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    Friday, November 5, 2010

    This is a Fairytale (except that's it not)

    “And just what do you think you’re doing?” she asked, the disdain evident in her tone as she looked down at the knight.

    “Well, money’s been a bit tight lately, figured I could save you, return you to your kingdom and collect the reward.” The last bit came out a lot less confident than Sir Robert originally planned to say, and he could feel his confidence dropping as the princess snorted (Snorted? What kind of a princess just snorts at her rescuer?) and raised an eyebrow.

    “I see. And you thought you could just walk in and—rescue me.” She stated, after giving him a cursory once-over. “Your armour’s dull, you’ve forgotten your cape, and from this distance, your ‘noble steed’ looks more like a donkey with mange.”

    “Now come on, it’s not Priscilla’s fault she didn’t come out as statuesque as her siblings,” he gave the deeply affronted mare a comforting rub, whispering “Shh, she’s probably just having her time of the month.”

    “I heard that,” called the princess from her window high up in the tower. It was the typical scene: a princess snatched away from her kingdom and obscenely rich parents and locked away in a high tower that said parents were willing to pay to have her liberated from. Except that aforementioned princess didn’t seem as enthusiastic about her rescuer’s arrival as he expected.

    “Just so you know,” she added, “you’re the tenth knight who’s tried to rescue me so far.”

    “Well, you know what they say; tenth time’s the charm and all that.” Sir Robert offered with a charming grin that always worked on the bar wenches but had absolutely no effect on her. “I’ll have you know I managed to save an entire village from a horde of trolls.”

    “Oh, that was you? From the stories I’d have thought you’d be a bit taller.”

    “Well, you’re just fooled by your position. I happen to be much taller than many of the fine ladies I’ve had the opportunity to compare myself against.”

    “Charming. Well, are you going to get to it, or not?”

    “And end this pleasant exchange?” muttered the knight as he unsheathed his sword.
    “Right. Be there in a tick.”


    “It is a sad day when captors resort to the tired cliché of using riddles to guard their doors,” complained Sir Robert after he downed his pint in Leonard’s bar.

    Leonard, the wizard who quickly realised that there would be more financial gain in expanding his clientele to include the thirsty as well as the cursed, made a sympathetic noise as he refilled Sir Robert’s mug. “Why didn’t you just fight your way through? No shame in resorting to brute force, you know.”

    “She already thinks I’m not worthy to rescue her as it is. No point in giving her the impression that I’m all brawn and no brain.” Sir Robert mumbled something incoherent into his mug at that point, which Leonard was perfectly able to hear and understand (he was a wizard after all), but had a sense of sadism that overrode his hearing skills.

    “I’m sorry, what was that?”

    “…The old man knew martial arts.”

    “Could you just repeat that one more time? Ears not what they used to be and all.”



    The following day, the princess had the grace to feign surprise at Sir Robert’s return.

    “Back so soon? I gather you managed to figure out the answer to the riddle. Or found yourself a bigger sword.”

    “I am deeply wounded by your insinuations, princess. I’m more than just a pretty face and muscular body, you know.”

    “Are you now? You haven’t really done much to persuade me otherwise.”

    “Come now, princess. Are you always this encouraging to your rescuers?”

    “Only the ones who save me.”

    “Ah, a woman as clever as she is beautiful. A rare jewel indeed.”

    “You flatter me, Sir Robert. I only wish I could return the sentiment in kind. Now will you be getting along with your attempt or not?”

    “Fear not, fair maiden, you will be freed from your oppressors soon enough.” Promised Sir Robert as he made his way to the old man at the door with his answer.


    “Who the hell uses three ogres in one go?” ranted Sir Robert later that night.

    “I would have to agree, especially since ogres aren’t best known for their teamwork. They must really want to keep her there.”

    It was a quiet night at the pub, with only one other page who was trying his hardest to sweet-talk Leonard’s barmaid into giving him a free pint of ale. Normally Leonard would watch the spectacle unfold, but he was having far too much fun irritating the knight.

    “I would expect more from a wizard such as you.”

    “That’s what she said.”

    “You’re not helping, you know?” The glare the knight shot the wizard would have been more effective if the latter had not been busy wiping the tears from his eyes.

    “Cheer up, Sir Robert. You’re just approaching it from the wrong angle.”

    “That’s what she said! Hah!”

    “You do realise that both jokes reflect incredibly badly on the two of you, right?” asked Rebecca once she had come back from dragging the poor lad out of the pub.

    “Sorry love, but I need something to distract me from how hard this thing’s been.” Replied Sir Robert once the two men had stopped laughing.

    “That’s what he said.”


    By the fourth attempt, it had become less about the money and more about pure stubbornness.

    “There was another knight who came by yesterday. He gave up after the swarm of imps.”

    “Did he now? Shame; he missed out on the three-headed dog.”

    “He did indeed. It looks like you’re healing nicely from all the scratches.”

    “I took your advice and bathed them in fennel water. Worked like a charm. I was expecting it to make my skin peel off, actually.”

    “And deprive myself of your scintillating conversation? Perish the thought.”

    “Would that be praise falling from those pretty lips? Have I achieved the impossible and grown on you?”

    “Like a wart, Sir Robert.”

