A Hero's Burden
Once upon a time, not too far away, lived the people of Fantasia. And in Fantasia is a great stone castle of several spires so tall that it would make your head spin and you would fall and die from looking down one of the spires to the friendly townsfolk below.
Though this is not just a kingdom of numerous high towers and unhealthy cases of vertigo. There was something missing about one of the tower’s today.
Up one of the castle’s spires is the tower of Princess Morgan. She is as beautiful as a budding spring rose. Her laugh can light up a castle’s open hall. Her hair is a shimmering blond that seemed as silky and flowing as to make goddesses jealous of its natural grace. Her skin is as smooth and tempting to kiss more than any girl ever had been kissed and who is delightful company. She is bragged about by everyone who has courted her.
But today the princess with one-of-a-kind beauty was what was missing from her high pink tower and no one was affected more than her beloved father, King Harold.
“That tart!” King Harold yelled as he opened the princess’s room to find it empty except for her many, many pink belongings. Her pink hair brush was there, her pink dresser was there, her pink bed was there, and even her pink boots were untouched. But his ‘unique’ princess was not.
“I’m sorry, your highness, but she could not be found anywhere,” huffed the servant. Sam had just run up the stairs to the princess’s pink room behind the king trying for the second time that morning to see if the princess had returned since the last time she was missing. He didn’t find the princess anywhere in the castle’s other rooms either. The king turned to Sam.
“Did you check the royal blacksmith’s room?” asked the king.
“Yes, I did. She wasn’t there,” replied Sam
“What about the carpenter’s room?” asked the king.
“Yes, I did, Sire,” replied Sam. “Still not there.”
“What about the stable master’s room, the stable boy’s room, the cook’s room, the librarian’s room, and the captain of the guard’s room?”
“Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. And Yes, Sire. All were inspected.”
The king took a pink hair brush and threw it across the pink room at the pink bed posts. “Where is my daughter?!” King Harold yelled. And then a top guard soldier entered and knocked on the pink bedroom door.
“Your Highness, this was given to us by the royal messenger,” said the soldier and bowed down to give it to the king.
The king unraveled a scroll and began reading it to himself, murmuring his mouth to each word. Sam could not tell what the King was saying, but the king’s face became grim as he read the scroll in his hands. It was not good news.
“By the gods, a dragon has her!” King Harold yelled frightened. Sam and the soldier looked to the king for direction as to what to do.
“Is she …dead, sire?” Sam asked.
“She lives.” King Harold sighed. “But the dragon has taken her captive and refuses to give her back safely until we give up our great kingdom to his control.”
“What are you orders, sire? I’ll send out the army as soon as you command.”said the soldier .”We will hunt down this dragon and destroy it if it takes every last one of us to save the princess. We will save the princess and- ”
“No. It sounds like a trap to me,” said the king, thinking, playing with the grey whiskers on his chin. The king looked very old with his grey hair but he was also very wise.
“A trap?” Sam asked. “But how do we save her without sending the king’s royal army after the dragon? Unless you plan to give up the kingdom. If we give up the kingdom, the princess will die anyway along the rest of us. I’m sure of it, sire.”
“And if we send out the army to save her, we will be helpless if the dragon attacks us here without a royal army. No. Nobody is leaving. Except for Sam,” planned the king.
“Me?” Sam gulped, thinking he was about to be chosen as the hero to save the princess from a fire-breathing dragon.
“For Sam I have a very serious quest. A quest that will save the lives of the princess and all of us in Fantasia.”
“I’m an indoor servant, your highness, I’m in no condition to go on a quest to fight dragons,” Sam said.
“No, Sam.” King Harold said resting his hand on Sam’s shoulder to comfort him. “You will not be put in harms way but put on a quest to find a hero of amazing strength and knowledge of magic to save us from harm. A man known to slay and kill dragons. A great warrior and necromancer,” told the king. “While you are looking for this master of all, the royal army will be guarding the castle incase an attack. For there is only one who can kill this great dragon.”
“Who?” asked the top guard.
