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.
The cabinet meeting had a full attendance, plus the two guests from the neighboring Anathema. Despite Haverly’s spur of the moment departure, which the King acknowledged as if it were news to him, the young wizard had left word with his Assistant Director to fill his seat at the cabinet meeting for the day. Haverly’s alternate was a young graduate of the local University in literature and writing, Bethany Tawney, who took furious notes throughout the meeting and barely squeaked out a word to confirm her place as proxy for Haverly.
Nick decided to do Bethany a kindness and not ask her to read the daily reports to the room at large as he often asked of Haverly. With her in Haverly’s usual seat at the very end of the table, Nick was sure only the two people directly beside her would have a chance of hearing her anyway, if even them.
Lando was also busily taking notes beside Nick, though Nick was sure Bethany’s notes were a bit more insightful. Looking over Lando’s shoulder several times throughout the meeting, Nick was baffled that the portly King felt the need to take notes on the fact that King Nick “begins meeting with greeting to cabinet members,” and then “asks (graciously) for cabinet to take a seat.”
Even more notable than Lando’s astonishingly detailed notes, were Plebo’s grave regard of his King’s attentiveness. Louis was right, King Nick had certainly dealt with adoring subjects, but King Lando was a bit more of a little brother (despite being five years Nick’s senior). Nick was beginning to feel the mounting sense of responsibility- and worry- for the King’s learning.
Nick had asked the members of the cabinet to introduce themselves and their roles (introducing Haverly’s position on Bethany’s behalf, and her as his proxy which the girl gave a look of gratitude for), so that the King might take useful notes on the Kingdom’s order.
When the business of the day had been reviewed, requests for further information, research, and action been issued by the King, he dismissed the cabinet. Plebo and Lando stayed behind for a review of the meeting and for Nick to answer whatever questions his fellow royal may have.
Lando chewed the pencil the King’s attendant had provided him and reviewed the long bulleted list of notes he had taken. “So, how do you qualify the people for each of these positions?”
“Expertise and through interviews. We review a summary of their studies in the areas applicable to their position, and then a direct interview that they might demonstrate their knowledge and enthusiasm.”
“Enthusiasm,” Lando murmured the word worrisomely.
Nick quickly understood the elder King’s trepidation. “There are two ways to create it. One is to offer people a chance to truly have impact on their community by leveraging and applying their skills and knowledge with freedom and respect.”
Lando looked stymied and his eyes once more glazed over in regard and computation of Nick’s counsel. Nick gave it a moment and noted that Plebo looked away wearily from the pair. “The other is a decent paycheck.”
Lando nodded. Money was a simple enough concept for him to understand. This business of community impact and passion he might need a bit more on, but hopefully Nick would be responsive to follow up missives. Lando told himself to make the most of his time here and really take it all in.
Plebo spoke up finally with a barely believable obsequious smile. “Thank you king Nick, you honor us with the counsel. We shall certainly review upon our return to Anathema and-”
“-and do our best to emulate what has worked so well here,” Lando finished, with an icy glare at his Duke.
Plebo winced visibly in particular at the word “worked” and how foreign it sounded in Lando’s voice. Nick grinned to himself and Plebo looked at him with as ambivalent a poker face as he could manage. “This is true, after all Prince Chauncey has apparently made it past Hubrista to the black lake just outside Fallon’s domain.”
King Nick was surprised at the news, it had not been included in his own cabinet’s reports, but then again, Bethany had not read hers, only left printed copies for the King’s later review and approval to be issued as the evening news. “Is he? He’s making quite admirable progress.”
“Yes, it could be worrisome news for Drawful, especially. Could be Chauncey has the sword already.” Plebo’s gaze locked on the King and read Nick’s eyes for a hint or waver of uncertainty.
Lando guffawed excitedly. “Well! I’d better take more notes! More to learn since we’ll be working together more and more if this is a sign!”
Nick’s voice was flat and his gaze remained steady with Plebo’s. “Yes, this is the time I reserve for private study relative to action items from the day’s cabinet.”
Plebo finally slouched into a more relaxed posture and tutted to himself. “Such a shame too. Reports say Drawful is quite a lovely dragon.”
“Actually, he’s quite awful,” Nick corrected flatly.
Plebo rolled his eyes and chuckled. “Awful at being a dragon from what I’ve read. That’s where his name is from. Which makes him a nice anything else.” Lando regarded the ceiling in consideration of his Duke’s logic. Plebo held his hands open in surrender at a King’s unshakeable will and decree. “Shame he should have to die for this, but all in the name of that right suitor proving himself, yes?”
Nick chewed the inside of his cheek. “You don’t say.”
Plebo took a deep breath and turned his attention to Lando. “I’m glad Chauncey is seizing the opportunity to show off his extensive combat skills.”
King Nick looked plainly surprised and Lando seized on the opportunity to boast of his son. “Chauncey is quite the study at blade and bow. Bit aimless as far as applying himself to a career and what he’ll be known for, but he’s got all the tools in the right place. Daresay he’d have a good show against you in the sparring ring. Regularly trains with four of our captains testing his handling of a blade.”
“You don’t say,” Nick’s face drained of color and Plebo grinned to himself.
“Shame for Drawful really, by the sounds of it he’ll barely get a word of whatever scheme he has in mind across when next he meets the Prince.” Plebo feigned sorrowful pity for the dragon’s lot and pursed his lips, shaking a fist weakly at a non-present deity above the trio.
King Nick looked suddenly green in the face and addressed Lando quickly. “Your son need not necessarily slay the dragon. The mandate is to rescue the Princess.”
Lando nodded jovially but was busy rereading his notes. “Well, true. Implicit in rescuing someone from a dragon is usually the need to slay said dragon. Damned things are usually pretty stubborn about relinquishing their treasures and all that. Wouldn’t want a thing like that blazing a path of destruction chasing you down, so smart thing is to slay it. He’ll have the blade after all, so should be a done deal.”
Nick’s mind raced and he could see Plebo’s impish grin that he didn’t have time to try to analyze to understand the Duke’s intent. “Well, if he just gives Drawful a good scare with it, maybe just a flesh wound it’ll do the trick.” Nick tried thinking of how he could then get Nick to pass along this instruction that Drawful’s death was, in no way, an expectation with the bounty, but the King was still enamored with the information he had taken down in surprisingly neat script.
Lando gave a childish bob of his shoulders and spoke with the utensil still between his canines. “Well, you know how these magical blades are. I had one once. Normal blade’ll just cut and slice, but these magic blades? Woo. Some of ‘em don’t even leave a trace of the beast behind.”
King Nick regarded Lando for a few seconds who was still fixated on his notes, then Plebo who grinned beatifically in some form of victory. Nick swallowed his pride forcefully and rose. “Lord Lando, my good Duke,” Plebo clasped his hands, and blinked daintily as if he were only feigning surprise at whatever Nick was about to say. “I think it best I send word to your son and Drawful to clarify the terms of this bounty. There need be no unnecessary loss of life, especially if, as your Duke says, Drawful is a decent and well to do dragon.”
Lando nodded at the King without lifting his gaze from his review. King Nick set off down the halls to send the word out urgently. What perplexed him in the exchange was that the Duke seemed not to want some victory over the King as a matter of pride, simply for the King to suddenly take away the advantage the Duke’s own prince currently held in a scabbard in the Dire Bog south of Hubrista.