A/N: Hello :) This piece is a little like my other fic, What's In A Name?, simply because this kind of thing is fun to write. Case rested. Also, the title is from the The Hoosiers song. It seemed fitting. Hope you likes it.
Elyan was on his first night watch. It was going relatively well. He'd only jumped out of his skin at three branches snapping, two owls hooting and a partridge in a pear tree. He'd even managed to light the fire all by himself. After several attempts. And lots of cursing.
It was going very well indeed.
The other knights were sitting round the campfire in a big circle and were laughing raucously at the exploits of some dungeon guard called Nigel and his mate Ian, neither of whom Elyan knew. In fact, if Elyan thought about it, he didn't really know any of the knights he'd been stationed with tonight either.
To be perfectly honest, he wasn't a very sociable fellow. Growing up, he'd been content to sit around the house and sew with Gwen. The only knights he knew were his friends: Leon, Lancelot, Gwaine and Percival. And they were only really his friends because they'd fought the un-dead together. Elyan supposed there were some mutual experiences that just sort of forced people to become friends, whether they had anything in common or not. Luckily for him, he did happen to have plenty in common with his friends; Gwaine liked drinking, which Elyan was not averse to; Percival liked thinking, which Elyan was not averse to; Lancelot liked disappearing, which Elyan was not averse to; and Leon liked not dying, which Elyan was not averse to. They were a good bunch.
Elyan decided that he would not try to learn all of their names, since he was very bad with names (he had, embarrassingly, spent his first few days after Arthur had been crowned calling him King Uther) and simply did his best to nod, smile and laugh in the right places.
Everything was going well until he heard the footsteps.
"Argh!" yelled Elyan, jumping to his feet, unleashing his sword and preparing to do battle. He glanced about him into the darkness, trying to gauge how far away those approaching might be.
The other knights were ignoring him completely.
That was peculiar.
Elyan stuck his sword into the ground with a decisive slice and rested his hands on his hips. "What's going on?" he demanded. "Why aren't you doing anything?"
They peered curiously up at him over their mugs of mead and squinted. "Doing anything about what?"
"The footsteps!" he urged, as they padded closer. Then something occurred to him. "Can't you hear them?"
One of the knights scoffed, prompting all of the others to scoff along with him. "Of course we can hear them. We're knights of Camelot. We've been trained into fine-tuned killing machines. Our senses are highly perceptive. I can hear the group of people approaching; the heaviness of footfall would indicate a large group of bandits, which is supported by the ever-nearing smell of unwashed armpits." This knight finished his speech by taking another sip of mead and looking pleased with himself, as if he'd put Elyan in his place.
Elyan was baffled. "So…"
"So?" the knight belched. The knight on his left patted him heartily on the back as the knight on his right surreptitiously swapped their mugs of mead.
"What are you going to do about it?"
"Don't look at me," replied the knight Elyan had posed his question to. "It's not me you were talking to, it's him!" This knight now pointed helpfully to the original knight, who waved cheerily at Elyan, then turning to drink some more mead, only to discover that his mug, which had been half-full, was now entirely empty and that the knight on his right looked exceptionally smug.
Elyan blanched. He blinked. He rubbed his eyes. Fair enough, it wasn't just the bad light: they did all look quite similar. The only distinctive thing about them was the horribly conspicuous, bright red cloaks they were all donning. Those cloaks were practically glowing in the darkness, alerting anyone who cared to look to their presence.
"But… but… We're about to be attacked!" Elyan wailed, desperately trying to get a response out of the dispassionate knights.
"Sh! Sh," one of them insisted, waving his concerns away. "I'm getting a headache."
"Oh!" announced another, jokily cupping a hand around his ear. "I think they're getting closer!"
To Elyan's dismay, everybody but Elyan laughed. "This is insane! Do you all want to die? Why aren't you doing anything?"
"Because it says so in the script."
There was absolute silence except for the sound of footsteps drawing ever closer.
"It says so in the script," repeated the knight who had spoken before, pulling said script out of his back pocket and pointing at the relevant section, which, conveniently enough, was highlighted. "Look here."
Elyan crouched down and did as he was told.
"It says: Knights and Elyan are sitting round campfire on watch at night. Laughing, drinking, unsuspecting. Attacked by bandits. Quick and bloody battle…"
Elyan cut him off. "What is this?" he asked, snatching the script out of the knight's hands and batting it angrily. "Why are we just doing whatever it tells us?"
The knights shrugged.
"I don't know what you're so bothered about," one of them grumbled. "You've got a name; you're not going to die."
Elyan gaped at them disbelievingly and flipped through the rest of the script. "You're all going to die?"
"Yep," they chorused.
"And you're just sitting here?"
"Yep." They grinned and clanged their mugs together.
Elyan had nothing left to say, which was just as well because it was then that the bandits arrived.
"Yargh!" yelled one of the bandits, about to charge.
"Wait!" screamed Elyan, jumping out in front of the bandit's brandished weapon.
The bandit blinked his stupid little brown eyes and pulled his large, woolly eyebrows together. "Urggle uh ig og urff iii ooo wrtt yug yug?" asked the bandit, turning to the bandit leader in confusion.
The bandit leader stepped forwards, preparing to translate. "He said: You what?"
Elyan wiped the sweat off his brow and continued, keeping his arms outstretched in an effort to separate the two sides, although, to give them credit, the knights hadn't shifted position at all. They were still drinking and laughing, determined to be surprised by the bandits' ambush.
"You don't have to do this," Elyan pleaded, trying to get through to the bandit leader. "You don't have to fight! You don't all have to die! Why don't you all just go back home, we just all go back home and forget any of this ever happened?"
The bandit leader frowned. "But…" he muttered, reaching into his back pocket. "It says in the script that…"
"Forget the script!"
"Uh iggle rryii oogg iidd ugg id uf off!" exclaimed the bandit, dropping his weapon in shock.
The bandit leader gasped. "Don't use that kind of language around polite company! It is not fit for their ears! Can't you see you're in the presence of knights?"
The bandit looked ashamed of himself.
The other bandits around him all grunted disparagingly and took the moral high ground over their foul-mouthed companion.
"Look, this is a little awkward for all of us, but if you could just get out of the way so we could all kill each other, that would be much appreciated. I can't harm you, you see. It's not in the script."
Elyan moaned and stood aside, giving in.
"Thanks very much, very kind of you," thanked the bandit leader.
"U gig ooh ah ur nu," acknowledged the bandit, and several other bandits, passing by.
The knights were incredibly surprised to be attacked by a large group of bandits. They had not seen or heard or even smelt them coming. They were thoroughly ambushed.
This made them happy.
They did, however, put up a good fight.
Everybody, with the exception of Elyan, died.
This made them even happier.
Elyan walked away from the scene, shaking his head solemnly and crying. He was off to deliver the news to the castle because that was what the script had told him to do. He clutched the booklet of printed pages tightly in his fist and repeated his lines over and over in his head, trying to make sure he'd get them right.
The dying bandit and his dying bandit leader lay on the floor, in a puddle of blood, watching the figure recede out of shot.
"Ug ih urr op ki wut yor um ee haha?"
"No. I don't know what he's so upset about either. It's not like he died."