Chapter 4: Intriguing Expositions
“All right, show me.” Fiera demanded, arms crossed as I stepped back onto the stage.
“Watch.” I said, walking over to the ropes and pulling on one of them. At the back of the stage, a bright white curtain dropped down, covering the wall behind us. It shimmered for a moment in the low lighting, then the glimmering faded away.
“That’s it?” Fiera said, rolling her eyes at me. “That doesn’t show me what happened to Nick.”
“Oh, it will.” I said, then clapped my hands twice. Instantly the sheet lit up like a giant television, showing hills on both edges and an expansive park below us, with a bright red slide and steel frames supporting swings. In the center of the park stood two horses, one brown and the other white.
“Interesting.” Fiera commented, striding over and examining the fabric. She looked up at me. “Does it do audio too?”
I nodded. “Yep, just haven’t activated it yet.”
She scowled as she stood up. “Well, turn it on. I want to hear, too.”
“All right.” I said, flipping a giant red switch. Instantly the sounds of the field below us piped into the auditorium, vibrating in the seating behind us.
Fiera looked into the empty gymnasium and said, “There’s no audience.”
“Oh, yes there is.” I replied. “Lots of Viewers.”
“There’s only two so far.” she retorted, crossing her arms.
“So far.” I agreed, then added, “At least that we know of. But that will change with time.”
She waved her hand at me and said, “All right, argue later, story first. Why hasn’t it done anything yet?”
“Because I paused it to get set up.” I replied, pulling a remote out of the air. She glanced over at the black object, then back at the screen.
“This is only a movie? No real-time?”
“Oh, actually it will be live.” I assured her. “And no, it’s not a movie. But you’re trying to spoil the surprise.”
“What surprise?” she asked, and I grinned.
“Just watch the movie.” I said, pushing ‘Play’.
Nick strode into the playground, feeling very out of place amidst the children with a real sword and metal shield strapped across his back.
“Hey mister, is that sword sharp?” an inquisitive boy ran up and pointed at the hilt poking over Nick’s shoulder.
“Yes, it is, and no…”
“Cool! Can I play with it?” the boy asked.
“No!” Nick said, shaking his head. “I already told you that. Go back and play.”
“Hey mister.” the boy tugged on Nick’s tunic. [“You fixed a pronoun.” Fiera commented, and I groaned. “Please, just be quiet and watch.” I told her. “Fine” she frowned and folded her arms]
“Go play, kid. I’m not letting you touch my sword.” Nick said, trying to pull free of the kid’s grip. The boy let go and Nick ran towards the slide.
“Hey mister!” the kid called, catching up when Nick stopped.
“What, kid?” Nick said, spinning around to face the boy. He grinned and pointed at the two horses which clopped into the playground.
“That guy’s gonna take our playground, so I can’t go play.” the kid said, grinning impishly.
“Are you kidding?” Nick groaned, then shook his head and started walking towards the two figures mounted on the horses. “Well, I got tired of doing nothing, so at least this is something.” he muttered to himself as he walked within ten paces of the pair. The taller of the two sat on the white horse, wearing gray clothing and a dark cloak draped over his shoulders. His neatly trimmed goatee came to a point below his chin, and his black hair sat shortly cropped on his head as he stared down at Nick with dark eyes. His associate, a smaller, round individual, sat in stark contrast to his athletic partner. The dwarf (for that is what Nick took him to be) had a dark brown beard that matched the horse’s coat, and the beard fell below the dwarf’s waist. His long hair was roughly pulled behind his shoulders, and his forest green clothing matched the dwarf’s eyes.
“A disaffected member of Generation X, and a midget.” Nick commented as he walked over. “Wonderful.” The pair silently regarded him, the taller man with disdain and the dwarf with curiosity as Nick walked over.
“Excuse me. Are either one of you looking to take possession of this playground?” Nick asked. The man jerked his head upward once.
“I am the man thou art searching for, knave.” the man said, and Nick grinned.
“Cool! A Shakespearean!” Nick exclaimed excitedly. “Are you going to do Hamlet and kill yourself so I don’t have to deal with you?”
[“Nick!” Fiera shouted, her words scolding. Nick glanced up and saw us watching him and waved. “Hi Fiera!” he said. Fiera frowned. “That wasn’t very nice of you to say.” she said. Nick bowed. “My apologies, dearest maiden. From henceforth on shall I strive…” he began, and Fiera interrupted him. “You shall drop that stupid accent at once and get on with the story already. He’s been delaying long enough.” Nick grinned and said, “As you wish.”]
The interchange between Nick and Fiera occurred without a hiccup in that world, the scene simply pausing while they talked, then resuming when they were done.
“Most certainly not, peasant.” the man said condescendingly. “And what meanest thou by the term, ‘Shakespearean’?”
“He’s not a very bright one, him here.” the dwarf commented to Nick behind his hand.
Nick grinned and looked back at the man. “I meant that you talk like a dead man who tried to slay schoolchildren with worthless literature, since the stupid things are play scripts, not novels. But that aside, why do you want this playground?”
“Thou art an inquisitive fellow.” the man said, his eyebrows lifting in haughty assessment of Nick. “But, ‘tis none of thy concern, for the answer to thy query lies outside of thy business. Pray run along and meddle not where thou art not wanted.”
