One day a clever princess sought her mission in life. She lived in a land full of possibilities and she wanted to find her way. Although she did well with her palace tutors, she believed there was more out there for her to explore and achieve. So she left the palace to go into the surrounding woods. The sunlight filtered through the multi-green leaves, creating beautiful patterns on the forest floor. The twigs crackled under her feet and the water spiders were skating in the little stream.
Amid this beauty she heard a rush of wind and, turning sharply, she saw a magnificent knight on his mahogany stallion standing behind her, looking at her with admiration and desire. She felt no fear, because she could see the knight was obviously on a great mission. He did not even take time to remove his iron faceplate. She smiled and challenged him:
“Tell me, oh knight, what is the best use of one’s life?”
“Why do you ask?” he replied.
“Because I am on my way to find my purpose and to use my knowledge.”
“Then come with me,” he said, because I too am on such a quest and we will find it together. I could use such a clever companion.”
So she hopped on back of the splendid horse and off they galloped. The air was full of the fragrance of the woods, and the sky was full of small puffy clouds that whisked their way along above them, as if following the two travelers.
They rode for days and the princess began to tire. She wanted to stop for rest, food and water but the knight explained that one needed to pursue such an important quest with all one’s might. Not wanting to appear weaker, the proud princess held on more tightly until her arms began to feel numb. Finally, her fingers themselves could not hold on any longer and she fell off the horse. The knight reined in the steed, dismounted, and turned to her. Lifting her off the ground with a slight roughness, his eyes showed his displeasure through the gleaming stone faceplate.
“Do you want to continue on this quest,” he challenged, “or do you want me to leave you behind?”
“Oh, no, certainly I will continue,” stammered the princess. “It’s just that I’m so tired.”
“The quest will strengthen you,” he said. “My mission must be completed.”
He lifted her back on the horse and wound ropes of vines around her to help her stay mounted. The princess wondered at the unusual strength of the knight. “How strong such warriors must have to be!” she thought to herself.
They set out again and she dozed briefly as they rode. They came out of the woods, across the plains, and headed toward the mountain. The horse had to pick its way carefully to find each spot for its hooves in the narrow, rocky footpath.
The sun was now rising and, as it topped a ridge, it blinded the princess. She could not see but she could feel the knight’s armor becoming so hot that it was melting. Suddenly they made a turn on the footpath and a tree’s branches broke the sun’s glare. To her horror she saw herself bound to the scaly back of a dragon! The knight’s faceplate was gone and the cruelest bloody eyes now glared at her. It was as if the sun’s rage had burned into the dragon’s soul and hatred-filled eyes sent scathing stares at her. The scales were dry and sharp and began to cut her arms where she was bound to the beast.
“We are reaching our goal,” his words blasted fire. “Soon you will meet your destiny.”
The princess now realized that the dragon knight believed her destiny to be her destruction!
She fought not to scream, fearing it would quicken her death. The rising panic felt like inner chains tightening around her chest, squeezing the life out of her heart. “I must face this fear and think!” she told herself, closing her eyes.
Summoning all her wits, she looked more closely at the scales. She saw that they angled down, making it hard to move against them without cutting herself more deeply. She began to move imperceptibly to the side instead of up. As she did, she was careful not to jolt the dragon as he rode. Slowly each tendril in the rope began to fray. When they were loose, she stayed very still so the dragon would not notice the cords which had fallen behind her.
“We are here,” he hissed, as he slowed the horse up to a cave in the side of the mountain where a fire was already burning and a stone altar stood with blood stains on its sides. Before he could stop completely, the princess rolled backwards off the horse and began to stumble down the mountainside.
The dragon’s fire flamed after her and singed her skin where it had been cut. Finally crying out in pain, the princess renewed her strength and outran the dragon’s heat.
The horse was now galloping faster, however, and she knew she could not outrun it. The narrow path led to a steep cliff which she was coming upon too fast. Closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, she turned around with all her might, opened her eyes and held up her hand. “I say stop and be gone!” she commanded.
Her abrupt move spooked the horse, which reared and threw the dragon knight headlong into the canyon, where he burst into flames. The orange, red and black hues from his burning can still be seen as the sun sets on the canyon walls, but the princess never returned there.