“En garde…ready…fight!” the judge called out to the two fencers that were standing in the field of play in the middle of a large hall.
Eirwen Darling’s opponent - Thomas Paisley - moved forward and lunged his foil at Eirwen. Eirwen deftly parried the attack, and was about to riposte when loud, overzealous female cheering coming from the stands distracted him.
“Darling! Darling! Darling! My Darling! My darling!” the girls all chanted in lovesick voices.
The tips of Eirwen’s ears turned red out of embarrassment and he groaned. “Ugh. What do they think they’re doing? This isn’t a basketball game!”
His fan girls were there again. He glanced at them out of the corner of his eyes and immediately wished he hadn’t. His flush started to spread to his cheeks. The girls were holding up flashy, homemade banners and posters, which read embarrassing things like: ‘Do your best, my Darling!’ and ‘I (heart) Eirwen Darling’.
Eirwen hated that his last name was ‘Darling’. When the girls called out to him it sounded like they were using a silly pet name. And with the way they were looking at him lustily he had the feeling he was right on the money.
The reason that Eirwen Darling had fan girls in the first place was because his great grandfather Eirwen Darling was famous for being the inspiration behind the popular children’s book: Petra Pan.
Eirwen Darling also bore an uncanny resemblance to his great grandfather when he’d been Eirwen’s age. So when people pictured the boy who’d been spirited away to Neverland by Petra Pan for a series of grand adventures - they usually pictured the boy with Eirwen’s face. Eirwen’s great grandfather was dead now, but people never seemed to forget the connection.
Eirwen’s current opponent and close friend, Thomas, was a good sport, and waited patiently for the cheers to die down before he’d make his next move. “As always, you’re popular with the ladies, Eirwen. I’m jealous.” Like himself, Thomas was dressed in an all-white fencing uniform with a chest protector made of plastic and a lamé - a layer of electrically conductive material worn over the fencing jacket in foil that was used for detecting hits. A mesh metal mask was covering his face protectively, so Eirwen was unable to see what was undoubtedly Thomas’s amused expression.
“Do shut up,” Eirwen groused irritably, before lunging his foil forward.
Tom parried the blow and retaliated with an attack of his own. Eirwen gracefully parried. This was the London Open - a fencing competition for national and international fencers. Eirwen had made it to the final, and this last match would determine the gold medal winner and champion of the competition. He wanted to make the club he belonged to - the Academy Cadets Club - proud. The current score was 14 to 12. Eirwen just needed to win one more point and he’d have this victory in the bag.
Eirwen’s muscles were beginning to ache and a pounding headache was beginning to form behind his eyes. His vision was blurring slightly. He blinked rapidly to clear his vision and looked up towards the stands. What the…?
There perched at the very top of the stands was the oddest girl Eirwen had ever seen. Her wild, long, golden blonde hair with scattered braids was adorned with spring flowers and ivy vines. She was dressed in a green tube dress that was decorated with ivy, and a pair of green ankle boots made out of soft leather. Her grass-green eyes were sparkling mischievously and an impish smile quirked her pink, pouty lips.
She looked very ‘fairy-like’ or ‘pixie-like’, but she had no wings and was the size of a normal human girl around his age. (Eirwen had just turned eighteen).
Maybe it was just how the sunlight coming in from the windows framed her body with a golden aura that made her look so…otherworldly.
Fairy cosplay? Eirwen wondered in bemusement, arching an eyebrow at her. When he blinked again the girl just disappeared from his sight. What the?
Thanks to Eirwen’s well-honed battle reflexes he just barely managed to dodge a lunge from Tom - the fencing blade passing his face. Bloody hell.
Eirwen needed to concentrate on his match. He took a deep breath to steel his nerves, got into a stance, and charged forward. He managed to slip past Tom’s defenses and touched the tip of his fencing sword to Tom’s chest.
He’d just scored the winning point, making the final score - 15 to 12!
“Bout! Winner - Eirwen Darling!” the judge announced, waving his hand in Eirwen’s direction.
Deafening cheers rose up from the stands and Eirwen had to resist the urge to plug up his ears with his index fingers. “Darling! Darling! Darling!”
Eirwen removed his helmet while Tom did the same. There was a lopsided smirk on Eirwen’s face. He’d won the match. His final match.
Eirwen ran a hand back through his sweaty, short, dark brown hair to get a few troublesome strands out of his face that had been irritating him.
Tom was grinning at Eirwen cheerily even though he’d lost. “Brilliant match.” He stuck his hand out for Eirwen to take.
Eirwen took Tom’s hand and shook his firmly. “Hell yeah.”
Tom’s happy expression turned serious. “Are the rumors true? You’re quitting fencing?”
