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The Reluctant Dark Knight/Part 7

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Preparing for Battle

Every Smurf chattered like chipmunks over the fruitless efforts to apprehend Gargamel when the group returned to the village. Papa stood on a mushroom in the center of them all and raised his hands, gesturing to cease their talking.

“Calm down, my little Smurfs! This is not end of the world.” Brainy was about to cut in, but a simple throat-clearing noise kept him from opening his mouth. “I have a hunch that Gargamel intends to use this strange spell to repel us from someone or something, so we must smurf our best to smurf him before he succeeds.”

“What do you want us to do, Papa Smurf?” asked Handy.

“From what I already know of his spell, I will search for a counterpart in my lab,” he explained. Then he turned around and pointed to several members of his audience. “Clumsy and Greedy will follow Gargamel on Feathers – wherever he goes, you go, and if you believe he is going to commit any sort of un-smurfy act, do your best to stop him.” He looked over his shoulder. “Vanity, Grouchy, and Painter will keep an eye on Scruple and Azrael just in case Gargamel wants them to do the dirty work. Remember, he may be trickier than we think.”

“What about me, your faithful assistant, Papa Smurf?” Brainy interjected suddenly, waving his arm in the air, “After all, you may need my help finding the proper counter spell, or perhaps I should go with the others to supervise their duties, or I could -”

“That’s not necessary, Brainy, just stay in the village with me.” Papa shook his head and drew in some air as he added, “I suppose you could smurf me a hand smurfing the books in my lab.” The four-eyed Smurf beamed, puffing out his chest with his hands behind his back in blissful confidence.

The two other groups set out immediately to Gargamel’s hovel; Feathers took Greedy and Clumsy by air while Painter, Grouchy, and Vanity made the journey on foot. Papa watched them go and hopped off the mushroom to get to work. He remembered – at best – half of the ingredients on the list when he had gotten the chance to see it in the old wizard’s book and with only that to work off of, his task would be difficult. It would be more time-consuming, too, if Brainy decided to “improve” one of his instructions, so he collected his worries and reminded himself to have patience. He trusted his little Smurfs to do what he had asked of them – all he was concerned over was his apprentice, as usual.

. . .

Meanwhile, The King had summoned Johan and Peewit into his throne room about his nephew’s upcoming ball. The boys approached him and stood attentively, despite the time – it was a quarter to seven in the morning and Peewit especially showed signs of slumber-lust. His friend nudged him to stay awake while his majesty spoke of the matters ahead.

“Just last night I received the final date of King Gerard’s Grand Ball to be three days from today,” he explained, seated in his chair. He was also tired, but managed to hide in front of his subjects. “And I expect you both to be there. Peewit, I’d like for you to be the jester – entertain the lords and ladies should the pace slow, and Johan,” he looked at him, “be on guard for unwelcome guests and, should my nephew get cold feet, I trust you to renew his confidence. Have I made myself clear?”

"Yes, sire,” he replied with a nod. He nudged Peewit again; he nodded too.

"Good. Then we’re through here,” he said, gesturing towards the front doors, “be off.” Then the duo left his chambers and – while Peewit raced back to his bedroom in the tower – Johan scoured the grounds for Falla, wanting to tell her the news.

He raced past Savina and Dame Barbara near the south wall, darted through the stables on the east side, checked the North sun dial for the time, and finally found the girl feeding the hen house on the West nook of the castle courtyards. Actually, he was barely able to jump over her when she knelt down at the corner of the coop, avoiding a collision; she gasped when she saw him stagger to regain his footing.

“Sorry, I was running around like a madman trying to find you,” he said, catching his breath. She handed out the last of the chicken feed to the birds and took a few steps closer, asking if he was okay – he assured her he was, and straightened up.

“King Gerard’s Grand Ball is in three days and the King has asked Peewit and me to attend,” he explained. He continued, resting his hand on her forearm. “Will you join us? He may need someone for support, and if I’m busy watching the gates, you can be that person.”

Falla smiled: “I’d love to go! Do we need to dress formally for this?”

“I believe so. This is going to be a night to engage with other princesses and, hopefully, he’ll find one he likes.” He dropped his arm at his side and led her back to the main tower; after a quick glance at the North sun dial again, he predicted their little blonde friend would be in the dining hall eating breakfast. It was 7:30, and then he remembered that Savina was waiting in the stables to be taught how to clean horse’s hooves.

"Falla, I have a prior commitment to the princess,” he said, looking over his shoulder. “Tell Peewit I won’t be joining you for breakfast, will you?”

"Of course,” she replied simply. They parted – Johan headed for the stables while she entered the dining hall. The lingering scent of baked ham, fresh fruit, and sweet bread delighted her nose the moment she stepped through the doors. “Johan doesn’t know what he’s missing, does he Peewit?” Her smaller companion lifted his head in her direction and beamed, demanding she sit next to him, so she did.

Normally one would be shocked by the amount of food he had piled on his plate, but after some time getting to know him she was desensitized and accepted it to be normal. She never ate more than half of whatever he could consume, but he stopped pestering her over it a few weeks ago. He picked up a muffin the moment she decided to hug him, nuzzling his head gently.

“Morning, Peewit,” she greeted. He returned the gesture with one arm around hers while he held the muffin in his other hand, bidding a good morn to her too. “Johan hunted me down and said I had to come with you guys to Gerard’s Grand Ball. I thought you’d like to know that.”

"Good, I was worried Johan would make me help King Gerard if you weren’t around,” he replied with a chuckle, “You know how uptight he gets about things being nice and orderly.” She hummed her giggles and let him go, taking a slice of bread to munch on. “I hope it’s not a formal event."

