The Lady and the Dragon

by Chandelle Lance

A dragon. Everyone was off to see the dragon, to give Mary to him. I was left behind, alone. Father said it wasn’t dignified for a lady to see Mary taken by the dragon. It wasn’t like I had never seen the dragon before. No one could miss his massive form when he came to steal our flocks. But I didn’t want to see Mary taken. What did the dragon want with a maiden anyway? If anyone in the village knew, they kept it from me. That was probably something else a lady wasn’t privileged to know.

Well, if seeing the dragon wasn’t dignified of me, pulling weeds wasn’t going to be either. I sat in the dirt among the cabbages and pulled the first weed. The gritty soil rubbed underneath my fingernails. The smell of it wafted up to me mingled with the smell of the growing cabbages. I dug in, pulled out another weed and tossed it to the side.

Why did the dragon specify a maiden? What could he possible want with her? All sorts of images of Mary and the dragon flitted in my head, but I pushed them aside before he ate her. I didn’t really think he was going to eat her.

I looked up the mountain trail where everyone had disappeared. There was no sign of the dragon yet. Perhaps a knight would rescue Mary, but the only knight around was my father. His old injury made it impossible for him to fight. Besides, she was just a peasant, a knight wouldn’t come for her.

A little spider scurried from the dirt. Mary would have screamed if she had seen it. I just watched as it hurried away.

The ground grew darker a moment as a cloud or a bird passed overhead.

I was a maiden too, but I hadn’t even been considered for the dragon. First because I was a lady, and secondly I was engaged to Sir Nicholas. I had only met him once, but he had been handsome and charming. What he was off doing I didn’t know, a war, a battle, something. That was something else my father said a lady wasn’t privileged to know.

The shadow passed overhead a second time. The wind picked up and rushed all around me vibrating through my ears. This was no bird nor cloud.

The ground rumbled beneath my feet, tickling my skin. One large clawed foot stepped in front of me. I looked up slowly, taking in the cobalt blue of his dazzling scales shimmering in the sunlight. His immense wings settled over his back. My neck tightened as I looked up into his face. His sapphire eyes pierced through me. No jewel was ever so brilliant.

The dragon stepped closer. He was all encompassing. I forced my breath to a calm and steady rhythm. I would not let the awe show in my eyes.

He smiled as if he knew what I was thinking. His vicious teeth glinted in the sunlight. He was fantastic.

There was a blur of blue in front of me, the whoosh of his great wings as he lifted. The wind rushed around my arms and face. It whipped my dress around my legs. The village fell away behind me, the mountainside rushed by.

I clung onto him as tightly as I could. Did my father see us? Would any of the villagers think to look up this way? I closed my eyes as the blur of the countryside zipped below me.

We landed with a sudden stop. The air was slightly cooler. Moisture was in the air. It smelled earthy, metallic.

The dragon set me on my feet, and I opened my eyes. We were in a large cavern. There was a wide opening just beyond the great dragon. He lay in front of it and stared at me with his sapphire eyes.

An underground spring came out of the rock towards the back of the cavern. It went back into the earth towards the front. There was a large pit in the center of the cave, smoke still wafted from the embers. Off in the back corner opposite the stream was a smaller cave, too small for the dragon. I could see what looked like a pile of furs.

I’m not sure what I expected. It’s not like a dragon would have need of a chair or a table or a bed. I thought there might be a few bones of the sheep he took, but there was nothing. There were no bats or spiders or any other kind of creature. I wondered if the villagers, and most importantly my father, realized that I was gone.

I turned my attention back to the blue creature in front of me. All the reasons why he might want a maiden ran through my mind again. Only this time I didn’t picture Mary in his grasp. It was me he wanted, me he was going to do those things to. But I wasn’t afraid, just curious.

“You were supposed to take Mary,” I said.

He smiled showing his dagger teeth. “She was just a ruse to get the villagers away from you. It surprised me when they believed any maiden would do.” His low voice vibrated through my chest, tickled my ears.

“It was a trick?” I asked. My father would be distraught when he found out. His face flashed in my mind, the gray beard, the gray hair, the sad blue eyes, the sunken cheeks. It would be even more difficult for him knowing he didn’t have the strength to rescue me.

“They’ll send knights for me,” I said. My own Sir Nicholas was too far away. They would send word to him, but it would be months before he could reach me. In the meantime, my father would send for any and all able knights.

“I’m counting on it.”

I didn’t say anything in response. Why would he want knights to come? Shouldn’t he be afraid of them?

“You don’t seem frightened,” he said.

“Should I be?” I asked.

He smirked showing me those great, white teeth. It wouldn’t take any effort at all on his part to simply take a bite and swallow me in one gulp. But I still wasn’t afraid.

