The Princess, the Dragon and the Prince
(with a little help from Prologue and Epilogue)
Written by Stefan Brinkmann, translated into english by K. Shelly Rix
Once upon a time...
Stories keep on repeating. Whatever may happen, it already happened before. Or will happen again. It doesn't matter how much mankind may try to learn from past experiences, in the end they just tell the same story. New people, the old tale. It is never only for once. There are rules. And yet...
Sometimes a story breaks loose. The characters, through which it is told, are so different they let the story be born anew...
Once upon a time...
...because somewhere every story has its beginning.
Softly the comb swept through the golden hair. Again and again the waterfall of light is broken into dozens of single glowing strands.
"You must be terribly upset. Being married, just like that. Me, well, I would fight against it with all my might."
Nanny let the ebony comb glide though the hair of the princess again. Vessena let the knowing hands of her nanny style her hair to a creation of art.
She had to smile. Nanny was so sure that she had to hate the prince just because their marriage was arranged by their parents. The woman was hopelessly romantic.
"But Nanny, do try to understand. I love Jestan. Only too gladly will I become his wife."
Nanny's hand stopped.
"But you have to marry him. I mean, what is the sense in forcing someone to do something he wants to do anyway."
Vessena shook her head carefullly as not to disturb Nanny's artwork.
"You don't want to understand, do you? I liked him the first time I saw him. He is almost perfect, with just enough flaws to stay human. And I am his chosen one. We would have married even if no one had forced us."
Unrest had been growing in Dragonlair since her father had died. The neighbouring kingdoms were prying on the weakened kingdom. More and more bandits were plundering the villages. The Royal Guards were doing their best, but Royal Guards without a king to protect and fight for lacked the certain magic that was needed to win despite being hopelessly outnumbered. Vessena was the only daughter and finally of an age to be married. The High Council had long decided on the husband, the prince of Illumina. With Illumina's help Dragonlair would no longer have to fear its worst foe, Ratio. From the political viewpoint it was an ideal marriage.
"Well just take a good look at Michos. He is a handsome and interesting man, strong, courageous, intriguing." Nanny tried to look innocent.
"Michos works in the stables. He has more muscles than brains. To stupid to be afraid and with so little grasp of the human language to say more than 'Good day'."
"I don't know, what has become of romance these days?" Nanny pulled a strand of hair somewhat harder than necessary. "Wouldn't it be exciting to lay in his strong arms and to ride into the sunset?"
Exciting...yes, she had been excited before she had met Jestan. The thought of being married had shocked her as much as Nanny. If only the old woman could see what she had, in those first precious moments, when she saw him face to face for the first time. Their eyes had met and they had bonded in such a way it was hard to tear them away from each other. She felt as if Jestan could see into her very soul. It had troubled her at first, but only he knew how to give her warmth and safety and he understood her wishes, her dreams, her world. He simply knew how it was to be different, a leader, an unreachable star.
It had caused quite a stir when it became obvious that the two young people had truly fallen in love and that disturbed Vessena the most. Even if she seemed sure of the whole matter whilst discussing it with Nanny, deep inside her, there was still this nagging doubt. How could she love him if everyone around her thought this to be impossible? But when she was near Jestan all her doubts were blown away. There was only him and he could fill her world. Michos on the other hand...
"A guy that stinks of horse manure and sweat? No, thanks."
Nanny sighed. "You lack the inner yearning to learn all about the world around you!"
"All right. Your silly old nanny will be quiet. And your hair is finished. So run along now, your last meal in freedom is due. The queen will be waiting."
Dinner was plain torture. The queen tried to be a perfect mother and kept on asking, if everything had been considered and done, the dress, did it fit, and the banquet, she had seen to it personally yet still...
Vessena wasn't really listing. On the whole, her mother had been repeating the same monologue for the last three weeks. But when the queen suddenly went quiet, she looked up from her plate. She saw that her mother was looking at her with sorrowful eyes. They were glistening as if they were about to let forth the barely contained tears.
