Bring Me the Head of Prince Charming. Part 5
Prince Charming walked all day through the forest. The ground was fairly even, there were numerous sparkling streams, and from time to time he would pass a fruit tree and pick his lunch. The sun slanted in, gilding the leaves and branches. After a time, he came to a glade where he rested.
When he awoke, the woods were gloomy with evening light and something was passing near him. He scrambled to his feet and moved off into the underbrush, reaching for his sword before recalling he had abandoned Excalibur. Drawing a knife then, he peered out from behind a blackberry bush. He saw a shaggy little pony enter the clearing.
“Hello, young man,” the pony said, halting, and staring at the bush.
Charming was not surprised that the pony could speak. After all, it was an enchanted forest.
“Hello,” he said.
“Where are you going?” asked the pony.
“I’m looking for an enchanted castle that is supposed to be somewhere nearby,” Charming said. “I am to rescue a maiden named Princess Scarlet, who lies there in an enchanted sleep.”
“Oh, the Napping Princess thing again,” the pony said.
“Well, you’re not the first who has been through these parts in search of her.”
“Where are the others?”
“They’ve all perished,” the pony said. “Except for a few who are still striving onward, and who are destined to perish soon enough.”
“Oh. Well, I’m sorry for them, but I guess that’s how it should be,” Charming said. “It wouldn’t do to have the wrong fellow awaken her.”
“So you’re the right fellow?” the pony inquired.
“What’s your name?”
“Then you’re the one, all right. I was sent out here to find you.
“Who sent you?”
“Ah,” said the pony, “that would be telling. All will be revealed to you at some later time. If you live long enough, that is.”
“Of course I will,” Charming said. “After all, I’m the right one.”
“Get up on my back,” the pony said. “We can discuss it as we go along.”
Prince Charming rode along on the pony, until at last the woods opened and he could see a field in which many tents were pitched. Strolling among them were knights in holiday armor, eating barbecue and flirting with damsels in tall pointed hats with flimsy veils who went back and forth carrying wine, mead, and other drinks. There was even a little orchestra playing a sprightly air.
“Looks like a goodly bunch over there,” Charming said.
“Don’t you believe it,” the pony replied.
“Why shouldn’t I?”
“Take my word for it.”
Charming knew, in the part of his mind which housed ancient wisdom, that shaggy little ponies who appeared mysteriously in the woods could be counted on to give good advice. On the other hand, he also knew that men were not supposed to follow this advice, since if one always listened to the voice of reason, one would never do anything interesting.
“But I’m hungry,” Charming responded. “And perhaps those knights know the way to the enchanted castle.”
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” the pony said.
Charming kicked the pony in the ribs and it ambled forward.
“What ho!” cried Charming as he rode into the midst of the knights.
“What ho to you!” the knights called back.
Charming rode closer. “Art thou a knight?” the foremost of them called out.
“Indeed I am.”
“Then where is thy sword?”
“That’s quite a story,” Charming said.
“Tell it to us, then, will thee?”
“I met this sword named Excalibur,” Charming said. “I thought it was a proper blade, but no sooner had we started traveling together than it opened on me a mouth such as you would not believe. And it grew passing strange, till finally I had to escape it lest it kill me.”
“That’s your story, is it?” a knight asked.
“That’s not my story, it’s what happened.”
The knight made a gesture. Two knights came out of a white pavilion carrying a baby-blue satin pillow between them. Lying on this pillow was a sword. It was dented, covered with rust, and its tassels were frayed, but it was recognizably Excalibur.