Fantasy & Sci-Fi

A Classic (sort of) Fairy Tale

By Richard Lovig

Once upon a time, in an enchanted kingdom far far away, there lived a Terrible Dragon named Fred.

#Hang on a second. This can't be right. There's no way you can name a dragon Fred and expect to get away with it.#

*Gimme a break, will ya? I'm in no condition to try and think up an original sounding name for some stupid lizard. Now just read the script the way it's written, okay?*

#But...#

*You want this job or not?*

#Well yes, but...#

*Then read the script the way it's written!*

#Okay, okay, but I still don't like it.#

Ahem, as I was saying, a Terrible Dragon named Fred. Fred lived in a cave high in the mountains, where he slept for years at a time atop a mountainous pile of treasure. Scattered about the cave were the bones of those mortals brave enough or foolish enough to try to steal his treasure from him. Save for those occasions when he was forced to slay the mortals that invaded his lair, the Mighty Fred normally slept peacefully, dreaming dragonish dreams of wealth and killing.

Lately however, Fred's dreams had become troubled and his sleep uneasy.

PAUSE

#Boss?#

*What now?*

#That damn dragon is still sleeping like a rock.#

*Lem'me see. Ah, here we go. Try this.*

CRACK!!! A great bolt of lighting struck just outside the lair of the Mighty Fred, rousing him from a slumber that had already been troubled and uneasy. The dragon jerked awake, striking its head painfully against the low cave roof.

"Ow! Goddamn low ceilings," Fred muttered to himself as he climbed to his feet. With a tread that shook the ground below, he strode to the mouth of his cave.

"Hell, the ground's shaking now. I gotta complain to the Manager about those stupid Dwarves and their stupid tunnels. Much more of this and the whole mountain's gonna come down around my ears." He looked outside. "Yech, sleet and freezing rain again. I hate rain."

#Hey, you! Dragon!#

The Mighty Fred looked about, scratched briefly at himself producing a horrible sound of steel claws scraping against armor scales, then responded, "Yeah, whadya want?"

#Get in character. We're on.#

"What's wrong, dragons are supposed to be bad tempered, right? So I'm bad tempered. You just narrate, I'll act."

#But you sound too mundane. Be more archaic and less mundane.#

"Yeah, sure. As I was sayin', I doth hatest rain. It doth cause my scales to rust." Striking a dramatic pose. "To be or not to be, that is the question. Whether it's nobler in the mine to suffer the picks and axes of outraged Dwarves or to retreat to ones cave for a cold brew! Oh...!"

#All right, all right! I give up! Do whatever you want! Let the damn story go to hell. See if I care! I quit! Do you hear me Big Guy? I quit! You and that stupid, surly dragon can do this damn thing without me!#

*Suit yourself. Just don't expect a reference.*

#CENSORED#

*Hey! Dragon.*

"What now?"

*The narrator guy quit so I'm gonna be taking over. Bear with me will ya?*

"No problem. That narrator guy was a jerk anyway. So what comes next?"

*According to the outline here you're supposed to nab a chick.*

"Like, what kind?"

*Lemme see. Hmm... According to this she has to be a Princess, beautiful, and a virgin.*

"A virgin! And just where, pray tell, should I look for one of those? The local grade school?"

*I don't know. I don't write the guidelines. Tell you what, just find a good looking Princess and maybe they'll let the virgin part slide.*

"Yeah, okay. You got it."

The Mighty Fred strode forth from--

"Strode?! How can a dragon stride?"

*Ease up. I'm new at this.*

"Yeah."

The Mighty Fred walked forth--

"Walked? That lacks feeling."

*You wanna do this yourself?*

"Not particularly, no."

*Then shut up and let me work.*

The Mighty Fred (fill in the verb of your choice) from his cave. His scales shone in the dim sunlight that filtered through the heavy clouds that perpetually shrouded this dark realm in a cloak of gloom.

Fred had finally recognized the feeling that had roused him from his ages long slumber. It was the desire to pillage, to plunder, to destroy, to burn villages, and lay waste to crops and forests. In short, it was the desire to have a little good, rowdy fun.

