This is a work of fiction and is not to be sold in any way shape or form. It is simply for my amusement and the challenge of writing these characters in a strange and dangerous world. All the characters are owned by Disney and I do not claim ownership of any of them. Please let me know what you think in the comments below! Without further ado, welcome to The Kingdom.)
The King was dead. This was a fact that almost no one in the Kingdom knew, but a fact which permeated the mind of Jiminy Cricket as he sat atop the counter of the darkened pub, sipping at a thimble which had recently been refilled with an amber liquid that smelt of cider but burned the throat after each swallow. Every night, Jiminy would enter the Old District and make his way to the Hog’s Snout, hoping to forget the awfulness that had befallen his poor cricket life.
There had been a time when a fairy had sung his praises and a little boy had thanked him, swearing that he had transformed from a puppet, only because Jiminy believed in him. The problem with everyone telling him that he was a wonderful conscience, a stead-fast guide through the tunnels of temptation, was that they trusted him without question, never realizing that he was simply giving them instruction and hoping for the best. There was no moral compass which he secretly followed, only his heart and his sturdy mind, which, for a time, was enough.
That time had ended with one last bit of advice which had ended the King’s life. Jiminy had been escorted out of the castle and the Queen had requested that he never return, lest he wanted to find his little cricket body without a head. Obviously, he obeyed. Days turned to weeks, which became months and then years. His fancy black suit had fallen to disrepair with holes and tears and frayed ends. His top hat was missing its top and his umbrella had been lost to a dog as he ran from it in the streets. Jiminy was as low as any one creature could get. He figured it was only a matter of time before he wandered aimlessly under someone’s shoe. His life was forfeit at this point. All that was left was to wait.
The pub’s creaky door clambered open and a face which Jiminy had never seen before wandered in, looking quite out of place. The man was old and frail with a long white beard and royal blue robe. A blue pointed hat atop his head fell to the side, and on his shoulder sat a bedraggled owl. Upon closer inspection, Jiminy could swear the old man was talking to himself. Either that or he was talking to the owl which was even more crazy. Owls didn’t talk, at least not that Jiminy was aware of.
“I’m telling you Archimedes,” stated the old man. “Places like this are perfect for seeking information. The locals know more than anyone gives them credit for. We’ll get a nice hot drink and listen for a spell. Then we’ll head back to the Inn and before you know it, it’ll be morning and we’ll be off to see the Queen.”
Jiminy jumped in his own skin. The Queen? Were these two really going to see her? How was that even possible? The Queen didn’t even take visitors anymore. At least not that he was aware of. The old man and the bird plopped down at a small table in the back of the pub, out of earshot of Jiminy. It was good, he decided, that he couldn’t hear them. It was no business of his who they were or why they were here. Not anymore.
He finished his drink, only to notice that the old man and the bird were still sitting there, simply staring out into the room. It gave him chills. He decided that for once he was going to call it an early night. Perhaps he’d even awaken without a headache tomorrow. He leaped from the countertop and hit the floor, his spring-like legs absorbing the fall. Working to steady himself, he found his way out of the pub and turned down an alleyway, heading for the little hole under the tailor’s which he called home.
“No, please,” came a voice from the opposite end of the alleyway as a man slammed into a large heap of trash, losing his footing. Jiminy eyed the commotion, tilting his head to the side as he tried to make sense of it. Moonlight shone down on a little section of the alleyway, illuminating the scene.
Then there was another man, sure-footed and with an air of wretchedness to him. He had rough skin and tattered clothing and held a long dagger in one hand, which he pointed directly at the scared man’s throat. Jiminy ducked behind a nearby barrel and peaked around it to watch.
Another scoundrel appeared, this one with a sword, and another holding an axe. And yet more came around the bend. In all, there were six of them, ranging in ages, but the youngest appeared to be no more than a youth, barely able to grow facial hair.
“Please!” cried the scared man, now backed against a wall. He was larger in the belly and had a bald head. Sweat dripped down his face and his hands shook. “I have a family and children.”
“You also have a lot of debt,” said the leader, dagger clenched tightly in his fist. “You owe Scrooge a lot of money, and he is not a patient duck.”
“I’ll get him the money. I swear. Give me one more chance.” The man was crying now, his eyes closed as he begged for his life.
“You already got a second chance,” said the dagger holder. He grinned, revealing a mouth that was missing more than a couple of teeth. “Now you’re going to be an example for all the other scamps like you, begging for their second chance.”
“NOOO!” The gang grabbed the man by his arms and legs and pulled him, kicking and screaming, further into the alley, where it was too dark to see. Jiminy edged forward, not wanting to lose sight of the man. Someone would need to tell his family what happened and this, at least, he could do.
