Part III – Double Reverse, Backhand Psychology
The Prince righted himself once more, and Drawful was about done with considering the stumbling klutz any sort of threat or possible adversary. He was tempted to ask Brooke if she had some cord he could use to tie his arms and wings down to make it a fair fight. Even then he’d still have to restrain his fire breathing to keep it at all interesting.
The Prince dusted himself off again and shot look of ire at his horse. The horse was as unconcerned with the Prince as Brooke was, and it sauntered off the path to the grass where it began to chomp on the well-tended park lawn.
“Who are you?” Drawful asked.
“Prince Chauncey Billups of the Kingdom Anathema.”
Drawful shot a look at Brooke, as the Kingdom’s name seemed entirely too on the nose. The Princess still could muster no more than a shrug, giving Drawful more than his fill of the story he had hoped to live out.
Drawful decided to just ask. “That name-”
“Is a family name, and no, no relation to the basketball player.”
Drawful looked back at the Princess who had sat back against the bench with her face to the sky as if praying for rescue. Drawful had been let down by the sky once already regarding poetry and had no inclination to trust it for dealing with a dunderheaded Prince.
“Sir, have you come to challenge me for the Princess or not?” Drawful thought, as a last ditch, if he stepped up the intensity of their encounter, perhaps his own Dragonry and intensity would draw the Prince into it.
Drawful had learned as much from his bi-weekly improv classes. This might have worked if Prince Chauncey had ever taken such a class and learned the crucial “yes, and” approach critical to furthering improvisational scenes and sketches. As it was, Chauncey had learned no such thing. The nearest he had learned in the Kingdom of Anathema were heavy sighs, forlorn groans, ambivalent mehs, and indignant snorts. He was the jewel of his father’s eye.
“My father would like that,” the Prince sneered absently more at some disconsolate memory than to Drawful.
Drawful gave up and returned to standing at a more comfortable posture. While Drawful’s mind mulled over what sins of his past this was punishment for, the Prince continued. “It’s time for you to wed. How can you take the Kingdom as a bachelor Prince? I thought it was just random babbling. He normally gets it off his chest then just lets me get back to my work with my band, Alternative Duchy.”
“You’re in a band?” The Princess called out.
Drawful was surprised at her finally speaking up. When he glanced at her over his shoulder, she shot him a wink that the Prince didn’t notice while he sputtered and considered that an attractive girl was asking about his band. “Yeah, I play, um, Bass.”
“Such an underrated instrument,” The Princess admired.
Drawful looked back at the Prince. By Drawful’s measure, the Princess’ admiration was positively oozing with sarcasm, but the Prince was blushing and running a hand impishly through his hair in a play of false humility at the fawning statement.
“Where do you all play?” The Princess leaned forward once more to rest her chin on her hand, but this time in a theatrically rapt posture that, again Drawful marveled that the Prince didn’t read the extremity of as sarcasm.
“My dad lets us use the dungeon. Says it sounds the same as the screaming from down there anyway, so at least it mingles.” The Prince trailed off and coughed, and tried to laugh it off. “Plus, there are great acoustics.”
Brooke nodded respectfully at the thoughtfulness. “Do you have an amphitheater in your kingdom where you perform? Your subjects must love your music. I’m sure it’s not very mainstream,” The Princess made air quotes at the last word but waved off the notion of it in her next gesture with a gust of light breath. “but you’re a Prince. You’re educating your masses.”
“Yeah, no, not at all. How’d you guess? Yeah, no, we’re not mainstream, no I don’t like that stuff at all. We don’t really play gigs or shows though, but you know, maybe we should. Uh, I mean we will soon, but you know we’re fine tuning is all.”
Drawful was stunned. This stammering version of the Prince somehow managed to be more abrasive to the dragon’s sensibilities than the haughty, bungling one that had first arrived. “Sir, your music aside, I believe we have an impasse we need to find our way beyond vis a vis your mission to rescue the Princess.”
The Prince shook his head deftly before turning back to Drawful. He looked momentarily surprised Drawful was still there then looked back at the Princess who waved a few fingers of her hands cutely at Chauncey. Chauncey flushed red and coughed nervously facing the Princess’ smile and Drawful noticed the Prince averted his gaze sheepishly.
“Well, like I said, I told my dad I’d look into it, and my plan was to stop by the palace so your dad could tell my dad that I did come looking, then I’d take my time getting home to Anathema, there’s a concert the day after tomorrow in the Kingdom of Tralfamadore, and you know, tell my pops ‘hey sorry old man, I tried. We’ll try for the next kidnapped Princess, right?’”
“But you came all this way,” the Princess pined dramatically.
The Prince blushed a furious red that made Drawful a little uncomfortable to see. Calling once more on his theater training, he tried to reestablish the scene. “Yes, and-” Drawful concurred, “prepare yourself. We shall battle for the Princess!”
The Prince finally took in Drawful’s height. Drawful, unlike many dragons preferred walking on his hindquarters upright like humans. Despite his small stature compared to many of his species, he still towered over most humans at his height of ten feet. The Prince’s face drained of color and turned a sickly pallor in the shade of Drawul’s figure.
“I, uh, I was hoping, uh, negotiate?” The Prince stuttered in terror, and Drawful was fairly certain the Prince had wet himself, if only a little.
Brooke had climbed to sit on the back of the bench as a perch, and outstretched her arms theatrically while she cried out: “Oh, my Prince, please, don’t subject yourself to the Dragon’s whims. Strike fast, save me! I want to see your band back in Anathema! I want to meet your father! I want to be your Queen!”
