In The Shadow of The Golden Prince

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    As John marched down to the arena he felt like he had left his stomach behind, he felt as if it had dropped out somewhere in the servant's quarters and all that was left in his abdomen was a massive hole. His legs felt as if someone had removed all the bones, but his eyelids hung heavy, as if his body just wanted to quit, to lie down, fall asleep, and forget that any of this was even happening. John's sword hung on his belt, clicking against his shin guards with every step he took. But he wasn't alone in this march, no; he was accompanied by nearly all of the servants, all of them coming down to watch the tournament and all of them expecting to see him win. They wanted to see their servant champion come out on top, and it seemed like nothing John said would change their minds. They seemed to assume that somehow John was going to pull of this epic show of swordsmanship, somehow managing to defeat the strongest, biggest, and most skilled knights in the land. John was only a servant, how could he possibly manage all of that? There was only one person John knew was going to fall at his hand, and that was Sherlock. Everyone else was up for grabs; John could only hope that somehow he would come out on top. John also heard the conversations of everyone as they passed, the chatter of the townsfolk as they made their predictions.
"Oh it's going to be Prince Sherlock; he's so skilled he wins every year." Someone said in a very excited voice, sporting some sort of kingdom flag. John couldn't help but laugh, the idea that anyone would respect Sherlock as a fighter was extremely amusing. The cobblestone streets were filled to the brim with everyone making their way down. Most were townspeople, but the select few wore helmets, chest plates, and capes. These were the competitors, the select few of this crowd who weren't looking forward to this competition at all. John could only hope they felt the same way he did, that terrible anxiety that was a byproduct of the anticipation of failure.
"You're going to be fine John, just fine." Greg assured from behind him, obviously scanning the crowd and looking at the same soldier that John was eyeing up. Obviously he was competing, he was decked out in all of this fancy armor that shined in the sunlight, and John couldn't help shivering in fear. If he had to go up against one of those men in the arena he would most certainly lose, all optimism aside, this was just plain unfair. John couldn't bring himself to answer, or say any words at all, so he just nodded, continuing down the road as if he liked what was waiting for him at the end. Finally he made it to the arena, where he was forcefully lead to the ground behind the stands, where all of these colorful tents were pitched. John's heart dropped, these tents looked as if they had been prepared days in advance, they had flags hanging from them, crates of weapons and many people mingling about, trying to get their champion ready for the fight. John didn't do any of this, he didn't prepare, he was going to have to be that one champion without a tent, sitting lamely on a log near the side of the grounds and waiting for his turn to get beat to a pulp. Oh this was so humiliating. But Greg seemed to know just where to go, in fact he had taken the lead, and John was only able to follow him around the maze of tents and people, looking around and trying to get a good look at his competition. It was intimidating enough to see all of these fancy tents pitched, with flags and crests and fancy rich people eating finger food. But there was an air of excitement in this part of the grounds, and an air of unthinkable nervousness.
"Greg where are we going, I don't even have a tent?" John pointed out with an embarrassed groan, noticing that one of the tents had a huge sculpture of what looked like a muscly man holding a sword proudly. Not only was that cheesy, but it was so distasteful.
"That's what you think, but we know what we're doing." Greg said mysteriously. John just shook his head, not wanting to see what Greg considered professional.
"I present to you, your humble tent." Greg said, bowing when they arrived at a rather small yellow tent near the edge of grounds. John could only gape, not knowing whether to thank Greg or beat him with a stick. It was a small tent, but somehow Greg had managed to get a large poster to hang on the side, a gigantic sheet of cloth with an enormous mural of John's face painted on it. In big bold letters across the top it read John Watson, the Servant's Champion. John's face broke into a grateful smile, looking over at Greg, who just shrugged innocently.
"Hey, I told you we know what we're doing." Greg said modestly, and John just trapped him in an enormous hug.
"Watch the nose, watch the nose!" Greg exclaimed, and John recoiled apologetically, a smile evident on his nervous face.
"You're amazing Greg, simply amazing!" John decided.
"We all pitched in, quite literally." Greg said proudly. There was a chorus of approval, and John looked back at his crowd, looking as if the entire population of servants had shown up to support him. It was crazy, how was he so admired even though he didn't even live in this kingdom? He was nothing but a traveler? But he couldn't help but smile proudly, seeing all of the other servants smile back, taking up a whole row of tents. They didn't look rich or impressive, but there were so many of them, standing in their shabby clothes with smiles brighter than the sun evident on their faces. It was enough to make John want to laugh in relief. He wanted to make them proud, he wanted nothing more than to bring glory to these unappreciated people, he was going to be the one to win this tournament, not for his own selfish vendetta but for the servants. He truly was the Servant's Champion.
