Thursday, March 8, 2007

Sunrise on a Dragon - Chapter Two

Diedre didn't know what she had expected. She hadn't been thinking much beyond the dragon.

The cave was small enough that she could see all of it from the long rays of morning sun, and it was empty. There was no dragon, or even the mountain of glittering jewels that Diedre had expected.

She could run away, Diedre realized suddenly. She had no change of clothing or money and her satin slippers were disgracefully dirty, but if she ran now, she would still have her life.

And feel guilty for as long as she lived.

Diedre paced a bit at the entrance of the cave. Maybe the dragon was testing her purity of heart. If she stayed, the dragon would... take her, but leave the kingdom intact. Otherwise, it would destroy more of the kingdom. And probably chase after her anyways.

She took a careful step into the cave and looked a bit more carefully. Maybe the dragon was hiding in a chamber in the back. Maybe it was still sleeping. Diedre even went so far as to pick up a skinny, brittle branch to poke the dragon in the eye and kill it for the kingdom before she realized the folly of it. After all, if dragons were so easy to kill, she would not be here. Her father would not sacrifice her just if his soldiers could kill dragons.

But there was no hidden inner chamber, and obviously no dragon.

So, Diedre spread her cloak out on the ground of the cave and sat down on it to wait.

And wait.

A squirrel ventured near the mouth of the cave, once, but then darted away.

Then, she waited some more started yawning. She hadn't slept well last night, knowing that it would be her last night in this world, and she had woken up this morning, all anxiety and nerves in the carriage. Sleep hadn't mattered, anyways, since she was being sent to a dragon.

But it was dull waiting around. When she started nodding off, she thought of how disgraceful it would be for the sacrifice to be sleeping in the dragon's lair, even if there was no sign of the dragon.

Then, Diedre thought morosely, maybe if she was sleeping when the dragon came upon her, she wouldn't notice when it eats her. She shivered at that thought.

So, she lay down, settled herself as well as she could on the stone ground, and fell asleep.

Cyrus folded his purple wings as he landed in the clearing in the forest, but the leaves still flew everywhere with the gusts of wind he brought. As soon as his feet touched the ground, he changed into a human shape.

There had been a human here.

He could smell it.

Cyrus sighed in frustration. He thought that he had made it quite clear with some king or another that the forest was not to be disturbed by any human. Even if humans had short memories, they couldn't have possibly forgotten already! It had only been a hundred years or so.

Although, it was the first human since his warning and only one of it, so he supposed he could just find the human and make him leave. Maybe tell it a proper dragon lore to scare it away for a while.

Then, again, the human might just decide to organize a dragon hunt. Cyrus didn't really mind the fire, seeing as he made fire, too, but he hated the smell of a burning forest and lugging water from the lake was always a pain.

Carefully, Cyrus followed the smell of the human... his bare feet already familiar with the forest paths.

He followed its smell until he reached a cave. It was a small cave, too, barely big enough to distinguish it from just another big boulder. He wondered what a human could possibly be doing there before he ventured inside. It was definitely barren inside, and dreary. But the human was definitely inside.

His eyes adjusted easily to the dark, and he saw a clump of something on the ground... probably a miserable old man kicked out from his house. Even so, he couldn't stay in Cyrus's forest. Cyrus approached the clump.

And stopped abruptly when he realized that it was a girl.

And a lovely girl at that, with ivory skin over delicate features. Perfect golden ringlets of hair framed her sleeping face. But most shocking of all was the circlet on her head, signifying that she was a princess.

It was a beautiful run-away princess, Cyrus thought, and wondered if he could keep her since she had run away anyways. But then he realized that if she had run away, there was probably a lover involved somewhere... obviously, not here.

Then, he realized that she wouldn't have worn her princess circlet if she had run away. For whatever reason she was not in palace, she had meant for others to know her status.

Maybe she had been kidnapped, Cyrus mused to himself as he watched her bosom rise and fall with her slow breaths. It couldn't have been for ransom; they would guard the girl. So, some poor human must have seen the princess and decided to steal her away in her sleep.

But with guards? And in her voluminous white dress?

Cyrus couldn't really puzzle it out. Either way, though, it was a human, and only his things stayed in his forest.

The first thing Diedre noticed when she woke up was beautiful blue eyes, with the prettiest color of purple tinting it.

Then she noticed the hard floor, her aching shoulders, her cramped neck, and the general impropriety of the situation in which there was a man in her room when she had been sleeping and that it wasn't actually her room but rather a dragon cave. And did propriety matter if she was going to be sacrificed to the dragon sometime soon anyways? (And please let it be soon so she could be spared of this embarrassing situation.)

She tried to sit up quickly, but only succeeded in drowning in her dress even more. Instead, she asked of the man with the most handsome face she had ever seen—which far surpassed any of the self-important princes and nobilities. "Who are you?"

"Cyrus." Cyrus seemed to consider before he asked, "Who are you?"


"Princess Diedre," he corrected. At her confused look, he added, "You're wearing your circlet."

Since it wasn't a question, Diedre remained silent, pondering her next question.

"Why are you here?" They both asked at the same time.

Diedre glared at Cyrus for trying to steal her question, but ended admiring his eyes and his handsomely shaped jaws. The black hair was nice, too.

"I live here," Cyrus answered first. He hated female humans' tempers, and judging by its glare, it was a bit upset... about something. At her disbelieving look, he added, "in the forest."

Diedre nodded.

When she didn't say anything, Cyrus said, "Well, why are you here?"

"For the dragon," she answered simply.


"I'm the maiden sacrificed to the dragon." When Cyrus still looked uncomprehending, Diedre sighed dramatically. "I'm waiting for the dragon to eat me."

Cyrus frowned slightly. "Why would the dragon eat you?"

In Diedre's frustration in communicating with this dense—but handsome—man, she managed to sit up in her dress, frothing with lace. "Because that's what dragons do." She sighed again. "The kingdom gave me to the dragon."

She's mine, Cyrus understood suddenly. All the kings and nobilities used to offer their spare daughters to dragons. There hadn't been any spare daughters recently, but Cyrus had been okay with that, since most of the girls had been ugly or obese or insufferable after two minutes of their acquaintances, but they had all tasted about the same, so he hadn't really minded.

Surely, though, Cyrus thought as he took in the girl's appearnce again in light of this new information, there were suitors for the girl. She might not be the perfect model for elegance or grace or beauty, but she was attractive enough. And if she was a touch dramatic, with her suffering sighs, well... it only emphasized the spark of life in her eyes.

Cyrus found it a bit upsetting that anybody would even think of putting out such liveliness—that she would be eaten by a dragon.

But... Cyrus thought suddenly, he didn't have to eat her.

After all, the kingdom had given her to him, but it never specified what he should do with her. Since he didn't want to eat her, he would keep her. Either way, she was his.