"Darling, sweetness, I... I'm so sorry. I know how hard it must be for you. And we all appreciate that you are trying so hard to seem to really love him..."
Vessena was on her feet in a second. The sound of the crashing chair as it fell on the freshly polished floor stopped the queen in mid-sentence.
In the silence that followed Vessena shouted out all her anger and frustration: "I love him, ye gods. Is that so hard to understand? I love him!"
Then she stormed out of the dining room, past the baffled guards and out into the garden. Why didn't anyone understand? Why didn't anyone believe her? Why couldn't she make them...
A huge shadow darkened the moon; a swishing of gigantic wings was the only sound in the stillness around her. Two really enormous claws closed around the princess and swept her with death-defying swiftness into the air. The shock, the sudden velocity and the awful smell let Vessena do, what all princesses do in this kind of situation. She fainted.
It was a new morning; the first rays tentatively crept into the darkness of the cave. Slowly they felt their way in over the craggy walls, the shiny golden scales, up to eyelids as large as saucers.
The dragon awoke. He hadn't slept so well in decades. Standing up he stretched himself to his full majestic height, banged his head on the ceiling and snorted quietly. But he wouldn't let such a minor thing spoil his first morning in his new home, no way! A shriek surprised him making him hit his head on the ceiling a second time. Baffled he tried to rid himself of the dancing stars so he could take a peek at the source of the shriek.
There, in the farthest corner crouching as though she wanted to melt into the stone a young girl in colourful clothing lay looking up at her host.
Oh no, not again.
The girls face changed from frightened to disturbed. Mans weren't used to hearing voices in their head. And if they did they were locked away in special houses and called a threat to society.
Slowly he pushed his head towards the she-man. Through his huge nostrils he inhaled the smell of the girl.
A virgin! Oh please, not a virgin! Tell me you're not really here.
Now don't tell me you're a princess, too.
The she-man crept even further into the corner and swallowed hard. "The soldiers will already be looking for me. They will rescue me. A whole army will come and..."
The head of the dragon shot upward, his whole body squirmed. He thumped his head on the ceiling for the third time. A blue flame jetted out of his nose and left a black mark on the grey cave ceiling.
Oh Smoulder. I thought it had finally stopped. A new place, kind neighbours, no knights who constantly are challenging your scales. Dragonlair - that sounded so ideal. And what happens? In the very first night I have to sleep-fly and kidnap a virgin princess again.
"Oh, please, don't eat me. I didn't mean what I said. I... I probably don't taste to well and I'm supposed to be married today... and... and..."
No. Please. Don't -
The princess broke into a shower of tears.
- cry. Smoulder. My mother always said. "Son, stay off the virgins. They're hysterical, tend to cry too much, taste too salty and usually cause indigestion. And when you finally manage to remove the last piece of the far too opulent wrappings out from between your fangs, some hero is standing in front of you who wants to cut her out of your tummy again. Princesses are especially dangerous, because their heroes are usually quite successful." And what do I do? Sleep-fly. Capture princesses in my dreams. I mean, I don't even like mans. They're too tasteless, if you ask me. Sheep are much more spicy. And with these paws it's really hard to hold a pepper grinder...
The princess held her hands firmly against her ears. A useless gesture but so typically human. Tears still ran down her pale cheeks, but at least she had stopped sobbing.
The dragon surprised by this outburst backed off two steps and involuntarily sat down on his treasure, he had piled up in the back of his cave. It had been a hell of a job transporting all his riches from the old cave. Dragon claws are simply not designed to pick up gold coins.
Sorry. I tend to talk too much when I'm nervous. Listen. This is just a big misunderstanding. I didn't want to kidnap you. I'm new to the area and it is surely not my wish to immediately aggravate my new neighbours. Now listen, she-man...
"Vessena" replied Vessena. She sniffled and looked for a kerchief in the folds of her dress.