"Are you ready then?" Greg wondered, messaging John's shoulders as someone else poured water down his throat. They were standing in the tent, most of the servants disappearing to the stands to watch the match. The competitors were expected to stand in the arena while the king made some sort of speech, and since John was a competitor he was expected to be there. So he was making sure he looked acceptable all while making sure he didn't pass out of nervousness.
"Ya, I mean, I have to be, don't I?" John wondered, shaking his head to try to clear his racing mind.
"Yes you do! Don't let the nerves get to you John, you're fantastic." Greg assured.
"Ya, but they're better. They're strong, fast, trained, what am I against them?" John wondered.
"Now what kind of attitude is that? You're John bloody Watson, you're the best servant in this entire kingdom, and we servants shouldn't be taken lightly. We're stronger than we look." Greg insisted.
"Yes well, we're still just servants, they're trained knights." John pointed out glumly.
"It sounds to me like you're trying to talk yourself out of trying your best." Greg decided. John just shook his head, not wanting Greg to think he didn't want to be here. Of course he didn't want to be here, but when he was being asked by the one person that really wanted to take his place, he had to at least pretend to be grateful. There was some sort of trumpet being played from afar, and suddenly the tents came alive, all of the competitors that had been previously hiding away in their tents walked out into the open, the crowds parting to let them pass.
"They all have capes." John muttered glumly, noticing all of the men having long flowing capes of all different colors.
"That's alright mate, you look fine without it." Greg assured. "You look tougher." John grumbled but grabbed his helmet, making sure his armor looked acceptable and his hair wasn't sticking up before taking a long, deep breath, shaking his head and walking out into the light.
"We'll see you when the introductions are done!" Greg called after him, looking like a proud mother sending her son into battle. John joined the long line of men all walking into the arena, looking at them nervously and seeing that they were all so strong and scary looking. Even their swords were thicker than John's arm muscles, it just didn't seem fair. But he had to use that to his advantage, he had to use his speed and agility to get these bumbling muscle bound freaks to make a mistake.
"Are you ready then?" asked a deep voice behind him. John could only groan, knowing that there was only one man in this entire competition that would acknowledge his existence.
"I think you should be asking yourself that." John decided, slowing so that Sherlock could walk beside him. The prince was decked out in the shiniest of armor, with a long flowing purple cape around his neck. He looked like a warrior, he really did, but it didn't fool John for a second. Sherlock may look the part but John knew better, he knew that Sherlock could only use his sword as a paper weight.
"I'm ready, certainly." Sherlock assured.
"Got the bags of gold all lined up then?" John wondered, and Sherlock just rolled his eyes, shaking his head lightly.
"There's one with your name on it." he muttered, so that the spectators didn't hear their conversation.
"I'm not taking any of your bribes Sherlock." John insisted. Sherlock sighed heavily but kept walking. John noticed that he was fiddling with his sword hilt with shaking fingers. He was good at keeping his nerves secret; if not for his fiddling John might've thought he was actually confident about today's fights. That may be the only thing Sherlock could actually do, act. They walked into the arena together, staring up at the stands that had once been desolate. Now they were filled with fans, all cheering and screaming when they saw the prince enter. Sherlock smiled widely, waving to his crowd and standing up straight, looking like a completely different man. In fact John almost didn't recognize him with that smile. He actually had a very nice smile, not that it mattered.
"God, who are you?" John muttered, and Sherlock just laughed, dropping his hand and joining the row of men lined up facing the throne.
"I'm the Golden Prince." Sherlock said simply, taking his spot and folding his arms across his chest, the wind blowing his cape slightly in the wind. John stood very awkwardly next to him, standing towards the empty thrones, where the king and queen would presumably sit. He felt very mediocre next to Sherlock with his radiant smile and his impressive armor, John just had to remind himself that Sherlock was nothing compared to him. He had to remind himself that when they meet in this arena again, it would be the last time Sherlock ever got a cheer. Finally all of the competitors lined up, making about five rows. There were more men entered than John had expected, and all of them looked terrifying. John wondered which ones he would actually have to face in combat. Suddenly there were more trumpets played, and the king, queen, and Mycroft all walked up to take their thrones, wearing their crowns and nice clothes. They waved and smiled and took their seats, the crowd cheering once more as if the arrival of their royal family was really something worth cheering for. John noticed there was one empty throne, Sherlock's. The king stood up, silenced the crowd with a gloved hand, and stared down at the competitors with a proud smile. John noticed he glanced at his son for a moment before moving on, as if wondering how many of these men Sherlock was going to 'beat'.
