One upon a time there lived a poor farm girl who dreamt of adventure. Her name was Emerald and she had green eyes that sparkled with warmth and humour. While her days were spent working in the fields and looking after the animals, her head remained firmly in the clouds. She often watched longingly as lone knights passed through their village wondering what quest or battlefield lay ahead of them.
On dusky evenings she could be found with a milk pail on her head and a wooden sword in hand duelling the farmyard scarecrow or shooting windfall apples from the stone wall. As she practised her battle skills, the farm animals would look on with concern, knowing that it wouldn’t be long before her restless spirit got the better of her.
One spring, shortly after Emerald’s 17th birthday, the number of knights heading south had grown to a steady procession. Rumours reached their village that the neighbouring kingdom had been invaded by a terrifying dragon whose fiery breath was polluting the atmosphere, scorching the landscape and destroying their crops. The people were sweltering in the unbearable heat. The rivers ran dry, forest fires raged and woodland animals were driven from their homes as their habitats were destroyed. A thick smog choked the land while deep beneath the earth men worked hard in the mines digging out coal to satisfy the dragon’s huge hunger.
“How I wish I could be a knight in shining armour. I would rid them of that loathsome lizard,” said Emerald wistfully. As she spoke a shooting star fell from the sky, bathing the farmyard in shimmering starlight.
The next morning Emerald entered the barn but instead of finding her hairy carthorse, there was a magnificent black stallion saddled in the finest leather. Where her tabard and milk pail should be, there was a suit of silver armour and a jewel encrusted sword. Her wish had come true.
Eager to be on her way, Emerald began gathering provisions for the journey ahead. But as she drew water from the well she was amazed to see her bucket filled with sparkling white gems. They were ice cold to the touch like frozen stardust as she scooped them out and put them safely into her pocket.
After kissing her parents goodbye, Emerald headed south towards the black plumes of smoke rising on the horizon. Riding through fields of blackened corn, she soon arrived at a town where buildings smouldered and townsfolk cowered behind closed doors. Emerald soon found the dragon in the town square lying, swollen bellied, next to a pile of coal, bones and battered armour.
“Dragon”, she cried with defiance. “Leave this place or prepare to meet your doom!”
In an instant the dragon was awake and upon her with flames shooting from his nostrils, his gaping mouth a terrifying vision of forked tongue and razor teeth. Fear would have paralysed the most seasoned knights but Emerald, in a flash of brilliance, felt in her pocket and hurled a handful of icy crystals into the dragon’s open mouth. There was a sound like breaking glass as red scales turned a brilliant white before shattering into a million mirrored pieces. The dragon was gone.
The townsfolk came rushing from their houses, overwhelmed with gratitude towards the beautiful girl who had triumphed where so many men before her had failed. Emerald was made their Queen and, with peace restored, the kingdom flourished. The air became cool and clean, the rivers replenished and the country became a green and pleasant land where they all lived happily ever after.