Vessena. Right. Well, why don't we just pretend that all of this hasn't happened? I'll just go and fly, find myself some juicy sheep and when I come back you're gone. You don't say anything to anyone and I won't, too.
Her kerchief had disappeared so she misused the hem of her dress and loudly cleaned her nose.
So, well. Yes. I'll be gone then.
The dragon turned around barely missing the princess with his mighty tail. Quietly swearing he thumped out of the cave. A princess! Why did things like this always have to happen to him? He really liked his new home. It would be such a shame if he had to move out again.
Oh, Smoulder. Why me...
The day had been quite a success. Two juicy sheep hung dead in his fore claws. From Ratio, of course. The dragon had watched Dragonlair for some time and had noticed that things between Dragonlair and Ratio weren't peaceful and harmonious. Being able to help his new home and satiate his hunger at the same time was almost a stroke of genius. The little mishap of last night was almost forgotten. The princess, what was her name again, Vessena, she would surely have run home by now. With a little luck the whole story would have gone under in the preparations for the wedding. Mans were so easily distracted.
He landed with thundering last flap of his great wings at the cave entrance. Oh, crispy well-done mutton, here I come...
A sound - something between grunting and sawing - greeted him.
Wild boars sound differently...
The dragon stepped into his cave with a not so good feeling.
By the wall lay the princess, more or less as he had left her, and she was snoring.
You're still here.
The dragon's thoughts were much too surprised to sound angry.
With a delightful sigh the princess uncurled herself.
"Oh, Nanny. I had an absolutely mad dream. I had had an argument with my mother, ran out into the garden and a sleep-flying dragon had captured me..."
She opened her eyes.
Two huge red lizard like eyes stared back at her only a few hand span away.
The dragon's head rushed towards the ceiling but stopped before it crashed into it. Cautiously the dragon peered upwards.
It seems as if I'm finally getting comfortable here he thought more to himself. Then he centred his thoughts on the princess again.
What in the name of Suthurs Sulphuric Slave pits are you still doing here? And stop the screaming. My nerves are not the best.
Vessena rubbed her eyes as if her life depended on it. Because the dragon wouldn't disappear she decided it would be better to give an answer.
"Well, you kidnapped me, didn't you?"
Yes, yes, I know that. I understand that this will be shadowing my near future. But tell me, why you are still here?
The princess stretched herself gingerly. A few of her bones protested and creaked in an unprincessly way. Her bed didn't have much in common with stone floors.
"I must have fallen asleep..."
YOU FELL ASLEEP!
The princess shivered under the force of the thoughts.
Somewhat less forceful the dragon then continued.
Fallen asleep. She is oversleeping her own marriage! They will be looking for you in the whole kingdom. Oh Smoulder.
"Yes. And when they find me, it will be your undoing, you monster. They will..."
... come in glowing armour and with shiny lances, they will kill the princess and rescue the dragon. Or the other way round. I've heard it all before. I've played the main part in this kind of thing dozens of times. Sleep-flying can really ruin a good hardworking dragon's reputation. When you are caught with a virgin princess in your claws they won't give you even a tiny moment to explain yourself. Okay, up until now I've always managed to get away in one piece. But I have to be lucky every time, they only once. And having to move out really is getting on my nerves.
The dragon turned around, lay down on his heap of gold, put his head on his forepaws and pouted at the princess.
This picture made the princess smile. The dragon looked just too cute.
Yes, just you laugh. I'm having a major crisis here and your a part of it.
The princess shrugged. "Sorry, next time I won't run into the garden when a dragon is flying low in his sleep."
The dragon stretched a claw out and fished for one of the sheep. Then with a little sigh he let a small flame out of his enormous mouth cook the dead animal.
"You've killed some sheep?"
The princess sounded alarmed.
Do you want to change place with them? Anyway, why is it always "The poor sheep, the big bad dragon has killed them all."? Why do I never hear "The poor dragon, the big bad knights have killed him."? I'm sure you lot, too, wouldn't be all that happy starring in the play "The revenge of the cattle".
