The Kingpin of Camelot (A Kinda Fairytale Book 3)

By: Cassandra Gannon

Prologue




Avalon

Three Days Ago

Avalon Pendragon wanted her daddy.

Her mommy was locked up in the dungeon, and her house was full of mean people, and the Scarecrow kept yelling at her, and she just wanted her daddy to come and make everything okay.

Since that wasn’t happening today, she comforted herself with her drawings. Avalon liked to draw. Her mommy said she was the best artist in the whole world and had set up a special place for her, on the western terrace of the palace, where she could create her masterpieces in the open air. Usually, Avalon used her crayons to color flowers and dolphins and the rocking-horseflies in the garden. But lately all her pictures featured a mighty queen with an eyepatch and wings, who would sweep down to get rid of all the mean people forever. Avalon liked those pictures.

“Now isn’t the time to obfuscate.” The Scarecrow paced around the veranda, trying to hide the fact that he hated her under his phony smile.

It was a gloomy day, a cold breeze cutting across the kingdom. From the terrace, Avi could see straight down the hill to the foggy forest and then to Mount Baden far in the distance. All of it was dreary. Avalon missed the sun, but it would stay away until Camelot was happy again.

“We need to identify where the wand is located and it’s incumbent on you to relay the information forthwith.” The Scarecrow nodded like she was supposed to know what all of that meant. “It’s imperative that you cooperate, Princess Avalon.”

Of all the people in the world, the Scarecrow was her least favorite. Not just because he was ugly and talked funny, but because he was the meanest of them all.

He was ugly, though.

His head was made of burlap, with painted features that somehow moved, and a wide-brimmed felt hat. He dressed in a long coat made up of different patches of fabric all sewn together. Avalon had heard someone say that each square had been ripped from the clothing of his victims. That was just icky, because some of them still had blood stains on them.

Most gross of all, of course, were the birds. The Scarecrow’s body was made of straw and kindling, his arms “comprised” of many branches that he could “articulate” like “appendages.” Those were the words Avalon had heard him using to describe his weird finger-y sticks, anyhow. The Scarecrow liked to use big words when he talked. She wasn’t always sure what they all meant, but she kinda thought that was the point of him using them. To make everybody think they were dumber than him.

As if the bundles of wooden twigs he used as hands weren’t creepy enough, inside his torso and limbs lived dozens of blackbirds. They nested in the hay and sticks, always ready to do his bidding.

Avalon liked animals, but she was terrified of those birds. She wasn’t even sure they were birds. Sometimes she felt like they were pieces of the Scarecrow himself that he could send flying out of his body to peck out his enemies’ eyes and noses. Avalon never knew where they would be and it was scary.

In Camelot, there were all kinds of people. Human-sized mice, and giants, and pixies, and fish who could talk… Avalon respected them all as unique beings. Her mommy said it was important to treat everybody equal. But the Scarecrow was different. Wrong. Inside of him there was nothing but birds and meanness. She didn’t want to talk to him.

“Are you heeding this discussion?” He prompted when she didn’t answer. “Avalon, concentrate. You must confess to where the wand is located. If you relinquish it to me, you can have Guinevere back.” He crouched down in front of the small table where she was coloring and tried a big, fake smile. “Isn’t that what you desire? Your mother returned to you? You need to help me in my undertaking, if we’re going to make that fond dream a reality.”

Avalon didn’t like to look at him. It disturbed her to watch his dirty coat move as the birds shifted under the patchwork fabric. “You’re a bad person.” She told him, because it was wrong to lie. “I’m not helping you.”

His painted-on eyes narrowed and he forgot he was pretending to be her friend. “I’m not Bad. You’re Bad. You and your Bad kind have polluted this kingdom long enough with your villainy. Soon enough, all of you will be expunged from Camelot.”

Avalon wasn’t sure what “expunged” meant, but it sounded mean. “My mommy and daddy are going to stop you from hurting everyone.” She knew that was true, so why didn’t he? It was clear to her that the Scarecrow wasn’t nearly as smart as he pretended.

“Your father is dead!” He shouted and his birds restlessly fluttered in agitation. “Killed by your murderous mother in this very house!” He pointed upward, towards the balcony where King Arthur had fallen the year before.

Avalon finally met his eyes, shocked that he could believe such a lie. “My daddy isn’t dead.” She said with absolute confidence.

The Scarecrow hesitated, as if her certainty confused him. “Of course, he’s dead. I beheld his corpse with my own eyes. It’s interred in the royal tomb.”

Avalon tilted her head, studying him for a long moment. “No,” she finally decided and went back to her drawing, “you’re wrong.”

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