There was something to be said for being a prince. It brought respect from the masses, but it also carried a weight of expectations that it was hard to maintain. Of course, many princes had wealth, land and a kingdom to inherit, not just the title of ‘prince’. Prince Rulondo wished he had more than just the title. But being the fifth son of a very healthy and long-lived family meant he was never likely to do so.
Thus, on his twenty-first birthday he had announced to his family that he intended to seek his fortune and find his own princess. Eyes were dabbed, hugs exchanged and hands waved as he left, but he had the distinct impression there was a certain amount of relief as well. One less prince to consider in an over-princed kingdom.
In fact, Rulondo had no real intention of finding a princess. He loved playing the flute and had always wanted to be a travelling musician. So his plan was to ride a few kingdoms down the road, then get changed into the humble outfit he had packed in his saddlebags, hide his shiny armour and become ‘Borsrin the Bard’.
But then he saw the dragon.
Rulondo had heard tales of how playing the right tune could calm the most ferocious beast. He took out his flute and set it to his lips. There was only one problem. He had no idea what any of those tunes were and he had certainly never heard of any that charmed a dragon.
Uncertain as to what he should play, Rulondo realised that the dragon was actually addressing him. That was very perplexing. Never in any tale or legend or ballad had he heard of the dragon actually talking to someone in such a familiar way.
“Ho! Sirrah!” he called. “Who art thou that thou dare’st address a prince in such a mien?”
He thought that sounded much the way one should speak to a dragon. Fortunately, the dragon was distracted by the arrival of a knight errant, shouting something about rescuing a fair maiden
Seeing the new arrival, Rulondo felt relief. It was no longer his princely duty to do the dragon thing. He could wholeheartedly bard it now! His flute gripped between his teeth, he unstrapped his armour, hurled the heavy pieces into the air and laughed with joy as his muscular torso rippled naked in the sun.
He snatched up the bardly outfit from his saddlebag, shook it out so the gold, red, emerald and turquoise diamonds of fabric, glimmered in the sunlight, before swirling it around and shrugging his way into it – easing the flute through the neck hole with care. Then, standing up in the saddle and balancing on one leg, he began to play a glorious rendition of ‘Summer is a cumin in’ – breaking off to add loud ‘cuckoos’ at appropriate moments.
It didn’t help much. The dragon still attacked the knight errant. With the expected consequences.
Seeing the slain one, the recently barded Rulondo, began playing a funereal dirge. His eyes fixed on a rather comely young lady who had taken the opportunity to escape from the dragon’s den, and was coming towards him holding a bottle – or two of said dragon’s collection of fine liquors…
“Don’t mind if I do,” Rulondo said and smiled winningly. He took the bottle holding it in one hand and his other muscular arm encircling the maiden.
“I’m Borsrin the Bard. Delighted to meet you. Shall we ride off, seek our fortunes and live free and happy lives unconstrained by the conventions that society would impose upon us?”
And that is exactly what they did…