It began to stink of burnt sheep hair.
"Would you please stop that. Do you want me to suffocate?"
How come you are bossing me about all the time? I mean, who's in the stronger position here? The dragon complained.
But he let his flame go out.
Meanwhile, the princess had stood up and was burrowing through the heap of treasures, until she found what she was looking for - a short sword that glistened with jewels. She drew it majestically.
Now don't do anything silly!
Vessena ignored the dragon, went over to the smouldering sheep, sat down beside it and started to skin the dead beast.
The dragon shook his head in disbelief.
I didn't know that skinning was part of the normal education for princesses.
"It isn't. But since my father died, my mother had even less time to take care of me and Nanny has her own way of seeing things. She is of the opinion, that every woman should know how to cook, clean and use a sword. In her eyes this applies to princesses as well as to maids.
Slowly but surely the dragon was getting worried. This was no normal princess. Something deep inside him told him it would cause a lot less hassle if he just ate her now. On the other hand, he beginning to think that she was quite all right - for a mans.
The princess skinned both the sheep. While the dragon slowly cooked them she looked for and found a well-filled set of spices in between the cups, swords and coins. It was the best meal he had had since he had raided a bandit camp somewhere in the dismal woods of Darkshire. He still dreamt of that roast and two veg sometimes.
Both the dragon and the princess were silent the whole time.
When there was nothing left of the sheep other than a pile of bones, the dragon concentrated his thoughts on the princess.
All right. I'm going to sleep now. Two rules. Don't try and do the same to me what you did with those sheep. And when I wake up tomorrow morning, you're gone.
The princess gathered up the bones and threw them out of the cave. The dragon thought he had seen her head nod in recognition.
He turned around and tried to go to sleep. It took a long time.
Even before he opened his eyes he knew what he would see.
He opened them.
He saw the princess.
He snorted out of frustration.
No, don't tell me. You're afraid of the dark? You forgot your walking shoes? You want to bring about the downfall of my life?
The princess hadn't slept much that night. She had sat by the wall and had watched the sleeping dragon. She had thought of many things. It was fascinating what went through your mind when you held watch beside a dragon.
"You surely wouldn't have let me go. That was just a trick of yours, so you could eat me with a clean conscience. Eaten during flight or something like that."
The dragon shook his head in despair.
I don't believe it. Is it so hard to understand? You're free.
"I don't believe you. Dragons don't capture virgins to let them free afterwards. There are rules. Everyone knows that..."
Her common sense caught up with her tongue.
"Oh no, Jestan. He will think that everyone was right, that I don't love him after all, that I've run away so I don't have to marry him."
Her words hung heavily in the air.
Kill me if I'm wrong, but...
The dragon thought of the short sword and the sheep.
Bad idea. What I wanted to say was, is it me or are there some parallels in our respective situations?
But the princess didn't seem to be listening.
"Jestan ... ye Gods! I haven't thought of him since... I don't know when. I thought of so many things last night. But why not...?"
Would you please listen to me? I'm trying to communicate.
The princess turned around.
"Oh, leave me be. This is entirely your fault. If you hadn't kidnapped me, I would be happily married by now. And now ... and now..."
A lonely tear dripped to the floor.
Now listen, I was just trying to explain...
"Don't you have some sheep to kill or something? I'm trying to sort out my life!"
... all right. I'm gone. You too, I hope, when I come back. The castle lies to the west of here, if you keep walking towards the large mountain -"
"I grew up around here." The princess' voice sounded like the hiss of a wild cat with indigestion. "I know the dragon caves. I played here as a child. So don't treat me like an idiot."
The dragon opened a mental channel to reply, changed his mind mid-thought and closed it down. With overly coolness he stepped out of the cave.
I don't believe it. I'm letting myself be thrown out of my own home by a moody princess who knows how to hurt a guy with swords and words. Am I dragon or a dragonfly? And don't anyone dare to answer that.
