Rescue Me

Once upon a time…

“Is it dead?”

“As a doornail, milady. The fell wyrm is no more. You are saved.”

“Whew. Thanks. Er, is there any chance you could cut these chains off me now, only my arms are going to sleep in this position?”

“Oh, sorry. Yes, there you are.”

“Thank you again. I was feeling a bit… vulnerable all strapped up like that. Some people might take, you know, advantage.”

“I assure you that the thought never crossed my mind. Well, not seriously. Really.”

“Uh-huh. Well I guess you must be one of the good knights in shining armour then. I thought they only happened in storybooks.”

“Well what exactly is one supposed to do when there’s a maiden screaming and a very large winged lizard about to lightly toast her, if not charge to the rescue? “

“Well, I suspect the general consensus would be to run as fast as possible in the opposite direction.”

“Surely not. Rescuing damsels is a major part of being a knight. We get special training, you know.”

“Sure, just like us damsels take screaming lessons. Get real.”

“Are you feeling alright? Only you seem to be a lot more… caustic than is customary after being saved from a horrible fate.”

“Well, I suppose I’m just slightly worried by the fact you’re a big shiny person who I don’t know with a sword who’s insane enough to charge dragons.”

“Oh, sorry. I’ll put it away shall I? You really don’t need to worry about being ravished or anything. I’m quite harmless.”

“Tell that to scaly there. Oh wait – he’s dead.”

“Besides, there’ll be plenty of time for hanky panky after the wedding.”

“The… the wedding?”

“Sure. Standard contract. Dead dragon, princess’ hand and half the kingdom. Basic rates.”

“Ah. Right. I see. And my father would agree to this why?”


“Why? Why should my royal father agree to give away half his kingdom just because you spitted a big fire-breathing thingie? I mean, if he was that bothered about me do you think he’d have had me chained here as a sacrifice to appease the dragon in the first place?”


“Think about it. Just how does being able to stab wyrms make you a good husband and ruler? I mean, how many dragons do you think we get around here?”

“I’m guessing the answer is around one?”

“Yep. Spot on. The bottom has just dropped out of the local dragonslaying market. I don’t suppose you have any experience in economics, or accountancy? You’re not a secret expert on crop rotation or legal tort and stuff?”

“I can shoot a goblin through the eye at ninety paces if that helps.”

“Not when you’re ruling a kingdom that’s just been artificially divided in two by an arbitrary royal edict to accommodate a sudden royal son-in-law, and you have to hammer out a working socio-political infrastructure, I’m afraid.”

“Are you sure you’re a princess? I thought you girls got etiquette instructions on being rescued. This doesn’t seem like a proper damsel in distress response at all.”

“Would you like me to faint? I suppose I could if it made you feel better.”

“No, no that’s quite alright. I’m just having to adjust to something of an unfamiliar situation, that’s all. I never really expected a princess with an IQ, I suppose.”

“Well I never expected a knight in shining armour to come and spoil my big plan to save the kingdom.”

“Save the kingdom? You don’t really believe that having fed the dragon one virgin you’d be able to keep it away from demanding more and more and more?”

“As a matter of fact that’s exactly what I believe. After all, my dress has around twenty pounds of belladonna stitched into it. That should have been enough to poison even a dragon when he ate me.”

“Clever. Very sneaky. I’m ever so sorry I stopped you getting eaten and spoiled your plan.”

“No, no that’s alright. I can’t say I was looking forward to the being eaten part, so frankly I’d say your method was an improvement overall. And there was always the risk that the wyrm prefers his princesses crispy fried, in which case all the nasty poison gets well done as long with me, and might have been useless.”

“I can see how that would ruin your day.”

“It’s just that – and please don’t take this personally – we never thought we’d find anybody stupid enough to charge a seventy-foot fire-breathing monster with nothing but a pointy stick.”

“Well I’m glad I’ve been able to surprise you a little bit then. That way we can both say we’ve had an interesting afternoon.”

“I suppose so.”





“Well… I’ve got to say that I’m a bit puzzled as to what to do next. I mean, custom dictates that I sweep you onto my horse, gallop off to your father, and pick up the reward. Since I apparently don’t have the requisite agricultural or legal education for your exacting standards, I’m at a bit of a loss.”

“Ah. Sorry. I didn’t mean to spoil your rescue. It’s just that I didn’t want you to get the wrong idea. I didn’t go to all this trouble to save the realm only to have some heroic imbecile take charge and run it into the ground. No offence.”

“None taken. You have quite a good point. Never thought of it like that before.”

“So… what happens?”

“I suppose… I place a single chaste kiss on your virgin cheek, leap onto the stallion, and ride off into the sunset leaving you wistfully wondering who the mystery hero was.”

“It has a certain romantic rhythm to it, I admit, but that doesn’t seem very fair on you after you got all scorched and sweaty saving my life. And who says I’m a virgin anyway?”

