As soon as he got free of the crowd, Wart ran. And ran, and ran, until he couldn't run any more. It wasn't until he felt like he was about to collapse that he slowed down and looked back the way he had come. There was no sign of the little man who'd tried to take his sword. The boy heaved a sigh of relief and glanced around. Where was he?
Wart hadn't been in the parks for very long and still didn't know his way around very well. He'd gotten a room at an inn, the first one he'd come to. It was a strange place, full of wonders he couldn't comprehend, but it was a comfortable place to escape to when he needed one. Only...which direction was it?
He saw a huge tree hung with lanterns, a giant bell without a church, and a lot of wooden houses and shops, but none of it looked familiar.
Basil of Baker Street exited one of the buildings in Liberty Square, along with a crowd of tourists. He took great care not to be trod upon, as the crowd, as per usual, paid him scant attention.
The detective was not over-fond of many of the entertainments presented here in the parks. Most of them frankly baffled him, though he did find some of the speedier ones rather invigorating. Today's foray, however, was rather more informative than the norm, as it had to deal with American politicians. It was useful to know something about the country in which he now resided.
Basil paused on the pavement and whistled for Toby. Then he whistled once again. Where had that animal got to?
Wart had only two choices: to wander around aimlessly for who knows how long, or to overcome his natural shyness and ask someone for help. He hated to be a bother to a stranger, but it seemed like that would be the only way.
Glancing around, the boy saw no end of people. But which one could be counted on for a friendly word?
The sound of a whistle made him turn, and his eye fell upon a little mouse by the side of the road, just standing there, apparently unafraid of the passing citizenry.
Wart was very fond of animals of all kinds, including mice. He never had the heart to kill them back when he was a servant in Sir Ector's castle. And this one somebody dressed up in clothes like a little doll.
Wart forgot his troubles with the elasticity of youth and knelt down with his head close to the ground for a better look. He cupped his hands gently around the rodent, trying to catch it without scaring it.
Basil's foot began to tap with impatience. He was going to have to track Toby down. The detective was just about to pull out his magnifying lens and begin the hunt for clues, when a slight scuffling sound alerted him that there was someone close behind. Whirling round, Basil was shocked to see a great human head and hands closing in on him. He instantly prepared to either fight or flee. But the start lasted a mere moment before he recognised King Arthur.
"Your Majesty!" cried the mouse, staring for a moment before dropping to one knee in a proper courtly bow. "Forgive me, but you gave me rather a turn." He wanted to suggest it was impolite to sneak up on one like that, but it was hardly Basil's place to remonstrate the King of all the Britons.
Wart was just about to close in and catch the mouse, gently, of course, when it turned and...talked.
Shocked, Wart tumbled backward and landed sprawled on the ground, his sword, momentarily forgotten, clattering to the stone path at his side.
"Oh! You can talk!" he blurted out, before remembering how easily Archimedes the talking owl was offended. "Are you...highly educated?" Unless he was a wizard in disguise. Or maybe an ordinary person under a wizard's spell. Both of those situations fell within Wart's experience.
"I'm sorry I startled you," continued the boy-king, "But please, sir, how do you know me?" Wart didn't remember ever meeting any talking mice!
Oh, drat! Basil had really dropped a clanger that time. Although he recalled the young ruler quite well, it would not be reciprocated, due to the nature of the spell that brought them here. Or, he corrected himself, machine, according to Gadget's way of thinking.
"Ah, er, well, every English schoolboy knows of King Arthur. I've been reading of your exploits since I was a lad." To explain the truth might be awkward and difficult to comprehend, so Basil merely gave the young king his own name and left it at that.
Are you...highly educated?
"Well, yes, in point of fact. I am a university graduate." It gave Basil no little pleasure to think that his erudite nature was evident. "But let us talk about you, Your Majesty. I presume you are not long in this world. Have you found an accommodation as yet? Are you in need of funds? Of anything?"
Wart couldn't help but smile to hear a mouse talk about himself like a person. He wished all animals could talk!
every English schoolboy knows of King Arthur
"Oh. I guess so." It didn't really please Wart to know he would be remembered that way. It meant he'd better perform some kind of worthy deeds in his lifetime. But what a responsibility! It was terrifying to the boy.
This conversation did tell Wart one very important thing: he had traveled to some point in the future. No wonder everything here was so strange. Wait until he told Merlin he had been to the future! That is, if he ever found Merlin again.
