This is a parody of over-used fantasy themes. Some times they annoy me and I snap! Resulting in stories like this. Everyone should read the Tough Guide to Fantasy Land by Diana Wynne Jones. Or, for that matter, Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles (starting with Dealing with Dragons.)

Also, I'm not judging the idea. I'm judging the over use and abuse of the idea.

On with the story.

Chapter one of the First Important-sounding book: The Grand Beginning of the Adventure

by Leah Claire

Eldana, Warrior Mage Princess of the Kingdom of Everend, was very annoyed. She had just had a long talk with her father about her up coming marriage. Or rather, she had tossed her auburn, waist-length locks back over one slender shoulder, and given him a stubborn look.

"I shall certainly NOT marry prince Tanaverial. I don't even know the man." She paused and glared to forstall any protest. "Yes, I knew about this arrangement from birth, and no, I never complained about it before in spite of my contrary nature. But I'm complaining now."

"But, my dearest," said the King, trying to remain reasonable. "Why shouldn't you want to marry prince Tanaverial? He's just your age, he's proven himself on the battle field, by all accounts he's a very handsome man, and his kingdom is twice the size of ours. Where is the fault in this match?"

"I--" said Eldana. Here, words failed her. The country she was living in hadn't ever heard of the feminist movement, and so she had no jargon to back up her argument. In fact, if she tried to really think about it (a difficult thing to do, when one wasn't used to thinking), she couldn't see any reason why she should not want to marry prince Tanaverial. She was, after all, a princess in a very patriarchical society. What else was she going to do with her life? Run away and live with the goat herds? She didn't think so.

On the other hand, being of the prerequisite Rebellious Nature, it just wasn't in her to give in on anything, no matter how reasonable or logical. In fact, the more logical it was, the more she simply couldn't go along with it. Otherwise, however would there be a plot?

"I won't marry him. And that's final!" After stomping her slippered foot to emphasis her point, she stormed fabulously out of the room. For a minute, she forgot to be annoyed because she was still admiring her excellent fiery exit, having never gotten the chance to use it to its full effect before.

But then the satisfaction wore off and she was left to think about what she should do. Of course she'd have to run away. She could, she supposed, run off and join the army where she would no doubt beat all of her male companions into the ground, meanwhile earning their respect, only to fall into desperate love with one of them, a relationship doomed to failure since she could only marry a true prince--until she found out that he already was one, and then they'd live happily ever after...

Or she could get herself chosen to save the world. You know, attract the attention of that certain mysterious someone who would automatically recognize her as the one and only savior of all that is good and right. Then she'd have to boldly set out on a desperate adventure to slay the Evil One...and then of course, one of the brave, noble people who had helped her would turn out to be a prince in disguise and he would be madly in love with her and after she took care of that pesky Evil One, they could get married and live happily ever after...

Or, Eldana could boldly and impetuously take her own life using some symbolic and obscure method that would leave her beautiful even in death and...well maybe not. Surely marrying Tanaverial was better than suicide. He couldn't be that bad, could he?

So what was left? Where could she run to? The world was currently lacking in Evil Ones, and there was a definite shortage of princes in disguise, considering that Tanaverial was the only one unmarried at the moment. And, well, she'd met the men in the army and they didn't seem like the types to be overly-impressed by some strange woman with no martial skills to speak of. Eldana wouldn't have bet on herself in a fight against any one of them, either.

It looked like there was no help for it. She was going to have to become a Mythical Beast Rider! Yes, that was it. And lots of princesses seemed to gravitate there, so she wouldn't be alone. And everyone would be very understanding in a tough love sort of way, and she'd get her own special Mythical Animal and they could go on glorious adventures...Yes! That was it.

Smiling to herself now that she'd decided what to do, she set off to pack.

Early the next morning, Eldana crept down to the stables disguised as a boy and saddled her horse, StarLightDream. She obviously wouldn't need her horse for long, once she got a Mythical Animal to ride, but she also needed some way to get to wherever they lived. She'd already packed a few apples and some bread, a change of normal clothes, and her best gown just in case she needed to go to a ball at some point.

She stealthily led her horse past the guards (who rolled their eyes in disgust, safely inside of their helms) and congratulated herself on her stealth abilities. Perhaps she should have gone for the princess-turned-thief story line, instead. But as she was already on her way, there was no point in going back now.

Once beyond the castle gates, she mounted her horse and road a little more freely, through the smaller streets of the town and out the main city gates, which had just opened for the farmers to enter the city with their produce. She maneuvered around them and then she was out in the open fields surrounding the palace. She was free! There was no prince to marry, no father to reasonably insist, and her mother was dead, which was terribly convenient and common in these sorts of plots.

At noon, she ate one of her apples and a chunk of bread. Then she got back on StarLightDream and rode a bit more. She had not gone far when she had to stop again. Or at least, she had to stop if she did not want to run over the cowled figure standing squarely in the middle of the road. Ever mindful of the trouble one could get into by annoying Mysterious Persons, she decided it would be safest to dismount and talk to the person. Most likely, if she played her cards right, she ought to be given a gift of some kind. Hopefully it would be one of those useful ones. Who really needed rose petals falling out of one's mouth?

"Good afternoon," she called, swinging herself out of the saddle.

"Hello young princess," replied the figure in a gravelly old woman's voice. Eldana was just about to ask how she'd known Eldana was a princess when it occurred to her that Mysterious Persons always knew more than was strictly natural. So instead, shrugging, she took out one of her apples.

"Please, share some of my food," she handed over the apple. A gnarled hand came out to accept it.

"Thank you, child. That was very generous. For one such as you I have a gift."

"What is it?" asked Eldana cautiously.

"I would give you the Gift of Roads. If ever you are on a road, it will lead you to the right place." Eldana thought about this. It didn't seem to be a bad gift. And she could certainly use it, considering that she didn't really know where the Mythical Beasts were to be found.

"I would gladly accept your gift," said Eldana politely.

"Then take my hand," said the woman. Eldana reached out and took the gnarled hand at once, eager to be on her way again, especially since she would soon be her own compass. After a moment the woman let her go. Eldana was rather disappointed. There hadn't been any strange sensations or flashes of light. In fact, she felt quite ordinary. And the woman's hand was a little sweaty. Perhaps the old woman wasn't a genuine Mysterious Person, but rather a senile old lady. Either way, it was time to move on.

"Uh...Thank you, Lady. I'll just be on my way now, shall I?"

"Wait!" the woman cried melodramatically. Eldana stopped. "Beware the Evil One!"

"And which Evil One would that be?" asked Eldana, still polite. The old woman glared.

"You'll know him when you see him," she replied rather crossly.

"Oh. Right. Thanks so much." Eldana remounted StarLightDream and by the time she'd turned around, the woman had gone, which was a relief. Eldana rode on.

Near nightfall, Eldana began to have her first serious doubts. There had been no sign of civilization for hours, and the light was nearly gone. She'd been hoping for a small Inn at least, so that she could swig ale and talk to the locals about news of Mythical Beasts in the area, but obviously that wasn't going to happen.

She'd have to camp out. At least she'd thought to bring some bedding with her. Leading StarLightDream a ways off of the road, Eldana found a tree with large roots. She tied StarlightDream nearby and folded herself and her blanket into those roots. It was more comfortable than she'd thought it would be, but that may have been because she was tired from riding all day. Before she knew it, she'd drifted off to sleep--

--And been woken shortly after to find herself surrounded by disreputable looking men--clearly bandits--one of whom was holding a knife to her long, pale throat. She opened her mouth and gave her best, full-throated scream.