With a mighty leap he took off from the ledge and disappeared into the glare of the rising sun. Weird things, mans and coins. He had such great claws but still he could not seize them. He just could not get the hang of the interhuman subtleties.
A couple of dead sheep hung limply in his claws, but the hunt had not been enjoyable today. He hadn't been able to concentrate and somehow he constantly saw the reproachful eyes of the princess.
The princess ... how could he rid himself of her? He had considered taking her back himself, but the turmoil that would surely await him there definitely would cause his approach to be greeted by a hailstorm of bolts and arrows. As usual, the mans would make the whole misunderstanding his fault and hunt him to the end of the world (or at least to the boundaries of their kingdom and let the neighbours solve the problem). But maybe he was just fretting over a solved problem. By now, she was surely gone, had married, forgotten him and was living happily ever after.
He landed slightly harder than he had planned.
No sound was to be heard.
Could it be that she has really gone...?
Cautiously he stepped into the cave. He noticed that he felt like an intruder in his own home. He squared his shoulders, folded his wings by his side and strode onwards.
His eyes slowly adjusted themselves to the dimness inside.
His eyes swept over his sleeping place. Well, to the place where a few hours before his bed had been.
The former big heap of gold, silver and gems had transformed into sorted piles. His coins had been stacked into towers they looked like an army before the battle. The jewels had been sorted by type and size, the crowns, swords and other artefacts now decorated the walls, niches and corners of the cave interior. A red velvet carpet covered the floor. The bloodstain - a remembrance of the once mighty king who had fought against his father - had been provisionally washed out with a silver clothes brush and soap from a golden casket. The cave almost looked homely. In the eyes of a human. From the dragons point of view it was pure vandalism.
What in the name of Suthurs Sulphuric Slave pits did you think you were doing? This is MY cave, MY treasure and MY bloodstain. It took me ages to make a comfortable bed of it...
A small detail came to his attention. Something was missing.
Princess? Vessena! Where are you hiding?
But as the big heap of treasure was no longer there, there was no place in the cave where you could effectively hide oneself. The dragon sniffed the air. But he could not detect any human aroma. She had disappeared.
The dragon turned on the spot and started running to the cave entrance. He had to find her. She couldn't just simply go and...
He braked so hard that a few rocks became loose and rolled a few metres further.
Holy Smoke, what am I doing. So she devastated your home, but at least she's gone. Up, up and away. Well, with a little luck you won't ever see her again.
Slowly he shuffled back into the cave. The small sadness that overcame him was warned and told to go and stand in the corner. To miss a mans. That would be almost laughable. Okay, it had been somewhat lonely the last few decades. There weren't so many dragons in the general area nowadays, and normal communication with mans usually was "Aaaaahhhhrg, a dragon. Get all your inflammable stuff and run for it." And a whole bunch of bolts, arrows and blades, of course. But to be so desperate to miss a mans...
"Are you back? I was expecting you a little later."
The dragon froze. And now I'm hearing voices.
"I went and collected some mushrooms for the sheep. Makes them taste better. And I'm sorry what happened this morning."
Slowly the dragon turned his head.
The princess was standing in the cave entrance with a silver hairnet full of mushrooms. From somewhere within the depths of his riches she had found a golden dress that really suited her. With big innocent eyes she peered at the dragon.
No, it's nothing. I've always wanted an interior decorator take a look at my cave. But up until now I've always eaten them in an act of stupidity before they could do any great harm.
Vessena looked a little confused.
"You don't like it?"
Like it? It took me …
The princess seemed close to tears.
"I worked the whole afternoon, you know. I didn't manage to remove the stain completely, but … but … "
Tears. Oh, how he hated them.
… a couple of moments to take in the whole beauty of the job you've done. Really, I've never seen a nicer cave. From a mans point of view, he added silently and hated himself for the thought. 'Dragonfly' was most probably the correct answer.
But why are you still here? And don't give me that old 'the-big-bad-dragon-will-eat-me-if-I-flee'-stuff. There are no mushrooms anywhere near the caves.