“I could eat you,” he said. His eyes teased.

“That doesn’t make sense,” I said. “I couldn’t possibly be enough of a meal to satisfy you. And if you had a craving for human flesh, why didn’t you just eat the villagers instead of the sheep? It would have been easy for you.”

Something flickered behind his eyes, a hint of respect perhaps. At least that was what I thought, but I might have been optimistic.

“Perhaps I just like the taste of a maiden,” he said.

I sighed. He was trying to frighten me. “You could have just had Mary. I’m sure being a lady doesn’t vary my taste that much.”

He surprised me when he laughed, a low rumble that vibrated my bones. I knew he wasn’t going to eat me. He settled his muzzle on his claws and said, “What could I possibly want you for?”

I shrugged my shoulders. “I have no idea. The only other thing I thought of was…, well, that couldn’t be it. You and I couldn’t…” I felt the blood betray me as it rushed to my cheeks in a flood of embarrassment.

His expression hardened. I saw the challenge behind his eyes. “Really?” he said. He stood up. I was afraid then, the deadly lurch in my chest, my limbs suddenly weak. It was a foreign sensation. I tried to gain control over myself, but instead I took a step back, my heart thumped loudly and my breath stopped in my throat.

To my complete amazement, his scales crushed back into his skin completely disappearing. He began to contort, jerk and shrink. The snout retreated inwards, the back straightened out, the claws forked to add more digits.

When the transformation was complete, I was stunned. A man stood before me. His skin was pale blue, his hair the same cobalt blue as the scales had been, and his eyes were still the same intense sapphires. The pupils were still the same, slits like those of a cat’s, not round like a man’s.

“Do you want to test your theory?” he asked stepping in close.

Now I was more than afraid. I was terrified. My hands shook. My heart beat against my chest, pounded loudly in my ears. I took another step back, but I hit the cool cave wall. I was trapped.

He came in close and smirked at me. The expression was exactly as it had been when he was a dragon. He bent down and took off my boot. I cringed as his cool fingers touched my leg. I closed my eyes too afraid to do anything else, too afraid to try and hit him or run away. Something cold and metallic clicked around my ankle.

He stepped back, and I looked down. A cuff was around my ankle. It was chained to a great spike driven into the cave floor. I hadn’t noticed it before. I looked up at him stunned. He had actually chained me. I really was a captive.

He smiled and walked away from me. “As if any dragon would lower himself,” he said. He shifted back into his dragon form and settled in front of the opening once again.

“Then why?” I asked.

“Because it’s what we dragons do.” He casually waved a clawed hand. “Destroy a village until they give you a maiden and then kill any knight that comes to rescue her. That’s what my father taught me.”

That was about the most idiotic thing I had ever heard. If there was no true purpose to it then why even bother? He was hiding something from me.

“There must be a reason,” I said.

He grunted and a whiff of black smoke trailed from his nostrils. His tail whipped around and pushed at me. I tried to push back. He pushed me until I was in the small cave.

“Why did I have to end up with a smart one?” he asked. “Aren’t you supposed to be screaming and crying out for your dear knight to come save you? You’re not playing your role right.”

“Then let me go home, and you can find a better lady.” I pushed against his tail with all my might but it was like trying to move a mountain.

He settled down in front of the small cave entrance so I couldn’t escape. His wide girth blocked out most of the light. “Just settle down,” he said.

After several failed attempts to get his attention, I collapsed on the pile of furs. A basket of berries and a pitcher of water was in the corner. There was soap, a brush and even a little mirror. The mirror was ridiculous. I certainly wasn’t going to make myself pretty for the dragon.

I took off my other boot so I wouldn’t have to walk around lopsided. The pull around my ankle was slightly annoying, but it didn’t hurt. The steady breathing of the dragon and the soft, warm furs soon lulled me to sleep.

I dreamed of the first time I met Sir Nicholas. He had come into my village on a black stallion waving to the villagers. His armor had glittered in the sunlight. His blond hair waved in the wind. His light blue eyes had been dazzling.

Behind him had come an entourage of his men. One held Sir Nicholas’s banner high and proud. His crest had been a red chimera on a yellow flag. I instantly liked Sir Nicholas mainly due to the chimera.

When Nicholas finally reached us, he dismounted and greeted my father. Then he turned to me and smiled. “Never have I seen such loveliness,” he said. He handed me a single red rose, took my hand and kissed it.

It was just what he was supposed to do as a knight, but my heart skipped, my stomach fluttered, and my cheeks flushed. I had never seen myself as one of those silly little ladies, but in the end, that was exactly what I had turned out to be.

When I woke, it was dark. My first thought was if the dragon wasn’t going to eat me, Sir Nicholas might be able to save me after all.

