martes, 8 de agosto de 2017


One day, Leoine was summoned by Alacia without a pretext—an unusual event. When she arrived at Alacia’s rooms, the princess was looking more serious than Leoine had seen her before.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, sitting on the chair Alacia usually reserved for her.
There was a long pause before Alacia answered her. “The hill tribes have banded together under a single warleader. There are usually raids around this time of year. But never all of them at once. One tribe at a time, my father’s troops can handle. This is closer to all-out war. My father’s men are preparing to fight them, and they’ll ride out tomorrow, but I don’t think there’s any way they can win.”
Leoine comforted her friend as well as she could, then left and went down to the stables. Men there were saddling horses, preparing weapons and armor for the battle the next day. Leoine ignored all of them. Instead, she approached a man who held himself as though accustomed to giving orders, the captain, perhaps.
“I want to fight,” she said without preamble. “I want to help tomorrow. You’ll need everyone you can get on the battlefield, and I want to be there.”
The captain looked her up and down as though surprised. “I’m sorry, lad,” he said, and gestured to one of the stalls. “This is the only horse who’ll be riderless by the time these men are done, and she’s hardly fit for battle.” The horse he indicated was skinny and old, and from the way she stood she walked with a limp as well. Leoine saw there was no use arguing.
That evening, in the gardener’s cabin, Leoine examined the wooden horse thoroughly, searching every inch of it for something that would reveal the name to call it. When that served with no success, she tried every variant and synonym of “horse” she could imagine. None of those worked either.
“Ye say the man as gave it to ye told ye to call it by name?” the gardener asked. He had been watching as she attempted to awaken the magic within the horse carving. “Why d’ye not use the ancient tongue? Such a thing would be made before our speech existed.”
Leoine looked at him, startled. “You think that’d work?” she asked. She barely remembered her lessons on the ancient language that was precursor to theirs from when she was a child.
“If ye have the knowin’ of such things,” the gardener replied. “It’s not something I’d know, for certain.”
Leoine turned the horse between her hands, thinking back to those days of outwitting her tutors for a short-lived adventure in the city. Half-remembered bits of information rose from her memory, but she discarded most of them. Finally, the word she was searching for came to mind.“Hrusson,” she muttered, and the wood became warm beneath her hands, as though the wood had gained blood of its own. Quickly, Leoine moved outside and set the three-colored horse on the ground, and within minutes it had become a copper-colored horse, not wood but blood and bone and skin. Quietly, Leoine gathered the other preparations she had acquired throughout the day, and quickly armored herself as a mounted archer. The helm covered most of her face, for which she was grateful, and the arrows and bow she had brought from the woods and hidden when she sought a position with the king were of her own making, and she trusted nothing more. She mounted the horse, and rode out to meet the king’s company as they left for the battle.
The sentry spotted her, and called out a warning. “Who are you?”
“A friend,” she replied. “That’s all you need to know.”
The battle the next morning was a victory. A close victory, but a victory nonetheless. The soldiers all admitted they would have lost, except for the mysterious archer riding a copper-colored steed, whose arrows never seemed to miss their targets. “He did half the work of their defeat,” the soldiers would say. “Without him, there’d be nothing left of our country to speak of.”
While the soldiers camped out on the fields of battle that evening, no sign could be found of their mysterious ally. They set guards to watch the flickering torchlight of the hillsmen, desperately hoping for the appearance of the mounted archer. That night was a long and anxious one, but the men survived to see the dawn.
As the sun cleared the horizon, a tent burst into flame, and a second arrow thudded into the ground nearby, extinguishing itself on the earth. The men, half-armed and half prepared, swung onto their horses and charged the ambushing hillspeople, getting inside the range of their archers as quickly as they could. The hillsmen were ready for this, though, and surrounded the king’s troops immediately. Though the king’s soldiers fought on valiantly, they feared they were lost.
