This short story is brought to you by this Reddit writing prompt. Thanks to ThreeDucksInAManSuit (hah) for this one.
My story deviates from this prompt and whatever.
Hope you enjoy.
Perseus, a large red dragon, stole a princess. He waited for months, scouting the castle in order to learn the patterns and regular behaviors of the dwellers therein. When the time was right, he found her on the ramparts, looking out across a moonlit land. It was predawn.
Later, he flew off with Beatrice to his mountain.
Beatrice asked, “You’re not going to eat me, are you?”
Perseus chuckled. “No.” He paused. “If I was going to, I’d already done it, no?”
They traveled up the mountain: the winding path offered a narrow, poorly-traveled walkway. It was at least narrow for Perseus. Beatrice had issue, though. She faltered a few times. Perseus nudged her back up with his wing. She smiled weak-like, terror scrawled all over her face.
“Don’t be afraid.”
Her best attempts to disguise terror were quite nil. “How do I know you are not going to let me fall and I tumble to my death into your jaws?”
He shook his head. “Trust me.”
The treacherous pass lead up the mountain. Early morning offered a morning glow. Despite her terror, the grandeur captured her attention in a way that made her forget — for a moment — a spike-toothed dragon took her captive.
She perked up. “I’ve lived in a castle most of my life. This view is more grand than any castle spire can offer!”
The green valley, lush with vegetation and wildlife, carried not only sights but smells. Wildflowers growing beneath the mountain face offered sweet scents.
She breathed in and sighed.
Perseus watched her. She felt this. She turned around and shifted, looking at Perseus.
“What is it? Why are you looking at me like that?”
He looked away. “Nothing.” He hesitated and began humming a tune.
She pushed her hands and turned her torso on the stone she sat upon. “I know that. What song is that?”
He was halfway through with his bass voice when her face lit up.
“The Willows and the Rain! Yes, I know that song!”
He stopped singing. “Hope my creaky voice didn’t scare the birds.”
Her face turned sad, eyes unfocused. “That’s the song I heard when I was young. When my —” She looked at him. “When the dragons came. They burned my village.”
“You’re the dragon who saved my family and I.” She pointed. “You pretended to be burning things and ushered us to safety! When the other dragons were—”
Her voice trailed off. In the distance, birds chortled gleefully whilst crickets strung their tunes. Perseus breathed in through his nostrils. Embers glowed between his thin lips and in his belly. She looked at his immense, armored chest glowing with fire. A brief moment of anxiety flashed across her face.
“I followed you for five months. I made sure to stay near enough my scent would overpower human scent, but it wasn’t far enough sometimes.” He breathed out. No flames, to Beatrice’s relief. “Your brother chased me off with a wooden mace.”
He noticed her anxiety after a silence. “Don’t be afraid. My chest burns with righteous anger against my own kind’s actions.”
“My brother told me about him chasing a dragon off. He said he wasn’t afraid to die and felt so proud.” She laughed. “Ohhhhh my. And now he spends his fortunes on ale and company. In fact, he’s probably at it now.”
“After a while your lot moved to a city — a heavily fortified one. And now you are a princess.”
“Royal blood finds its way back to the throne room — as my father always said.”
“Where is your family now? Is anyone coming to rescue you?”
He looked down. She smiled and said, “You’re embarrassed.”
“I like the idea of a good parlay.” He looked quite bashful. “I’ve read books.”
“What? You know how to read?”
“Yes. We have our books. No human has seen them.” He blew a flame and a torch lit, attached to a crude, hollowed-out nook that acted as sconce. Down a little ways a gray and weathered bookcase sat, half-filled with books. They were piled willy-nilly, and some even had the audacity to lean, upright, against the inner bookcase wall. “And I have others, like these.”
“You are a strange dragon.
“May I come back and read your books? My father and brother do not permit me books, except those I steal in to my private room. I can read as well as any man.” She laughed. “Or dragon.”