I didn’t see the dragon anywhere. A large fire crackled in the pit. I walked to the cave entrance. It was dark out. A gentle breeze glided across my cheeks. The corner of the moon peeked out from behind a cloud. The chain wouldn’t let me go any further. I scowled at it as if my eyes could burn through it.

I went back inside the cave and walked all around. I could reach every corner of the cave, I just couldn’t go outside. My stomach grumbled reminding me that I hadn’t eaten. I took the basket of berries and sat at the cave entrance.

I heard the whoosh of his wings right before the dragon landed in front of me. We looked at each other and then he walked past me inside the cave. I went in after him.

“I brought you something to eat,” he said.

He handed me a skinned leg that once belonged to a boar. It was too big for me to eat in one sitting. I took it over to the fire.

“You should have stocked up on books or something instead of the mirror,” I said. “I’m going to get bored pretty fast.”

“My witty conversation isn’t enough for you?” He settled down on the opposite side of the fire. The red flickered off his sapphire eyes.

I chose to ignore his question.

“How was I supposed to know you’d be so intelligent?” he asked. “You were supposed to just pine away and sing songs about the knight who was going to rescue you.”

I rolled my eyes. “What good would that do?”

“You really are strange,” he said. “Aren’t you frightened of me at all?”

“What’s there to be afraid of? You aren’t going to do anything to me.”

“Do you want me to do something to you?”

I just rolled my eyes at the sneer on his face.

“You really are an insolent little thing aren’t you?” he asked. He rolled onto his back.

“Don’t you get lonely here?” I asked after awhile. “It’s so quiet and isolated.”

“Dragons aren’t sociable. I don’t get lonely.”

“But maybe that’s why dragons take ladies, for companions so they won’t be lonely,” I ventured.

“That’s ridiculous. Why would any dragon want the company of someone who is going to sing their days away about the knight who is going to rescue them? That’s hardly adequate companionship.”

I noticed he didn’t say anything about my own company which certainly didn’t include pining away after my knight. So if he didn’t mention it, what did he think of me? “Don’t you want to know my name?” I asked.

“I know it, Elizabeth.”

I wasn’t surprised that he knew my name. He had probably watched our village for awhile. “What’s your name?” I asked.

He smirked but didn’t say.

“I’ll just make one up if you don’t answer,” I said. He didn’t say anything. “Fine, then. I’ll call you sapphire after your eyes.”

He watched me as I ate. I was glad to have some food with substance. The berries had not filled me up.

I tried to get him to tell me where he was from, what his family was like, stuff about dragons in general, but all he would say was that I asked a lot of questions.

When morning came, he put out the fire and settled down to sleep in front of the large entrance. The sunlight glittered off his scales sending rainbows of light up into the air. I went into the smaller cave and brushed my hair for a long time. What else was there to do? I finally climbed into the furs and fell asleep.

I dreamed of my father. When I was little, he had held a small tournament. He had invited some knights to joust. It was the only time he had done it. I suspected he thought he could relive his glory days through them, but the reality was it only reminded him of how disabled he truly was. He could still walk, ride a horse, that sort of thing. But he wouldn’t be able to run, spar, or joust.

When I woke, it was dark out. It was quiet in the cave. Sapphire was gone. The fire crackled and danced sending light and shadows over the cavern walls. My dress was covered in dirt, my fingernails were black with what was beneath them and my face was oily. I went to the stream and looked around just to make sure I was alone. I dipped my toe in. It wasn’t cold as I expected. Not that it was hot either, but the temperature was comfortable enough.

I looked around again and then slipped into the stream, dress and all, reveling in the clean water that engulfed me. I plunged my whole head under. I should have brought the soap with me.

I came up intending to get the soap, but I heard voices from outside the cave, male voices. Fear crept over me pricking my skin like tiny ants. I scrambled out of the stream just as two men entered the cave. The metal around my ankle was a clear reminder that I couldn’t run and it was too late to hide. I stood there, the wet dress clinging to me.

The men turned to me. The evil smiles that came across their faces was enough to turn my blood to ice. I ran to my little cave hoping there would be something I could defend myself with, but the wet dress tangled in my legs.

Grimy arms wrapped around my waist. My stomach rolled from the touch. I stomped on his toe, but he just laughed. I realized I was barefoot and had been since I first arrived. I wasn’t going to do any damage that way.

I struggled to get away, pushed and pulled, grabbed his arms, but the man too strong. Then there was the other one. I tried to kick him, but he grabbed my leg. In moments, they had me pinned to the ground.

“Stop struggling, pretty little thing,” one of them said. They smelled so awful. My skin crawled.

I didn’t want to give them the satisfaction of seeing me cry, but I did scream. I hoped Sapphire was near enough to hear me.

