I took the whole thing dressed it up tweaked it about and here it is. Dedicated to all my wonderful chums in the Armitage Army and the gorgeous, talented, charming actor who inspires my writing as the ultimate romantic hero.
Brain versus Brawn.
Dragons had once been the bane of the Kingdom of Phantasia . Then they had suddenly disappeared and had not been seen for well over a century.
Where they went no one knew and they cared even less.
But one day smoke was seen drifting from a cave a cave in the foothills of the mountains.
The people shuddered. It couldn't be a dragon. Not after all this time. Could it ?
It could be and it was. Over 60 feet long with scales of bright peacock blue. Intelligent, malevolent yellow eyes scanned the countryside.
But for the destruction it wrought it might have been thought beautiful.
Houses, villages and town were being burned to the ground, crops ruined and live stock devoured. Its claws and teeth long and sharp as swords as deadly as its fiery breath.
The bravest warriors in the land pulled out their armour and weapons and went to challenge the creature. But alas dragons are known for their cunning and this one was especially so.
The warriors on the other hand were somewhat lacking in brain power. Brawn was not what was required here and the kingdom watched in dismay as it lost warriors faster than in any battle.
The people despaired. Word got around that the dragon was invincible and no warrior would now go near it.
King Edbert of Phantasia sat in the council chamber trying not to fall asleep. He was surrounded by men having varying levels of success at the same challenge.
They had to find a solution to the dragon question and the King was adamant that no one was going to bed until they had one.
Exasperated the King leapt to his feet banging the table with his hand. ' Baldric's Beard !' He yelled. ' This room is filled with the most learned men in the kingdom and we can't solve a little problem like a dragon.'
Of course the dragon was far from being a 'little' problem in all senses. But this was not the time for pedantry. The council doubled their efforts at thinking................
' There's always Princess Cressida'. This statement came from one of the oldest councillors already three quarters asleep but still talking.
' Are you suggesting I send my only daughter to kill a dragon ?!' The King was incensed.
' No Sire'. One of the younger men answered. ' I believe my venerable friend was suggesting that Her Royal Highness's hand be offered to the man who kills the dragon'.
The king thought about this. It wasn't an original idea by any means. However it was the first and he suspected the last to come up.
There was no doubt that it would solve the 2 worst dilemmas facing the kingdom in one stroke.
As well as the dragon. The Princess was also giving her father sleepless nights. She was a bright, witty, intelligent and warm hearted young woman but in looks she was alas no beauty.
She was far from ugly but as far as potential suitors were concerned she may as well have been.
Not one of them had ever come back for a second look at her. So here she was the future Queen of Phantasia nearly 20 years old and with no sign of finding a husband.
It was beyond a joke really it was.
So desperate for their beds the council agreed the plan and the King pondered on how he was going to break the news to Cressida...................
' No Father...Absolutely not'. Cressida's brown hair bounced as she shook her head
and her moss green eyes flashed in annoyance.
' What sort of marriage is that going to get me pray tell ?' She asked staring her father down adamantly.
' One more marriage than you're likely to get at the moment'. Came the bleak reply.
' I'm sorry my dear'. The King went on. ' I don't pretend that it's a good idea but we have to do something about this dragon. You do see that don't you ?'
Cressida sighed. ' Yes it's true. Our poor people are soon going to have no homes or livestock if the beast isn't stopped.
Alright Father. We'll do it. But I want it understood that if if after 3 months the dragon is still with us then the idea should be abandoned'..............................
The proclamation went out. And men of all ages and walks of life came to try their luck.
Princess Cressida might not have been a beauty but one day she would be a Queen and her husband a King. Now that was worth fighting a dragon for.
The dragon itself was getting seriously bored of the whole charade. Weren't humans supposed to be intelligent ? Then why on earth was their only notion of fighting
sending a lot of idiots charging at it, yelling and waving various sharp objects ?
Wasn't there a human who would put a bit of thought into fighting ?
Cressida watched in sorrowful dismay as one man after another royalty, aristocracy,
merchant and peasant died in the dragon's fierce flames.
'Such a waste of lives.' She stormed at her father. ' And all for the chance to be a King one day !'
She rushed out into the castle gardens. Angry, guilty tears pouring down her cheeks.
She didn't stop running until she reached an ivy covered wall. She pulled out a key on a gold chain from inside her bodice. Then parting the ivy put the key into a lock and pushed open a hidden door. Slipping silently through she closed and locked it behind her and strode off into the fields beyond the castle grounds.
She had found the door at the age of 10.
Her nurse had been angry with her for climbing trees and she was hiding. Crouching beneath a tree she had found an old key half buried by the roots. A search along the ivy covered wall had revealed the door made by some adventurous ancestor tow which the key fitted.
Wandering out side she had come upon a large flock of sheep in a meadow. They each had a crown painted on their coats and were guarded by a man and a boy of about 14.
He was tall and slightly gangly with dark brown hair a long nose and the loveliest warmest blue eyes she had ever seen.
