Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Fairy Tale, Part 2

Last week's prompt created a mini-series of stories too long for a flash fiction, but I was really delighted with them, so I'll be sharing them anyway.

The Princess

She shut the windows quickly, coughing a bit. "Well, today is likely a bust. Maddening dragon! I'll have soot in my hair and smudges all over my eyes. That is no state to be in for the possibility of first introductions with your One True Love, if indeed today is the day." A little unchecked sigh escape her lips. "If, indeed."

She covered her mouth with a handkerchief and breathed deeply through the cloth, pretending it could have been something of his. Perhaps a token he'd given her in declaration of his faithfulness throughout this trial they were being made to endure. In reality they hadn't even met yet. She knew rather little about him, just a few simple facts. First, that he accepted this assignment to save his father's kingdom from utter ruin, of exactly what kind she knew not. The riches of the beast and her dowry, along with the glory of a successful conquest, would be his, which she supposed would accomplish reparation fot most anything he could have need to restore. This gallant attempt to repair an inheritance squandered (before it had even reached its intended recipient), spoke rather well of him to her... surprisingly, even after all this time. He would right the wrongs of the sovereign's past, and then secure his, and her own (she supposed with a slight blush), succession. The second fact she could claim knowlegde of was that her own father had only agreed to the marriage if the brave knight could prove his worth. The test was devised, the magicians summoned, the scenario created. After a fortnight's preparation, she'd awoken in a tower surrounded by nothing but rubble for miles, her intimidating but reserved sentry guarding the only access point-- a small bridge over a deep gorge.
Thirdly, she knew everything the dragon had told her; her knight seemed ill equipped to take on a wyrm of this stature, though he did, every day, come back and try again. This truth, the one she'd been noting for so many years, was the soft breeze blowing on the embers of hope in her heart, vouching for what kind of man her rescuer must be. She just hadn't expected it to take this long. 
Still, this life, waiting for his victory, had not been entirely insufferable. It seemed rather unusual, really. There had never been a tale like hers. She couldn't think of a single other princess, maiden, man or child who had been treated so mercifully, nay, even cared for! By a dragon warden, of all things. 
He heated her water for washing, bathing, and cooking every day. He deposited fresh garden vegetables for her use and regularly answered her questions, when he wasn't in a bad humor. At times their exchanges had seemed downright friendly. In fact, they spoke every day, and knew each other's moods and temperaments well by now. He seemed to tolerate her at best, and mock her when moody, but that was his worst. 
And why had he never simply killed the knight he found to be such a poor challenger? Couldn't he free himself of the responsibility of her forever - and how obviously joyful he would be for it! Or... was he somehow tied to the curse beyond her knowledge? Maybe that's what he meant when he said he was captive too?
But she didn't spend much time dwelling on it. She didn't like where the train of thought usually took her.
A shadow accompanied a sudden gust of wind blowing through her shutters and under her doorway, interrupting her thoughts and stirring a bit of the still-clinging smoke. "Ah, the Dragon must be flying today. Maybe he got bored of the simple encounters and decided to exercise himself. That's probably for the best. He'll get chubby in his old age if he doesn't take care." The thought amused her.
She checked her reflection in the small mirror to see how much smoky residue was left to clean. They would be done for today very soon - in fact she thought she could hear her tower's guardian settling back onto his pile of coins now - and she'd repair her coiffer, sweep and mop the ash away, and rewash the linens. Maybe she'd make turnip soup for dinner tonight. Maybe she'd ask the dragon about his past tomorrow.
A loud, startling knock sounded at her tower door. Four solid raps, and a voice she'd never heard before. 
"It's over. May I come in?"
--- Part 3

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