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Authors: Colin Thompson

Excalibur

BOOK: Excalibur
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All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any person or entity, including internet search engines or retailers, in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing, photocopying (except under the statutory exceptions provisions of the Australian
Copyright Act 1968
), recording, scanning or by any information storage and retrieval system without the prior written permission of Random House Australia. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

The Dragons 2: Excalibur

ePub ISBN 9781742741383
Kindle ISBN 9781742741390

This work is fictitious. Any resemblance to anyone living or dead is purely coincidental, though if you recognise yourself in this story, you could probably go on one of those rubbish reality TV shows and talk about it.

A Random House book
Published by Random House Australia Pty Ltd
Level 3, 100 Pacific Highway, North Sydney NSW 2060
www.randomhouse.com.au

First published by Random House Australia in 2010

Copyright © Colin Thompson 2010
www.colinthompson.com

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any person or entity, including internet search engines or retailers, in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying (except under the statutory exceptions provisions of the Australian
Copyright Act 1968
), recording, scanning or by any information storage and retrieval system without the prior written permission of Random House Australia.

Addresses for companies within the Random House Group can be found at
www.randomhouse.com.au/offices

National Library of Australia
Cataloguing-in-Publication Entry

Author: Thompson, Colin, (Colin Edward)
Title: Excalibur / Colin Thompson
ISBN: 978 1 74166 382 2 (pbk.)
Series: Thompson, Colin (Colin Edward). Dragons; 2
Target audience: For primary school age
Dewey Number: A823.3

 

The trouble with living happily ever after is that it can get pretty boring, and for Kings and Queens and Noble Knights it can get ten times more boring than it does for ordinary people because they are ten times more intelligent than ordinary people.

Of course, in the olden days there were millions of things humans could do to stop being bored. The trouble is that most of them, such as pressing flowers or knitting tabards out of horse hair, were even more boring than being bored.

Peasants, being much more stupid, could find enjoyment in a stick – especially if it was a really interesting stick with an insect on it, or it had a bump that looked a bit rude – whereas aristocrats barely noticed sticks.

You would never have heard a Great Knight say, ‘Oh my, look at the lovely reddish-brown bark on this wonderful stick I was lucky enough to find in the forest.'

The Knight would probably have said, ‘What on earth are we doing in this gloomy forest where there isn't even a single wild boar for me to cruelly slaughter?'

Or –

‘What stick?'

Noble Knights were above nature and all that sort of thing, especially if they were sitting on a very big horse, and particularly if the horse had just trodden on the stick and broken it into lots of little pieces.

When that happened the peasant would rejoice and say, ‘Hooray, the Gods have sent me a small pile of kindling wood to light the fire to cook my simple evening meal of rabbit's foot stew.'

From the moment they got up in the morning until they collapsed exhausted into bed each night, peasants were simply too busy trying to find enough to eat, while avoiding all the scabs and diseases that peasants kept getting, to be bored. Being bored was a luxury they could only dream of and that didn't happen because they were so poor that they could only afford the very cheapest dream, the one about the potato peel and squirrel's bladder stew.

So throughout most of the countryside of Avalon there was very little boredom.

Camelot, however, was overrun with it.

A King or a Queen could do many things to
stop being bored. Money was no object so they could summon all sorts of wonderful things from far and near to entertain themselves with. If a Noble Person sitting on the very high walls of Camelot got fed up looking out across the lovely surrounding lake at all the lovely islands and the lovely swans gliding through the lovely water lilies casting their lovely reflections in the lovely water, they could simply send down for a few spotty urchins to toss over the edge and place bets on which one would drown first, or whether one would make it to dry land before Krakatoa the Giant Olm
1
reached them. The trouble was that that got boring too. And they kept running out of urchins.

Boredom was why war was invented. It was something exciting to do.

Of course, it's hard to imagine how anyone living in a country as staggeringly beautiful as Avalon – with its Quest of the Month Club, Kitty Jousting and endless towers full of Damsels in Distress – could ever be bored. People from less advanced countries such as Italy or Wales or Everywhere Else could only sigh and
dream of living in a country full of such fabulousness.

It is even harder to imagine that King Arthur, the ruler of this paradise on earth, would ever get fed up for more than three seconds.

But that is exactly what happened.

