Drawful the Awful Part XII – Enemy at the Gates

Drawful the Awful is the ongoing series/novel in progress following the pursuits of the dragon, Drawful, who is awful at being a dragon, and his “kidnapee” the Princess Brooke. The full series can be found here.

Haverly had envisioned racing off in the dead of night on a stallion that would practically be flying down the empty streets and bursting through the gates to begin his adventure. However, Haverly did not own a Stallion, or a mare, or a pony, donkey, mule, alpaca, or any other cloven hoofed animal that may have provided him such conveyance.

So Haverly was forced to wait until the stables opened at dawn in order to rent one. Thankfully, the age of requirement for rental was twenty four and Haverly had turned the proper age just the month before. Still, he was required to purchase the premium liability coverage for the rental, which inflated the cost so much that he’d been forced to downgrade from a stallion.

“Yer too tall fer a pony mate,” the stable hand had told him. “Anyone taller ‘en a tween looks like a nancy ridin a pony.”

“Well, a mule doesn’t look like the kind of thing I can ride into battle against a Dragon.” Haverly regarded the stout animal. Sturdy looking, surely, but battle ready?

The stable hand confirmed. “Yer right about tha’. Tote a giant load? A mule is your bes’ bet. Lookin’ for somethin’ with speed though? That’ll charge a dragon head on without hesitation? That’ll be by your side through the inferno and carnage?”

Haverly agreed emphatically, and signed the rental agreement for his temporary alpaca, Bob, with gusto. Another person might have approached the business of being convinced to ride an Alpaca as their steed with chagrin. However, Haverly was a wizard, and his tastes being a bit afield of the average citizen’s, he adored the creature. He sat as tall as its neck and let it take him to the city gates at a comfortable strut to enjoy the looks he was getting for it.

If the Princess Brooke could see Haverly with his alpaca (and if she were also indisputably aware of Haverly’s affections for her) she might have been jealous. Haverly was generous with his cooing at the chocolate brown animal. He offered it plenty of pats on its long neck and enjoyed ruffling its thick mat of wool at the nape. He waved proudly at the citizenry waking for a new day and on their way to their work and business.

There were plenty people sure they must be dreaming instead of actually seeing a wizard proudly riding an alpaca. Haverly was effusive with his appreciation of Bob. “You’re the best steed an adventurer could hope for. Who’s a good boy? Bob is, that’s who.” The alpaca may not have understood the letter of the language, but he whinnied several times on the parade in appreciation of Haverly’s kindness.

Finally, Haverly Lockwatch passed through the gates of the Alabaster Kingdom, the same gates the Princess had left through just twelve hours prior. Waiting outside the gate, was the good King Nick, with a unit of his castle guard as his escort behind him. “Ah, Haverly m’boy, good to see you were right on top of getting yourself a steed first thing in the morning.”

Haverly looked up at the King. Nick’s mount, a castle bred royal warhorse that was ink black from snout to tail, was so tall that the king could have kicked Haverly in the chin without having to shift in his saddle. The King, magnanimously, hopped down from the saddle so that he could regard Haverly eye to eye.

“My liege, did you come to see me off?”

The king scoffed lightly at the notion. “No, I couldn’t possibly show that kind of favor to a suitor. I just happen to be here at this gate awaiting visitors to the Kingdom to welcome them. You, seem to be passing the other way.”

Haverly instantly flushed with embarrassment, thinking the King’s implication was that he had been far too presumptuous. The King feigned giving it some reluctant consideration but snuck a wink at Haverly while he ruminated loudly for his escort to hear. “But, since you are a trusted advisor in my cabinet, I suppose I could bid you farewell and wish you well on whatever errand, chore, journey, or quest you may be undertaking.”

“Well, I’m-“

“My friend!” A hoarse voice called from down the path from the gates.

King Nick squinted against the dawn light on the horizon to make out two figures trotting their way on horses. Haverly looked from the silhouetted figures to the King, wondering if this had been why King Nick had been here. On King Nick’s face, a pallor washed over him that hinted to Haverly that this was neither expected nor pleasant for the King.

King Lando urged his horse on and Plebo eventually followed suit, albeit with a tired groan from the overnight horse ride. “King Lando,” King Nick identified, before shooting a meaningful glance at his escort. Haverly knew that the King had certain fail safes in place for this emergency scenario. Two of the escorts slowly peeled off from the unit and made their way through the gates back to the castle where they would instruct the cabinet to pack the King’s schedule as tightly as possible with meetings and other work.

Lando dismounted to join the King on the ground, although the portly king did so with a bit more kicking and more so by unbalancing and rolling out of the saddle than King Nick had. On the ground, Lando slapped King Nick’s shoulder affably and laughed from his ample belly. “I thought I’d come by and enjoy the show with you! After all, my son being the first suitor to challenge the dragon? First one off after the legendary blade?”

King Nick looked at Haverly for help but Haverly only managed to flap his mouth helplessly because what could a wizard say to a King? “Peas, what did you say the success rate is for first responder princes to Dragons?”

Peas was slumped against the back of his horse’s neck, his face buried in the mane. His voice, though muffled, was heard as saying: “latest data by the Seven Kingdoms Research Institute says sixty five percent.”

Lando was overjoyed and repeated the factoid. “Sixty five percent! I like those odds and I’m sure you do too! I was thinking I’d take you up on visiting finally so I could be here for the pending celebration and wedding planning!”

King Nick was flummoxed as Lando put an arm around him and began walking him inside the gates. King Nick stammered desperately. “I don’t think you need to help with wedding planning.”

“Well, I know it’s traditionally the father of the bride,” Lando admitted before he gave King Nick a playful jab in the stomach which made the good King jump in discomfort at Lando’s contact. Lando laughed loudly then promised: “but I plan on this union being indicative of a closer partnership of our two kingdoms! So, I’ll be partaking in the wedding planning and costs as an equal with you!”

King Nick shot a pained glance at Haverly who bared his teeth in futility and shrugged. Plebo kicked for his horse to begin trotting after the Kings into the Kingdom. As he passed the wizard, the Duke opened an eye and muttered through the mane. “Nice Alpaca.”

Within moments, the Kings, Duke, and the remainder of the royal escort were parading up the boulevard to the castle. Haverly patted Bob consolingly and assured his new companion. “Well, that may be the weirdest thing we see today. Let’s go Bob.”

Even Bob knew Haverly was silly to make such a claim, especially so early in the day.

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