Chapter 1 : The Fall
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“Guinevere's eyes widened in horror as she spotted the pyre. She screamed, begging and pleading for mercy, but the knights that flanked her merely tightened their grips on her arms! She twisted and kicked, desperate to be free of their relentless hold. The knights laughed at her effort. She could see her death lingering just a few steps away. Tears streaked her reddened face. She begged once more as they lashed her to the stake and stepped away. Flames danced at the end of the executioner's torch; closer and closer it came. Guinevere called out her prayers to God. The onlooking crowd gasped in horror as the fire eased nearer to the woman. In the distance, the sound of -”
“Stop! I can't take it anymore!” On the ground sat Elphias Doge, a gangly thirteen-year-old boy. His sandy blonde hair was tangled around his fingers as he shook his in defiance of the story being told. “Just tell me if Lancelot saved her or not. I can't take the tension.” His brown eyes sought out the storyteller and his lips curved into a frown.
A hearty chuckle escaped another boy as he dropped to his knees beside the first. This boy was Albus Dumbledore. He had soft blue eyes that seemed to twinkle with every time he was up to something or excited. His auburn hair was longer than most boys wore theirs; it was messy and looked as though it was a rarity for a brush to near it. “Of course he saved her. Lancelot wouldn't just let her die; he loved her.” The boy gave his friend a sad smile. “It didn't go so well though. When he and the others tr-”
“Well, well, well.”
The two boys groaned and turned their attention to an approaching group of students. Leading the way was a tall, burly boy who could have easily passed for a gorilla if given the opportunity. His lips pulled back into a disgusted sneer as he eyed the youngsters on the ground. Light glinted off the boy's Prefect badge, the polished emerald and silver reflecting the sun.
On one side of him stood a shorter, handsome boy wearing a sneer to rival his leader's. To the other stood a rather breathtaking girl, her hand perched delicately on her hip, her eyes focusing off in the distance with a look of complete uncaring painted across her face. On her arm hung a twitchy boy, staring at the soon-to-be victims with wide eyes.
“What do we have here?” The leader folded his arms and laughed. “If it isn't Dumbleboar and Dog.”
“It's Doge.” The young brown-eyed boy sneered right back at them.
“Doge is it?” The Slytherin snorted. “I prefer Dog. It seems more fitting.” The large boy turned to his companions, pulling feigned laughter from the three. “Oh my, those shoes of yours....” He let his gaze fall onto the boy's dirt spattered shoes. “We should clean them up for you.”
Elphias' protests fell onto deaf ears as the two henchmen grabbed him up and rid him of his footwear. The leader of the gang pointed his wand at Albus, a smirk on his lips. “You're just going to sit there and let us steal his shoes? What kind of Gryffindor are you?”
“The kind who knows how to pick his battles,” Albus answered with a cool tone. “I'm just going to go tell the Professor and he'll get them back.”
This surety did not sit well with the Slytherin bully. He narrowed his eyes so far they near vanished. “Well there won't be anything to get back then. I'll toss them right off the bridge.” He snapped his fingers and instantly the boy holding Elphias' shoes tossed them over. “See how you like that.” He and the other three pushed past the two young boys and headed for the covered bridge.
Elphias frowned at the ground and wiped his palm across his eyes. He squeaked out something that Albus had to ask him to repeat twice. “That was my last pair,” he finally admitted loudly enough for his friend to hear.
Albus bit his bottom lip and glanced in the direction the bullies had gone. “I'll get them back.” He pushed himself to his feet and charged off towards the bridge, ignoring Elphias' cries to stop. Just as soon as he neared the bridge, he saw the four bullies gathered near the edge, just before you stepped onto it, all looking down into the deep ravine. “Hey, give them back.”
The students turned and chuckled at Albus. Naturally the leader stepped forward, the shoes dangling from his hand in a taunting way. “You want them back?” He grinned. “Come take them back.”
Now, Albus wasn't one for physical confrontation; he much preferred to use his words and intellect to get what he desired. So the boy pulled out his wand and tipped his head in thought.
“Don't even try it kid.” The leader sneered and moved closer to the edge of the ravine. He held his hand out over the ledge, a slow smile spreading across his thick face. “Say bye-bye.” And with that, he allowed the shoes to fall from his fingertips.
Albus gasped and charged towards the falling footwear. His hand extended, victory just beyond his fingertips. His eyes were too focused on the target, he didn't even see the other boy's foot jut out just in front of him.
The world seemed to melt into slow motion. Albus felt his ankle knock against something hard and he was falling. His hands flung out in front of him but it didn't matter, there was nothing to catch himself on. Head first, the boy tumbled over the side of the ledge. A sickening crack rang out in Albus' ears as his head smashed against a protruding rock, stars flooded his vision, blurring everything around him.
But Albus could see well enough to know the water below him was getting closer. He screamed, whether it was out loud or only in his mind, he wasn't sure. Nearer and nearer the water drew. He felt like he'd been falling for hours, a sob escaped his throat and he closed his eyes tightly, bracing himself for the impact he knew he'd never survive.
His landing should have felt like shattering glass over a stone floor...but it did not. Albus likened it to the sensation of sinking into a large Christmas pudding. The water seemed to rise up and engulf him, thick but still fluid. It was warm and the bits that trickled into his mouth tasted of sparkling cider. He grinned under the water, glad that it wasn't burning his eyes. He wasn't sure how long he was under, far too long to have been able to breathe, that was for sure.
The realization hit him fast and finally he urged his sprawled limbs to move. Albus had never learned to swim so his movements were novice and desperate; his arms cut through the water, his feet kicked sporadically, but he managed to get himself going. He broke the surface with an unneeded gasp and let out a stunned laugh. He should have been dead from that fall, but there he was, completely uninjured.
He pushed himself to the edge of the water, his eyes locked on the shore. As he climbed from the water and crawled out onto the dirt, his clothes dried and relaxed over his body. Even his hair was free from any damp. Once he was on his feet, Albus finally took the time to look around him. He was surrounded by lush trees, greener than any he'd ever seen; full at Spring's peak. Songbirds called in the distance: a sweet melody that he felt he knew yet could not name. Behind him laid a small lake, crystal clear and still.
Albus' lips pulled into a grin and he twisted his fingers into his hair. “Where am I?”
Note: Opening to a new short story here. Thank you for reading and I hope you come back for the rest of the tale. :) --Jenna
I make no claims on the Arthurian Legend characters and settings used in this story.