‘Might I make a suggestion, sire?' said Merlin, when he found the young King twiddling his thumbs, his ears and the ears of three small kittens.

‘Oh, yes please,' said King Arthur.

‘Since it was discovered that you were the true King of Avalon, rather than that horrible boy who we sent down to the kitchens, there is something we have not done,' said the wizard.

‘Yes?'

‘Well, we were all so busy fixing the drains and sorting out the dragon problem,' said the old wizard, ‘that we have had no official celebrations or even a coronation.'

‘Do you mean a party?' said Arthur, untwiddling his fingers, ears and kittens.

‘Indeed, sire,' said Merlin.

‘Oh yes, oh yes,' said Arthur's sister, Morgan le Fey.

‘Aft er all, your highnesses,' Merlin continued, ‘I don't think either of you, or anyone else, realises what a terrible downward path to doom our entire beloved country was on while that terrible little impostor was running things. I feared that even with my great powers to protect us, we would have been invaded and maybe even conquered by our enemies.'

‘Wow,' said King Arthur.

‘Indeed, we need to have a great coronation…'

‘And a party,' Arthur added.

‘Indeed so, sire, a great coronation and a great party are what we need to show the rest of the world that Avalon is once again a great power to be reckoned with.'

‘So we shall invite those who may have thought to invade us,' said Morgan le Fey, ‘and show them we are strong.'

‘Exactly so,' said Merlin, ‘We shall drink and feast and make lots and lots of merry with a fayre and the finest of entertainments.'

‘Brilliant,' said Arthur. ‘And we can show them that we have made a treaty with the dragons. That will stop anyone ever thinking of waging war upon Avalon.'

 

But all was not well in the Kingdom of Avalon.

As word spread that the bad fake King Arthur had been replaced with the genuine wonderful King Arthur, happiness spread throughout the land. Everyone was filled with a new optimism for the future. The harvests would be good. The weather would be perfect. Rain would only fall at night when everyone was asleep, and the plague of boils that had run rampant since King Uther Pendragon had died would give way to skin as smooth as velvet with only the occasional zit or blackhead.

Yet there were those who were not happy.

In the kitchens of Camelot there was a small boy who was unhappier than anyone else, a boy who wanted revenge: dark, evil, painful revenge with boils the size of brussel sprouts that always burst at the most embarrassing times. That boy, now called Brat, was the pretend King Arthur, the changeling who had been swapped at birth for the real King. He had not known he was a fake. He had assumed that he was the rightful King and not, as it turned out, the unwanted child of the nineteenth daughter of a lowly fifth-grade
pimple-squeezer from a remote Welsh village with a name no one could pronounce because it had no vowels in it. He had assumed he was the King of Avalon and all he could think of was becoming King again. If it took death and destruction to achieve it, that would be a bonus.

‘I am the innocent victim of a terrible miscarriage of justice,' he took to saying to anyone who went near him, but all that meant was no one went near him if they could possibly avoid it. Of course, most of the people working around him in the kitchen were incapable of understanding any words with more than four letters in them so they just assumed he was talking Welsh, which was another good reason to keep away from him.

‘Shut up, Brat, you little worm,' said the Cook to whom he now belonged, ‘and get on with your turnip gouging.'
2

‘But it isn't fair,' he whinged.

‘And what idiot told you that life was fair?' said the Cook. ‘If life was fair, I would weigh fifty kilos less than I do and would be lying in a bath of asses' milk while the incredibly gorgeous Sir Lancelot fed me chocolate-covered strawberries.'

‘If you help me get the throne back,' said Brat the Pretender, ‘that could be your reward.'

‘Yeah right,' said the Cook. ‘And how will I suddenly lose fifty kilos?'

I'll cut your stupid head off for a start
, Brat thought.

Another thing he thought was,
Surely I can't be the only one who thinks our wimpy new King is not so wonderful.

But it appeared he was. Everyone loved the True King Arthur, especially those in Camelot Castle who knew only too well what the Fake King Arthur had been like.

Brat was nasty, cowardly, self-important and seventeen other unpleasant things, but one thing he was not was stupid. He knew that to start a rebellion you needed more than one person. Not only that, the
other people needed to be mean and cunning, though not as mean and cunning as he was in case they decided they would rather be in charge instead of him. He also needed to recruit foot soldiers, people whose feet were cleverer than their heads, people who would be too stupid to realise the bomb they were going to set off would kill them too or the very well-armed soldiers they were about to attack with small sticks would probably beat the hell out of them. Those weren't so hard to find. All Brat had to do was find the people who were so thick and ugly and weird that no one wanted to be their friend or even go near them.

