“Wake up, you lazy oaf!” shouted Dame Gwendolyn as she dumped a bucket of water on Sir Percy’s head.
Sir Percy awoke with a start, sputtering and shaking water from his hair. “Blessed saints, woman! What’s the meaning of this?”
“The meaning is that you spent all night at the tavern again while I was waiting for you!” Gwendolyn placed her hands on her hips and glared at the drenched knight.
“Waiting for me? Whatever for?” Sir Percy sat up in his creaky bed and yawned.
“The treasure hunt!” cried Gwendolyn in exasperation. “We’re supposed to leave at first light to search for the Golden Goblet, remember?”
“Ah yes, the goblet…” mused Sir Percy, rubbing his throbbing head. The Golden Goblet was a bejeweled cup rumored to have magical healing powers. Tales of the mystical prize had circulated the kingdom for months.
Gwendolyn tapped her foot impatiently. “Well if you’re quite done napping, we should be off! The goblet won’t find itself.”
Sir Percy slowly rose and began putting on his dented armor. “Right, you are, m’lady. Just give me a moment to gather my wits and we’ll be on our way.”
As Percy fumbled with the straps, Gwendolyn let out an exaggerated sigh. “Honestly Percy, you’d lose your head if it wasn’t attached… Now hurry up! We’ve got treasures to find!”
Percy chuckled as he sheathed his sword. “Yes dear, I’m hurrying. Though I hope this goblet is worth rising at such an ungodly hour.”
Gwendolyn rolled her eyes. “With the amount you drank last night, I’m sure you’d sleep clear through to sunset.”
She grabbed Percy’s arm and dragged him outside where their horses were waiting. “Now come on! Adventure awaits!”
They mounted their horses and set off towards the forest, where the goblet was said to be hidden. Along the way, they encountered a few other adventurers who had the same goal in mind. Some were friendly and exchanged greetings, while others were hostile and tried to hinder their progress.
“Out of our way, you scoundrels!” shouted a burly man with a bushy beard and a crossbow. He was riding a black stallion and had two companions by his side. “We’re the rightful claimants of the Golden Goblet!”
“Says who?” retorted Gwendolyn, drawing her dagger. “You’re nothing but a bunch of thieves and ruffians!”
“Careful, m’lady,” warned Percy, unsheathing his sword. “They look like trouble.”
“Trouble is my middle name,” said Gwendolyn, grinning. “Let’s show them what we’re made of!”
She spurred her horse and charged at the crossbowman, who fired a bolt at her. She dodged it nimbly and slashed at his arm, making him drop his weapon. Percy followed her lead and engaged one of the other men in a sword fight. The third man tried to flee, but Gwendolyn threw her dagger at his back, bringing him down.
“Ha! That’s how you do it!” she exclaimed, retrieving her dagger from the fallen man.
“Well done, m’lady,” said Percy, wiping his blade on a cloth. “You’re quite the fighter.”
“And you’re not too shabby yourself,” she said, smiling. “Now let’s go before more of them show up.”
They continued their journey, leaving the three men behind. They hoped they would not encounter any more obstacles on their way to the goblet.
But they were wrong.
After dispatching the three ruffians, Sir Percy and Dame Gwendolyn rode deeper into the dark forest. The trees grew thicker and more gnarled as they went, blotting out the sun. Strange animal calls echoed around them.
“These woods give me the chills,” muttered Gwendolyn, rubbing her arms.
“Courage, my lady,” said Percy, though he too felt unnerved.
Before long, they reached a murky swamp blocking their path. Foul vapors rose from the bog and bugs swarmed overhead.
“Ugh! Now what?” cried Gwendolyn, swatting at the insects.
Percy surveyed the swamp, scowling. “We’ll have to go around. But that will cost us hours…”
Suddenly, a shriek rang out across the bog. A haggard woman burst from the trees, waist-deep in sludge, arms flailing.
“Help me!” she wailed. “Something’s got me!”
Percy and Gwendolyn exchanged alarmed looks. The woman thrashed violently like she was being pulled under.
Drawing his sword, Percy spurred his horse into the bog. “Hold on, miss! I’ll get you out!”
“Percy, wait!” warned Gwendolyn, but the gallant knight paid her no mind.
As Percy neared the stranded woman, the murky waters erupted. A massive serpentine head burst forth, jaws snapping. It was an enormous swamp dragon!
The deceitful woman cackled maliciously. “Foolish knight! You fell for my trap!”
Percy paled. “God’s bones! A dragon!”
The monster reared back, ready to strike. But Gwendolyn was quicker. She fired a bolt from her crossbow, striking the dragon in its eye. It recoiled, thrashing wildly.
“Thanks for the save, m’lady!” called Percy.
“Anytime! Now run!”
They fled as the enraged dragon gave chase, its roars shaking the swamp. It seemed their quest for the Golden Goblet would be more perilous than they thought!
Sir Percy and Dame Gwendolyn urged their horses faster through the murky swamp as the furious dragon pursued them. Its thunderous roars sent birds scattering from the gnarled trees overhead.
“Curse this wretched bog!” shouted Sir Percy, ducking to avoid a low-hanging branch.
Lady Gwendolyn glanced back at the enraged beast gaining on them. “We’ll never outrun it in this muck!”
As the dragon drew nearer, she spotted a tangled copse up ahead. “The trees! Ride for the trees!”
They veered right and plunged into the dense thicket. The tangled branches and vines slowed the massive dragon as it smashed through the underbrush behind them.
“It’s working!” yelled Percy as they wove between the trees. But their progress was slowed as well.
Gwendolyn gasped as the dragon’s snapping jaws narrowly missed her horse’s hind legs. “We need to split up! Divide its focus!”
Percy nodded firmly. “Right! See you on the other side!”
They kicked their steeds in opposite directions. The confounded dragon whipped its head back and forth between them, splintering trees with its claws.
Gwendolyn drew her sword and stabbed at the creature’s flank as she rode past. It yowled in pain and whipped around, buying Percy precious time to escape the copse.
He burst out the other side and turned to see if Gwendolyn had made it. To his horror, she was nowhere to be seen.
“My lady!” Percy cried in dismay. Had the vile beast gotten her?
At that moment, the trees exploded as Gwendolyn came barreling out, the dragon on her heels.
“Miss me?” she called with a grin.
Percy laughed in relief. “Am I glad to see you!”
Together they rode hard, finally leaving the furious dragon far behind. After a few miles, they slowed their lathered horses to a walk.
“Well, that was bracing!” said Gwendolyn.
Percy shook his head. “Remind me never to chase a damsel in distress again.”
“Don’t worry, brave knight. We’ll get that goblet yet,” she said with a smile. And side by side, they rode on into the depths of the forest.
To be continued…