Word Count: 1,727
Warnings: fantasy violence?
Author's Note: Tooooo much "Merlin" -- and an indelible Backyardigans influence. Oh, my, that's me in a nutshell. These are the same boys we met in "Unity". :)
Adam drops his backpack to the floor.
“I don’t know why this came into my head,” he says, “but do you remember that game we used to play?”
Evan glances up from his textbook and frowns. “Which one?”
Adam grins, settling in his desk chair. “Knights,” he answers.
Evan grins back before he can help himself.
A flourish of trumpets announces the arrivals, who stride, chests out, heads high, down the length of the tapestry-lined hall to the towering throne.
The king who inhabits it is either twenty-five or forty (and ancient in either case), is possessed of a thick beard he strokes with fingers ringed in gleaming silver (sometimes), and wears a huge crown set with rubies to match his velvet cape (always).
He gazes down at the newcomers his heralds have retrieved with utmost haste, and the two men he has summoned sink to a knee each in synchronized reverence. Though this king seems to have an implausible amount of difficulty protecting his kingdom, it is well-established that he is a just, honorable monarch and man.
He folds his jewelry-weighted hands beneath his chin. “Rise,” he bids the pair. “I have called you here because this kingdom desperately needs your services once more. No one else can do what I am about to ask of you: countless brave men have tried and failed, failures that will only sweeten what I hope will be your triumph.”
Sir Evan pretends not to notice that Sir Adam is bobbing his head and mouthing the words, having memorized this part by now.
“Terribly,” the king goes on, “horrifically, our beloved land has fallen victim to… a famine? What do you mean, a famine?”
“Famines are exciting,” Sir Adam maintains.
“Famines are lame,” the king retorts. “It’s dragons—a whole nest of dragons.”
Sir Evan gives Sir Adam a Look, and they bow and turn to go.
“You always monopolized the story,” Adam remarks.
“I had more ideas,” Evan replies.
“I read more books.”
“I watched more History Channel.”
“You have no idea how exciting famines are.”
“Is there an endangered damsel?” Sir Adam wants to know.
“No,” Sir Evan responds, hacking through some poisonous vines stretched like a spider’s web (or like a rope net on a playground) across the path.
“Well,” Sir Adam persists, trailing him, “what have the dragons done wrong?”
“They’re killing sheep,” Sir Evan reports, clambering over a fallen tree to forge deeper into the seething black heart of the forest.
“Maybe they’re just hungry,” Sir Adam suggests, distracted by an ominously-squawking raven hunched in the nearest tree.
“They’re not just hungry,” Sir Evan counters. “They’re taking people, too.”
“I thought you said there were no damsels,” Sir Adam murmurs.
“All the damsels get eaten,” Sir Evan explains.
“Oh,” Sir Adam says. “Oh, dear.”
“Damsels are for people who are too lame to fight dragons without the extra incentive,” Evan declares.
“That,” Adam comments, “or it was the fact that you were convinced that girls transmitted disease until we were in the eighth grade.”
Evan blinks. “I still think that,” he says.
The precarious path upward towards the dragons’ roost is extremely steep, straggling up a granite behemoth that sneers down at the fools who seek to scales its sides. Sir Adam isn’t sure he can negotiate climbing up it and holding onto his sword at once.
“Come on,” Sir Evan calls, bounding upward. “And be careful with your glasses.”
Sir Adam’s mother had been extremely displeased when he’d scratched his new glasses fighting the griffin. She had been less than impressed with his reenactment of the heroics that had caused it, though she had relented a little when he detailed how he’d saved Sir Evan from its rending talons.
Sighing, wrinkling his nose, and gathering his strength, Sir Adam starts after Sir Evan, who is getting progressively further ahead.
“Nest of dragons,” he mutters. “How big is a ‘nest,’ exactly?”
“I can’t believe people ever thought you were dumb,” Adam remarks.
Evan shrugs. Adam suspects he’s just heard it so many times that he’s come to believe it.
“Really,” Adam tells him. “It takes a pretty sharp mind to develop a sadistic sense of humor by the age of ten.”
“‘Nest’?” Sir Adam howls. “This is not a ‘nest’!”
“Shut up,” Sir Evan replies genially, waving a distracted hand. “They’ll hear you.”
‘They,’ as Sir Adam has discovered peeking over the top of a convenient hideout rock, are a half-dozen dragons with long necks and stony glares, and they loiter about the gaping cave carved into the peak of the mountain. The gravelly ground before them is strewn with meat-stripped bones and grinning skulls, white and gleaming in the sunlight, and Sir Adam is pretty sure he did not sign up for this.
“We’re going to die,” he announces resignedly.
“We survived the werewolves,” Sir Evan counters.
“And the hydra.”
“We almost died.”
“And the giant bugs.”