“The great white wizard of the great white magic tower,” Said the king. “He has come to our family’s aid for generations wherever we had trouble from problems like this. He never let us down and I don’t believe that he ever will. He is the greatest hero that our kingdom has ever known.”
“And he kills dragons?” asked the soldier.
“Not me?” asked Sam.
“Yes.” said the king, comforting Sam. “He will save us all. But he must be found first. And he needs to be found as soon as possible, Sam. You do understand your burden. If you never find him, we will be lost to the dragon’s fire-breathing whims. “
Sam bowed to the king, “I shall do my best, your majesty.”
“Guard, give this man our best horse, some gold for his travels, and a map. Can you do this for your kingdom, Sam?”
“I will,” Said Sam and then left to find an awesome hero to save Fantasia from the fate of being terrorized by a fire-breathing dragon.
* * *
“Is she pretty?” asked the bartender.
Sam’s head shot up like a rocket to the sound of the bartenders on duty and wondered where he was and why there were three bartenders tending one bar. Sam\'s vision was blurred for some reason but slowly the three bartenders turned into one bartender. A feat of amazing visual magic, thought Sam, and slowly his nerves calmed from his sobering awakening.
“Who?” Sam asked, quietly, hoping the bartender would follow his lead in lowering the tone of his voice, not to make Sam’s still ringing skull jump at any more than it had to.
“The woman you’ve been drinking over, of course,” said the bartender. “If there is ever a man getting drunk as you, there must be a woman, I say.” Said the bartender moving over the bar counter whipping it clean with a wash cloth.
Sam looked at him with a question mark on his face. Sam was then struck with the answer to the nosey bartender’s question, but it only brought on another head ache. “For your information, the woman that I’m ‘drinking over’ is a princess,” Sam stated.
“HA!” said the bartender, cleaning another glass. “A princess, “ said the bartender to the table maid. “Aren’t they all, eh?”
“Her eyes are as if her father were a thief and stole the stars from the sky and put them into her brilliant eyes. Her skin is that of silk never seeing a hard days work, or having any purpose other than being kissed with nothing more than the tenderist of true love’s kisses. Her legs are as long as stemmed roses and as she walks with the grace of royalty. Her laughter is as warming as a sunny day and cheering as a song bird’s delightful tunes. Yes, she is pretty.” Said Sam and asked for some water for his head ache.
“Well, if she is so pretty, what is the reason for your troubles?” asked the bartender.
“She is being held captive by a fire-breathing dragon,” said Sam. Sam looked around the bar and noticed the places other attributes other than the bar. It was nothing spectacular, big enough for any crowd, and the musician played a nice tune while people ate.
Then Sam spotted something on the mantle above the fireplace. There were pies lined up, one after the other, all with a ribbon on them saying 1st place for a certain year of a local Magicia baking contest. All of them said “1st Prize” on the ribbons, but underneath each one was a different name for each different pie.
One said “Ogre pie”, one said “Black Knight pie”, one said “Troll pie, “and one read “Dark Imp pie.” Sam wondered why the pies had such strange names and what the cook used for ingredients that they won these strange names and first prize. But then Sam’s eyes did a double take.
“Magacia” said the prize title. A light went on in Sam’s head. Magacia is where the White Tower is, where the great wizard and soon-to-be dragon slayer lives. Sam had made it to the white tower. “Do you know of a dragon slayer in this town?” said Sam.
“Oooh,” Said the bartender, “You want the great wizard of the White Tower.”
“Yes,” said Sam. “My name is Sam, servant of the King of Fantasia to find the great wizard of the White Tower to slay a fire-breathing dragon and save the princess and the kingdom from its deadly, evil clutches.”
“Well, if you want to find the great white wizard of the great white tower, you don’t have to go all the way to the White Tower. Here he comes right now.” said the bartender and Sam turned from his wooden barstool at the bar and looked to see a big bodied man in a chef’s apron and wearing a chef’s hat, about the same age as the king in years, enter the bar with a pie in his hand. Again, Sam saw a red ribbon with the words “1st Place” and “Magicia” written on the ribbon attached to the pie. This time though the pie was called “Giant Deadly Spider Delight.”
