My memory is long, longer even than my life. I remember those things that befell my poor mother before I cracked my shell. I am part of my ancestry, a long, thin line stretching into the dark past. A tenuous line to be sure, for a dragon’s life on this earth is tenuous. We are wise, and yet we are subject to the whims of man. I remembered that much even when I was still small enough to sit on Cymnea’s lap. With all our wisdom, it is passion that ultimately rules the heart of a dragon. And my misplaced passion for the princess was enough to drive reason away.
Now, as I face the metal clad men who point their gleaming teeth at me, I cannot summon that wisdom to see the folly of my situation. I have become a massive thing. My great length encircles the tower in which Cymnea is held, and still my neck stretches up so that I can stare down, one baleful eye upon my enemies. With my other eye I can see Cymnea standing at the tower’s window. She holds her arms outspread toward me and I see the pleading on her face. Her sweet lips send words to me but I cannot hear through the din and clamour of the enemies below.
She is so tiny now, this princess that I adore. This once child who mothered me when my memories would not serve. I used to sleep curled about her ankles in the softness of her feather bed. Now my body hugs the cold stone of the tower instead, but it is for her.
Those below would steal my treasure away. Promises were made, I know. Though I care little for the promises of men. It was the false king himself who did it. Promising away his own child as easily as he snatched away my mother’s precious egg. So when he snuck away to meet with his accomplice, I locked him out with all the rest.
I see the king there, cowering on the hillside behind his ranks of metal soldiers. My memory is long. I know how he took his lordship over these people. I know it was my own mother’s blood that colored his hands when he grabbed me and stole me away all those years ago, before I had even broken my shell to taste the night breath and to see the glorious moonlight for the first time. But no mother. She is only memory. And so it was that Cymnea took that place in my heart.
Cymnea. She is the treasure of my life. A dragon’s passion for that which is precious and beautiful did not find for me gold, jewels and things that sparkle in the light of the moon. It found only her. I owe at least that much to the false king. He stole me away and gave me to the princess, gave her to me. I have nothing else to thank him for. A dragon is born to protect that which is beautiful and precious.
I protect her even now, my Cymnea. I protect her from these vermin that would steal her away. I protect her from the false king himself… from the world.
Suddenly the front rank advances upon me. I narrow my eyes and growl deep in my throat. I can feel the searing bile churning in my gut. I exhale a vaporous breath and the tin men clatter back to their places, but only for a moment.
Four of them rush at me. I am ready for them. My deadly breath has held long enough. I heave up dragon fire and spill it down in a glorious fountain onto my enemies. Their metal shells glow orange in the night. Their screams are wild and terrible. The cooked scent of them makes my stomach rumble with an angry hunger, but this is not the hunt. These are not deer to be snached up from the ground and swallowed for my dinner. These are men. They do not bleat as they die. They scream curses and throw up oaths to their gods. Unlike prey, their brethren do not flee but instead they rally. They fall upon me from many sides and force me to draw in another hot breath.
Cymnea, where is she? I have no time to find her there at the window. They drive at me from every angle. I cannot choose where to aim my wrath.
And then the pinprick, under my scales. So insignificant, yet the chill of it is a dreadful thing. Like the antithesis of the fire that roils in my gut, stinging with needles even as my fire would burn. It spreads upward, extinguishing my magnificent heat from within. What poisonous sorcery imbued that thin blade?
Sleep would be so nice. A strange thought to have here in the thick of battle. But it is so strong that I can feel my grip on the cold tower relax. I lower my great head to the earth, sweet grass and buttercups crushed under my hot cheek.
I lay dying and my eye searches for the tower window. Cymnea is no longer there. I am aware of my own thudding pulse and panic matches it beat for beat. My treasure is gone. That which rules my passion, my failing heart.
But then she is beside me. Cymnea, standing before my great, rolling eye. Tears wash her cheeks. I hear the sobs that escape her lips but they are fading farther away.
Then the brute strides forward, he that laid me low with his poisoned tooth. He wraps the cold metal of his fingers about Cymnea’s waist and draws her away. It is he that won the king’s vile promise, the promise of my treasure. My mother, sister, daughter, lover. The only world I ever knew outside of my long, long memory. The dragon’s path that my ancestors trod now fades away along with the brilliant moonlight shining down on my glassy eye.
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