In the land of Plotwood, a minor lord offered a prize of three hundred pieces of gold to any knight that could slay a local dragon that had plagued his village and its citizens for years. “Bring me back the severed head of this dragon and receive the prize!” He said.
Soon, a knight from another village accepts the challenge. This knight is tall and wears a suit of some strange, yellow metal. He carries a sword as tall as he is made of the same stuff. “I will bring back the head of the dragon and receive the gold,” He says.
The yellow knight sets out on his horse, but as he approaches the mountain where the dragon lives, he soon discovers that the trees’ branches are too thick to ride through. Leaving behind his horse, the knight struggles up the mountainside through the thick brush, dragging his heavy sword. Several minutes later and very tired, he sits to rest. Just then, a gnome hops out of the ground nearby.
“Morning, sir. And what brings ye to these parts?” it said.
“Oh, morning,” The knight responds, seeing the gnome for the first time, “I am on a quest to slay the dragon I am told lives near the top of this mountain.”
“Are ye? That’s mighty noble of ye, sir. Well, it seems like a lot of work, very tiring. Can’t say I’d ever fancy doing a thing like that meself,” the gnome says.
“Yes, very tiring,” the knight responds, nodding.
“Why, it seems to me it’s possible one could completely exhaust himself climbing this here mountain only to find the dragon had flown off to visit her family for a week or so. Live on another range, they do,” the gnome says.
“Ah,” the knight says, finding that he was suddenly much more tired than he thought he was.
“Tell me, what are they paying ye for this quest of yers?” the gnome asks.
“Three hundred pieces of gold,” the knight answers.
“Oh no, that’s all? It’s not worth all yer trouble for measly gold. Why, this mountain has crevices, and crags, sharp stones, bogs of mud. I wouldn’t waste yer energy here, sir,” the gnome says.
“But if I don’t bring back the dragon’s head, I don’t get paid,” the knight counters.
“No, I suppose not, sir,” the gnome replies, “But do ye really need the money that badly? Would it be the end of the world just to walk away? I’m only looking out for ye.”
The knight thinks long and hard about this before responding, “I suppose I could afford to let this one job go; I can always go back to guard duty if I had to.”
“Guard duty? I should have known. Yes, someone with yer talents, and that big sword of yers should be a guard, instead of wasting yer precious time and energy climbing up and down mountains,” the gnome says.
“Hmm. You’re right; I’m exerting myself way too much for these people. Thanks for the talk,” the knight says, and he turns and walks back down the mountain.
“Oh, anytime, sir. Anytime,” the gnome says before hopping back into his hole.
The village lord waits for three days for the yellow knight to return, but he never does. Finally, he agrees to give the quest to another knight. “Bring me back the severed head of this dragon and receive the prize,” he says.
Soon, another knight accepts the challenge. This knight is even taller than the first. He wears a strange, blue, thick, leathery suit imbedded with bars and nodules of steel. He carries a strange sort of two-ended scythe, which he twirls around him with lightning speed. “I will find this dragon for you, and bring back its head in exchange for the gold,” he says.
The blue knight sets out to the mountain on his horse taking the same path as the yellow knight before him. Soon, as the forest becomes thicker and closes in, he is forced to leave his horse behind and proceed on foot. Scrambling through the dense brush up the steep mountainside, he soon stops to rest. A bit later, a gnome hops up out of a hole in the ground nearby.
“Morning, sir. And what may I ask brings ye around these parts?” the gnome asks.
“Oh, hello. I’m here on a quest to slay the dragon that lives on this mountain,” the blue knight says.
“Oh, really? That’s a fine thing to do, sir. I wish ye luck. Does seem a bit tiring, though,” the gnome says.
“Yes, I didn’t quite expect all this,” the blue knight says.
“They didn’t tell ye? My, I can’t say I blame them. Wouldn’t have taken the job if ye knew what lies over this ridge, I reckon,” the gnome says.
“I’m sure I can handle it; I have trained as a knight for many years and I grew up in the wilderness,” the blue knight says.
“Can ye? There are crevices, bogs, sharp stones. It just seems mighty tiring to me, sir. I do hope they’re paying ye well,” the gnome says.
“I am a knight; I do not shy away from a challenge. I will press onward and earn my gold!” the blue knight declares.
“Well, I suppose ye’re set then. I wish ye plenty of luck, sir. Ye’ll need it,” the gnome says, hopping back into his hole. The blue knight continues his climb up the mountainside, slipping backwards a few times, but pressing onwards. Finally, he crosses over the ridge and finds the walk much easier from there on. Still, after a while he finds he must rest again and sits down on a large stone in the middle of a clearing. A gnome hops out of a nearby hole.
“Afternoon, sir, and what brings ye to this mountain?” the gnome asks.