Then one tribesman fell from his horse, followed by another. Slowly, the king’s men were able to fight their way out of the trap they had ridden into, and meet forces with the same mysterious archer as the day before, though today their ally rode a tall white horse, not the chestnut of the day before. The army rallied to the archer and again defeated their enemies, pushing them back beyond the hilltop on which that day’s battle had taken place. They made camp there that night and again watched their enemy’s fires with wary eyes, and again wondered at the vanishing of the hero of that day’s battle. The army was braver that night, happy with their victory. They made plans to attack the enemy camp at first light, confident in their previous successes.
Before dawn, the king’s army was ready to move. They were about to depart for the enemy camp when a black horse appeared, bearing a rider wearing the light leather armor of a mounted archer and carrying a bow. The archer and the black horse led the charge, and the hillmen were quickly routed and driven back. The army pressed until the hillmen turned and fled for their homeland, to look for an easier land to raid.
The king’s soldiers returned to their own realm, all whispering of the mysterious rider who had in some accounts led the soldiers to victory through cunning stratagems, and in others singlehandedly and alone defeated the raiders with force of strength. The gardener’s boy listened to these stories as the troops entered the keep, and smiled slightly, face hidden beneath the brim of his cap.
Within a week, an announcement had been spread that the king was to hold a contest: three days of sports and games, hunting, riding and the like. The winner of each contest would receive a golden token, with the king’s seal imprinted on it, and the winner of three of these tokens would be granted a special prize.
“He’s trying to draw out that archer who all the soldiers say won the war for them,” Alacia said to Leoine the afternoon before the first day of contests, as they sat in the garden. “He wants to give a reward for bravery or somesuch, and he thinks this’ll draw out anyone it could’ve been. Everyone’s heard the rumors by now that he’s going to grant a knighthood to the winner.”
Leoine laughed with her at the ridiculousness of a contest revealing one so intent on keeping a secret identity, but she kept her hand in her pocket, wrapped firmly around a carved wooden horse.
That night, she dreamed of the road she had walked to find this place. Just inside the curve of the road, a blanket was spread, with food laid out on it. “Looks like someone’s expecting me,” she said to herself with a half-smile, walking over to the blanket and sitting on it.
“Indeed, child, I was,” said a familiar voice. The old man who had given her the horse—the Tinker—sat cross-legged on the blanket across from her. “And now that you have achieved the purpose I sent you for, what do you plan to do? Travel around the lands as a mysterious rider who rescues the needy and guards those weaker? Return to the forest to live with the wild things and the spirits?”
Leoine laughed. “I’d thought to join in the king’s contests and try for a knighthood,” she said. “After that, who knows?” She absentmindedly shredded a piece of bread between her fingers as she thought. “I’d need a horse for the trials, though. Most of the contests are done from horseback, hunting and jousting and such.”
The Tinker gave her a secretive smile and extended a hand. “I think I can help with that,” he said. “Just this one time, though. I can’t extend the life of something like this forever. You’ll have to get your own horse after this.”
Leoine reached into her pocket and found the figurine of the wooden horse there. Pulling it out and handing it to the man sitting opposite her, she replied, “If I win a knighthood, I’ll be able to afford my own horse after this.”
The Tinker laughed, loud and clear. Then, cradling the wooden horse in his hands, he gently blew on it, an exhalation that seemed to go on forever. Handing it back to Leoine, he said, “Three more uses. As a reward for your dutiful service. Good luck, my daughter, and fare well.”
The roadside, the food, and the man in front of her faded into white, and then Leoine was awake, blinking in the sunlight streaming into her eyes from the window to the gardener’s cabin.
Leoine vaguely recognized the armor of the swordsman who was winning the majority of the bouts. He’d won the golden medallion in jousting the previous day. He seemed a fairly strong swordfighter, as far as she could tell—he won quickly and decisively, never getting entangled in drawn-out battles like some of the other fighters. His feet seemed to always be where they needed to be, precise and never off-balance. Leoine wondered half-heartedly where he had been when the army had fought the hill raiders, but she could tell swordfighting from horseback would be very different than on foot, and certainly different than these carefully controlled bouts.