“He means he has absolutely no idea and is too proud to admit he’s a selfish, arrogant aristocrat…” the dwarf chuckled behind his hand, then fell silent beneath the man’s melting gaze.
“Thou loosest thy tongue when ‘twere better for thee to be silent.” the man said irritatedly, then turned his superior attitude back to Nick. “Thou addressest the Monseigneur de Marquis, and for thine ignorance I shall pardon thee this once (for it is my pleasure to do so), but pray do not err twice in like manner.”
“Yeah, that still leaves the issue of this playground.” Nick said, placing his hands on his hips as he scanned the area. He looked back at the Marquis. “You’re seriously going to take this away from these children?”
“Thou art correct in this thine assessment.” the Monseigneur de Marquis replied, smiling as if he were indulging a child. [“I’m really starting to dislike this guy.” Fiera commented. “I get that; now be quiet!” I demanded, and she shrugged indifferently]
“Man, you take up way too many words talking.” Nick shook his head, then glared up challengingly at the Marquis. “And what right do you have to take this?”
“Thou speakest as a fool and a dotard!” the Monseigneur de Marquis roared, standing up in his stirrups. “For I am…”
“Yeah, yeah, blah blah blah.” Nick said, flapping his hand in an imitation of the speaker as he stared at his fingertips cross-eyed, mocking the Marquis. He uncrossed his eyes and put his hand down at his side as he looked back up at the aristocrat. “You feel entitled because of noble birth and all that.” [“Pause!” Nick shouted, and looked up at Fiera and me. “First we get Kob, then this guy. Where in the world are all these aristocrats coming from, and what kind of authority is behind their name?” he asked. Fiera glanced over at me and I shrugged. “I understand you can’t figure out their origins, since your world is still young,” I said, “but this guy has about as much authority as Kob. Less, actually.” Fiera laughed, and Nick grinned. “Ooh, this is gonna be fun!” he said. “Okay, let’s play!”] He shook his head at the Marquis. “But you don’t really have any right to this land, so I’m going to tell you nicely to get off it, now.”
“Thou wouldst challenge the Monseigneur de Marquis?” the noble asked, eyes blazing.
“Um, yeah, actually I’m kinda telling you to beat it, but you could look at it as a challenge.” Nick said. The Marquis’ nostrils flared.
“Prepare thyself, fool!” he roared, and the dwarf jumped off his horse.
“Hated riding that beast anyway.” he muttered, grabbing the reins and leading the horse over to Nick. “Here, you’re going to need a mount.”
“We get to joust?” Nick asked excitedly. The dwarf huffed indifferently and walked over to the Marquis’ horse.
“Select thine weapon.” the Monseigneur de Marquis said, glaring at Nick.
“Um, swords will work.” he said, reaching for his sword.
“Not that.” the dwarf shook his head. “Only Nerf approved accessories approved.”
“We have to fight with foam?” Nick asked in disbelief. The Marquis smiled cruelly.
“Thou art a craven?” he scoffed. “Fearest thou to face the bite of my foam against thy personage?”
“Okay, you really need to get Rosetta Stone or something.” Nick muttered, mounting onto the horse easily.
He gripped the reigns as the dwarf said, “Nerf Longsword or Katana?”
“Longsword of course.” Nick replied, and the dwarf brought him a gray painted blade, its hilt a maroon color.
The Marquis grinned in satisfaction and said, “My Broadsword, squire.”
“Here you go, your airheadedness.” the dwarf grinned, pulling out a foam blade wider than Nick’s palm.
“Hey! When did they make those?” Nick asked, confused.
“Special order for the nobility.” the dwarf replied, handing the Marquis a shield. “You can use your shield, since the Nerf shields are too small for our purposes.”
“All right.” Nick said, pulling his shield out and trotting his horse off a short distance. When he felt satisfied with the length of dirt between himself and the Monseigneur de Marquis, he swiveled the horse under him to face his opponent.
“The challenge is this,” the dwarf shouted, acting as referee for the event, “You must unhorse your opponent, then disarm and touch to win. The stakes are thus- control of the land rights to the playground, and possession of mount to the challenger, should he succeed. Should he fail, he forfeits to the Monseigneur de Marquis his weapons, his honor,” the dwarf rolled his eyes in disgust, “and grants access to the Second World to the Monseigneur de Marquis, Lord of the Pancake Isles, Governor of the Clubbed Barrows, Baron of the Lauded Hills, etcetera, et cetera, and so on and so forth.” the dwarf droned, keeping his face a stony display of sheer weariness, effortlessly displaying the unbearable agony of politics. “Let the duel between the challenger,” at this point the dwarf paused, and looked at Nick.
“He is but a commoner. His name is worth no more than a dunghill.” Monseigneur de Marquis said indifferently.
“My name is Nick.”
“Between the challenger Nick and the Monseigneur de Marquis, Lord of the Pancake Isles, Governor, and whatnot.” the dwarf rapidly spit out, then heaved a sigh of relief, wiping his brow. “Well, let the duel begin!”
“And…intermission.” I said to Fiera, pausing the screen.
“Unh! NO!” she shouted, but I disappeared before she could protest further.