Written for the Flash Rider LiveJournal community in October 2010.
The warm spring sun beat down on the grass of Kelvingrove Park and the twentieth annual Medieval Faire in Glasgow, Scotland. It was lovely weather that weekend, the sky a clear, crystal blue and the trees and flowers in full bloom, the grass verdant and soft underfoot.
Alex watched from the shadow of a tent as a band of minstrels sang their way down the main thoroughfare. It was coming upon midday and he was already quite hot. Wearing knee-high suede boots under three layers of skirts in addition to a long blond wig probably wasn’t helping, either. Alex dug at his tightly-laced bodice and wished he could loosen it a little. He didn’t understand how the female actors put up with these uncomfortable, ridiculous things.
But Alex wasn’t at the Faire to spend a weekend crossdressing and getting long, lusty looks from other blokes—he was here on official government business; MI6 had sent him to Glasgow to investigate the Faire sponsors, especially Warren Kemp III of Kemp International, a successful hotel and resort chain. MI6 suspected the tycoon of using fairs and festivals like these to make cocaine deliveries to subsidiary dealers all across the United Kingdom. Of course, it was only speculation. That’s why they’d sent Alex.
Alex had been excited to hear that he was going to be in the Faire, thinking it’d be fun to play a page or a squire boy, but then Mrs Jones had said, “That’s not exactly what we had in mind . . .” and Alex had been given this horrendous blue and gold velour nightmare, and a young computer technician who happened to be good at makeup was sent along with him to make sure he looked the part. By the time she was finished with Alex, he looked very much like a girl. A little bit wide in the shoulders and slim in the hips, but the cascading locks of fake blond hair helped to hide his masculine features. Even the bodice managed to squeeze him up enough that it looked as if he had breasts.
Alex was so embarrassed. It was all for a good reason, supposedly; MI6 thought it would be easier for their young agent to get closer to Kemp if he looked like a girl, as Kemp seemed to have a knack for scandals involving pretty young women. Especially blondes. Alex had felt sick to his stomach the whole way to the event.
Trumpets blared across the park, announcing the noontime joust. The crowd began to move toward the arena, grabbing legs of roasted turkey, hotdogs, onion rings, and funnel cakes as they went. The smell of the food stands made Alex’s mouth water. He could go for one of those turkey legs right about now, but he doubted his bodice would permit room for anything more than half a lungful of air.
Just then, he spotted none other than Warren Kemp himself, orbited by a dozen fellow business associates, secretaries, and fawning interns. Alex darted out of the shade and followed at a distance, eavesdropping with a pair of clip-on earrings that doubled as directional sound amplifiers. A microphone was planted in the pendant Alex wore, and he kept it pointed in Kemp’s direction.
“—think you’ll find this year most exciting,” Kemp was chuckling. “The Black Knight is going to slay the White Knight, quite literally, I’m afraid. It will do wonders for return business.”
“You can’t be serious, Warren.”
“I’m very serious—the swords in the second round will be real. The White Knight doesn’t know, but by the time he finds out, it will be too late.”
The man Kemp was speaking with laughed. “I suppose there is some truth to the phrase ‘business is murder’, isn’t there?”
Kemp joined his friend in laughing, and Alex turned off the microphone. He’d heard enough. An innocent actor out there was about to die, and—
The thundering of hooves rose from the arena; the joust had already begun! Alex picked up his skirts and ran as fast as he could. God, this dress was so heavy he could barely move!
Alex plowed his way through the cheering crowd just in time to see the White Knight get slammed from his horse by the Black Knight’s lance. Alex stood at the wooden fence encircling the arena, panting as if he’d just run ten miles.
“Look out!” he screamed, but his warning was lost in the deafening roar of the audience. “The swords!”
The White Knight flailed about on the ground clumsily, trapped on his back by the weight of his armor. The Black Knight dismounted and began to stride toward him, sword drawn. Moving in for the kill.
Alex wasn’t about to stand aside and watch a man get murdered for some bastard’s profit. He launched himself over the wooden fence, tearing his skirt up to the knee, and sprinted into the tournament. He heard the crowd cheer and shout, and the announcer began to sputter with confusion. This wasn’t part of the act.
Alex sprinted to the White Knight’s steed and pulled the sword from the scabbard. Damn, it was heavy! What was this thing made of, solid gold? Gasping for air, Alex lifted the sword in both hands and bolted to meet the duel. He saw the Black Knight raise his sword over the White Knight’s helpless body, and Alex used all of his energy to get there first. He threw himself toward the Black Knight’s falling blade.
Steel struck steel and sparks flew. The crowd screamed excitedly. The Black Knight, seeing that his worthy opponent had been replaced with some random wench, immediately lowered his sword and stepped back, perplexed.
“Back off!” Alex snarled, standing between the two knights, holding his sword like a baseball bat. “I won’t let you kill him!”
“. . . Alex?” came a strangely familiar voice within the suit of black armor.
Alex stood, heaving for breath, and stared in shock as the Black Knight lifted his face-shield.
Yassen Gregorovich blinked in the bright sunlight, his blue eyes narrowed in disbelief. “Alex, is that you? What are you doing in that outrageous costume?”
Oh, God. It was too much. Between the heat, the running, the bodice, the lack of air, the shock, and his empty stomach, Alex saw the edges of his world turn black as his knees gave out. Yassen dropped his sword and managed to catch the boy before he hit the ground, and he awkwardly laid Alex out on the grass, clinking and clanking like the Tinman of Oz.
“Alex? Are you all right? What’s wrong?”
“C-can’t,” Alex wheezed, pointing to his chest as he started to fade away. “Can’t . . . breathe . . .”
Yassen took hold of the tightly-laced bodice, and the last thing Alex remembered before he lost consciousness was hearing a tremendous rip, followed by the delighted cheers of hundreds of male spectators.
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