Have you found an accommodation as yet? Are you in need of funds? Of anything?
"Oh, yes, sir, I have everything I need." Wart had taken a room in the very first inn he'd come across, an amazing place filled with wonders. And he had a purse of gold coins to spend for his needs.
The face of the little man who had chased him suddenly flashed across Wart's mind. He'd been upset when Wart didn't allow him to serve him in some way. Would the mouse feel like that? Maybe it would be safer to ask for some little thing.
"Except...um...a scabbard. I need a scabbard for my sword. Do you know of a shop where I could buy one, please?"
I need a scabbard for my sword. Do you know of a shop where I could buy one, please?
"Oh, yes, I'm certain we can find what something suitable for Your Majesty. One can purchase nearly everything here." Presuming a chap had the funds; everything was frightfully expensive hereabouts.
Basil was honestly pleased to be able to help the famous king. Though his true sovereign was Her Majesty Queen Mousetoria (God Save Her!), he had always felt an affinity for King Arthur, a feeling which carried over to this human version of the rodent ruler. "This way, if you please, Sire."
Basil led the way, proud of his charge. Only...
"You, er, needn't refer to me as 'sir', Your Majesty. I am only a commoner with no title." It was rather awkward correcting the king, but someone had to say it. He was only a boy, after all.
There was a leatherworking shoppe nearby. The mouse entered, climbing onto the counter to speak to the clerk.
"Are you the gentleman who makes these leather goods? I should like something specially made and wonder if you might be able to accommodate."
Wart followed along, glad to relinquish all responsibility to someone else, even if it was just for a little while.
You, er, needn't refer to me as 'sir', Your Majesty. I am only a commoner with no title.
"I'm sorry..." mumbled Wart, nearly adding the word yet again. The last thing he wanted to do was to offend Mr. Basil. But the boy was far more used to being a commoner himself than royalty, and calling his elders 'sir' just came natural. He would try to be more careful of that.
They entered a shoppe filled with the homey smell of leather. Wart gazed around at the bags and boots and other wares on display, though he didn't see any scabbards.
The proprietor, who seemed unfazed to be addressed by a mouse, replied that he'd be happy to make whatever they wanted. Wart held out Excalibur for him to see.
"Please, sir..." there, he'd said it again, "Can you make a scabbard for my sword?"
After a long pause, the man answered yes, he thought he could, taking down the measurements of Wart's sword.
"Capital," replied Basil, as the cast member began to take down measurements. "Take care, sir, that is an exceedingly valuable artifact."
Ah, Excalibur! Sword of legend! The mouse detective's eyes glittered each time he beheld it. If only it were rodent-sized, he would dearly love to wield it, even if just for a moment.
"This scabbard must be worthy of such a sword. It should be elegant, but tasteful. Worthy of a king." A plain leather scabbard would never do.
The clerk finished his preliminary measurements and pulled out some samples of leather, plus various rivets and hardware for his customers' inspection. Basil eyed them critically, choosing the very best. Nothing second-rate for the King of all the Britons.
Take care, sir, that is an exceedingly valuable artifact.
Wart didn't know what an 'artifact' was, but he did agree that Excalibur was extremely valuable. It was to him; he regarded this, the first blade he'd ever owned, with awe and affection.
This scabbard must be worthy of such a sword. It should be elegant, but tasteful. Worthy of a king.
"Please, sir..." Though it made him very uncomfortable, the boy king felt he had to interrupt here. "Nothing too fancy. No jewels or anything like that. I just want a good, practical scabbard." If the thing was too flashy, Wart would be ashamed to be seen wearing it. Besides, he hated to go around proclaiming his kingly status. But he didn't want to hurt the mouse's feelings.
"If it looks too valuable, it will just attract robbers and cutpurses. I'd rather blend in with the crowds."
The cast member looked from one to the other of his customers, wishing they'd get on the same page.
Nothing too fancy. No jewels or anything like that.
Basil ceased in the middle of his instructions and cocked an eyebrow at the young royal. To his mind, a plain scabbard would simply not do. The legendary royal ought to look the part.
Of course, the costume he was wearing just now made the lad look more a peasant than a king. Basil felt he ought to do something about that, too.
If it looks too valuable, it will just attract robbers and cutpurses. I'd rather blend in with the crowds.
The mouse detective had to admit that was a valid point. To proclaim one's regal status might put the king in danger. Why, look at that young fool Kuzco...
