1-page novel

This is an assignment given to me in grad school, by the crazily talented Mr. Andrei Codrescu. The task: a one-page novel. This one-page novel must include the following: fast food, a person of color, a person with a disability, and a protagonist with a reputation (amongst the basics needed to qualify it as a novel, and the one-page restriction). I hereby post it here in honor of my Front Range students about to embark on their first major fiction assignment. Please to enjoy.  ~Jenn

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Last Knight

Sir Archibald the One-Legged sat at his favorite table, cupping a pewter tankard in his hand. The tankard was empty, for the fifth time in the last hour.  Sir Archibald considered ordering another.

The inn was called The Leaping Ox.  He didn’t particularly like the stew they served there (heavy, pungent, large bubbles of oil afloat next to whole, unchewable bay leaves), but it was the fastest service in the kingdom.  At least he didn’t have to wait an hour before he was fed.  Sir Archibald was nearly seventy, and lately, he felt time was of the essence.

Sir Archibald sighed a tenth time, and motioned for the serving-girl.  Pretty, robust, dark-skinned she was, and charming. Not nearly the willowy beauty the princess had been, but rounder, and her steps bounced, as did her ebony bust.  The princess’ stride had been longer, even, gliding.  The princess, ah…

The next tankard arrived just in the nick.  The princess…

It was to have been his last quest; he reinforced the thought with an eleventh sigh…The princess, ten years ago, had been the object of his last quest. There had been no more since then, and Archibald was beginning to despair.  The Quest of the Princess was the last damsel-in-distress call anyone knew of, certainly since Sir Everclear’s death at the turn of the century, and there hadn’t been so much as an orc for nearly twenty years.  All the knights-errant had either died of old age, or become accountants due to lack of business, so Archibald had gone, heroic bells on the reins of his steed.  But the princess had been expecting him.[1]

As Sir Archibald sat, his sixth ale foaming about his white-whiskered lips, a man in a violet cloak so dark it was almost black slid into the chair across from him.

Sir Archibald the One-Legged did not need a Scroll of Identify to see that the cloaked person was obviously a mage, or at least a hedge-wiz of some kind.  He was a knight, after all, and knights knew these things.

He was too drunk to greet his new table-companion with his usual courtesy, however. He drained the beer at the bottom of his tankard, all the while silently glowering at the wizard, daring him to a (praise the gods) duel to the death he would surely lose.

The mage did not blink.  He said quietly, almost without moving his lips,  “If you are tired and old and feel that honor, gallantry, and true courage have gone out of the world, what I have to show you will interest you.”

Archibald sat for a moment, staring.  “Don’t bother, wiz,” he said. “I am committing honorable suicide on the morrow.  Then, there will be no more honor left.  You’ve still got an evening.”

The mage only grinned.  It seemed to Archibald that his teeth were odd—but then he whispered,  “Are you not at all curious?”

Archibald frowned.   “What do you mean, curious?”

“My true form,” commented the wizard, and for a moment Archibald saw large jeweled eyes, long teeth, lizard’s head, and smoke, smoke…  then the mage again, smiling as before.

Sir Archibald leapt to his feet, or foot, as it were, then lost his balance and sat down hard.  He panted, his voice shook.

“Dragon.”

“Ssh,”  the dragon-mage answered, holding one finger to his lips. Then he stood, grinning, fire netting his teeth.  He turned, and walked slowly but deliberately through the crowd and out the swinging-door.redragon

Sir Archibald of the One Leg also stood,  more slowly this time.  He left gold on the table. He shouldered his gear, and strode through the still-swinging door.

Folks at the inn later remembered that old fellow with the straight back and noble face.  He had quite an imposing demeanor, for one so advanced in years.  Many thought they’d seen him before.  Others thought they’d heard of him in a song.  What was his name again…?

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[1] A damsel in distress she had not been, as he found himself attacked by her bodyguard as he approached her fortress. Her band of musketeers had been instructed to slaughter the “dirty old coot”’s horse out from under him. The horse fell on Archibald’s leg, which shattered it beyond healing.  The princess was named The Most Beautiful Woman in the Kingdom shortly thereafter in a beauty pageant.

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