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Friday, May 28, 2010

The Dragon's maid - Part V

I’ve been running a fairytale story for the last four weeks, and am continuing it this week. If you’ve missed previous portions, you can always go catch up:

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

If you want to skip them, here’s a mini synopsis: Fenrick is a farm boy who has headed the call to slay a neighboring kingdom’s dragon. When he arrives, he meets and falls in love with the beautiful Telanja, who promises to marry him. Elated, he heads off to slay the dragon, but when the beast is nearly dead, he tells Fenrick that he has hidden his soul in a maiden and cannot be killed so long as she lives, and that the woman has just arrived, Fenrick turns around, sword in hand, to discover his bride to be and, in a fit of despair and exhaustion, collapses to the floor….



***********

It took Fenrick some moments to recover from the shock of seeing his beloved Telanja standing in the dragon’s cave. The beast’s words rang through his ears, “The dragon’s maid, farm boy. So long as she lives I cannot be killed.” But how could he kill any maiden, let alone this one who had only last night promised to be his wife?

“Telanja!” he finally choked out as he let his eyes find her stricken face. “I don’t understand-“

“And so you know one another!” The dragon’s voice rang with delight. “Well, well.”

“I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you.” Telanja threw herself to her knees and caught his injured arm. Slowly, she turned it over, examining the blistered skin of his hands. “But how could I? If my father knew…” she trailed off and cried a fresh shower of tears. “It is through no fault of my own. The dragon did this against my will, and now I have no choice but to serve him and to protect his wretched life so long as I live.” Suddenly, she clasped Fenrick’s hand to her breast and stared into his eyes, her expression earnest. “If you slay me, Fenrick, then-“

The young man jerked his hand away, a dark scowl on his face. “How can you say such a thing? How can you ask such a thing of me? How?” he demanded fiercely. “To ask me to slay one whom I love - how dare you! Do you think I have a heart of stone?”

Telanja bowed her head and cried hard. “But what choice is there? If you let me live then the dragon lives! True, it will take many months for him to recover his strength, but eventually he will. And what then? And what will you tell my father when you return to the castle? How will you explain to him why you failed?”

“Your father?” Fenrick echoed, his voice barely more than a lump in his throat.

“Yes,” she answered bitterly. “I am the youngest daughter of the King. That’s why the dragon chose me.”

If Fenrick hadn’t been splattered on the ground already, he’d have surely fallen with this pronouncement. Not only was his beloved Telanja tied to the dragon, but now she was a princess! He groaned aloud at the revelations; his neat and tidy world turned topsy turvey.

The dragon coughed and wheezed behind them. “It’s a grand arrangement, is it not? To save his kingdom he must sacrifice his daughter, or to save his daughter he must sacrifice his kingdom.” The dragon’s laugh turned into a wracking cough. “Such is my revenge on a King who ordered the slaying of my own child.” The dragon’s eyes burned and snapped like angry flames. “Pity his hero of the hour is now unavailable for such vengeance, as well. However, it seems that you’ll do nicely in his stead, farm boy.” The dragon coughed again. “Go now, and I will let you live. Though I wish with all my heart that I could see the face of the King when you tell him what has transpired.” A wicked grin spread across his face. “Perhaps he will dash out her brains himself?”

“Shut your mouth, you disgusting creature!” Fenrick shouted. His head hurt too much to think properly, and he was too tired to fight anymore. What little energy had been left him had drained when he’d seen her standing there, jewel like tears on her cheeks. “Come, Telanja. We’ll go back to the castle and decide a course of action.”

She helped him to stumble out of the cave, all the while apologizing over and over, until he asked to stop, for as she’d said, it was none of her fault. She led him down the winding path until they reached the old man who’d served as his guide, and the horses, patiently tethered and waiting. The old man looked from one to other, and something in his eyes said that he knew; he knew Fenrick had failed, and he knew why. But, he said nothing, only helped Fenrick onto his horse, and set the princess on behind him.

The ride back to the castle was a blur of pain and torment for Fenrick. He had a vague impression of people cheering as they entered the castle gates, and of the king standing on the steps of his palace with an elated grin on his face. Fenrick stumbled forward to meet him, but tripped and fell. He heard someone say that he was sorely wounded, and then the world went black.



Fenrick woke from a dream, a single word on his lips, “Telanja!’

But she wasn’t there, and, as the world came into focus, Fenrick found himself in the chambers of the court physician, his feet and arms on pillows, and much of his body bandaged. The old man puttered around, checking this and that, and looked truly delighted to see his charge awake.

“Welcome to the world of the living, young man!” he chirruped. “I admit, for a few moments I wasn’t sure you’d remain here with us, but it seems that you have. “

Fenrick muttered something, but the words were only a slur of sounds.

“There, there.” The physician patted his arm. “You’ll be restored soon, within the week, I should say, thanks in no small part to my knowledge of poultices and the quick treatment of your wounds. And that could not be better, for it will just be in time for your celebration banquet. I dare say, there’s rumor from above that you may even find yourself the possessor of a certain princess but, of course,” he tapped the side of his nose with a finger. “You didn’t hear such things from me.”

Fenrick could only groan.



The physician knew his business, and in a week Fenrick was back on his feet. That wasn’t to say that he was completely healed, but he could walk and attend the god forsaken celebration ball. The very thought of it filled Fenrick with dread, for how could he stand before the elite nobles of the kingdom and tell them that he’d failed and that Telanja was… No, the whole idea sent shudder through his frame and turned his stomach.

Despite his terror, the ball came just the same, and Fenrick found himself bathed, dressed, and nearly dragged to the gala by three able bodied servants. There was a dinner first, where Fenrick found himself seated at the King’s table, only a few people down from Telanja. She looked lovelier than ever, save for the sorrow around her eyes. The very fact that there was a celebration told Fenrick that she hadn’t revealed the truth yet, and he could only assume the guilt was what ringed her eyes so.

When the meal was finished, the king stood and clapped his hands loudly, and then he proceeded to begin a long winded speech. He described the coming of the dragon, the monster’s terrible attacks, and then, the hero who had come from seemingly nowhere to save them. At this point he called for Fenrick, who was shuffled from his seat and practically thrust to the floor before the monarch.

“And by his valiant efforts, this young lad has saved our kingdom!” the king held out a hand to his steward. “Sword!”

Fenrick cringed inwardly. He had to tell them! He had to. But, even as he agonized over it, the sword dipped over his shoulders and then the king boomed loudly, “Arise, Sir Fenrick of Learly! Here now are your papers of title and deed.”

The young man stood and took the parchments in trembling hands, while the king continued, oblivious to Fenrick’s horror.

“And, should you wish it, as I have come to understand you very well might, the hand of my youngest daughter, Telanja, shall be yours!” He gestured for the girl to come join them, which she did. In a blur, Fenrick found her hand in his, and the other guests cheering loudly and wishing them much happiness.

Music started, and though Fenrick was still in a state of shock, he was driven to the dance floor, and was soon caught in the middle of a dance with his bride to be. As they swept around in broad circles, other couples begin to join, until the ballroom was awash in fluttering silk garments, like brightly colored butterflies moving in some fantastic flight.

Slowly, the reality of the situation settled on Fenrick, and he stared down at the girl in his arms, then over to the parchments left on the corner of the table. Land! A title! A beautiful princess who loved him! What more could any man desire? And surely the dragon would take many months to heal. Hadn’t Telanja said so? Perhaps, just perhaps…..

With much effort, Fenrick swallowed the lump of conscious that formed in his throat.

To be continued…

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