Once upon a time, there was a knight. He was in love with a beautiful princess, the daughter of the king to whom he had pledged his service. One day, as he approached the castle, he saw an enormous, hideous dragon carrying the princess away. He decided to rescue her. He knew, of course, that he could not just charge in and take on the dragon. He would need a plan, some clever way of defeating the beast. So, he decided to visit the famous Mirror of truth.
The mirror of truth was, as the name suggests, a mirror that would always show you things as they truly were. It was also said that the mirror would answer any question that was posed to it.
The knight journeyed many days in search of the mirror, but found nothing. Finally, as he was walking through the woods, an old woman approached him.
"You seek the mirror of truth?" she asked.
"Yes," answered the knight.
"Why do you seek it?" asked the crone.
"So that I may learn how to slay the dragon!," answered the knight.
The old woman laughed, high and mirthlessly.
"I will show you how to find the mirror,"she said, "But you will not like what you see there,"
"That's alright," said the knight, "I will go anyway,"
"Alright," said the old woman. "Walk east into this forest until you come upon a stream that flows into a cave. You must remove all your armor and your sword, leave them on the shore, and swim under water until you see a blue light. When you come up, you will be in the room with the mirror,"
So the knight went and followed her instructions. As she had said, he came upon a cave with a stream running into it. He dismounted, took off all his armor and his sword, and jumped in the river. Under the water, he swam. After a while he was almost out of breath, but he still swam on. His arms started to feel like they weighed a ton. Then finally, just as it seemed as if he'd lost all hope, he saw a blue light. Quickly he swam to the surface.
Gasping for breath, he climbed up onto the shore. He was in a dimly lit cave. The small pool of water he had come from was all that was there. Then he saw something that made him jump. Reflected in the pool was, instead of his own handsome face, the hideous face of the dragon.
"Are you the mirror of truth?" asked the knight.
"Some call me that," replied the dragon.
"But is it true that you cannot tell a lie?"
"It is true that that I can never intentionally deceive anyone, nor can I give blatantly incorrect information. However, I have found that the nature of the truth varies greatly depending on your perspective. So who can say if what is true to one man is also true to another?"
The knight was confused by this, so he decided not to pursue it any farther. Instead, he opted to pose the question he had come hear to pose.
"How do I destroy the dragon?" he asked.
"which dragon?" asked the mirror.
"The one that has taken my lady!" replied the knight.
"There is no such dragon,"answered the mirror, matter-of-factly.
"What?" asked the knight. "But I saw the Princess being carried away by a monstrous beast!"
"That she was," said the mirror. "If, that is, you are referring to Princess Isabella IV of Alvasia,"
"But I thought you said no dragon had carried her off!"
"I said no dragon had carried off your lady,"
"What is that supposed to mean?" said the knight, infuriated.
"It is supposed to mean," replied the reptilian face, "That she neither is, nor ever was in any sense yours. Legally, she is still her father's, and in spirit, she is her own. In a much more practical sense, she is the dragon's,"
"That as it may be," said the knight, gritting his teeth at what he clearly believed to be a waste of time, "Can you tell me how to defeat the beast?"
"Yes," said the mirror.
The knight screwed up his face, trying to come up with a question that could not being contorted.
"How do you defeat the dragon that carried off Lady Isabella IV of Alvasia nearly a fortnight ago?" he finally asked.
"I don't," answered the mirror, "I'm a mirror,"
"Ha-Ha," said the knight, "Don't you realize a woman's life is at stake here?"
"I don't," said the mirror.
Realizing there was no point in arguing, the knight asked, "How do I defeat the dragon?"
"Which dragon?" asked the mirror.
"THE ONE WE WERE JUST TALKING ABOUT!" yelled the exasperated knight.
"Oh sorry," said the mirror calmly, "I thought you might have switched dragons. Well the best way, it's generally agreed upon, is to kill him. However -,"
"KILL HIM? THAT'S THE BEST YOU CAN DO? I COULD'VE FOUND THAT OUT WITH JOURNEYING HUNDREDS OF MILES TO SEE YOU!" he sighed. "What a waste of time,"
"However," continued the mirror, as if oblivious to what had been said, "You could try challenging him to game of backgammon,"
"Why?" asked the now quite frustrated knight.
"He's very bad at backgammon," said the mirror.
"How will beating him at backgammon help me rescue the princess!?" asked the knight.
"Who said anything about rescuing the princess?" asked the mirror.
"You're lucky you're not made of glass, you know that?" said the knight, angrily.
"Yes," answered the mirror.
"Am I going to get a straight answer of you, or should I cut my losses and just go challenge that dragon?"
The mirror pondered this for a while, than said, "That's all up to you,"
The knight decided to give it one more go.
"How do I rescue the princess?" he asked.
"Assuming," said the mirror, "That we have not changed princesses, than to rescue her, you will have to kill the dragon,"
The knight was ready to explode again, but he took a deep breath, calmed himself, and said, "How do I kill the dragon we've been talking about this whole time?"
"There are many ways," said the mirror. "The easiest it probably to use your sword and stab it,"
"Where?" asked the knight urgently.
"Oh, anywhere," answered the mirror, "Heart, stomach, lungs, all that. Though I think the easiest would be the throat,"
"But what about his scales?" asked the knight.
"They're hard," said the mirror, "And red, and shiny,"
"Yes," said the knight, "but how do I get past them?"
"Well," said the mirror, "Either stab straight through them with something really, really, sharp, or try and slip under them with something really, really, thin,"
"Are you going to tell me anything I couldn't have deduced for myself?" asked the knight, who had by now nearly given up hope of discovering what he was here to discover.
"I already have," said the mirror.
"What?" asked the knight.
"The dragon is very bad at backgammon,"
"Can I use that information to rescue the princess,"
"Is there an easy way to kill the dragon?" asked the knight.
"No," said the mirror.
"Is there anything useful about the dragon you can tell me?"
"Pertinent to helping me kill him,"
"The Dragon in question is female,"
The mirror was silent.
The knight took a deep breath.
"Is there anything significant you can tell me to help me kill the Dragon who is guarding Princess Isabella IV of Alvasia?" he said, his voice level but obviously enraged.
The mirror thought about this. Finally, after several long minutes, it said, "Yes,"
"What?" asked the knight.
"Dragons breathe fire." the mirror began, They have sharp teeth, and scales, and -"
"YAAAAAAARRRRRGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!" yelled the knight. He plunged a fist into the face in the mirror, but of course it went straight into the water. His hand kept going and hit the rock on the side of the pool, scraping the knuckle so that it bled.
"Well that was productive," said the mirror.
"I GIVE UP, YOU USELESS PIECE OF MULE DUNG! I HATE YOU AND EVERYTHING THING YOU STAND FOR!"
"Hey," said the mirror, "Sometimes the truth hurts,"
The knight jumped into the pool. Two days later, the old lady who had shown him how to find the place was discovered, stabbed through the heart, along with two other peasants who had just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The knight was later killed after infuriating the dragon by challenging her to, and winning a game of backgammon.
The moral of the story is that some stories have no morals.