Princess and Dragon
A Short Story By Manelle Oliphant
Text and illustrations © 2014 by Manelle Oliphant
I stood under the bridge and clenched my sword tighter. I took a few breaths and tried to relax my hand.
“A sword in an iron grip can’t move.” Keegan’s taunt, from the three short weeks he’d spent training me, rang in my head.
I pushed it from my mind. Here in real life I didn’t see how a relaxed hand would help. My body trembled. I gripped the sword tighter. Iron grip or not the sword would be more useful in my hand than on the ground.
I put my free hand on the damp bricks, and slowed my breaths.
The trembling stopped. I listened. I tuned out the river and heard It on the bridge above me.
It’s not a big dragon, about the size of a peasant’s cottage. I took another deep breath. It’s not a big dragon, I told myself again. It didn’t help. It meant if he wanted to eat me he’d have to do it in pieces rather than all at once.
Don’t think about being eaten.
I tuned out the water again and listened to the bridge groan every time It took a step. I heard It breathing and It’s tongue slither in and out.
It tasted the air for a princess taste. I hoped the damp covered my sent.
Thump, creak, It stepped closer.
Ssss, he tasted the air again. “I know you are there princess. We killed your parents. Your brother doesn’t have long for this life and I plan on sending you to join them.”
It spoke the truth. The dragons killed my parents three weeks ago. Keegan lay sleeping in the castle sick ward with burned leg and missing arm. If It killed me and Keegan died, the dragons could claim these lands, and the people in them.
I gripped my sword with both hands and crouched. Another thunk as he stepped closer to me across the bridge.
I stood, ready for an attack from either side.
Breath in, glance left.
Breath out, glance right.
I saw It’s shadow above me. It moved. My heartbeat. Dragon face in front of me. Time slowed. My death in his eyes. His big dragon mouth opened and heat surrounded me. Keegan’s training kicked in and my body reacted. I slid to the left and swung my sword, two-handed, strait down on his neck. Hot dragon blood splashed my arms. I swung again.
The head fell to the ground at my feet. I took a breath and lowered my arm.
I jumped and yanked the sword back up. The dragon’s body fell into the shallow river. Water hit my face and arms, cooling the burns from the dragon’s blood. Steamy fog surrounded me. Still holding my sword ready, I peered through it until I saw It’s body. No movement.
I killed It.
My body started to tremble again but I controlled it long enough to climb out of the bridge’s shadow into the sun. I collapsed on the riverbank. My body trembled more. Tears came so I sat up. They gushed up through me and out of my eyes. Unstoppable. I sobbed and sobbed.
“Princess! Princess Nora! Are you okay?”
Footsteps ran toward me. I turned and wiped my eyes and nose on my sleeve. Bran, our captain of the guard, squatted beside me. He saw my tears and burned arms. His hands, like birds, fluttered around my head and down my arms as he checked for injuries. “Are you harmed princess? I’ll call the doctor.”
“Bran no, I’m ok”
Bran nodded but looked me up and down once more. I still held my sword in one hand. I had forgotten about it. He took it from me. I let him.
He noticed the dragon. “By all the saints!” He took a deep breath. “Princess, I’m glad you’re alright! When we got separated I… your brother will never forgive me. I’m glad you’re alright!” He ran his hand through his hair and stopped talking.
He sat. Water splashed around the dragon’s body in front of us. I took deep breaths until my body calmed.
He stood, helped me up, and handed me back my sword.
“We’ve driven them back for now, my lady. We’ll have a few days before they attack again” He looked at the dead dragon again. “I think we should celebrate tonight.”
I looked at it too. It was dead. I was alive. I nodded at him. “Yes.” We needed to celebrate this small victory.
We’d won the battle, but the war had just begun.