Peekaboo tiptoed towards the stray cat preening itself in the abandoned house.
His older brother, Shriekaboo, rolled his eyes. “Why are you creeping?” he asked. “The cat can’t hea... [+]
Roman traveled south to the Egyptian kingdom to talk to the queen to see if she could help. He was led into the gates of the palace that were guarded by two golden phoenixes. The apothecaries in the kingdom didn't have a cure and knew of no one that did. Roman was disappointed, but the queen had another offer: "Marry me and you'll have great riches. You won't have to trouble yourself with the princess." It was tempting; the queen was very beautiful, after all. But Roman had all the riches of love and was determined to find a cure. He declined and rode out of the kingdom.
He continued traveling south, when he came to an extremely decrepit bridge that overlooked waters way down below. Roman was trying to figure out a way around it, when he saw something unusual: it was an ugly troll hiding under the rafters of the bridge. Roman asked the troll if he knew of any other way around the bridge. The troll answered in a raspy voice "The only other way is miles around, and will take you days. But you don't have to take it if you cross this bridge." "How is that possible? It's old and falling apart..." asked Roman. "It's very possible if you believe in yourself," replied the troll. "But how can it ever hold my horse and me?" asked Roman. "This bridge has held everyone who believed in themselves. And everyone who didn't believe in themselves, didn't make it," assured the troll. Roman paused to wonder if it was a trick but decided to trust the troll. The desperate knight thought "Do I believe in myself? Yes, yes, I DO believe in myself! After all, I've gotten this far..." He got off his horse to walk it. He stepped on the bridge, slowly...each step more frightening than the previous step. He tried not to look down. He heard the waters rushing below him. The bridge creaked and shifted as he guided his horse. He got to the end and stepped on solid ground. "I did it, I made it across!" He thanked the troll and went on his way.
Roman traveled west to a town and asked if anyone knew of a cure but had no luck. He wanted to find a place to stay for the night but found none. However, an old woman told him that there was an abandoned castle outside of the town where he could stay. "But it's surrounded by an enchanted forest where a dragon lives. No one has ever made it out of the forest alive!" warned the old woman. "I'll take my chances. After all, I'm a fast runner," replied Roman. He left his horse to be watched by the stableman; he would get it in the morning. It was almost dusk when Roman arrived at the forest. He stood there looking in. The trees were so tall. He went into the forest with his armor all intact. He stepped over twigs and weeds. He wanted to get through the forest as fast as he could. He traversed a straight line for a while, until he came across a big cave, so big in fact, that the trail ended at its entrance. As the alert knight peered inside, he saw that it was dark, except for two glowing eyes. It was the dragon! Roman, hoping it wouldn't notice him, crept silently. But the dragon did notice him and, letting out a deafening roar, came out of the cave. Roman drew his sword and swung with might, sharp steel clanking against its teeth, having little if no effect. The dragon's tail swung around in a deadly arc, Roman barely diving out of its way. It spat fireballs. Roman protected himself with his shield. He tried to stay behind the dragon where it couldn't see him. "How am I ever going to conquer this dragon?" One of the fireballs caught some brush on fire. Roman threw the brush in its face, the fiery embers hitting the dragon's eyes, blinding the monster. The dragon became disoriented and, whimpering, hid back in its cave. "It wasn't such a big bad dragon after all was it?" he thought, suddenly feeling sympathetic toward the poor creature. Roman also then realized that he fought back and didn't run away, which built up much-needed self-confidence. Roman found the castle where he stayed for the night. In the morning he went back to town and got his horse.
Upon arriving at the next nearest town, the knight encountered a wizard. After telling him of his arduous quest, the wizard offered to trade him a stone for Roman's horse. "A stone? What am I going to do with a stone?" asked Roman. "It's not an ordinary stone, it's a magic stone that has healing powers. But it's on top of the mountain and you have to get it," said the wizard. Roman decided to trust the wizard as he had trusted the troll back at the bridge, and agreed to trade. Roman, however, was terrified of heights. When he faced the mountain, he planned that he would climb up some of it, then come back down if it were too high. He grabbed the rocks and tried to climb a few minutes, succeeding to his relief. "That wasn't so bad, I'll climb some more and come down if it's too high" Roman thought. He climbed some more and looked down and was frightened. He lost his focus and started to slip. His arms were getting tired, and he felt that he could no longer hold on. But he continued, knowing that he was too far up to come back down. He grabbed a rock and pulled himself further upward, as rocks around him tumbled down, unnerving him even more. Finally, the determined knight reached the top of the mountain, panting, but standing in triumph. Roman was very proud of himself that he had made it. But as he looked around for the stone he slowly realized that the wizard had deceived him. There was no healing stone. Roman's heart sank in despair; he was beginning to think this was all useless. Sighing heavily, he descended the mountain, by way of the same path. Thankfully, going down was much easier.
Roman finally arrived back at the kingdom, without a cure. He was greeted with an anxious crowd that was waiting to hear from him. It was hard to tell them that he had failed, and that the princess's death was sad but also certain. But the crowd seemed not to mind. Roman was confused. The king came up to him and congratulated him. "Congratulations?!? Whatever for, Sire?" asked Roman. Just then the princess emerged from the crowd, smiling and looking as healthy and beautiful as he had ever seen her. "You're not ill anymore! But how?" asked Roman. "She was never ill, Noble Knight, it was merely a test of courage and loyalty. And nobody has ever passed the test before," explained the King. Roman was shocked but overjoyed and relieved beyond words that the Princess wasn't dying. "You may now marry the princess, Sir Knight. Rule with the same courage and loyalty," the king continued. And they did, for many years to come.