    “My heart soars with joy. Now, I don’t suppose there’s anything you can do to help me set you free? A rope, perhaps? Or are your flaxen locks long enough for me to climb up to your room?”

    “Believe me, Sir Robert, if there was any way for you to easily attain access to my room, I would have used said method to get myself out. Besides, I see no hurry in escaping. It’s quite pleasant here.”

    “Surely you can’t mean that, princess.”

    “I do. Lovely view, well-cooked meals, and I don’t have to deal with the tedium of regal life.”

    “Of all the princesses I’ve saved, you’re the most reluctant.” She was also the most familiar he’s ever been with, but he wasn’t about to admit that.

    “And of all the knights who have tried to save me, you’re the most tenacious. Or stubborn; I haven’t quite decided which.”

    “How many are they now, princess?”

    “Twelve, actually--but you’re the first to actually return.”

    “The others must not have known of your kind and witty nature, then.”

    As he stared up at her slightly-amused expression (he made it a side challenge to make her genuinely smile, one that was proving more difficult than the quest to save her), he wondered whether the other knights had spent as long talking to her as he had. Unlikely, if they worked the same way he did. He was the kind of man to quickly get the saving and rescuing over and done with so he could collect his reward and move on to the next challenge.


    “If she hadn’t seen me and called down to me I wouldn’t have even spoken to her until I had rescued her.“

    “With the speech and the hands on the hips, of course,” completed Rebecca. It was another slow night at the pub, and Sir Robert was filling Rebecca in on his current adventure. “The reward must be phenomenal if you haven’t given up yet.”

    “It’s not about the reward, Rebecca, as I’m sure you’ve noticed by this point. Our noble knight has something deeper driving him to rescue the princess,” Leonard pointed out, “His ego has been wounded more by her tongue than by the pit of snakes-“

    “Stakes,” corrected Sir Robert, “they were stakes, and they were sharp.”

    “Not as sharp as her wit, I’m sure,” rebutted Leonard, “but then, you would be well-acquainted with that aspect of the fair maiden.”

    “That harpy. I’m tempted to just leave her in that tower and be done with the whole mess,” Sir Robert was trying to find out if Leonard’s never-ending barrels of ale lived up to their name in an attempt to dull the pain and embarrassment of being thrown down the stairs by a half-giant that appeared out of nowhere after he was done with the three-headed dog.

    “Well, why don’t you? There definitely isn’t a lack of princesses in towers nowadays.” said the barmaid. At that, the few customers crowded around the knight and hanging onto every word murmured in agreement.

    “Buy you a pint, mate, she don’t seem worth it,” called out the page.

    “No, no. She’s definitely worth it. I-just. She’s worth it.” The knight finished. There was a thought floating around in his brain which was becoming increasingly difficult to catch.

    “That’s because you’ve had too much to drink,” replied Leonard, “you tend to voice your thoughts when you’re drunk, and didn’t I tell you it was a bad idea to test my barrels?”

    “That you did, and yet he still went ahead and did it,” said Rebecca.

    “He really is a bright spark, my dear. He’s just stubborn sometimes.”

    “He is a man, so that’s to be expected.”

    “I’m right here—I think. I can’t feel my ears.”

    “Here, let me help you with that.”

    “That was unnecessary,” said Sir Robert, rubbing his now sore ear. “You women are all the same, and yet you wonder why I’m still a bachelor.”

    “No dearie, it’s because you haven’t found one willing to put up with your idiocy.”

    “You’re almost as bad as that princess, you know. I would have given up on her a long time ago if not—Oh.”

    “I think he’s finally caught on, Rebecca.”

    “It’s about time. I was beginning to think he’d never stop whining.”

    “Still right here, you know.”

    “Of course you are, Sir Robert. Still here in all your glory instead of at the tower getting on with saving her.”

    “You could have told me, you know.”

    “And miss out on the look on your face when you finally realised it?”

    “That’s it. I’m out of here. I’m going to save the princess!” declared Sir Robert to a round of cheers. He leaped off his stool to triumphantly stride out of the bar and to his newly realised destiny. Or would have, if his legs had received the message in time and the room had not decided to spin at that very moment.

    “Maybe in the morning,” said Leonard as he and Rebecca peered over the bar at the knight that now graced their floor.


    “Now you’re just getting ridiculous. There really is no shame in giving up at this point-“

    “Hold that thought, princess.”

    Four hours, numerous bruises and cuts and a torn doublet later, Sir Robert finally (finally) strode into the princess’s room and knelt at her feet.

    “Fair princess, I have travelled far and fought numerous obstacles to rescue you and return you to your kingdom.”

    “I know. I was watching the entire time. I’m a little surprised it took you this long, actually.”

    “I hadn’t truly realised how great the reward was for saving you.” He rose to his feet to look down at her smiling face.


    “Once upon a time there was a princess locked away in a tower and a knight who was determined to save her despite all efforts to dissuade him. After several brave attempts fighting spry old men, ogres, half-giants, dragons and his own stupidity, he finally rescued the princess and rode off into the sunset back to her kingdom, only to discover that the princess was just as brave and adventurous as he and insisted on joining him on his quests.”

    “Did the knight live happily ever after, Mama?”

    “Of course. He had to battle a dragon to reach her, after all.”