The princess stared down from atop her prison tower, squinting slightly in an attempt to identify the man ten stories below. He seemed to be seated upon some sort of mentally handicapped donkey. The elders had clearly misheard her Sworn Request, her one guaranteed and undeniable demand. All citizens of Wonderwood were granted one such ask as a birthright, a magical prayer to be used only in a time of dire need. She’d saved hers for decades with the fear of wasting it, although she’d certainly wanted to use it more than once in the past. Yet the moment the dragon kidnapped her, the moment he locked her away in the massive, single-room tower and took up guard in the stairs within, she realized now was the time for her Sworn Request. She uttered the prayer and made her demand to the heavens: that sir Hero McBraveBattle be sent to her aid immediately.
“Are you Sir Hero McBraveBattle?” the princess shouted, still squinting as she focused in on the figure below. She’d heard tales of his heroism, stories and fables that recounted the dragons, criminals, and general low-lives he’d slain in battle. He was a hero, not just in name, and was the first person that came to mind in her time of need.
“Aye,” shouted the man from below, his donkey shifting slightly. “I am.”
“Oh, thank God,” the princess sighed. He didn’t really look anything like the stories explained he would. He lacked the long, blonde, majestic beard that flowed in the wind as he rode upon his mighty steed; he lacked the mighty steed; he lacked the dragonscale armor draped over his muscular frame; he lacked the muscular frame; he lacked the long, luscious hair that draped down his neck and over his shoulders; he lacked hair in general. Instead, he seemed to be balding, adorned in some sort of ill-fitting women’s dress, and rather overweight. He was not as tall as the stories mentioned, either. Rather than appearing to be the offspring of the handsome giants of Silverpine Lake and the well-developed, muscular people of the Iron Temple as the stories told, he seemed instead to have been the resulting child of a love affair between a dwarf and a pinecone. Whatever the case, he himself confirmed his name, and that was all the princess really cared to hear.
“You know why I sent for you?” the princess shouted, cupping her hands around her mouth as she yelled downward.
“Nay,” Sir Hero McBraveBattle responded. His mentally handicapped donkey kicked the air behind itself, as if there were some sort of creature biting its hind quarters. There was, in fact, nothing there; Sir Hero appeared to almost lose his grip on the animal during the pointless attack.
“I’ve been taken captive by the Dragon of Wonderwood. He dwells in the tower, hiding in the stairwell that leads to my room. You must slay him and bring me back to my people.”
“I’m sorry?” Sir Hero responded. His donkey again kicked at absolutely nothing, this time causing Sir Hero to lose his grip and launch several feet up into the air. He then tumbled back down into the grass beside the animal and rolled forward for a moment before coming to a stop a few feet from the mentally handicapped donkey. He froze for several seconds, and then abruptly popped back up into the air, dusted off his knees, and sat cross-legged in the grass.
“What was that?” the princess shouted down. “Did you just fall off your steed?”
“Carl?” Sir Hero said. “You mean Carl? My Donkey? Yeah, he’s fighting ghosts. One of them spooked the heck out of me, so I fell off. Thought I died for a minute there. Turned out I didn’t.”
“I see,” the princes said, not quite loud enough for Sir Hero to hear. “Could you maybe come into the tower and start this fight? I have something I need to do around noon.”
“You want me to fight a dragon?” Sir Hero said, seeming to pull at the grass on the ground beside him. The princess couldn’t exactly tell for sure, but he also appeared to be slipping the plants in his mouth, each one sliding in like some sort of French fry. He then increased the pace at which he seemed to shove grass into his throat.
“You are Sir Hero, are you not?” He’d already answered the question, but the princess was again having doubts.
“I am,” Sir Hero said. He was definitely eating the grass, although it didn’t seem to be sitting well with him. He was now doubled over, clutching his belly as if he were going to puke.
“Are you ill?”
“Yes,” Sir Hero said. “I’ve eaten too many of these pastas and dragons scare me.” He then proceeded to vomit upon his own crossed legs.
The princess squinted and stared at the small, balding man covered in puke ten stories below her. She’d heard so many tales of his courage, of his heroism, but he seemed to be living up to none of them. In fact, he seemed to be quite the opposite: ignorant, cowardly, and rather unhandsome. Had the stories simply been false? Nothing more than rumors or perhaps even tricks? Sure, they had initially been relayed by the town drunk, but the Sir Hero had become somewhat of a legend amongst the Wonderwood citizens; there was no way everybody could’ve been so mislead.
“Can you please come inside and save me?” the princess shouted down.
“Okay,” Sir Hero said, pushing himself up off the ground and lightly brushing the vomit off his trousers. He walked over to his mentally handicapped donkey, pulled out what appeared to be a long, thin stick, and rose it into the air like the fabled sword Excalibur. The princess smiled, her stomach finally becoming a bit less restless now that he was clear he was indeed a fighter. Yes, he wasn’t exactly the most visibly appealing man, especially in comparison to the tales that described him, but he would certainly live up to expectation in battle. One did not receive the surname “McBraveBattle” without being a good fighter, that was for sure.
Sir Hero lowered the stick and nodded up at the princess, and then sheathed the wooden staff in the holster around his waist. It was strange for him to put his weapon away before going into battle, but the princess already realized he was an unorthodox man.
“To battle!” Sir Hero shouted, walking straight to the tower, opening up the door at the bottom, and disappearing within. He then re-emerged no more than six seconds later, completely engulfed in flames and screaming what sounded like “this is too warm.” He rushed straight at his less-than-mighty not-quite-steed, setting it ablaze as well. The two of them then charged forward several more feet before coming to a stop in the middle of the emerald meadow below the tower and falling to the ground. They lay there for a moment, and then remained laying there for several more moments with significantly less movement.
The princes stared at the two charred bodies below her, one a mentally handicapped donkey, the other a fabled, legendary hero. She couldn’t help but feel like she’d wasted her Sworn Request, and that she should not have trusted a tale originated by a perpetually drunken man during her time of need. She exhaled softly and turned back toward the tower, staring at the locked door, the silhouette of the dragon peeking through the space at its bottom. It was going to be a very long day.