Many bright, silvery moons ago, in a pretty garden far away there was a stone statue of a beautiful princess.
No statue carved by mortal hands was ever as lovely as that stone maiden.
She was so lovely that pretty flowers loved to grow near to her and birds loved to perch upon her arms and sing their morning melodies and none could look upon her without falling deeply in love with her.
But, though all loved her, none could look upon her without also feeling a great sorrow in their hearts for all knew that the stone princess had once been alive; that her name had been Alluria, that her eyes had been bright and full of life and that she had danced merrily and sang sweetly as any bird; possessing a heart full of love and a kindness for all her subjects whether barons or beggars but that Ulcimea, the lightning queen had turned her into stone and made all her happy subjects into unhappy slaves.
Ulcimea was nothing more than a monster in human guise. Though not outwardly ugly; inside she was as repulsive as the most hideous of all slithering, slimy creatures; cold, cruel and vicious to the core.
Half demon; she had been born, one dark and stormy night, from a dead mother and a bolt of jagged lightning and the infant Ulcimea had clawed her way up, covered in mud and slime,out of her grave.
A vampire of sorts; she fed upon human tears , brewing them into a black magical potion that kept her alive and eternally young.
All of the poor families throughout her queendom were expected to pay a tithe of tears and her hated tax collectors rode up and down the land through every village and town with large glass bottles that they filled up with weeping and took back to the evil queens towering fortress of darkness to be emptied into her bubbling cauldron.
Few, during those dark days, believed that Ulcimea’s reign would ever come to an end or that the petrifying curse placed upon their princess would ever be lifted.
But still they clung to the stone princess as a symbol of their hope and it seemed almost as if her spirit now lived on in them. In her name the people elected a secret council who, transforming themselves into woodland creatures gathered nightly in underground burrows and hatched a plan to find a hero; some brave, noble knight who would defeat the evil lightning queen and save their realm.
They let loose a flock of seven lovebirds, each of whom had been taught a woeful song about the plight of their people and that of their poor princess; a song so melancholy and yet so beautiful that, they hoped, it would move the heart of some brave nobleman in some distant kingdom.
However, hearing about their plan through her shadowy network of spies , the evil Ulcimea released a flock of seven jet black ravens to seek out and kill the lovebirds and six of the seven winged, singing messengers were caught and devoured or torn apart by ravens claws but one of the seven,
who was a little more cunning than the others, ducked down inside a chimney pot and covered himself all over in soot so that he looked as black as one of the ravens and, mistaking him for a crow,
the ravens let him go upon his way.
Then the lovebird flew far across fields and hills; rivers and canyons until it came to a forest in a neighbouring kingdom; through which, it just so happened, a knight and his squire were travelling.
And, when the bird heard their horses approaching, it began to sing its woeful, beautiful song, about the stone princess and her people and the song was so lovely that, when he heard it, the squire of the knight, whose name was Gordo, was so moved that he burst into a fit of tears and sobbing.
Unfortunately, however, his master the knight had no ear for music and was neither brave nor good and so, when he heard the bird singing, he merely covered up his ears with his gauntlets and ordered that his squire take up his crossbow and shoot the bird out of the tree.
But the squire was so moved by the song of the beautiful bird that he could not bear the thought of killing it and so, raising his crossbow, the squire deliberately aimed to miss the bird; hitting, instead, the branch upon which it was perched and scaring it away.
Seeing his squires disobedience, the knight kicked the squire in the head with the steel toe of one of his armoured boots, calling him a knave and it was this that made the poor squire pledge to himself, “If my master is too mean or too foolish, then I will rescue that stone princess which the bird sang about myself”.
But how could Gordo, without horse, without sword or shield or armour slay an evil vampire queen or rescue a nation?
It was then that a cunning thought crept into the squire’s head.
You see, the Knight had been travelling through the forest to reach the house of a woman he wished to woo and marry; a fair maiden named Lady Aveline and so, as they were passing the side of a large deep lake, the squire said to his master, “Ahh, now, sire. I see we are passing ‘The Lake Of Lovers’.
It is well known that any man who bathes in that lake becomes irresistible to women”.
“Irresistible, eh?”, replied his master, his eyes lighting up, “Why, if I bathed in that lake then the lovely Aveline would wed me for sure”.
And so, eagerly, the knight got off of his white horse, put down his sword and shield and took off all his armour before wading, in nothing but his long johns, deep into the lake.
However, as soon as he was up to his curly red moustache in the water and feeling rather chilly and a little foolish, his clever squire gathered up his armour, sword and shield and, mounting his horse, rode away with them.
“Ha! That’ll teach him to kick me with his boot”, said Gordo, hearing the angry cries of his master far behind him, “And now. Dressed like a knight in brightest armour; I, squire Gordo shall become Sir Gordo and will save the enchanted maiden made of stone from the wicked lightning queen”.
But then another thought occurred to him, “How will I find my way to the land of the stone princess?”, he wondered.
Suddenly, however, from high above in the forest canopy, he heard the lovebirds plaintive song once more and then a squawking and a fluttering of feathered wings as the bird swooped down and perched itself upon his shoulder.
“Just what I need”, said the Squire, smiling, “Now, my singing friend, you can guide me to the country of your enchanted princess”.