“Alright old boy,” came the voice of the leader. “Say your goodbye’s.”
“No! Please! Stop!” The man’s screams echoed against the walls.
“Bye bye old man…hey!” Suddenly, the leader’s voice sounded confused; surprised even. “You’re not supposed to be– Gahhhh!”
The leader flew out of the darkness, towards Jiminy, flailing in the air until he landed, hard on his back, right next to where Jiminy was hiding. The cricket jumped back against the brick wall, trying to stay out of sight as the man struggled to catch his breath.
From the darkness, a figure emerged, moving quickly along the thin stretch of the alley. There was chaos at the dark end. Men asking questions and trying to pull their weapons from their sheaths. The figure was only half the height of a man, if not less. It wore a black cloak over a black leather chest-piece and pants, with thick black gloves and boots. Its head, which was large, was covered by a golden mask which pushed back what appeared to be two large round ears. The mask was shaped like the face of an eagle, with fierce eyes and a powerful beak which protruded from the hidden face below. The figure ran to the man as he tried desperately to get to his feet.
“Who do you think you are?” asked the man, but he got no answer. Instead, the figure reached out and grabbed at the air, which clearly had some sort of effect on the man as his body went stiff, no longer under his own control. As the other men emerged from the shadows, weapons in hand, the black figure turned its head and then shifted its arms through the air. The man went flying and, like a boulder, smashed through his own men, who lunged out of the way.
They gathered themselves up quickly and then turned to the figure who was smaller in size than them, but still managed to be far more threatening.
“Hardly seems fair,” chided a thick man with a large beard. He held a large axe in his hand which looked as though it had seen its fair share of fights. “Five of us, and only one of little you.”
At this the figure said nothing, but reached to its back and in a quick motion grabbed and pulled two thin metal swords from their sheathes, brandishing them at its sides. Their sleek blades glistened in the moonlight. Jiminy hadn’t seen swords of that quality in a long time.
“Let’s dance,” said the thick man as he and the other four charged at the hooded figure. They were strong and skilled, but the figure was fast. It whipped the swords through the air and quickly deflected their blows. Left and right, the men swung wildly in rage, but the figure remained calm. An axe came down and it would jump out of the way, parrying a sword. Then it deflected one man’s sword so that it landed on another man’s axe. The men, for all their size and brute force, were their own worst enemies and the figure was using them against one another.
The thick man with the axe fell, knocked over the head by the young boy, who held a large wooden club. The figure jumped up and kicked the man with the sword squarely in the jaw, knocking him unconscious. One by one, the figure dispatched all of them until at last a dark skinned man with two daggers fell to the ground and the figure turned to the young boy, who trembled with fear.
The figure pointed a single sword at the boy. The boy took the hint and dropped the club to the ground. Then, for the first time, the figure spoke.
“The Shadow has spared you and these men,” it said. It’s voice was gravelly, as if the very Earth was speaking. It sounded unnatural. As if the figure had found a way to change its voice to sound more terrifying. “Tell Scrooge that he will not be so lucky.”
The boy nodded and then took off into the night, making sure not to look back.
The figure sheathed its swords and then went to the nearest man and checked for a pulse by placing two fingers on his neck.
How odd, thought Jiminy. The figure only had four fingers. As it leaned over, he caught sight of something under the cloak. It was thin and barely visible, but Jiminy was sure he saw it. A tail.
“Your Majesty?” Jiminy clapped a hand to his mouth, not believing he’d actually said the words out loud.
The figure turned its golden-eagle mask in his direction, and then with a puff of shadowy smoke, vanished into the night like some demon who could shift in and out of the darkness.
Jiminy let out a breath he had not realized he’d been holding for the duration of the fight. Was it possible? Had he just seen the King? Was he still alive? A million questions swarmed around in his inebriated head. He needed answers, but more than that. He needed help.
From around the corner, he heard the door of the pub swing open, allowing the shouts and music to fill the streets for only a moment before it closed again.
“What a positively filthy establishment,” came the voice of the old bearded man. “I very much doubt that anyone there has any inkling of what has been going on in the royal court or in their own minds for that matter.”
An idea crept into Jiminy’s mind. If the King was alive, then that meant that what he had done was not so condemnable as he had thought. And what a way to win back the favor of the royals. He’d go tell the Queen that he had seen the King and then, together, they could get to the bottom of this. Yet, the guards wouldn’t just let him waltz in. No, he’d have to be sly. Perhaps fate was finally starting to favor Mr. Jiminy Cricket.
Without a second thought, he turned and hopped out of the alley, following behind the old man in blue. He raced his way along the cobblestones and then, as he caught up, he took one final leap and landed in the front pocket of the man’s robe.
Tomorrow, Jiminy would prove that he wasn’t such a bad conscience after all.