Eirwen shrugged carelessly. “I’m afraid so.”
Tom’s eyes narrowed. “Why?”
Another shrug. “Fencing…just doesn’t interest me anymore,” Eirwen lied.
“Bollocks!” Tom swore in a frustrated manner. “I know you’ll be back eventually, and when you return - I’ll be waiting for our next rematch. But next time it will be at the Olympics.”
“Sure,” Eirwen half-heartedly agreed before his attention was drawn to the stands where he spotted his two younger sisters - Joan and Michelle - waving and screaming his name. His smirk widened into a broad grin. His sisters were utterly adorable, and the apples of his eyes.
Joan was eight-years-old, and had the same boring dark brown hair he did. She’d pulled her hair back into a serious ponytail, and had a pair of thick-framed glasses on her face. Michelle, on the other hand, didn’t look related to them. She had blonde hair, which she wore in two pigtails, bright blue eyes, a round cherubic face, and a smattering of freckles along the bridge of her nose. Michelle was holding a stuffed pink unicorn.
Eirwen met their gazes and held up his sword in a triumphant pose. He then headed for the stands with purposeful steps, and watched as his sisters descended the stands. Once they’d reached the bottom of the stands Joan and Michelle started towards Eirwen.
Out of the corner of Eirwen’s eye, he noticed that a man in a hoodie was approaching his sisters. He didn’t really think anything of it until the man suddenly grabbed Michelle, who let out a surprised squeak.
The man kept one arm wrapped around Michelle’s waist while he turned to face Eirwen and used his right hand to lower his hood to reveal-
It was Jim Graveson - an ex-fencer. Eirwen had competed against him during past fencing competitions. Eirwen recalled that Jim used to be a part of his school’s fencing club, but he’d been expelled from his school for getting into fights outside of club activities, and had been forced to quit the fencing club too.
If he hadn’t been expelled, Jim would have participated in the London Open and probably would have ended up in the finals against Eirwen since he was a better fencer than Tom. It was no secret that Jim had liked to consider himself Eirwen’s rival.
Jim was tall and had a lanky physique. His skin was overly pale and he had short curly black hair. He was wearing a Black Sabbath T-shirt, a pair of faded jeans and some muddy sneakers. Eirwen’s fan girls probably would have considered Jim to be attractive if it wasn’t for the glazed, slightly psychotic look in his eyes.
Eirwen gave the young man a confused look. “Jim.”
“Eirwen,” Jim drawled with a dark edge.
“Why are you doing this, Jim?” Eirwen demanded, trying to keep the panic out of his voice. “Let Michelle go.”
“Why don’t you make me, Champion,” Jim sneered, his lip curling in disdain.
“W-What?” Eirwen stammered in surprise.
“You heard me,” Jim drawled, a glint in his gray eyes. “Make me. Fight me with that sword you’re still holding in your hand. I should have been the one to fight you today - not Tom. I would have beaten you and become champion. I’m the real champion of this competition!”
Eirwen looked down at his fencing sword, and shook his head in a helpless fashion. “No way, mate.”
Jim reached behind him and pulled out a rapier - a real one with a long, thin, sharp steel blade. Jim put the edge of the blade against Michelle’s throat. “I said…fight me. Or else little Michelle gets it.”
Eirwen’s amber eyes flashed with anger, and he raised his sword threateningly even though he knew a foil couldn’t really do much damage. “Let her go, Jim.”
“That’s more like it!” Jim crowed happily.
When Eirwen saw a thin cut form on his sister’s neck he flew into action, lunging his sword forward. Jim moved his sword away from Michelle’s throat to parry the attack, and their blades clashed.
Michelle took that opportunity to bite Jim’s forearm as hard as she could. Jim cried out in pain. “Ah! Why, you insolent little brat!” He let go of Michelle, who fell to the floor on her backside with an ‘oomph!’.
Joan quickly scooped her younger sister up into her arms and ran for it.
“Get back here, you little brats! You’ll pay for that!” Jim turned and started off towards the fleeing girls.
But Eirwen smoothly stepped into his path, blocking his way, and with his fencing sword raised. “I thought you wanted to fight me, Jim.”
A twisted smile spread across Jim’s face. “Quite right.” The two young men both got into fencing stances, and sized each other up for a moment. “Let’s find out which one of us deserves the title of champion! Shall we?” Jim egged, before letting out a shout and attacking Eirwen.
Eirwen easily blocked the reckless attack with his fencing sword. Jim attacked swiftly again and again, but Eirwen continued to deftly block all of Jim’s attacks.
Jim was beginning to get pissed and frustrated. Letting out a roar, he swung his rapier in a fierce sideways slash. Eirwen raised his sword to block the attack. Their swords clashed and Jim’s rapier cut through Eirwen’s fencing sword.
Eirwen leapt backwards instinctively, narrowly avoiding the tip of Jim’s sword from grazing against his chest. No point had been earned yet though. But then Eirwen realized with a sinking feeling in his chest that he should have just let Jim’s sword graze him and lose this impromptu match. Bloody hell. Why am I even playing along with this lunatic? Who the hell cares who wins or loses at this point?
Now Eirwen only had the pathetic stump of a fencing sword left to defend himself with while Jim had a real sword that was deadly sharp and dangerous. There was this sinister leer on Jim’s face as he pointed the sword at Eirwen.
Eirwen didn’t fear death.
In fact, he would welcome it, but…
“Jim, stop this now. You’re already going to be in so much trouble for this.” Eirwen gave the young man a beseeching look. “Do you really want to throw your life away for this? For one silly match? It’s not worth it. I’m not worth it. As far as I’m concerned you’ve already won this match!”
“No. I haven’t won the match yet,” Jim argued passionately. “Not until I make you bleed!”
Shit. Eirwen realized he had no choice but to fight Jim seriously. When Jim charged forward Eirwen rushed to meet him. Jim’s sword sliced into the side of Eirwen’s cheek.
Getting past Jim’s defenses, Eirwen used the stump of his sword to disarm Jim. Jim’s rapier went flying up into the air. Eirwen spun and caught the sword by the hilt, and pointed the tip of the rapier to Jim’s throat. “Yield, Jim.”
With a psychotic glint in his gray eyes, Jim chuckled darkly. “I think not.” Jim reached into his hoodie and pulled out a handgun. People immediately screamed at the sight of it and began to run for the exits in the hall.
Eirwen looked down at the gun and let out a heavy sigh. “You have got to be kidding me. Bad form, mate.”
“Eirwen!” his sisters cried out simultaneously in their worry.
Jim’s attention turned towards them and he pointed the gun at Eirwen’s sisters.
Eirwen’s eyes flared in alarm. No! Eirwen dove in front of Jim and reached out to grab the gun. A single shot rang out through the air. Eirwen looked down and noticed the bright red spot spreading on his shoulder, blooming like a red flower on his white fencing uniform. Heh, I’ve been shot.
Eiwen wondered dazedly why it didn’t hurt. He smiled lopsidedly as he began to lose consciousness. Hopefully this has killed me. That’d be great.
Out of the corner of his eye, Eirwen caught sight of a flash of gold and green.
A green mist enveloped the handgun and it was wrenched out of Jim’s hand and sent flying, skidding across the gymnasium floor.
Jim loosed a cry of alarm and he too went flying, but Eirwen hadn’t touched him. Huh…? What’s going on?
“Eirwen! Eirwen!” His sisters were shouting his name, but they sounded so far away. This was the last thing Eirwen remembered before he lost consciousness.
With a flick of her graceful fingers Petra Pan had sent the punk’s gun flying out of his hand and skidding across the hall floor. “What a coward, bringing a gun to a swordfight.” Petra stuck her tongue out at him in an immature fashion.
With another wave of her hand Jim was sent flying across the hall. The back of Jim’s head hit the wall hard and he was knocked unconscious.
Petra’s grass-green eyes focused on Eirwen Darling again. She watched as he fell unconscious and his little sisters ran to his side. She grinned widely.
Eirwen had selflessly risked his own life to save the lives of his sisters. He was a hero. A guardian. A true knight. “Eirwen Darling…he’s perfect. I have found my knight, Tink!”
Petra’s male fairy companion - Tinker - shot Petra a look of sheer disbelief. “Him? But he lost.”
“If Eirwen had been wielding a real sword he would have easily won,” Petra argued flippantly. “Neverland needs a knight to slay the evil creature that threatens its existence. And Eirwen is just like the dragon slayer, St. George - the perfect heroic knight.”
Tink smacked a hand to his forehead and groaned. He now regretted having read the tale of St. George and the Dragon to Petra. He’d been the one to put odd ideas into her head - this time.
There was a strange, hungry gleam in Petra’s eyes as she looked down at Eirwen’s unconscious form. She licked her lips unconsciously. “He’s also quite…handsome. Isn’t he, Tink?”
Tink gawked at Petra in horror. “What!”
“Oh, don’t be jealous, Tink. You’re handsome too,” Petra quickly assured, glancing at the fairy on her shoulder. And the tiny male fairy was handsome. Tink had short orange hair, and sparkling teal blue eyes. He was dressed in a tunic made of green skeleton leaves, brown leather pants, and green boots. A tiny sword the size of a needle was strapped to his side. All in all, he had a rather dashing appearance.