The princess hung her head sullenly.
"Well, I wanted to go, but what would Jestan think. Tell me, why should he marry a woman, who's not even good enough for a dragon?"
A very hot flame was working its way up from his stomach; he swallowed hard.
You don't have to tell him.
"But then he would think I ran away from the marriage. And I don't want to lie to him anyway."
Great. And I imagine you're planning to move in here, right? Have you no mercy? It can't be that difficult …
An awful cacophony was to be heard from outside the cave.
There you are. A dragon horn. If I ever find out who invented the awful things… the only reason they attract dragons, is because dragon caves usually only have one exit.
The dragon picked his way past the princess and peeked out carefully. A bolt shot past barely missing his head and bored itself into the stone.
Oh, Vessena, I think you have a visitor.
"MY DEAREST PRINCESS, I HAVE COME TO FIGHT YOU AND RESCUE THE DRAG…, no, that wasn't it. MY DEAREST PRINCESS, I COME TO RESCUE YOU AND FIGHT THE DRAGON, but probably not in that order. DRAGON, I DEMAND YOU SHOW YOURSELF SO CAN CUT YOUR HEAD OFF FOR THE UGLY THINGS YOU DID."
Jestan desperately tried to reload his crossbow. He never really had liked them. In his eyes it seemed unfair to shoot people who were solely armed with swords. And anyway, he always managed to get his fingers trapped while reloading the damn things.
Thankfully a servant had noticed a dark shadow pass over the moon just before the princess had disappeared. And only recently a dragon had been driven out of Illumina. Perhaps, he had thought, there was a connection. So he had made this small excursion to the old dragon caves. The crossbow still refused yield to his frantic pulling. Ana the nervous shifting of his steed wasn't making it any simpler.
Frustrated he threw the weapon aside and drew his sword. Sword fighting was his forte. He would storm into the cave, defeat the dragon and release his bride to be.
Hey, there's no need for violence. I think we should have a little talk, from dragon to hero.
Jestan shook his head confused. Hearing voices in your head was not a good omen. It reminded him of what old knight Dracas had said, that dragons talked to him in his head. He had had move into one of those comfortable places with the padded walls. The head of the dragon cautiously peeked out of the cave entrance.
The thought only just registered in Jestan's mind, like a vague notion. But his valiant horse reared in fright, threw him off and galloped away in wild panic.
Jestan landed roughly on his iron-padded backside.
"Ouch, dammit, that hurt!"
Sorry, but in my experience heroes are much more inclined to talk, if I worsen their position.
Slowly the dragon stepped out of the cave.
As fast as his armour allowed, Jestan got to his feet, picked up his sword and pointed it at the dragon.
"Don't you dare come any closer, or … or … or you'll regret it."
All right, take it easy. Someone could get hurt.
The dragon sat down.
So, you're this Jestan. I've heard a lot about you, you know.
Jestan wasn't too happy with how things were working out. This was just not right.
"I will, ah, LET THE PRINCESS FREE IMMEDIATELY, YOU MONSTER, OR I'LL HAVE TO COME AND GET HER MYSELF."
Hey, no need to get you knickers in a twist. That's what I want to talk about. There has been an enormous misunderstanding. I didn't want to kidnap her. What you need to know is, that I have this tendency to sleep-fly, and … well, it's a long story. Take her. You'd be doing me a big favour. Just imagine: she redecorated my cave!
Vessena's voice could be heard from inside the cave entrance.
"You said you liked it!"
"AS YOU WISH! DIE, YOU …" Jestan's common sense caught up with his eagerness. "What was that?"
You can take her, have her, pick her up, have her delivered carriage free and no extra costs whatsoever.
"It's a trap, don't believe a word he says. He's trying to deceive you." It was undoubtedly Vessena's voice.
Would you please stay out of this? I'm trying to save the day.
"Whose been kidnapped, you or me?"
And since when do hostages interfere with the negotiations?
