And they lived happily ever after.

And he took her back to the king's castle, victorious, triumphant, his bleeding, broken horse straggling behind them, the dragon's blood dripping from his rusty sword, the princess leading him lightly by the hand.

And the king saw them from his tower window, and he rejoiced, his daughter returned.

And the queen woke from her enchanted sleep as the tears of the lost princess fell upon her cheeks.

And the poor woodcutter, turned knight for the love of a girl trapped by a dragon, was given his half of the kingdom, and the hand of his beautiful princess in marriage.

And the poor woodcutter knew only of trees and carpentry, not of kingship. And the princess knew of knights and noblemen, not of woodcutters. And the two began to see each other, not as beautiful princess and brave rescuer, but as spoiled, silly girl, and ignorant country bumpkin.

And the horse died, its blood poisoned by the dragon flame.

And the kingdom stumbled, led by a man who could tell you the right way to debark a tree, but knew nothing of politics and harvests.

And the princess fell in love with a brave knight, who loved her also, and vowed to keep her safe from dragons.

And the woodcutter missed his cottage, his axe, and his horse.

And the old queen died, weakened by the enchanted sleep.

And the old king missed his kingdom, his daughter, and his wife.

And the dragon's eggs (undiscovered by the woodcutter, for what do woodcutters know of dragons) hatched. And younger, smarter, angrier dragons rampaged the kingdom, looking for revenge on the one who had killed their mother.

And the woodcutter met a milkmaid, whose father was a carpenter, and fell in love with her.

And the dragons destroyed the kingdom, bit by bit, until the woodcutter, now not so brave, ran away with the milkmaid, and the princess, now just as beautiful, fled her father's wrath with the knight in shining armour (who had never lifted an axe in his life).

And the king died, alone, his kingdom in ruins around him, cursing the day a foolish woodcutter had rescued the princess.

And the princess and the woodcutter, who could barely remember each other, lived for several more years before dying of the same sickness that had killed the horse, a sickness that was spread from the dragon smoke they had inhaled.

And they might have lived happily, if indeed, they had lived.