“I wish this was a famine,” Sir Adam mutters.
“Then we’d be fighting dragons on an empty stomach,” Sir Evan points out cheerfully. “You only live once; you ought to die well. Come on!”
Crowing a battle cry, Sir Evan the Brave hefts his sword and goes charging out into the midst of the extended dragon family lazing about the bone-yard.
Wailing, Sir Adam the Not-As-Brave clutches the hilt of his own weapon and scrambles after.
What follows, Adam has to admit, is fairly epic.
Sir Evan, indefatigable, leaps and twirls and hacks and swings, and shattered scales go flying. Evan slams the blade against a hissing, writhing, darting dragon’s throat, and an ear-splitting roar rumbles from the beast, shepherding a plume of fire that sears and singes the very air. Dragon blood splatters on the rocks, and Evan whoops and dives upon his next prospective victim.
Sir Adam cringes and forces himself into motion, approaching the smallest of the dragons, trying to look intimidating instead of uncertain. Scales glinting, crest unfurled, it lifts its tapering head and considers him, blinking intelligent green eyes. He tilts his head, and it does likewise, and neither looks away.
“You had to make friends with everything,” Evan grumbles.
“When you put six dragons on a mountaintop,” Adam retorts, “one of them is bound to be a renegade vegetarian. That’s just statistics.”
“You’re insane.” Evan is rolling his eyes and pretending to go back to his homework.
Adam beams. “Can I help it if your monsters are helpless in the face of my charms?” he inquires.
Evan gives him a Look.
“You found butterflies with the giant bugs,” he says.
Sir Adam’s new friend beats huge, leathery wings, and the wind whistles in his ears and buffets at his armor as they rise above the raging battle. Deftly Sir Evan decapitates his third foe, leaving just two more in need of vanquishing.
“Just two more.” That’s funny.
Sir Adam’s new friend—Adam is attempting to come up with a suitable name while in the process of not losing his grip—swoops down to sink its claws into a larger, mean-looking red dragon’s side. Sir Adam scampers down from Darius—Darius?—onto the bad dragon’s back, where he plunges his sword through a gap in the scales over its ribs, earning another Earth-shattering, bone-jittering, stones-clattering roar. The bad dragon twists, turning its head and mustering a jet of flame—which Sir Adam dodges by a hairsbreadth with a hasty leap. Airborne, heat sizzling at his back, he flails all his limbs and hopes the ground isn’t as hard as it looks from up here.
He hits it and rolls, scraping his armor, dropping his sword (the steel of which rings forlornly as it tumbles away)—but keeps his glasses.
Gravel crunches, and he staggers to his feet. Sword, sword, sword—
Not far away, Sir Evan throws himself to the ground, and a torrent of fire sprays just above his head, blackening the feather on his helmet, and charred barbs crumble.
Uh oh. Now it’s personal.
Sir Evan gathers himself deliberately to his feet, draws himself to his full height, and looks the dragon in the eye. It glares back, barbed tail twitching, daring him to move.
So he steps forward and buries his sword in that terrible gold eye.
Sir Adam had not realized that dragons can scream.
It’s a bit of a squeal, actually—shrill, high, and horrible, grating in his ears. Sir Adam sets a hand on Darius’s flank, feeling the vast muscles shift as his new friend fidgets uncomfortably, and gives the scales an encouraging pat.
Sir Evan is cleaning, sticky, gooey dragon fluids off of the blade of his sword.
“Well,” he remarks, breathless and bright-faced. “That was fun.”
“This is Darius,” Sir Adam explains.
Sir Evan blinks. “Hi, Darius,” he says.
Darius’s tail swishes back and forth.
Sir Adam hopes his mother will let him keep him.
It usually took an entire day to get through a full round of Knights—they received their assignment at recess, traipsed to the distant locale during lunch, and went to Adam’s house after school to fight for their lives all over the wooded acre of Adam’s backyard.
Adam thinks that’s part of why Evan had been alone before they’d met—he had filled the space of solitude with his imagination. Adam spent his childhood turning the hills around his home into wonderlands and wildernesses, to the point that anything could become anything else if he just looked at it the right way.
Evan grew up in an apartment, and he hadn’t been a strong reader—which, of course, meant that he fell progressively further behind as the educational system geared up without him.
So Adam had undertaken to teach him—to teach him that sticks were swords, and rope swings were jungle vines, and the whole world was ready and waiting for you to fill it with adventure.
Evan had taken to it like a fish to water, gulping greedily, sliding through, owning it, indulging it, loving it. He bloomed. He smiled more often. He had fun.
Adam got him reading after that, the key to which was providing him with books too good to give up on.
Evan still thinks he’s stupid—and Adam still hasn’t stopped trying to talk him out of it—but the difference now is that everyone can tell he’s wrong.