Not-Bobby hovered between the brothers, arms folded as he looked them up and down, a distinctly unimpressed expression darkening his face.
"Well, this might be what knights wear back in your world, but it won't do here," he snorted; "you're gonna need to blend in with any locals we meet, and you're never going to do that dressed like …" the little faerie fished hesitantly for an appropriate word; "… like, THAT!" He waved his hand dismissively in the brothers' direction.
"What's wrong with the way we're dressed? Dean snapped indignantly, fingers plucking at his dark green overshirt; "this is freakin' new!"
Sam stood beside him watching the exchange in curious silence as if he was quite used to and accepting of his dress sense being criticised.
Not-Bobby swooped low, and rapidly circled around Dean, his eyes fixed on the older Winchester. Flushing self-consciously under the scrutiny, Dean gyrated and twisted, trying to follow the faerie's swift and unpredictable movements.
"Quit squirmin' boy," Not-Bobby snapped; "how the hell am I supposed to measure you up if you don't keep still?"
Dean hesitated; "measure?"
"Well yeah …" Not-Bobby replied impatiently; "what? You think armour is shrink-to-fit?"
Dean frowned, glancing across at Sam who was doing a poor job of hiding his amusement; "kiss it, bitch," he snorted.
He turned back to the faerie. "Well … okay," he muttered cautiously; "but you stay the hell away from my inside leg, I can tell you what that is myself!"
Not-Bobby rolled his tiny eyes; "don't flatter yerself princess." As if to prove a point, he shot between Dean's bowed legs, grinning as Dean jerked violently upward with a high pitched squeak.
Turning round, he waved his hand airily, ignoring the death glare Dean sent in his direction; "okay, le'ssee what we can do ..."
Dean gasped. suddenly feeling his clothes fluttering around him. A soft glow engulfed him as the feeling intensified, and he felt almost as if his own clothes were trying to lift him off the ground. All at once, he wasn't in control of his own body as an unseen force, roaring and whooshing like the eye of a storm, lifted his arms above his head, and he closed his eyes against the glow which turned into a blinding glare.
Eventually, the noise faded and both his feet were planted firmly on the ground again. After a moment, he dared to open his eyes.
Looking down at himself he let out another gasp as he saw, not the crumpled green overshirt and faded black T shirt he had been wearing only a moment ago, but a gleaming silver breastplate. Leather straps over his shoulders and across his sides fastened it to a matching backplate over a thickly padded black gambeson. Long and heavy, the gambeson reached halfway down his thighs over black leather breeches which were clamped tight around his lower legs by metal greaves.
A long, heavy sword hung in a scabbard from a thick leather belt slung low around his hips, and the whole outfit was finished by heavy boots, a long black fur trimmed cloak and black velvet gauntlets.
"Coooool," Dean grinned as he twirled and postured, inspecting himself with obvious approval.
He glanced up at Sam whose face hovered somewhere between admiration and amusement. "Hey, D'Artagnan," he grinned, ignoring the velvet-clad finger that Dean elevated in his direction.
"Now," Not-Bobby mused, rubbing his beard in thought; "a knight needs a horse."
Dean glanced at Sam, then back to the faerie; "a horse ... right," he scratched his head; "I don't know to ride a freakin' horse."
Not-Bobby flew past him, tiny hand smacking him upside the head surprisingly hard as he went; "well, ya better damnedwell learn quick, idjit!" Both brothers watched perplexed as he fluttered across the square toward the lonely cow, and after a brief pause, he turned and weaved his way back toward them with the cow lumbering slowly after him.
He stopped beside the baffled brothers and did that little airy-fairy wave of his arm again.
The unsuspecting cow let out a shocked moo as she was suddenly bathed in vivid, blinding light. The Winchesters recoiled, shielding their eyes, and through the glare they could just see the great dun bulk undulating and stretching, morphing into something very different.
When the light faded, they wiped their watering eyes to see, standing in place of the unfortunate cow, a magnificent black mare. Tall and proud, she stood, carrying her midnight-black tail like a silken banner, her coat glistening over a solid, sculpted body like liquid jet. Her arched neck was crested by a long lustrous mane which tumbled across her forehead and shoulder.
She carried an ornate, fur-lined saddle on her strong, straight back and there was a fire in her eyes that made Dean feel four inches tall when she turned and stared down at him, with a ferocious snort.
Dean stared at the horse as if he was facing his doom, and had a brief sinking feeling that their quest might be over before it had even begun. "I miss my baby," he sighed.
Sam walked toward the imposing animal and shook his head with a grin, reaching out and calmly patting her strong, muscular shoulder. She turned her head and whittered softly against his hand.
"You've got to get into a horses' psyche," he stated calmly, not raising his voice; "don't show any fear; just be firm and take control, and she'll respect you for it."
Dean swallowed loudly; "be firm, right ..." he took a deep breath. "I'm in charge, I call the shots; I'm a brave and handsome knight," he reassured himself, muttering under his breath; "it's just a horse, it was a farting cow five minutes ago." The whole effect was ruined somewhat when he stepped forward and promptly stumbled over his sword.
