The Princess and the Dragon

J.K. Phan July 16, 2017
Humor, Magic, Romance
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“Another one?” she asked, exasperated. I flew through the gaping hole in the weathered stone, sliding gracefully into my human form as my feet touched the cracked tiles of the Great Hall.
“Yeah,” I answered.
“Is he attractive at least?”
I shrugged. Knights being knights, his face had been covered with a heavy metal helm.
“I couldn’t tell, he was fully armored.”
“Hm.” Princess Celeste studied her nails, lounging on a stone slab as if it was a velvet couch. She looked up, startled, as a resounding boom echoed through the chamber as the knight attempted to break the heavily fortified door down.
“Make a decision, or he’ll make it for you.”
She sighed, leaning back. “Drive him off, I guess. I’m not going with someone I can’t see.” Nodding, I reverted to my dragon form, enormous ebony wings unfurling. With a powerful thrust, I took off, circling the imposing spires of the castle before landing behind the suitor. A single roar was all it took to set the ‘valiant’ knight quaking in his heavy iron boots. He drew his sword, attempting a show of bravado.
“Release the princess!” he cried, a tremor in his voice making me scoff internally.
I snarled with disdain. “You think you are worthy?” I growled, my voice low. “Only the truest of heroes could ever hope to claim Princess Celeste.”
“I’m a true hero!”
Baring my teeth, I released a spurt of flame, carefully aimed so that it scorched a coward-shaped outline on the wall behind him. The knight screamed and ran, swinging himself up onto his steed and galloping away without a backwards glance. Human once more, I rolled my eyes.
“True hero, indeed.”
Inside, I found Celeste in the library, paging through a book of spells. “Whose were these?” she asked. “There are notes and things scribbled in here, and I know for a fact that you don’t do magic other than shapeshifting.”
“You’re not the first human to live with the dragon of Blackbriar castle, you know. A long, long time ago, this wizard decided the castle would make an acceptable recluse, and a dragon would make an appropriate roommate. He just kind of moved in, and after a while we became friends.” I sighed, remembering the humans who had come in and out of my life over the centuries. They numbered one wizard, two children, a werewolf, and three princesses. Royal families loved to dump their unwed daughters on me, assuming I’d consider them treasure rather than food.
“Really?” Celeste asked, lifting an eyebrow. “Any other princesses?”
“Yeah,” I said. “Two. The first was my little sister. The second one was here, oh, maybe thirty years ago? She was really snobbish, and honestly, I was a bit relieved when a prince carried her off. I can’t count the number of times I had to tell her that I was a dragon, not a servant.”
Celeste laughed, a musical sound. “You had a sister? Was she a dragon too?” I smiled at the memory of my sister, a bright, happy girl who I’d been devastated to see go. “No,” I said sadly, “She’d still be here if she was. She married – what’shisface – Tom. King Thomas Brightwind of Ascary.”
“Ascary? I’ve never heard of it.”
“It dissolved two hundred or so years ago – it was a useless little kingdom, anyway.”
A silence followed, Celeste looking at the spellbook once more. I pulled a dusty tome from the extensive shelves, curling up on a futon next to the fire. After an hour or so, Celeste spoke again.
“Do you think we’ll ever find someone worthy? It’s been four years, and we’ve turned away almost a hundred knights, princes, and nobles. Do you think we’ll find someone who actually wants to get to know me, rather than marry me because his parents told him I’m pretty?”
I smiled, crossing the room and taking her hand. “Of course we will,” I assured her. “It’s just that most men are pigs. But I’m sure at least one of them will love you for more than your face, or your kingdom.”
“Thanks, Livy. I’m going to bed.” Celeste stood up, stretching with a yawn. She patted my hand. “We’ll find someone for you too, someday.” I watched her walk away, long golden hair swaying under the circle of gold. “I already have,” I whispered once she was out of earshot. “But my job is to help her marry a prince.”
I was awakened by the whinnying of a stallion. With a sigh, I descended the stairs to the Great Hall. Celeste came down the stairs from her tower, rubbing her eyes sleepily.
“I couldn’t see him from my window,” she said. “Maybe you can fly around for a bit and tell me what he’s like?” I nodded, sighing internally. Sliding into my dragon form, I took off, savoring the cold air on my scales before swooping down to find the suitor. All I saw, though, was a jet-black horse stamping nervously at the ground. I passed back around the other side of the castle, where Celeste’s tower reached into the sky. There he was, a pale, freckled lad clambering determinedly up the side of the tower. I shook my monstrous head before swooping back down into the castle. Celeste looked at me expectantly, awaiting my assessment.
