OK, let’s pull the pin and see what happens with this one. For other stories in this world, enter “strange lands” in the search box at the top of the page.
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The owner of the tavern had set aside a long table in the back for the knights. The corners were worn away by years of swords rubbing against them, so everyone called it the Round Table (Sir Pedant pointed out that it was actually a rough irregular polygon, with a general oval shape, but “the Knights of the Irregular Polygonal Table” just didn’t have the same ring). Besides, irregular is the norm in the Strange Lands.
But I digress. One fine day, knights from several realms were drinking and doing the other things that knights do when they’re not golfing or trying to knock each other off their horses. Into this peaceful debauch entered Sir Slice, so named for his golf swing rather than his swordplay.
“Ho! Ha!” the other knights shouted, pulling up a chair and making room. “What news?”
“Dire news, indeed,” said Sir Slice, slamming down his ale. “A dragon has captured another princess.”
“Not Stonebelly?” asked Sir Umber.
“Nay, good Dragonpooper,” Sir Slice grinned as the other knights laughed. “Just a regular dragon.”
“Dragonslayer, if you please,” Sir Umber growled. He had ridden out against a dragon one day, and the dragon laughed itself to death when Sir Umber soiled his armor. His now-former squire had let slip the truth, and nearly lost his head for it, for a secret once out can never be hidden again. “A dead dragon is a dead dragon, no matter how it is slain.”
Sir Slice waited for the laughter to die down. “Be it as it may. Who among us will go forth to rescue the unfortunate one?”
A long silence worked its way around the sort-of round table. “You haven’t heard?” said Sir Pedant. “It’s all about affirmative consent these days.”
Sir Slice scratched his oily head. “What does that mean? You sally forth, you slay the dragon, the princess is yours. That’s the way it’s always been done.”
“Not anymore,” said Sir Umber, glad to change the subject. “The princess must want to be rescued, and tell you she wants to be rescued. Those are the new rules of chivalry.”
“What? Of course she wants to be rescued!”
“She may want to rescue herself,” another knight said. “Or she may find the dragon’s company preferable.”
“So what are we supposed to do?” Sir Slice asked incredulously. “Marry a peasant woman?”
“Nay, whatever you do, don’t go there!” Sir H’rangid shouted. “You haven’t seen Hell on Earth until you share a roof with a peasant woman whose elevated status goes to her head. Ask me how I know. I even have to leave my golf clubs at Sir Umber’s keep, and tell her I’m out on patrol when I go anywhere.”
“Again I ask, what are we supposed to do then?” Sir Slice cast a baleful eye around the table, as if he had learned an unpleasant truth about his comrades.
“‘Tain’t so bad,” said Sir Bubba. “Ya ain’t riskin’ yer life for someone who don’t appreciate it anyway, and ya got more time to play golf and drink beer with yer compadres.”
“Bah. I never thought I’d see the day when my fellow knights would refuse to aid a damsel in distress. It is up to me, then.” Sir Slice turned on his heel, stumbling a little, and left the tavern.
“Calm, my fellows,” said Sir Pedant. “Our friend must learn for himself.” He swallowed the last of his ale and waved his tankard at the serving-wench. “As we all did. Now, to the business at hand. What golf course shall we grace with our presence?”