The Dragon Who Rescued the Princess A short story by Dianne Lynn Gardner
In a land far away the rain is so plentiful that roses grow as high as the tower windows with long spiny branches that search for the sun. Clouds call the earth home and Princess Desiree wonders what color their flowers would be if they bloomed.
So depressed was the lovely young maiden that her desire to walk in the garden dissipated. She would sit in her bedroom reading seed catalogs and unearthly horror stories written by the castle gesture, who himself hadn’t laughed for a decade.
There was a knock on her door.
“What?” Desiree yawned. She knew who it was, the little guy, silky blond hair and big brown eyes, the castle page that came to Desiree’s room with a message from her father every morning. The message was always the same.
“Come for dinner and bring your smile. Love Father.”
The boy handed her the envelope and she pushed it away. “Dinner.”
“No your highness. This note is different.”
“What do you mean it’s different? It is dinnertime, is it not? Though one can hardly tell time any more, the sun dial is permanently broken I fear.”
“Your highness, it is dinner, but the note says something different. Your father wanted to make sure you read it.”
Desiree grabbed the note, somewhat irritated with the boy’s pestering. “Very well,” she said. “Run along then.”
The boy bowed low and dashed out the door.
Desiree unfolded the letter.
“Come for dinner and bring your smile. We have a guest tonight!”
“Oh dingleberries!” Desiree threw the letter on the bed. She didn’t want guests. Whenever father invited a guest to dinner they were usually courtiers from Breckenshire. Stuck up ladies that had very little to say other than to coo and woe her father. Desiree walked to the open window and pulled it shut, sealing out the moist air. “Father doesn’t need cooing, he needs someone to bring some sun into his life. But I supposed the heavens are wrenched upon the earth forever.”
The table was laid out in all the royal family’s finest china. The servants had arranged a centerpiece of floating candles in a crystal bauble, a place where spring flowers should occupy. She snickered and took the seat the butler pulled out for her only once peering at the woman who sat next to her. Well her father’s age, gray haired and very persnickety looking, she smiled at Desiree.
“Dez, dear,” the king began. “This is the Duchess Bremworth and her son, Theodore.”
Desiree failed to notice the young man sitting next to his mother. Tall, dark hair bouncing on his shoulders, the boy wore a finely embroidered doublet covered by a cape, which he allowed the servant to remove.
“My honor, your highness.” The young man’s chair nearly toppled over as he stood and bowed.
Desiree snickered again. “Theodore,” she greeted.
“You may call me Teddy.”
Deisree rolled her eyes.
The Duchess reached across the table to take Desiree’s hand but the princess pulled it away. “We are so thrilled to meet you.”
The king coughed and forced a chuckle, immediately changing the subject to the weather in Brumswick and sea trade between the Dimland and Beluka. Evidently the pirates were causing a rucus and the king’s fleet had lost a ship in the fog, or something to that sort. The Duchess listened as though she really enjoyed hearing about shipwrecks. Theodore, or rather Teddy’s eyes stayed glued to Desiree.
It was most irritating, eating steak and having someone watch her chew. So instead of minding her manners, Desiree spat the fat on her plate, guzzled her water, and gnawed at the bone in a most unlady like way thinking perhaps that would repulse that lad and he would at least look away.
Instead he set his fork down and smiled.
She licked her fingers.
He smiled broader.
She picked her teeth.
He handed her a toothpick. She refused. “My nails are sharper. I keep them trimmed in case I have to claw out an eye or two.”
“Dez!” The king had stopped talking long enough to hear her comment. “Be nice.”
“I am. In fact, Father, I am going to be so nice I will excuse myself from the table. I feel a pull of the tummy coming on.” She stood, Theodore stood with her.
“I’ll walk you to your door.”
“Yes, Teddy dear, do see that Desiree makes it to her room all right. I would hate for her to faint on the way with no one there to tend to her.”
Why did the Duchess have to interfere? Desiree thought.
But instead of causing more of a scene, for her father’s sake, she stepped out of the room and let Theodore follow her.
“When you feel better, I would like to come back and visit you,” he called to her.
“Because you are a lovely lady and I would like to know you better. Would that be all right with you?”
She reached her door and turned to glare at him. “What ever would we do?”
“We could walk in the garden.”
“There is no garden. The sky is gray the days are wet. The flowers rot and mold on the stalks. They stink. The garden trail is muddy and would soil the beautiful gowns my father buys me. No, dear Theodore…”
“Theodore Teddy, I do not walk in the garden. I don’t even go outside. It’s all I can do to open my window and let in the dismal dew that beads on my forehead and adheres my curls to my head. There is no sense in you coming over because I have no smiles. I would only treat you cruelly.”
“I could change that. I could bring sunshine into your life!”
Desiree sneered. “Whatever,” she said and slipped into her room.
The next morning, when wind rattled the stain glass on her window, and trees bent over from falling rain, their branches breaking on the sill, thunder woke her. As she did every morning, Desiree looked out over the gray earth and sighed. But something in the clouds caught her eye. A burst of light! Not the cool blue of a lightning bolt, but a bright flash of fire. The sky lit up again. Desiree pushed the window open just as a roar unlike the sound of crackling thunder or crash of falling trees rumbled overhead. No longer were the day gray, but black as a shadow crept over the castle. The princess gasped. As if anything else dismal could happen, a dragon hovered above the tower.
Before she slammed the window shut she heard the neigh of a horse and saw whom else but the obnoxious Theodore jumping off his mount and drawing a sword?
“Idiot!” Desiree yelled, though it was fruitless what with all the thunder and roaring and wind competing for airwaves.
She watched the battle as a fire bolt flew through the clouds at the young man. He dodged the flames and released the reins of his horse, which immediately took off at a gallop.
“Oh great!” Desiree thought. “He’s here to stay. Perhaps the dragon will eat him and my troubles will be over.”
The young man was tenacious though, jumping over and rolling away from fiery dragon breath, luring the beast ever close to the ground. The princess watched in awe, curious as to the outcome.
Once, Theodore must have seen her in the window for he called out to her. “I will save you my lady!”
“Good!” she called, and jumped back as the dragon’s wing busted a brick from the castle wall near her lookout.
Theodore pulled his arrow from his quiver and aimed. The dragon roared, lighting the arrowed and then Theodore fired. The projectile hit the dragon in the eye. The beast recoiled and burst into the sky blowing hot air through the entire kingdom. Charring tree tops as it rolled over and over through the atmosphere. The rain turned to steam, the clouds dissipated, letting the sun through.
Desiree raised her hands high and shouted gleefully. “Huzzah! Sunshine!”
So excited was she to see the sun again, that she quickly changed out of her princess gown into her riding clothes. Running out the door she passed the bruised Teddy who had fallen exhausted in the mud, down the road to where his horse stood shivering. She mounted the beast and set off at a gallop westward. Never, never to return to that dismal gray kingdom again.