“King Dehn doesn’t tell you what kind of test, remember? He challenged you to a duel, so you get to pick.”
“Oh,” said Roger, remembering his chivalry trivia. “That’s right.”
“What?!” shouted King Dehn. Now all of the knights were looking interested.
“Didn’t you know, your kingliness?” asked Mavis, with just a touch of an edge to her voice. “Those are the rules in all of the most fashionable courts. High King Peter would have it no other way, and so agrees King Aragorn and King Robin Hood...and--and King Spock is known for only allowing his knights to accept a challenge rather than give it, for fear of this honorable tradition.”
Roger had to hide a snicker. He’d have to remember to tease her later about King Spock.
King Dehn looked surprised, but also impressed. “Very well. The boy may choose in what field of sport he will face our noble knights. Jousting? Swordsmanship? Archery?”
Mavis looked at Roger. She hadn’t thought this far, and her mind was completely blank. But the wheels had already been whirling at breakneck speed in Roger’s head. King Dehn saying sport had given him an idea.
“Basketball,” said Roger.
“Basketball?” asked King Dehn, bewildered.
“Basketball?” asked Harnswiggle, curious.
“Basketball?” asked Bollygoggle, disgusted.
“Basketball?” asked Mavis, impressed.
“Yep,” said Roger. “Basketball. I’m surprised that you haven’t heard of it, your kingship. All of the coolest kings can’t get enough of it, and they reward their greatest heroes with amazing titles, like the Sneaker of the Order of Lebron.”
“The Sneaker of the Order…” breathed King Dehn. He couldn’t believe his luck. Here it had been shaping up to be one of the most boring days of his boring life, and these extremely strange and entertaining people had fallen right into his lap. He was beginning to be very amused. “Then by all means, our noblest knight will compete against you in this great and enriching sport of mankind.”
“Oh,” and Roger faltered. “It’s not really any fun one on one. You need at least two on two for it to be any good.”
“Two on two?”
“Two people competing on each side. One on one is boring.”
All of the knights looked very relieved. They never knew which of them was the “noblest” on any given day, and none of them relished the idea of going against a boy in a contest that they had never even heard of. The risk for embarrassment was just too great. But now, it looked like it wouldn’t work out, after all. King Dehn would just have to forget the whole thing.
But King Dehn was not about to forget the whole thing. King Dehn wanted to watch this basketball, and he was used to getting what he wanted.
“Well, then you must provide a second,” said Kind Dehn haughtily. “Or are you unable to perform this most basic act of chivalry?”
“A second?” asked Roger. “But Mavis can’t play, she’s sick. And Harnswiggle and Bollygoggle are too…” He didn’t want to say short because they were a good deal taller than they normally were.
“Provide a second!” snapped King Dehn.
“Hey now, don’t get your nose out of joint,” said Roger. “It’s not that easy. I come from another world!”
“And that makes you think that you’re better than us?! You can just come in here and make a challenge, and then back out of it?! COWARD!”
“I’m not a coward!” Roger’s face was getting hot. “One on one is fine. Let’s do that.
“It is NOT FINE!” yelled King Dehn. “PROVIDE A SECOND.”
“You are being a GREAT BIG BRAT!” Roger yelled back.
The knights gasped.
And then there was silence.
“You have insulted our royal personage,” said King Dehn, in a calm voice that was much more frightening than his yell. “You are now sentenced to being held here until such a time as a second can be produced and you can fulfill your debt of honor.”
“What debt of honor?” snapped Roger.
“A game of basketball.”
“Good grief, let it go. We’ll find some other way of getting this nonsense out of Mavis’ head.”
“There is no other way,” Harnswiggle reminded him in a whisper.
“Roger…” said Mavis.
But two of the knights had already reached up and grabbed his arms and he was hoisted down from the pony. They weren’t rough with him, but they were firm, firm enough for Roger to know that they weren’t about to just let him go because they thought King Dehn was being a whiney baby.
“How am I supposed to get a second if I can’t leave?” he asked, somewhat crestfallen.
