Thursday, March 7, 2013

Fairy Tale, Part 3

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 Knight

 The dead animal laid vanquished at his feet. It slowly disappeared into smoke, leaving barely a trace of their skirmish.

 He wasn't sure how exactly he'd finally beat him, but he did, that much was certain. He could already feel the bonds of the arcane contract lifting. The sword he was required to brandish usually accomplished little, but today it seemed blessed, burning into wounds, clearing off heavy scales, and searing right to the heart. The dragon had fought back, more vigorously than usual, but where he normally might have decided to abandon the quest for the day, something surged him forward, and now he was the victor. He could go home triumphant. The bridge was on fire, though. They'd be stuck here for a while, while he built a new one. Assuming she couldn't traverse the canyon in her ladylike dresses, he didn't really know.

 He didn't know. He didn't know her at all. All this time, all this battle, and now came the real moment of terror. He must introduce himself to her, and she would be made to judge him: worthy, or unworthy? The thought of her decision was far more terrifying than the dragon ever had been. Maybe that's why he struggled for so long with the beastly creature. Facing this demon every day... it was the much lesser risk.

 Now, though, he seemed to have stumbled upon the end at last. Once word of his success got out, the two of them would be expected back, to be welcomed as the rulers of newly joined realms. Just as soon as he fixed that bridge, anyway. Maybe this would be good for them. A time to learn, to get to know one another before their return into the kingdom.

 Right, introductions.

 He climbed the steps to the tower and rehearsed some opening lines. He hoped she wasn't choking on the smoke too much. Removing his helm and setting his weapon aside, he knocked quickly, all his prepared, impressive lines forgotten the moment he wanted them.

 "Just a moment!" Her response seemed flustered. A few clamoring noises from the other side betrayed her wishes to appear calm, though as the door slowly swung open, as though he was expected, he found himself charmed. Far lovelier than he remembered, she appeared in the doorway with a curtsey and blushed. He offered his hand, which she took. As some of his wits returned to him, so did his manners; he kneeled and kissed her hand with a simple, 

 "Dear knight, the champion of a great challenge, you are a very welcome sight. I honor your bravery and steadfast pursuit of my freedom these many days." Her obviously prepared speech was endearing, and he respected her for it. In her isolation, she hadn't relinquished devotion to her duty in the slightest. "Do please come in." She motioned to a settee within her small quarters and produced a kit while he took a seat. "Where are you injured?" 
 "I'm not." 
 "No? Surely there must be some damage?" She smiled as she grasped his hand in hers and began looking him over, carefully studying his arms, then shoulders and neck.
 A sparkling glint of gold in his gray eyes twinkled at her approach, intimate and caring already. Affection swelled with him. "Maybe this is going to work well, after all," he thought, uncertain of how he'd been bewitched so quickly. The true value of his reward he understood at last, and now he could finally offer himself. What had he ever been afraid of? As she reached up to inspect his head and touch his face, his heart brimmed with hope, and his eyes glowed brighter.
 Her stare remained focused on him as she stepped sharply back, suddenly acutely aware of how forward it felt.
"Don't be embarrassed!" He liked feeling this nearness, and hoped not to lose it. When she did not answer but simply blushed in response, he pressed a bit further. "Penny for your thoughts? I rather like your little musings."

 Her sheepishly pleased expression slowly, steadily melted into horrified shock. "You?!"

 How could she know? Already! He had hoped to ease into the subject more delicately.
 "It was always you?" His extended silence answered her perfectly. "Oh, God in Heaven. How?"
 "I've been fighting with that thing for ages. It... it was my father's curse."
 "I don't understand."
 "It's called the Extuenti. Your father knew of it by legend, and agreed to our union if and only if I could destroy it. My father could not, so it passed to me. It grants only two hours per day of experience in our true nature, at which point we battle against it with all our might. The rest of the time is spent trapped in a mind, body, and attitude not our own." 
"But you remember all our conversations? These years we've spent, essentially together all along?" Floods of memories - criticisms and cutting remarks, caring, even tender moments, always waiting for him--recalling it all at once now made her head swim.
 "Yes, in a manner of speaking. Being possessed by the dragon form means that things which seem terrible to me, when considered through my human eyes, seemed normal then... living in a dragon's mind." He struggled to find some way to assuage her fears, surprised by how much he hated how this must wound her. "It wasn't me. I promise it's gone now."
 "How can you be sure? How can I know with certainty it will never come back? How can I know what was you, and what was that?" She collapsed on her straw bed, defeated. "This is not the happily-ever-after I waited for."
 Her despondency stung, but it was too late now; he had seen her truly for the first time, and could not give her up. "Do you still want a happily-ever-after?"
 "Of course I do," she answered scornfully, dropping her gaze from him for the first time.
 "I will give it to you. One day at a time. I beat him today, so now I know I can do it, and now I know why I must. I will beat him every day, if it comes to that."
 "Every day," she repeated in a whisper, and remembered why she had ever hoped to love him in the first place. "You came back every day." She hesitated a moment, then returned to her place beside him and began to wrap a bandage around a slight scrape on his arm, his thankful eyes warmly glowing down at her.


  1. That was a wonderful read, M'lady!!! Loved it!! It actually means a lot to me, because my son is totally into dragons. Two years ago, he had to write a story for school (remember my non fiction entry for this week?) and I had to help (since he has ZERO imagination and even less writing skills). He wanted to do something with dragons and we wrote a story where a knight battles (and defeats) a dragon, only to find a baby dragon in its lair, which he takes with him instead of either killing it or letting it starve. He proceeds to train the young dragon to be the defender of the village against other dragons. Your story made me think of that. And of the fact I've been playing with the idea of writing a dragon-based series of children's books, just to get my own kid reading a little more.
    Very well done and Thank You very much for sharing!

    1. Thanks so much! I loved this series. It felt good to tackle and finish a slightly longer project than usual. I basically took an existing fairy tale (Beauty and the Beast), and the twist was that when put in the context of other easily identifiable fairy tale elements, you don't recognize the story so immediately. I was pretty proud of the moment when my husband was in complete shock at the reveal. :)

    2. I was trying to figure that out as well. Would never have come to that if you hadn't told me. I was thinking more along the lines of Rapunzel (trapped by a dragon instead of the evil witch, pretending to be her worried mother).