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Dragon SwordDanger Boy
By Mark London Williams
CandlewickCopyright © 2007 Mark London Williams
All right reserved.
The old king stands by the lake, looking over it as for the last time, waiting.
Waiting for a woman. A woman who's never touched land.
After a moment, she appears from under the water, calmly floating up, then hovering just over the surface. The woman remains utterly serene, as if rising from a lake then standing above it were scarcely remarkable. She seems very patient, as though she could wait a long time to take tired kings into her liquid embrace, take them into the lake with her when their hearts are broken for the last time.
This king is very tired. He's seen too much war, too much bloodshed---and knows he's caused a lot of it.
When he was younger, he never thought he'd wind up hurting like this. He thought everything would be perfect.
The king is going to throw the sword into the lake, let this water sprite have it, because this sword, it seems to him now, is the root cause of all his misery.
He remembers pulling it from the rock when he was younger; he remembers thinking it would make him invincible.
That was a lie. It only made him king.
Now, no more lies. Just water. And silence.
He holds the sword above his head, ready to fling it into what he thinks will be its final resting place.
It's Merlin'svoice. The old wizard is always speaking at moments like this, breaking the king's concentration, never quite taking anything seriously enough.
This time Merlin's pointing. Out at the water. The serenity is even draining from the Lady of the Lake's face. There's a swirl of foam and bubbles next to her, and something unexpected. An intruder.
It was just supposed to be the king and Merlin here, alone with the water sprite, to dispose of the sword. The sword and a whole lot of bad memories.
But there's someone else. Someone who's kind of . . . fading in. Thrashing about in the water, gasping for air, trying to swim.
Is it another wizard, here to challenge Merlin? Or perhaps a spirit, the wandering ghost of some man killed by the king in a forgotten war?
The king can't tell. But Merlin doesn't seem worried. He seems, in fact, slightly amused.
But then, Merlin always seems amused, no matter how bad the situation.
The small caps and breakers in the lake are shredded apart by the frantic splashing as the intruder buzzes through the water like a small, agitated shark.
As the trespasser draws near, the king lowers his sword and lets it rest in the mud by his leggings.
It's a boy coming to them. Out of the water. A boy.
Soon to be a man, but not quite.
About twelve years old.
Wearing jeans and a baseball cap---though the king wouldn't have the faintest idea what to call them.
"Hello," the boy finally gasps.
"Well met," the king says. "Or, perhaps, not so well. Merlin, is this one of yours?"
The boy looks from one man to the other, then back at the king. "Arthur?" The boy speaks with the strangest accent the king has ever heard.
But the conversation is interrupted. The water starts bubbling and churning again. And another boy begins fading into view.
Excerpted from Dragon Sword by Mark London Williams Copyright © 2007 by Mark London Williams. Excerpted by permission.
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