“Another winner, boss?” asked the bartender.
“The competition was easy to foil. One more win and I think I might end up retiring the pie baking category. It’s the light pie crust that always wins the judges,” said the cook and put up the winning pie on the wall with the others and then went back to the kitchen of the bar, disappearing out of site.
“I thought you said ‘there he comes now’.”
“That was him. Bob’s a terrific chef. He owns this place.”
“Is there anything I can get you?” asked the chef, entering the bar again, and handed Sam a menu of the bars meals for consumption.
“With award winning pie crust?” asked Sam imagining the end of his kingdom with one serving.
“Of course, I pride myself on it.” Said the magic wizard turned wiz chef, and served Sam a slice of cherry pie with a smile.
As the pie slice came closer and closer to him, Sam’s hopes of saving the prince and his life made him feel like ordering another beer, but there could be another chance.
“Is your name, Bob?”
“Yes. But what does that have to do with life?” Bob asked.
Sam life was over. The princess’s life was over. The kingdom’s life was over. His spirits sunk but he gathered his remaining energy, sliced into the pie, and said, “Bob, my name is Sam and I’ve come here from the King of Fantasia’s castle to ask you to save his beautiful princess from a deadly fire-breathing dragon.”
“I see” said Bob. “Well, I’ll have you know that the king can save his own daughter from the clutches of evil on his own from now on. I’m retired.”
“Retired?” asked Sam. “But why?”
“Saving the princess has become cliché to me.”
Sam stopped. Silence filled the air. A lone wolf was heard crying at a full moon in the distance. There was a gun shot in the dark. A werewolf fell over dead.
“Are you telling me that the king’s daughter, a beautiful princess, who’s life is going to end by being eaten by a fire-breathing dragon, won’t be saved by you, the most powerful wizard and dragon slayer in Fantasia, because you consider the quest….cliché?”
“Well, it is, isn’t it?” asked Bob.
Dumbfounded, but still on a mission to save the princess, Sam continued to press on, imagining the princess sliced like an award winning “Pretty in Pink” pie.
“Why?” asked Sam
“I’ve been questing for the king’s family in Fantasia for generations now and it’s like waking up one morning and instead of preparing your self for rain or shine, it all blends together, because its been done so many times, that it becomes cliché to go after a dragon, or save a lady in distress no matter what the scenario, you simply tell your boss the king I quit. It’s all become cliché. I throw down my sword and pick up a spatula.”
Sam put down his fork and wiped his mouth. “Is there ANYTHING that the king can do to change your mind?!” asked Sam in desperation. “A woman’s life is at stake.”
Bob sighed. “Is she pretty?”
“Yes, but what does that have to do with life?” Sam asked, wondering about the great wizard of magical award winning pie crust.
“Well if I save her in this cliché quest, then there will be the reliable cliché kiss for saving her. And if I’m going to be kissed, she better be pretty. I’m not going over this again for some cow.”
“Yes,” grumbled Sam. “She’s pretty.”
“Ok. I’ll do this one more time. But this is the end of my quests for the king. But there is one thing that I need.”
“Name it and it shall be yours.” said Sam.
“A pair of your underwear. Preferably colored royal purple.”
Sam wondered what his underwear would do for battling a dragon but with a life at stake and the kingdom he agreed.
“Good.” Said the out-of-retirement mighty dragon slayer and put away his chef outfit on a hook behind the bar. After that, he picked up a bag and went into the kitchen. Sam picked up his own stuff as Bob returned with his traveling bag full and pointed to the door. “Off we go to save the princess.” Said Bob.
Sam wondered what he was doing since all he had to do was find Bob. Not give away a pair of his clean purple underwear. Maybe this is all part of being a hero, thought Sam on his first quest and continued forward out the bar door after Bob to save the kingdom’s princess from a live fire-breathing dragon.
* * *
“Hello?” said an eyeball.
“Hello,” said Bob, talking to the eyeball in the center of the door. “It’s me, Bob.”
