For this week’s Friday Flash Fiction, Chuck Wendig asked us to pick a number at random, and match it to a list of psychic powers he provided. I picked 13 which turned out to be …. well, work it out for yourself. I rather fancied carrying on with the world invented last week.
Sir Woebegone stood in front of the dragon. If he moved more than an inch, he was sure he would wake it. If the empress hadn’t been so insistent, he wouldn’t even have considered attempting to kill the darn thing.
He wasn’t Sir Lancelot; he’d already tried and failed.
He wasn’t Sir Cuthbert, who’d probably tried to bore it to death with his stories.
He wasn’t even Sir George, well known for his valiant slaying of dragons in Georgia, Anglesland, Lebanon and Catalonia.
Sir Woebegone glanced at his sword, wondering why it was still in its scabbard.
The trouble was, he had gained an entirely unwarranted reputation for being able to overcome the opposition. He might look like a forlorn hope, but appearances were deceptive, he thought to himself. Then he admitted that they were not at all deceptive and he was, indeed, a forlorn hope, just as his name implied. Any success he had gained at overcoming the opposition was due entirely to a wholly unexpected occurrence: whenever he touched a certain spot on the hilt of his sword, he found himself somewhere entirely different. That is to say, one moment he was wherever he was when he wanted to use the sword, and the next moment he was somewhere else.
Over the years he had discovered a couple of things about this. One was that he always landed on his feet, even if he had been lying down at the time he touched the sword. He discovered that on the fourth day of the Crusade. Sir Lancelot had encouraged him to go along, since it would gain him favour with the Empress. It was early in their careers, and gaining favour was something their tutor had impressed upon them. He and Lancelot had been sleeping on the ground, taking advantage of the warm summer night, and trying out this star-gazing thing that was all the rage locally. It was a very pleasant way to fall asleep, especially after three goatskins of wine shared between them. Some local yokel had come along to ask who they were and why they were lying in his father’s field, and Sir Woebegone had been so startled by him he had reached for his sword … and found himself standing on his feet on the side of the mountain they’d climbed up a day earlier. It had taken some explaining, but Lancelot had been most kind; it was part of his knight’s code not to ask rude questions when his friend disappeared in such a manner.
He’d discovered the second thing when he was thinking of a particular place he’d rather be as an enemy knight was charging towards him with a lance. Lance versus sword is not an equal battle, but it was all Sir Woebegone had, so he drew his sword, and found himself standing in the middle of his bedroom. This was great! He realised he had returned to just the place he wanted to be. He tried this a few times, thinking of a place and touching his sword, and he’d turned up in the right spot each time. He’d even tried sitting down, thinking of a place, touching his sword, with the result he arrived there standing up.
So why he was standing in front of a dragon, glancing at his sword, and wondering whether to draw it?
The trouble was, he had arrived in front of the dragon without touching his sword. All he’d done was to think of standing in front of the dragon, and think about drawing his sword. And then he was there – in front of it. How on earth had that happened? And what should he do now?
If he drew his sword he would wake the dragon. If he didn’t draw his sword he would be killed as soon as the dragon woke up. If he didn’t draw his sword he could hardly return to the empress and say he’d failed.
The dragon shifted its head on its front feet, a few coins delicately sliding off its bed of treasure onto the floor. It raised one eyelid.
“Ah,” it said, “another tasty snack.”
“I’m no snack,” said Sir Woebegone, drawing himself up to his full five foot two and looking fierce.
The dragon smiled. “OK, if you say so. What are you then?”
“I’m Sir Woebegone.”
“Of course you are. How’s your sword today?”
“What do you mean, how’s my sword?”
“I mean,” and the dragon yawned and stretched, causing Sir Woebegone to take two steps backwards, “that your sword belongs to me. Are you returning it?”
“What do you mean, my sword belongs to you?” Sir Woebegone blustered. “It belonged to my father, and my father’s father before him!”
“Yes, yes, of course it did,” soothed the dragon, “I just thought it might be nice if the son, or the son’s son, finally got round to returning it, since you’ve absorbed its powers. I must say you’ve done very well with it, your father and your father’s father couldn’t manage it.”
Sir Woebegone frowned. He then drew the sword from the scabbard, gently, so that the dragon didn’t mistake his meaning. He looked at the hilt, and then looked the blade up and down. It was a pretty sword, but he didn’t feel he needed it any more. Not if he could really imagine places and travel there in less time than it took to say ‘dragon’.
“Well, ok, then,” he said with finality, replacing the sword in its scabbard, and handing it hilt first to the dragon.
“Just pop it over there, that’s very kind of you. What will you tell the empress?”
“You don’t think I’m going back there, do you?” He laid the sword at the place the dragon had indicated. “Tell my page you’ve eaten me, would you?” he asked, and then he disappeared.
© J M Pett 2013