“Er, well, I just assumed. I mean, sacrifices to monsters are usually supposed to be…”

“It’s a seventy foot long hungry reptile. It’s not going to be bothered about my sexual history. Do you enquire after the marital status of your pork sandwiches?”

“You know, I think battling the dragon was the easy part of this rescue. Very well, milady, let me ask you a few questions. What are you going to do now?”

“Now? What do you mean?”

“What I mean is, you’ve just been miraculously saved – with a good deal of style and flair, if I say so myself – from a gory fate. Do you trot off back to the palace and say ‘Hello everybody. Guess what? I’m not dead even though you were all perfectly happy for me to be left out to be eaten by a dragon to save your skinny butts. Hi, daddy, I’m back and ready for the next time I need to be sacrificed to save the day’. Or what?”

“That’s not fair. I’m sure there was a good deal of soul-searching before they let me do this.”

“So they didn’t heave a huge sigh of relief that in feeding the alarmingly smart-mouthed princess to the dragon that they were killing two birds with one stone?”

“No. Of course not. No. Absolutely no.”

“I thought so. And now that you’re saved your father can line you up in some political marriage with the agricultural economist of your dreams.”

“Look, the ability to hit things with a sword does not denote an aptitude for maintaining a stable relationship.”

“Whereas the ability to operate a three-field rotation doesn’t denote an aptitude for a romance filled with passion and fulfilment. But perhaps, not being a virgin, you already know that?”

“I never said I wasn’t a virgin. I just said you shouldn’t assume.”

“You mean I should… what? Conduct practical tests?”

“No. I mean you should… not expect everything to be… what you expect.”

“Are you trying to tell me that you’re actually a prince in disguise?”

“No! What I mean is that… ooohh!”

“Heh. Now you know what it’s like rescuing you.”

“I am not like that.”

“Oh, yes you are.”

“Am not!”

“Are so.”




“I rest my case. So seriously, what are we going to do? I mean, haven’t you paid your dues to your kingdom now? You were willing to give your life for it. What else can they expect?”

“The rest of my life, I suppose.”

“Oh, that’s not fair. By that reckoning, you owe your life to me. So either I get to keep it, or else I get compensated for giving it back to your kingdom.”

“What do you mean, keep it? You can’t keep it – me.”

“Why not? You’re rather attractive in a sort of annoying nitpicky way. You’d be rather fun to keep.”

“Well you can forget that idea right off, buster. Just because you saved my skin doesn’t give you free access to it.”

“Sad but true. And even if I was the liberty-taking type, which I trust you have noted, I am not, I’m hardly going to annoy a girl who poisons her underwear and hurls herself into the maws of dragons.”

“That’s right. Don’t forget my underwear.”

“I’m thinking about it right now.”

“That is not exactly what I meant. Perhaps we should just recap at this point? I am very happy to be saved, but that does not mean I have to grant you conjugal rights of either a temporary or permanent basis, nor that the kingdom is necessarily liable to offer any compensation or remuneration for your unsolicited extermination of local vermiforms.”

“I think that’s absolutely clear now. However, likewise I reserve the freedom of thought to speculate on the nature of any conjugal liaison of a temporary or permanent basis which you are under no obligation to grant, upon the nature of any belladonna-laced lingerie you may or may not be modelling, or upon what a shame it would be if you didn’t kiss me right here and now. Milady.”

“You do not have carte blanche to go around randomly kissing princesses just because they happen to have had a recent draconic inconvenience.”

“This is true. It is quite clearly an invitation-only event.”

“And that is frankly not going to happen.”

“Uh-huh. I see.”

“What does that mean? Uh-huh what?”

“Oh, just uh-huh. As in, uh-huh, she’s trying to pretend she doesn’t want me to kiss her right now.”

“Now that is just your imagination running wild. And also you being smug for no good reason.”

“Hey, I killed a flaming huge flaming dragon. Surely I get to be very slightly smug for a limited time period? And if I’m just imagining an attraction why are you blushing?”

“Because I’m shocked. I’m not used to such… boorish treatment.”


“Don’t start that again. Look, you seem a nice enough young man apart from a tendency to wander round in a tin can doing monumentally suicidal things, but any inclination I might have to offer any kind of… lip contact whatsoever can be clearly put down to post-traumatic stress reaction.”

“So you admit to having an inclination, then?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“Yes you did. I heard you. ‘Any inclination you might have’, you said. So you do want me to kiss you.”

“Might have. Not do have. Might have.”

“I’m sure your father the king would be shocked if he found you were not being a wholly truthful princess. Perhaps you would care to clarify whether you are or are not secretly yearning for me to take you in my arms and implement the kind of lip contact you referred to earlier.”

“I don’t see why I should have to supply any such clarification.”

“I suppose not. It’s pretty eveident that you’re dying for me to kiss you. Probably with tongues.”

