The Unobliging Princess
“Just take me home,” she said with a scowl. This was not the sort of reaction that Alistair was used to hearing from rescued damsels in distress. He had been in the business of saving princesses his whole life, and all of them had rewarded him with the obligatory kiss and swooned in his arms as he carried them from their prison. This one refused to do either of those things. She wouldn’t even let him carry her.
“Fair maiden,” Alistair replied, “I have ridden for months straight with the purpose of your rescue. In the courtyard below I risked life and limb in mortal combat with a fierce, fire-breathing dragon.” He paused to rub his singed white mustache with a gauntleted hand. The lines on his face made him look like a raisin that had been left in the sun for far too long. His black eyes watched her intently for signs of gratitude and, seeing none, he knelt before her and swooped her hand in his, kissing it gently. She pulled her hand away, her azure eyes flashing signs of annoyance.
“Just take me home, sir knight,” she said, “and I will be grateful.”
“As you wish, my lady.”
She pouted and stomped her way down dozens of steps as they descended from the tall tower, keeping several paces behind Alistair. Despite her rebellious attitude and the anger written upon her face, he couldn’t help admire how beautiful she was. Every damsel that was in distress was bound to be beautiful, but this one surpassed all others. She could be none other than his beloved beauty, Esmeralda. He envisioned her arms wrapped around his neck as he carried her toward his noble steed. She would lean up on occasion and kiss his cheek like every other rescued maiden and they would gallop into the sunset.
He missed a step while day dreaming and tumbled down the stairs, adding fresh dents to his rusted armor. The visor on his helmet slammed shut as he crashed into the wall, obscuring his vision. He got to his feet and unsheathed his sword, spinning around. He slammed the blade onto the stair with a powerful strike and the maiden gasped, backing up a few stairs to keep out of striking distance.
“You think you can deflect the mighty sword, Light Blade?” he said as he readied another strike. “I am the eternally renowned Alistair the Brave. You shall not take my fair Esmeralda from me, foul fiend!” He swung another blow that hit the wall of the tower, shattering the blade into dozens of splinters. The impact sent Alistair backwards and he tumbled down a few more steps and crashed into the wall again. He lay motionless for a minute, mentally braced for a finishing blow to be dealt to him. When it didn’t come he shouted out, “What are you waiting for, fiend? You have bested the greatest knight in the land, now come and finish the deed.”
When nothing happened he reached up and lifted his visor and found the stairway to be completely empty. Both the villain that attacked him and his damsel had disappeared. “My arch nemesis, Merlock the Sorcerer, has run off with Esmeralda. Fear not, my lady, I shall find you once more!”
He charged back up the stairs, bereft of weaponry, and burst into the room where he found the maiden. She was lowering a rope out of the window, one end tied securely to a bed frame. She froze in place when she saw him enter the room and a forced smile crept onto her face. “Mighty Alistair, you have found me,” she said in a flat tone.
“My fair Esmeralda, it warms my heart to see the evil Merlock did not make it far with you. I have returned to rescue you from this tall tower.”
He strode across the room and scooped her into his arms. He leaned in for a kiss but was interrupted by the door slamming shut. He spun around, a look of fierce determination written upon his face. He set the maiden down and reached for his sword, forgetting it had been broken on the stairs. Across from him was a man dressed in long, flowing tan robes. Several gaudy talismans hung around his neck. He wore rings on his pale hands that glimmered in the light as he clutched a thick oak staff.
“Merlock!” Alistair exclaimed in surpise.
“You didn’t think I would let you get away so easily, Alistair,” he said as he licked his cracked lips, “did you? The young Esmeralda is mine and will be my virgin sacrifice tonight!”
Alistair charged forward, reaching once again for his shattered sword. He came to a halt a few feet away from his enemy, baffled by his lack of weaponry. Merlock’s staff passed inches from his head. Merlock swung his staff a second time, but Alistair regained enough of his wits to perceive the attack. He ducked under the blow and kicked the sorcerer in the gut, knocking the wind from his foe. The small man fell to the ground and the staff fell free from his grasp, rolling across the floor. Alistair turned back to Esmeralda and knelt before her, grabbing her hand in his.
“Radiant Esmeralda, I have vanquished the evil sorcerer. The time is nigh for us to make our escape before he regains his senses.”
He kissed her hand and turned to get to his feet when Merlock struck him with his staff, knocking Alistair unconscious. The sorcerer panted heavily, leaning on his staff. The young woman looked relieved, and gave him a hug. Merlock pulled back his hood and wiped sweat from his forehead.
“It is hot in this thing,” he said. He looked down at Alistair, who lay motionless on the floor. “are you ready to go?”
The young woman nodded and frowned at the knight laying at her feet. “Let’s get grandfather back home where he belongs.”
“Sorry I was late getting up here. I had to put out a fire that he started from attacking a torch in the courtyard, and then I almost slipped on the remnants of his wooden sword on the stairs.”
“At least he didn’t try to kiss you. That was awkward.”
“Do you think he will ever get back to normal?” the young man asked as they lifted the frail knight in their arms and headed down the stairs.
“I don’t think so. It has been three years since the stroke and ever since he has had this fantasy of being a knight. Some day we’ll stop going along with this quixotic charade.”
“Maybe some day, but not today.”
This post is an entry into Writers’ Week 2012 Writing Contest. We were given a choice of 50 different writing prompts to use to begin our post, and I chose #48, “Just take me home.” About halfway through the story I realized I was wanting to channel some Don Quixote into the tale, which forced me to go back and edit the first part. In the end I think this turned out better than I anticipated, but I would love to hear some thoughts on this one!