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The Princess in the Tower

Author's note: So this is actually like a story within a story.  In another book I was writing, the main...  Show full author's note »
Author's note:

So this is actually like a story within a story.  In another book I was writing, the main character was reading a book about Princess Hannah and Sir Frederic, and I figured, "Hey, I can work with this!"  So this is the story a main character in another story was reading, if that makes any sense at all.

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Chapter Four

Sir Harold and the five other knights that had went with him to rescue Hannah had been travelling for a month, and they didn’t even know if they were going in the right direction.
“Harold,” said Phillip, the youngest of the six, “are you sure this is the right way?”
Harold sat in his saddle, looking toward the oncoming forest and the sun sinking beneath it. “No, Phillip,” the knight sighed. “I’m not sure. But the king said his mother was held captive in the east, so if we are to believe the tower is the same one every time, we should be heading west, which we are. Yet… something is not boding well with me…”
“Are you sure it’s not that wine?” joked Henry. “You’ve been saying it’s good wine, but now I’m starting to wonder.”
The rest of the knights laughed at this, glad of the chance to be merry. Harold, however, shook his head and said, “Enough, Henry. Your jokes might get you in trouble one day.”
Henry glared at the ground and muttered something inaudible.
“Come on,” Harold said, spurring his horse. “I want to be in that forest before night falls.”
“Night is already falling,” Henry muttered to Phillip. Phillip choked on a laugh but then became quiet under Sir Harold’s glower.
The six knights approached the forest warily, and their horses seemed to sense a danger they could not sense themselves, for the beasts reared and whinnied, making it almost impossible to go on further. With great care and patience, the knights were able coax their horses forward, and so they entered the dark woods.
They did not have to wait long for an adventure.
“Oh!” Sir Phillip cried almost the second they had entered the forest.
“What?” the other knights chorused. “What is it?”
“Look!” Following Phillip’s gaze, the other five gasped at the sight of a white unicorn staring at them from among the trees.
“Don’t look directly at it,” Sir Harold warned.
“Why not?” Phillip asked, immediately taking his gaze off of the creature. The rest of the knights were less willing.
“Because,” Harold said, averting his eyes from the unicorn with much difficulty, “only the purest man may look at a unicorn full on without being harmed.”
“I guess we’re all pretty pure then,” said Henry. “None of us are hurt.”
Harold turned on Henry. “Did you look directly at it? Or did your gaze flicker over it, trying to spot exactly where it was?”
Sir Henry opened his mouth to answer, but found that Harold was right, so instead he sat silently. Satisfied, Harold turned his horse around and said, “Come on. Let us leave the creature in peace.”
The knights kept walking, aware that the unicorn was watching them with its innocent eyes. It wasn’t until they decided to stop and rest that they realized Phillip was missing. All of the knights panicked and ran off in different directions, calling his name searching for him. However, when they reconvened at their camp site, none of them had gotten a clue as to where their youngest member was.
“He has decided to stay with the unicorn,” someone muttered.
“I was wondering if I should stay with the unicorn myself,” another confessed.
“Yes, but he actually did,” the first knight responded.
“What should we do, Sir Harold?” asked Henry.
Sir Harold stood, thinking hard, with his head down and his hand covering his eyes. Finally, he lifted his head and looked around at the four knights in front of him. “We keep going. There is nothing we can do for Sir Phillip. If he has – like you have suggested, and like I am inclined to belief – stayed with the unicorn, he is happier than he would be with us.”
“But Harold,” Phillip’s brother, Anthony, said, “you said only the purest man could look directly at a unicorn.”
“And I belief Phillip was one of the purest among us, Anthony,” Harold said. “There is nothing we can do for him – or for you. I’m sorry. Now let us rest. It’s been a long day.”
When the group woke up, Sir Anthony and his horse were gone, but his suit of armor they found heaped at the foot of a tree.