“Why do they not permit you to read?”
“You see: A lady must be prim and proper, taking care not to dip her mental faculties into the wildes of stories long ago.” She leaned forward, gesturing with a finger. “I am a woman, yet I am not allowed to read fantastical, inferior books. Explain that one to me!”
“I can’t relate! I’m sorry your plight. It sounds dreadful, being told what you can and cannot do. If I were a human woman, I’d want to fight against that. I may not be as tactful as you may be, though.”
She nodded. “I find ways to sneak around it. It is infuriating.”
“This is my plight: I am a dragon. My kind likes flesh, yet I do not. I like berries, apples, and carrots. I choose this. And I myself am hated for who I am despite my choices. I am hated for being a dragon by all. Well, except some. But mostly all my kind, that is.”
She narrowed her eyes, looking at him. “In this we meet at one juncture. So be it! Albeit, we may have more in common than you think.” She pauses, wheels turning. “A dragon who is not like his kind and saves the hunted — I’m sure you’ve gotten no small hatred from your kind.”
“My closest friends abandoned me. To die. My brother attempted to kill me. I was badly wounded, and my scars prove this. My family — I’ve none, and my brother told them I died. I pretended to die. I lay there, in agony and pain, just to give him what he wanted.” He sighed. “One can die in ways more than being in a grave.”
“That sounds terrible. I’m terribly sorry to hear.”
“After the past six years, though. I would do it again.” He smiled. “I’ve made some friends along the way. People you rescue tend to remember. Such as yourself.
She looked a little lost in thought. “Well. I should be going.” She looked over her shoulder at the scenery. “I’m quite lost, here.”
His face fell a little. “Your brother, though. He will come and rescue you.” He nodded. “Yes?”
She gave a flat look. “Hah, him? He’d chase woman and ale sooner than he’d come find me. I could be gone a month and the fool wouldn’t notice.
“I see you two are on good terms. Good.”
She laughed. “My father is a different story. He’s so busy with his various projects and meeting with local governors. But he is protective of me. He’d be the one who ought not to know.”
“Doesn’t he remember me?”
She smiled. “He indeed does. We all do. Your kindness is not forgotten. But I have an engagement after lunch.” She shook her head. “I hate being late, especially to things I’d rather not go to. That means I get done quicker!”
He smiled. “I think we can arrange this. But I must confess my sadness at no duels, fights, or parlay with knights and little men with pointy things.”
She grinned. “Well. We can arrange that — for later.”
Perseus flew her back. He took the long scenic route — past the floodplains and where the rivers empties into the lake. By now the sun’s beams were shining as directly as they may. The warmth felt good on both their backs, cool breezes relieving the warmth.
“Drop me off here, on this glen. Don’t want to risk it. We may know you, but they may not know you are you.”
He reluctantly complied. He enjoyed her company. It was an ache in his bones, this loneliness, like a damp draft under a door that seeped under the door despite every measure to prohibit.
She smiled. “Don’t forget — your books. I need to read them.”
“What book you want? I’ll hide it later, in this area. You can pick it up later.”
“Some epic of some kind. Your choosing!”
He watched her walk onto the path towards the castle. It wound about a bit, until she disappeared behind thickets.
He flew up with a snap of his wings. He made himself as low to the treetops as possible, to best avoid being spotted. When he was quite some distance away he burst up and made a wide circle to the mountain.
Long after last light, he took his selected book and flew to the castle. He waited a bit for the change of guard and made his move. He shot up and tossed the book through the open balcony window.
Beatrice was sitting on her bed, looking out at the still, calm night. From her perspective, a shadow blitzed just outside the balcony. A book flew out of the darkness, sliding across the stone floor and onto a large, red ornate rug, with a slap and plop. She looked at it odd, picked it up and laughed out loud.
She ran to the balcony. Perseus was a dark patch between glittering stars in an even darker night sky. She lost track of him, although she surmised he darted off towards his large mountain.