One of the men tore my dress at the shoulder. I bit his hand, drawing blood. He cried out in pain and withdrew, but the other man slapped my face. White pain burned my cheek, but I didn’t care.

A moment later, the one who slapped me flew across the cave. The one I had bit turned to look over his shoulder and turned a ghastly white. Sapphire towered above him. Black smoke flared from his nostrils. He bared his long sharp teeth. Angry saliva dripped from his lips.

I scrambled to my feet. Warm safety washed over me when I touched Sapphire’s cool scales. His tail curved around me as if to further protect me.

The man’s mouth opened and closed. Sapphire didn’t give him a chance to do anything further. He stepped on the man crushing him against the cave floor. I felt no sympathy for him, nor did I shy away from the gruesome sight.

The remaining man screamed. If I hadn’t hated him so much, I might have felt sorry for him. He ran to the cave entrance.

Sapphire sprang in front of him. My vulnerability washed over me when I was alone. I rushed to his side and touched his scales letting the relief run through me.

“I I I I’mmmm sssoorryyy,” the man stammered.

Sapphire’s head darted down and bit the man in half. He quickly spit the dead man out and stuck out his tongue. “Disgusting,” he said. “The man hadn’t bathed in years.”

His head turned towards me. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought he was worried about me. That was when I realized I was shaking. I tried to stop. I tried to be strong. It was over. There was no more reason to be afraid. He looked at my torn dress.

“I’m all right,” I said. My voice sounded strong even if I didn’t feel that way.

I couldn’t stop touching him. A sob escaped my lips. I was embarrassed, ashamed, weak, but I couldn’t stop. I collapsed to the floor, not even able to sit up. I didn’t realize he had transformed into a man again, until he picked me up.

I clung to his neck as he carried me into the little cave. He placed me gently on the furs and wrapped one around me. He brushed my cheek with the back of his pale, blue hand. Then he retreated back outside. He transformed back into a dragon before my tears blurred everything.

I heard him move around in the larger cavern. First he was by the entrance where he had bit the man in half. After a short while, he moved to where he had crushed the other man. My sobs slowed. I clung to the fur he had wrapped around me. I didn’t like the helplessness and terror that washed through me. I told myself to stop, that it was all over, I was safe, but it didn’t matter.

Sapphire moved to the stream. The water splashed. He came back to the spot where he had crushed the man. Only then did it occur to me that the dragon was cleaning up the mess. I pulled the fur around me tighter.

Sir Nicholas would have cut down the two men. I pictured him entering the cave and slicing the men in half. Then he would scoop me up in his arms and carry me away. But Sir Nicholas wasn’t there.

I was exhausted, but every time I shut my eyes, I saw those two men. Sapphire was right outside. He had protected me, but what if he left again?

Sapphire finally settled down. I hadn’t been afraid when faced with a dragon, why should two dirty men upset me so? I rolled off the furs, but clutched the one that was wrapped around me. I took it with me out into the large cavern.

The sky was beginning to lighten outside. Sapphire lay on his side, his front legs curled up against his chest, his eyes were closed and his breathing deep.

He didn’t give any indication that he knew I was there, but I knew he did. I pried his claws away from his chest knowing I wasn’t really strong enough to move them, but he opened them for me. I crawled in and lay against his cold chest. He gently closed his claws around me, shielding me from the outside world.

If he had a nightmare and jerked I would be dead, but I trusted him completely. Soon I was in a deep sleep.

The next night when he hunted, I stood by the cave entrance and watched him in the sky. The stars reflected on his shiny scales. There was only a short span when I couldn’t see him. When he returned, he had a new dress for me and a couple of books. I didn’t ask where he got them, but I was grateful for them.

Days passed. Each morning when he settled down to sleep I would curl up against his chest. I was slowly beginning to feel like myself again.

It was in the afternoon when the first knight came. I had been asleep curled up against Sapphire as usual, when some fool shouted, “Unhand her you foul beast. I, Sir George, will be your doom. You have seen your last day, taken your last breath. No more maidens shall be taken by you.”

I turned to see the knight standing in the entrance. The sun lit his back, his armor shined brilliantly. Too brilliantly, it was blinding. I blinked a few times. He had a huge shield. It was so big I didn’t know how he managed to carry it. He held a sword in his other hand.

“Are you joking?” I said. The knight just blinked at me. “You’re idea of saving me is by screaming out, wake up gigantic dragon with the huge teeth and claws and get your next meal?”

Sapphire didn’t make any audible sound, but I felt his body roll as he stifled a laugh.

The knight blinked stupidly. “I didn’t say that,” he said. “I’ve come to slay the dragon and to save you.”

“Save me?” I said. “By what, announcing your presence so the dragon can burn you to death? That shield and armor isn’t going to protect you from his fire. It isn’t going to protect you from his teeth for that matter. He could just bite through your armor and kill you. How stupid are you?”

