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Week 35: Dragon - Quest

Title: Quest
Author: lar_laughs
Fandom: Stargate Atlantis AU
Characters: John, Rodney, Jeannie
Rating: PG
Word Count: 2326
Prompt: dragon at sga_saturday
Summary: Fairy tale(ish) AU. John is a street rat in search of enough fame and fortune to pull his family out of the gutter. His heart isn't pure enough to make the quest to slay the dragon and he ends up stealing from a wizard. Not a smart thing to do. Not at all.

Author's Note: I've wanted to write John with a sword since coming across this picture. While I could try to make it more of an historical AU, I decided that I wanted to gear it toward the fairy tale side of things, instead. This is a stand alone piece but I hope to complete John's quest someday. He's got two more friends to meet along the way, after all.

Only the most pure at heart are able to defeat dragons. That's the statement that John has heard all his life but he's hoping, just this once, he can find some way around this particular truth. He's done everything he can think of to even the odds because the last time he was pure at heart was probably before he was grown enough to say his first word. Life had not been kind to the Sheppard household and John was a scavenger on the streets of their home town before he grew hair on his chest.

He would like to change his family's fortune but, unfortunately, there's not much that a street rat can do that won't leave him hanging from a gallows. "I'm going to kill a dragon, Father," he announces one day, as if out of the blue. No argument can him desuade him now that he's got the idea in his head. There is talk of a dragon on the other side of the world, ensconced in the mountains with a pile of jewels and gold that rival anything the local kings have in their castles. If he can kill the dragon, it will be his for the taking.

No, not if. When is how he should be thinking about it. When he kills the dragon. When he gets a treasure trove of his own. When his family will finally be something more than just another group of people kicked down by the magistrate at every turn. When he has killed a dragon, he will have money and power and everything he has ever dreamed about.

The day after his mother dies from a ravaging disease, he leaves home with a sackful of bread and a her ring. It's only a little thing, just a band of silver and three small stones (one red, one blue, one white) but it's all he has to remember her by now that his father has taken to drinking the rest of his life away, paying for it with the little they had saved up.

The bread is gone in a week, half of it lost in a torrential rain that caught him unaware and out in the open. The other half is eaten far too quickly. In another week, John is starving for anything, even the little bits of garbage that he can find. The problem is that he's on the open road now and there's not purses to be snatched or pies to be stolen.

In the distance, he spies a plume of smoke. After much deliberation, he decides to check to see if there is a field or barn nearby that might have something he could eat. It would be better if he didn't steal, though. Something in his heart tells him that he needs to be honorable on this journey but his stomach is telling him to grab whatever he can and run away before anyone realizes what it is that he's done.

Unfortunately, he doesn't find a field or a barn. He does find a very angry wizard who doesn't want to part with the hunk of cheese and toasted bread he had set aside for his lunch. "Please," John cries from the corner where he's struggling to breath, aware that the next bolt of magic to hit him could very well kill him. "Please let me live."

And the wizard does let him live but he's angry enough that he turns him into a bird that he captures in a gilded cage. John flies around wildly, searching for an opening in the bars, but there is no exit. He falls to the bottom where he sleeps for days on end. When he regains his will to live enough that he's no longer in a comatose state, he begins to listen to the wizard ramble on. The man may be able to do all sorts of magic, the likes of which John has never seen before, but he's crap when it comes to other things.

He can set a pile of wood on fire from fifty paces but he can't toast his bread over the fire without burning it badly. He can create a glittering orb of light that dances along the room but he can't remember where he placed his wand. Once, John watched as he made it rain inside the house but he couldn't figure out how to mop up the water so that the whole place stank of mildew for weeks. He never gets it to rain outside even though he tries repeatedly only to turn the apple tree outside his front door into a large, circular stone water feature that stands upright instead of laying flat. For fun, the wizard likes to throw rocks into the quivering surface, cackling with glee when nothing comes out the other side.

John is a bird for four months and twelve days, for all of which he is well fed and watered. He should be thankful for this because he likely would have starved if he'd stayed on his quest but he doesn't like being behind the bars. Flapping around the small enclosure only makes him frustrated. One day, a stray stream of magic catches the edge of his cage, molting off his feathers in a matter of seconds. Before he can open his beak to let out a tweet of outrage, he discovers that he has no beak. There is a wet nose now. And whiskers. He no longer fits in the cage, a fact to which he alerts the wizard to with a yowl of protest. When the man tries to let him out, he takes a swipe at him with a set of sharp claws. Before he can be caught once again, he is out the door and across the yard to a stand of trees.

As he sits there, panting, devising a map in his head of the direction he needs to take, John realizes that he can't actually run away. Not yet. He's a cat. No dragon has ever been killed by a cat. He's not helping his family by being a cat so he slinks back into the wizard's house with his tail between his legs and a penchant for using his claws whenever the man makes a startling movement.

This time, the wizard lets him sleep on a pillow by the fire or, occasionally, on his lap. It is as if the man has forgotten that John was once a man and has always just been a cat. He rambles on and on about one thing or another, telling stories about what he's doing so that John, once he gets over his pique about the fact that he is a cat and not a man, begins to pick up a thing or two about magic.

Then one day the wizard's sister arrives in a flurry of silken hair and magic that smells like roses. "Rodney, when did you get a cat?"

"I didn't."

"What?" She's distracted by the fact that John is winding around her legs, making little mewls of excitement to see someone who isn't the wizard. The two have become bored of each other's company seeing as it's now nearly ten months since John arrived. "Isn't this a cat?"

"What? No, that's not a cat."

"I think it is. I've seen many cats in my time and this is a cat. A very nice looking cat who appears to like me."

