Érard sighed. "Then I must truly be not welcome here." He shook his head. "What else is new?"
Cat reached up and patted his cheek with the cool pads of his paw. "Ah, but there you are wrong. A lost and wandering prince is perfectly acceptable. Almost traditional, you might say."
Érard smiled, feeling very lost and sad. "Once the quest is completed the prince must leave. Very few things can stop my destiny to inherit."
Cat slid out of his reach and sat up primly, tail curling over his paws. He gazed into the distance as though there was something intensely fascinating on the horizon. "There is always true love," he said in an offhand manner.
Érard's tongue had become thick and dry. It stuck to the roof of his mouth and prevented him from answering. Even if he knew what he wanted to say.
Cat slid bonelessly down from the grassy bench and disappeared into the shadows of the trees.
Érard did not follow. The warmth at his side faded with the absence of his friend. Érard brought his knees up under his chin, and wrapped his arms around his legs, making himself into a small, tight ball. Even that did not ward off the creeping chill. What did he want most in the world? He had been raised to be king, and he had grown up under those expectations. The White Hart had shown him an alternate path. What would happen to him, and to the kingdom, if he took it? The sun sank the last few feet, and backlit the orchard with a golden-honey light. In that moment Érard found true freedom.
Érard eventually found Cat sitting in their favourite fairy dancing ring on the edge of the forest near the sea. The sound of surf surged on the edge of hearing, competing with the leaves and wind for his attention. In his pocket Érard had an apple from the magical orchard. It lay heavy and chill, and with each step it bumped against his hip. He was about ready to ring forth like a drum with each striking.
Cat sat in the middle of the large ring of colourful toadstools. "Why have you come?" He said with quiet dejection. "Why do you keep returning to torment me?"