“My? Queen?” Chauncey seemed to choke on the word. He bowed his head in fright and fought to swallow. Uttering the words had caused his throat to seize in panic.
“Oh please my Prince! The moment I saw you it was as a dream trotting into my world to save me from this terrifying dragon!” The princess crooned and twisted romantically for the Prince.
Drawful saw the Prince’s eyes were as wide as they might safely be able to open without them popping out. The Princess continued and laid it on thicker: “Please save me and claim the undying devotion that already steels my heart for you name and favor! I am forever yours and yours alone!”
Drawful was confused at the display, but the Princess managed to flash him another wink between her display while the Prince began to pant in desperation for air amid an onset panic attack at the Princess’ pronouncements. Between his gasping, Drawful heard the Prince pleading: “but we just met.”
Drawful made a mental note to ask the Princess if she too had ever attended the Sorceress Tabitha’s Improv classes. Perhaps they had been on alternate schedules. Drawful drew closer to the Prince, so that they were huddled conspiratorily some twenty feet away from the bench where the Princess was perched with sickly sweet gaze fixed on the Prince of Anathema.
Drawful artfully let the Princess swoon and bore into the Prince just a bit more with her swimming, googly eyes before he spread his wings to offer them shade from her. The Prince seemed to comport himself a bit with the shade from her gaze, but looked flustered all the same. Drawful put a taloned arm over the Prince’s shoulder and consoled. “I think we may have an alternate means of approaching this situation that could satisfy us both no?”
The Prince’s eagerness was plain and he looked up at Drawful desperately. The Dragon continued. “You see, all I want is a magnificent story of my battles with a Prince, and it seems to me your father only wants to know that you made a go of trying to save her, to see that you’re at least trying, no?”
The Prince nodded.
“Well,” Drawful grinned cleverly, “what if you found that I was something of an enchanted dragon? One that you tried to fight, but could not harm?”
“An enchanted dragon? Who enchanted you?”
Drawful rolled his eyes. “The Sorceress Tabitha, if anyone asks her about me, I’m sure she’ll provide the reference that she has indeed worked with me.”
The prince nodded stupidly and Drawful continued impatiently. “So, say there’s an enchanted sword that you need to acquire that can break the sorceress’ charm? And say you told your father that you were journeying to find it? And that this journey begins in Tralfamadore?” Drawful raised his eyebrows knowingly, but the Prince was either still so shaken or so stupid (Drawful guessed both) that he missed Drawful’s meaning.
“But if I have a magical sword that can kill you, then I’ll have to,” at this point the Prince’s throat seized up once more and Drawful heard random pieces of the word “marry” sputter out amid the Prince’s panicked attempts to finish his thought.
“Dolt,” Drawful spat. “I’m telling you to send word to your father of a reason why our fight was at a stalemate, and why, you can even ask him for funding for your quest so that you can buy VIP tickets to the music festival you mentioned. Get out and travel a bit. There’s no sword, so you’ll never have to worry about finding it. You spread the word of an enchantment and it will help my story as well.”
Finally the Prince’s expression shifted to comprehension and he began to wag a finger in agreement with Drawful. The Prince held out a hand to seal the deal with the dragon. Drawful regarded it unsurely, and took it around a single digit of his massive hand to shake.
Drawful unfurled his wing from them, and the Princess was sitting there, her googly eyes still sustained as the prince began to stagger away toward his horse. In a voice too loud and stiff to at all be believable (the Sorceress Tabitha would serve him well Drawful thought) he called out: “Fear me dragon! For when next you see me I shall bear your undoing! I seek the sword of legend, the uh, blade of the unbidden? Yes the blade of the unbidden to smite you!”
Prince Chauncey mounted his horse and kicked at it to get it trotting. The horse was still enjoying the grass and let out only an indignant snort in defiance of its master. The Prince looked uneasily at the horse, and realized he should continue his tirade for the sake of the Kingdom’s subjects who had slowly gathered to watch the unfolding scene with their Princess, dragon and a man with the undeniably well tended hair of a royal.
“You’ll see Princess! I shall return for you!”
“And you shall rescue me and we shall wed!” The Princess shouted gleefully.
The Prince began kicking at his steed in anxious panic to get it to take off with speed. It snorted once more and tiredly began to trot off, despite its master’s continued and impassioned urging.
Drawful joined the Princess at the bench, leaning over the back of it beside her and watching the Prince race off. When the absurd Prince reached the gate of the park, Drawful tapped his chin with his black claw thoughtfully. “Should this take more than a day, how shall we replenish the per diem for our daily expenses?”
“My father said he would be putting the per diem into my accounts, so I have it covered for whatever expenses.” Brooke confirmed.
Drawful nodded. “Well, speaking of, I think it’s about time for dinner.”
Brooke smiled and hopped off the bench. They began to walk to the Western gate opposite the Prince’s own exit point. When they were back on the streets, Drawful suggested a lovely tavern for dinner he knew just outside the Kingdom’s walls.
Outside the gates, Drawful recalled to ask: “By the way, Princess, you might not have had training in theater?”
“As a matter of fact,” the Princess grinned proudly, “I take improv with the Sorceress Tabitha on Tuesday nights.”
Drawful nodded and confirmed, “I thought as much.” He grinned at the Princess. “I go on Thursdays.”