There be Dragons
In the morning, dressed again in her Samite and silk, the princess bade Hamish goodbye. He strode off, and walked surprisingly quickly uphill towards the dragon’s cave. Just as he was cresting the first hill, which would conceal him from the farm house, he turned and waved back to her.
The princess sniffed. For a base-born farmer, and not an especially handsome one at that, Hamish was good company. She’d miss him, maybe not a lot, but some.
The day slowly dragged into night, she kept the fire going. While the pottage was still edible, its savor was gone without company. Eventually, she found she could cry over the dragon, the loneliness, and even that farmer. She filled the vial, and put it back in her pocket. That evening a small yellow orb popped into existence while she was arranging blankets by the fire. The Witch Elmira spoke from it.
“Are you getting the dragon’s tears?”
“Good.” There was the start of a laugh and the orb winked out.
It wasn’t until late the next day that Hamish returned. He was carrying a small brazier of coals with a vial on top of that. Bright yellow light emanated from the vial and chased the darkening evening away. It filled his small farmhouse with a warm glow.
“Sorry, Princess, that this took so long, but the tears must be kept hot. Otherwise, they turn into amber.”
“Oh.” Now that her quest could be met, she felt strangely sad. Hamish smiled at her, then said, “Don’t worry. Did you fill your vial?”
“Yes. It’s just I don’t know how I can ever repay you for your kindness and somehow.”
“Do you want to be a dragoness?”
He smiled, “Then don’t worry about the payment. The valley needs a dragoness. Give me your tears.”
She grabbed the vial from her cloak and gave it to him. He gingerly removed the dragon’s tears from the brazier and mixed them with the tears in a cup. Then he gave it to her. “Drink.”
“Yes, now. Before it cools off.”
She drank the mixture. A puff of steam came out of her nostrils, and she said, “I want to be a dragon.”
Hamish quickly grabbed her hand and said, “Not here.”
“You’ll destroy my house.”
She smiled, and he continued, “While I hold you, you are bound to human form. Follow me.”
He pulled her outside, and away from his farm buildings. Then he stopped, “Princess, there’s one more thing you should do. Remove your clothes.”
“You don’t need to, but it sure as heck stings when you expand to full size and they snap. Besides, you might want them again.”
“I want to be a dragon. Not a woman. Why should I want clothes?”
“Humor me on this. I’ll shut my eyes if that helps.” Working together with their free hands, they pulled her gown up over her head, and off. As it fluttered to the ground, he released her hand and she transformed. With a deafening bellow, she was off into the night sky.
Hamish looked around, whistled a tuneless melody and picked up her gown. Carefully folding it, he walked back to the farmhouse. He said, to no one in particular, “Good thing lambing season is almost done.”
The princess flew up to the cave. It was cold and vacant. The dragon hadn’t been there for some time. She crawled in and started to cry. “I hope that wizard hasn’t called his prince.” Then she looked over the edge of the cliff outside and the same rusted armor she had seen there on her first visit remained. If the prince had attacked the dragon, he’d been unusually neat and tidy about it. Then she noticed, scratched above the door, “Wait.”
“I suppose I shall. There will be plenty of sheep tomorrow when I get hungry.” She lay down on the jewels that the dragon had accumulated, and drifted off into a sound sleep. Shape-shifting is a tiring business, especially the first time you do it.
Sun streaming into the cave mouth, combined with the twittering of Robins, awoke her. She started to say, “What time is it?” but only roared smoke and flames out the mouth of the cave. Crawling to the mouth of the cave, she saw that the cold early spring had changed to the warmer days of early summer. More importantly, she saw, there in the distance, a man following the trail to the cave. Her eyes focused in on him, and she saw the details far better than she could as a human. It was Hamish, and he was carrying a bundle with him.
She shouted “Hamish!” Much to her surprise he stopped and waved. He’d know what to do to get her out of this mess. There was no point in staying a dragon, if there wasn’t another one for company. Especially if there wasn’t that handsome one, she’d tried to charm.
It took Hamish an hour’s hard climb, but he entered the cave. The princess was there. He stopped and said, “Princess, you left your gown behind. I thought you might need it.”
She looked at him and asked, “What do you think of me?”
“I’d say you make a remarkably beautiful dragoness.” She did. Jet-black scales ran down her back. These were complemented by red stripes and emerald eyes. Her teeth were straight and sharp. Her ebony claws were indescribably sharp and lovely. She smiled, at least did what passes for a smile among dragons, and said, “You seem to know the right things to say.”
He entered the cave and set his bundle down to the side, away from the jewels. Then he approached her and stroked her forehead.
She said, “You aren’t scared of me?”
“No. I’m not worried about dragons, not at all.”
She tilted her head in curiosity and continued, “Then you’re a very strange farmer.”
“I am.” He sat in front of her and said, “Put your head on my lap, and we’ll talk.”
She did, and he reached behind her ear-holes and scratched. Then he reached around below the back of her jaw and scratched that too. She purred, “That feels so good. How do you know where to scratch so well?”
“I have my sources. So how does it feel to be a dragon?”
“I’d hoped that the dragon who lived here would still be here. He was a handsome beast. He’s who I cried for, mostly. I cried a little for you too.”
Hamish laughed, “I’m pleased to hear it, and I know dragons, even female dragons, don’t lie.”
“Don’t make fun of me. I don’t know what I should do.”
Hamish said, “One of the difficulties in dragon courtship, for the male, is knowing when the lady will accept his company and when she’ll try to fight. It sounds like you want male company.”
He gently pushed her head from his legs, “Sorry they were beginning to go to sleep.” Then he knelt next to her and stroked her face and neck until she drifted off into an uneasy sleep. After she was breathing with the calm, regular breath of deep sleep, he arose.
The princess awoke to see Hamish, standing naked at the edge of the cliff. He smiled at her and then started to do a backward swan dive from the ledge. She shouted, “Hamish!” and hurried to the opening. Maybe if she were in time, then maybe, just maybe she could catch him.
She didn’t need to. There, flying in front of her nose was the other dragon. A handsome dragon, with deep red scales and yellow eyes. It was the one she was waiting for. He said, “Neat trick what?”
She sent a ball of flames his way, which he dodged, and flew out to join him.
“You nearly scared me to death with that trick.”
“I never said I couldn’t shape-shift, just that I wouldn’t – not for a princess who was a man-trap.”
“You would for a dragoness?”
“With great enjoyment.”
“What were you doing as a farmer?”
“It was lambing season. The sheep don’t need me now.”
The princess gave as much of a blush as a dragon can, which amounted to little more than a genteel puff of steam. Then she said, “Next spring, am I welcome to help?”
“Why do you think I saved your gown? Could have gotten a hundred marks for that Samite at the market.”
She swatted at him with her tail, playfully. He replied in kind, and they rolled down the side of the mountain together, flattening a small forest in the process.
Later that night, tightly wrapped in each other’s coils, he said to his mate, “There’s one other advantage to being a dragon you know.”
She nuzzled his neck purred and said, “What?”
“Eggs. Dragon’s eggs are much easier to birth than babies.”