The Ballad of Sir Robin
Notes: This fic is the result of the stupid song getting stuck in my head. It started out as a drabble and expanded. Drats! It's also un-beta'd. The timing probably doesn't correspond completely with the movie, but *shrugs* I'm a fic writer. I take liberties.
"When danger reared its ugly head, he bravely turned his tail and fled."
Sir Robin groaned as his bards went through another round of singing their constantly changing, but always horrifically embarrassing, Ballad of Sir Robin. As if it wasn't bad enough that the other knights had painted a damned CHICKEN on his shield, he also had just shy of a score of loudmouthed minstrels who just didn't seem to like him very much. Or at least that was the impression he got from some of the verses that involved the many painful ways he could be mutilated and killed. He had to wonder just why he did this to himself anyway.
"Yes, brave Sir Robin turned about, and gallantly he chickened out -"
"A very inspiring song, Sir Robin," A voice interrupted, and the skittish knight immediately put one of his minstrels between himself and the speaker before even daring to see who it was. "Although I don't think you'll want them to be singing it quite so loudly in these heathen lands." At this reminder, Sir Robin peered about, still half-cowering behind the nearest singer.
"Yes, my liege." His voice was considerably subdued - the threat of bodily harm tended to have that effect on him for whatever obscure reason. The minstrels on the other hand seemed not to have noticed this admonition on the part of King Arthur, as they continued to sing as loudly as ever.
"His head smashed in and his heart cut out, his liver removed and his bowels unplugged."
"Ye gods! Would you just SHUT UP for once!?" Robin roared with surprising vehemence, startling not only the minstrels, but his king and himself as well. Noting the many stares on him, he coughed. "Um. as my lord says, who knows what terrors we may face in these heathen lands."
"I don't know, Sir Robin, I was actually rather enjoying their inventive little ditty." King Arthur said, a hint of amusement on his face. When the red-haired knight gaped at him in obvious dismay, the king of Britain merely smiled. "Perhaps, Sir Knight, you and your minstrels would benefit from a visit to Camelot. It is a silly place. but what better place for such a song?"
Robin drooped slightly. The thought of his minstrels being free to spread the Ballad of Sir Robin all throughout Camelot was rather. frightening actually. As if he hadn't ENOUGH to worry about. A second glance at his bold leader was enough to clue him in to the joke, and he scowled in response. "Your Majesty is having a jest with me, surely!"
"Yes, my good man. You are entirely too serious, Sir Robin. You need to learn to enjoy life more."
Well, that was easy for HIM to say, wasn't it? It wasn't like he had a bunch of loopy minstrels who seemed determined to drive him out of his mind - or to wet his pants in fear, for that matter. In fact, one could say that dear old Arthur had it quite easy. How many OTHER folks got a sword thrown out of a lake at them and declared themselves king? That sort of thing just didn't happen to most people. On the other hand, most people didn't have chickens painted on their shields and a tendency to pass out when exposed to even the slightest danger, either.
Heedless of his knight's less-than-gallant thoughts, King Arthur continued, "I had arranged to meet up with the others in a fortnight to discuss our quest. For although I have ridden the length and breadth of the land, I have found no clues to the resting place of the Holy Grail. What of you, Sir Robin? Have you had even the slightest luck?"
"No, my lord," Sir Robin mumbled into the top of his shirt, almost sullenly. "I have found nothing at all." Well, aside from the three-headed knight that. but it was no use thinking about THAT. Nor was it any use to mention it, as that would surely start up his little entourage to singing that hateful ballad again.
"Unfortunate." King Arthur commented, turning about. Behind him, his faithful squire Patsy clacked his coconuts together valiantly. "Yet perhaps the others will have had some success. We should hurry to the rendezvous point." Thus saying, he turned and rode off, and Robin had to hurry after him with little grace and less poise. His minstrels followed in an unsinging, but still noisy gaggle.
"One could hope that the path to our suggested meeting place would be a little more."
"A little more what?" King Arthur asked, seemingly unperturbed by the conditions they were riding through. The air smelled foul, mud clung to boots and any other part of the body within reach. All and all, the two looked as if they'd perhaps spent the last few hours mud-wrestling.
