"Oh no!" the King of Exaggeritia wailed. "My little girl, the princess, has been taken by a dragon!"
The King had said this in front of an open window in the castle. His lamentations wafted down into the lane, where a knight happened to be trotting along astride his horse.
"Halt, my steed!" the knight said. "I think I hear of a maiden fair that has been abducted by a lizard most foul, a great evil reptile, a great big tube of flying fewmets, a dragon!"
The knight strode up to the gate of the castle to present himself.
"My name is Victor the Dragonslayer!" he said to the guards.
And the guards believed him, for Victor had all of the trappings that they expected of a man who styled himself a dragon-slayer. All of the trappings and more. He carried a long, barbed lance, perfect for skewering deep into the chest cavity of a mighty dragon that he may pierce its heart. Ash encrusted a layer of flame-retardent stone bonded to the front of his great shield. Crush-resistant plate armor encrusted his body. And he wore the proud mustache of a hero.
"It looks as if it could turn the fires of a volcano!" one of the guards whispered to the other.
The horse upon which he rode was enormous, at least the size of a young dragon. It was dressed in a fine, if battle-scarred, caparison draped over sturdy barding. Embroidered across its flank were the black silhouettes of dozens of dragons in mid-flight, each overstiched with large, red X.
"You may pass, for we have heard the wailing of our king!" the guards said.
The men watched victor ride towards the keep. His banner unfurled in the autumn breeze, and it read DRAGON KILLAH beneath the image of a knight punching a dragon in the stomach.
Victor tied up his horse and took the keep steps two at a time, pausing at a landing to ogle a maid. He burst into the throne room.
"I am Victor the Dragonslayer!" he announced.
"Will you get my daughter back from the dragons?" asked the King of Exaggeritia.
"If you offer me a handsome reward!"
"I will bestow upon you riches that you have never dreamed of!"
"Then your will shall be done, and your daughter shall be returned to your loving hearth or I shall be dead!"
Victor made it to the door before the king stopped him.
"But don't you want to know the details? Perhaps see the note?"
"A true Dragonslayer needs neither details nor notes. My horse has the nose of the finest bloodhound, and my own moral compass will guide me towards that evil dragon's layer!" Victor announced.
Several women in the chamber swooned, although nobody was quite sure whether it was from Victor's panache or they were simply overburdened by his hyperbole.
Victor swung himself upon his steed, who had smelled a dragon on the air as they rode up to the keep and had already plotted a course. They ran along the roads and paths of Exaggeritia, stopping to pay neither toll nor bandit, and counting on the horse's unrestrained speed to carry them towards their fate. The rhythmic thump of hooves against earth became their war drum.
After a full night of riding, just after dawn, the horse stopped. Victor could sense that they were close. He urged his steed onward, until they found a deer path so narrow that the horse could not continue. Although agitated at leaving its master, Victor took his shield and his sword and bade the horse to calm. He pushed on through the narrow path.
Without any tapering from tree to bush to grass, Victor burst into a clearing.
He soon saw why.
The edge of the clearing had been torched, and his booted feet crushed ashy vegetation into powder.
Victor quickly saw why the edge of the clearing had been torched: to make room for more dragons. There were at least three dozen dragons of all colors, sizes and styles. There was a great green dragon with the massive wings that allowed it to overtake even a witch on a racing broom; here was a brownish dragon with foreshortened wings that looked like logs when their owner sat submerged in the muddy banks of a marsh. Thin, serpent-like dragons with tiny feet and delicate wings rubbed scales with big, old fat dragons that had nary moved from their horde in centuries.
In the center of the flap of dragons was a platform, and upon that platform a young maiden who bore a family resemblence to the King of Exaggeritia.
"Scoundrels! No doubt a conference to decide on the best way to cook and eat a young maiden!" Victor said. He rushed the nearest dragon, a dopey-faced fellow with long, blue spines on its back and an underbite. Victor plunged his sword into the joint between the scales and twisted!
"Take that!" Victor said.
And now the dragons that could fly instinctively did so. The sky darkened as they rocketed into the air. The ones that couldn't fly flopped onto all fours, or onto their bellies in the case of the serpentine dragons, and began to make the series of wet squelches in their throats that meant a sudden withdrawl from their fire-breath bank accounts.
