(thanks to the fair lady jenny for the quick read-over and titling assistance!)
Once upon a time, in a land far away, there was a princess who was kidnapped; snatched right off her unicorn by an evil witch, who left her trapped in a tower out of spite. This tower — as towers often are — was guarded by a dragon, a cruel, yellow beast with snapping jaws, who the townsfolk called Murphy.
The King and the Queen were desperate to see the safe return of their daughter, and offered her hand in marriage to any knight who could slay the dragon and rescue the princess from her tower prison. Knights from all over the realm flocked to the base of the tower, in the hope that they would be the one to succeed. A line of knights stretched for half a mile, all along the bridge that led to the tower and beyond, into the edges of the haunted wood that surrounded it. (Because a tower must always be surrounded by a haunted wood, of course.)
Unfortunately for those brave knights, Murphy the dragon was a nasty creature, an enemy of joy and true love who rained fire and dragonpiss on those who sought to enter the tower. One by one, the knights fell or fled, and the princess could do no more than wave from her window, shouting encouragement or condolences as needed.
Close to the end of the line, still patiently awaiting his turn, was a curly-haired knight, small of stature with eyes of hazel, clad in golden armor bedecked with enameled songbirds perched upon his shoulders. Even late in the afternoon, the day was hot and sunny, and the knight turned to the knight behind him, wiping a drop of sweat from his brow.
“Perhaps the dragon will abandon the tower in search of cooler surroundings, and our task will be made more manageable,” he said, smiling at the other knight. He pulled off his glove and held out his hand. “I am Sir Blaine, of House Anderson.”
“Sir Kurt von Hummel,” said the other knight, taking the offered hand. His chain mail
glittered astonishingly in the sunlight. “And truthfully, I hope not. I’ve only come to slay the dragon; I have no wish to marry a princess.”
“Nor do I,” replied Sir Blaine in surprise. “My mother and father wish for it quite desperately, but I have come only to rescue the princess. I played with her a time or two when we were children, and she is a sweet, simple girl. I only wish to help.”
“Perhaps you two should work together,” suggested the knight behind Sir Kurt, who sported a most unorthodox hairstyle. “I’ll take the princess off your hands; Sir Puck’s had enough of tavern wenches and the lonely wives of local lords.”
“I could engage the dragon while you enter the tower unseen,” Sir Kurt said to Sir Blaine, nodding thoughtfully. A small smile spread across his face.
“I would be amenable to that arrangement,” Sir Blaine said eagerly. “Perhaps afterward, you would accompany me to—”
“Out of the way, you simpering idiots,” someone hissed, and the knights turned to see a raven-haired woman, dressed in plate trimmed with red and white. A deadly-looking sword hung from her hip, and she glared at them as she shoved past. “I’ll slay the fucking dragon and marry the princess, and none of you nancy boys are getting anywhere near her. It’s just a shame I couldn’t get here more quickly, so that all those prissy knights had to waste their time trying.”
“A lady warrior,” exclaimed Sir Blaine, his mouth dropping open with delight. “How thrilling.”
“But the dragon,” Sir Kurt said, moving as if to stop the lady knight as she stormed toward the front of the line. “I wanted to slay the dragon.”
“I would say you’ll have a better chance getting past the dragon than you would the lady,” Sir Blaine said quietly, laying a hand on Sir Kurt’s arm. “I have heard talk that there is a dragon in need of slaying in my homeland of Dalton, however. The people call him Fox, for he’s red and terribly sly, and he terrorizes all those who cross his path.”
“But I’m ready now, and that’s a week’s ride away,” Sir Kurt protested, his shoulders slumping.
“I know a shortcut,” Sir Blaine said. His tone filled with hope. “If you’ll ride with me to the west, I’d be happy to show you the way, and to assist however I can.”
“You should go with him,” Sir Puck said, his eyes suddenly dreamy.
Sir Kurt looked to the west, where the sun hung low over the horizon, then back at the curly haired knight, who offered his arm with a smile.
“Will you ride off with me, Sir Kurt?”
“Into the sunset?”
“Into the sunset,” Sir Blaine confirmed.
“Yes,” Sir Kurt said, taking the other knight’s arm. “Yes, I believe I will.”
And so they did.
Sir Blaine’s shortcut, it turned out, wasn’t very short at all, but together they did slay the dragon, and shortly thereafter, the brave knights shared true love’s first kiss.
But that’s another story.