The prince found the fountain easily and discovered nearby a table on which many bottles of different color and shape stood. Losing no time in admiring these pieces of wonder, he reached for the nearest and ventured over to the fountain, leading Arrow by the reins. Both, the horse and the rider satisfied their thirst, before the prince filled the bottle. As soon as he had completed this and pulled away from the fountain, he heard a strange rushing and hissing sound, that seemed to become louder and louder every moment. The prince had indeed forgotten about the evil sprits the old man had warned him about. He barely had enough time to pull out the Magos Meros, jump on his horse and safely escape. Panting, he returned to the crossroads. There he rested for a while and gave the golden horn and the bottle of water of life to the old man, begging him to take these to his bride if he would not return from this last task.

This time it took the prince much longer to get to the place the old man had described to him. After five days he finally got to the ruined castle. He arrived right before sunset and just had time to find a sheltered spot where he could spend the night. Watching the spectacular sunset, he lighted a fire, cooked some food and soon got rather comfortable. He did not forget about the dangers ahead, but as he did not know what was expecting him, he couldn’t really get scared and therefore enjoyed the picturesque scenery in front of him.  The deserted castle lay in the middle of rolling hills, which gently sloped down to a river, rushing along in the valley below. The prince was sitting where the dining hall of the castle must have been. The roof had fallen in, so he could lean back and watch the stars come up. After a short while, exhausted from all his previous ad­ventures, the prince fell asleep. He woke the next morning, perfectly refreshed and ready to face any upcoming perils. Being slightly puzzled that nothing had come up during the night, he ex­pected the days to be the real danger. He was yet again disappointed. The day was as peaceful as the previous night. The prince enjoyed the beautiful landscape around the castle and admired how perfectly the old ruin fitted into its surroundings. Thus he spent the following days and nights, until he was suddenly roused at midnight of his third night there. He heard voices singing in strange tongues. Following the sound, he came to were his faithful horse Arrow had been grazing peacefully. The horse was gone. In his place was a beautiful white stallion, surrounded by many men. One of them, who seemed to be the leader, hailed him as their true savior. Seeing the confusion on the prince’s face, he invited him to join the merry group and listen to their tale.

“Many years ago, we lived in this castle as a band of robber knights. We did many cruel and bad deeds and were not even aware of our faults, till we dared to assault the fairy king and queen. Having killed the queen and taken the king hostage, we gloried in our success. The fairy king took advantage of our carelessness during the feast. He managed to escape and lay a curse on us and the castle. We would have to haunt every person that dared to come to this place. Reenacting our own cruel deeds again and again till we had realized how bad we had been and till someone dared to stay three nights and not be scared away. In the beginning it seemed like fun to us to be able to keep on doing what we had done all our lives without any true peril. Long since, we have seen this as a punishment because we have realized how detestable our lives have been. No one has ever had the courage to stay here longer than one night…till now! You are truly brave and our rightful savior.”

The prince was still not satisfied with this explanation: “But I never felt any danger in this place and I had no reason to be brave. Can you explain why so?”

“It has been a puzzle to us as well. But we were never a folk to ask tedious questions. Come, let us be merry! To express our thanks, we have used an ancient and deeply secret magic to trans­form your horse into the most beautiful and swiftest of its race. It will carry you wherever you wish in an instant.”

Our dear prince was rejoiced to hear that. He celebrated with these merry people till the sun dawned. Then he mounted his magically transformed horse and wished to be back at home. Ar­row started galloping and a second later reached the gates of the castle grounds. Here the prince found the old man, who not only had the two other gifts with him, but had also greatly changed in his appearance. He indeed looked much younger now, the wrinkles in his face gone and his dress not ragged, but richly adorned with gems and golden filaments. The prince halted his horse and dismounted. He and the old men entered the castle grounds together, leading Arrow between them.

When they had reached the castle itself, the girl, who had missed her handsome companion very much indeed, rushed up to him and declared: “Whatever you have brought, I will marry you anyways. I do love you so very much.”

The prince was overjoyed and the wedding was set for the next day. That night, the prince, his mother, his bride and the old man sat comfortably around the fireplace in the sitting room where the girl had first beheld her prince. He recounted his adventures and also what great wonders had befallen him at the ruined castle of the robber knights. Here the old man spoke up and declared to be the very fairy king who had cursed the robbers. He apparently also was the girl’s fairy god­father, who had performed a lucky charm upon her on the day of her birth. Therefore the ring of her hair, the prince had worn on his finger, had protected him from any harm during his stay at the ruins. They were greatly surprised at these news and anew welcomed the fairy king into their family.

The next day brought the wedding. A glorious and two-week lasting celebration, during which the golden horn was repeatedly blown to make everyone even happier than they already were, followed. The couple went on a honeymoon, visiting the giants of the island and soon returning to their castle to live happily – due to long travels on Arrow – and peacefully – due to the golden horn – ever after – due to the water of live.

The End

PS: If you want to imagine that the old queen and the fairy king became rather attracted to each other during their time as castle sitters in the princess and prince’s long vacations, feel free to do so. It makes a nice story!

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