Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction
The Charming DragonThe Charming Dragon
Annie Louise Twitchell
"You promised that you would let me go with the next knight who came along!" I stamped my foot and glared at my captor, a medium-sized silver and black dragon named Horanth.
He sighed, releasing little wisps of smoke from his nostrils, as he curved his neck to stare into my eyes. "He wasn't a proper knight."
"How do you know?"
"Just trust me. I know many more things than humans. That is why you were put under my charge."
"I still don't believe you. My parents would never let a dragon kidnap me. My father is going to be most unhappy when they find me and take me home. I expect he'll ride out with his army, and conquer your stuffy hole, and kill you!"
"Indeed. It's nearly dinnertime, go and wash your face. Tears will not flavor the food much."
He turned and slid out of my prison, his tail scrapping on the stone floor. As the tip of his tail disappeared I yelled after him. "I haven't been crying!"
"Don't lie to me, child." His voice was muffled by the walls but I heard him. I huffed and stamped my foot, before crossing the room to the washbasin.
I bathed my face in the lukewarm water until the tear stains were gone. Patting my hair down and tucking the curls behind my ear, I examined my dress to see if it was clean and presentable. I had a stain from lunch on my bodice and dust on the skirt from kneeling on the windowsill to watch Horanth fight the knight.
I flounced across the room, pulled an identical blue dress from the wardrobe, and tossed the soiled one into its voluminous depths. I hurried down to the dining room.
Horanth was seated at one end of the long stone table. I hurried to my chair at the other end. My plate was filled with fresh berries, soft cheese, cold chicken, and two slices of bread. Horanth watched me eat and drink. I knew by now that he would do his hunting and eating late at night, after I was safely tucked away to sleep.
I ate slowly, because as much as I complained about my scaly guardian, I disliked being alone. Horanth was better company than the small spiders who spun webs in the corners of my room.
Tonight I lingered so long over my meal that my eyes began to feel heavy. Horanth coughed politely from his end of the table, and I stood up. I moved too quickly and knocked my goblet of wine, spilling the red liquid across the table. It ran in rivulets down onto the floor and splattered my dress.
Horanth stirred and came towards me, his scales rasping.
"I'm sorry... I'm so sorry. I made an awful mess, but I'll clean it up, just..." I backed away, tears hot behind my eyes.
"Stop. Naris, stop. It is quite alright. Don't be frightened, I am not angry. You may go up to bed, you are very tired." He spoke gently and it reminded me of my father's voice.
I nodded, drew a deep breath, and hurried away. It seemed an impossibly long distance from the dining hall to my room. Climbing the stairs felt like climbing a mountain, and I was greatly relieved to push my door open and drop into my bed.
The next morning was no different than every morning of the month previous. I was awoken by chaotic noises outside that I recognized at once as someone beating on his shield with a sword. I hurried to dress in a clean gown, green today, and went out to the balcony.
There was a knight, in rusted armor, with a entirely black shield. He shouted up at me but I couldn't understand the words over the noise of Horanth's wings. Horanth soared majestically through the air, turning his head to wink at me as he flew by my balcony. He landed at the bottom of the mountain and stalked impressively towards the knight.
"Tell me, why are you here?"
The knight's voice shook and I realized he was really just a kid in armor, with a sword and no courage. "To rescue the princess Naris!" He proclaimed, making a futile effort to be bold and daring.
Horanth nodded thoughtfully. "So you intend to slay me, take the maid, and wait several hours so you can stage riding off into a glorious sunset?"
Horanth looked over his shoulder at the mountain. "How do you intend to get up to her if you kill me? It's a climb of a hundred yards to reach her balcony. Are you wearing climbing gear under your armor? That must be terribly uncomfortable."
"I would climb the highest mountain to rescue the princess!"
"I'm sure you would, you adorable little thing. And tell me, how do you intend to get out again? With the maid, of course. There are two exits from my house. One: over the balcony, followed by the aforementioned hundred yard cliff, which you will have a great deal of difficulty navigating with a princess hanging about your neck. Two: my entrance, a hole at the top of the mountain. I am assuming you don't fly, so I don't know how you would manage that. Have you any ideas?"
The knight shook his head.
Horanth stretched lazily. "In that case, you might as well save yourself the bother of killing me, because you won't be able to reach your pretty maid, so she will starve if I'm gone. Run along, little man, and come back if you think of any solutions."
