King Dehn drew himself up to his most regal and snobbish height. “If you think that we would trust you with a Book of such importance, even for just a moment, then you are more of a knave and a fool than we thought possible.”
“Let me do it,” said Bollygoggle, but without his usual spunk. “That way Harnswiggle is not touching it at all.”
King Dehn seemed to waver for a second, but it was only because he was scrambling to think of a good reason why Bollygoggle couldn’t touch The Book, either. He couldn’t, so he gave the answer that always worked with servants and lackeys. He sniffed.
“Bollygoggle is untrustworthy,” said a knight.
“He is beneath the great King, may his face shine like the sun,” explained a second.
“Your hands are dirty,” insisted a third.
“Please, oh great King Dehn, may your beard never be falling out?” begged Harnswiggle.
But he just stuck his nose in the air and looked the other way, as if it was all settled.
Mavis’ head was pounding and it felt as if the pony was doing the hula in slow motion, and it was maddening to have The Book that close and not be able to get her hands on it. She wracked her brain for everything she’d ever read about pompous and spoiled people of every kind, and most importantly, how to get them to do what you want. What was a good plan? And then she thought of what Roger would say.
“I--” she began, and everyone looked at her, startled. “I bet that you haven’t got The Book at all.”
There was a gasp.
“You are an impertinent little--little--”
“Ingrate,” suggested one knight.
“Knave,” suggested another, thinking of the king’s favorite insult.
“Beef steak,” suggested a third, who was hungry and hadn’t really been paying all that much attention.
“It is The Book that we are holding! Right here!” And he held up the cover, so they could read the title, and feel ashamed of themselves.
“It’s a fake,” said Roger, having instantly caught on.
“Definitely,” said Mavis.
“It even looks cheap, can’t you see where they Sharpied out the old title?” asked Roger.
“Did he really think we’d fall for that?” asked Mavis.
“ENOUGH!” roared King Dehn.
“If it really is The Book of Things that Are, prove it,” said Mavis.
“Yeah, prove it. Change the line that says ‘It’s all in Mavis’ head.’ I bet nothing happens, don’t you, Mavis?”
“Oh, you bet, Roger. He’s going to look mighty silly when all of his knights see that he’s just a big phony.”
“Or are you too much of a coward?” prodded Roger. “Are you afraid to write in The Book, and mess up how things are?”
This jab was very effective...maybe too effective. King Dehn got a strange and vile look on his face, that can only be described as the look a very unpleasant child would get if he had been throwing a tantrum wanting to go to Disney instead of the dentist, and suddenly found himself driving the family car. “You are a very loud mouthed boy, aren't you?” he asked Roger.
“I do talk a lot,” said Roger, without an ounce of shame.
“We don’t like you very much.”
“That’s ok, I don’t like you very much either, so we’re even. Are you going to be a lily livered chicken hearted mama’s boy, or not?”
“We think that you were sent here,” sneered King Dehn. “By someone.”
“I don’t have any idea who you think sent me,” said Roger honestly. “But I bet I’m not the only one who thinks you’re a coward.” Roger was beginning to think that things were going in a direction that didn’t bode well for him, but he didn’t know what else to do. Talking big and riding out the waves as they came was really his strong suit, so he just kept firing back responses and hoping for a new idea to strike him--or, better yet, Mavis.
“We think you were sent here to humiliate me.”
“Me? What happened to the whole I’m-a-king-so-I-talk-in-confusing-plural-pronouns bit?”
King Dehn gnashed his teeth. “We am going to prove that you are just an overgrown lout.”
“Am? Now you’re conjugating your verbs incorrectly. Am is a singular verb. Are is the correct verb for a plural subject.”
King Dehn opened the cover of The Book of Things that Are with a flourish and brandished his feather quill melodramatically.
As soon as his pen stopped moving, Roger looked at Mavis excitedly. “Well?! Do you feel any better?”
King Dehn laughed. Not an “I hope you are better because I fixed it for you, aren’t I a nice person” laugh. It was more of an attempt at an...evil laugh.
“Wha...what did you do?” asked Mavis, too hurt and too disappointed to pretend to be polite.
“The Book of Things that Are says that the young and impudent member of you company will be dueling against one of our men in a test of skill and courage. Only if he does best our most noble knight will he gain the privilege of changing what is written in The Book.”