It hadn't taken much to work out that Scraper was such a person.

The castle kitchens were where the lowest of the low ended up working. This was where the creatures who were so ugly that it was illegal for them to go out in daylight lived, and there were beings far worse than that. In fact, if you had seen some of the stuff that leaked out of them as they prepared the food, you would never have eaten anything Camelot had to off er. Yet there were people who were below them – and the lowest of all of them was Scraper.

Scraper was the lowest person in the whole castle. Scraper was the person who cleaned the disgusting disease-ridden-anthrax-infected-lavatory-flavoured stuff from under the fingernails of the Sewer Cleaners as they slept each night. There were no tools for this job because they rotted away in a couple of days, even if they were made of the hardest steel. No, Scraper used his teeth, teeth that even the vilest bacteria ran away from.

Needless to say, Scraper was not in the top class at school. In fact, he had never been to school. His mother had sent him every day, but not once in twelve years had he ever managed to get there. He always got lost. He usually fell into a ditch and stayed there until the family dog arrived at sunset and dragged him home again. In the Olden Days, when there were hundreds of ditches everywhere, this could happen to anyone, but what made Scraper's failure incredible was that he lived in the schoolhouse, which was next door to the school – his father was the headmaster. It was because Scraper's father had taught one of the Sewer Cleaners that he managed to get his son the job, that and the fact that no one else was stupid enough to want it.

‘How would you like to be a general?' said Brat.

‘A genrul wot?' said Scraper.

‘No, an army general,' said Brat.

‘Army?' said Scraper. ‘Wossat? Is it like leggy only it's your arm?'

Brat realised it would be a better idea to talk to a bucket.

‘Wot you saying to my bukkit?' said Scraper. ‘That's my bukkit, that is. No one else is allowed to talk to my bukkit.'

‘I was telling her how lucky she is to belong to someone as nice as you,' said Brat.

‘What she say?'

‘She said to tell you to tell me that she would like you to be a general and be in my army of liberation and help fight the righteous rebellion,' said Brat.

‘Gosh. My bukkit's a clever bukkit, isn't she, knowing them long words?'

‘She is indeed. You're a very lucky boy.'

Brat thought that, with soldiers like Scraper, his chances of a successful uprising were considerably lessened.

But beggars can't be choosers
, he thought.
The
bucket might come in handy, and if I get shot at, someone big and lumpy like Scraper will be really good to put between me and the gun. All I need is another five thousand Scrapers and I can't fail.

‘Tonight,' he said to Scraper, ‘we shall flee this place and take to the hills.'

‘Flea? I arn't got fleas,' said Scraper.

This was true, since any flea that bit him died in less than a minute.

‘And what you taking them to the hills for? Aren't they got any up there?'

‘Any what?'

‘Fleas.'

Brick wall, head, hit, against
, thought Brat,
would be more relaxing than this
.

‘And get all your friends to come too,' Brat said.

‘What's them then?'

‘You know, a friend, someone special you like and who likes you. Oh, umm, doesn't matter.'

‘Like my bukkit?'

‘Umm, yes, or maybe another person.'

‘I loves my bukkit.'

Some time after midnight, when everyone was
asleep, Brat packed his meagre belongings, and the crusts and gristle trimmings he had been stashing away for the past month, into an old sack and prepared to leave the castle.
3
He went down to the slime trap where Scraper was sleeping and shook him awake. Before the idiot could speak and maybe wake someone, Brat stuff ed a knob of gristle in his mouth and dragged him up into the moonlight. This was all supposed to be swift and silent, but was actually slow and loud due to the fact that Scraper's left foot was stuck fast in his bucket. Brat expected to be stopped at every turn, but the sound of Scraper grunting through a mouthful of gristle, combined with the ungodly clatter of his bucket on every second stair, made those who heard the noise hide themselves under the bedcovers until it had passed.

Camelot Castle was overrun with spooks, ghosts, demons and the walking undead, which meant people usually locked themselves in their rooms at night and nothing could persuade them to go out. The next day, talk of the Clattering Grunter Ghost was all over the
castle. Only the Cook realised what had happened when she found Brat was not asleep in his cage as usual.