The knight raised his sword again, but then lowered it and walked slowly back to his black war horse. I watched as they slumped down the road. Horantha chuckled and soared up, landing on an outcropping of rock just above my balcony. Leaning over he peered quizzically at me.
"You don't look very happy. What's wrong?"
I didn't answer him, but turned away and went back into my room. He followed me, closing the balcony door with a flick of his tail, and curled himself into a circle in the middle of my room. "Naris... There isn't anywhere for you to run where I cannot find you. You might as well speak now and tell me what is the matter, child."
I flopped face-down in the middle of my bed and ignored him. He sighed again, and the faint odor of charred meat reached my nose. He slid out of my room like a cat and closed the door behind him.
He came in at noon, bearing a basket of strawberries and a small jug of cream. He set it on the table by the fireplace and came over to hover over me. "There was another one, Naris. He was just a boy again. I didn't hurt him, I just sent him away." He shifted uncomfortably. "Talk to me, Naris."
"I don't want to talk!" I yelled at him as I sat upright. "I want to go home, and you won't let me, and I hate you! I hate you!"
He nodded his scaly head and turned away, but not before I saw the huge steaming tear slid down his face and splash on the stones. That made me feel guilty, and feeling guilty made me angrier; I screamed at him to leave me alone.
He left without saying anything, and I was left alone again, alone - with a hot teardrop on the floor and an abandoned basket of strawberries on the table.
At dusk I wandered down to the dining hall and found it empty, save a plate set at my chair. I ate slowly, hoping he would come back, but he didn't. I even explored the mountain a little after I finished, hoping I would see him. I had the uneasy feeling of being watched, but no one was near me. I gave up after a few minutes and returned to my room.
I dressed for bed and climbed in, drawing the blankets up to my chin. Just as I crossed the threshold into sleep, the candles in my room were blown out and my door closed softly.
I slept uneasily. I woke just before dawn, and went back to sleep with the new sunlight trickling into my room. I dreamed of a young man, lost in darkness, thorns clawing at him. Fire crept up behind him, consuming the thorns, burning his face and hands... Then there was water, rushing, pounding. Struggling to breathe, he reached out frantically. Someone laughed cruelly, and the shadow of a dragon filtered through the water.
I woke up with a start, covered in a cold sweat. My blankets were twisted around my legs and I kicked free. Noises outside my window caught my attention and I wrapped a robe around my nightgown and hurried out onto the balcony.
Horanth was engaged in battle with a knight. But unlike the boys who had come over the previous month, this was a seasoned warrior, one who knew what he was doing. Blow after blow landed on Horanth, and in tender places. Horanth was fighting poorly, and I soon saw why. The knight's long spear was thrust deeply in the flesh under Horanth's foreleg, making it impossible for him to move quickly, or fly away to safety.
"Stop!" I cried out, hoping the knight would hear me.
He did. He turned to look up at me and Horanth sagged. I tore my eyes away from the crimson blood that oozed down his leg and met the knight's gaze.
"You don't have to kill him, please. I'll come down and we can go. Just don't kill him."
The knight smiled and half-bowed. I ran back into the mountain and down to the dining hall. There had to be a lower entrance, because I knew Horanth didn't carry my food in through his flight room or my bedroom, and it didn't just appear out of thin air.
I raced through the corridors and into the dining hall. It seemed the logical place to find a door into the lower parts of the mountain. Concealed behind a huge painting of the sunset, as seen from my balcony, there was a door and a wide flight of stairs. I ran down them two at a time and came out in a dragon-sized kitchen, with a door ajar at the far end.
The door came out behind a large rock at the base of the mountain. I scrambled up the short hill and looked back - the doorway was completely hidden, and if I had not come through it a moment ago, I would not have known it existed.
I walked quickly and hoped I was going in the right direction to reach Horanth and the knight.
After a few minutes walking they came into view. Horanth was crouched, tail lashing, little tongues of fire slipping out of his mouth. The knight leaned against a rock and smirked as he saw me.
"Oh, there you are. Come, Naris." He held his gloved hand out to me and I stepped forward.
Horanth moved between us, his eyes fixed on my face. "You can't do this, Naris. You can't go with him. He wants to own you, not love you. Living with him would kill you."
