08. John Henry Xmirxfirdlhumphjigjagfnstlgdrg

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Once upon a time in an enchanted kingdom, there lived a huntsman with a beautiful daughter and a drinking problem. The problem was not the fact that he drank—no, that he enjoyed very much, cheers!—but the fact that, when drunk, he tended to get a little inventive. For example, he'd tell the story about how he once slew three dragons using an earthworm and a knitting needle as his only weapons, or the story about how he flew to the moon on one of his own arrows and ate its entire population.

Usually, the huntsman just drank in the village inn, so nobody minded his tall tales. But then, one day, he was invited to join a royal hunting party. When he came home, he was clutching his head and looking extremely furtive.

"Drank a bit too much, did we?" asked his daughter with a raised eyebrow. She was just doing the wash and hardly looked up, so she didn't see the rather guilty expression on her father's face.

"Um... yes, dear. Since you mention it, the hunting party got a bit festive at the end."

"More party and less hunting, eh?"

"You could say that."

"And? What tall tales did you tell this time?" she laughed. "Did you tell them you had been to hell to drink tea with the devil?"

"Um... not exactly, no."

The daughter looked up. This was interesting. Her father was not usually reticent about sharing his crazy stories. "Well? What did you tell them then?"

The huntsman cleared his throat. "That, err... that you could spin gold out of straw."

The daughter laughed. "And did the other hunters have a good laugh at that one?"

"Not really." The huntsman cleared his throat again. The daughter noticed for the first time that his face was unusually red. "The king was interested, though."

"Really? So he had a good laugh?"

"Um...not exactly. He said he wanted you at the castle tomorrow morning at eight o'clock sharp, and he would have a spinning wheel and a room full of straw ready for you."

The daughter's hand stopped halfway to the washing tub. A pair of her dirty socks dangled from her fingers, forgotten.

"What did you say?"

The huntsman raised his hands. "Um, now, my dear, I know what you're thinking, and—"

"Really?" Hands on hips, the daughter took a step towards him. "What am I thinking?"

"You are probably a bit upset with me and—"

"Upset? Upset? No, dad, when I find a cockroach in the larder I'm upset! Right now, I'm spitting-fire-mad-as-hell-angry!"

"Err...well..." Slowly, the huntsman began to retreat. He had been face-to-face with a lioness once or twice in his life and knew when it was best to retreat.

"You did tell him it was a joke, right? A stupid story? You told the king that you just made it all up?"

"Well...not exactly."

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Early the next morning, a beautiful golden coach arrived, driven by a coachman in golden livery and escorted by guards in golden uniforms with long, golden hair, and the Huntsman's daughter was driven down the golden brick road towards the golden palace with all the pomp and ceremony due to a queen. She couldn't really appreciate the sight of all that gold as much as she probably should have.

The king awaited her in the golden entry hall, wearing a golden crown.

"Greetings, oh fair maiden," he said.

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