The king considered Sir Jack to be one of his bravest knights. He might be short in stature, due to being a dog, but he’d never let it stop him. He outperformed the human knights on a number of different occasions.
When there were quests to go fetch precious objects, Sir Jack was always the first one called. He had retrieved lost crowns from streams, golden goblets from caves, and diamond rings from forests. On one less-than-momentous occasion, he’d even saved the royal picnic basket from a large thorny hedge.
He was also skilled at guarding things. He protected the king when he was walking among the people and the royal sheep during transport between meadows. He was often given night duty to protect the castle. Nothing got past him.
No one would question his loyalty or his bravery. However, what the king didn’t know was that Sir Jack had one thing that he feared more than anything else. Sir Jack was terrified of princesses.
Logically, he knew there was nothing to be scared of. They were just human girls, like the other ones he met every day in the castle or around the village. However, whenever he saw a princess, from this kingdom or another, he’d want to run and hide. Somehow they seemed to send out a menacing aura that no one else could sense. He whimpered just thinking about it.
He’d managed to work around his fear when in the presence of the royal family. He’d just look anywhere but at the little princesses and try to pretend they weren’t there. His hair would still stand on end, and he’d still have the impulse to run, but mostly it worked out. He just always seemed especially eager to leave and fulfill whatever his newest task was.
And then one day, his bravery and loyalty were put to the test. The king called him in to give him another quest. A dragon had captured the oldest, scariest princess while she was out picking wildflowers, or something sinister like that. Sir Jack tried to not think about the princess at all.
“Where is the dragon?” he asked.
“It flew into the farthest hills with the princess clutched in its evil claws,” the king said. The dog heard the words princess and evil and a shiver went down his spine.
“My baby,” the queen sobbed. That was better. He imagined a non-royal baby being carried off. He straightened up and nodded.
“If you could show me the spot where the dragon landed, I will make every effort to track it down,” Sir Jack said.
“I know I can count on you. No other knight is as talented at tracking down criminals as you are, Sir Jack,” the king said. “If she were not already promised to another, I’d offer you her hand in marriage for her safe return. Perhaps the hand of my younger daughter?”
Sir Jack managed to repress a shiver. “Your majesty, I am flattered, but I’m far too old for your younger daughter. Dog years are different from human years, you know.”
“Oh yes, of course,” the king said. “I will think of some other more suitable reward. Is there anything else you need for your task?”
“If it’s possible, please choose someone to accompany me on this quest who can see to the needs of the princess when she’s found. That way I can focus on the dragon. I am not a healer,” Sir Jack said.
The queen gasped. “You believe her to be injured?”
“I hope not. I just wish to prepare for all possibilities,” Sir Jack said.
“You are both brave and wise,” the king said. “Truly you are the best of my knights.”
Sir Jack easily tracked down the dragon’s mountain cave and defeated it in battle. Now for the tricky part. He called for his companion, who had been hiding behind a ridge of tall rocks a short distance away. “Please see to the princess,” he said. He was grateful he’d thought to ask for back-up.
Together they hurried back to the castle. Sir Jack went ahead to scout for danger and keep away from the princess, and the others followed safely behind. The princess was soon returned to her grateful parents.
The king built a statue of Sir Jack in the castle’s central courtyard. His legend continued to grow.