“Be quiet, lady,” the knight said. “The fear of the dragon has made you mad.”

I shook my head. It seemed there was no end to his stupidity.

“Prepare yourself, spawn of the devil,” the knight said. “It is time to die.”

Sapphire lazily got to his feet. Sir George charged him, his sword leading the way. For a moment, I did worry over Sapphire. Before the knight got too close, Sapphire simply swiped him. The knight flew out the entrance.

“Stay here, fair maiden,” Sapphire said. “I will save you from the idiotic knight.” He winked at me and went out the cave entrance. I suppose I should have felt bad for the knight. He had just tried to save me. But what had Sir George expected? That Sapphire would just roll over and let him kill him?

I didn’t know how Sapphire killed him. I never saw Sir George’s body, but Sapphire came back with the man’s armor, shield and sword. He threw them off into the corner where they clattered loudly, echoing off the cave walls.

Sapphire sat down in front of me. “What would you have done if that had been your Sir Nicholas?” he asked.

A shock ran throughout my body. I had never mentioned Sir Nicholas. “How…” I started and then changed my mind. “Sir Nicholas isn’t that stupid,” I said instead.

Sapphire’s eyes hardened, his mouth tightened. “So as long as he wasn’t stupid, you wouldn’t mind if he killed me?”

I was stunned. That was not where I had expected the conversation to go. I didn’t want Sapphire to die. He had saved me from those men. But then, again he had taken me away from my village, from my life, my father, and my betrothed.

I didn’t know what to say. I walked over to him and hugged him as best I could. He probably rolled his eyes at my gesture.

“Go into the small cave,” Sapphire said.

I backed away and looked up at him. Was he still angry with me? Was that his way of punishing me?

He shook his head and said, “I’m sure none of the other dragons had such difficulty with their ladies.”

“I’m not trying to be difficult,” I whispered.

He pointed to the small cave in the back, but I hesitated.

“Why?” I asked. I wasn’t trying to be defiant. I just wanted to understand.

“Are you my captive or not?” he said.

I didn’t respond. Hadn’t he just been upset over how I might react to Sir Nicholas killing him? I didn’t know what he wanted from me.

“I…” but I didn’t finish.

“You are my captive,” he said. His voice was louder, deeper, it vibrated my bones. He pointed again to the back. I took a hesitant step forward, but my eyes never left him.

His patience with me ran out. He picked me up with one clawed hand and took me to the back himself. “There are things I must do,” he said. “This whole thing isn’t about you. It’s about the knights. We take the ladies not for the ladies, but for the knights that come after them. The ladies are just an annoying, necessary step. Now stay here.”

I almost retorted. How could it not be about me, when I was there? And I wasn’t annoying.

I watched him as he went back outside. A few moments later, Sapphire came back. He held something very delicately, but I couldn’t see what. He went towards the stream, and I lost sight of him.

The floor shook and there was an incredible rumble. I took a step to the larger cavern to see what was going on, but the dragon’s voice called out, “Don’t leave your little cave. I’ll know if you do.”

It was quiet after that. I couldn’t hear the dragon at all. I pulled at my dress anxiously. Would he really know if I just took a peek? My heart pounded as I became more determined to look. I inched closer to the opening. I started to turn my head around the corner, but heard his heavy footsteps. I raced back to the furs.

I could hear the ring of metal as he sifted through the knight’s armor. Then his footsteps retreated and all was silent. Shortly after that the loud rumble came again.

“You may come out now,” Sapphire said.

When I came out, I first noticed that the armor and sword were gone. There was no sign of them. The great shield sat alone against the cave wall.

That night while he was out hunting, I searched the cave. I couldn’t find the armor. Nor could I find any sign of what might have caused the rumble.

Time passed slowly. I tried to read the books Sapphire brought to me, but my thoughts were occupied with the mystery of the dragon.

Over the next couple of weeks three more knights showed up. The first two were just as dimwitted as the first. The third at least tried to sneak into the cave instead of just shouting. But he was still daft enough not to realize how strong he smelled.

The result in each case was the same as in the first, and each time Sapphire would make me retreat into the small cave. I would hear the rumble. I would see him gingerly carry something, although I could never make out what it was. And each time he would keep one item, a sword, the armor, but the rest would disappear.

“Don’t you think this chain has been on me long enough?” I asked one day.

“You seem to always forget you’re my captive, not my friend,” Sapphire replied.

“I didn’t forget. But what am I going to do, run away? You could easily catch me. I know that. I’m not going to run.” I paused for him to answer. He didn’t pay any attention to me. “Besides,” I said, “it hurts.” That was a lie, but I was tired of it.