"All right! Let's party!" the Mighty Fred bellowed. With a flap of his mighty wings he took to the air, riding the powerful winds that howled through the mountains in which the Mighty Fred laired.

"Uh, Chief?"

*Yeah, what is it?*

"Could you tone down those winds a bit? I'm starting to get a mite queasy."

*A dragon who gets airsick? Wonderful.*

"Sorry."

*Yeah, okay.*

Quickly dropping below the level of the fierce winds, Fred soon reached the calm air that covered the countryside.

"Thanks."

*No problem. Now get out there, cause some random destruction and find a Princess.*

"Check."

The Mighty Fred circled lower, spying a farm below with someone out in the fields.

Lower he circled, lower, lower, lower.

WHAM!

*Sorry.*

The Mighty Fred rose to his feet, having taken surprisingly little damage from his abrupt landing.

"You call that a landing?!" he demanded, spitting out a mouthful of turf.

*I said I was sorry.*

"Yeah, sure. Anyhow, now what?"

*Go question that guy out in the field.*

"Check."

The Mighty Fred walked...

"Walked?"

*Gimmie a break will you? I'm working under a deadline. I've got no time to come up with original verbs. Now let's just get this done, shall we?*

"Oh, all right."

Ahem. The Mighty Fred walked across the grassy field...

"Aw hell."

*Now what?*

"I just stepped in something gross."

*Crap.*

"Exactly."

The Mighty Fred wiped his foot off on the clean grass; then, picking his way carefully, made his way across the grassy field to the man standing at the edge of it.

"Are you the dragon known as 'The Mighty Fred', number 111-42-666?" the man asked, consulting the clipboard he carried.

"Yeah." The Mighty Fred answered with a tone of puzzlement in his voice.

"Good. My name is Giles. I represent the union. According to the rules you're nearly a page overdue for a break. Do you wish to sue?"

"Nah, I don't think so. I could do with a break about now though. Along with a tall cold one."

"Suit yourself. In case you change your mind, here's my card."

He handed Fred a small, thin, plastic rectangle then turned to face a tall brass-bound door that had appeared a few inches above the ground. He paused for a moment, door knob in hand, while he added, "Oh, by the way. The castle with the Princess in it is twenty-three miles down the road that runs alongside this pasture. The Princess herself will be standing on the balcony of the highest tower. Good-bye."

He pulled open the door, stepped through, then closed it behind himself. After closing, the door promptly shimmered then vanished.

"Okay, now how about that break and that brew?"

*Why not? I think 'willing suspension of disbelief' has been shot to hell by now anyway. All that's left is to get through this sucker the way it's plotted with a minimum of effort. Now, what kinda beer d'ya want? Coors?*

"How 'bout a Red Instead?"

*You got it.*

"Where?" the Mighty Fred demanded, glancing about.

*Look around.*

The Mighty Fred, by use of his keen dragonish eyesight, was able to spot a dull gleam in the distance. A few flaps of his powerful wings brought him to the source of the gleam where he could take a closer look.

Upon closer examination the source of the gleam turned out to be the corner of a metal beer keg that seemed to be almost totally buried in the ground. A few swipes from his powerful claws took care of that, unearthing a full keg of beer. Since it was still early spring, the keg was frosty cold from having been in the ground. Once again putting his powerful claws to work, Fred peeled off the top of the keg, then proceeded to enjoy his beer.

"Thanks boss."

*No problem.*

All too soon however, the keg was empty and the brief respite from his quest to pillage, plunder and abscond with princesses was over. The Mighty Fred gave a contented belch, tossed the empty keg aside, then launched himself into the air and flapped off in the direction of the castle.

*Hey Fred. I'm going to be cutting out for a bit here to cover the Knight, so you'll be on your own when you nab the Princess. Good-luck.*

"Sure."


The Valiant Knight, Sir, Um...

*Hey, Knight. What's your name?*

"Sir Butch."

*You're kidding, right?*

"Nope."

*But I ordered a hero for this thing. A Lancelot, a Galahad, a Gawain. Someone like that.

"Hey, the way this turkey's been going, you can hardly expect Central Casting to send you big name talent. It was either me or some Space Opera hero. The Analog Kid I think."