“Tall, red hair, pale, freckly. He’s climbing up your tower; he’s almost to the top. Let’s let him get in, maybe you can talk to him for a bit and if you don’t like him I’ll chase him off.” She nodded in agreement. I reverted into a dragon, curling snakelike behind Celeste. No later had I let out my first puff of smoke then the youth appeared at the doorway from Celeste’s tower.
“Who are you?” she asked, crossing her arms.
“M’name’s Travis, who’re you?” he asked bluntly.
“Princess Celeste. Not to sound arrogant, but do you really not know who I am?”
“Uh, nope. I just wanted to explore the haunted castle, I dinna know anyone was livin’ here. Sorry t’bother you, ma’am.”
Celeste cocked her head. “Where are you from, Travis?”
“Oh, a ways away from here. I grew up in Faskar, but I’m a bit o’ a traveler. Why do ya live in a ruined castle? And what’s wi’ the dragon?”
She ignored his question. “So, just to make sure, you’re not here to marry me?”
“Um, no ma’am, I’m jus’ here to see what’s what. Not to say you’re not pretty, or anything! I jus’ don’t have much interest in, ah, girls.” Celeste’s face broke into a smile. “I like this one, Livy,” she said, looking back at me. “Can I invite him for dinner?” I let out a puff of smoke, shrinking into a woman once more. “Alright,” I said. “I’ll try not to scare him away.
Travis was a well-mannered guest, although he had obviously had a starkly different upbringing than Celeste and I. He had Celeste in stitches within minutes, and I, despite my dislike of outsiders, found myself warming to him. Celeste invited Travis to stay the night, and the two of us fixed up one of the many unused chambers for him. The young man was surprisingly calm about sharing space with a dragon-woman, saying only “I’m a weirdo, you’re a weirdo, everyone’s a weirdo, we can be weirdos together.”
As Celeste and I were making Travis’ bed, I felt it necessary to remind her of her parents’ wishes. “You know you’re ‘supposed’ to marry a nobleman of some sort, right? Travis, while a wonderful person, is certainly no knight.” She laughed, and I savored the sound. Who knew how long I had left to spend with Celeste, since Travis might sweep her away with his Faskarian charm.
“I’m not interested in Travis like that,” she said, assuaging my bitter thoughts. “Sure, he’s sweet, and funny, but honestly he’s not my type. Maybe I’m being picky, but I’m realizing I’d much rather stay at Blackbriar with both of you than marry anyone.” I smiled, relieved.
Travis ended up staying at Blackbriar for just over a week, before having to make his way back to his own home. He apologized profusely, vowing to return and bring some of his friends. The morning after he left, a prince appeared at the castle. Grumbling, I transformed for the first time in a week to drive him off. I landed in front of him, baring my teeth, but was caught off guard by a swipe of his sword embedding itself deep into my side. I roared, attempting to take off to retreat into the safety of the castle rather than hurt him, but pain shot through my entire body as he drove the sword in deeper, twisting as he went. From high above us, I heard a piercing scream as Celeste saw what was happening below. For the first time in years, the front door creaked open, Celeste rushing out to kneel by my side. Her hands were soon covered in my blood as she tried in vain to stem the flow. She screamed at the prince, tears streaking her face. “What have you done?” He stumbled back, shock filling his eyes.
“The beast was going to kill me!” he cried.
“Livyathan has never hurt a soul! You heartless monster!”
He retreated, shaking his head. “Forget this. I don’t want to marry a girl who chooses a monster over someone who’s trying to save her.” Without another glance at us, he rode off into the distance.
“Good riddance,” I said, my voice thick and heavy with pain. “Celeste, on the count of three, I’m going to shift. I need you to pull the sword out, or it’ll widen the wound.”
Her hands trembled on the hilt, and she nodded frantically. “One,” I said, groaning. “Two. Three.” My princess slid the metal out of my torso as I shrank, human once more.
“Livy? Are you okay?” Celeste asked, peering at me. I tried to answer, but darkness obscured my vision and I sank into unconsciousness.
I awoke in my own bed, my wound bandaged with clean, white linen. Celeste was by my side, sleeping in an armchair that she’d pulled up to the edge of the bed. Her hand rested in mine atop the covers. I smiled as Celeste started, realizing I was awake. “Livyathan!” she exclaimed, “How are you feeling?”
“Better,” I said, “You’re here.” She grinned.
“Oh, by the way,” she said, “I came to a conclusion while you were out. I don’t want to get married, I have everything I need right here. As long as Travis visits sometimes, who needs princes? Especially,” she winked, “as I have my own princess right here.”

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