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Not So Nice Knights
Anna, Age 13, Warminster, PA

Once upon a time, in a cold winter village a girl sat by the warm fire talking to her father. She normally was very peaceful and submissive but tonight her cheeks grew red from her heated argument.

The world has seen many girls. No one had ever seen one quite as pleasant as this one. Princess Jane had curly, black hair and a very pale face. She smiled at anyone who passed by, and her smile could not help but make everyone else smile. It was not the kind of smile formed with just a mouth. When she smiled her whole face lit up. Her eyes would get smaller and her cheeks would become a rosy pink. That, however, was not the main reason everyone adored her. She did everything sweetly and gracefully.

Yet she was not married. This was the cause of the argument. Her father, the king, insisted she marry. She held a competition to determine the best knight.

South of the kingdom there was a massive forest, housing all kinds of strange and wild creatures. The most feared was the dragon, Draco. He was large and fierce, willing to kill any interloper. Many knights reposed in the lair of the dragon, slaughtered or burned. Other knights fell victim to vicious animals that roamed the woods before they reached the cave.

The wise princess sent the three top knights, which her father had chosen, into the forest to see who could bring the dead dragon to her.

The next day the knights stood outside the castle dressed in their best armor. Their swords glinted in the sunlight and their magnificent horses stomped impatiently, pulling at the reigns. The first knight was the skinny, lanky William. The second, Stephen, appeared short and stout, but he had plenty of muscles. The third knight was the short and thin Oliver, an excellent equestrian. As the trumpets sounded, the knights urged their stallions on without a look back at the princes.

The guard blew his trumpet each dawn and dusk to guide the knights back to the castle. Many days passed, yet Princess Jane expressed little concern and went about her daily routine of target practice, studies, sewing, and practicing her lute. No matter how little she showed it, she was concerned about the safety of the knights. Her father was impatient for one to come back because his health was failing and he wanted to see his daughter married before his death.

To the secret relief of Princess Jane, a little speck appeared off in the distance one late afternoon. The princess sent a greeting party. As Princess Jane watched from the window, she grew astonished.

Instead of one knight - there were two! Both William and Stephen stumbled off their horses and marched through the city gates. The princess was eager to hear their story.

“Men, if you would not mind, explain how you defeated the dragon.” After they exchanged a look, Stephen plunged into the story.

“Both of us became shamefully afraid before we were even close to the dragon. Oliver fearlessly headed into the thick inner forest with a strategy, while the two of us,” Stephen gestured at William and himself, “huddled like scared little puppies on the edge of the forest. Together, we made a pact that we would attempt to defeat the dragon together. When we ventured near the dragon’s lair, he came out to greet us. I will spare you the details of that gruesome battle. After we had stowed away the dragon’s head to vouch for our story, we proceeded further into the dragon’s habitat looking for Oliver, but, sadly, we found no trace of him.” Stephen finally fell silent looking at the princess who was gazing intently at him.

“Well,” the princess smoothly cut in, “that was quite the story. It was a great accomplishment for you to defeat the dragon and it was very wise of you to work together as a team.” She dismissed them and thought as she fell to sleep, “How extraordinary that they should have joined up teams. How very clever. Well…………I’ll have to hold another contest………..” and she drifted off to sleep.

The next day an unidentified man walked up to the castle. He was clad in a black cape that was torn and muddy. He sought an audience with the princess. As he approached, he pulled down the hood, out of respect. Princess Jane gasped as recognition dawned.

“Oliver! It is so good to see you back.”

“Thank you, your majesty,” Oliver patiently replied. “I would like to bring up a matter of utter importance, if you have time.”

“Of course I have time.”

“When we entered into the forest Stephen and William went a different way from me. I reached Draco’s lair shortly before they did. I was about to sneak in when the two of them snuck up behind me and grabbed me. Stephen tied me to a tree. I started protesting, as much as is possible with a gagged mouth. They made so much noise that Draco came out breathing fire. The tree caught on fire and burned my back, but the others managed to kill him. They ran and I wiggled out of the charred ropes.”

“Do you have proof?”

“My burned back and these marks,” he showed his wrists.

“Hmm!”

The next day Princess Jane ordered a trial. The judge carefully examined the accused. Weak Stephen caved in and admitted the truth. When Oliver had the opportunity to see Stephen and William before they went to jail, Oliver valiantly forgave them. The king, after seeing this disaster, withdrew his request for his daughter’s immediate marriage. The princess admired Oliver for his bravery and his forgiving spirit, but Princess Jane did not want to rush into a marriage. She decided to wait and see if Oliver or any other knight truly loved her and had the virtues needed to rule the kingdom.

 
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