© Copyright 2018 by Cattibrie Chapin
Once upon a time, in a land filled with magic, a brave knight traveled about to lend his services to those in need. He belonged to no kingdom, and had long since left his family and friends behind in pursuit of his own happiness. The knight knew from a very young age that he was only good at one thing: protecting people.
His life dream was to help the defenseless and save as many good people as possible. He roamed the land freely, well loved and respected by most kingdoms. His reputation as a kind and generous protector grew as he assisted elderly people, stopped bandits, and even fought monsters. Indeed, he was a mighty and noble knight. However, as he saved villages and defeated villains, he became sadder and sadder.
The brave knight was very lonely. He never stayed in any town or kingdom long enough for people to speak to him. He was very shy. He never even lifted his helmet to show his face! The possibilities of what the knight truly looked like under his helmet fascinated the people of this land and caused quite a few rumors to fly. Of course, this only further embarrassed the knight. He decided that no one would EVER see his face. And so, the lonely knight continued his never ending quest without making a single friend along the way. His journey took him up mountains, across meadows, through forests, and past countless villages. He never once stopped to stay the night in a village, for fear that someone might try to take a peek at his face while he slept. He simply kept working to save the eternally grateful strangers he came across. This tiresome routine wore the brave knight down, and he was beginning to struggle to see a reason to continue on with his dream. But continue on he did, until he was summoned by a king for a very important mission.
“Brave knight,” the good king spoke, “please save my daughter Lauriel from the wicked dragon that has been torturing our land!” The king looked tired and sad, and the knight’s heart felt heavy with sympathy.
“The dragon has taken the princess? Do you know where he could have taken her?” the knight asked. The king sighed and looked out the window of his throne room.
“He has taken her, and several other princesses from other kingdoms, to his mountain. It is rumoured that he keeps his hoard in a cave there. I beg of you, travel to the mountain, slay the beast, and return my daughter home safely. I will make you the richest man in the land. You will never again grow hungry or cold, and I will bless your marriage to any girl you wish. Just save my daughter and the other princesses,” the king spoke passionately. The knight considered the mission for a moment before looking out the window in the direction of the mountain. This would be the most dangerous rescue he’d ever attempted. The thought of confronting a dragon struck fear into his heart, but he knew he would gladly risk everything to save the princesses.
“Of course, I will make haste to the mountain and return with the princesses! You need not worry about payment. It would be an honor to complete this mission. I shall set forth immediately,” the knight proclaimed. The king thanked the kind knight, and watched him as he started heading towards the foreboding mountain.
As the knight traveled along the quiet path to the mountain, he double checked his weapons and shield. He began to think of what terrors might face him in the cave, and although he tried to think positively, he began to feel very frightened. Just as he was starting to get a tummy ache from the bad thoughts, he heard a small bark come from behind him.
The knight turned to see a small dog following him. “Hello there, little fella! Aren’t you a cutie?” The dog yipped and wagged his tail merrily in response to the knight’s question. The armoured man kneeled down to pet the blonde dog. He checked for a collar, but found none. Before he could get too worried about the dog’s owner, the dog licked his helmet in excitement.
“I’d like to take you along, blondie, but I’m going to a very dangerous place! Go home to your owner,” the knight said as he stood up. He waved at the dog and began to continue down the path. He was feeling a bit more confident after petting that precious pooch.
When he reached the base of the mountain, he stopped to rest and prepare himself. He would have to battle one of the fiercest creatures in existence in order to save the princesses. The brave knight sighed as he drew his sword and gripped his shield a bit more firmly. Just as he was about to begin the trek up the mountain, he heard movement from the bushes. The knight swung his sword towards the noise and loudly proclaimed a challenge. “Whoever is in those bushes, come out and fight me like a true warrior!”
He watched as the bushes began to rustle more and more. His mind began racing as he thought of all of the possible monsters that could be about to attack him. He felt his heart race as suddenly, a yellow blur jumped towards him.
The knight barely had time to withdraw his sword before the blonde dog tackled him to the ground. “Hey, I thought I told you to go home! This is dangerous, you can’t be here. There’s a dragon in that cave!” The dog merely wagged his tail harder and nuzzled his nose towards the knight’s protected face. When the knight mentioned the word dragon, the dog got even more excited and began to frantically paw at the knight’s shield.
“Oh, do you want to go WITH me to defeat the dragon? Well… I suppose I could use the company… but you stay at the front of the cave like a good boy and wait for me to rescue the princesses,” the knight stated. He gently pushed the dog off of him. He whistled for the dog to follow him as he began trailing up the mountain.
The knight and the dog traveled side by side as they slowly trekked up the mountain. They climbed over stumps and rocks until they finally reached the mouth of the cave. The dog seemed to be very excited, wagging his tail so hard the knight was worried it would fall off! “You’re a good boy” said the knight, “you’re so excited for me to defeat this scary beast! Now, sit.”
