Once upon a time, one of those beautiful princesses you always hear about lived in her very own tower on top of a high(ish) mountain. The tower was a proper fairy tale tower, so it was surrounded by brambles and thorns and lined with slimy moss. On the ground around it, like trampled flowers, lay the bodies of knights and earls and general adventurers of the cis-hetero male variety.
None of this deterred our hero Grant, of course. Grant was your typical handsome, beefy knight in shining armor. His armor shone from the hours of monotonous polishing his near-sighted squire did every night as our hero snored heroically by a dung-fueled fire.
The squire’s name was Calvin.
Ever since Grant was a small beefy toddler, people had told him about his special-ness. He grew up believing he deserved rewards for being born handsome and beefy and to parents who could afford tutors to teach him how to be a knight and hire squires like Calvin to do all the necessary boring stuff.
Ever since Calvin was a near-sighted child, his parents told him to get a job so he could take care of his family and to stop reading all those useless books that didn’t tell him how to get a job.
Grant and Calvin climbed up the slippery walls of the tower connected by a strong thick rope. The plan was, if one of them falls, the other would catch him. When they got to the window at the top, Grant detached the rope and threw his helmet down. He had insisted on looking as heroic as possible when meeting the princess, and safety measures were definitely not. Calvin pulled a large mirror out of the sack on his back and directed the sunlight to catch Grant’s best angles.
Still hanging by their finger- and boot-tips , they turned to look inside the tower. A young girl sat in an armchair by the window reading a book. One leg was curled up under her and the other was thrown haphazardly over the side of the chair. She was munching on an apple. As they watched her, she took a large bite and threw the core over her shoulder and out the window without raising her head. It flew by Grant’s perfectly tousled curls right as he cleared his throat in the most courteous, knightly manner. She ignored him and turned a page.
She wasn’t blonde, as he expected from the stories, but she’s not bad-looking. He would give her a solid seven out of ten — maybe a nine if she put on a dress and some lipstick and wasn’t ignoring him like she’s doing now. Anyway, she was a princess after all and that’s what mattered.
Grant cleared his throat again.
“Greetings, Princess. I am Sir –”
The princess held up a finger in the universal sign of “Shut up, I’m busy.” There followed about ten seconds of stunned silence. Calvin wondered how painful a fall from this height would be or if there would just be instant death and no pain at all.
The princess sighed. She folded the corner of the page she was reading, closed the book, and turned to them with bored, half-shut eyes.
“Greetings, Princess,” Grant began again. The princess rolled her eyes ever so subtly.
“I am Sir Grant Longlastname of Tinykingdom. I have braved many dangers in my quest to rescue you from your enchanted tower…” He then listed the customary dragons he had killed who were just minding their business and really didn’t deserve to be shot through the heart at all. If hoarding money and lacking empathy necessitated such localized violence, there would be many heartless people in all the financial centers of the modern world. But I digress. Sir Grant Longlastname was listing all the miserly dragons whose cardiac organs he had fatally pierced. He also listed the wild rivers he had forded and the dangerous mountain paths he had conquered on his way to the tower.
His squire was thinking, yes, but try crossing rivers and climbing mountains while carrying all the pots and bedding and extra weapons. And he had to dodge the dragons too, without Sir Grant’s magical shield to protect him from their flames.
The princess was thinking about lunch.
Finally Sir Grant says, “… and now I have earned your hand in marriage and we shall return to Tinyking—”
“Wait, what?” said the princess. “I don’t think so.”
Sir Grant looked like he had swallowed a fly. He took a deep breath and said very, very slowly, “And now…I have…earned…your hand…”
“Yes I heard you the first time,” said the princess. She suddenly remembered something, some script or code she was supposed to follow. She sat up, folded her hands in front of her, lifted her chin and said in a monotonous voice,
“Dear brave knight. You have braved many dangers in your quest. I commend you for your bravery. Now please leave me in peace…bravely.” She made a majestic waving motion with her right hand and turned back to her book.
Sir Grant looked like he had swallowed a hornet this time. Fortunately, Calvin noted, the expression didn’t make his face any less handsome. Grant looked at the treetops around him and the blue cloudless sky above. He looked at his golden, perfectly-formed head in the mirror.
“But, I made it to the top,” he said, in his strong deep voice.
“Yes, that’s very impressive.” said the princess without looking up.
“I made it to the top.” This time less strong and deep.
“Yes, yes. But that doesn’t make me suddenly want to spend the rest of my life legally bound to you.”
“I made it. To the top.”
“Yes, I know. I just don’t see how the ability to climb walls and travel challenging terrain and kill giant lizards is any indication of our compatibility. What if I can’t stand the sound of your voice or you don’t like the way I roll my eyes? How have you shown sufficient qualification for being an emotional support for me, or displayed aptitude for being a caring and sensitive father figure if I wanted to have children? Marriage is a very complicated undertaking these days.”
“But, I made it.”
“Look, if I want my progeny to have brawny arms and a stultifying grasp of the obvious, I might consider your proposition. Other wise, I must politely decline.”
“Excuse me, Miss.” Calvin could see this conversation was going to go on for a while. He did not want to be still hanging off this wall in the dark. “I think he means that he understood you were his reward for making it to the top.”
“Well that’s silly. He never wondered if I agreed to be his reward?”
The knight’s handsome blonde head started to hurt. A throbbing sensation grew in the middle of his smooth strong forehead. A thought was forming. It was a painful thought that perhaps the world did not follow a neat set of rules, that the whole value system by which he regarded himself a success was really just delusional hogwash, and that he spent the better part of a year working for a prize that turned out, after all, to be a woman. He closed his beautiful blue eyes and pressed the palms of his manly hands against his eyelids.
Unfortunately, he had forgotten he was clinging to a precariously slippery and dizzyingly high tower.
Right before the impact of the ground against his body crushed his ribcage and all the squishy, perfectly-formed organs within, he realized he was going to die. At least he did not have to think that thought for long.