"Hello competitors, from near and far, and welcome to Lauriston Kingdom." He said with a smile. All of the knights bowed, and John mimicked them as quickly as possible, not quite knowing what to do. Once they straightened up the king went on about how this tournament united the kingdoms and what not, the price of a thousand gold pieces, and how they would have to compete against the eight year reigning champion, Sherlock Holmes. There was a huge applause for that, and Sherlock smiled proudly, waving again to the crowd. John noticed there were a lot of feminine voices in the crowd, almost like they were screaming at him because they were in love with him. The idea of someone loving Sherlock was almost laughable, and if John wasn't so terrified right now he might've broken into a smile. But he knew everyone was looking at Sherlock, and since he was the one standing right next to Sherlock then everyone would partially see him, and he didn't want to put these poor people through seeing him more than they had to.
"They seem to like you." John muttered when finally the crowds died down.
"Yes, that's one of the more pleasurable side effects of being a prince." Sherlock agreed. John just rolled his eyes, almost shocked at how conceited Sherlock was being. The king went on about some more stuff, the rules and all of that, and John just zoned out, staring at the back of some brute's head in front of him and imagining hitting Sherlock with the hilt of his sword, right in the forehead. He imagined Sherlock stumbling around, his helmet dented with a gigantic circle pressed into it, he imagined the laughter of the crowd... The men were moving now, the king having finished his speech. They all walked out of the arena to even louder cheers, the crowd getting really excited to see the champions compete. John thought it was a rather horrid form of entertainment, but he wasn't going to be one to judge. John noticed that Sherlock had disappeared from his side, and so he was left to walk back to his tent alone, where his fan base was still bustling around, trying to make everything look presentable. Only now could John appreciate just how ugly that mural was, but he was happy they had made it all the same.     

    "There he is! How'd it go? Alright?" Greg wondered, swooping in from nowhere and pulling John into the tent.
"Ya, it's fine." John assured, not really answering the question Greg had asked. He was getting more and more nervous now, if that was even possible.
"Good, great, well we just got your schedule; you're going up against some dude from another kingdom first, um...Knight Evans." Greg said, reading some sort of parchment that had been passed around to all the champions.
"Alright, what do we know about him?" John wondered. Other than he was a knight, and they're usually the most skilled out of the entire kingdom. But we'll ignore that for now.
"Oh who really cares? I've never heard of him so he's not a legend, that's all we need." Greg assured.
"Ya well, you've all heard of Sherlock and you know how he turned out." John chuckled.
"Don't think about Sherlock now, you'll just get stressed." Greg insisted. "Have a seat, rest up a little bit. You've got an hour or so until you're on."
"Oh great, I just get to simmer in my terror then." John groaned, but nevertheless he seated himself in a rather ugly chair. It was a little bit shabby but he didn't mind, obviously it was the best the servants could do. The tent was filled with all sorts of things, some tables, sword sharpeners, armor polish, some buckets of drinking water as well as some bread and fruit in case John got hungry. He didn't want to notice the first aid supplies in the corner, just in case he had to come back with injuries.
"Don't be nervous John; I'm sure you'll be fine." Greg assured. John sighed heavily, but let his head hang onto his shoulder, not wanting to be conscious right now.
"Maybe if you just kill me right now I won't have to compete." He decided.
"That's not a good solution John; I thought you were scared of dying?" Greg wondered, eating an apple as he read the rest of the parchment.
"Well in the arena I'd be humiliated as I died, here no one would know." John said with a smile.
"Let's avoid death all together." Greg decided, sounding a bit preoccupied.
"Ya, maybe that's a good idea." John agreed. Someone came over with a cup of water, John thanked them and took a couple of sips, but with every sip his stomach gave an uncomfortable lurch, obviously it didn't want anything to do with food or drink of any kind. There was a collective gasp, and suddenly all the servants dropped into a low bow, all facing the entrance to the tent, as if someone important had just walked through the door. Even Greg bowed his head, but he didn't look too happy about it. John was the only one that sat tall, not even bothering to pretend to respect Sherlock Holmes.

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