The dog miraculously sat by the cave entrance and watched as the knight took a deep breath before heading inside. The armoured fighter stepped carefully in the cave, cautious of making any noise that would alert the dragon. He followed the winding path as it traveled deep into the mountain. The cave was enormous, and the knight nervously wondered just how big this dragon was. As he began to see pieces of gold scattered across the ground, he slowed down and began to hug the wall. The knight heard lots of noises coming from around the last corner. He saw the dancing light of a fire and smelled delicious food. Confused, the knight stopped to peak around the corner. He was in awe of what awaited him.
The princesses were all laughing as they sat around a modest looking fire. They all had large plates of food and goblets of what looked like juice. They were surrounded by humongous piles of treasure, with several bed rolls close by. The princesses were all in various outfits. Some were still in their normal royal dresses, but a few were in sleeping gowns and even trousers! But this is not what shocked the knight the most. The truly amazing part was the very large, green scaled dragon sitting on top of the biggest gold pile, laughing right along with the princesses. As he watched them continue their seemingly pleasant conversation, the knight felt his arm lower his sword. He was puzzled, and not too certain about how to save princesses who seemed to be happy as prisoners.
The knight slowly inched around the corner and ducked behing a large treasure chest filled with gold coins and various jewels. He peeped his head out to see Princess Lauriel sitting snuggled up with the dragon! Clearly the wicked dragon had placed a spell on the princesses, forcing them to love him. The knight felt emboldened by this thought, and he finally gathered the courage to spring forward from behind the chest.
“Evil dragon, I have come to slay you and rescue the princesses! Come forth and battle me,” the knight yelled as he raised his sharp sword. The princesses seemed very startled, and the dragon let out a snarl.
“GO HOME, SIR KNIGHT. THE PRINCESSES WILL REMAIN HERE WITH ME! YOU CANNOT TAKE THEM FROM ME,” the dragon bellowed. He slowly descended from his perch and enveloped the princesses in his wing protectively. The knight kept his sword still, although he was trembling in fear.
The knight found his voice and managed to speak without stuttering. “What do you want with them, beast? Why have you taken them from their homes? Let them go from your terrible clutches!”
It was then that Lauriel jumped from the stack of gold and approached the knight. “Sir, we truly do appreciate you coming to save us. However, we have no wish to go home! We like it here with our sweet Bala. He has caused us no harm or discomfort.”
The knight was shocked as all of the other princesses began to agree. “You mean...you LIKE being here with the dragon?” the knight asked. One of the girls in trousers stepped forward.
“Brave knight, Mister Bala has given us more freedom than we have ever known before. He is the one who gave me these very comfortable garments! We feel safe to be ourselves here. Can’t you please let us stay? Bala is so lonely.”
“It is true,” the dragon spoke quietly. “The princesses have been keeping me company ever since my sweet dog, Barley, ran away. I never meant to kidnap them, but that was the only thing I could think to do. They are free to leave anytime they wish. But they have been marvelous company, and I love them dearly.”
The knight was surprised to hear the dragon speak so sadly. He thought of the excited dog waiting at the entrance to the cave. “Bala, tell me. What does your dog look like?”
The dragon sniffled as he replied. “Barley is a beautiful dog with golden hair. He loves humans and treasure. I found him in my cave, rolling around in my gold one day! He was my only friend.” The girls all started patting the dragon to comfort him.
The knight was very excited to hear this. “Bala! I encountered a blonde dog on my journey here. Perhaps it is Barley.” He turned around and whistled loudly. Bala and the princesses were silent as they waited to see what would happen. Soon, the sounds of joyful barking reached their ears, and the dog ran around the corner.
“BARLEY! It’s you, my dearest friend. Don’t you ever run off again, you silly dog!” the dragon said. Barley ran up to Bala and began to lick his claws happily. The princesses cheered and began to pet the dog furiously. The dragon looked at the knight. This time, when he spoke, he sounded very grateful. “Sir, I thank you for returning Barley to me. I will no longer fly about the land to scare people. The princesses may choose to stay or go home with you. I hope that if they choose to leave, they will at least come to visit me from time to time. I would be greatly appreciative if you would see to it that they are safe when they come to visit!”
The knight smiled behind his helmet. He looked to the princesses, who seemed torn in their decisions. “Ladies,” the knight said, “your families, your kingdoms, and your people are awaiting your return. They miss you terribly. I will gladly escort you all to come visit mighty Bala in the future. I beg of you, come home. Your people need you.”
The princesses looked sadly at Bala. The dragon smiled down at them and nudged them towards the knight gently with his wing. “Go, my dears. Take care of your loved ones. I will see you all again! Thank you for being my friends,” Bala said. Some of the ladies began to cry as they hugged Bala goodbye. They all thanked the dragon for taking such good care of them and promised to come back soon. The knight waved at Bala and Barley as he began to lead the princesses out of the cave.