“Don’t be absurd. You’re going back to these fairy tale stories again. Nothing is going to happen.”

“So you don’t want me to kiss you, and you won’t enjoy it if I do.”


“And you’re willing to prove this?”

“If you insist. I expect I’ll have to find some way of showing you that your ridiculous expectations are nothing more than absurd fantasy.”

“Right. Here goes.”




“Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Not a thing.”

“Really? Because I thought you were sort of kissing back there towards the end.”

“Of course not. I was just trying not to choke on your tongue. Where did you learn to kiss like that?”

“Hero school. Standard heroine-kissing technique.”

“You must have had great fun practising on your school-chums.”

“I did not - and I wish to emphasise this - practise on my school chums. It was an all-squires school.”


“Now you’re doing the uh-huh thing. I think we should have a sort of mutual uh-huh exclusion treaty. So you’re saying you got that good at kissing without practise, then, milady?”

“What? I certainly don’t go around doing kissing practise. If I’m a good kisser it’s an entirely natural talent, and frankly I don’t see where you’re getting that from since I wasn’t kissing you back at all. You’re utterly imagining the whole thing.”

“As previously described, I have a very good imagination. I imagined that as I was embracing you, you were sort of pressing your whole body up against me and really quite enjoying the experience.”

“Then you have a morbid, sick imagination. I was in no way either kissing or pressing. I was simply letting you get the thing out of your system and demonstrating that I was in no way aroused or excited by the contact, despite the adrenaline surge of escaping death by dragon.”

“Really? I had a very different impression of the experience.”

“Well you were clearly overcome by having the chance to kiss a stunning princess, so you probably weren’t thinking clearly.”

“But I was definitely paying attention, milady. In the interests of fairness I think we owe it to ourselves to repeat the experiment and find out which of us has the proper perspective on this.”

“Oh, you do, do you? And you think I have nothing better to do than stand here while a sweaty knight paws me and pulls me close to him and…”


“That… was cheating.”

“Cheating? What do you mean?”

“You cheated. I was letting you kiss me and then you… tickled.”

“I was just making sure I had a firm hold on you for the purposes of the kissing, milady.

“Oh, you got a firm hold alright. You might possibly want to remove your hand from it’s current firm hold, if you please.”

“I might, but on the whole and in a full and measured judgement about the situation I’d say on the whole I’d probably prefer to leave it where it is.”

“Ah, perhaps I should clarify my statement. Get you hand back on my waist or we’ll be finding out just how good that shiny codpiece thing of yours really is.”

“An admirable clarification, milady. Since you seem so good at expressing your views, you might perhaps want to admit now that you were most definitely both kissing and pressing on that occasion. In fact I might go so far as to say that you also gave the impression of melting.”

“Rubbish. If I appeared to kiss and press I was merely being polite since you seemed to be taking the whole thing so seriously. As for melting, I can assure you that at no point did I allow myself… that is at no point did I do anything which could possibly be construed as melting.”

“You realise that if we hadn’t banned uh-huhs I’d be doing one just about now, don’t you?”

“Yes, but we did ban them, so I’ll thank you to accept my word when I say I felt absolutely nothing as you kissed me. Except for a tickle. And your hand going where it shouldn’t.”

“I can only apologise for my forwardness in that matter, milady. I can’t help but notice however that it took you the better part of ten minutes before you drew your objections to my attention.”

“I was too shocked to say anything.”

“Except press. And melt.”

“I did not melt. I may have swooned slightly. As soon as I came to my senses I immediately reported my concerns.”

“Ah. Well feel free to speak up anytime during the following embrace if you want to lodge some kind of complaint.”


“I think I was safer with the dragon.”

“You know, there’s no witnesses to you not being eaten by the wyrm. If you vanished – say with a passing knight on to adventure and romance in a world you never made - nobody would know you hadn’t just been digested.”

“I couldn’t do that.”




“You said no more uh-huhs!”

“Well that was such a blatant asking for an uh-huh that I couldn’t resist it. Of course you could do it. All you have to do is hop onto the four legged thing over there eating the grass, follow the straight muddy track thing we call a road, and keep going.”

“And what happens then?”

“The usual expectation is that we live happily ever after.”



“That sounds very irresponsible.”

“I’d have chosen the word romantic. Or possibly fun.”

“I am clearly suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome to seriously consider this.”

“You should be very flattered. I’m forgoing the fifty percent kingdom deal and just seeking the princess’ hand.”

“It wasn’t my hand you seemed to be paying particular attention to just now.”

“It wasn’t your hand you were squirming up against me when you were melting.”

“I was not, and I wish to emphasise this, melting.”

“Well I have to say that from where I was it gave a very good impression of…”

“Shut up. This is melting.”


Original concepts, characters, and situations copyright © 2009 reserved by Ian Watson. The right of Ian Watson to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the UK Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved.