Here There Be Dragons

There’s always the Princess. There has to be a Princess because there is a Tower and Princes don’t just get put in charge for saving nobody, you know. The Princess matters, insofar as she is the physical embodiment of Beauty and Grace, as well as a physical body to save from the Dragon. There has to be a Dragon, too. No one cares very much about what he is, either, as long as it includes Big, Scary, and Killed By The Prince With Some, But Not Too Terribly Much, Difficulty.

These were the thoughts that the Dragon found himself thinking, as he stared down the road and listened to the sound of approaching hoof beats. The Dragon actually had a fairly acute grasp on the universe around him and felt he understood it far better than any of the human inhabitants with whom in general everyone was much more concerned, but no one ever really bothered to ask him anything. The Dragon, whose name was Carl, even if no one had ever asked, had had a decent amount of time to reflect upon his world such as it was. Up until now his primary occupation had been Jealously Guarding the Princess, which for the most part boiled down to making a good deal of noise stamping around the base of the tower and roaring occasionally. His heart hadn’t been in his work for years. In fact, he’d become far more interested in the Princess than his roaring for a number of years. The most interesting thing about her was the fact that she was not, as it was, an “original.” There had been another, the current Princess’ older sister, who had been placed in the Tower on her 5th birthday according to tradition. In Carl’s opinion, that Princess had been far better at her job than this one. She had faithfully sat at her window every day, combing her hair and sighing in anticipation of the arrival of her one day hero, alternately singing and sewing and generally devoting her energy to being incredibly delicate, feminine, and fair-skinned. These traits all became less than ideal when one tragic day they all combined in the most unfortunate way as she underwent a fainting spell resulting from thinking about true love too deeply while leaning out of her precious window to sing to a passing sparrow, and fell to her death, albeit in the most delicate and feminine way possible.

Luckily, there had been another girl in the family, whom up to that point had been largely regarded as useless and thus had been left to her own devices. Carl remembered the day that the New Princess had been brought to the Tower. Luckily for everyone involved, she was nearly identical to her sister; same ivory skin, rosy cheeks, and hair like spun gold. The only thing wrong with her was her eyes; the first Princess had had eyes like limpid pools of purest spring water; this Princess’ eyes were a thoroughly disinteresting brown. The Dragon, observant and overly allotted with free time as he was, had noted several other deviations as well. This new Princess read far more. Carl had not been aware that there had been so much as a single book in the Tower, for all the attention that the original Princess had given them. This Princess also sang far less, which Carl found rather annoying; he had always been able to tell with ease what the first Princess had been thinking because more often than not she would devote a few verses to her troubles, hopes and dreams. Carl never quite knew what this Princess was thinking.

Carl put these reflections out of his mind as the figure on horseback finally came into view. Carl knew that his whole life, all of the stamping and roaring and guarding the two Princesses, had all been building to this moment. It was time to face off against the Prince, put up a convincing struggle, and then eventually have his head violently separated from his body by the Prince’s razor sharp Sword. When he was sure the Prince was looking he let out a roar, quite fearsome and one he had been working on for years. He let two fountains of brimstone smoke pour from his nostrils, something which actually quite itched and was therefore only attempted for effect in cases where making an impression was extremely important. As he looked down his snout at the approaching Prince, a final thought occurred to Carl. He had no idea why it was that the Princess had to be locked in that Tower, nor why it was so vital that Carl devote his life to guarding her, nor, and this was the thought which was burning most vivid in his mind now, why it was that Carl must now be slain in order for the Princess to be rescued. Carl tried to content himself that this was simply the way these things had to happen, and end his reasoning at that. However, as the Prince’s sword sliced through a few of Carl’s more vital neck bits, he still found himself somewhat unsettled by the notion that all of this had very little meaning at all, and died more than a little dissatisfied.

The Princess watched from her window as all this happened. In general she stayed away from that window. She felt that sitting at that window, like singing and combing her tresses, was something expected of her and therefore did it as little as possible. Besides, every time she went to the window some wildlife would attempt to befriend her and that was entirely too much social pressure. However, she obliged herself this one time when it sounded like something exciting was happening. Seeing the dragon’s grisly demise left her feeling more than a little upset. She’d quite liked that dragon, and always got the impression that it only acted particularly fearsome when it thought she was looking. She watched the shining metallic figure wipe of his sword and continue towards her tower feeling less than enthused. She knew the next step was for him to rescue and subsequently wed her. She knew that these were the rules, but for some reason she couldn’t recall precisely which book those rules had come from. The prince was almost at the gate. She knew it was her duty to let him in, but a thought nagged at the edges of her mind. She’d been having more of them recently, thoughts, and they were starting to pile up in her mind. She had a lot of questions about why things had to be the way that they were, but she had no idea to whom they should be addressed. She was fairly sure the answer did not lie with the shiny figure who had started clanging against the tower’s doors. But, she thought, maybe he could help.

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