Jestan felt the pillars of reason tumbling either side of him. He decided to steer the course of the conversation back to the waters he knew.
"Now listen, dragon. I'm the hero, you're the dragon and Vessena is the princess that wants to be rescued."
I wouldn't be so sure about that last bit …
"SILENCE! I'm trying to commit an act of heroism here! So, the script now says we have to fight. The winner gets the virgin. Or something like that. Are you ready?"
Mans. There's just no reasoning with them. All right. I'm fed up. The sooner we get started the sooner we are finished. Vessena, darling, would you please take care of the sheep. Your fiancé wants trouble. And I have been troubled enough the last couple of days. I'm sure that's enough for both of us.
With thundering footsteps he stepped towards the prince.
The sight of the huge animal, the thought of the tons of living flesh that faced him, let Jestan's heart sink a little. But at least he felt more at home with the situation. With a surge of courage he brandished his sword and walked towards the dragon.
The dragons head shot forwards with such swiftness that was hardly believable of a so large a being. Nimbly the prince evaded the blow, intercepted the fiery breath with his shield and lunged with his sword.
The blade slipped over the golden dragon scales.
Hey, I'm ticklish.
The dragon slowed his forward momentum skilfully and struck out with his tail. The prince gracefully jumped over the dragon tail, swung his sword at it and managed to brake off one of the scales.
Smoulder. Can you imagine how hard it is to fasten them back on again?
With a claw he struck out at the human.
The prince hit him on his back. Again a scale broke off.
Oh no. Thats a place I cant reach!
Again and again the two foes struck, bit and flamed at each other. The dragon was superior in strength and size but the prince was indeed an outstanding and skilled fighter. Blow after blow hit the dragon, he lost a few scales and moaned each time he did. But neither could win the upper hand.
Then the prince discovered a bit of belly where a few scales had been chipped away. If only he could succeed in hitting that spot …
And indeed, in this moment the dragon reared, the bare spot was right there before his eyes; he only had to lunge forwards…
Oh come on, this is stupid. We dont really have a reason to fight, you know. Im fed up, go and play on your own.
The prince hesitated. Hey, you cant just stop in the middle of a fight.
The dragon turned with an air of dignity.
The dragons tail hit the prince squarely and with such force that he was hurled several metres.
When the stars stopped their whirling dance, he felt the heavy weight of a dragon claw on his chest. He almost choked on the sulphuric breath and two fiery red eyes stared at him and through him.
Har, har. Gotcha, you little would-be-hero. So, tell me, are you still enjoying yourself? How does the great prince and dragon slayer feel now? Killing harmless dragons to prove your potency. You cant imagine how often Ive had to move because of mans like you in the last decade, not to speak of my whole life. But do I bear any grudges? Nooo. Ill even let you chose, what part of your body I should tear off first. An arm, a leg, your head perhaps or …
STOP THAT IMMIDIATLY!
Something was pulling his tail. It was the pure astonishment of such a deed that made him take his claw from the prince's chest that the strength of the jerk. Jestan crept away from the dragon as fast as possible.
Someone embraced him from behind.
"Calm down, dear, it's just me. Everything's going to be all right. The big bad dragon won't do you any harm."
And why not?
With a thundering crash the dragon heavily lay down in front of them. Impatiently the dragon drew some circles in the ground in front of him. The scratching sound of claw on stone tore at the nerves of the humans.
"Because I love him. I won't let anything happen to him."
Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't you the same princess who in the last two days has seized my cave, persistently refuses to budge, rearranged the furniture and overslept her marriage? Is it so far fetched to assume, that you don't really want to marry the prince? I mean you have to marry him. You mans call that politics or something like that. But to believe you really love him…
Jestan was startled by Vessena's violently loud voice. Somewhat quieter she continued.
"No, that's just not right. I mean, I know how the whole situation must look like and believe me I'm truly sorry about the cave and you having to fight and all that, but… but…"
Oh Smoulder. Just you wait, princelet, I know what's coming. She's going to start crying any minute now and I will behave like a dragonfly.