' Whose sheep are these ?' The boy found himself addressed by a slightly dishevelled but richly dressed girl. Younger than him with a long mane of light brown hair and eyes green as moss. Not pretty at all but he liked the look of her.
' They're the King's miss'. He told her.
' Ooh' . Said Cressida in surprise. ' I didn't know Papa had sheep'. The boy made the connection that this was the King's daughter but didn't seem at all over awed by this fact.
' So you're Princess Cressida then ?' He said with friendly warmth. ' And what might Your Royal Highness be doing out here on your own ?'
He had a nice voice. She thought. A rough peasant voice but soothing and calm.
She smiled and told her what had happened this morning. ' Best get you back before the King gets to worrying'. The boy said. ' My name's Peter by the way'.
He'd taken her back to the castle wall. ' It's been nice to meet you Peter'. She said.
' I'll come back and see you again soon'. And she'd unlocked the door climbing back through into the gardens.
She had gone back 4 or 5 times a week for the next 10 years. She and Peter had become good friends. He watched the sheep and lived alone now since his Father's death. But for Cressida's visits life had become rather lonely.
He would have liked to have married and had children and there were girls in villages for miles around who would have jumped at the chance.
The good looking coltish limbed boy had become a tall, well built, breathtakingly handsome man.
Quiet and a little shy it it mingled with his intelligence, wisdom and warm good nature in an irresistible combination.
But Peter had long since given his heart to a girl who could never be his and he had sadly resigned himself to it.
It was earl evening and he was herding the sheep into the pens for the night when he saw Cressida running towards him. His heart gave a half thrilling half painful flip at the sight of her. Then he saw she was weeping.
' Cressie. What's wrong ?' He asked softly as she ran into his arms......... ' It's this d**m dragon business isn't it ?'
She nodded against his chest. ' Yes. All these men just throwing their lives away. Oh I know it's not for me they're doing it. It's the idea of being the future King
that's got them. But it is me they'd have to marry. So I sort of feel responsible'.
Peter stroked the brown waves of her hair and kissed her forehead. ' No one can blame you for this. It wasn't your idea and you haven't forced any of the those men to try'.
Cressida smiled into the beautiful face that she had so looked forward to seeing whenever she could get away and missed when she could not.
' It'd be so much simpler if I could just marry a friend. Someone like you'. She sighed.
Peter blushed. ' Please don't tease like that Cressie'. He reproached quietly.
Then when she looked amazed he went on. ' You must know how I 've felt about you for the last 4 years. Why I've never married anyone else'.
To his delighted surprise the Princess's face flushed and spread with a coy smile.
' No....no I don't know. How have you felt ?'
The blue eyes became warmer still and the temperature of a spring day rose considerably in the patch where they stood.
' Like the sun comes out whenever you're with me and goes behind a cloud when you leave. And you make a shepherd feel as good as a prince'. And he smiled as she flushed a deeper shade of pink.
' Considering how so many real princes behave I 'd say you're better'. She giggled.
Then became serious again. ' But I can't think of you risking your life like so many others have done. I'm very sorry for all of those who have died but you're the one I'd be inconsolable over'.
A look of understanding passed between them. Childhood friendship had been joined by a more adult passion. And their arms curled round each other as their mouths met in a kiss.
Peter reluctantly ended it. ' I've got to try my hand with the dragon. I can't stand by and let it destroy everything without doing something. And I won't be charging at it with something sharp. This dragon's a wily one. So I've got to get wilier.'
Cressida's face let up. 'If you were to succeed then Father couldn't stop us from marrying !' She threw her arms around him happily. ' I love you. Now what can I do to help you ? There must be something'.
Peter smiled. ' You could look in the castle library for me and see if there are any books on dragons. I need to find a weak spot I can use against it'.
Cressida had brightened up considerably. ' I'll go right now and start looking'. She kissed him again eyes shining brightly.
' Has anyone ever told you how beautiful you are ? ' Peter said quietly. ' By the way.......I love you too'.
It was not unheard of for Princess Cressida to go into the royal library. So the librarian thought nothing of it.
Nor considering the present crisis did it seem untoward for her to be wanting a book on dragons.
' I thought perhaps if I could find something out about their weak spots then perhaps the town criers could announce it for any one wanting to try his luck'.
The Librarian didn't want to say that it was highly unlikely that many more men from Phantasia itself would be trying. The climate of fear in the kingdom was tangible now.
The librarian came up with 3 books and thanking him Cressida sat down to read. A piece of parchment and a quill ready to make notes for Peter.
For 3 hours she pored over the thick tomes. It seemed that weak spots were not something that dragons tended to suffer with.
She did make a note however of a comment about how a dragon can be lulled asleep with music..................................
Peter was delighted. He had a flute that had belonged to his grandfather who had also taught him to play it and he had a glorious singing voice.
' That's my plan. He told Cressida. I get the beast asleep and then a knife in the brain...............'
.............Cressida dressed in some of Peters old clothes was staying to watch the sheep for him and they embraced outside Peters cottage before he set off on his mission.
' Do take care my Love'. Cressida told him gently.
And she gave him a handkerchief soaked in her rose scented bath water that morning.
' This is a lady's token to her favoured knight. He takes it to show that it will be in her honour that he fights'.
Peter bowed and gave her a cheeky grin that curled her toes. ' I accept it. I am your Royal Highness's loving champion'.
And he blew her a kiss as he set off towards the dragon's cave in the hills.
It was a steep climb and Peter was glad to be fit enough to still have energy left by the time he reached the place.
There was the unmistakable stench of various bunt substances mingled with old blood. Hardly attar of roses. But he had to ignore it. And with his heart beating madly he entered the cave.
The animal stench of the dragon combined with the sound of its breathing was so all pervading that it permeated his very bones.
He took out Cressida's favour. The smell of roses and of her skin was faint but it was enough and it strengthened him.
Just as well too. Behind the next bend there it was. All 60 feet of blue scales, razor like claws and malevolent yellow eyes.
Gripping the handkerchief in his pocket, Peter bowed. ' Good day Master Dragon'.
The beast was surprised to be greeted in this way by a human.
But no matter the human was here in his cave and had to go. It opened it's mouth....and................
' Wait'. This startled the dragon enough to delay it's fire. As the human spoke on.
' I think nothing of your manners Master Dragon. I greet you and without so much as a 'hello' in return you're going to kill me?'
This did intrigue the creature. Faced by certain death and the human prattled on about etiquette.
It chuckled. A deadly, chilling sound. ' Very well then. Good day to you human. And now. Goodbye..........' The jaws opened again to deliver the fatal burst of flame.................
' I protest Master Dragon'. Now what was the humans problem ? The malevolent eyes were reproachful but curious. It didn't get to play with its prey like this very often.
' Surely as a condemned man I should get a last request'. Peter said sounding hurt and cheated.
Again the dragon chuckled. What fun this was. ' Make your request then human but do not try my patience too far'.
' Oh I wouldn't dream of it Sir'. Peter said with charming humility. ' All I ask is to play my favourite tune on the flute one last time.'
The dragon had never heard music so agreed. Peter raised the flute to his lips and played a lullaby his late mother used to sing to him as a small child.
Sure enough the great yellow eyes were soon having to be forced open. On he played and the eyes became heavier and heavier until finally the beast was snoring.
Peter removed his flute and immediately replaced it's music with his own rich smooth voice singing the words.
He drew his sharpened knife and a drawing that Cressida had copied from the book with an arrow to show where his target was.
Still crooning Peter stepped up and raising his arms brought down his knife into the beasts brain.
A last long breath came out and the cave was silent.
Cressida had been anxiously watching and praying. Every movement raised and then dashed her hopes of Peters return.
Then......... There was no mistaking it this time. The long long legs moving so gracefully.
The large nose that might have looked ridiculous on another man but looked so good on him.
' Peter !' And she ran towards him. Laughing in delight as he lifted her off the ground and kissed her hungrily.
The palace was in an up roar. The Princess hadn't been seen by anyone for
at least 5 hours. The closest thing to a clue was the librarian saying that
' Her Royal Highness asked me for books on dragons yesterday and was studying them for sometime'.
The King was beside himself. ' What if the fool girl got a bee in her bonnet about killing the dragon herself?'
There was a blaze of trumpets and a herald announced. ' Her Royal Highness Princess Cressida'.
Peter was terrified. He had seen the King at a distance but never face to face. And what if he was accused of kidnapping the King's daughter?
' You'll be fine'. Cressida told him. If father accuses you of anything I'll give him what for'.
And they walked through the whispering crowd arm in arm. Cressida gave her father a curtsey. ' I'm so sorry I worried you Papa. But I was on urgent business of state.'
Peter had dropped to his knees. But she urged him up. ' Father. This is Peter. He was Shepherd to the Royal Flock. But since he has just returned from killing the dragon he is to be my Prince. And I will not take no for an answer'.
The King wanted proof of course. He, Peter and 10 of the palace guard rode out to the cave. And there the dragons head and tail were removed and displayed so that the people would know the terror was over.
That evening the King kept his word to his daughter, She and Peter were formally betrothed before the court.
They were married 6 months later Everyone agreeing that love and being loved suited their Princess very well indeed.
Peter was only too happy to agree that Cressida would still be Queen one day and he her Consort.
5 years later they were in the same cathedral that had seen their wedding this time for Cressida's coronation.
She had been very nervous until her handsome dark haired husband knelt to her. His deep, loving blue eyes fixed upon her green ones.
His voice rich and smooth as the best honey and cream. He vowed that ' As I am your faithful, loving Husband so I will be your loyal, supportive and true Consort.......'
No one else saw that amongst the jewels and rich fabric His Royal Highness Prince Peter of Phantasia handed to Her Majesty Queen Cressida a handkerchief smelling of roses.
A smile for a fond shared memory passing between them.
That night. The Queen smilingly tucked the piece of fabric under the pillow she shared with her Prince. Her sworn ' Loving Champion'.