“Oh,” said Brandon. A word that was becoming rather uncomfortable in his mouth, due to over-use.
“But I hate starting right into business, before getting to know a man. Do you like sports?”
Brandon was so taken aback by this question that all he could say was “Oh!” Which, he realized right after saying it, made absolutely no sense. So the intelligent part of his brain came to his rescue and said, “I mean yes. I do. I like baseball a lot, and follow Hockey religiously.” Then the even more intelligent part of Brandon’s brain realized that none of this would make sense to someone here, in this world, wherever here was, and if it even existed, of course. “But… well, I’m sure that there are lots of interesting sports here too.. maybe jousting. I could get into jousting I think.”
The big man laughed again, and Brandon took another nervous sip of his beer.
“As a matter of fact, I like baseball too. Played as a kid. Was pretty good, too.”
“They have baseball here?” Brandon asked, very much surprised.
“Here—nah. Except the little I’ve been able to teach a few of my more intelligent subjects. “No. I learned baseball in the same place you did—America.”
“Well, actually I’m Canadian,” said Brandon automatically while his brain stressed over this new information. Kewn was from Earth!
“But you follow American baseball?”
“Which teams are doing well? Who won the last World Series?”
That launched the two into a rather ordinary conversation about a topic that Brandon was most comfortable talking about. Then they moved to Hockey, and then onto television shows, and work. Turns out that Kewn was once fairly high up in a corporation. Brandon was so enjoying himself that he completely forgot about his surroundings and who he was talking to for a few glorious moments.
Then, after one of those little awkward pauses that are supposed to happen regularly in conversation, Kewn changed the subject.
“So after a rather straightforward, middle of the road sort of office job, I bet you’re really feeling the pressure of being the monarch of Igladia.”
“You’ve got it right,” said Brandon, his heart and mind sinking sadly back into the present reality—or apparent reality.
“Well, as I’ve said, I’ve got lots of experience running things. You seem to want to avoid conflict, so you could just hand over the reigns of your kingdom to me. I’ll worry about the ruling, while you and I can teach our subjects football, and reminisce, and do ordinary sorts of things. I could use a friend from earth. It can sometimes get rather lonely here because nobody really understands you.”
What Kewn said sounded so nice, and reasonable, and freeing, that hope flared up inside of Brandon. This was why he had wanted to talk with Kewn. He knew the man would be reasonable. But there was something nagging at him, saying ‘no’ and with increasing conviction. So much so, that despite the fact he hadn’t really thought it through, and despite the fact that he really rather liked Kewn’s proposal, he found himself shaking his head.
“No, I don’t think it would work out. But maybe some kind of partnership?” Now why had he turned down the offer? Brandon couldn’t figure it out for the life of him.
“I’m sorry Brandon, it’s all or nothing. Are you sure? It would take all this ridiculous responsibility, that you never should have had, off your shoulders.”
Brandon wanted to say, no—no! Of course I’ll accept. The kingdom is yours! I never asked for the silly thing anyways.
But instead, he said, “Yeah, I’m sure.”
“Well, then,” said Kewn, putting his mug down decidedly. “Negotiations are over. You’d better leave, while you still can.”
Numbly, Brandon stood up. He still couldn’t figure out why he had not taken the offer. But now some part of him that had pride refused to allow him to turn back and plead with his enemy.
So he got up and walked to the door, forgetting completely to pay for his drink, which was good, because had he remembered, he would have quickly discovered that he had no money.
He opened the large wooden door and stepped out. As began to close the door behind him, arrows whizzed towards him from twenty ready bows. Reflexes that Brandon didn’t know he had kicked in and sent him flying back through the door, closing it with a bang behind him.
As he stood panting in shock time seemed to slow as he wished above anything else in any world to be back at home, safe in his little apartment with his happy little nightlight and his piles of dirty clothes. But wishing only sometimes works, and this time, it didn’t. This time, Brandon’s thoughts were interrupted by the laughed of his enemy.
“Drinks are on me,” chuckled the big man.
“Thanks,” said Brandon without thinking or turning around.
Then there was a huge roar from outside and a loud whooshing noise and flames licked around the cracks around the door and glared in the oil-paper windows. Brandon jumped in surprise then stood still as a trembling butterfly.
After a moment, a loud deep voice shouted from outside the door: “Bran-DON!”
The sound of his name forced him into action and he opened the door again, unable to ignore the flames burning on the outside and dashed through the heat and smoke towards the great, furious purple dragon. Never in any of his wildest dreams could Brandon have imagined that he would be running towards such a terrifying creature and not away. But run he did, and before he reached the dragon, Clover grabbed him in one huge claw fore-foot and launched himself into the air.
There has never been a faster takeoff in the history of takeoffs and poor Brandon was not the type of person who should have been forced to live through it. He screamed all the way back to the palace, and had his eyes shut so tightly that they hurt—a lot. Well, alright, he only screamed part of the way back. He ran out of air and voice about half way back. But he did keep his eyes tightly squeezed shut so that he didn’t see the tall, wicked looking man in a dark cloak, who stood a ways down the street—watching. He also didn’t see the massive orange dragon that came to hover above the pub, lashing its tail and growling as Clover disappeared into the distance.