Born in Rothesay (Isle of Bute) but been a bit nomadic ever since: South Africa, Aberdeen, Glasgow . . . and now Blairgowrie in the heart of rural Perthshire. A graduate of Aberdeen University, she taught English for many years, finally retiring to start up her own Education Consultancy business which specialised in writing teaching materials and providing in-service training for Scottish teachers in both primary and secondary sectors. In 2002 Oxford University Press published her academic textbook, ‘Higher Results in Textual Analysis’.
She took up fiction writing in 2007, self-publishingthe first in a series of illustrated children’s stories entitled ‘The Colonel’s Collection’. To date she has published five in the series.
In October, 2012, she became a founder member of BOOKMARK, a successful book festival based in Blairgowrie. She was festival Chair from 2012 to January, 2017.
Currently, she is writing short stories and editing her first adult novel (set in Perth) which has languished in a drawer for several years!
Sir Dancealot and the Dragon
By Christine Findlay
Sir Dancealot straightened his visor which had slipped down over his eyes. That was better. He could see the world again. He looked over the rolling green hills and patted his trusty sword. His silver armour gleamed in the early spring sunshine. Sitting up there on his jet black horse, he looked so handsome, so noble. ‘This time it’ll have to work,’ he muttered.
In a moment of madness, Sir Dancealot had entered his name for the Grand Dance Tournament which was to take place at the end of the summer but so far he hadn’t found a suitable partner. And time was running out. For three days now the fearless knight had been trying to reach the Lady Sequin who was said to be the best dancer in the kingdom of Trotto. But for three days, he had been prevented from crossing the drawbridge into Trotto Castle by a very large and angry dragon guarding the entrance. Today, however, he was determined to try a new approach.
‘Right, Chancealot,’ he said, leaning down to address the young boy holding the bridle, ‘You’ve considered the problem. Can you provide a solution?’
Chancealot puffed out his small chest and bowed low. He was
barely ten years of age and thin as a pikestaff but determined to make his way in the world.
‘I have considered well, my lord. Tambour doesn’t frighten me, despite all his noise,’ he boasted.
‘Just get to the plan,’ snapped Sir Dancealot, itching to do battle once more.
‘It’s simple, my lord. I calm the dragon’s savage breast by making sweet music on my lute,’ Chancealot said triumphantly.
‘Oh, very good,’ sneered the knight. ‘That’s been tried before and it does not work.’
Chancealot’s face fell. ‘But, my lord, the lute plays such sweet dance tunes that I cannot believe it will not set Tambour’s tail a-tapping.’
‘I warn you, if this fails, I’ll have your innards for afters!’
Young Chancealot gulped and his cheeks paled. ‘To prove my worth, my lord, I’m prepared to conduct a trial run, unprotected by your gallant self. I’ll approach the drawbridge, playing one of my sweetest dance tunes. Watch, Sir, Tambour will be subdued.’
And before the knight could protest, our reckless young hero was heading for the castle’s moat. As he went, he plucked the strings of his lute. Carried back to him on the light breeze came the sweetest notes Sir Dancealot had ever heard.
But almost immediately the sweet music was drowned out by another fearful sound which shook the earth. Deafening roars filled the air and an enraged Tambour thundered from his nearby cave.
Chancealot stopped dead in his tracks. Looking up at the dragon in all its scaly might, he felt his courage drain away. Tambour towered over him, snorting and wheezing. Red hot flames billowed from his nostrils; his sea-green eyes rolled crazily round and round in his head like huge, spinning balls.
‘Think you can fool me with your sugary notes, do you? You may be called Chancealot but, against me, you’ve no chance!’ roared Tambour.
Chancealot took a deep breath to calm himself. ‘Tambour, dear sweet Tambour,’ he pleaded, chancing his arm, if not his life, ‘I know you’ve had a stressful time these last few days with Sir Dancealot trying to cross the bridge. What you need now is some soothing music to put out the flames and restore calm. Won’t you listen to the gentle notes of my lute?’
There was a smouldering silence, then Tambour fired off his reply. Two blasts straight from the nostrils!
‘Run for your life!’ shouted Sir Dancealot, pirouetting in excitement on his well polished saddle. ‘Tambour’s not for turning!’
He watched in horror as the dragon, wrapped in a blanket of smoke, charged towards Chancealot. But the brave young lad stood his ground and continued to strum his instrument.
Suddenly there was a screech of claws and Tambour skidded to a
‘It’s beau . . . tiful, just beau . . . tiful,’ he whispered in a low, husky voice. He closed his eyes and his whole body began to sway dreamily from side to side.
Meanwhile, high up in the castle tower, Lady Sequin watched the drama below. She had been anxiously waiting to receive Sir Dancealot for several days now. News of his fame as a dancer had travelled far and wide and Lady Sequin was on the lookout for a suitable new partner. Her old one, Sir Saltarello, had stupidly tripped and broken his leg while showing off in front of the queen. Lady Sequin had swooned with embarrassment. Now she prayed that this handsome knight waiting at her gate would see her as the perfect match.