"What do you want me to do? I can't stay here. Don't talk to me about love when there is no love here. I'd rather die with a human being than stay here for the rest of my life with a monster."
"Yes, I'm a monster. I'm broken and horrible, but I've never pretended otherwise. This man is a far worse monster than I, because he claims to be something else. He's lying to you, Naris! I would not see the heartbreak he will inflict on you, because you are dear to me. I promised to let you go when someone who could love you the way you needed to be loved came, but this is not he. Trust me, Naris, please. Just trust me, just this once. Don't go with him."
"I just want to go home."
"And so you will, Naris." The knight spoke. I turned to look at him and saw with horror his raised sword. He plunged it deep in Horanth's chest as I screamed.
Horanth opened his eyes and coughed out a little flame. "Naris... Don't go with him. Don't..."
His voice faded off and I became aware of the hot tears of my cheeks and the harshness of my heartbeat. I tried to go to his side, but the knight had caught my arm and was pulling me towards his horse.
Horanth drew a last shuddering breath and then a silence fell. I stared at the black and silver body lying in the sunlight and I found myself kicking the knight in the knee; knocking him backwards; running across the grass; dropping to my knees at Horanth's side.
"You have to come back, Horanth. You have to come back! I have something I need to tell you. Come back, please! Come back!"
The knight grabbed my shoulder and twisted me around to stare into his face. His mouth twisted into an ugly leer and I felt terrified for the first time.
Then suddenly his face fell into an expression of shock. I looked down at the red tip of a sword that protruded from the knight's chest, just before he fell forward. I skipped out of the way of his fall and tripped over Horanth's body.
His green eyes were clouded over. I patted the scales on his face. "Come back, please... You have to come back."
"He's not coming back." A new voice said from behind me. I turned to look at the young man from my dream, standing over the knight's body, wiping his sword clean on a handful of grass. "He's not coming back."
I looked back at the dragon's body, tears filling my eyes. "He died for me. He tried to protect me, even when I resisted. He cared for me and that's why he chased all those other knights away, why he tried to stop me from going with that man... And now he's gone. I didn't get a chance to tell him, because I didn't know myself until he was dead. Oh, Horanth..."
I pressed my face against the silver scales and cried.
The young man sheathed his sword and came to my side. He reached out and touched my shoulder, hesitatingly.
"It hurts." I said, wrapping my arms around myself as if to keep from breaking.
"I know. I know, little one. It's alright."
"I think I was learning to love him and he's dead. I can't tell him now, and it hurts. I didn't know anything could hurt this much."
A light drizzle began to fall and I shivered, realizing I was still wearing my nightgown. The young man helped me up and led me around the mountain, behind the rock, and into the dragon's kitchen. He moved quickly, setting water to boil, fetching a tray of food, making a cup of tea. He assembled it all on a tray and placed it in front of me.
"Now, eat, and I'll find a blanket. You must be quite cold, between your apparel and the shock."
He disappeared and I obediently sipped the tea and nibbled on the bread and ham.
He came back and wrapped a woolen blanket around my shoulders, then snitched a piece of ham from my plate and sat down opposite. I swallowed my mouthful.
"Who are you? I dreamed about you this morning."
He smiled. "I know."
"How do you know? Are you a fairy?"
"No. I am Horanth. Actually, it would be more accurate to say Horanth was I. I had to learn to love someone besides myself, and I was turned into a dragon until I learned my lesson. Now that I'm back in my right form, I shall introduce myself properly." He bowed his head playfully. "Prince Callen of Halguard, at your service, my lady Naris."
I froze, a bit of cheese halfway to my month. He raised an eyebrow and reached for another piece of ham from my plate.
After a minute or so, he waved his hand in front of my face. "Hallo, Naris? Are you alright?"
I dropped the cheese. "No, I'm not alright! You're dead! That knight stabbed you, I watched you die! Why didn't you stay dead like a normal human being?"
"Because I'm not normal, Naris. I've been a dragon for the past ten years. Normal people can't truthfully say that. You wanted me back, so I came. I'm here, darling. I can say it now: I love you."
I began to cry again, unable to identify the emotions that were spilling out and down my cheeks.
He got up and came around the table again, sitting down beside me. He pulled me into his arms and kissed my forehead. "If this crying thing is going to be a regular occurrence, you need to tell me so I can carry a handkerchief with me."
I laughed then, in the middle of my crying, and smiled up at him.
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