Story Saturday: The Mountain and the Knight

"The Mountain and the Knight"

Once upon a time, there was a brave prince who loved to be challenged. He had slain dragons, rescued damsels, and defeated witches. Legends of his achievements had spread far and wide. One day, the prince heard rumors of a mountain that was so perilous, no man had ever climbed it and lived to tell the tale. Soon, the prince was filled with determination to climb the fabled mountain and return to spread hope to his people that anything is possible. The king and queen advised him against this, for he was the only heir to the throne. They warned him that if he shared the same fate as the others who climbed the mountain, the kingdom would one day be left without a ruler. The prince was so confident in his abilities that he ignored their warnings and snuck off to the mountain in the middle of the night when his guards were asleep.

The path up the mountain was indeed perilous, full of monsters and traps. One wrong step and the brave prince would have plummeted to his death. Still, it was nothing he could not handle using the knowledge he had gained from his previous adventures. At the top of the mountain, he found his biggest challenge yet. Nestled in the peak was a cave containing statues of all the men who had traversed there before him. He realized this was the reason they had not returned. Someone watched him from the shadows as he walked through the rows of frozen heroes who were once brave adventurers just like him.

"Why did you travel all this way?" asked the shadowy figure.

"To prove that anything is possible," he said.

"Why don't you look me in the eyes and tell me that?" she challenged him.

The prince assumed that she was calling his bluff. He was not afraid, so he did exactly as she asked. Little did he know that the figure in the shadows was a Gorgon. The moment he locked eyes with her, his body became stone cold. He found himself unable to speak so that he could repeat his answer to her question. The Gorgon smiled for she now had a handsome prince to add to her collection of heroes. The people in the prince's kingdom soon realized he had not returned. They grew sad and mourned his loss. The king offered a great reward to any brave hero who could recover his missing son. Many knights tried, but none succeeded.

One fateful day, a knight in ill-fitting armor told the king that he would rescue the prince on the condition that his identity would not be revealed until after he returned. The king and queen were so desperate to see their son again that they accepted these terms without question, praying for the prince's safety. They did not dare bring up the knight's clumsy gait or that his slurred speech for a noble. Perhaps he was from a foreign kingdom whose culture was different from their own where rumors had spread of the missing prince.

Setting forth steadfast in his quest, the knight met each challenge with difficulty but nonetheless continued to the heart of the mountain, where he discovered the cave in which the prince's stone cold body was hidden. The Gorgon was waiting inside and asked the knight the same question she had asked every other traveler. The knight studied the statues in the room until he found the one that he was looking for. He answered the Gorgon casually without paying her much attention.

"To rescue the prince."

Just as she had done with all of the other adventurers, the Gorgon challenged the knight to remove his helmet and look her in the eyes. The knight, however, saw no need to prove himself to the Gorgon, as his mission was to save the prince and nothing more. He refused to remove his helmet and continued studying the statues, trying to determine if there was a way to break the spell and return the stone to flesh. This angered the Gorgon, who came into the light to confront him. Still, the knight refused to look her in the eye. Instead, he held up his shield in an attempt to push the Gorgon away so that he could focus on the state of the prince.

To their surprise, the light where the Gorgon was standing reflected off the shield, blinding her. In that moment, the Gorgon saw her own reflection and turned to stone. With the same blinding flash of light, all of the other men who had been frozen in her cave were restored to flesh and blood. They bowed t the noble knight in gratitude, but his only concern was the prince, for he had promised his parents that he would be returned home safely. Ordinarily, the prince would have sneered at the thought of being rescued, but he had a lot of time to think while trapped in his stone prison and he was only too grateful to be free. He asked the knight to remove his helmet so that he could look upon the face of his rescuer.

All of the heroes gasped when the knight's helmet was removed. Standing before them was a beautiful maiden with golden locks and emerald eyes. Her ill-fitting armor was clearly made for someone twice her size. In their astonishment, she told the heroes the story of how she was born a peasant in the prince's kingdom who admired his drive and adventuresome spirit. She wished that she could be as brave as him, but the villagers told her that a woman's job was to be a caretaker and that she could never go on adventures like the prince. When she heard the story of his capture and how the king and queen were looking for someone to save him, she saw a chance to go on an adventure of her own. So, she borrowed a knight's armor and set off to find him. She didn't care about the glory, only about saving the brave prince for the sake of her kingdom. That was when the prince realized that some things are more important than winning a challenge.

The prince admired the maiden for her bravery and traveled back down the mountain with her. When he returned home, he explained her tale to the king and queen. They were so impressed with her that they decided to reward her with their son's hand in marriage. From that day forward, the prince and princess went on many new adventures and faced each challenge together, knowing that their love for each other was the greatest victory of all.


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