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Fairy Tale

"My name is Phaedrus Dumai, and I was eaten by a dragon."

It was all very sad, but not as unpleasant as you might think. I came from the kingdom of Answers, as did the knights who were eaten before me. The Kingdom of Answers was a wonderful place for scholars, artists and poets. There were libraries and theaters and public transportation. We argued late into the night in search of answers to life’s most difficult questions. But none of us made very good knights.
The king ruled well and loved discussing interesting things, but his son, Prince Phineas, was a bit slow. He was handsome and quick, but preferred horse riding and ball games over libraries and chess tournaments. He could never find anyone to arm wrestle, because we always worried about harming our wrists, which we needed for gesturing whenever we talked.
So you can only imagine how excited we all were when Prince Phineas discovered the West, where the boys grew up boxing and seeing how far they could throw heavy objects. It was soon his favorite place, and it naturally came to pass that his favorite person was the Western Princess, named Priscilla. She could tie a knot faster than a sailor and her voice was so beautiful that the sunflowers turned towards her whenever she sang, instead of the sun in the sky.
It was widely assumed that Prince Phineas and Princess Priscilla would marry. It became a figure of speech. If one was sure of something, they would say, “Why that’s as sure as Phineas and Priscilla!”
Then the dragon came, and it was absolutely terrible.
It breathed fire and foul-smelling wind that smelled like spoiled vegetables. The West was all but gone before anyone in the kingdom of Answers had stepped out of their libraries to see why everything smelled so bad.
The last thing Prince Phineas saw as the dragon marched away was Princess Priscilla, held in the air by the dragon’s tail. She called after him with her sweet voice, which even then sounded so bright that patches appeared in the smoke, allowing the sun to shine on her.
The king of the kingdom of Answers immediately gathered his bravest knights toanswer the question of rescuing Princess Priscilla. Of course I was one of those knights, because I had read many books about dragons and bravery.
Alphus Phinx was elected to go first, eventhough Prince Phineas had been the first to volunteer. Alphus had played a hero in over ten plays, and always wore roses in his breast pocket.
But Alphus Phinx did not return, and the air began to smell like burning roses.
One by one we left, ignoring Prince Phineas when he volunteered. But no one returned. When the king selected me to go, rather than his son, Prince Phineas broke down in tears. “Oh father,” he said, “surely you cannot think this man better suited to fight a dragon than I. I have grown up fighting and throwing heavy objects, while he has spent his life in libraries.”
But the king would have nothing of it, and neither would I. So I left the castle and made my way to the dragon’s cave.
The cave was easy to find because it lit up at night whenever the dragon sneezed. Down the rocky path I climbed, lowering myself inside. The dragon took up most of the cave. Its red, leathery scales pushed against the rock and its smoky breath made it hard to see where the cave ended and the dragon began. Its eyes glowed through the smoke, and if I squinted just so and raised the metal lid of my helmet I could see Princess Priscilla, bound by the dragon’s tail.
To my surprise, the dragon spoke. “Who goes there?” it hissed, with a raspy voice that grinded through the cave.
I raised my sword with both hands, because it was too heavy to hold with just one. I tried to remember what I had read about dragon slaying and bravery, but was unable to recall a single thing.
But the dragon did not eat me, the dragon asked me a question.
It was the most difficult question I had ever heard. I was too surprised to even guess, so the dragon swallowed me whole, because it was old, and had no teeth.

Because the dragon had no teeth, it had swallowed all sorts of things without chewing, including all the other knights. Its belly was a comfortable place. The knights had made chess pieces out of junk and there were pieces of furniture for everyone to sit on.
They were all terribly upset. Any minute now Prince Phineas would appear in the cave, only to be eaten because he could not answer the dragon. So we all got to doing what we did best, which was finding the answer to a difficult question.
It was the toughest question any of us had ever heard. There was so much disagreement that the dragon would have had an upset stomach if it hadn’t been a dragon. But at last we all decided that the answer to the dragon’s question was “yes.”
Finally Prince Phineas arrived, and we all climbed on each others' shoulders to stare out of the dragon’s nostrils and hopefully get his attention.
“Who goes there?” asked the dragon.
But before we could whisper to him, Prince Phineas lifted a heavy rock and threw it as far as he could, striking the dragon down. Then Princess Priscilla tied the dragon’s mouth shut with its own tail, using one of her fancy knots, so it could no longer breathe any fire.
“Now listen here,” Prince Phineas said, before we could get his attention through the dragon’s nostril, “I will let you live but you may never come back. You’ve already killed the greatest knights I know.”
We were all so happy that Prince Phineas had said such a wonderful thing. Many of us thought he didn’t care about answering questions, and when we saw him reunited with Princess Priscilla, we were too touched to speak and the dragon left with us inside before we could say a word.

Now you may think we knights were unhappy, stuck inside that dragon’s belly, but nothing could be farther from the truth. The dragon’s mouth was bound shut so it no longer breathed fire or swallowed anything. This suited the dragon just fine, because it was old and had no teeth, and it liked drinking soup through its nose.
We had read so many things about the world, but had never actually seen them. We climbed up the dragon’s throat and watched the world through its nose (except, of course, when it was eating soup). We said things to our companions about whatever we saw, and the others said “yes yes yes!” as we marched towards the sun.