"Um. a little more." Robin dithered, trying to come up with something properly polite, especially since Arthur had chosen the path in question. He wasn't entirely sure of his king's response to criticism, but he wasn't terribly eager to find out firsthand either. But there was nothing for it. He went with the least objectionable - or at least the most obvious answer. "A little more dry, my king. I'm soaked through." Now that he mentioned it, he realized it was the truth. Behind him, his minstrels too were wet and muddy and obviously out of sorts. Their fancy, trailing and colorful clothes were almost as bad for trekking through swamps as armor was.
"Are you?" King Arthur seemed surprised, drawing to a halt. The clattering of coconut hoof beats drew to an obliging stop as well. Carefully, King Arthur looked his faithful knight over. "So you are. perhaps now would be a good time to stop for the night."
"Stop for the night?" The red-haired knight blinked like a startled owl. "But WHERE exactly are we to stop for the night, my liege?" They were, after all, in the middle of a vast swampland, one which was probably rife with all sorts of unsavory (and perhaps dangerous) wildlife. "Are we to sleep on the muddy ground?"
"Of course not." Arthur seemed highly amused by the notion. "If you're already wet, I hardly believe that would improve your condition. We'll ask the individual living in that hut over there for a night's lodgings."
"Hut?" Peering around quizzically, the knight caught a glimpse of the hut of which his king spoke and promptly felt faint. It was made of wood and woven reed rushes and looked altogether small, dank and unwelcoming. Well. small and dank anyway. It was the skulls on poles near the doorway that made it look unwelcoming. They also had the side effect of making poor Robin struggle with control of his bladder. "Surely you must be joking!"
Arthur peered at him, quizzically. "Is something wrong?"
"There are SKULLS on POLES in front of it!" Sir Robin blurted, aghast. "You want us to spend the night in THERE?!"
"Well, where else do you propose we spend it, my good man? Out here on the swamp? I suppose you fancy having your limbs chewed on by swamp creatures?"
This took the wind out of Sir Robin's sails rather abruptly. "Well. no."
"Not to mention those rumors of a terrible swamp monster mauling travelers. well, if you believe that sort of thing, I mean."
"And then, of course, one has to take into consideration that -"
"Um. I'm convinced, my king. You don't need to continue." The last thing he needed was a list of horrible things that could happen at night in the swamp. If that had been what he wanted, he would have asked his minstrels for another song!
"I knew you'd see reason." No sooner had Sir Robin agreed to this course of action, Arthur boldly dismounted and walked straight into the jaws of danger. "Ho! I am Arthur, King of the Britains and this is my squire Patsy, and Sir Robin, one of my Knights of the Round Table. We require lodgings for the night."
"Eh?" A short, wizened and rather ugly looking man opened the door and peered out at them. "Who did you say you were?"
"I am Arthur, King of the Britains."
"Since when?" The man sneered. "I never heard of any King of the Britains."
Arthur frowned, then continued. "I have been entrusted by God with a sacred task to find the Holy Grail. I require lodgings for myself, my squire and my knight."
"And how much did you plan to pay for them?"
At this particular bit of impertinence, Arthur glanced at Sir Robin, who merely made a shrugging gesture. He didn't have any money - he'd spent it all paying off his minstrels. "Maybe we can give him a minstrel?" None of the singers seemed to like this particular notion, turning hot glares on their patron.
"Minstrel, huh? That works." To the immense surprise of both the king and the knight, the strange man seemed willing to take a minstrel in trade for a night's lodgings. "How about that nice fat one?"
"Certainly!" In a gesture of great generosity, Sir Robin handed over the fattest of his minstrels to the strange swamp-dwelling man. No sooner had this trade been agreed upon then they were ushered inside. The outside had been shabby and pretty well unkempt, and the inside did little to dispel the general impression of poverty. There were no rugs, just a wobbly table and a distinctly unsafe looking chair. The "bed" was a couple of mats of woven reed spread upon the floor and covered with a moth-eaten blanket. Ah yes, home sweet home, to be sure.
Almost as soon as they had entered and shed the bulk of their armor to make sitting possible, their host made himself scarce. He'd said something about wanting to get better acquainted with his new minstrel, but Sir Robin hadn't liked the tone of his voice at all. He doubted he would be getting much sleep this night.
"Well, Sir Robin," Now that we have gotten inside and out of the swamp conditions, you might want to change into dry clothes." The king pointed out, reminding him of the original reason they'd sought lodgings.
Unfortunately, he couldn't do much about his wet clothes. "I'm afraid that's not possible, my liege."
"Why not?" Arthur seemed annoyed now. "Have you changed your mind about it? Honestly, Sir Knight, this sort of behavior is rather unseeming for one of your stature! You need to learn to make up your mind. Be decisive!" His words were only serving to make the knight droop more.
"But that's not it," Robin finally spoke up. "I don't have anything to change into. I'm hardly going to sit around in the nude." The reason he had nothing to wear - and one he was not inclined to share at the moment - was because his minstrels had taken it into their heads that they could liven up their newly made ballad with a puppet show accompaniment and had chopped up his spare clothes to make it.
This new information did not take Arthur back for more than a very few seconds. Then he nodded in understanding. "Very well, I shall have to lend you some of my clothes. Patsy!" He spoke to his squire, who still labored under the heavy pack he carried. "Please see to it that Sir Robin gets some of the extra clothing we brought along."
"Thank you, my lord," Sir Robin was flustered, but oddly pleased. Him. Wearing the clothes of a king. That was certainly a step up for a man who was oft-compared to chickens. He took the outfit and studied it for a moment before beginning to strip off his own wet and muddy things. As he did so, he was suddenly aware of the gazes on him. He glanced at the other occupants of the room and promptly turned red upon seeing the rather intensely interested looks they were throwing him. "Um. My liege." He began hesitantly.
"What is it now?"
"I find the stares rather. discomfiting." He admitted, certain his king would be able to do something about the problem. Like maybe turning to look in the OTHER direction.
"Yes, I can see how you would." Arthur nodded sagely. "Very well. Patsy. All of you others. You will go outside until I give you leave to return." They did so, although not without a few grumbles. Once the room was cleared, King Arthur turned back to Sir Robin. "Is that better?"
"Yes, my liege." He proceeded to strip off the rest of his clothes, then froze again as he realized that Arthur HADN'T diverted his attention to something else, as would have been polite. No, he was actually watching quite openly, and with an odd sort of smile on his face. "Um."
"Still having problems, Sir Robin?" Arthur inquired, tilting his head slightly to one side. "Is there some way I can help?" This was said with an air of complete innocence, yet the reasonable tone had an entirely unexpected effect on the embarrassed - and exposed - knight. Or maybe it wasn't the tone at all, it could have just been the way his lord was eyeing him.
In any case, before he could make an answer to either effect, the king of the Britains had taken matters into his own hands. The only thought that managed to get through the sudden haze that Robin found himself in was that at least it hadn't been his BLADDER he'd just lost control of.
At last they found themselves back on more friendly territory, and the minstrels - obviously miffed at the loss of one of their number and the condition of their things - had decided that it was once again a good opportunity to sing the Ballad of Sir Robin at the top of their collective lungs. However, it did not take the knight long to realize they'd been adding a few verses. Verses about - of all things - the size of certain portions of Sir Robin's anatomy and certain activities to which he was prone. He was livid.
"But I never." He began, trying to cut off the minstrels in mid-verse and having no luck.
Fortunately, King Arthur had a much better solution. His sword whapped one of the minstrels in the mouth and the rest of the gaggle promptly fell silent. When Robin looked at him questioningly, he just smiled and said in a voice that was almost a purr. "It slipped."
"Of course, my liege." Sir Robin replied. He almost walked right into Arthur when the king suddenly drew to a halt. "What's wrong?" Images of fearsome knights and terrible monsters filled his head, unbidden.
"I think we've made a wrong turn." Arthur replied. "For it seems we've wandered several days off-course."
When the red-haired knight did nothing but blink quizzically, Arthur smiled. It was a smile he well recognized after the night in the swamp. "Oh!" He flushed a little, but maintained most of his composure - a tremendous feat in itself. "I suppose that means we'll be spending a few more nights on the road."
"Yes," The tone was almost smug, "But that's all well and good, my brave knight. All well and good indeed."
Robin nodded, feeling that for once he was up to facing a few more days of dangerous travel - that maybe he could even welcome it. It was unprecedented and went well against his normal reactions to potential threats. But that WAS all well and good. It seemed some new verses - more enjoyable ones, perhaps - were about to unfold in the Ballad of Sir Robin.