*The Analog Kid? That's really scraping the bottom of the barrel. Just about anyone's better than that. That guy can't even stay on a horse.*

Now, where were we? Ah, yes. Here we go. The Valiant Knight, Sir Butch, traveled down the dusty road, sitting astride his noble stallion...

"He's a gelding."

Sitting astride his noble steed, um...

"Elmer."

*Like the glue?*

"Check."

Sitting astride his noble steed Elmer he rode tall in the saddle, his armor shining and with a steely gleam in his, ah, sunglasses. He carried a lance from which flew his pennant. It was, well it was, um, excuse me a moment will you?

*Get that underwear off of your lance right now! This is a family type publication.*

"But it's a trophy of one of my greatest conquests!"

*I can just imagine. Hmm... I was just noticing something. Are you sure that's girl's underwear? It looks more like...*

"Okay, okay! Take it!"

It was suddenly torn off by a stray tree branch.

He carried a sword at his belt and a shield at his side in the tradition of all true knights.

He had been traveling along like this for longer than he cared to remember when he spied smoke on the horizon. Far more smoke than could be accounted for by the cookfires of a village. He knew that this could only mean one thing:

"Saddle sores."

*You shut up.*

Trouble! He urged his steed to a gallop and headed in the direction of the smoke.


The Princess looked around Fred's lair in obvious distaste.

"Like, what a dump. Don't you ever clean this place? And, like, what's this stuff on the floor, human bones? Like, how gross can you get?"

"Not so loud." The Mighty Fred pleaded. "My head is killing me."

"Well, like, excuse me for living." The Princess said huffily.

A painful silence ensued. That is, the Princess was silent and Fred was in pain.

*Hi Fred. How's it going? I see you got the Princess.*

"Yeah, I got the Princess all right. I've also got a killer hangover."

The Princess glanced around nervously. "Like, who was that?"

"Like, that was the author of this story." Fred winced. "Damn, now she's got me doing it."

"Like, doing what?" The Princess inquired.

*Like, starting every sentence with the word, 'like' that's what.*

"So? Like, what's the matter with that?"

"Because it gets on my nerves. So, like, cut it out or I'll roast you."

"Hey, like, you can't do that to me. I've got a contract." She took a folded sheet of paper out of her well-filled bodice, unfolded it and held it out to Fred. "See?"

Fred waved it aside. "Don't bother. I'll take your word on it."

The Princess looked smug.

"However," he added. "I could get sick again."

"Oh no you don't! You were ralphing all the way up the damn mountain. You do it in here and I'm leaving."

"If only it were that easy." Fred muttered. "And would you please keep your voice down?"

The Princess ignored him, poking through the mounds of plunder.

"Alright!" She exclaimed. She had discovered an old TV set resting unattended in a dark corner of the cave. "Does this thing work?" Not waiting for a response she turned it on and proceeded to flip through the channels.

"Boss, this little air-head is driving me out of my mind. Help!"

*Don't worry Fred old chum. The Knight'll be along soon enough to take her off your hands.*

The Princess flounced up, pounded upon the Mighty Fred's steel scaled head with her fist to get his attention, and demanded, "Hey you, Lizard, fix your stupid TV. Like, it won't pick up MTV."

The Mighty Fred groaned.


As Sir Butch rode into town he could still see smoke rising from the ashes of what had been a very large building. Large numbers of townspeople were gathered around gazing mournfully at the ruins. One cluster of people turned out to be the King and a number of his advisors. Sir Butch dismounted, tied up his horse…

"Where?"

*Whada'ya mean where?*

"Where am I supposed to tie up the horse? There's no place to tie up the damn horse."

*Then just leave it.*

"No way. This thing is signed out under my name."

*Oh, all right. Goffer!*

A kid dressed in jeans, sneakers and an Inferno tour '88 T-shirt came trotting up. "Yo! Did somebody call for a goffer?"

*I did. Take care of the horse will ya?*

"No problem." He took the horse by the reins and started to lead it away.

"Hold it!" Sir Butch protested.

*What now?*

"I want a receipt."

*A receipt!*

"You heard me. A receipt." He stood and waited, wearing his best pouting look.