He could have sworn the horse rolled her eyes.
"Right," he snorted; "okay Dobbin you great bag o' hay, let's see what you're good for then." Without hesitation, he fumbled his foot into a stirrup, and hoisted himself clumsily into the saddle, swaying precariously as he sat back to settle himself into the deep padded seat.
"S'not so ba ... AAAAGH!"
He had barely been seated a second before the horse sprang into a violent buck, decanting her rider face-first over her head with a resounding clang of armour against stone cobbles.
Not-Bobby palmed his face with a sigh; "holy crap on toast," he sighed; "Cinderella was never this much trouble."
Dean rolled breathlessly onto his back with a long, pained groan, rocking helplessly in his metal armour like an upturned turtle. Looking up through spinning, watery vision he saw the mare glaring down at him with a spectacular stink-eye. She snorted smugly in his face.
Sam stepped forward to help his brother up; "dude," he sighed, "when I said be firm and take control, I didn't mean be totally obnoxious; you kinda deserved that."
Dean grimaced as he staggered to his feet and eyed the horse warily; "Sam, that thing doesn't like me."
Not-Bobby and Sam glanced at each other and shrugged; really? Who was surprised?
"So, what about me," Sam asked as the little faerie buzzed across from his dazed brother into his own line of vision.
"Ah yeah, now we've got Prince Charmless over there sorted out," the reply came with a pointed glance at Dean who stood sulkily holding the horse's reins in one hand and ineffectively cradling his battered rib cage through his armour with the other; "need to get you up and ready!"
Sam spread his arms in readiness; "ready for my armour," he grinned.
Not-Bobby eyed him quizzically; "armour?" he questioned; "We've already got a knight, but a knight needs his squire."
Not-Bobby fluttered around Sam and gave that languid airy-fairy wave again, seemingly untroubled by the younger man's argument, and Sam found his vocal protestations silenced by the same strange rushing power and blinding light that had engulfed Dean only a few moments ago.
When the strange sensation faded away, Sam hesitated to open his eyes, afraid of what he might see.
He opened his eyes.
He was right to be afraid.
He looked down to see a leather jerkin over a loose cotton shirt, a belt tied around his middle carried just about every conceivable tool and piece of equipment Sam could ever imagine, and some he probably couldn't. Loose woollen breeches and heavy suede boots made up the remainder of his costume. He either hadn't noticed or chose to ignore the black biggin cap on his head which hung down over his ears.
He heard a snort of barely stifled laughter behind him.
"Not funny Dean," he growled darkly, turning to his amused brother.
Clearly Dean disagreed because his eyes locked onto the close fitting woollen cap on Sam's head and he dissolved into helpless, gut-clutching, tear-streaked laughter.
"That's one hell of an outfit just for cleanin' my armour," Dean hooted between gusts of hilarity.
"If you think I'm cleaning your armour, you can kiss my ass," Sam grumbled sourly. He turned to the Not-Bobby who hovered in front of him, bobbing softly in a passing breeze, and he judged from the stern look on the faerie's bearded face that asking for an alternative outfit wasn't going to end well.
"We goin' or what?" Not-Bobby grunted.
"Don't I at least get a horse?" Sam pleaded, "one like his," he added petulantly; pointing to the beautiful black animal that stood next to Dean, resolutely ignoring his feeble attempts at ingratiating himself.
"Oh yeah ... I hadn't thought about that," Not-Bobby mumbled absently, rubbing his beard; "now, lemmee see ..." Without another word, he set off flying slowly round the deserted town square, casually scanning the cobbles.
"Aha!" He dived toward the ground, then headed back toward the brothers, depositing a snail on the ground between them.
Sam stared open-mouthed at the unfortunate mollusc. "A snail?" He looked up at the hovering faerie; "seriously? What kind of goddamn horse is that gonna make?"
Not-Bobby shrugged; "quit ya whinin'; you got anythin' better I can make a friggin' horse out of?" Without waiting for Sam's reply, he waved his hand over the snail and Sam stumbled backwards, shielding his eyes as the air around it erupted into a blast of white light.
As Sam's vision gradually returned, he blinked wetly, focussing on the massive grey shape that stood in the place of the snail.
It was a mule. A big, sway-backed, pigeon-toed mule with droopy ears, a bald patch, and an undershot jaw that would have made a bulldog proud.
It was possibly the ugliest beast Sam had ever seen.
Sam stood, glaring at the little faerie, trying to ignore the breathless sobs of laughter coming from Dean's direction.
The mule was laden down behind its wooden saddle with a pair of huge saddlebags and a bristling collection of weapons including bows and arrows, quarterstaffs, halberds and axes. It stared torpidly into space and barely even acknowledged Sam's existence.
Sam glanced up at the ominous dark sprawl of the Wildwoods which stained the horizon ahead of them as he clambered inelegantly into the mule's saddle and sighed. Well, this was just freakin' awesome; reduced to being a lowly serf for Sir Douchebag. He was never going to hear the last of this.
It was Dean's stupid dream that had brought them here, how the hell had it suddenly turned into Sam's nightmare?