Sir Dragon’s eyes shot open. It was the first time in a long time that he had woken up startled. And he was old enough to know what that means.
He was surprised. It had only been a month. Usually it took at least two, but after one month the curse that had been placed on him forced him awake and involuntarily told him to get up. As he lifted his head and stretched his wings, he unconsciously tasted the air with his forked tongue. Miles away, he could smell humans. His tongue flicked out again. There were six, but only four were near enough to worry about.
It was still early morning. When he emerged from his cavern, the sun was just rising above the blue sea, and the sky was still gray. Carefully and quietly, he peeked in the tower, his great amber eye fixing for a moment on the sleeping princess, and then he took off, wings beating with a rhythm that wasn’t entirely his own.
Although Sir Dragon spotted the four weary knights within thirty minutes, he did not immediately attack. After all, he thought, circling slowly, they are not a threat yet. He watched them struggle through the dark woods for two days. He watched one get lured into the dark woods by a dark fairy, and another get distracted and dragged away by one of Sir Dragon’s smaller cousins. But the remaining two never wavered for a moment. When one of their comrades would fall, they would exchange one look, nod, and keep moving. When Sir Dragon finally decided that they were close enough to the tower to be harmful, he almost felt bad for them. They were so intent on finding the princess, yet none of them were the right hero.
Sir Harold and Sir Henry were weighed down by the loss of their friends. Henry began to almost wish that he had been left behind when the giant, smoky dragon fell from the sky and landed in front of them. Their horses reared and the two unsuspecting knights slid to the ground as their horses galloped into the woods. Laying a hand on his sword, Sir Harold quickly stood up and faced the dragon.
“Beast!” he called. “Are not the same dragon that stole our Princess Hannah?”
Sir Dragon grumbled in his throat, and he answered with slight amusement, “It is true, good sir. Which is why I cannot let you go any farther.”
“And how will you stop us?” Henry demanded, drawing his sword. “We are ready to fight you!”
“Are you sure?” the great dragon asked, cocking his head to the side. “You are not even the size of my scales; what is to stop me from eating you right now?”
“Will you eat us, Dragon?” Harold said. “I promise that we will not go down willingly.”
Sir Dragon bent his head so as to make himself as much on their level as possible. “Then listen closely, good knights,” he said quietly. “Princess Hannah is hidden somewhere far from even here. If the kingdom wants her back, send the right prince for her, and I may consider letting him go. As for you…” Sir Dragon reared up on his back legs and beat his wings furiously. He raised his head to the sky and let out a powerful roar along with a jet of flame. The two knights were suddenly aware of how big the dragon was, and although their hearts were hearts of iron, both of them turned and ran. Satisfied, Sir Dragon took flight and began his way home.

“Oh, Sir Dragon!” breathed Hannah with relief as she saw him land by her window. “I thought you had died down in there!”
“No, little princess,” Sir Dragon reassured her, “I was just flying.”
“For two days?” asked Hannah skeptically. “What on earth could you have been doing for two days? And without even letting me know! That was not very kind of you, Sir Dragon.”
Sir Dragon bowed his head. “My apologies, Princess Hannah. But it was not entirely my fault.”
“How do you mean?”
The dragon paused. He was reluctant to tell Hannah the truth, that he was obliged to stop anyone from rescuing her. “It has something to do with the curse placed upon your family,” he finally said.
“Is it that stupid witch, Morgan?” Hannah asked, understanding dawning on her.
“Yes,” Sir Dragon replied shortly. He was glad that Hannah so readily understood.
“Well, if she’s making you go off for two days just to frighten me, it won’t work anymore. Don’t worry, Sir Dragon. You don’t have to worry about scaring me. I’ll know you’re not dead.”
Sir Dragon didn’t reply. Instead, he nodded once and dove into his cave, guilt weighing down on him. He did not understand how Princess Hannah could be so innocent and good. And Princess Hannah, deep down, understood that Morgan would not send the dragon away just to frighten her. But at the moment, she did not want to accept the fact that Sir Dragon was keeping her rescuers away, so she pushed the thought aside and would not allow it to resurface.
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