“We don’t know,” sneered King Dehn. “Send someone from your other world to get a knight basketball player.” He looked pointedly at Mavis.
“You’re kidding!” said Mavis and Roger at the same time.
“We never kid.”
“But you aren’t really going to keep him here,” said Mavis.
“Oh, yes, yes we are. Forever, if necessary.”
Mavis sighed. This was ridiculous. And confusing. And she really wanted to smack King Dehn.
“Will you do it?” asked Roger.
“Sure, but who am I going to get to come play basketball in another world so that we can take my sickness out of my head by writing in a book of that changes reality?”
“Brent,” said Roger.
“Brent?! But he wouldn’t believe me!”
“He might,” said Roger. “All you’d have to do is get him to follow you into the shed. And he’s the best shot we’ve got.”
Mavis sighed. Roger was right. Brent was the kind of cool, laid back dude who would think she was crazy but would follow her into her grandparent’s shed rather than hurt her feelings. And he was more than the best shot. He was the only shot.
“I’ll be going with you,” said Harnswiggle, but the soldiers shook their heads and held onto her bridle.
Mavis was in this alone.
She thought that was rather petty of King Dehn, but what more could she do? He was crazy and unreasonable, but as long as he had a tin can army, he was going to be hard to disagree with.
But Bollygoggle didn’t see any reason why he shouldn’t disagree with King Dehn. Disagreeing was his specialty, and he didn’t make exceptions for anyone, especially for spoiled royalty. He crossed his arms.
“This. Is. Utterly. Ridiculous!” he spluttered. “I had heard that King Dehn was a man of honor, but this--this is--you sir,” and he took a step closer to the astounded king, “are not a nice man.”
Everyone stood there with their mouths open, unable to do anything but watch in awe.
“You would send this humansperson back? Alone? She is dizzy! She is tired! What if she loses her way? Do you know how long it took us to get here?!”
King Dehn honestly had never thought of any of those things, because he never thought through his tantrums before he had them. They always ended up causing him more trouble than they were worth, but what could he do? To learn from them and become a better person was too much work. So he just kept making messes and expecting other people to bail him out of them. He stuck his nose in the air, just like he had a thousand times before, waiting for his knights to rush to his defense and propose, inadvertently, a solution.
But for the first time in King Dehn’s spoiled life and spoiled reign, his knights were silent. Because they were thinking, and most of them were thinking along the lines of “the imp has a point.”
King Dehn would have to think up his own way out of this mess. Which made his brain hurt and his face turn red and his lower lip tremble. At last, he looked down at The Book of Things that Are and got an idea.
“You are an impudent and accusatory imp,” he began regally, as if Bollygoggle had just finished speaking. “Of course we never intended for the human girl to go all that way alone. We are going to write her into the Station.”
Bollygogge opened his mouth and then shut it again.
But Roger saw a problem. “What happens when Mavis and Brent need to come back. It was a long way here. They’ll get lost.”
King Dehn sniffed. “Once they come back into the station, they will appear in The Book. All I have to do is simply write her back here.”
It was a good idea, maybe a great one, and Roger looked at Mavis, who looked at Harnswiggle, who looked at Bollygoggle.
“Very well then,” sniffed Bollygoggle.
King Dehn flourished his pen again, and after a second, Mavis disappeared. There was no poof of smoke, no dramatic flash of light. She was just gone.
“How do we know it worked?” gasped Roger.
“Your sister is gone,” said King Dehn.
“Vanished,” suggested one knight.
“Disappeared,” suggested a second.
“Eating diner,” suggested a third, who was still hungry and still not paying attention.
“I meant,” snapped Roger, “how do we know that she got the station alright? How do we know that she’s not just...gone.”
“Because,” and King Dehn’s tone got even more regal than it had ever been before, “because our illustrious personage wrote it in The Book.”
“There isn’t anything we can do either way,” said Harnswiggle. “We’ll have to just be patient until she comes back.”
“And in the meantime,” said King Dehn, “you will be teaching us how to combat in this sport called basketball. What weapons will be necessary?”
Roger got an evil grin on his face.