He studied me for a long time. I’m not sure he believed me, but then he stood. The scales retreated inside his skin. His body contorted and shrunk. He was a man again.

I quickly averted my eyes. Now that I was no longer afraid of him, I was embarrassed that he wasn’t wearing clothes. In the form of a dragon, it didn’t matter.

He didn’t seem embarrassed. He seemed bored as he bent over and took hold of my leg. With a click, the chain fell off. I immediately felt lighter. He walked away and reverted back to his dragon self.

I rubbed my ankle. Sapphire as human didn’t seem as blue that time as he had the first. His pupils had seemed slightly rounder than they had before. But it had been so long since I had last seen him revert to his human form, and my glance this time was so quick, I wasn’t sure.

More days passed. I didn’t try to escape. I knew I couldn’t get away from him. Was this my life now? Would Sapphire eventually tire of me and let me go? Once he had killed enough knights would he let me go? Eventually the knights would stop coming, what would happen to me then?

It was mid-morning when something woke me. I wasn’t sure what it was at first. Sapphire by this time was usually deep in sleep. I yawned and closed my eyes again. But then I felt it again, something tapped me in the back. I turned. My movement didn’t wake Sapphire. He was used to my restlessness.

A small pebble was there behind me. I figured that was what hit me. I looked at the cave entrance. My breath caught in surprise. My father and two other knights hid in the brush near the cave. Father waved for me.

I hesitated. Not because I didn’t want to go to him, but because if I did, I was sure Sapphire would catch us. I slowly stood up, still torn about what I should do. My father waved for me again.

I looked at Sapphire. He still seemed deep in sleep. Was it possible to get away? Even if I did escape, Sapphire would know where to find me.

My father and the knights were waving for me. My heart won out. I left tiptoeing as quietly as I could. My father stood when I reached him and threw his arms around me. He had come for me, despite his injury, he had come.

“I got tired of the incompetence,” he whispered. “I had to come myself.”

I nodded. I didn’t want to break the contact. I was afraid if I did, reality would hit. He finally pulled away. The two knights that were with him stood on either side of the cave entrance. They planned to kill Sapphire.

I didn’t want him to die.

Before I could stop him, my father shouted, “Dragon!”

The reaction was immediate. Sapphire was out the cave charging him. I held my breath fearing for all and yet unable to react.

The two knights jumped Sapphire at the same time. One man’s sword skipped off the scales, but the second one’s slipped between them. I wasn’t sure if it hurt Sapphire or not.

Sapphire let out the loudest roar I’d ever heard. It echoed in my ears, reverberated through my skull. He spun fast. His tail whipped both men away. He pounced on the first one before he could get up and bit the head off.

I was mortified. These knights had come with my father. They had come to save me. Their death was my fault.

The second knight managed to get up and charge the dragon from behind. He again slipped his sword in between the scales. Sapphire spun again, but this time the knight jumped out of the way.

Sapphire breathed in deeply. The knight retreated behind his shield. Sapphire let out a spew of blue white fire. The edges of the shield began to melt away, dripping silver metal.

The burst stopped, but before the knight could react, Sapphire pounced on him and crushed him underneath his weight.

Sapphire slowly turned to my father.

This was a terror beyond anything I had felt before. “No.” I ran out in between them. “Please,” I said to Sapphire. “He can’t fight you and win.”

“Neither could they,” Sapphire said nodding his head in the direction of the two knights.

“Please,” I said dropping to my knees. “He is my father.”

Sapphire paused, turned his blue head considering. I turned to my father. He held his sword out and ready.

“Please, Father, please.” I ran to him and forcefully lowered his sword arm. “I couldn’t stand to lose you. Please. Please just go.” He had taken care of me all my life, had guarded me and protected me. I loved him.

The pain was clear on his face. He was torn.

“Please,” I said again. “Knowing you’re alive gives me strength, without that, I have nothing.”

I had never seen my father cry before so I was amazed when his eyes watered. He swallowed hard and gave a sharp nod. His arms wrapped around me in a tight embrace, safety, love. But then he pulled away and made his way down the path. He was gone. An empty misery washed over.

I stood there staring down the path, my back turned to Sapphire. Sapphire would have killed my father if I hadn’t stopped him. I turned to Sapphire so fast, my hair whipped in my face.

“The knights are killing the dragons, and soon you will all be dead,” I said.

“Is that what you think?” he asked.

His calm demeanor only stoked my fire. “There are fewer and fewer dragons in the world. What else could explain it?”

“Yes,” he said, “you do see fewer dragons.” He put an emphasis on you.

I had only ever seen one dragon. What I had meant was that the reported sightings of dragons was fewer. But I didn’t say anything because he knew what I had meant.

