Drawful the Awful Part XIX: Tours of Duty

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.

Once at the castle, Nick had tried to peel Lando from his shadow by offering the King a place to rest after the overnight trip.

“Poppycock!” The royal had replied loudly, handing off his horse to an attendant. “Been sitting on that horse all night, I’m ready to get moving! I feel we’re learning so much from each other already! I want to soak up as much as I can, give the people and preview of the Alabaster Kingdom two point oh!”

Nick had no idea what the two point oh meant, nor did Lando really. Lando had only heard Plebo use it and learned the meaning from context. Nick looked at his royal guard that were flanking the doors to the palace for help. They give as subtle of shrugs as they could to show they had no means of rescuing their King from his predicament.

Nick, for his part, took a deep breath and told himself that at least Lando was willing to learn- even if he was being a complete oaf about it. There are few things worse than an idiot. One of those things is an idiot who is not aware they are an idiot. Another being an idiot who is completely unwilling to learn. At least Lando was the tolerable sort of dolt who wanted to learn, even if the foreign King’s pride had him comporting himself as if Nick had anything to learn from him except as a cautionary tale of not maintaining healthy reading or eating habits.

This gave Nick an idea and he dusted his hands as they entered the hall. Nick unlatched his riding cloak and handed it with thanks to an attendant waiting inside the doors. “I begin the day with exercise and some light practice with the sword before I breakfast in the early mid-morning.”

Nick maintained a casual, unaffected air as he walked the length of the entry hall and then turned off to the eastern wing of the castle. Lando did look flummoxed, and Nick tried not to show evident notice of the fact. The King’s right hand man, the Duke Plebo, was following them with one hand stuffed in the pocket of his trousers and the other futily trying to wipe the heavy sleep from his eye.

“I think I could enjoy a tour of the grounds in the meantime,” Lando suggested. “While I’m not ready for sleep, I think such demands would be a bit much for me after the ride to your palace.”

Nick nodded and with a nod called up one of the attendants who was fallowing a few paces behind the group. “Earl, please have one of the castle’s best historians give Lando a tour, I’m sure he’ll enjoy a thorough look at the castle, its grounds and various features.”

The attendant nodded smartly, understanding the King’s meaning. Lando piped excitedly at the prospect. “Wonderful!” Plebo rolled his eyes as the King followed the attendant gleefully. As Plebo turned to follow his own King, he mouthed at Nick, “I’m sorry.”

Nick did his best not to show any appreciation of Plebo’s soundless sentiment, but he was sure he failed.

Out in the training yard, the King was more distracted than usual, and the Captain of his guard noticed. It would be a lucky day in sparring with King Nick for any of the guard to get even a blow in on the King. They had been sparring for a half hour and Captain Louis had seven flags in his favor already.

Louis had known King Nick since his daughter’s birth and had earned a rapport with the King to speak frankly. Louis waved a hand for a break from the King after scoring another blow. The King exhaled more tiredly than Louis had ever seen the king and stabbed the practice blade into the dirt to stand upright by his side before removing his helmet for some air. “Sir, don’t tell me a single visitor has you this out of sorts?”

King Nick glanced around the yard, to ensure Lando would not emerge from the gardens on his tour unexpectedly. “That obvious, eh?”

Louis pulled off his own helmet and leaned on his broadsword, which dug it deeper into the dirt under his weight. The Captain slicked sweat from his brow. Even distracted as he was, the Good King Nick was still making Louis work to earn those strikes. Both men’s hair was matted by their helmets and sweat against their skulls. “Sir, he really isn’t that bad. I know it can be grating, but clearly you never had a younger brother.”

King Nick, shook his head, unsure of the captain’s point. The Captain smiled. “Lando admires you. If you had a little brother, you might have been more used to having a little hanger on trying to emulate you.”

Nick waved over one of the squires to take his blade and for the others to help him remove his practice armor. Louis followed suit. Once the King was free of the heavy plating, he breathed heavy with relief and sat on the bench at the perimeter of the sparring ring and patted for Louis to sit beside him. “It’s not that so much,”

Louis pursed his lips and weighed his words, for only a moment before he decided to just come out with it. “In laws?”

The King, who was in the middle of inhaling a tired breath of air, suddenly froze and his eyes revealed panic at hearing the words out loud for the first time. Louis nodded and bobbed his head. “Shame, you kind of left the odds up to lady luck on that one. After all, it’s not a matter of the Princess’ choice anymore, it’s whatever doofus swings a blade well.”

King Nick’s head turned quickly and Louis put his hands up defensively. “Not to say that only a doofus can swing a sword sir.”

Nick barked a joyous laugh and cuffed his captain’s shoulder. “Yes, well, can I be honest? I know I’m supposed to be surprised that this dragon, Drawful? He’s more of a trickster than a vicious monster.”

“I heard the reports. He apparently talked Prince Chauncey into some wild goose chase for a blade I don’t think exists that’s guarded by a dragon I’ve never heard of.” Louis recounted, having read the briefing on the Princess’ whereabouts for the morning already. Louis made sure to read all dossiers by candlelight while having his soldier’s breakfast of black coffee, hard cheese and some untoasted bread. It had been years since he’d last been on a campaign or march and needed to eat such a hardy meal out of necessity, but the discipline, he believed, kept him young.

“At least Drawful is doing a good job of weeding out the idiots.”

“Sir, if you’re afraid of the possible results of an idiot winning your daughter by brute strength, why agree to the circumstance? Reports show Prince Chauncey was on his way to retrieve this legendary blade.”

“For one thing, I did read the dossier the Spin Wizard prepared on Drawful, and I know that if anyone’s going to beat that dragon, it’ll be by wits not by slashes. I thought that would be a good kick start to Brooke taking her responsibility of finding a suitor more seriously.” Nick pouted and looked over to the gardens thoughtfully, worrying over the news of Lando’s son apparently being on a quest for a blade to defeat Drawful.

According the Haverly the day before, the blade had been a fiction, but that’s how these legends were. You could barely turn around before there was a new tale of some legendary sword, enchanted shield, or other magical macguffin before word of it’s being buried or guarded somewhere just off this or that edge of the map reached an adventurer’s ears. The King Nick was most puzzled by one other tidbit from Louis’ information. “You say there’s another dragon though?”

“Fallon of the Terrible Fire and Much Meanness.” Nick cocked an eyebrow at his Captain, who nodded wearily. “Yes, it’s a mouthful, but he apparently deserves it. Mean ol’ bugger by the sound of it. Lives in a granite labyrinth far south of Hubrista.”

Nick looked to the south, which was just over his right shoulder. The sky was blue, specked with pleasant fluffy clouds. No leathery wings beat against it. He was grateful for that much. “Well, let’s hope he stays there.”

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