"It is, so says Mr. Knight-in-Shining-Armour,” she warned him, pausing to finish the bite she’d taken before she added, “Do you think Savina will let me borrow one of her dresses?” Peewit shook his head, prompting her to ask for another option.

"If you go right now, you can probably make one and have it ready in time for the ball,” he suggested. He consumed a dozen strawberries in the time that she said, “Maybe – too bad I’m not all that great at designing outfits. Sewing’s easy, but coming up with the actual outfit isn’t really my thing. I wonder if the Smurfs would know what to do with me. After all, didn’t they make Gerard his coronation outfit?” He nodded, finishing the fruit bowl. “Good, then I’ll go ask them for help. Wanna come with me?”

"Do I? Yeah, I do!” He dashed out of the room, adding, “Anything if it means Johan won’t put me to work!” Falla let out a mild laugh and got up, leaving the cleaning for the servants, and prepared to ride. From the stable where her mare resided in comfort, she took her mahogany hooded cape and draped it over her head and shoulders.

The stables were nothing more than a stone’s throw from the tower, and she saw two things going on: Peewit already mounted on Biquette moving around her, and Johan and Princess Savina talking, each holding the reins of their horses. She nodded to them, saddled up, and immediately started Gentile in a gallop trailing the nanny goat, but it wasn’t more than a minute before she was leading.

She anticipated they would return to the castle shortly before noon as long as nothing held them up along the road; both knew that in the forest they needn’t worry about anything more than finding the Smurfs. She glanced over her shoulder at the boy and smiled – he was strumming his lute, trying to keep her entertained. Though she didn’t fancy his musical style, she appreciated the gesture.


. . .

While the two were fleeting through the forest, so were Scruple and Gargamel. Hearing the pounding hooves against the earth, the wizard commanded his apprentice to hide with him behind a smurfberry bush several yards from the hovel. He poked his head through the twigs and leaves.

“I recognize those two, Scruple.”

The boy stole a peek too and said in agreement, “Yeah, that’s the king’s lousy joker, Peewit. But I dunno the girl on the mare.”

“She must be some servant girl running an errand for the King.” Gargamel stood up and brushed himself off. “I heard that King Gerard is throwing a party of sorts in a few days – perhaps they’re busy preparing for it, and if that’s the case it means we have a better chance of sneaking into the castle!” He sneered, walking down the path.

“Come, Scruple – we’ll pay that goody-goody knight a visit while everyone else is distracted. And if we’re lucky, our disguises will let us through the front door.”

The boy looked at him, obviously confused: “What disguises, Garggy?” He kept following him while he revealed two other vials filled with blue liquid from his right pocket, telling him, “This, my boy, will make us look like the King’s servants so we can move about the castle undetected.” Then he sighed happily, stowing them away, adding, “Ah, it feels good to be evil…”

“It feels even better thinking through the plan,” Scruple muttered with a smirk. They passed a crossroad with a sign pointing to the castle to the left and the other sign led right to King Gerard’s territory, only they were travelling in the opposite direction for the hovel. Since leaving that morning, Gargamel had remembered forgetting his bag of gold in case their trip was lengthened and they needed food or a place to rest a night.

“When we get there, how do you expect that knight to take the potion anyways? It’s not like you can give it to him and say ‘Here, drink this’ and he’ll say ‘Sure’,” he asked.

“Of course not, you twit! While we look like servants, you keep him on his feet until he’s thirsty. Then I’ll put the formula into his drink, he’ll take it, and voila! He’s finished!”

"I gotta hand it to ya, Garggy, it’s a sound plan, but I see one flaw.” Gargamel glanced at him with a frown: “What do you mean?” Scruple raised an eyebrow.

“What if he doesn’t get tired? I mean, have you seen him running around – he’s a superman or something.” They made their way down a winding path through a few acres of out-skirted forestry. “I’ve even heard that he jumps out windows and off the tops of walls and lands on his feet.”

This puzzled the old wizard for a minute as he thought of a way to weaken his opponent. From what they had learned from their first encounter in the Smurf village, he knew he was good with a sword, had a plethora of energy, a strong passion to protect his friends, fierce loyalty, and seemingly no weaknesses; suddenly an idea struck him.

“What if one of his friends gave him his drink, Scruple?” he suggested in a mischievous tone, “He trusts the King’s joker, doesn’t he?” His apprentice caught on and smiled deviously: “Oh yeah, he does…”

Gargamel stopped when they reached the edge of the kingdom and pushed him into the nearest alleyway so they could continue brainstorming.

“New plan – we get rid of Peewit; you take his place, wear the knight out, and let him quench his thirst with the tainted potion. Agreed?” Scruple nodded happily and shared a laugh with him. “It’s brilliant!”

Moments later, Scruple snapped his fingers and caught his master's attention.

"Falla. Her name is Falla - I got it," the boy stated. Unfortunately, Gargamel barely registered the name, and so they continued on in silence.

Author's Note

Bask in the glory of the spacing - at last I have conquered, and all it took was copying and pasting in sections rather than bulk. Although, I had to edit in some form of clothing that Falla doesn't normally wear or else it wouldn't make sense with Gargamel and Scruple not recognizing her. I think I understand why they always failed, too: they (well, actually, just Garggy) focused too much on the Smurfs and didn't think through the odds and evens of each plan, so there was always room for error.

Basically, he didn't consider the "what if" moments that usually caused the mishaps. If he took time in his evil plot and created back-up plans for the variable situations, he would be successful. I quote - "It's brilliant!" (P.S. The last two lines were added on November 5th, 2015 during a revision read-through).

Continuation

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