I stomped past him back into the cave. I went to the furs and buried my face in them. I just wanted to be home with my father. Whatever friendship I thought I had with Sapphire was broken.

After awhile, I heard the familiar rumble. It was my fault the knights were dead. This time I was going to find out why. I went into the larger cavern. To my surprise there was a large opening in the back corner where the little stream was. I tiptoed over until I could see inside.

Sapphire looked over at me, his eyes narrowed, but he didn’t say anything. He held something in his hand, but his claws were closed carefully around it so I couldn’t see. He stood over a large cauldron. At least it looked like a cauldron, but it was bigger and thicker than anything I had seen.

He opened his hand. I recoiled in horror when I saw what he held. Two hearts, the knights’ hearts. Without realizing it, I took a step back. He turned away from me, his attention fully on the cauldron. He dropped the hearts into it. Then he picked up the armor, the weapons, the shields and dropped them in as well. He did an intake and then let out a stream of blue fire into the cauldron.

When he stopped, he lifted the mixture to his blue mouth and drank. He looked at me as if daring me to stop him. I shook my head and went back into the small cave. I collapsed onto the furs. I knew it was silly, but I felt confused and betrayed.

Sapphire fell asleep first. He was in his usual spot in front of the cave entrance. I fought off sleep. I tried to rationalize what Sapphire did. He had killed the knights in self-defense. Although, he wouldn’t have had to fight any knights if he hadn’t taken me.

But I wondered if that was really true. The knights would have come sooner or later to kill him even if he hadn’t taken me. Taking me only expedited the process. Was taking me a way of self-defense for the dragon? At least this way when the knights came it was on Sapphire’s terms.

I shook my head. No matter how I tried to justify it, Sapphire had killed those knights. He would have killed my father if I hadn’t stopped him.

I don’t know what time I fell asleep, but eventually I did. I woke when someone shook my arm. At first I thought it must be Sapphire in the form of a man. Who else could it have been?

I held my breath when I saw who it was, the blond hair, blue eyes, cleft chin. I blinked a few times sure I must be dreaming.

Sir Nicholas put a finger to his lips urging me to silence. I wanted to jump up and wrap my arms around him. He had come. He had really come. He had no armor and no shield. I knew why. He had discarded them so he could sneak in quietly. He had his sword in one hand and held his other out to me.

Suddenly I wished I had brushed my hair and made use of the mirror. I took his hand. He led me slowly, quietly to the cave entrance past Sapphire. My heart pounded against my chest and thumped in my ears. I was ready to leave. I didn’t want to stay. I didn’t want Sapphire to wake up and kill Sir Nicholas. And despite all that had happened, I didn’t want Sir Nicholas to kill Sapphire.

“So, you’ve finally come at last,” I froze at Sapphire’s voice.

Sir Nicholas turned to face the dragon. He held his sword out ready. My head screamed, no, but the word did not reach my lips.

“Stay back, Lady Elizabeth,” he said. It wasn’t said with the gallantry some of the other knights displayed. It was serious, caring, tender.

He took a step away from me, a step towards Sapphire. He didn’t display any of the bravado that the other knights did.

I knew I should stop it, but I couldn’t move. The two of them stared at each other. I didn’t know how Sir Nicholas could possibly win. He wasn’t wearing any armor. He had no shield. But then again, all the other knights had and they had ended up dead. And unlike the other knights, he wasn’t rushing right in. He studied Sapphire carefully, waiting.

Both Sapphire and Nicholas moved at the same time. Sapphire’s neck arched down, his mouth opened wide. Nicholas’s sword scraped between Sapphire’s cobalt scales on the chest. I thought the sword would stop. I didn’t think it could penetrate the skin. But it didn’t stop.

They were going to kill each other.

“Stop!” I screamed. I ran towards both of them, arms outstretched. “Stop!” I screamed again knowing it was too late.

But to my amazement, they both stopped and stared at me, Sapphire’s open mouth about to devour Sir Nicholas and Sir Nicholas’s sword about to penetrate Sapphire’s heart.

“Just let us go,” I said to Sapphire. “Please.” And then I turned to Nicholas, “Let him live. He hasn’t hurt me. Let’s just go. Please.”

Slowly Sapphire raised his head. Nicholas looked at me a moment longer and then retracted his sword. He took my hand, all the while never taking his eyes off Sapphire. He pulled me towards the entrance, and I obediently followed.

I looked one last time at Sapphire. He wasn’t looking at me. He seemed almost sad. Part of me didn’t want it to be the end. I still thought of him as a friend. But I couldn’t spend the rest of my life in a cave with a dragon.

