Hew had always dreamt of being a knight. Take that, villain! Yes, princess, of course I'll rescue you. Thank you, your Majesty, yes I am great with a sword. Unfortunately, being a farmer's son made that dream impossible. Real life was more about cleaning animal mess and checking for weeds.
Until he met the dragon.
It opened up a hidden world of magic around him. Faeries. Hobgoblins. Monsters, shape changers, brownies; you name them, he met them.
But there was a problem.
A blight to the north was making magic fade from the Earth. If it disappeared completely, then everyone would freeze to death.
Yes, that included Hew's annoying little sister, but even she didn’t deserve to be frozen. He would have to be brave and defeat this blight. The question was…
What could a nearly eleven-year-old do?
Hew picked up his pitchfork, ready to do battle against the evil knights and their steeds. They had hidden themselves, but he was ready for them.
“Take that, and that!” he cried, stabbing the hay. Chickens watched on, bored unless there was food being offered. One of the steeds grunted, snuffling the ground.
With a yell, Hew stabbed at one of the knights, lifted him up in the air, and threw him away.
Hew’s mum came over to watch. “Oh, look at you. Sir Hew, is it?” She pointed to the corner of the hut where their pigs, cows, and chickens slept. “Never mind playing, just finish clearing out the animal mess, will you?”
“They’re enemy knights, Mum.” Hew proved the point by stabbing the hay some more.
“No, Hew, it’s poo. But,” she added, seeing his face drop, “if it helps you shift it out of the pigsty quicker, then take them away, my brave knight.”
“Can’t I have some breakfast first, Mum?”
“You could if you were awake when the rest of us ate. Do your chores first, and you can have some nice warm bread afterwards.”
Hew set to work, clearing out the messy hay the animals had left during the night, the warm smell of dung waking him up. Dad came into the house, smiling as he tousled Hew’s hair, then walked up to Mum.
Shaking his head, Hew could just hear him whisper to her. “The ground is still hard as rock. We can’t plough the fields yet. You’d think three weeks after spring starts it would be ready by now.”
“But if we can’t plant crops soon…”
“I know, my love, I know. The whole village will starve.” Hew’s dad sighed and rubbed his hands over his face. “We’ll try again tomorrow.”
The dirty hay finally thrown outside, Hew washed his hands in a bucket of cold water and tucked into the freshly-baked bread.
“Well now, Hew,” said Dad. “I’m heading out to speak with Jupp, see if he knows anything we can do about the fields. If you come with me, you can have the rest of the day to play afterwards.”
His eyes lit up at the thought of having the day to run and explore. “Oh! I don’t have to take Geva with me, do I? She’s too small and ugly.”
His mum tried to hit him on the arm, but he dodged. “Hew, be kind to your little sister. She’s not ugly, she’s lovely, and anyway, she’s helping me today with some weaving. We need a new basket for the eggs.”
Hew had a thought. With a grin, he got himself some supplies. He wanted the whole day in the woods, pretending to be a brave knight on a quest. Running to the table, he ripped up some bread and found a few strips of dried meat to go with it. His fingers rubbed against the rough cloth as he wrapped it up and tied it to his belt.
“So, I could go with you Dad,” Hew said. He tied on his water bottle too, then picked up his hiking stick, which he would pretend to be his sword when he was out playing.
“Or I could just head out now. Bye!” He shot out through the door, running away from Dad’s muffled shouts.