'It hardly looked like the opposite of winning from where I sat,' the queen called from her throne. Her eyes glittered. 'In fact, I'd say quite the opposite.'
Cuthbert grinned. Then faltered. That did mean she was on his side, right?
It would - with the birds chirping overhead, the colourful array of butterflies fluttering between the flowers, and the warm, dewy scent of spring in the air - have been a bright and cheery scene were it not for two worrying details.
The first was how eerily cheery everything was, with the birds and the butterflies and the dewy scent of spring in the air; nothing else in Once-Upon-Thames had seemed this clean and Cuthbert wondered why.
Cuthbert frowned, trying to picture how this whole improbably-beat-you-with-my-sword-in-my-teeth idea might work.
'Wait,' he said, holding up a hand, 'are we both holding our swords in our teeth? Because you might be right, then. I don't think I'd be much good at that.'
Cuthbert tore up the long, winding staircase that led to the top tower, leaping two, three at a time in a heroic bound. At first. After the first thirty stairs, he slowed to a valiant trot. Then a gallant trudge.
There were a lot of stairs.