It has been some time, dear readers, since I have received missives of any sort from the Spy with his villainous findings or from Sir Galgadin at the Warrior-in-Hero-Training School of the Round Table. You can imagine my surprise when I discovered the following message fastened by an arrow to a tree beside my house.
I share it here for your reading pleasure.
When venturing forth on quests of derring-do, one will inevitably cross paths with a number of strangers. Some will doubtless be dangerous. Some will be innocent victims in need of protection. And still others will seek to turn you from your quest by any deceitful means possible.
Or perhaps even draw you into a trap under pretense of requiring aid.
The villains are uncannily clever. Knowing our heroic propensity to leap to the aid of damsels in distress, the masters of villainy lately began disguising evil enchantresses by the wayside to lure unsuspecting knight errants from their noble purpose. Many a quester has gone missing, never to be seen again.
So what can one do? A good hero cannot simply deny aid to a damsel in distress. But how can one tell a true damsel in distress from an evil enchantress in disguise?
Consider the following tips before venturing forth on a quest, and you might just make it back alive.
Beware chance meetings
This is generally a good rule of thumb, regardless of the circumstances. In my vast experience, chance meetings are rarely that, and coincidence on a quest is nigh nonexistent. If a beautiful maiden should happen to show up at the crossroads at the precisely right moment in order to petition your aid, proceed with caution.
You must proceed, for a true knight is bound by the quester’s code to investigate. But stay wary and keep a weather eye out for a trap.
Beware the immortal beauties
If she appears beautiful beyond the lot of mortals, chances are, she isn’t. Mortal, that is. Many evil enchantresses possess fey blood or are at least capable of casting a glamor over their features. Don’t be taken in by this simple trick.
Perform the mirror test. Attempt to catch a glimpse of her reflection in a pool, your sword pommel, or on a burnished piece of armor. (This is why questers must always pay attention to the state of their armor and weapons. Shining armor has many and various uses.) If her reflection remains unchanged, you can then test fey blood by casually asking her to hold something made of iron. If she is fey, she will be unable to bear the contact of iron upon her skin.
If either test proves fruitful, beat a hasty (though courageous) retreat.
Beware the tearfully vague story
Ask for details. Demand the who, what, why, where, and how. Don’t simply gallop off into danger to avenge her slain family. Test her story. If she claims to have escaped her family castle which was just overrun by dragons, she had better smell of dragon smoke. If she claims to have wandered in the wilderness for days searching for aid, you should expect her clothes to be mud-stained, her shoes to be tattered, and her hair to be matted.
However, if she looks as though she has just stepped out onto the dance floor of the Great Hall, you will know her for a liar.
If she is telling the truth, your search will reveal it, and if not, you won’t wind up dangling over an ogre cooking pot.
Beware the proud
By their very nature, evil enchantresses are evil, proud, and conceited. As such, they cannot keep up a pretense of kindness for long. Damsels in distress, however, are by their very nature sweet, kind, and gracious. So test her kindness. Ask her for a dipper of water, or to rub down your noble steed, or to perform some other sort of simple task. Should she willingly comply without a haughty glance or a turned up nose or a muttered complaint, chances are she is a true damsel in distress and is honestly grateful for your aid.
Proceed on your quest with a light heart.
Once again, this is a general rule of questing, but it is especially true when dealing with damsels in distress/potential evil enchantresses in disguise. Should she offer to show you a quicker route to her family castle, refuse to be drawn from the main road. No matter what happens. Shortcuts almost always end in a quick drop and a hard fall to ruin and death.
Do not, however, run her through. Merely suggesting an alternate route does not automatically decry her an evil enchantress, so proceed on the quest by sticking to the road, but keep your wits about you.
In short, my young heroes, with a heavy dose of common sense, quick thinking, and the ability to keep your feet on the earth and your heart out of the clouds, you should manage to discern the damsel in distress from the evil enchantress and complete your quests in safety.
– Sir Galgadin
Headmaster WIHT School of the Round Table
Are there any other tell-tale signs that you can think of that might help valiant questers distinguish between damsels in distress and evil enchantresses in disguise? Share in the comments.
stock photo courtesy of www.splitshire.com/