“Bob? And who is with you?” asked the paranoid eyeball.
“My name is Sam,” he answered.
Sam was wondering how long this conversation would last as he wanted this part
of the ‘cliché’ mission with Bob to save the day to end quickly and without getting any more swamp slime on himself, let alone the underwear he had out for viewing.
The bog in which the eyeball lived was smelly, muddy, and an occasional movement in the ground of large gross worms over his toes made another second in the bog unbearable. The green branched hut in which the eyeball, and rest of the bog witch’s body was living in, was smelly as well. Sam wondered what could keep someone here besides being a witch.
“And I’ve come to you from Fantasia with a gift from the king!” said Bob.
The eyeball looked over Sam and the door opened. “You brought me one of his servants!” said the ugly bog witch and pulled Sam into her smelly thatched hut.
“No!” cried Sam. “Bob, help!”
Bob entered the witch’s home as she looked over Sam as her newest addition to her collection of the king’s knickknacks around the hut. “No, not the servant,” Bob said and pulled him away. Giving Sam a second to collect himself, Bob gave a wink to queue him for what they had planned.
“I have for you, miss…witch, a pair of underwear of the king’s. You can tell it’s the king’s because of the royal purple color.” Sam stated as an official representative of the royal family.
Sam and Bob both knew it came from Sam’s collection of undergarments, but it was a harmless lie and Bob assured that with only one working eye the witch would couldn’t notice any difference between royal underwear of the king’s and that of a poor lowly servant who’s never had a crush on him by a bog witch in his entire life.
And glad of it, thought Sam. The witch’s skin and hair was paling and grey compared to the full purple color of the underwear when she rubbed them between her knobby fingers and then onto her boney face. Sam didn’t understand the length of the witch’s love for the king until he saw even more of the king’s belongings all over the swamp home. Sam spotted a portrait of the king over the witch’s bed, a telescope that appeared to point directly into the king’s bedroom, a dozen pairs of the king’s robes and royal slippers, and even the king’s baby bronzed shoes.
“You are my hero, Bob. What can I do for you in return?” said the witch and placed the shorts on a nearby table by the telescope.
“We are on a quest to save the princess from a fire-breathing dragon that plans to hold her hostage until the king gives up the kingdom of Fantasia,” said Bob in an official announcing voice of a hero on a quest to save the world. “And we need to know the location of the dragon. We need you to cast a ‘location’ spell so we can find the dragon and then proceed to slay it.”
“I thought that you retired.” Said the witch.
“Yes, well, this is the last time.”
“Well, she must be a real catch. You know how it will end with young princesses.” Said the witch taking out her magic crystal ball. “You always think your in control, then wham. Right in the kisser. ”
“She’s going to punch you?” asked Sam.
“No. She means, of course, the cliché kiss when the hero rescues the princess and everyone lives happily ever after.”
“That still doesn’t sound like much of a ‘wham’ to be afraid of.” Said Sam.
“It is something to be afraid of if you have some thirty or forty other princesses to rescue from fire-breathing dragons in 30 or 40 other kingdoms where after being rescued in the nick-of-time they all want to marry you and live happily ever after with you with children. Never gold, never jewelry, never a firm handshake of thanks, just a lot of bent feeling’s why I think their daughter isn’t good enough to marry and when I did marry one…
“You were married to a princess?” asked Sam
“Once.” Said the witch. “He married and she left him.”
“She got angry because I was always out saving more women who need a hero to
save them from ferocious beasts in the world of Fantasia and I didn’t have enough energy when I came home to her. Damn it all. She was nice too.” Said Bob.
“I hear she is a damsel in distress again, if your interested?” said the witch. “In the chains of a giant ogre’s, but I’ve lost track with that lady.”
“I like my bar and I make people happy without much harm to myself,” said Bob.
“So where is the king’s princess?” asked Sam
“ Let us look into my magic crystal ball,” said the witch and then Bob sighed .
There was a cloud of white vapor swirling inside the crystal ball until there became an image of the entire realm of Fantasia. Fantasia became more and more detailed until Sam, Bob, and the witch herd a cry inside the crystal ball.