Peering out the casement window, she could hardly believe her eyes. Way, way below, she could just make out the wispy smoke drifting above Tambour’s head. But there, dangerously close to the dragon, was a tiny figure and he seemed to be standing very still.
She opened the window to get a better look. As she did so, she caught sight of Sir Dancealot, wildly waving a large white handkerchief at her. Was this some kind of signal?
Faint notes of sweet music drifted up to the tower. Lady Sequin understood.
‘Let down the drawbridge!’ she commanded. At once, two royal guards began to lower the bridge over the moat. Sir Dancealot waited at a distance, Midnight’s hooves pawing the ground impatiently. He raised his sword, ready for action. If Tambour wanted a fight, he’d get one. This was no ordinary knight he was dealing with – this was Sir Dancealot, champion of the dance floor.
While his master adjusted his spurs, Chancealot worked his musical magic on the dragon. But he knew it would only be a matter of time before the magic wore off and Tambour would be shooting flames once again. He strummed louder so that the dragon’s ears would be shut to the squeal of the drawbridge chains.
‘Tambour, gentle Tambour, slumber softly on the ground,’ he sang in his sweetest voice. ‘Let your eyes close with the music as you drift into your dreams.’
As Tambour’s heavy eyelids drooped, Chancealot risked everything and turned towards his knight. He signalled him to advance. At once Sir Dancealot clicked the reins and guided Midnight in a wide arc round the back of the dozing dragon. On and on he came, his horse slow-stepping quietly round the beast.
The drawbridge lay straight ahead, waiting for the knight to cross into safety. But, just as he skirted round the end of the great scaly tail, Tambour’s huge eyes flicked open and the spell was broken.
‘Hold on!’ shouted Sir Dancealot as he reached down to pluck the young boy and his lute from danger. Clinging onto the saddle for dear life, Chancealot gasped, ‘Flames to the right!’
Sir Dancealot pulled hard on the reins and turned Midnight away
from the scorching blast.
‘Go Midnight!’ Sir Dancealot shouted, breaking into a wild gallop.
As he did so, young Chancealot slipped from his seat and landed with a sickening thump on a grassy mound. He tried to lift himself up but his head felt fuzzy and the world spun round and round. All he could feel was a great heat; all he could hear was a thunderous roaring. And then he passed out.
When he realised what had happened, Sir Dancealot swung his horse round and galloped towards the boy. But there, blocking his path, was the dragon, his great head thrown back ready to shoot his fire.
Sir Dancealot reined in Midnight and spoke softy in his ear, ‘Hold tight, my lovely.’
Out of the corner of his great rolling eye, Tambour caught the flash of Sir Dancealot’s sword and roared ever more fiercely.
‘What’s a bit of steel against my weapon?’ he taunted.
‘You’ll soon find out, Tambour, when you feel the heat of my metal.’
Next thing he knew, Tambour had shot two of his toastiest flames in Sir Dancealot’s direction. The air sizzled and crackled. For a moment Sir Dancealot was beaten back. Then, while the dragon recovered his breath, the knight charged, raising his sword high in the air and aiming for the heart. But just as he was about to strike, Tambour lunged sideways. The sword missed its mark, slicing the tip off the dragon’s tail. Tambour howled in pain.
Taking advantage of the creature’s injury, Sir Dancealot galloped towards where Chancealot lay, scooped up the boy and his lute onto Midnight’s back and raced for the drawbridge. The ground shook as Tambour thundered after them, roaring and howling in turn.
By now the Lady Sequin was standing inside the castle courtyard. Dressed in a ruby red gown of glittering silk, her jet black hair plaited with pearls, she glowed in the morning light. Anxiously she watched the drawbridge. What had happened to her handsome knight? One minute he’d been galloping towards her, the next, he was gone. Had Tambour got him?
Suddenly her question was answered by a great roaring.
‘Oh no,’ she wept, ‘my Dancealot will never dance again.’
At that moment Tambour ceased his roaring to take a breath. The next thing she knew, a great black stallion, sweat gleaming on his neck, came clattering over the drawbridge.
As soon as they were safely across, the guards rushed to pull up the drawbridge. Sir Dancealot slid from the saddle, followed by the young Chancealot. Taking off his helmet, the knight bowed low to the Lady Sequin.
‘Sir Dancealot at your service, my Lady,’ he greeted her breathlessly. ‘I regret it has taken me so long to make my entrance. But Tambour is a valiant fighter.’
‘Welcome to Trotto Court,’ said Lady Sequin. ‘I am mightily relieved that you, and your brave assistant here are safe. We have much to discuss.’
Over the next few days, Chancealot spent time recovering from his fall. He lay in a huge feathered bed and was attended by the Lady’s most valued and pretty servants. It was well worth the pain.
While his brave young assistant spent his days and nights in feathered comfort, Sir Dancealot and Lady Sequin spent theirs practising dance moves. Soon, they were dipping and bowing through their steps. It would not be long now before Sir Dancealot would have to make up his mind whether Lady Sequin would stay behind or partner him in the Tournament.
And outside the walls of Trotto Castle, Tambour limped to his own tune – ‘Fiery Revenge’.
Thank you to Christine Findlay for stopping by the blog today and sharing with us this beautiful tale.
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