The closer the wedding got, the more I dreaded it. Sir Nicholas was nice and sincere enough, but he was boring. He wouldn’t talk to me about his jousts, fights, or anything. He was like my father in that regard. My father never had told me how he got injured. Sir Nicholas told me a lady shouldn’t concern herself with such things. That sounded like my father as well. At least he let me attend the day’s joust.

Sir Nicholas readied to defeat his next opponent, a knight with a shield so large I wondered…My heart stopped. I recognized that shield. And on closer inspection I recognized the armor as well. They had once belonged to the knights Sapphire had killed.

I didn’t pay any attention to the match itself. My eyes couldn’t leave the great shield as it bounced along towards Sir Nicholas. In moments it was over, and Sir Nicholas was off his horse. I knew I should have been concerned over Sir Nicholas, but I wasn’t. My hands gripped the edge of my seat as I watched the mysterious knight dismount.

And when he took off his helmet, my heart stopped all over again. He was tall, had dark brown hair, fair skin, red lips. He even had a few brown freckles on his nose. His transformation was so complete I wouldn’t have recognized him if it hadn’t been for the eyes. The pupils were perfectly round. The color of the iris was a rich, deep sapphire. I would never forget those eyes.

My father dragged me to Sir Nicholas’s side, but all I wanted was to see Sapphire, to see if it really was him.

“I can’t see him like that, Father,” I said. “I can’t see him injured. Please don’t make me.”

My father nodded with a pleasant, understanding expression. I should have felt guilty lying to him, but I didn’t.

“I’ll take you back,” he said.

“No!” I said too quickly. “I mean, one of us should be there with him. If it’s too difficult for you, then I will go.”

Pain washed over my father’s face as he was reminded of his own injury. I did feel guilty then, but not enough to stop.

“I’ll go see to him,” my father said.

I didn’t give him a second glance as I bounced on my way. Suddenly everything was lighter.

He was alone packing his horse as if he was going to leave right then. No one else noticed him.

“So,” I said. I was hoping to startle him, but he didn’t even blink. That deflated my bounce. Was I wrong? Was it not really Sapphire?

“So what?” he finally said without looking at me. It was the same voice.

“So, I have a new theory.”

He grunted. I took that to mean I could continue.

“I think,” I said, “dragons take ladies knowing that knights will come rescue them. It’s the one sure thing they’ll come after. And you need the knights. You need a knight’s heart to transform into a human. That’s what is happening to all the dragons. They aren’t being killed off. They are just blending in.”

Sapphire didn’t say anything for a long time. Not once did he look at me. Finally he spoke, “It’s not the heart alone that does it. It is the heart combined with the armor and weapons.”

How many dragons were there really left in the world? They weren’t being killed off, they were adapting, blending in.

“I knew you were a smart one. What are you going to do with this information?” Sapphire asked.

I shrugged. “Nothing.” Sapphire was alive, and I was glad there were still dragons in the world.

“Lady Elizabeth!” The call was still far away, but my jubilation immediately fell as the dread gripped my heart anew. Sir Nicholas.

“Take me with you,” I whispered to Sapphire.

He looked at me, blue eyes wide with surprise.

“Not to be with you,” I clarified. “I know a dragon wouldn’t lower himself.”

He smirked when I used his words.

“But I want to see the world. I don’t want to be trapped here.” I grabbed hold of his arm. “Please. Sir Nicholas is so boring. Don’t condemn me to a life with him.”

Sapphire’s smirk grew wider. Then he rolled his eyes. “We’d best hurry, then,” he said. “Sir Nicholas is going to have the whole country out looking for us.”

He lifted me up in one swift movement to sit on his horse. And then just as quickly and gracefully he was sitting behind me. We were gone, the country side flying past us.

The End

10 Responses to “The Lady and the Dragon”

  1. Marlene Edwards says:

    What a delightful fantasy. Fun to read

  2. Toni Barrera says:


  3. Roberta Lopez says:

    My favorite genres are fantasy and sci fi, and this story has the added “Beauty and the Beast” theme that I just love. Ms. Lance has a great talent for painting a vivid picture in the reader’s eye.

    Thumbs Up!!

  4. Judyth says:

    Not your typical dragon story…not your typical fairy tale ending, but a delightful story to read.

  5. Jan says:

    Very compelling. You are an amazing story teller. I want to read more of your stories.

  6. Tina Brown says:

    I loved it. Thought it would be a typical dragon story when it started, but it kept me reading to the end.

  7. Judy says:

    I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it yet, but I loved the ending and especially that I wasn’t able to predict it. Ms Lance is a great story teller and I will read anything in the future that has her name on it!

  8. Jamie says:

    Very compelling story. I didn’t want it to end!

  9. Anita says:

    Fun to read. Let’s have more stories, Chandelle.

  10. Rachel Faye says:

    I wish the story continued! I want to know what happens on their adventures!

Leave a Reply