Here’s another one of my early fiction shorts. This one was sold at one point to Pulphouse but never published. Once again I take a fairly straightforward fantasy idea and see if I can turn it on its ear. It’s similar in some ways to Fnord and Gord. And yes, I really did name the sword PligStüche. If you can’t figure that one out, sorry.

This work is not public domain. It is copyright 1994 by Charles Von Rospach. Please do not republish or post it anywhere else without my explicit approval.

The Princess and the Dragon

Once upon a time, many years ago in the kingdom of Nog there lived the Princess Mirabelle. Her father, the King, was quite proud of her, for Mirabelle was a beautiful, intelligent, and obedient girl. All was well in the kingdom until one day when the kingdom was attacked by an dragon. It burnt the fields, slew the sheep, and did all of the things dragons do. The King gathered his soldiers and rode to vanquish the dragon, but while he was gone the dragon flew to the castle, and as normally happens in Fairy Tales, stole the royal treasury and kidnapped Mirabelle, flying off with both to his lair hidden high in a cave in the Cragmont mountains.

The King, heartbroken over the loss of his daughter, not to mention his gold, called out for all his knights to rescue his daughter. He declared that the man who returned Mirabelle would be rewarded with the hand of  Mirabelle. One by one they pledged to return his daughter. One by one they climbed the Cragmont in search of the dragon. One by one they disappeared, never to be seen again. First went the tall knights in shining armor mounted on fearsome white steeds. Then went the shorter knights in slightly tarnished armor mounted on ponies. Then went those-who-would-be-knights, with their leather breeches and rusty swords. One by one, all those who were strong enough, brave enough, or stupid enough to try their wits against the dragon climbed the Cragmont, never to be seen again.

One morning, as king Nog sat on his throne, grieving for his daughter and trying to pay his bills , into the throne room came a knight. He wore armor that shined in a way that the King hadn’t seen since knight number thirteen, and he carried a sword whose edge gleamed in a way he hadn’t seen since knight number eight, and his horse, which didn’t belong in the throne room, was a white stallion the likes of which the King hadn’t seen since knight number five.

“Your Majesty,” said the knight. “I have traveled many days to answer your call for a champion to return the Princess Mirabelle to your side. Give me your leave and I shall dispatch that noisome worm and rescue your daughter!”

“Welcome, sir knight!” boomed the King. “Before I give me leave, you are aware that many before you have tried, and not a one has returned?”

“86 as of last Wednesday, but none were as strong nor as brave as I. Most importantly, none had this!” And the knight held his sword high over his head.

“Very nice sword. Sharp, too.”

“This, my Liege, is not just a sword, but the legendary PligStüche, forged by the god Nïvun and used by the hero Andrew the Giant to dispatch the dragon Högge on the island of Delft. No dragon can meet PligStüche in battle and survive!”

“With PligStüche at your side, brave knight, you can not possibly fail. Go with my blessings! And don’t forget to rescue the treasury.”

With that, the brave knight left the castle and began his trek for the Cragmont. It was an uneventful trip, except for the bears and the landslide that killed his stallion. Rather than bore the reader, we will join our knight many days later as he passes the final barrier and stands, finally, at the opening of the cave in which rests the dragon and the Princess Mirabelle.

“Dragon! Your doom has arrived! I am here to return the Princess Mirabelle to her father, the King! Exit that hole and prepare to die!”

From inside the cave came the noise of metal being dropped. A female voice whined, “Oh, bother! He made my soufflé collapse.”

“Princess Mirabelle! Your rescue is at hand!” said the brave knight. At the thought, the great knight shivered in anticipation. “Dragon! Your doom awaits! PligStüche demands your soul! Come out and take it like a reptile!”

From inside the cave came the sound of a large mass shifting. A few seconds later, the head of a huge dragon, steam wafting from one nostril, came into view. The eyes, the color of banked coals, evaluated this new threat as the dragon slowly exited the cave.

<<If you have any brains you’ll leave before it’s too late.>> There was no sound, but the knight heard the dragon as if it spoke within his head.

“Stupid worm! I carry PligStüche! I do not fear you! Meet your doom!”

<<PligStüche won’t protect you, knight. Leave while you can.>>

There was a rustle at the mouth of the cave, and from behind the dragon stepped a girl. She was tall and beautiful and carried herself with a grace that is only taught to girls whose fathers can afford Princess school.

<<Too late. Don’t say I didn’t I warn you.>>

“Princess Mirabelle, I have come to rescue you from this worm and restore you to your rightful place. Your father grieves for you. I shall deal with your captor, and then you shall be my bride.”

“I’m not going anywhere.” The Princess Mirabelle spoke, with a voice of the nightingale. “And you can’t make me.” Perhaps a slightly petulant nightingale.

“What magic is this? Princess, what has this dragon done to you?”

<<She’s all yours. I don’t want her. Take her, and good riddance.>>

The knight pulled PligStüche from its scabbard and held it high. “Dragon, enough lies! Mirabelle, stand aside while I dispatch this evil being!”

“I said I’m not going and that’s final. He wants Cindernose here dead so he can get his gold back. To my father, I’m a property to be sold like his sheep and farmland.  I like it here. I don’t have to wear those horrible clothes and chatter endlessly with people too stupid to dress themselves. Ovenbreath here makes sure I’m warm and safe. What more could I want?”

<<If you take her, I’ll give you the treasury. I’ll never eat another sheep in the Kingdom.>>

“Evil worm! Prepare to die!”

<<Have fun, you two. I’m going to go take a nap. I warned you, knight.>> At that, the dragon disappeared into the cave.

The knight stared at the empty cave-mouth and blinked. Slowly, he lowered PligStüche and returned it to its scabbard.

“Princess Mirabelle, you are rescued!” The knight stepped towards the Princess. “Let us return to your glub — “

The knight stopped, then reached up to grasp the handle of the dagger lodged in his throat. He turned and looked at Mirabelle, then collapsed in a heap and died.

Mirabelle stepped over and removed the dagger. Cleaning it on the knight’s shirt, she replaced it into the hidden place in her sleeve. “Hey, Embereyes! Dinner’s ready when you want it.”

The dragon shuffled out of the cave. <<I can feed myself.>>

“If I let you hunt, you’d have my father and a hundred knights up here rescuing me in an instant, dear. Now, we wouldn’t want that, would we?”

<<I do wish you hadn’t thrown that love potion on me while I was kidnapping you. It makes things so inconvenient.>>

“We’ve been over this before. It was the only thing within reach. How was I to know you’d fall in love with me? Besides, I think things have turned out quite nicely. We’re going to be happy together forever..”

The dragon snorted, puffing smoke rings at the girl. <<Well, perhaps the potion will wear off some day. I promise, love of my life, that we’ll stay together as long as we both live>>. It snorted again and smacked his lips.

She pulled PligStüche free from the body. “It had a lifetime guarantee. Tell you what, lover. Tonight we’ll snuggle up together in front of the fire and you can tell me everything you know about this new sword. It sounds like it might come in handy some day. Now let’s go try to save that soufflé.” With that, she turned and disappeared into the mouth of the cave.

A sound somewhere between a choke and a snort came from the dragon. It turned, and tail drooping just a bit, started for the cave. <<Yes, dear.>>

# End #

This work is not public domain. It is copyright 1994 by Charles Von Rospach. Please do not republish or post it anywhere else without my explicit approval.