“Oh, good afternoon,” the blue knight replies, “I am here on a quest to slay the dragon, bring back its head to the lord of the village, and win the gold.”
“Oh, that’s nice of ye sir. I certainly wish ye luck with that. How much are they paying ye, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Three hundred pieces,” the blue knight answers.
“Oh my, that’s all? To kill a dragon? I would have expected at least six hundred. I had no idea the lord was getting so cheap,” the gnome says.
“Should I hold out for more?” the blue knight asks.
“No, once ye’ve accepted the quest I don’t think he would let ye change yer mind, but I wouldn’t bother wasting yer time and energy here; it’s not worth it,” the gnome says.
“If I don’t bring back the dragon’s head, I don’t get paid anything,” the blue knight states.
“I wouldn’t worry about that, sir. I happen to know that they’re looking to slay a serpent in the northern lakes. Been a bit of trouble for the fishermen, see? Offering nine hundred pieces of gold for that one,” the gnome says.
“Nine hundred,” the blue knight repeats wistfully.
“Oh, yes. Also, the king of the north is looking for an ice dragon. Lives in glacial meltwater caves, it does. Very dangerous quest. Lots of hard labor. Pays fifteen hundred gold pieces and yer choice of the king’s daughters,” the gnome continues.
The blue knight thinks long and hard before saying, “You’re right, I’m being cheated here. They’ve taken advantage of my strong work ethic. I will seek out the king of the north. I’m glad we had this talk.” With that, the blue knight turns around and walks back down the mountain.
“Always glad to be of help, sir,” the gnome calls back before returning to his hole in the ground.
The village lord waits for three days for the blue knight to return, but he never does. Finally, he agrees to give the quest to another knight. “Bring me back the severed head of this dragon and receive the prize,” he says.
Soon, another knight comes to accept the challenge. This knight is the tallest of all, and almost as wide as he is tall. He wears a strange, flexible suit made entirely of red hoops. These hoops have sharp edges and when they spin – powered by an engine inside the suit of armor – they cut through wood and bone. At the end of each arm spins a chain ending in a thirty-pound, spiked ball of cast iron. “I will succeed where others have failed and bring back the dragon’s head for you, and the gold shall be mine,” he says.
The red knight rides off in a strange, self-propelled wagon that he had built himself, following the same path the yellow knight and the blue knight had taken. Eventually, the forest becomes too thick, and the terrain too steep, and he leaves the wagon behind. Crawling up the steep mountainside, he soon has to stop for a rest. Then, a gnome jumps out of a nearby hole.
“Morning, sir. What brings ye around here to this mountain?” the gnome asks.
“Oh, good morning. I didn’t see you there. I’m collecting the head of this mountain’s dragon for the village lord,” the red knight says.
“Oh, ye are? That’s a fine thing to do, though it does strike me as rather tiring,” the gnome says.
“Oh, I’m just taking a breather. I’ll soon be on my way,” the red knight says.
“Well, I hope ye don’t exhaust yerself. Beyond this ridge, this mountain is covered with bogs, crevices, sharp stones,” the gnome says.
“Good. What’s the point of being a knight without a challenge, right?” the red knight says.
“Hmm. I suppose not much, sir. It just seems rather tiring. Why, the dragon might not even be up there. She leaves sometimes for weeks at a time, ye know?” the gnome says.
“Then I’ll wait for her,” the red knight says, getting up, “Well, good day to you, sir. Thanks for the chat.” With that, the red knight begins climbing up the mountain again.
“Yes, good day to ye as well, sir,” the gnome calls out before returning to his hole.
The red knight climbs and climbs and finally makes it over the ridge. The walking is easier after that, but eventually he takes another rest on a boulder in the middle of a clearing. Before long, a gnome exits a nearby hole.
“Afternoon, sir,” the gnome says, “And what brings ye so far up this mountain?”
“Afternoon,” the red knight responds, “I’m on my way to slay the dragon of this mountain.”
“Oh yes, I might have guessed, sir, with the armor and all. Well, I wish ye luck, sir. Tell me, how much are they paying ye for this venture?” the gnome asks.
“Three hundred pieces of gold,” the red knight answers.
“Three hundred? Oh no, not to fight a dragon. That’s not nearly enough,” the gnome says.
“It’s not important. The villagers need me. It is my duty to protect and serve,” the red knight responds.
“Yes, I suppose that’s true, but there are other villages that need a knight even more. The lakes of the north, for example, have a deadly serpent. It’s nine hundred pieces of gold to slay that one, the truth that be,” the gnome replies.
“Is it? I hadn’t heard of that,” the red knight says, pausing to think, “I’ll definitely have to check that one out when I’m done here.”
“Why wait, sir? This dragon really isn’t worth any more of yer time,” the gnome says.
