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The Reluctant Dark Knight/Part 3

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Restless Affairs

As the late evening came upon them, Gargamel skimmed through an old spell book while Scruple dragged a broom across the floor – he’d been told to sweep, but clearly detested the job – and Azrael slept on the windowsill, snoring and wagging his tail back and forth.

“It seems that Johan is the leader of those three degenerates,” he grumbled. Scruple tried to pay no attention. “With him out of the way, we could defeat them all and finally catch the Smurfs. But how will we do that?” He scratched his head with an expression twisted up in thought, and quite a bit of frustration. A spider took less time building a web in the corner of the room than he did coming up with an idea; eventually Scruple groaned and tossed the broom towards the wall.

“Did ya ever think that maybe you’re wasting your time, Garggy?” He turned halfway around, folding his arms, and pouted seeing his own frown returned to him like a mirror reflection, but without the broad age difference.

“Can’t you do anything besides doubt me, you waste of life?” he replied abruptly, “he may be the key to our long-overdue success. In fact, I think with his help, we’ll not just have Smurfs – we could take the entire kingdom and become rulers of this land and all who inhabit it!” His apprentice rolled his eyes with an exhausted sigh and trudged to his room. As he made his leave, he muttered something that Gargamel overheard.

“It’s not like you have a spell to turn him evil or something.”

That gave the wizard an idea; he snapped his fingers and slammed his book shut, exclaiming, “Brilliant!” before rushing down to the cellar. He was undoubtedly going straight for the Great Book of Spells where the darkest of magic lie – each page contained treacherous information that grew more dreadful with each chapter. Surely there was a curse or potion he could seek out for the occasion: “He he he, tremble in fear young knight, wherever you are. Soon you’ll be under my control…"

. . .

Princess Savina gently wrapped the white gauze around Johan’s feet; they were in his room in her uncle’s castle with Falla behind her and Peewit sitting on the edge of the bed with him. His shoes were in the brunette girl’s hands – she was waiting for him to be patched up before taking them away in exchange for a newly tailored pair.

“There we are,” the princess said when she finished, “you’ll be right as rain in no time, Johan.” She stood up and held her hands together, smiling at him. He returned it.

“Thank you, princess,” he replied. Then he glanced towards Falla, now closer and at her right, adding, “I’m so grateful to have such caring friends.” Peewit beamed and hugged him happily, startling the girls.

“Boy are we glad to have you, too, Johan. You’re the best!”

They shared a laugh just as Dame Barbara entered with her hands tucked into her sleeves like a “proper” lady. She put her hand on the princess’s shoulder; “Savina, a proper princess does not mill about with the injured when there is an unfinished tapestry to be woven. Come!”

“Yes, Dame Barbara,” she replied simply, following her out. When the door was closed, Falla turned towards it while still looking at her friend.

“I’ll bring you some new shoes by morning,” she promised. He nodded, so she left too; there was only Peewit with him now, so he focused on him. He lifted his feet onto the bed, sitting up, and kept his hands at his sides. His little blonde companion wore a content grin, holding his hands in his lap – it was almost adorable, truth be told.

“So, Peewit,” he started, “you realize that I should be back to normal in a day or two, don’t you?”

“Of course I do! No matter what happens, you always come back good as new,” he responded happily. “And between you and me -” he lowered his voice with a sly smile “- I think the girls like you more when you’re hurt.” Johan chuckled and rebutted the idea.

“Come now, Peewit, that isn’t true. Falla and Princess Savina like me all the same regardless of my condition or appearance. You know that.” This seemed to have confused the boy.

“But what if you were turned into a hideous werewolf like I was one time by that evil wizard in that creepy old castle?” Again, Johan was entertained and had an answer. He raised his hands in unison as he spoke, still keeping his calm smile.

“I highly doubt that will ever happen, my friend,” he said, “but should an oddity occur – heaven forbid it – I’m confident that they will do anything to help return me to normal. This is why friendships are so important: in times of crisis, your friends are there to lend a hand and pull you out of the darkness.” He gestured to him for a moment. “And I would do the same for you as you would for me.”

“Aw, you big lug,” Peewit gushed. He lunged forward and embraced his friend; Johan shrugged and returned the gesture. It was brief, because the moment it ended, Peewit jumped off the bed and scurried out of the room. “I’ll bring you back some dinner, okay?”

“I would appreciate that,” he called after him. The moonlight shone through the window at his left onto the floor: white-blue and ghostly as it was, it was also tranquil. It gave off a feeling of fatigue which caused his eyes to become heavy. It wasn’t long before he laid his head against his pillow and drifted off into a peaceful slumber.

A few minutes later, Peewit returned with a plate of bread, meat, and fruit, but he was surprised to find his best friend already asleep. He set it down on the small table beside the bed and pulled his sword from its sheath, propping it up against the wall. “Sleep tight, Johan,” was all he said before leaving again.

. . .