*Oh, all right! Goffer!*

"Yeah, what now?"

*Give the um, man a receipt for ol' Dogfood.*

."That's Elmer!"

*Whatever. Just hurry up.*

"Okay, Chief." The goffer pulled out a pen and a ragged piece of paper and looked around for something to write on. He finally settled on Sir Butch's shield, much to the annoyance of Sir Butch. When he finished he handed it to Sir Butch, who looked it over, his lips moving as he read.

"My lips do not move when I read!"

*Do so.*

"Do not!"

"You guys want to hurry it up? We're working on the new Heinlein novel over in the next continua and we're pretty short handed."

"Oh all right." Sir Butch said petulantly and handed his steed's reins to the goffer as he pocketed the receipt. The goffer led the horse away. Sir Butch just stood there.

*Come on! Get a move on!*

Sir Butch removed his mirrored sunglasses. "You mean we're still going on with this thing after that?" He asked in amazement.

*Why not? It can't get any worse.*

"I wouldn't bet on it."

*Just get to work. Go up and have a talk with the King. He's expecting you.*

"Oh, all right." He walked up to the King and made a low, sweeping bow. The King failed to notice him. "Um, excuse me. Your Majesty?"

The King spun to face Sir Butch. "Are you from Central Casting?"

"Yes your Majesty. I..."

"Well if you've come to give me more excuses, forget it. I want a Knight and I intend to kick up a fuss until I get one."

"I am the Knight, your Majesty."

"You a Knight? You look more like a fairy to me."

Before Sir Butch could respond a man in a three piece suit stepped between him and the King.

"Giles. Legal Advisor. Here's my card."

*I thought you were with the union!*

"I get around." He returned his attention to the King.

"According to truth in advertising, since this production is billed as a fairy tale, we are obliged to have a fairy in it. Hence, Sir Butch."

"Who you callin' a fairy?" Sir Butch demanded, his hand on the hilt of his sword.

"I am not. The production company is. If you wish, you may sue for defamation of character. Here's my card." With that Giles vanished into the crowd.

"As I was saying before I was interrupted," the King said. "You look like a real fairy but I guess you'll have to do.

"Anyhow, the story is this. Some Dragon flew into town, grabbed my daughter the Princess from her balcony, then absconded with her."

"And all of this damage occurred in the fight to recover her, right?"

"What fight to recover her? We were glad to be rid of her. You should have seen the way she could spend the kingdom's money."

"Then what about all of this damage?"

"That came later, after the dragon stopped in the local tavern to have a few drinks, then a few more, then a few more."

"But why would he cause all this destruction?"

"Who knows? The only people who might have known went up with this tavern." The King shook his head sadly. "Anyhow, the town council has declared the Dragon a menace and insists that I sent a champion to slay it."

"And what's in it for..." Sir Butch stopped suddenly. "Hey! How about a little privacy?"

*Sorry.*

Sir Butch spent a few minutes talking with the King, apparently discussing some detail of rescuing the Princess from the Mighty Fred.

Finally Sir Butch extended his hand to the King who shook it, slapped him on the shoulder and wished him success on his quest.

*Come on, come on. Hurry it up, we haven't got all day.*

Sir Butch bowed to the King again, put his sunglasses back on and strode heroically away. When he was well away from the crowd, he asked, "Well? What's the hurry?"

*My deadline's been moved up. We've gotta make this thing march.*

"Okay, just bring out Elmer and I'll get moving."

*Are you kidding? It'll take you days to get there on horseback. I've worked out something faster.*

"Like what?" Sir Butch asked suspiciously.

*Goffer!*

The same kid who had taken Sir Butch's horse came running up and handed something to Sir Butch.

"Car keys?"

*Yeah. I gotcha a Jeep. With it you ought to be up there in no time.*

"You realize that this is very unconventional."

*Listen, this whole story has been unconventional. I mean, by now any kind of believability this thing ever had has been shot to hell and gone. Now get going.*

"Where's the Jeep?"

*In a stand of trees outside town. A map to the Dragon's Lair is in it. It shouldn't take you more than a few hours to get there. I'll meet you there.*

"Sounds good."