The skilled swordsman defeated his last opponent to cheers from the crowd. He sheathed his sword, then bowed before the king’s seats and received his medallion. He was walking in her direction, she realized; he approached the piebald horse who stood next to her black one. He stowed the medallion in a leather saddlebag and swung up onto the horse’s back. “Here for the riding challenge, archer?” he asked. “Better hurry up then, it’s about to start.” He kicked his horse’s side and trotted off. Leoine mounted and followed him.
The competition was nothing other than she had expected—the riders had to trot, canter and gallop through a course that had ben set up within the arena. Leoine guided her horse through the course fairly easily, whatever residual magic making it easy for her to communicate her wishes. At one point she felt one of her horse’s hooves clip a barricade that had been set up as one of the obstacles, but that was the only mistake she felt she had made. She watched other riders pick their way through the course, some making many mistakes. The swordsman’s horse stumbled several times in the more difficult portion of the course, but many riders did a good job. She drifted into her own thoughts of the hunt tomorrow while the judges conferred—the prize would have originally gone to the hunter who brought back the most game, but reports from outlying farms told of a boar that had been seen in the area of woodland designated for the hunt. The king had announced shortly thereafter that the medallion would instead go to the person who brought back the boar’s tusks, as proof that it had been killed and a danger to the area removed. She was jolted out of her thoughts when the swordsman laid a hand on her shoulder and said, “They mean you, archer.” The crowd was cheering, the king in his booth holding the medallion above his head so everyone could see it. “Well ridden,” the swordsman said, giving her a half-smile.
Leoine realized what had happened, and mounted her horse to receive the prize. She and the swordsman were now tied in the competition, two medallions each.
“And so it is to our mysterious ally that we present the prize—a knighthood and free roam of this country, wherever he should wish to go.” The king finished his rousing speech, made to the watching populace after Leoine and the swordsman detailed what had happened in the forest.
Leoine tapped the side of her leg nervously. She hadn’t expected the king to behave so trustingly; she thought before elevating the status of a stranger he would at least ask his identity. “Sire?” she said. “I don’t believe I am worthy of that which you offer me. You see, I’ve lied.” She removed her helmet, revealing her face and distinctive hair.
“The gardener’s lad?” She heard the confused voice from the crowd but could not identify the speaker.
“Not even that,” she said. “I’ve been concealing my identity in more ways than one. I’m a woman.”
“And you think that makes you unworthy of a knighthood?” the king said in answer. “You not only excel in competitions of skill and strength, and save the life of one of our best fighters, but you helped save the kingdom as well! That far outweighs any lie you may have told.” He hesitated a moment. “What is your true name, then?”
“Leoine,” she answered.
“Then kneel, Leoine,” said the king. She started to protest, but he interrupted more forcefully. “Kneel. “ She obeyed.
The king drew his sword, lowered it to touch one shoulder, the other, and then rested the flat of it on the crown of her head. “Rise, Sir Leoine Archer,” he said, sheathing the sword.
Leoine stood, confused, as the crowd cheered, voices mingling chaotically. And then one quiet voice cut through them all, drawing the entirety of the crowd’s attention.
“Father,” said Alacia, stepping forward from where she had stood beside the king’s throne. “You’ve been telling me for a while that I should be thinking about choosing who to marry, so that you can have a quieter job and I can begin learning how to rule.”
“I can hardly deny it,” said the king, with a smile that seemed to say he knew what his daughter would say next.
“I’ve made my decision,” Alacia said. “I would like to marry the savior of my future kingdom. If she’ll have me, I’d like to marry Sir Leoine.”
Leoine hardly hesitated. She knew how much she cared about the princess, and was glad that Alacia cared in return. “Yes,” she said. “Yes, of course, I’ll marry you.”
Alacia threw herself forward and kissed Leoine, who caught her around the waist, not quite overbalancing, and kissed her back. If she had not been so involved, she would have heard the crowd cheer even louder than before.

