Friday, April 18, 2014

The Princess and the Dragon (A homegrown fairy tale)

This is one of the stories in my fairy tale compilation, The Storyteller. Hope you enjoy it.

Once upon a time and a very long time ago, in a Kingdom just around the corner, there lived a very little princess in a very BIG palace. She lived there with her mom and dad, who were the King and Queen of the Kingdom just around the corner.

The palace was very big, and right at the center was a really big room. Her father the King told her that one of their Kingdom’s greatest friends lived there – a dragon!

The little princess didn’t like dragons. Her nurse had told her all about them. They were big, they were mean, and they had loud hissy voices that you couldn’t really understand.

The little princess had never seen the dragon who lived in the palace, but it scared her.

The princess played all over the palace, but she never went into the dragon’s big room.

One of her favorite games was one she called “hop,” because she had to hop all the way across a big room and only land on one color of tiles. It was hard sometimes, because the tiles were all different colors and the tiles of the same color might be far apart.

She didn’t play “hop” very often because the room with the tiles was right outside the big room where the dragon lived.

As she hopped she sang a little song to herself, and stopped, standing on one foot, when she heard someone giggle.

She looked all around. There was no one in the room. She hopped forward to the next green square but it was just a little too far so only the tips of her toes landed on it. That’s OK, she decided, and stepped onto the green tile.

“You cheated,” said a tiny voice, and again the princess looked around. “I did not cheat,” she said to the invisible voice. “If I’m the only one playing, I can make up my own rules.”

“Hm,” said the tiny voice, and it sounded grumpy. “Maybe.”

The princess hopped again, and the voice said, “Can I play?”

The princess stood on one foot, and thought about that. “Can I still make up the rules?” she asked, and the voice said, “How about we both make up the rules?”

The princess put her other foot down. “Who are you?” she asked.

“Do you promise you won’t scream and run away?” asked the little voice, and the princess promised.

Down out of the shadows on the high ceiling came something that she first thought was a small bird. It fell straight down, and she was afraid it might crash into the floor, but then its bright wings opened and it stopped. Its little wings hummed. It glittered in the light, all the colors of the tiles on the floor. But its eyes were the prettiest, all blue and green and gold and shining in the light.

“Hello,” it said.

“Hello,” said the little princess, and looked away because she knew it was rude to stare. “I’ve never seen anyone like you.”

“I haven’t either,” the flying thing said with a giggle. “Can I play?”

The princess wrinkled up her nose. “You can’t use your wings,” she said, and the flying thing nodded with a loud hiss.

“That’s OK,” it said. “I’m a good hopper.”

“And my feet are bigger than yours,” the princess said, “so I can land partially off a square.”

“Only if it’s a little square,” the flying thing giggled.

“All right.”

As they hurried back to the other end of the room after the first game, the little princess asked, “What are you?”

“I’m a dragon.”

The dragon and the princess became best friends. She showed him her games all over the palace, and her favorite places to hide and watch everything that went on.

She couldn’t play many of the dragon’s games, because most of them involved flying from high places, and she learned quickly that even with bedsheets for wings she couldn’t fly like he could. She liked to watch him, though, and often wondered what it must be like to fly.

There were lots of people who lived in the palace, but most of them were human people instead of dragon people.

The princess and the dragon often giggled together at the strange things the human people did. With the dragon’s help she found other hiding places, and the two of them found more to giggle over.

But sometimes they saw people doing things that weren’t good. They watched from their hiding place as someone crept toward the back door of the castle – the door that was supposed to be a secret – and very quietly started to push it open.

The princess stomped up to him, glaring with her angry eyes. “You’re not supposed to be doing that!” she snapped, and the person opening the door spun, staring down at her.

He started to smile, and it wasn’t a nice smile. “Well, Princess, we’ll see about that.” He grabbed for her, but the dragon dived at him from the ceiling. His claws were too soft to do more than scratch, but he startled the man and the princess was able to run.

The little dragon flew ahead, and even though she wasn’t sure where they were going through the dark halls the princess followed the bright flash of his wings.

She recognized the place where they stopped – the big room where they had once played “hop,” and where she had learned not to be afraid of dragons.

The little dragon stopped there, and hovered in the air in front of her. “Promise you won’t be scared,” he hissed, and the princess blinked.

“Why would I be scared?” She looked at the dark entrance to the dragon’s big room. “There’s nothing to be scared of.” She knew all about dragons now, and she wasn’t scared any more.

The little dragon hissed again. “I’m just a little dragon,” he said. “My mom’s a lot bigger.”

The little princess stared at him. “I didn’t know you had a Mom,” she said finally. “I thought you were the dragon at the center of the palace.”

The little dragon giggled. “Nope. Promise you won’t be scared. We need to tell someone that the back door was opened.”

The little princess followed him.

The Mom dragon was very big. The princess stared up at her, but she was all the same colors as the princess’ best friend – just like the tiles outside the big room – and her eyes glowed just like his.

She looked nice, even if she was very big. Her voice was big too, but instead of talking she listened as the children told her what had happened. She hissed, and a servant appeared. She told him everything, and then a bell sounded all through the halls of the palace, warning of an attack – warning that the hidden door had been opened by their enemies.

“You have been very brave,” the dragon said softly, and lifted her wings so that the children – human and dragon – could run underneath.

The little princess felt comforted and safe, just as if her own mother’s arms were around her.

“Your father asked me,” said the big hissing voice out of the darkness, “to get you to safety if the castle was ever attacked. Climb up on my shoulders, both of you.”

The two children obeyed, and the princess found that the hollow at the base of the dragon’s throat was just the right size. By holding onto the scales on either side, she was as secure as if she were riding behind her father on his big horse.

“Hold on, children!”

The big dragon’s wings thundered, and she threw herself into the air.

The princess never knew how they got out of the castle. Suddenly they were in the open air, and the dragon turned, gliding down across the wide valley where the palace rested. The army filled the valley. There were many fires, far more than the little princess could count, and around each fire were soldiers.

The princess felt the wind sweep past her, felt the sudden drop in her stomach when the dragon spun on a wingtip to avoid a fireball that the enemy had flung at her. The little princess laughed and the baby dragon giggled at the glorious flight.

“Hold on, children!” the mother dragon called again, and the little princess clutched the scales, the baby dragon’s claws clinging tightly to her dress.

The dragon flew out over the valley, and perched finally on the edge of a high cliff. “Climb down, now,” she said, as softly as something her size could speak. “Wait here. I’ll be back.” When the princess climbed down, the tiny dragon still clinging to her dress, the dragon looked down at them sternly.

“Do not follow me.”

The baby dragon huffed, as if it wanted to argue, but the princess wrapped her arms around her friend and they both sat back to wait--and watch.

Now the princess learned why the dragon was their Kingdom’s greatest friend.

The dragon flew out over the valley, and each time she dropped down fire streamed out of her mouth. Soon the enemy camp was burning, and the soldiers running into the darkness. By the time she finished, the sun was coming up. The children had fallen asleep on their ledge.

They never woke when they were gathered up in gentle arms and lifted onto the dragon’s back for the journey back to the palace. The princess dreamed about flying.

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