The brave Knight, Sir Butch, set out for the edge of town where he knew that there was a Jeep waiting for him. He would take that Jeep into the mountains to face the Dragon in a glorious Battle to the Death…

"What do you mean, 'Battle to the Death'?"

*Shut up, I'm on a roll.*

A battle to end the Reign of Terror caused by the Mighty Fred, and to…

"What 'Reign of Terror'? According to the King, he burned down a tavern. You call that a--"

*I said, 'Shut up.'*

To end the Reign of Terror of the Mighty Fred and to rescue the Beautiful Princess from…

"I'm not rescuing the Princess. All I want is the treasure."

*One more interruption and you're gonna be struck by lightning and I'm gonna get a new hero. Now clam up!*

From the clutches of the Dragon. This was his quest. Boldly, he set out for his Jeep.

"Hold it Mac."

"What now?" Sir Butch asked tiredly.

"You've gotta sign for that Jeep."


High in the mountains, deep within a secluded cave, lairs the Mighty Fred. The Mighty Fred lies atop his mountainous pile of treasure, guarding…

"Hey! Like, he's not in here," the Princess called out.

*What? You mean Fred?*

"Like, who else would I be talking about, huh?"

*Well then, where is he?*.

"Like, do you see this chain?" She indicated a light copper chain that was afixed to the back of a TV set. The other end trailed out of sight in the direction of the cave mouth.

*Yeah. What about it?*

"Well, like, he's at the other end of the chain."

*You've chained up Fred?!*

The cave trembled from the tread of the Mighty Fred as he returned from outside the cave. He was covered all over with a thick blanket of snow which was now beginning to melt in the comparative warmth of the inner cave.

"No, she didn't chain Fred. She's done worse, she's humiliated Fred. Just look at this!" He lashed his tail, causing the copper chain looped around it to go flying, and putting a nasty gash in the cave wall.

*What's going on here anyway?*

"Well, like…"

"Would you please stop using the word like?"

The Princess ignored him. "Like, I couldn't get MTV to come in on this stupid television of his, so, like, I figured we needed a better antenna."

"Three guesses who she decided would make a good antenna."

"Well, hey, with all those metal scales, I figured, like…"

"Oh, spare me," the Mighty Fred interrupted. He sighed heavily and lowered himself ponderously to the ground.

"Hey! Watch it! All that snow you tracked in is melting and getting everything all wet."

Fred examined the spreading puddle critically, then inhaled hugely, held it for a moment, then breathed a huge jet of flame at the puddle turning it instantly to steam. After taking care of the water on the floor, he turned the flame on his own scales, eliminating the remaining snow and bringing out a beautiful blue-black sheen in his scales.

"Oh, great! Wonderful! You get rid of the water, and turn the cave into a sauna at the same time! Do you realize what this is going to do to my hair? Like, it's going to go perfectly straight. By the time my Knight in Shining Armor gets here, I'll look so bad he won't be interested. Is there a mirror in this dump?" She stalked off into the depths of the cave.

"Speaking of Knights, Boss, when is yours going to come and liberate me?"

*I'm not sure, he was supposed to be here by now. D'ya think he got lost?*

"Well, let me ask you this: is he the same caliber as the rest of the characters in this story?"

*Well, uh, yeah. He is.*

"Then he's probably lost."

*Damn! I was hoping to have things wrapped up by now. What do you think I ought to do?*

"I don't suppose you'd consider sending the Princess home and just giving up on this whole thing?" he asked hopefully.

*'Fraid not.*

"That's what I was afraid you'd say." He sighed. "I guess we'll have to go look for him then."

*Right. So where do we start? This is a big mountain range, you know.*

"I know, I know. Still, I think that we can narrow things down somewhat. Have you got a map of this area?"

*Sure.*

A miniature image of the mountain range where the Mighty Fred laired shimmered into existence before Fred.

*How's that?*

"Impressive."

*Yeah, well, we authors can do a lot when we don't give a damn about maintaining believability.*

The Mighty Fred pondered this for a moment then commented, "So why don't you just have him come staggering in through the cave mouth, as if he had discovered the cave purely by chance?"

