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Everybody Knows

There is an enormous crash of thunder. In the distance, a grim looking figure slogs through mud and rain. The visor on their helmet tilts up, and a pair of steely eyes sweeps across the drenched landscape. Between a pair of fang-like mountains, a tall tower with a single window lit in the top protrudes like a giant, angry knitting needle. This is our hero's destination. My destination. My quest. Four long days in the Forest of Darkness, followed by a trek across the Desert of Sorrows, through the impenetrable Mountains of Dissatisfaction to arrive here, at the Tower of Pain. This is the final test, to rescue the princess from the clutches of the villain, everyone knows this is the way things are meant to be.

I walk the final steps with trepidation, and walk up to the door- the back door, because everyone knows the front door is always impenetrable. I try the handle- but of course, it's locked. I guess I'll have to go in the old fashioned way. I raise a foot, and kick in the back door of the tower. Shards of wood hurtle through what seems to be a small kitchen, making a terrific noise. Wincing at the din and taking a quick glance around, I make a quick dash past the hunchback (which everyone knows is totally harmless) for the staircase at the back of the room- since everyone knows that the princess will be all the way at the top. With my head down, I sprint up the stairs, and across a huge landing, where I run into something solid. Solid... and warm... and scaly. I look up. A pair of enormous yellow eyes look back. The eyes are set in a sizable scaly snout, which appears to be attached to a large lizard-like body. I force the fear that rises in my chest back down, and tell myself to breathe. Maybe it hasn't seen me yet... The eyes blink, and the creature opens its mouth- I think it's seen me. Yes. It has. I swing into action, whirling the ancestral sword owned by my father and his father and his father and now me. I roll underneath it's massive underbelly and jump for the nearest limb- an enormous foot- and start to climb towards the leathery wings on its back- which everyone knows are the weakest spot. I slash at the delicate-looking membranes and as the creature bellows in pain, I work my way up the the spine to the head and plunge my blade into each of its eyes. The creature yelps in pain, tosses me off its snout, and breathes an enormous sheet of flame from its nostrils. I dodge and try to dart behind it, but it swings its massive tail around and floors me. I pick myself up. I've had it with this lizard. I yell at the top of my voice and charge at the creature, and with a mighty thrust I sink my sword into its chest. The creature, in the middle of inhaling for another gout of flame, suddenly goes very still, and with a crash it falls to the floor. I pull my blood-slick blade from the beast's chest and clamber over its cooling corpse to the next flight of stairs.

As I work my way up the staircase, I hear a noise. A creaking sound. Not the kind of sound you would like to hear from an old wooden staircase. I take another cautious step (everyone knows staircases collapse at the worst possible moment). And another one. And another few. It seems fine. I dash up to the next landing and stop to catch my breath. A slow ominous crunching sound fills the air and I realise a second too late that it wasn't the staircase I had to worry about. With a splintering, sickening crunch the landing gives way, along with the entire downwards-leading staircase. I fumble for something, anything to grab on to as the floorboards fly past on their way to whatever dark dungeons lie below. My cloak catches on a torch bracket as I fall. I wince. Everyone knows that torch brackets aren't exactly the most stable of furnishings. I'll have to move quickly. I grab the bracket, and heave my way up to the next stable piece of brick jutting from the wall. From there, I take a deep breath, steady myself a little, and leap for what remains of the landing. My fingers scrabble for a moment, and I feel like I'm going to fall... I heave myself up on to the splintered landing and lie there, relieved. I look towards the downwards portion of the staircase. Of course, it's totally disintegrated. I guess there's no going back now.

I stalk up to the final door. There's no sound from the other side, but I can't get any higher, and everyone knows the Princess is always in the topmost room. I carefully push open the door...

And there she is. Lying on a bed in the middle of the room, asleep, because everyone knows the Princess is always asleep, just so the dashing knight - me - can wake her. I stride over to her and shake her gently. Her eyes flutter open.

"Oh brave Sir Knight!", she burbles, "Such dangers thou must have faced all to rescue me! Oh, how may I ever thank thee enough?". She turns and stares deep into my eyes. I cough.

"Oh sir knight, but you must say something- anything! Thou art the only human contact I have had for many long years, spent waiting for someone brave as you!". I fall to one knee, and slowly remove my helmet. The doe-eyed wonder drains from her eyes, to be replaced by amazement, and then confusion.

"But you're-" "Of the female persuasion. A princess myself, in fact." I smile at her expression. "So, Greetings, your Grace," I state. "I have a proposal to-"

"Oh my! I- I am most sorry, madam! I am- am not that way inclined, if you- Oh goodness me! This is most... unusual! I-"

"If you would allow me to finish. It is not quite that kind of proposal. I am offering you a job, not marriage."

"A job?"

"Yes. You could do what I do. Bust princesses out of castles, before they're married into a life of misery to some stuck-up Prince."

"I don't know what to say..."

"Hey, it's your life. Spend it how you want. But do consider my offer seriously." I toss her a business card with a grin.

"After all, where's the point in being part of an epic tale if everyone knows how it ends?"