After consulting with the Great Book of Spells, Gargamel had made a list of ingredients for a very special potion. It was late in the morning – but not quite the afternoon – when he sent Scruple out to gather Hellebore seeds in the forest. Meanwhile he went to the market for fresh piranhas, and while he did that, Azrael was to catch a rat and bring it back to him. He pulled out his list and reviewed it:

  1. 6 Hellebore Seeds []
  2. 3 Large Snails []
  3. 1 Dungeon Rat []
  4. 5 Ounces Wolf Hair []
  5. 3 Ounces Gravel Powder []
  6. 2 Triptear Weeds with Roots []
  7. 4 Grams Vulture's Blood []
  8. 8 Ounces Essence of Nastiness []
  9. 1 Pound Fresh Piranha []
  10. 2 Dragon's Teeth []
  11. 3 Grams Enchanted Carraway []
  12. 5 Ounces Evil Root []
  13. 1 Frozen Heart []

“This is going to be my greatest achievement yet!” he boasted, rolling it back up. He sneered as he strode through the streets; each stand showed promise, not knowing what each separate sale would be used in.

. . .

Johan was first spotted in the morning by the princess in the dining room where she was already seated with Peewit having left the room moments before. She had her hair in two buns with the black headband across her forehead, and her black, pink, and white long formal dress on; her dainty black flats were hidden by that and the table. She looked at him and smiled: “Good morning, Johan. You’re looking well.”

“Thank you, Princess Savina,” he replied, “I certainly feel better having rested.” He took a seat across from her just as Peewit entered with a medium-sized plate covered with food. For a brief moment he didn’t notice his best friend, but once at the table, he exclaimed, “You’re up!” His friends giggled.

“I am,” he confirmed. The jester jumped from his chair and scurried back through the door to the kitchen, saying he was retrieving breakfast for him. Johan smiled and glanced at the princess, joking that if he was lucky, there would actually be food on his plate.

“Say, if you have some time in the afternoon, do you think you might be able to teach me how to pick locks, Johan?” she asked. Her hands were folded in her lap under the table. He lifted his head and gave her a curious look, never losing his smile.

“Does Dame Barbara have any plans for you today - sewing, painting, mannerism?”

“I believe so, but I can always steal a few minutes by making an excuse to leave her side,” she replied a little quieter. He recognized her rebellious desires and considered the offer, but as he was about to answer, both Peewit and Falla joined them through separate doors.

The jester set his plate in front of him and the young lady gave him a hug from behind his chair; she beamed and let go, sitting next to him, saying, “Good to see you walking again. I knew it wouldn’t be more than a day.”

“Thank you, both,” he said. With that, they began to eat and talk about the day ahead: Falla would groom Gentile, Peewit would entertain the King until the afternoon – time varying, Dame Barbara and Princess Savina had a few “proper” lessons, and Johan remembered that he needed to make another small delivery to Master Homnibus for Papa Smurf while Feathers recovered from a fractured leg. A typical day, one might say.

. . .

It was a typical day for the villains as well.

In fact, he and Scruple were busily creating a monstrosity of a spell in his hovel with him at his cauldron and his worn-out apprentice running back and forth for ingredients. In a matter of hours they had collected several of them and were following the instructions of the Great Book of Spells.

“Add one of the two dragon’s teeth after the water has reached a hearty boil,” Gargamel read aloud. He held out his hand and added, “Scruple, give me the dragon’s tooth!” The boy did as he commanded with a frown and watched as he dropped it in close to the top of the water. “Wait until the tooth sinks to the bottom before adding the four grams of vulture’s blood. This may take anywhere from an hour to four hours.” He glanced at the floating tooth and huffed, placing a ribbon on the page of the book before closing it. “Come along, boy – let’s go get that blood.”

Scruple groaned and trudged after him until his master paused to think. “But where would we find a vulture?” The boy slapped his forehead and blurted out, “Have you considered Hogatha? She has a pet vulture, you know.”

“Of course, why didn’t I think of that?” he replied before adding in a less friendly tone, “Oh, how I hate that miserable old hag. All she does is snort!” He left his hovel with his apprentice on his trail and a small circular glass bottle with a cork-top in his hands – he put it in his pocket for safekeeping. Then he unfolded his list from the other pocket and checked off the boxes of ingredients he already had:

  1. 6 Hellebore Seeds [x]
  2. 3 Large Snails []
  3. 1 Dungeon Rat [x]
  4. 5 Ounces Wolf Hair []
  5. 3 Ounces Gravel Powder []
  6. 2 Triptear Weeds with Roots []
  7. 4 Grams Vulture's Blood []
  8. 8 Ounces Essence of Nastiness [x]
  9. 1 Pound Fresh Piranha [x]
  10. 2 Dragon's Teeth [x]
  11. 3 Grams Enchanted Carraway [x]
  12. 5 Ounces Evil Root [x]
  13. 1 Frozen Heart []

Author's Note

I had trouble with making the lists vertical in this chapter; also, we have a few mentioned characters here. As for the illustration (found in Johan & Peewit's gallery pages), I'm quite pleased with myself for putting the time and effort into a background derived straight from the cartoon show. That took some self-motivation.

Continuation

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