*Good plan. A very good plan. You ought to become a writer yourself.*

"Watch the insults."

Suddenly, out of the cold winds, staggered the armored figure of Sir Butch. Looking around he commented, "It's the Dragon's Lair. I've discovered it purely by chance."

"That line sounds suspiciously familiar."

*Gimmie a break. At least you didn't have to go looking for him in the snow, did you?*

"True."

*Then quit complaining and get to work.*

The Mighty Fred turned to face Sir Butch and roared, "Come and rescue the Fair Maiden, Good Knight! If you can."

"Fair! Who are you calling 'fair'! I think I rate a lot higher than 'fair!'"

*That's not what he means by fair. Now run to Sir Butch and try to look scared. This is your big scene.*

"Not until he apologizes for calling me 'fair'."

*Dammit. Of all the times...*

"Don't sweat it. Princess, I'm sorry for calling you fair. You're actually very beautiful. Now can we please finish this scene?"

"Well, okay," she sniffed.

"Good. Now, as I was saying, come Good Knight. Rescue the Beautiful Princess if you can."

"Oh no. You're not pushing her off on me. Her old man paid me quite a bit to see to it that she never made it back. Plus, if I slay you, I get all of your treasure. Tax free." He pulled out his sword and held up his shield.

"Forget it Human. If you're not going to take the girl away, then you're just another trespasser." Fred breathed a jet of flame at Sir Butch. Sir Butch caught it on his shield which deflected the flame without so much as scorching.

"What the hell?!"

*Sorry Fred. It's an enchanted shield.*

"What about the sword?"

*Spelled to be able to cut through a dragon's scales.*

"That's what I was afraid you'd say."

"Hey, like, why don't you just try to talk this out?" The Princess suggested brightly.

"Or not," she added as Sir Butch and the Mighty Fred both glared at her.

"Well, this is a real unpleasant situation," Fred commented. "I guess we're just going to have to fight it out."

With that, he lunged at Sir Butch, who warded him off with a blow from his sword that cut through Fred's armor and left a nasty gash along his lower jaw.

"Come on little man. I've gotten worse cuts shaving," he taunted. As Sir Butch rushed forward to attack the Mighty Fred, Fred clapped one clawed forefoot to his left eye and cried out, "Don't move! I lost a contact!"

Sir Butch stopped his charge and looked down to examine the ground around him. When he did, the Mighty Fred lashed out with his razor sharp claws, slicing through Sir Butch's armor and cutting him into several messy pieces.

"Stupid. Knights are always so stupid."

"Ugh! Like, how gross!"

As the Mighty Fred picked up the pieces he commented, "I guess that means that you don't want your share then, doesn't it?"

"Like, yeah." She turned slightly green as she got a good look at the mortal remains of Sir Butch. "You aren't going to eat him, are you?"

"Me, eat? With this hangover? Don't be disgusting."

He carried Sir Butch outside the cave. When he returned, Sir Butch was no longer with him.

"Like, what'd you do with him?"

"Left him outside in the cold. He'll make a dandy snack later on."

"Like, totally disgusting."

*Uh, Fred?*

"Yeah?"

*Bad news. Since you killed off our hero...*

"You call him a hero?"

*He was the closest we had. As I was saying, since you killed him off, we're now short a vital character. Also, I've run out of time.*

"I don't think I like where this is heading."

*So, until I can get around to writing a sequel, I'm afraid you're stuck looking after the Princess.*

"Oh no! You can't do this to me!"

*Just hang in there. I shouldn't be long. A few months maybe.*

"Months!"

*A year or two at the most.*

"Wait! This isn't fair!"

*See you Fred.*

"But, but..."

"Like hey! This stupid set still doesn't get MTV."

"You can't do this to me!"

*I have great faith in you. 'Bye.*

"No! Wait! Come back here!"

"And, like, don't you ever clean this place?"

"Help!"

NOTE: Any information on the current whereabouts of the author of this story would be greatly appreciated as he is wanted by both Central Casting for failing to return a hero for which he signed, as well as by a very large and very angry dragon whom he left holding the bag.

Thank you

Signed, Giles,
Legal Department