why?"
"Because I have lived with this in secret for all these years, telling no one, not even my poor father. You see this is why I have not married to this point in time. My father is nearing death and I fear I will not be leaving him an heir."
"Second. If you could remove this wooden heart, then what?"
"I would marry the Duchess of Bramberry, for whom my affections are well known."
"Three. I assume you are willing to pay my customary fee?"
"I will triple it."
"Sherlock!" Watson protested, finally finding his voice again after what he had seen.
Sherlock turned to Watson. "Shoot the man in his heart."
The Prince and Watson both paled.
The Prince paled even further. Watson shook his head.
Sherlock took out his own weapon before either man could make a move and shot the Prince directly in his wooden heart. The Prince fell backwards onto the floor and lay there unmoving.
Several moments later the statue of the Prince shook violently and shards of wood splintered off, then fell to the floor. A stark naked Prince stood there, clapping his hands. "Well done, Holmes. Well done!"
Watson turned in shock. "But..."
"You see, Watson." Sherlock explained. "Warlock magic requires a duplicate of the original to be made before any curse can be bonded to the cursed. Of wood. Once the duplicate is destroyed. The original resumes its own life once more."
The Prince nodded.
Sherlock smiled at the Prince. "I shall expect my fee on the morrow. Good day, your Highness."
Watson turned to watch as Sherlock left the room, whistling a merry tune he had picked up from Harry several days ago.
The Prince coughed.
Watson turned around and again realized that the Prince was naked.
"I'll get some clothing for you at once, your Highness."
Watson rushed from the room to the laughter of the Prince. For Watson had seen something else that was a result of the curse. The Prince would never have a child; for his most private part had remained wooden.
Sherlock and Watson sat near the fireplace, sipping tea when Mrs. Hudson came in and sat beside Watson.
"I told you there was something peculiar about that man." She said with a shudder.
"I always wrote it off to his Scottish heritage." Watson replied with a laugh. "Not to his more...ah..wooden nature."
"Speaking of which, Holmes, however did you come so quickly to the conclusion that the Prince was a golem of wood."
"Elementary, dear Watson. Had you noticed when he was feeding his fish that his right foot was in the water?"
"Yes. But he's a peculiar man as my dear Mrs. Hudson just spoke. Why should that bother me?"
"Then you didn't notice that right ankle, which was revealed, was beginning to change color as the water soaked into him."
"Ah." Watson exclaimed merrily.
The sound of a knock from the front door.
Mrs. Hudson went to answer it and returned several moments later with a package. "For you, Sherlock."
"Put it on the side table." He requested.
She did so. "Aren't you curious what it is?"
"Not really. Just a memento, is all."
Neither Watson or Mrs. Hudson noticed that the small box was wet at the bottom and quivered just slightly. But Sherlock did. His eyes narrowed for a moment, then his face brightened and his eyes turned to his good friends.
"I suggest we eat out this eve."
"A jolly good idea, Holmes." Watson responded, rising. "I shall begin dressing immediately."
"And I." Mrs. Watson replied, heading for her apartment downstairs.
Sherlock waited for everyone to leave the room, then he took the box and opened it. Inside was a wooden heart with his fee on top of it. A small note was attached. He read it.
"Your fee and a small token of my thanks for your collection. Sincerely, the Prince."
Sherlock took his fee and slipped it into his coat, then the heart and tossed it onto the fire, where it began to smoke for a moment, then burst into flames.
Doctor Watson stepped out, straightening his tie and shirt collar. "What's that smell?"
"The past, dear Watson. The past."