The wizard is distracted by the fact that his sister has brought several tons of luggage with her on this trip. "How did you get them all into that small handbag?" he muses as he paces between the pile of bags and the small one that she dumped them out of. "You can really only fit a few coins and some hard candy in that bag yet you got all this into there. That could come in handy with some of my research."

"Because you leave the house so often? Focus, Rodney. Let's start simple. What's your cat's name?"

Rodney waves his hand about restlessly. "He doesn't have a name. Well, I'm sure he does, but I didn't bother asking before I turned him into a bird."

"You turned this beautiful cat into a bird?"

"No, of course not, Jeannie. First he was a bird and then he was a cat."

Jeannie stills before picking up John and peering into his eyes. Her expresses flits from suspicion to horror. "This is not an animal. This is a man. Rodney, what have you done?"

"What is done is easily undone," the wizard quips and John soon finds himself on the ground, naked as the day he was born and gasping for breath. The magic is still coursing through his blood and his human legs and arms aren't quite sure how to work properly in this shape. Both the wizard and his sister loom over him, a look of growing horror on one face and impatient expectation on the other. "Now is the time he usually runs away."

"And you blame him for that? I would run away from you, too, but you're my brother and I'm honor bound to come visit you from time to time." She hits his arm, smiling bleakly when he rubs at the sore spot. "This is too much, even for you. What's your name?"

"John," the man on the floor answers at the same time that the wizard replies, "Rodney." Both John and Jeannie stare at the man with disgust. "Oh, you weren't talking to me. Of course, you weren't. You already know my name."

It's all he can do not retreat back to the pillow by the fire and lick at his flank but John rubs a hand over his face and pulls at his hair. "I was on my way to defeat the dragon and ended up here, starving and destitute. I tried stealing some of your brother's food and he turned me into a bird. Then I got in the way of one of his other spells and turned into a cat."

"And you tried to run away." There is the barest hint of reproach in Rodney's voice.

John's smile is brittle when he turns toward the wizard. "Didn't just try. I succeeded but then I realized that I wouldn't be able to kill the dragon as a cat so I came back, hoping you would eventually change me to my true form once again."

"And so I did. Ta da!" Rodney's smile is distracted as he turns back to his worktable, the problem of the man who was a cat who was a bird who was a man clearly no longer relevant in his mind.

Jeannie, on the other hand, is still horrified. She spend the next few minutes finding John something to wear and pulling his story from him. When he is done telling all that he can remember, she crosses her arms over her chest. "Rodney, you're going with John to find the dragon."

"What?" Something stinky explodes from the bowl Rodney was working with as he is distracted by Jeannie's new idea. "I'm going to do nothing of the kind. I-"

But she is already packing up her bags once again. When she is done with her own packing, she begins packing for Rodney, as well. The two men find themselves out in the yard in a matter of minutes. Jeannie shakes hands with John (although he finds he would rather she scratched him behind his ears) and wishes him well on his endeavors before turning to her brother. She pulls him into a tight embrace. "I'll tell Mother and Father where you've gone. Be sure to come for a visit when you're done with the quest. I'm sure they'll want to hear all about it."

Before anyone can protest again, she's gone in a puff of sweet-smelling smoke. John shoves his hand through his hair again, unsure of what just happened. He does know that he is carrying a bag of provisions and new clothes, better than any he owned previously. His mother's ring is safely tucked into his pocket, having weathered the changes quite nicely. In fact, the silver is brighter and the stones shine brighter than they did before they sat on the top of Rodney's bureau for the last ten months. There is a buzz of magic about the trinket that John is mildly surprised about. It is possible that he doesn't actually need the wizard to come along with him because, between the spells that he's picked up from hearing them constantly and the fact that his ring might be infused with enough magic to be helpful, John thinks that he might be magic enough to see this through on his own.

Rodney is along for entirely different reasons than being a wizard, though. For one, his sister is making him come. For another, John discovers that he might just miss the constant mumblings and mutterings. He's gotten used to the sound of the wizard's voice. And, he's hoping, Rodney will still scratch him behind the ears if asked.

John sets down the path to the road but Rodney calls him back with an exasperated huff. "We're going through here." He points to the rippling surface of the stone water ring that sits on its side.

"Where does it go?" John has watched enough rocks fly through the surface to know that it's a gateway of some sort but he's never once thought about traveling through it himself. It's always surprised him that the wizard has never gone through but he always assumed that it wasn't a wise way of travel. He would prefer not to be making the first trip through seeing as it's never been tested.

"I don't know but it'll take us where we need to go." He takes John's hand and pulls him toward the glow. "It'll save time and shoe leather."

And so John lets Rodney pull him through the portal, toward the next adventure.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 28th, 2012 06:05 pm (UTC)
I love SGA fairy tales and enjoyed this very much. Rodney makes a marvelous absent-minded wizard. :)
Jan. 28th, 2012 07:44 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I've only recently discovered how much fun AUs are to write/read/revel in so I'm making up for lost time!
Jan. 28th, 2012 09:12 pm (UTC)
And, he's hoping, Rodney will still scratch him behind the ears if asked.

I love SGA AU for exactly this sort of thing... such fun!
Jan. 30th, 2012 07:05 am (UTC)
Thank you! I loved being able to be a little silly!
Jan. 29th, 2012 05:42 am (UTC)
I enjoyed that. Fun little fairy tale. I hope you continue!
Jan. 30th, 2012 07:06 am (UTC)
Thank you! I think that this is one that I will continue because I sort of want to know how it ends, myself!
Jan. 29th, 2012 07:52 am (UTC)
Oh, what a fun little fairytale! =)

Thank you! :)
Jan. 30th, 2012 07:06 am (UTC)
Thank you!!! Glad you liked it!
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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