Up in my tower I wait for a valiant knight to come and rescue me. I’m in the tallest tower of the whole castle. Cursed by a wicked witch when I was born I’m destined to wait here, protected by a fierce dragon, to be rescued by the bravest of men who can break her spell and free me from these unseen chains.
It’s the most perfect castle. Daddy drew on all the brickwork, on the plain side, not the cereal box side. There’s even a drawbridge that comes up and down with thin ropes. Our moat, my favourite blue blankie, is home to the most vicious of crocodiles, ready to eat your face off. The big castle gates I painted in black are the only way to enter the fortified kingdom to save me, the innocent princess, from her lonely fate.
My princess dress isn’t perfect but it’s only a little bit stained. I try not to bleed on it too much.
High up on my sofa tower there’s no hope of escape, the only way in and out of the castle gates is get through the dragon, roaming on the floor below me.
On all fours he paces back and forth looking menacing, sneering up at me. “I see you evil dragon,” I tell him. “Keeping me captive here. Oh where, oh where is my rescuer?!” The dragon huffs at me, I see little puffs of smoke pour out of his nostrils, just above all the dried blood. I see him as a strong vicious beast, far larger than his human body with deep dark burgundy scales, bred purely to guard me with his life. I see it, even if it takes Daddy’s persuasion to make him adopt his role.
“Hark! What’s that I hear in the distance?” I exclaim with mock surprise which makes Daddy smirk. “Is that my brave knight coming to save me?”
Though the movement may be clunky, the horse not quite yet used to his rider and the bit that fills his mouth, they move steadily towards me, urged on by Daddy and his special zappy playtime stick. They make their way to the entrance of the castle, across the landscape of my cottage kingdom.
“The dragon, has heard the clippedy clop of hooves,” Daddy narrates, “and he comes out of the castle with a ferocious roar!” Nodding to me to open the gates and drop the drawbridge. I slide down to complete the tasks before scrambling back up again to my tower perch, waiting to watch the action, to see my knight fight for me, to slay the dragon and take my hand.
Daddy’s storytime voice directs the action. “The dragon comes out of the gates and towards the knight and his noble steed, ready to protect the princess at all costs.” He nods and I push the end of the stick hard against the dragon’s bare behind, clicking down on the button to spur him on. The zap is audible and the impact evident in how he springs forward.
“A roar!” Daddy reminds the dragon with a glare. I hear a deep bellowing ROOOOOAR! that comes out of the dragon’s mouth accompanied by fire and smoke. I hear the guttural sounds of an angry beast. I hear it even if his pathetic human whimper belies the illusion.
“And now…” Daddy proclaims, “They fight!” I bounce with glee, the soft sofa back cushioning my enthusiastic movements. This is my favourite part. The part with the back and forth action, the blood and tearing of flesh. I like it when they break each other’s bones. I like the breaking sounds.
“If the dragon wins, he lives to fight another day!” Daddy explains “If the knight wins, he gets all the bounty of the kingdom, he’ll eat the biggest feast for rescuing the princess, he’ll finally get to eat today… for the first time this week…”
He adds a sidebar to me: “The knight has trekked far you see princess, for many days he has been preparing to rescue you, getting his horse ready for the long journey.” I giggle, I love Daddy’s stories. I know they’ve really just been in the barn since we adopted them.
It’s warm in there. And they’ve had a trough to drink from.
I squash down the thought and throw myself back into the make believe. I see the horse stamping the ground, ready to charge the dragon. I see his thick mane and long tail. I see a beautiful majestic creature, rather than the skinny shivering boy looking deeply disturbed and a little confused.
He’ll learn, if the horsey survives the battle he’ll get to be the knight next time. Knights always fight that bit harder when they’ve played the game before, when they know what’s at stake.
The knight dismounts, standing firm against the dragon, raising his sword. The beast is considerably bigger with fierce sharp claws and teeth that bite, still stained with the blood of the last knight that dared to enter the castle grounds to rescue the princess.
I see the fight in their eyes, fight that goes beyond playful, fight that is motivated by survival. Motivated by their rumbling tummies as much as the beautiful princess. The internal struggle shows in their movement, but they must fight, fight or die, fight or starve. They know what’s at stake.
“Fight.” I urge them. “Fight for me, fight for me and I shall ensure you have all the riches you desire. You shall be handsomely rewarded.” I gesture towards a table of food, laid out for the victor. Thick slabs of red meat, healthy young meat.
I see the knight heroically battling to win my hand. To save me from a fate worse than death, doomed to be alone forever trapped in the castle. I see him brandishing a sword made of the finest steel, rippling muscles under his chainmail, determinedly focussing on saving me, protecting me from the dragon. Ready to whisk me off to be his bride. I see him brave and fearless, not the snivelling boy cringing every time the crude wooden sword connects.
Not the terrified boy that’s wet himself under the pressure. Not the stupid boy that’s failing to defend himself under the weight of a dragon that’s won this fight before.
I see him as heroic knight, simply outmatched in this battle to the death, falling under the enormous weight of an angry, hungry dragon that’s gnashing at his soft skin, tearing his neck open to torrents of blood, gushing up the walls of the castle.
His horsey whinnies and pulls away, seeing the fate of his owner and fearing for himself but his bit is too tight, his reigns too securely shackled. He’s stuck, closing his eyes against the horror. He begins to move his hooves to his ears to cover the sound but Daddy catches him with a zap. “Horses walk on all fours.” He reminds the boy. “Hooves, not hands.”
Panicked and frothing at the mouth the knight’s beast displays physical relief when the dragons teeth finally rip their way completely through the knight’s mangled neck, severed vocal chords can’t scream.
His work done the dragon sits back, panting and drenched in fresh blood. He looks to Daddy, pleading. “Clever beast,” Daddy whispers, dragging the defeated Knight from the castle grounds and replacing him with meat, an abundance of meat. The dragon’s reward.
He begins devouring the pile of raw flesh as Daddy leads the horse away. “I hope you’ll do better! You’re our new knight,” he whispers to the now howling steed, his animalistic noises opposed to his assigned role. Daddy swiftly kicks him into the yard, no one will hear him out there.
Perhaps the dark and rainy night will inspire him to devise a better battle plan. Perhaps he can be the knight that wins? The one that finally defeats the dragon and frees me?
“Oh woe is me!” I wail dramatically. “Banished to live forever in this tower, punished by the witch’s curse. Will I never know true love? Will I ever be saved?” I mock cry into my hands… my stomach starting to flutter a little as I know what comes next.
“Oh but princess,” Daddy swoops into the castle and pulls me into his arms. “You forget about the King’s guard and his secret tunnels. Every evening he sneaks in to see the princess, locked away, unable to leave her tower. He comes to see her and teaches her, doesn’t he?” I nod furiously, beaming away as Daddy becomes the guard.
“Hush princess, I can’t stay for long, the dragon has devoured the foolish knight and slumbers… but he’ll awake soon. You want to be a good princess don’t you? You want to be able to please your knight when he rescues you?”
“Yes Dadd… I mean, Sir, yes I do…will you show me?”
“You’re in luck for I shall! Today we can play a special little game. I’ll show you how to be the perfect bride when your perfect brave knight comes to rescue you. How to please him so he’ll look after you forever. How to pleasure him so he doesn’t get angry and have to show you himself. Come now princess” Daddy continues in character, “Rid yourself of that cumbersome dress and undergarments… let me show you how.”