The dragon roared in challenge. A knight approached.
There was a time Princess Arianna would have rushed to the window to watch the knight defeat the beast, sure they would succeed. That was a dozen knights ago. Watching someone roasted attempting to rescue her was horrible. She knew what she’d see if she threw open the heavy velvet curtains: a shining knight upon valiant steed amongst a field of charred horses and dead heroes, facing the beast.
No reason for excitement. Hoping for rescue now would lead to depression in a few minutes. Best to focus on needlework. However, her heart, beating faster, never agreed with her mind.
The battle continued. This knight was a mighty soldier. ‘Twas a shame the realm would lose him. She’d write a ballad if she had a name and someone to listen to her sing it.
It’s hard to tell with dragons, but was that a roar of pain?
Unable to restrain herself, Arianna went to the window. With the curtains open, the acrid odour of dragon fire and stench of rotting meat intensified. There was a time when she would have gagged.
The knight was weaving among the rocks and bodies. She saw no horse, hoping it had fled to safety. This knight didn’t gleam. The armor was dull and mismatched — the breastplate black, the bracers rusted steel, and the helmet green with no plumes. Arianna couldn’t be sure from this distance, but the sword seemed red with blood. Was the dragon limping?
This was the longest fight yet. All the other knights faced the dragon head on, sword high.
This little knight hid from the dragon, throwing rocks to distract it, stinging when it turned.
Soon the dragon was chasing its tail like a puppy. Arianna laughed.
Could this knight defeat the dragon?
She gasped when the knight tripped, cheered when the dragon was pierced, felt faint with excitement as the battle raged on forever. Suddenly the dragon fell, its many-times wounded leg no longer able to support it. The knight was there, pushing the sword into its eye; blood gushed.
Dragon dead, the knight limped towards her tower.
Arianna was about to run to her saviour when she thought about what being saved meant. She belonged to the knight. None would question a knight’s right to marry a rescued princess. The knight would become King when her father died. Was the knight cruel? What if she became a prisoner in the palace as much as she’d been here?
Footsteps clanged on the stairs, then outside her door. The door opened, revealing the knight, motley armor dripping dragon’s blood. The knight removed the battered helmet, long damp black hair tumbling around her shoulders.
“Emma?” said Princess Arianna.
“Yes, my love,” whispered the knight.
Arianna ran across the room, throwing her arms around Emma, blood be damned.
“You? How? I can’t believe it! You came, you saved me!”
“Always, my love,” said Emma, baker’s daughter, kitchen maid, dragon-slayer.