One day, Prince Arthur sets out to find his One True Love. He soon meets three strangers in the forest...
Once upon a time, there was a beautiful land called the Western Kingdom. The Western Kingdom was a peaceful and prosperous place, filled with singing birds and friendly squirrels, and everyone was happy. Well, almost everyone. The prince of this kingdom, Prince Arthur, was very sad indeed. More than anything, Arthur wanted to be in love. However, no one in the kingdom had fallen in love with him, nor did he feel true love for anyone he had met.
One day, Arthur grew tired of waiting, so he climbed aboard his magic unicorn and rode off into the woods in search of his One True Love. Arthur rode all day until the sun had disappeared beyond the horizon. Soon, the forest was dark - too dark to see anything at all. Although Arthur was still a long distance away from the next kingdom, he wisely decided to stop for the night. His unicorn nodded toward something in the distance. As Arthur rode in the direction that the unicorn had indicated, he saw a flickering light, deep in the woods. Arthur and his unicorn approached and heard music playing. The light, it turned out, was a campfire belonging to three rogues. Before Arthur could say or do anything, the rogues spotted him. They waved him over. Arthur hesitated. He did not know these three strangers. One of them had lovely dark hair and was strumming a guitar. Another was blond, and was cooking some food over the campfire flames. The third was pale and red-eyed, and was playing with a little bird. Arthur knew it was dangerous to talk to strangers, but it was also dangerous to be all alone at night in a forest known to be populated by wolves. The three rogues and their campfire seemed to be the more inviting choice. Arthur urged his unicorn onward, which, to the rogues, looked like he was just walking forward. The unicorn was magical, so only Arthur could see it or ride it. As Arthur drew closer, the cooking blond showed him a very friendly smile. Arthur smiled in return, but his thoughts were interrupted before they even started because the guitar player had stopped strumming.
“Hello, stranger,” said the guitar player. “What brings you to this part of the woods?”
“Usually,” said the red-eyed rogue, “we are all alone here.”
Arthur nodded in acknowledgement.
“I am on a quest, searching for my One True Love,” he said. The three rogues looked among themselves, seemingly intrigued by this announcement. Encouraged, Arthur continued.
“I am Arthur, the Prince of the Western Kingdom, and I cannot find my One True Love in my own land. Therefore, my search has brought me here.”
“I am Antonio,” said the guitar player.
“I am Francis,” said the cook.
“And I am Gilbert,” said the rogue with the bird. Francis stood up, guided Arthur to a spot beside him, and invited him to sit down. Arthur sat by the warm firelight next to Francis. Whatever Francis was cooking smelled delicious. Arthur silently hoped that his One True Love would be just as skilled at cooking, for he himself was a notoriously terrible cook. Arthur’s thoughts were interrupted yet again when he realized that Gilbert was talking to his bird. This seemed odd to Arthur. Talking to a bird was ridiculous - not at all like talking to a unicorn. Gilbert seemed to be telling his bird that, soon, everything would be back to normal. Being curious, Arthur inquired. Gilbert gestured to his bird.
“You’re a prince, right?” Gilbert asked. “A real one?”
Arthur nodded, then startled as Gilbert shoved the bird in his face.
“Kiss her!” the red-eyed rogue demanded. Arthur blinked.
“I beg your pardon?”
Stirring the pot on the fire, Francis snickered. Antonio patted Arthur on the arm and kindly explained.
“Please excuse my friend’s eagerness, but he is hoping you will help him break an evil curse.”
Antonio gestured to the bird.
“That is Gilbertina, his sister. She was once a human, and a very beautiful one at that. She was so beautiful that a witch became jealous and turned her into a bird.”
“And the only way to break the spell is if she is kissed by a prince.”
Arthur knew not what to make of this. He had heard of transformation curses before, but never had he seen one up close. Still, he was grateful for the fire, food, and companionship, and they were asking for such a small token in return. Arthur agreed. He leaned forward, closing his eyes, and kissed the bird on the beak. In an instant, she was surrounded by swirling heavenly light. It was so bright that Arthur had to look away. When he looked back at Gilbertina again, there she stood, a beautiful maiden. She had gentle, luminous eyes, and long white hair, and lips as pink as the clouds at sunset.
“Thank you, Arthur,” she said softly. “You have freed me from my curse.”