“It’s too late. I’ve already agreed, and I never start a new project before completing the old. It’s the knight’s code,” the red knight says, “I should be on my way, now. Thanks for the chat.” The red knight turns and proceeds further up the mountain.
“Thank ye, sir” the gnome says, slinking back into the ground. The red knight makes his way through a series of crisscrossing paths, some steep, some flat, until he finally breaks the treeline. Still a safe distance away lies a rocky knoll with a cave in one side. Sticking out from the cave entrance is the unmistakable silhouette of a large tail twitching back and forth. The knight sits down to think over his approach. Nearby, a gnome jumps out of a hole in the ground.
“Evening, sir,” it says.
“Oh, good evening,” the red knight returns.
“What is it that brings one such as yerself all the way to the top of a dragon’s mountain?” the gnome asks.
“I’ve been sent to slay the dragon, and I’m going to find a way to do it,” the red knight says.
“Really? Splendid! Good for ye sir! Tell me, how do ye plan on doing it?” the gnome asks.
“Well, I have an engine inside this suit that I can use to spin these balls at the end of my arms, see? And then I suppose I’ll sneak into her cave and bash her brains in with them,” the red knight says.
“Oh, I see,” the gnome says, sounding disappointed, “So, ye’re just going to club her o’er the head?”
“What’s wrong with that?” the red knight asks, defensive.
“Oh, nothing, nothing wrong at all, sir. It’s just that, well, I just thought that someone of yer obvious intellect and bravery would desire a story to tell that was, well, more interesting,” the gnome explains.
“Hmm. Like what?” the red knight queries.
“Well, anyone can club a beast o’er the head. Someone like ye, I thought, would enjoy a technical challenge, maybe something using rockets,” the gnome says.
“Oh, yes! I could build a multiple-round rocket gun and give them all exploding tips! Blow a hole right through her heart!” the red knight says excitedly.
“Or ye could use the rockets to scare her into running through a net of razor wire! If it didn’t work, ye could always come up with something else,” the gnome goads.
“Yes! I could unravel this suit to make the wire. The oil in the engine would work as rocket fuel. I could hollow out branches to make the rockets and seal them using pitch,” the red knight says.
“Yes, now that sounds like fun, and well worth yer time,” the gnome says.
“Thanks for the chat, but I have to get to work,” the red knight says. The knight works quickly, sawing branches with his hoops, reworking the chains into drills. He takes his suit completely apart and drains the oil from the engine. He works all through the night. Finally, he is ready. In the morning while the dragon still sleeps, he strings his razor wire back and forth across the cavern entrance. Slipping inside, he finds a hiding place and then lights the first rocket. It ricochets around the cavern, creating a deafening racket. The dragon barely reacts. Then it slowly and calmly turns around and looks right at the knight. Grabbing his knife, the knight runs for the exit, hoping the creature won’t see the wire and will follow him. He doesn’t quite make it.
Later, the group of gnomes sits about, laughing. They don’t see the dragon sneaking up on them. “I just wanted to thank you for breakfast. I trust he was one of your toys?” the dragon says.
The gnomes are suddenly silent and trembling. “Yes-s-s m-miss, how d-did you enj-joy it?” the dominant gnome replies.
“He was delicious,” the dragon says, then leaning in, she continues, “Just don’t forget our agreement.” Then she slithers away.
Several weeks went by in the village below. None of the three knights had returned and no other knight could be found to take the job. In the meantime, the dragon stole sheep, set fire to outhouses, and knocked over small trees. One day, while the lord thought he was alone, he called out, “Who is there that can save us from the dragon of the mountain?”
Angela, a woman who cleans the floors of the castle, hears the lord speaking and says, “I’ll kill the dragon.” Angela was not very smart, she acted oddly sometimes, she wasn’t very tall, and she was very thin. She wasn’t very good at cooking, knitting, or tending sheep. Her parents had tricked the lord into taking her in to clean the floors. With practice, she learned how to do a good enough job with that, but nobody ever expected her to do anything else or gave her a chance to.
“Oh no, you do not have to kill the dragon,” the lord says, “Just clean the floors.”
“Okay,” Angela says, but the next day she arrives in the courtyard wearing a suit of dull gray armor and carrying a spear. “I’ll kill the dragon,” she says.
The lord didn’t really care whether she went or not, and realized that nobody else would, either. Finally he says, “Okay. Bring back the head of the dragon and win the prize of three hundred pieces of gold.”
“Gold. Yeah, gold is nice. I like gold. I’ll kill the dragon. Boosh! Bang! Yeah!” Angela says. The lord just looks down. Angela sets off on a borrowed horse along the path the knights had followed before her. The forest closes in and she abandons the horse, proceeding on foot. After scrambling up the steep mountainside through the dense brush, she stops to rest. Nearby, a gnome pops out of a hole.
