Thursday, March 8, 2007

Sunrise on a Dragon - Chapter Three

“Come,” Cyrus said. “Let’s away from this dreadful place.”

Diedre peered at him in confusion. “You’re speaking strangely.”

“Ah, well.” Cyrus pulled Diedre up by the hand, even though Diedre hadn’t quite wanted to get up yet. “I just meant that it must be uncomfortable here and you might want to go somewhere more comfortable.”

Diedre snatched her hand back. “Didn’t you hear a word of what I said?” she asked him. When he didn’t answer, she continued, “I am staying here, waiting for an evil, ugly dragon to gobble me up.”

Cyrus took offense to being described as “evil” and “ugly”, but since she was obviously not conscious of referring to him in particular, he supposed he should let her ignorance slide. “And… you are going to wait here to be gobbled up?”

“Obviously, you didn’t hear a word of what I said.”

“I did,” Cyrus protested. “Do you want to be eaten?”

Diedre refrained from rolling her eyes at his utter stupidity, though she supposed that the beautiful must also be vapid, even if she had only thought so of women before. “Of course I don’t want to be eaten by a dragon… nobody does!”

“Then why do you insist on waiting here, uncomfortably, for an unpleasant fate?”

“Because I’m the sacrifice.” Diedre picked up her dress and started pacing in the cave in her agitation. “I’m the martyr. I have to willingly go to my death so appease the dragon so that my people can live in peace.”

She was behind Cyrus now and he turned to watch her with his steady gaze. “But you’re not willing.”

She stopped and rounded on him. “I most definitely am!”

“But you don’t want to be eaten…”

Diedre sighed. “Just because I don’t want to do something, doesn’t mean I won’t. So, just leave me alone and leave, or the dragon might eat you, too. This is, after all, a dragon cave.”

Cyrus had never heard of such a strange tale. He almost told her that no dragon would live in a cave this small—he would not even fit in the cave in his dragon form. He might have told her that he was the dragon and that he didn’t plan on eating her, but then he thought she might put up a fuss about how he must eat her for her imperative sacrifice to be complete.

“Fine,” he said, finally. He would have to think of another way to remove her from this cave, preferably before she got herself sick with exhaustion or starvation.

Diedre stared after Cyrus as he left.

She was all alone in the cave again, and she felt even more miserable than before.

She didn’t know quite what she had expected of Cyrus. After all, this was their first acquaintance, but she could have been secretly hoping that he would convince her that her sacrifice was unnecessary, she supposed, or that she was too pretty to be sacrificed. But of course, she knew she wasn’t very pretty, at least not compared to him, and he probably didn’t care very much either way that she was to be sacrificed.

Oh, well, she thought. He really couldn’t have talked her out of it, since she was determined. She had decided to be determined.

Diedre wondered if she was allowed to explore the forest around the cave. It looked wild, but it couldn’t be too wild, with a human—Cyrus—living there. She should stay in the cave and wait for the dragon, but the dragon was already dreadfully late and surely, it wouldn’t mind not meeting her for a bit longer.

Maybe it thought that she was running away. Diedre looked around the cave. Her cloak was still there, and surely the dragon would be smart enough to know that she would not run into the cold, dark night without her cloak.

Taking one last look to make sure that everything was in order—the cave was still free from dragons and her cloak lay visibly on the floor—she took placed a satin slipper on the earthy forest ground.

“So, the princess doth runneth away.”

Diedre froze and looked around, only to see Cyrus—the cad!—leaning casually against a tree trunk. “Oh! I am not running away,” she told him again, hoping that he could somehow understand it this time. She had never met anybody as obtuse as him. “Surely, the dragon doesn’t expect me to expire out of boredom before it even has a chance to eat me. Besides, I left my cloak in there, and the dragon must have some modicum of intelligence if it can comprehend the idea of a trade.”

Cyrus scoffed at that. “The dragon has more than a modicum of intelligence.”

“You know the dragon?”

Cyrus thought about that. “Yes, I suppose I do.”

Diedre gave him a strange look out of her blue eyes. “What do you mean you ‘suppose’ you do. You do, or you don’t.”

“Hmm… I do.”

“Does he live here?” she asked.

“Not in the cave, actually,” Cyrus answered carefully. “But somewhere in the forest.”

“Is he big and mean and purple?”

“He’s purple.” Cyrus had always been considered one of the smallest dragons, because he was one of the younger ones, barely over a hundred years old. Although, he had heard that some plague had happened in the east and the older ones had been wiped out… He certainly did not consider himself ‘mean’, especially to Princess Diedre. He had even invited her to stay in the comfort of his own home.

“He’s not mean?” Diedre asked. Then, she made an all-encompassing motion with her hands. “Or big?”

“No, not really.”

“Oh, bother,” Diedre sighed. “What am I going to do now? Do you know how awful this is?”

Cyrus shook his head.

“Don’t you see?” Diedre grabbed fistfuls of her skirt. “I am going to be sacrificed to a small, nice dragon. What kind of story is that? What will my father tell my people? ‘Oh, yes,’ he’d say. ‘My littlest Diedre was eaten by a very nice dragon. He was kind of small, too, and not fearsome at all.’”

“Well, how about this?” Cyrus offered, “You can come stay at my home, and I’ll let the dragon know that you’re in the forest. That way, you can be comfortable and well rested and the dragon won’t have to hurry to come get you, which, I am sure, would upset him, or you can wait for a bigger dragon to pass by the area and I can ask him if he would like to eat you.”

“Would you really?” Diedre asked. She should refuse, but since she was to be eaten anyways… “But won’t it eat you?”

Cyrus grinned. It was a crooked grin with a secret. “No, dragons only eat young maidens.”