Still rather disappointed, Basil was forced to reply, "As you wish, Your Majesty." The scabbard would be plain. "But kindly make certain the workmanship is excellent." At least the quality would be worthy of Excalibur.
Well, that seemed to settle that. The craftsman asked for payment, and Wart obliged him after learning that he should return tonight to claim his purchase.
Wart thanked his rodent benefactor profusely as the pair left the shop, adding with a sigh, "It's too bad I can't continue my fencing lessons here. I'm still not very good with a sword." It seemed a shame to carry around such a fine weapon without being able to use it with much skill.
His swordsmanship lessons were almost the only thing Wart enjoyed about being king. That, and the good meals. Though even they tended to be ridiculously grand and overblown, far too much for a skinny boy to pack away. Tasty, though.
As they two left the shoppe, Basil wondered to himself how he might serve the king further. He already had an accommodation and seemed to be well-endowed with coin (no doubt he was better off than Basil himself, who had to scrape for his bed and board on occasion). It would not do to force his services upon the young monarch, and yet, Basil wished he could do something more.
It's too bad I can't continue my fencing lessons here. I'm still not very good with a sword.
Ha! Here was something Basil could indeed help with.
"Perhaps I can assist Your Majesty in this. I know a little something of the art. I would be honoured to be permitted to show Yor Majesty some of the finer points of swordplay."
Fencing had been Basil's sport at University, along with fisticuffs.
I would be honoured to be permitted to show Yor Majesty some of the finer points of swordplay.
This so surprised Wart that he stopped dead in his tracks. It wasn't until Mr. Basil got several steps head that he realized it, breaking into a trot to catch up.
"Um...that sounds all right..." The boy-king tried to imagine himself dueling with such a tiny animal. But he didn't want to offend a creature that had been so kind to him. "I mean, it sounds like a very good idea. I'd like that...very much."
But how to ask the question that was burning in his brain?
"How...am I, um, you supposed to fight someone...so much...bigger...? I mean, it's not exactly fair..."
Wart's face grew red as he said it, but he felt it had to be asked.
Basil strolled along the path leading the way, his keen eyes scanning the surroundings for something in particular.
"How...am I, um, you supposed to fight someone...so much...bigger...? I mean, it's not exactly fair..."
"Well, I didn't mean that you and I should face each other per se," replied the mouse detective. "I only thought I might offer some instruction. With Your Majesty's permission, of course. Aha!"
Spying at last what he wanted, Basil bounded over to a streetside cafe and up on to the counter, whence he seized upon a fencing foil. All right, it was a toothpick, but it was made to resemble a sword, and it was just rodent-sized.
Returning to the king, Basil took on his illustrative tone.
"Now then, first things first: a gentleman always removes his coat. Oh. If you were wearing one, of course."
"The first position is the "en garde", like so. Very important, as it allows your opponent to ready himself."
All right, that would be fine with Wart. He had nothing else to do, and he found he liked Basil's company; the mouse seemed so sure of himself that his presence gave Wart a feeling of security.
Wart observed the pose Mr. Basil struck. Hefting his own sword, he tried his best to copy it, though he didn't look half so elegant. In fact, he nearly tripped over his own feet doing it.
it allows your opponent to ready himself
"Do I want to give him time to get ready?" asked Wart, a puzzled look on his face. "I mean, wouldn't it be easier to fight a foe who isn't ready?" He imagined himself attacked by some enemy knight. "Do the villains give me time to get my sword ready?"
wouldn't it be easier to fight a foe who isn't ready?
Basil lowered his makeshift sword with a bit of a deflated air. He must remind himself that the king was still only a boy after all.
"Easier, yes," replied the mouse with as much patience as he could bring to bear. "But it just would not do, sire. Extremely bad form, and all that." How could he make the principle clear? "You see, a gentleman...or a knight, if you will, must be chivalrous at all times. Fair play, as it were."
Do the villains give me time to get my sword ready?
"Perhaps not. But we must be better than they, mustn't we? Might doesn't make right, you know." Perhaps he did not know. Although it was King Arthur himself who brought the civilising practice of chivalry to England, that was in his manhood.
"At any rate, back to swordplay. After the en garde, there are multiple positions one can employ. This is a riposte. This is a feint." For each type of move, Basil demonstrated for the young monarch.