“Morning, miss. What brings ye to the side of this mountain?” the gnome asks.
“Oh, I’m on the side of the mountain. Yeah, it’s a tall mountain,” Angela says.
“Yes, that it is, but why are ye here?” the gnome asks.
“Why? I’m resting just for a minute,” Angela answers.
“Oh, yes. It is a very tiresome mountain to climb. It has bogs and sharp stones. Very tiring,” the gnome says.
“There’s no bogs. You’re just teasing me. I know you’re just teasing me. You’re just teasing me, right? I know you’re just teasing me,” Angela says.
“Oh no, indeed there are bogs on this mountain,” the gnome insists.
“No! You’re teasing me. Bogs. Hee-hee. Like a bog that you sink down in, okay,” Angela says.
The gnome is just a bit perplexed how to talk with this knight. She seemed to be easily confused. He couldn’t even be sure she was here to slay the dragon, though that spear she was carrying worried him. “Even so miss, I think it not worth yer time or effort to climb such a mountain as this one. Ye’ll only get tired,” the gnome suggests.
“Oh yeah, tired. Everybody gets tired sometimes; it’s okay to get tired. I get tired when I’m cleaning,” Angela says.
“Yes,” the gnome says. It is all he can think of to say.
“Okay, bye-bye,” Angela finally says and continues up the mountain. The gnome sinks slowly into his hole. Angela climbs up over the ridge, through the trees, and eventually comes to a small clearing. Seeing a boulder, she sits down on it to rest. Soon enough, a gnome jumps out of a nearby hole and approaches her.
“Afternoon miss,” the gnome greets.
“Hello,” Angela says, waving.
“What brings ye this far up the mountain?” The gnome asks.
“What? Nothing brings me. I walked up the mountain,” Angela says.
“Oh yes, certainly ye did,” the gnome says, “But why did ye walk all this way? Did someone tell ye to? Pay ye to do it?”
“Nobody pays you to walk! Nobody pays to walk. Hee-hee. I know you’re just teasing me. Hee-hee. Yeah, you could walk a lot and make lots of money,” Angela says.
“Tell me, miss, do ye fancy gold? I happen to know the fishermen of the northern lakes will pay nine hundred pieces to the one who kills the serpent o’ the lake for them,” the gnome says.
“Oh yeah, nine hundred pieces of gold to kill the serpent. I’m gonna kill the dragon,” Angela says.
Now he was getting somewhere. “Oh, really? The very same dragon that lives at the top of this mountain, are ye? How much do they pay ye for that?” the gnome asks.
“Oh, I’m gonna kill the dragon and win the prize of three hundred pieces of gold,” Angela says.
“Three hundred? Is that all? Why, that’s not much. The king of the north is paying fifteen hundred to kill an ice dragon,” the gnome mentions.
“Fifteen hundred. Wow. That’s lots of gold. Fifteen hundred. Hee-hee,” Angela says. Then she gets up and starts to walk away.
“Miss?” the gnome calls out, “North is the other way.” Angela doesn’t seem to hear and the gnome slowly walks back to his hole. Angela continues along crisscrossing paths of varying steepness until she reaches the treeline. Tired again, she sits down to rest. Another gnome jumps out of a nearby hole.
“Good evening, miss. What brings ye to the top of the mountain of the dragon?” the gnome asks.
“Oh, I’m gonna kill the dragon and win the prize,” Angela reports.
“Really? That’s noble of ye. And how does a brave and sophisticated knight such as yerself plan on doing something like that?” the gnome asks.
“I’m gonna kill the dragon,” Angela says.
“Yes, ye are. Do ye plan on using yer spear?” the gnome asks.
“The spear? Yes, I use my spear. I’ll kill the dragon. Bang! Boosh! Hee-hee,” Angela responds.
“That’s great, but surely a sophisticated knight such as yerself will be using a catapult or some form of trickery,” the gnome queries.
“Oh, I know catapults. Like with the big rocks that come down. Boosh! Bang! Hee-hee,” Angela says.
“Yes, certainly,” the gnome says, thinking hard about how to proceed, “Don’t ye think it would be a fine thing to place yer spear in a catapult and hurl it into the heart of the dragon?”
“Oh, yeah. A spear in a catapult. Whoosh! That’s a good idea. Hee-hee. Hee-hee,” Angela says.
“Yes, it would be,” the gnome says hopefully, but Angela starts to walk away. Soon, she enters the cave. Taken by surprise, the dragon becomes cornered against the far wall, where Angela thrusts her spear into her heart. Taking her knife, she cuts off the dragon’s head and quickly returns to the village.
Returning to the castle with the dragon’s head in a bag, Angela awes the lord who is happy to award her the prize of three hundred gold pieces. He also calls for a day of celebration and honor for Angela and all the people of the village party with her all night, and they all lived happily ever after.