Arthur couldn’t believe his eyes. Gilbert hugged him and cheered his thanks for rescuing his sister. It was a night of celebration and gratitude. The next morning, Arthur, the three rogues, and Gilbertina made their way to the nearest town. As the townspeople marvelled at Gilbertina’s beauty, Arthur reflected on just how lucky he was that he had been her rescuer. The more he thought about it, the more he thought that maybe, just maybe, she might be his One True Love.
“You seem to be thinking carefully about something,” Francis said as they all walked together. Arthur nodded.
“I am,” he said. “Tell me, Francis, how do you know if you have found your One True Love?”
Francis smiled. His eyes sparkled with the prospect of talking about his favourite subject.
“Ah, yes, love,” said Francis. He put his arm around Arthur’s shoulders.
“True love is when you think about the person more than anything, and more than anything, you want to be by their side. True love is when you know in your heart that they will be dear to you forever.”
Arthur pondered Francis’ words. However, he did not have time to ponder for long, as something came screaming out of the sky. A terrifying dragon, with scales like iron and teeth like swords, swooped down on the group. It grabbed Gilbertina and took to the skies once more.
“Nooooo!” shouted Gilbert. Arthur leapt onto his unicorn, which still no one could see, and he galloped after the dragon. The three rogues followed close behind. After a day’s chase, they arrived at the mouth of the dragon’s lair. This dragon lived in a deep dark cave. Echoes of water dripped in the darkness.
“That scaly beast must have taken her in here,” said Antonio.
“Right,” said Arthur, marching forth. Francis held his arm out to block Arthur’s way.
“Perhaps we three should go ahead, Prince Arthur, and you should wait out here,” he said. When Arthur asked why, Francis explained that they three rogues were skilled at fighting, while a prince who was raised in the safety of a castle might not be. At first, Arthur felt insulted, but he soon realized Francis’ true intentions.
“Please,” said Francis. “I just want you to be safe.”
“Very well,” he said. “I shall come along with you, but I will stay back from the dragon, should we encounter it.” Francis wove his arm around Arthur’s, holding his hand as they entered the cave. Gilbert was already in front, holding up a lantern to light the way. Antonio followed afterward, keeping a careful eye for anything that might be trying to sneak up behind them.
In the darkness of the dragon’s cave, Arthur wondered about what dangers they would face. He did not feel afraid for himself but he found himself worrying for Francis. Suddenly, they heard a roar, then Gilbertina’s scream. Arthur and the three rogues ran in the direction of the commotion. They turned a corner and darted around a giant stalagmite, and there they found the dragon. It lay atop a pile of treasure and had Gilbertina in its grasp.
“Unhand my sister!” shouted Gilbert. The dragon roared at them and smacked a pile of rocks their way. One particularly large piece of rock fell squarely on Francis, knocking him to the cave floor. In the dim light of the cavern, Arthur thought he saw blood.
“Francis!” cried Arthur. But there was no time to pause as the dragon had begun to breathe fire. Arthur ducked out of the way at the last moment. From behind a stalagmite, Antonio played a chord on his guitar. Having never heard such a sound, the dragon turned its massive head to investigate. That’s when Gilbert snuck up behind the dragon, sword unsheathed. He leapt into the air, bringing his blade down on the dragon’s neck. Its head fell to the ground. Its clawed grip on Gilbertina loosened and she fell from atop the treasure pile. Arthur rushed forward to catch her. She fell neatly into his arms.
“Oh, Prince Arthur,” she said. “You came to rescue me.” Arthur didn’t feel quite right about all of this. He set Gilbertina down on her feet. There was nothing else for Arthur to say to her. He rushed over to where Francis had fallen.
“Please be alive!” he shouted. “Francis, I need you!” Arthur dug and dug through the rocks.
“Please, Francis,” he begged. “I think about you more than I think about anything, and more than anything, I want to be by your side.” Tears fell down Arthur’s face.
“I know in my heart that you will be dear to me forever.”
Something moved beneath the rubble. Ever so slowly, Francis climbed out. He was scratched and bruising, but remarkably had suffered no serious damage. In a weak voice, he asked Arthur, “do you mean that, mon amour?”
Arthur and Francis rode on his unicorn back to the Western Kingdom where they were soon married. Antonio, Gilbert, and Gilbertina brought the dragon’s treasure back to the town, where they built a castle for themselves and lived like royalty. The town was never bothered by dragons ever again, and everyone lived happily ever after.