20 October 2013

The Princess and the Dragon

There once was a princess who lived in a lovely castle surrounded by an equally lovely village. The days were sunny and the hills were green all around.

It was a comfortable life for the princess, and anyone would have said she was lucky. But the princess, in truth, was rather restless and longed for something exciting to happen. Day in and day out, things were much the same, and every night the princess would pray to whichever gods or goddesses might be listening, "Please let something remarkable take place."

And then one day a dragon came.

He was a big, red dragon with fierce yellow eyes, and everyone was afraid, for no one knew what to do about him. Everyone, that is, except the princess. She leaned out of the topmost castle tower and called to the dragon.

The dragon had never had anyone call to him before. Much less had anyone ever encouraged him to come any closer to them. Curious and bewildered, the dragon answered the princess's summons.

"Please, Mr. Dragon, won't you take me with you?" asked the princess.

The dragon looked at the big castle and the beautiful green hills and could not imagine why a princess would want to leave such a place, especially to go with a big beast like himself. But then the princess leaned out farther and gave him a quick kiss on the snout. And the next thing the dragon knew, she had climbed onto his neck and was urging him to fly.

So away the dragon flew, the princess clinging to him and laughing. No one had ever laughed when he was around before. The dragon was not sure what to make of it. Was she laughing at him?

He took the princess to his mountain cave, which was piled with gold and other treasure. There, the dragon climbed onto his pile of wealth and prepared to sleep. But then he hesitated. What should he do with the princess?

He needn't have worried. She climbed right up beside him, folded herself in the crook between his foreleg and his belly, and fell right to sleep.

The dragon thought it could not last long. Eventually the princess would tire of him. She would get homesick and want to return to her castle. But the days went on and on, and still the princess stayed with him. He would bring her portions from his hunts (he roasted hers with his hot breath), and she had dug out silver cutlery from his hoard. He raided villages and brought back beautiful silk and velvet clothes for her (some fit, some did not; all people looked small to the dragon and so sizing was difficult for him). And on weekends they would fly high over mountains, hills, and forests, sometimes stopping in safe, uninhabited places to relax and play.

The princess told the dragon all about her life, and the dragon spoke a little about his—so much of it was unpleasant and not, he felt, right for a princess's ears, that his long life was reduced to only a few anecdotes. And in this way they passed their days, until finally the dragon felt compelled to ask, "But princess, don't you miss your family?"

"Sometimes," she said. "But if you were to take me back, they would never let me go again. And they would probably hurt you, too. You are my family now."

This surprised the dragon. He had never been anyone's family before, not that he could remember. And he had not realized how lonely he had been until the day he was no longer alone.

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