The group was resting after a long walk. They were close to Lauriel’s kingdom, and they knew that carriages would be waiting to take the rest of the princesses home. “Dear knight, please tell us your name and let us see your face. What you did was very brave and honorable, and I’d like to properly thank you for taking us home,” Lauriel said. The knight turned to look at her and sighed.
“Are you sure you wish to know my name and what I look like? The people of this land think the mystery about who I truly am is quite fascinating. They all seem to think I am the most handsome man who ever lived, and I do not wish to disappoint. After all, I am FAR from a handsome man.” The knight sounded nervous as he spoke. The princesses all began to scoff in disbelief.
“Sir, we do not care about your looks. We wish to know who YOU are. We all know that you are undoubtedly the most charitable knight in this land. Possibly in the entire world! Your physical appearance will not overshadow your deeds,” one girl said. She had been very quiet throughout the journey back, and the knight was intrigued by her. She was very lovely, with ink stains on her hands and dress. She clearly had been writing while in Bala’s cave. The knight considered her words.
“Very well,” the knight said. “But please, tell no one of what you know. I am only happy as a knight, and I am afraid that no one will take me seriously if they know the truth.” The princesses seemed confused, but agreed to keep his secret. The knight sat up straighter and reached his hands up to his helmet. He hesitated before he slowly pulled the helmet off.
The princesses gasped as the knight’s face was revealed. “I am called Taunnie, and I am not a man. I am a woman who loves to help people. I never cared for medicine, so I did not become a nurse. I love to fight and wear armour and travel. Posing as a man, I was able to become a knight. I have kept this secret for a very long time,” the knight said. She brushed her hair out of her face and reached back to tie it into a loose ponytail. It grew just past her shoulders. The princesses were amazed that the knight had kept this a secret for so long, and their respect for her grew even more.
“Taunnie, thank you for bringing us home. Thank you for protecting this land. You are a magnificent knight, and we will never speak your name to another living soul. Please, continue to help our people,” princess Lauriel said as she took the knight’s hands in her own. Taunnie blushed slightly at the praise and squeezed the princess’s hands.
“It is my pleasure to serve. Thank you for keeping my secret. Let’s keep going, we’re almost to the castle!” the knight said as she put her helmet back on. The princesses began to head down the path once more. Taunnie smiled as she watched them walk. She caught up to the quiet princess and silently began walking beside her.
The quiet princess smiled at the knight and gathered her words for a moment. “Brave knight,” the princess began, “my name is Maggie and I have a confession to make. I am not a princess.” Taunnie seemed surprised at this, but Maggie continued explaining. “I am a royal scribe. When Bala came to my kingdom in search of our princess, I hastily dressed in her gown and sat in her bed chambers while she was taken to safety. Bala didn’t know who our princess was, as she is very rarely seen in public, so luckily he assumed I was her and I was taken to his mountain instead. The other princesses have kept my secret safe, so you can rest easy knowing that your secret will be kept as well.” The knight was amazed at her confession, and she began to admire Maggie for her wit.
“You are a very smart woman, lady Maggie. Thank you for sharing that with me. I truly feel better now!” the knight beamed. Maggie smiled bashfully and looked wistfully towards the forest surrounding the path.
“As long as we are being honest, I don’t want to go back to my kingdom. I don’t want to go back with Bala either. This adventure has been the most fun I’ve ever had, and I wish I could continue to travel,” Maggie said with a sigh. The knight considered her words and began to think of an idea. She doubted Maggie would agree, but she was very excited.
“Maggie,” the knight began. “Would you like to travel with me? I will keep you safe! I am very lonely in my travels and I would very much enjoy having an intelligent companion.” Maggie looked at the knight in disbelief.
“You mean… you would genuinely enjoy having me as a traveling partner? I could really go on adventures with you?” Maggie asked. Taunnie was too embarrassed by her own bold statement to reply with words and merely nodded instead. Maggie smiled and agreed. They were both very happy by their arrangement. They spoke the rest of the way to the kingdom about all of the adventures they were going to have.
They wished the princesses farewell as they finally reached Lauriel’s castle. Her father wept in joy as he hugged his daughter. He shook the knight’s hand and tried to offer payment once more.
“My king, seeing you and your daughter reunited is more than enough payment for me” the knight said. The king laughed and insisted that the knight follow him. Taunnie and Maggie walked with the king towards the stables.
“Please, both of you pick out a horse! It will help you travel further and faster. Lady Maggie, I will have a messenger relay your resignation to your kingdom. Thank you, knight. I will summon you in the future for help again,” the king smiled as he shook Taunnie’s armoured hand.
Taunnie and Maggie picked out two strong looking horses, thanked the king, and rode off towards the next village. They had a lifetime of adventures waiting for them ahead.