As Brat and Scraper reached the line of bridges and islands that would lead them to freedom, Scraper grew silent and anxious. He had never left Camelot before. As far as he knew, the castle was the whole world and outside was darkness where the devil lived. That was what his father had always told him and his father was a teacher so he must know everything.

‘Scared,' he whimpered as they passed through the main gate. ‘Devil get us. Devil eat us and take my bukkit.'

‘No,' said Brat. ‘I know the devil. He's a friend of mine so he won't hurt you because you are with me.'

‘What about bukkit?'

‘Bukkit is a friend of mine too,' said Brat. ‘And anyway, the devil's got his own bucket. No, you just keep chewing that gristle and grunting and put on this magic cloak that I've got for you.'

He put a filthy old flour sack over Scraper's head. With the bucket still on his foot and all the grunting, the sight and sound Scraper made was terrifying enough to make sure they crossed to the mainland
without a single sentry or guard challenging them.

‘Listen, men,' said the chief sentry to his men the next morning. ‘If anyone asks us, we didn't see a thing last night apart from a small tabby kitten that went by about three in the morning.'

And by the next morning the two runaways had travelled round the far side of the lake and climbed up to a small cave halfway up the mountain that looked down over the water to the fabulous castle of Camelot.

‘One day all this will be mine again,' said Brat. ‘Just like it used to be, only better.'

‘Can I take bag off head now,' said Scraper, ‘and swallow gristle?'

‘Yes, yes, of course,' said Brat.

‘I can't get bukkit off foot,' said Scraper. ‘Walking made it stuck on.'

‘Why was your foot in the bucket in the first place?' said Brat.

‘Bukkit sleep on my foot to stop bukkit theefs stealing her,' said Scraper.

‘Right.'

‘Bukkit theefs come in night and kidsnaps bukkits, erryone noes that.'

‘Today we will rest,' Brat announced. ‘And tomorrow we will begin to make plans.'

‘Ooh, I like them.'

‘What?'

‘Plans,' said Scraper. ‘Specially the red ones cos they got the sweetest, but be careful not swallow stones.'

‘That's plums, you idiot.'

‘You make some tomorrow?'

Brat walked into the shadows at the back of the cave and hit his head against a rock until he felt a bit less desperate.

‘You too, eh?' said a voice in the darkness.

‘Who's there?' said Brat.

‘That depends,' said the voice.

‘On what?'

‘On who you are.'

‘I am the real King Arthur,' said Brat. ‘Or I was until last week, when everyone ganged up on me and pretended I wasn't and installed a fake puppet on the throne.'

‘I know,' said the voice. ‘That puppet turned my dad into a jelly baby. Can you believe it, my dad, once the mighty King of Dragons, sworn enemy of all
humans, has formed an alliance with that puppet.'

‘Are you a, umm, er, are you a dragon?' said Brat, backing away from the darkness.

‘I am indeed,' said the voice. ‘I am Bloat, son of Spikeweed, once the greatest Dragon King who ever lived, but now as noble as a baby rabbit in a nappy. Alliance with humans, I ask you. No offence.'

‘None taken,' said Brat. ‘But listen. It seems to me that we are on the same side.'

‘But you're a human,' said Bloat, ‘and I'm a dragon. We're supposed to be enemies.'

‘True,' said Brat, ‘but it seems as if right now, we both want the same thing. I mean, if I was King again, I can assure you there would be no treaties with any dragons.'

‘I likes treaties,' said Scraper. ‘Choccy-covered nuckles are best treaties. I likes them.'

‘Shut up,' said Brat and Bloat at the same time.

‘So what are you going to do about it?' said Bloat. ‘How are you going to get the throne back?'

‘I am going to do a revolution.'

‘Well, I know I said dragons making alliances with humans was against nature,' said Bloat, ‘but maybe
that's exactly what you and I should do. You know, just until you got the throne back again, only temporary.'

‘Yes, temporary would be all right,' said Brat, ‘just until I'm King again. Then we'd stop having the alliance and be enemies again.'

‘Yeah,' said Bloat. ‘Man against dragon again, just like the good old days.'

‘Yeah.'

‘ 'Cept you and me wouldn't kill each other, would we?' said Bloat.

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