Once upon a time, far, far away, there lived a young farmer named Staedler. He lead a dull life, and never had anything to satisfy his appetite except the potatoes and cabbages he labored over day in and day out. His home was a bleak cottage at the edge of his fields. Lacking a high-speed satellite link to the Internet (a rare commodity at that time), his only connection to the rest of the world was a dusty path that ran by his house. It was small and winding, and very rarely were travelers seen on it. Time had robbed Staedler of his parents, his king's taxes had robbed him of his horse, and since fortune had never granted him any other companions, he lived alone.
One evening, hunched over his cabbage dinner, Staedler heard a faint rapping on his door. "This is indeed curious," he thought, "perhaps it is a journeyman, lost in his travels." He heaved himself up and swung open the door. No one was there. Peer as he might, his eyes could not penetrate the darkness outside. Puzzled, he closed the door and returned to his meal.
That night, Staedler's tossing and turning roused him from his dreams. He stared at his ceiling, suddenly knowing he had to go. There was no time to waste. He threw off the covers, put on his cloak, and hurried outside. After a short mournful glance behind, he set out along the path. The moon had risen, and guided him through the night.
Since his journey through the night quickly became monotonous, let me at this point digress a little and tell you about Staedler himself. In spite of living such a secluded life, he actually loved nothing more than a good talk over a strong cup of tea. His father always kidded him "The reason so few people come by this way is that you always talk their heads off, son. 'Don't go that way' they warn other travelers, 'that's where the...'" here his father would always glance from side to side and then whisper "'chatterbox lives!.'" Contrary to what you might think, Staedler was also a very reasonable person. "Can't fool that kid, he's got a head on his shoulders!" his mom loved to say. It probably surprises you that any reasonable person would jump up in the middle of the night and run out the door on a journey without a destination and without even a second thought. After all, what sort of person would choose traipsing through the mud over a thick wool blanket and warm bed?
The answer is quite simple actually: In his dream, there was a damsel in distress crying for help. A knight in shining armor trotted up on his trusty black stallion, saved her, and within the week they were married. "Follow your dreams, son," his father used to tell him when he was young. When he woke up, he now understood what his father had meant. Staedler knew the dream was true, and that he was the knight riding the black stallion. Now, being a reasonable fellow, Staedler quickly deduced two elementary facts about the situation. First, if he stayed in bed, the he wouldn't save the damsel. Second, every damsel in distress since the beginning of time has been a loving, beautiful young princess, so the chances of this damsel being such a fair maiden as well were very high. Realizing that neither the way of the cabbage nor the life of the potato could satisfy his thirst for vitality or bring him inner fulfillment, he determined that it was time to go and find his place in the wide world. Thus, without further delay he got up, which was difficult in those days before they had coffee, and set out, which brings us back to where we left off.
As the sun began to rise and his legs began to get weary, Staedler concluded that since he had no black stallion, but needed one by the time he saved the damsel in distress, he would have to obtain such a steed rather quickly. Also, he would need to find a suit of shining armor in the same time interval. Contemplating this, he lay himself down in the grass and prepared to sleep the better part of the morning so as to refresh his tired limbs. He was awakened by a steamy, wet sensation spreading itself all over his face. Sitting up with a start, he saw the big brown eyes of a horse staring at him. "Why, what good fortune!" he cried, bumping his forehead on the horse's big nose in the process. Loosing no time, he nimbly hopped up on the horse's back. With sailing spirits, he rode on for many hours. Suddenly, a thought hit him. "Oh bother!" he cried, "this horse is brown, not black!" He considered his options. To have a black horse, he must either get a black horse, or make the brown horse black. The former entailed either stealing a black horse, which he would not do, or buying a new horse. "By the time I have found a job and earned enough money to buy my black horse, my fair damsel will be dead," he thought. Thus his only option left was to make his present horse black. "I can't cover him in tar," he mused, "because that would soil my fair damsel's dress."
Just then his attention was drawn to the scene ahead of him as he rode into a small town. Glancing around, Staedler saw many shops and stalls, with signs announcing what they had for sale. He spotted one with a grandiose sign that read "Shining Armor," and trotted up. Striding into the store, he declared "I would like some shining armor!"
A burly man with a balding head and greasy hands looked up from his work and said, "I have just the suit for you, if you will step over here for a moment."
Staedler followed, and was lead to a very magnificent suit of armor indeed. "I'll take it!" he cried, and started to put it on.
"I'd normally charge sixty gold pieces for this masterpiece, but you may have it for fifty," the man said.
"Oh. I have no money. May I just have it for free?" Staedler inquired.
The man's smile drained out of his face and he boomed "No! Has the devil done away with your brain, traveler?"
"Oh, dear sir, I need this suit of armor. I'm am on a journey to save a damsel in distress," Staedler explained.
"Damsel in distress, eh?" the man mused, "Why should I care?"
"All damsels in distress are princesses, right?" Staedler explained, "so if I save one wearing this dirty cloak I have on right now because you wouldn't give me a suit of armor, the king will have you hanged for the offense."
The man paused, and scratched his bald head with a greasy finger. "I see," he said. "You better go upstairs and take a bath too. You'll also be needing a sword. Be sure to tell the king about me, ok?"
"Gladly!" Staedler replied, and dashed upstairs to wash off the dust of the road. Returning an hour later, he said "I have another problem, maybe you can help me. I don't know how to make my horse black."
"Why don't you just leave it brown?" the man retorted.
"That's it!" Staedler replied, "I'll leave it brown! Thank you so much!" He then slipped into the armor, strapped the sword around his waist, and departed.
Feeling clean and refreshed, Staedler road off into the forrest. His armor sparkled in the sunlight, and he felt ready to tackle anything. Coming to a clearing, he saw a tall tower with one window, surrounded by a moat. "Fair damsel, I am Staedler. I am here to save you!" his voice boomed across the country side. A hunched over old man came to the window and shouted down at Staedler "I'm the hunched over old man in distress! Foolish knight, be gone! The damsel in distress it to the east!" Staedler needed no further encouragement, and rode into the approaching dusk. He soon came to another clearing with another tower surrounded by another moat. "Fair damsel, I am Staedler. I am here to save you!" his voice again boomed across the country side. This time, a beautiful young lady came to the window and said "Thank goodness! Handsome knight, I've been waiting for you!" It was about then that a scaly, murky green dragon reared it's ugly head from the depths of the moat. "Die, vile creature of the netherworld!" Staedler shouted, and he charged up to the dragon, brandishing his sword. The gigantic dragon snarled and blew a fearsome blast of fire at Staedler. He could see nothing but flames all around him, and felt the sweat running down his chest beneath the armor. Determined, he gritted his teeth, and spurred his horse onward. Coming to the edge of the moat, he raised his sword, and bore down upon the beast with all his might. He gashed a horrible wound into the dragon's side. Green blood flowed from the wound, but Staedler didn't notice. He hacked insistently at the writhing mass of green scales, praying he would not succumb to the raging inferno around him. Suddenly there was a wailing scream, and the flames subsided. The dragon crumpled before him.
Staedler dismounted and strode across it's now lifeless body to the other side of the moat. He ran up the tower, and carried the fair damsel down in his arms. As he helped her back across the dragon, she exclaimed "What a beautiful black stallion!" Staedler looked up, and saw his horse had been singed black! He smiled broadly, but said nothing. As they rode off into the sunset, I will leave them and let you to speculate about their future.
© Lorrin Nelson