In the far side of the ball a small image was flying over the land of Fantasia. At the very top of the mountainous lands of Draconia was what looked like a red bird, but slowly the bird became larger as the image was magnified to the onlookers.
The bird was a sleeping dragon and they could hear the princess yelling
for help. They had their location of the dragon and the princess.
“And we’re off!” said Bob, and picked up his bag. “Thanks for your help.”
“So now we go save the princess?” asked Sam, worrying about the size of the dragon in the crystal ball as compared to the size of the mountain the great beast was resting its deadly head on top of. The stomach of the dragon alone could probably enjoy spacious room for four horses and the riders of the horses to match.
“Yes, it will take some walking so lets get moving, Sam.” Said Bob and pulled his things over his shoulder. Sam followed, happy to leave the witch and her bog hut, but unhappy that he was going to meet the dragon himself. A hero’s life is hard indeed, thought Sam. A quest to give up purple underwear was enough to keep him out of the hero business.
* * *
“Heeeeeelp! Heeeeelp!” Cried the princess, desperate for a hero to save her. Her body was chained up against a rock wall with shackles as black as coal. Her pink dress was torn and her face was dirty from the trip across the lands.
The demon yellow eyes of the dragon opened slowly from their sleep and the creature spoke. “Silence! Your cries for help will do you no good here. No one can year you for miles.” The dragon snorted smoke from its long red reptilian nose.
Then from the corner of her eye the princes saw her call for help answered. There were two men making their way to the princess, one of them looking like a familiar servant of the castle. But she didn’t care.
“You think my father won’t send anyone! Well, here come two heroes to save me now!” yelled the princess at the red dragon.
The dragon leaped into the air and began looking over the two saviors. One a meager man-servant and the other…Bob.
“I thought you were in retirement, Bob?” asked the great deadly flying fire-breathing dragon to Bob below.
Bob looked up and said,” I get a lot of that.” And began digging into his bag which he had been carrying with him along the journey. The only thing he brought out was a magic cook book. As Sam looked at the flying beast he could not believe what was going to happen before his eyes as he knew it. A real life fire-breathing dragon was going to be, if Sam was correct, turned into another one of Bob’s famous light-crusted 1st place award winning pies.
Bob was using new cooking recipes when he fought his battles to save the kingdom. Ogres, dark elves, dangerous giant spiders, trolls, all were avoided from using a sword against them and instead were turned into pastries for local county bake offs. New recipes for old ideas of saving the world, Sam ended his thoughts on Bob, the old warrior hero turned restaurant chef.
The dragon blew flames into a nearby forest and it lit like a match. Bob followed by opening his cook book and casting a spell creating a large metal cooking bowl over the flames and then began counting ingrediants one by one for the recipe of “Dragon Pie” to fall into the heating bowl. Eggs, Flour, Sugar, and other ingredients were incorporated with the main ingredient: one dragon.
Sam looked up again and saw the princess on the mountain ledge. While Bob began mixing the ingredients with a large magic wooden mixing spoon, Sam made his way up the mountain to where the princess was prisoner. Once he got to the top Sam asked the princess,” Where is the key to the lock on chains?” Sam and the princess looked around but could not find one. “Use a rock to break them open” screamed the princess, as the dragon’s distance was being watched by her, never seeming far enough for her to completely feel safe from its deadly body and sharp razor claws.
“Clank!” went the rock against the chains. So loud that the dragon heard Sam and turned its course from Bob to him instead.
But it was too late for the dragon. Bob had summoned an enormous mixing wooden spoon and it raced across the sky to BASH the dragon over the head for Bob’s new recipe for victory. Dumbfounded, Sam and the princess saw the large dragon dive down from the open sky into Bob’s enormous cooking bowl. The dragon was knocked unconscious by the mixing spoon and the great beast was cooked until dead.
“Anyone hungry?” Bob yelled to the Sam and the princess.
And everyone lived and ate happily ever after. Including a lone witch with royal purple underwear, but that is another cooked-up story…