The dragon that Victor had just pierced howled and tried to take off, but Victor threw a bolo around its wings so that they were pinioned together. As it rocked away from the wound, Victor hung on to the sword and let its momentum throw him up in the air. With surprising grace for a muscled hero in fifty pounds of plate mail, he went with the movement, pulling his sword out as he went, and landed upon the dragon's neck. He climbed the next several feet along its thrashing neck. With a movement, he brought the edge of his sword against the comparatively soft scales of the throat and prepared the to make the lethal twist that would cause the dragon's powerful heart to spurt all of its blood out in seconds.
"Wait, you fucking idiot!" yelled a voice. It had not the rasp or boom of a dragon's voice, thought it did have a similar power. It was a human's voice. A human woman's voice, to be precise. And she was pissed.
She spoke from the platform upon which she was raised. Long blonde ringlets held the dawn sun and contributed to their beauty. Her gown was as fine as any that Victor had seen. She must be the princess!
"Mi'lady, now is not the time!" Victor said. The dragon that he was astride held still, knowing that the slightest tremor would send Victor's blade skimming through its throat.
"Take your blade from that dragon's throat at once!"
"Mi'lady," Victor said in the same patronizing tone that he used with all women, "I do not tell you how to make your skin smell as a floral summer evening when all the world's in bloom, nor do I offer advice on the precise turn of collar to make yourself as appealing as a draught of cool wine. So, pray, do not meddle in male affairs!"
"It appears that I have to meddle in male affairs, because you certainly are not up to the task," the woman retorted.
"I know my business! I have battled with, and conquered, many dragons! Their hands hang triumphantly in my hall! And I have rarely encountered a maiden in need of rescue with as uncivil a tongue in her head, or one less acquainted with her proper place in this tableau!" Victor shouted.
Above them, the dragons circled; around them, the dragons sat on their tensed haunches, ready to pop Victor out of his shell like a particularly delicious tree nut.
"I am in no need of rescue, or is observation a feminine trait?"
"Mi'lady, you are denser than the raisin cake that my aunt insists on sending me every Michaelmas."
"And you are as soft in the head as a bit of cheese left out on a hot midsummer's evening or whatever such line that you learned from a gigolo," the woman said.
"I have half of a mind to let go of this dragon and do the men of the world a favor by sparing one of them from having a shrew for a wife!"
"I have a line of men stretching around the corner of the castle all begging to become my husband. And none of them are as short in their sight or codspiece as you!"
"That's enough!" Victor said. He had no choice. All of the women that he had come in contact with had loved him, and told the world about it. This...harlot would be a terrible ding on his reputation. Better that it end with her in the bottom of a dragon's stomach than with her telling other royalty. Besides, the king would never know - Victor would simply ride to the next kingdom. It's not like he'd never ridden away from bad rumors in the past.
"Bye," Victor said suddenly, dropping his sword and leaping towards the relative safety of the forest.
But the relative safety of the forest turned out to be a still-hot pile of ash. While arguing, several of the sneakier dragons had slid behind the one that he'd held hostage and had burned down more of the forest. Instead of landing in soft boughs high above the ground, he crashed into an inch-thick layer of ash.
"Ugh," he said.
"Don't kill him quite yet," the princess' voice said. He heard her walking closer. With a foot in his ribs, she flipped him onto his back.
She was even more beautiful up close.
"You are the princess, right?" Victor asked.
"Yes, my name is Jackie, Princess of Exaggeritia. Did my father send you?"
"Yes," Victor said.
Jackie sighed. "We can't kill him. He's an idiot, but he meant well. I wasn't kidnapped."
"What?" Victor asked, still woozy and not sure if he had heard right.
"I'm an arbiter. The dragons ask me to come to their summits and help moderate disputes. I left my father a note and he just loves to exaggerate everything. He promised you riches, yeah? Anything that your heart could desire?"
"Anything," Victor said.
"Let me put it this way. Most royal families with the coffers to promise a massive bounty don't have the royal treasurer advising the pater familias to make sure that his sons and daughters have academy educations and careers."
The Moral: don't bring a knight to a word fight unless they've got the chops to make the dragons hop
The 2nd Moral: There is no such thing as a bad rhyme, only a terrible rhyme.