ONCE upon a time there lived a king, who had three sons and one daughter. The daughter was kept by her father for safety in a cage, since he cared for her as for his own eyes. When the girl grew up, she one evening asked her father to let her walk a little with her brothers in the front of the palace, and her father granted her request. She had hardly, however, taken a step outside the door of the palace before a dragon came down, caught her away from her brothers, and flew up with her into the clouds.
The three brothers ran as quickly as they could, and told their father what had happened to their sister, and asked him to let them go in search of her. To this their father consented, and gave each of them a horse, and other needful things for their travelling, and they went away to find their sister. After they had travelled a long time, they came in sight of a kiosk, which was neither in the sky nor yet on the earth, but hung mid-way between both. On coming near it, they began to think that their sister might be in it, and they consulted together how they might contrive to reach it. After much deliberation they settled that one of them should kill his horse, make a thong out of the hide, and fastening one end of the thong to an arrow, shoot it from the bow so that it should strike deep in the side of the kiosk, and that thus they might be able to climb up to it. The youngest brother proposed to the eldest that he should kill his horse, but this he refused to do. In like manner the second brother refused, so that nothing remained but that the youngest should kill his horse, which he did and made a long thong out of the hide; to this he tied an arrow, which he shot towards the kiosk.
The question was then asked, who would climb up the thong? The eldest brother declared that he would not; the second also refused, and thus it was the youngest was forced to climb up. When he had reached the kiosk he went from room to room, until at length he found his sister sitting with the dragon sleeping with his head upon her knee, while she passed her fingers through the hair of his head.
When she saw her brother she was very much frightened, and made signs for him to go away before the dragon woke up. But this her brother would not do, and instead of going away took his mace and struck with all his might on the head of the dragon. The dragon moved his paw a little towards the place where he had been struck, and said to the maiden, 'I felt something bite me just here.' As he spoke the king's son gave him another blow, and the dragon said again, 'I felt something bite me just here.' When the brother lifted his mace to strike the third time, the sister pointed and showed him where to strike at the life of the dragon. So he struck at the life, and the dragon immediately fell down dead, and the king's daughter pushed him from her knee and ran quickly to her brother and kissed him. Then she took him by the hand and began to show him the various rooms of the kiosk.
First, she took him into a room where a black horse stood ready to be mounted, with all his riding-gear on him, and the whole of the harness was of pure silver.
She then led him to a second room, and in it stood a white horse, also saddled and bridled, and his harness was entirely of pure gold.
At last the sister took her brother into a third room, and there stood a cream-coloured horse, and the reins and stirrups and saddle, which were on him, were all thickly studded with precious stones.
After passing through these three rooms, she led him to a room where a young maiden sat behind a golden tambourette, busily engaged in embroidering with golden thread.
From this room they went into another, where a girl was spinning gold thread, and again into another room where a girl sat threading pearls, and before her, on a golden plate, was a golden hen with her chickens, sorting the pearls.
Having seen all these things, the brother went back to the room where the dragon lay dead, and threw him down to the earth, and the two brothers, who were below, were almost frightened to death at the sight of the dragon's carcass. The young prince then let his sister slowly down, and, after her, the three young maidens, each of them with the work on which she was employed. As he let them down, one after the other, he shouted to his brothers and told them to whom each of the maidens should belong--reserving for himself the third one, whom he also let down to the ground. This was the maiden who was engaged in threading pearls with the help of the golden hen and chickens. His brothers, however, were envious at the success of his courage, and at his having found his sister and saved her from the dragon, so they cut the thong in order that he might not be able to get down from the kiosk.
Then they found, in the fields near, a young shepherd, whom they disguised and took to their father, but forbad their sister and the three maidens, with many threats, to tell what they had done. After some time the youngest brother, who had been left in the kiosk, received the news that his two brothers and the shepherd were to marry the three maidens. On the day when his eldest brother was married, the youngest brother mounted his black horse, and just as the wedding party came back from the church, the young prince came down from the kiosk, rushed into the midst, and struck his eldest brother slightly in the back, so that he fell down from his horse; he then immediately flew back again to the kiosk. On the day that his second brother was married, the youngest again came down among the wedding party, as they left the church. He was mounted on the white horse, and he struck his second brother as he had done the eldest, so that he also fell down, and then he returned again to the kiosk. At last, on hearing that the young shepherd was going to be married to the maiden whom the prince had selected for himself, he mounted on the cream-coloured horse, descended again, and rode among the wedding guests as they came out of the church, and struck the bridegroom with his mace on his head so that he at once fell down dead. When the guests gathered round him to catch him, which he permitted them to do, making no attempt to escape from them, he soon proved to them that he himself was the third son of the king, and that the shepherd was an imposter, and that his brothers, out of envy, had left him in the kiosk, when he had found his sister and killed the dragon. His sister and the three young maidens confirmed all that he said, so that the king, in his anger at the two elder brothers, drove them away from his court; however, he married the youngest brother to the third maiden, and, at his death, left him his kingdom.