– For Evan Mesh (even though he doesn’t know this blog exists): because sometimes the wrong choices are the right ones, and you don’t have to see what’s at the end of the path to know it’s the one for you.
When the dragon scratched at her window, the princess was unafraid. Through the panes of poured glass, his scales glistened as though he’d just burst up from the river. But everyone says dragons come from the fiery mountains.
She was sitting at her harp, plucking randomly at the strings and wondering if the dragon truly had teeth longer than a king’s sabre and a tongue of flame so hot it could melt a knight’s armor to his skin.
That’s what her brother’s nurse told her; that a corselet would liquefy under the blue heat, and even a heavy round shield might turn to a wheel of fire. She hadn’t asked Father or Mother for the truth of the matter. But when Lord Jocelyn had arrived from the neighboring kingdom, offering to slay the beast in return for the her hand, she’d spent the entire conversation wondering what he’d look like if his flesh burned off around his eyes.
They were pretty eyes, though, and as blue as they should be. His skin tan and perfect, and when she’d finally stopped imagining it sloughing off like boiled tomato-skin, she caught his smile. He said, “You aren’t listening to me at all, are you?” And the words came with this self-deprecating lip-quirk that made her blush.
“I was thinking about the dragon,” she said, flicking her eyes to her silk-clad lap.
“Does it frighten you?” He knelt before her chair.
“It should,” he said. His charming eyes tightened.
“I am not riding out to slay him.” She focused on those eyes, and suddenly thought she could stand seeing them for the rest of her life. She did not want them melted into small puddles of goo.
“But it wants you.”
“How do you know?”
“You are the princess.”
She sighed. That’s what they all say.
But when the scratching came at her window that night, the princess stood so quickly the harp fell over. A string snapped. It hissed out and sliced open her ankle. With a gasp, she dashed to the window, trailing a row of bloody footsteps.
Struggling with the latch, she stared out through the glass and iron window at the dragon’s eye. It was as green as the forest, and large as a dinner plate.
The window swung open and she struggled to remain upright. Hot wind teased her hair free of the coronet.
The dragon clutched the sill, his tongue running along his fangs. He shifted, thrusting another claw into the stone tower. Chunks of castle fell away and screams rushed up from below. The princess’s breath caught in her throat. The butterflies in her stomach devolved into twisting caterpillars.
He tapped a talon on the stone sill. His voice rumbled. “Are you coming with me, princess?” The words tumbled over the floor and raced up her legs.
Her thighs quivered, her hands clenched into fists. “They told me I should fear you.”
“And they say I should eat you.” The dragon swiveled his head and stared at her with his other, sea-blue eye.
The princess shot forward and put her hand on his fore-talon. He lifted her out, and cradled her to the wet scales of his chest.