Jestan failed to understand and looked back at the help-seeking eyes of the dragon.
Did I mention that it's a long story?
But this time the eyes of the princess remained dry. She swallowed hard and continued.
"It just that if you marry me you will become king and then you will want o fulfil all sorts of heroic deeds all the time, be noble and all that. And my father, well, he died thus: He went out to rescue his kingdom and never returned. And if something like that happened to you, I - I just don't know what I would do then. And everybody said, I couldn't be in love with you, because I have to marry you, and Michos smells of horse manure and… and…"
Crying she dug her head into the small of Jestan's neck. The young prince was obviously confused.
This was pretty heavy going for a heroic deed. He opened his mouth…
A small voice whispered in his head, so quietly that it went unnoticed by Vessena.
Now listen, whatever you do now, don't say anything. And don't try to understand what she just said or even discuss it. Believe me, to argument with this she-man is like breathing in a glass of water. An uncle on my fathers side of the family once got into trouble with a mage who put a spell on him that shrunk him and then the mage stuck him in a glass of water, and…
But Jestan wasn't listening to him anymore. He had turned, taken the sobbing princess in his arms and was gently rocking her back and forth.
…nobody listens to me anyway.
The dragon watched the lovers for a while. It almost seemed as if he was grinning contently. Then he turned away from them and lumbered into his cave.
And it's such an interesting story. Well, I think it's about time I started to get my things together. This place is much too strenuous. I'll be going tomorrow. And don't you worry you won't see me again. And don't you dare try and stop me.
Then he was gone. Only the prince and princess remained, soon they would be King and Queen of Dragonlair.
And they lived happily ever after…
But that's not quite as simple as it may seem.
The dragon, for instance, was not happy at all. Whether he wanted or not, he had grown accustomed to the presence of the princess and he really liked his new cave, Well, he would like it again after a few serious modifications concerning the interior design. But even that was all the same now. The mans surely wouldn't let him stay any more. He had attacked their king, kidnapped the queen and nearly prevented the wedding. Well, he presumed, that would be their version of the whole matter and nobody listened to him anyway.
Without really concentrating on what he was doing, he tried to form a bed out of his coins, but he just couldnt make anything even remotely comfortably chaotic. He lay down on the pitiful heap of gold hissing at a passing bug. It took a very long time to get to sleep. A very, very long time.
It was a new morning; the first rays tentatively crept into the darkness of the cave. Slowly they felt their way in over the craggy walls the shiny golden scales and because sunrays seldom learn anything up to eyelids as large as saucers again.
The dragon awoke. He hadn't slept so badly in decades. Every single scale ached. Apropos scales, there were still some outside he had to pick up. It would be a torture putting them back into place.
He opened his eyes.
Vessena looked at him baffled.
The dragon's head shot upwards and thundered into the ceiling.
He shut his eyes; he strained so hard it hurt.
This is a nightmare. I'm still asleep. Surely. I don't believe that I would have sleep-flown again. I will open my eyes now, and there will be no-one sitting over there by the wall. And by no-one I explicitly mean virgin princesses.
He opened his eyes.
Vessena fought hard as so not to laugh. The prince and her and talked all though the night and she had convinced him, that the dragon could be a real asset for the kingdom. Ratio would surely think twice before attacking an army who has the support of a dragon.
And somehow she had grown fond of the big grumpypuss.
At the cave entrance lay two roasted sides of pork, with the courtesy of the royal chief cook. Jestan had also come along not wanting to lose his princess again. She had insisted on bringing the feast to the dragon before the wedding, so he could join in on the merriment. She had reattached the scales while the dragon had slept. And in her pocket she had a document that made him the official holder of this cave and pronounced him under royal protection, as long as he didn't eat any people or Dragonlair sheep.
Could someone pinch me please? Ah, not you, you're just a figment of my imagination. I hope.
But she could tell him all of this later.