There once were three brothers who each in turn went to seek their fortune.
They each had heard of the ferocious dragon who kept a fair lady suspended in a golden cage at the top of a treacherous mountain. The first two brothers were quite valiant and brave and decided to save the damsel who was held captive. However, apart from being valiant and brave they were not terribly clever, and so they were burned to a crisp by a dragon and each of them made good sandwiches for at least a week. Their bones were put into a pile and a sign was erected saying “Here be dragons and our bones, and so life sometimes goes.”
After the appropriate mourning period the third brother went off to seek his fortune. He began by looking at the mountain where the dragon lived, turning all the way around and marching in the opposite direction. He had not gone far when he came across a small hungry bird and, being a kind lad, he stopped and shared some of his food and water with it. The bird was much revived and said “If I can be of any help to you in your quest call for me and I shall come.”
The boy smiled, thanked the bird, and got up to continue on his way. As he did the bird flew after him calling “Aren’t you going the wrong way? The dragon lies in the opposite direction.”
“I know.” The boy replied. “Which is why I am going this way.”
The bird followed after him chirping and sputtering and telling every gentle ground creature that the boy was headed in the wrong direction, but the boy took no mind and eventually the bird fell into a quiet sulk as it fluttered along behind him.
After a few miles they came across a cat who looked thin and hungry. Again the boy shared some of his food with the cat, who also promised to aid the boy on his quest. The boy thanked the cat and continued on his way.
The cat looked after him and meowed, “You seem to be headed the wrong way dear child! The dragon is that way!” The bird began to twitter in agreement and frustration as the boy turned and said to the pair, “I know, which is why I am going this way.”
The boy now had two creatures following and nagging at him like caterpillar snagging at the edge of a leaf. It proved to be quite tedious until he met a wolf. The wolf was a hungry creature and the boy knew the pains of hunger so, even though the wolf was a predator, he shared the last of his food as the cat and the bird watched cautiously. When the food was gone the wolf too promised his help and the boy did the same as before – thanked him and walked on from the mountain.
Once more the bird and cat began to complain and when the wolf heard the chorus of protests at the boys lack of spirit, he realized that by eating the food he had become a part of the quest. With a huff that only irritated canines can make he bounded in front of the boy and said in a few words (and a great deal of gleaming teeth) that while he was standing here the danger of being eaten was far greater than being cooked by the dragon. He further indicated that if the boy would be kind enough to get on his back he would escort him to the cave of the dragon to either rescue the lady in the golden cage, or join his brothers in the bone pile. The boy sighed a great sigh, that only the destined can sigh, and climbed upon the wolf’s back.
For three days and three nights the wolf ran, and the boy began to wonder what was taking them so long, when at last they reached the rocks surrounding the dragons lair. There waiting for them was the bird and the cat who had arrived two days earlier. “What took you so long?’ the cat mewed, “Another knight has been burnt up and prepared for sandwiches while we have been waiting.” The wolf grumbled a bit about not really knowing where things were located exactly, but was interrupted by the boy who had caught sight of the girl in the golden cage. He being the hero fell in love immediately and knew there was naught for him to do but save her. He called the bird to him who perched upon his finger and puffed his feathers knowing that he had an important job to do.
“Go to the girl and ask her where the key is.”
The bird nodded and flew swiftly to the cage. They watched as he lighted upon the bars and sang to the girl for her attention, she turned her face to him and it lit up as he quickly spoke of his part in the quest, the boy who might be brave, and his intention to save her. The girl listened and whispered to the bird for a moment.
The bird flew back to the boy and in grave tone gave the response, “She is grateful for your efforts, but she says there is no key to her golden cage.”
To this the boy turned to the cat and implored it earnestly to creep into the cave and seek the key and bring it to him. The cat nodded and with slick, quiet movements, slipped into the cave. As he did whatever cats do in a dragons cave the boy caught the girls eye, and they first smiled at each other, and then waved, and then started to do the odd and awkward eye flirting that sometimes occurs between two people who might like each other but are not sure about things. It was somewhat painful to watch. Thankfully, before the bird and wolf decided to eat the boy to put him out of his misery, the cat returned. But alas, no key. The girl by this time was craning her neck to see what was happening as the boy became desperate to save her. If only he could get the key! He thought maybe if she were free they could take sanctuary in the woods, build a little cottage together and start a soup kitchen for hungry animals. But all other plans began with her freedom! He knew what he had to do- the hero’s journey began and ended with him and his reluctance.
He crawled to the pile of bones and grimaced as he pulled the family sword from amongst them. It gleamed with valiant intention and smelled of death. He began to creep towards the cave and as he got closer the ground began to vibrate from the mighty dragons breath. The air became hot and thick and the boy coughed as his eyes teared in the smoke. Soon he was passing right underneath the golden cage and he saw the girl reaching down between the bars for his hand. He took it gently and looked into her worried face as she whispered, “Please, do not fight the dragon. He is sure to kill you and I would still not be out of this cage.”
“Lady,’ the boy replied, ‘I have traveled a long unnecessary way to get to you. I would do anything it took to free you from this dragon, even fight it.” He paused and looked deep into her eyes, they were like pools of green, amber, somewhat muddy pond water and he thought they were the loveliest eyes that he had ever seen. Then he took a deep breath and continued, “However, if you know of any other way to give you that freedom I would be happy to consider it.” The lady hiccuped a small sob and said with a smile, “Oh, dear man, you are the first to ask. Of course there is another way. There is no key to this cage because there is no lock. I am afraid of heights and cannot get down by myself. If you would but catch me we could soon be far away from this dreadful place.” The boy’s jaw dropped a little and so did his sword, yet as if in opposition his hope and his heart soared. He reached his hands toward her and she pushed open the door of the cage. A small squeak and a smile later she was in his arms. They crept ever so quietly out to the faithful animals and then out and down the mountain past the edge of the dragon’s territory. When it was safe to speak the girl and boy learned each other’s names, astrological signs, and favorite films. As they chatted in the glow of victory and the setting sun the girl reached into her pocket and offered the boy a sandwich. The boy hesitated at first and then chose not to ask questions. The dragon far away watched them with glowing eyes and smiled. The boy would make a perfect match for his former damsel-in-distress.
And they lived as long as they lived, which was ever after.