The original -- straight and more vague-- fairytale:
Not long afterwards, the country was overrun by war. The king gathered together his people, not knowing whether or not fight back against the enemy, who was more powerful and had a large army.
Then the gardener's lad said, "I am grown up, and I want to go to war as well. Just give me a horse."
The others laughed and said, "After we have left, then look for one by yourself. We will leave one behind for you in the stable."
After they had left, he went into the stable, and led the horse out. It had a lame foot, and it limped higgledy-hop, higgledy-hop.
Nevertheless he mounted it, and rode away into the dark woods. When he came to the edge of the woods, he called "Iron Hans" three times so loudly that it sounded through the trees.
The wild man appeared immediately, and said, "What do you need?"
"I need a strong steed, for I am going to war."
"That you shall have, and even more than you are asking for."
Then the wild man went back into the woods, and before long a stable-boy came out of the woods leading a horse. It was snorting with its nostrils, and could hardly be restrained. Behind them followed a large army of warriors, outfitted with iron armor, and with their swords flashing in the sun.
The youth left his three-legged horse with the stable-boy, mounted the other horse, and rode at the head of the army. When he approached the battlefield, a large number of the king's men had already fallen, and before long the others would have to retreat. Then the youth galloped up with his iron army and attacked the enemies like a storm, beating down all who opposed him. They tried to flee, but the youth was right behind them, and did not stop, until not a single man was left.
However, instead of returning to the king, he led his army on a roundabout way back into the woods, and then called for Iron Hans.
"What do you need?" asked the wild man.
"Take back your steed and your army, and give me my three-legged horse again."
It all happened just as he had requested, and he rode home on his three-legged horse.
When the king returned to his castle, his daughter went to meet him, and congratulated him for his victory.
"I am not the one who earned the victory," he said, "but a strange knight who came to my aid with his army."
The daughter wanted to hear who the strange knight was, but the king did not know, and said, "He pursued the enemy, and I did not see him again."
She asked the gardener where his aide was, but he laughed and said, "He has just come home on his three-legged horse. The others have been making fun of him and shouting, 'Here comes our higgledy-hop back again.' They also asked him, 'Under what hedge have you been lying asleep all this time?' But he said, 'I did better than anyone else. Without me it would have gone badly.' And then they laughed at him all the more."
The king said to his daughter, "I will proclaim a great festival. It shall last for three days, and you shall throw a golden apple. Perhaps the unknown knight will come."
When the festival was announced, the youth went out into the woods and called Iron Hans.
After the revels...
 The king had him summoned, and he appeared, again with his cap on his head. But the princess went up to him and took it off. His golden hair fell down over his shoulders, and he was so handsome that everyone was amazed.
"Are you the knight who came to the festival every day, each time in a different color, and who caught the three golden apples?" asked the king.
"Yes," he answered, "and here are the apples," taking them out of his pocket, and returning them to the king. "If you need more proof, you can see the wound that your men gave me when they were chasing me. But I am also the knight who helped you to your victory over your enemies."
"If you can perform deeds like these then you are not a gardener's lad. Tell me, who is your father?"
"My father is a powerful king, and my mother is his queen. I have as much gold as I might need."
"I can see," said the king, "that I owe you thanks. Can I do anything for you?"
"Yes," he answered. "You can indeed. Give me your daughter for my wife."
The maiden laughed and said, "He does not care much for ceremony, but I already had seen from his golden hair that he was not a gardener's lad," and then she went and kissed him.
His father and mother came to the wedding, and were filled with joy, for they had given up all hope of ever seeing their dear only son again.
While they sitting at the wedding feast, the music suddenly stopped, the doors opened, and a proud king came in with a great retinue. He walked up to the youth, embraced him, and said, "I am Iron Hans. I had been transformed into a wild man by a magic spell, but you have broken the spell. All the treasures that I possess shall belong to you."

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