Wart considered what Mr. Basil had said: Might doesn't make right. It was a novel concept to the boy, coming, as he did, from a world in which the strong readily preyed upon the weak, and the weak were left to fend for themselves as best they could. Yet this idea of chivalry resonated with his compassionate nature. How nice it would be if that was true in the world!
All this musing caused Wart to lag behind in his practicing. With a start, he jumped into position, imitating the mouse and repeating the words, hoping that something would stick in his head.
Wart did his best, hoping that he was looking "chivalrous", at least a little.
With a bit of a wry smile, Basil took note of the boy-king's attempts at proper fencing moves. He was not particularly graceful, but more than willing to do whatever was required. What he lacked in ability, he more than made up for with those finer qualities of determination and perseverance. Perhaps that is why he was destined to be such a great monarch.
Holding his weapon at rest, Basil continued with the lesson, "Now, Your Majesty, allow me to demonstrate--" What was never revealed, for at that moment, the earth began to tremble. Or so it seemed to one of Basil's size. Before he could even turn round, a large object struck him from behind, quite bowling him over.
The mouse detective rolled several feet before coming to rest with one hefty paw atop his chest.
Wart paid the strictest attention to his small fencing master, when suddenly a brownish blur came out of nowhere, knocking Mr. Basil to the ground.
"A dog!" Wart couldn't help but exclaim, though he was stating the obvious.
Wart reached down to pat the animal's head. He'd never seen a breed quite like this one before; his short legs and long ears were comical, but very cute.
"He's some sort of a hound, isn't he? Is he yours, sir?" A mouse owning a dog was a very strange idea, though no stranger the boy supposed, than taking lessons from a talking mouse. Though he wisely kept those ideas to himself.
"I do like dogs," he enthused, scratching Toby's ears with increased vigor.
Basil tried to shout "Down" and "Heel" and a great many other commands, but he found his wind greatly shortened by the weight upon his chest. A few moments more of this and the world would be shy one mouse detective.
Fortunately, Toby's attention soon turned to a stranger, a boy who patted him atop his head. This was far more interesting than merely greeting his master, and the dog moved closer/ He was rewarded with, not merely a pat, but repeated scratchings upon his ears. Sheer delight!
At least it caused him to move off Basil's chest. The mouse hauled himself to his feet and attempted to brush the dust from his coat.
"Yes, he is mine," came the almost rueful reply. "Toby is a basset hound, and wonderful at tracking down criminals and such."
"Toby," repeated Wart. "I know a dog named Toby...but he doesn't look much like you." Sir Ector's dogs were all large, powerful animals, useful for hunting and as guard dogs, though they were all very friendly with Wart. This little fellow seemed more like a lady's lap dog.
Toby is a basset hound, and wonderful at tracking down criminals and such.
"Really?" As he talked, the young king continued to scratch Toby's ears, head, back, whatever parts the dog presented to him. "Is that what you do, sir? Seek out evildoers?"
"Oh, Mr. Basil, may I feed Toby?" Without waiting for the reply, Wart dashed over to a nearby cart and purchased a small sort of cake with some stuff inside that felt very cold to the touch. Breaking off a piece, Wart held it high and cried out, "Jump, Toby! Jump!"
Still busy making himself look presentable, Basil answered, "Why, yes, Sire, I do. I am what is known as a private consulting detective." Not exactly something that would be known in the 5th century. "A detective's goal is to..."
may I feed Toby?
It appeared that the King wasn't quite listening to Basil's explanation.
"Well, it isn't actually his meal time..."
Jump, Toby! Jump!
Too late, it would seem. Ah, well, any free food that he could acquire for his pet Basil generally accepted. It helped to forestall the day when he would have to seek some dull employment once again.
"I'm afraid Toby is notoriously lax at performing..."
Toby leapt up to snatch a morsel from the boy's hand. Then stood upon his hind legs, turning in a circle as though he were dancing.
"...tricks..." Toby never minded Basil's commands like that...
Wart wasn't really listening, as thoroughly engrossed in the dog as he was. He broke off a little bit of the cake, tossing it to Toby as a reward for a trick well done.
Wart tried some other commands, such as, "Sit! Lie down! Roll over!" each time, rewarding Toby with a bite. The cake was beginning to grow soggy in his hand. As Wart looked at it, the white stuff inside slid out and down his arm. He licked his sticky fingers, then paused.
It was the most wonderful thing he had ever tasted. Even better than plum pudding! So good, in fact, that Wart stood stock still, as if dazed by the deliciousness of it all.