* On the Wall
Another was coming.
Far below me, the princess sat up on her elegant couch. A surprised look transformed her bored expression to happiness. “Do you hear that? Hoofbeats!”
She wasn’t talking to me.
Down below my lofty perch, I peeked down and saw the princess’s couch below. Silken bolts of fabric served as makeshift blankets for the maiden, and they lay about her bed like rejected suitors, discarded and rumpled.
Near her bed was a long, graceful table of elvish design. On it lay the remains of her dinner from last night, half eaten dishes of the finest make were scattered about. Flies buzzed about the fine gold plates and pewter dining-ware, landing when they thought no one was looking. The sight of them turned my stomach as they hovered above lumps of creamed asparagus and beef fillets.
“Do you hear that?” The princess sat up, repeating her words with an edge of impertinence.
Across the room a long, scaly head rose slowly. The dragon blinked, smacking its great lips. He yawned and exposed a great set of teeth, each fang as long as one of the princess’s delicate hands. “I was asleep, you great ninny.” The dragon gave her a peevish look, his voice a rumbling bass that shook the walls and filled the vast treasure-laden cavern. “Of course I heard nothing.”
Princess Selena giggled coyly at the dragon, toying with a lock of her long golden hair as if she were flirting with a lover. “Hoofbeats,” she repeated. “Another one is coming.” She clapped her hands with excitement, as if she had just been handed a present. “Another! In such a short period of time!”
An evil smile curved the fanged mouth of the dragon. He knew what she spoke of, without having to ask.
I did not have to ask either. I knew all too well.
I watched as they laid out their plans. They were not aware of my presence high above them on a rocky niche – or if they were, they had long ago ceased to care. I was powerless, after all. So many times I had watched them do this.
My memories drove my mind back from the sickening present to a past full of fond memories. Long ago, lovely Selena had been my betrothed.
She had come from the Summer Country, a sweet, biddable maiden with a bright, fresh face and long, streaming gold hair. Legendary in beauty she was, pure and chaste as the noble unicorn itself, and utterly pious. So pious! She had been raised in a convent, fair Selena, and had dreamed of the day when she would marry. When the summons came from her father, and the princess learned she was engaged, she had been ecstatic with joy. What princess does not dream of her handsome prince?
Her escort to my father’s kingdom had been a hundred strong. They had come safely through the Old Wood, bright banners unfurling in the warm breeze. At their head was the lovely Selena, a physical embodiment of her fair people’s virtues.
I had ridden out to meet her, intending to impress her with my princely visage. I might have been a bit shorter than the average knight, and my lustrous black locks were thinning at an alarming rate. I wore a girdle underneath my armor to enhance my masculine form and covered my cape with the finest embroidery and feathers. How could she not love me? I was her prince, her betrothed, and I would treat her like the lovely damsel she was.
She took one look at me and invoked the lord’s name in a startled oath.
How she had blushed when she gazed upon my princely visage! How shy she had been, how surprised! She had probably expected some hideous beast, and had me instead. Lucky, fortuitous woman.
Selena was positively grateful, I could tell—she dabbed at her eyes carefully when she thought I was not watching. Tears of joy, no doubt.
I remembered our meetings in the gardens of the palace, and she would clutch her crucifix and blush so prettily. I would demand a kiss (or seven) – we were betrothed after all, were we not? Yet always she would become shy, averting her face from mine and asking to hold off until our wedding. Surely I would not refuse her that, she would beg. One look into those blue eyes, and I could not.
I never did get the chance to kiss those perfect, rosy lips.
I had been out hawking that fateful morning, as was my habit. I suppose the princess had been tired of waiting for me, and had taken her ladies out on a picnic near the edge of the Old Wood. The following day was to be the day of our nuptials, and I confess I was as randy as a goat despite my bride’s blushes and constant spoutings of prayer.
Nerves, I told myself. I would try to woo her that night with jewelry. All women profess modesty and then turn into a vixen in heat if you dangle a necklace in front of them.
My pious princess had set off that morning with three of her ladies and a troupe of brightly dressed jongleurs. I had watched them go from horseback before turning and leaving for the hunting grounds. It had not been more than a few hours before a winded, sweaty rider had appeared and called for me.
“Princess Selena has been taken by the dragon, your grace.”
It was the worst of my fears.
Well, that and a fiery, painful death.
Or dismemberment…or anything involving disfigurement, really.
At any rate, I digress.
The dragon, though! To reappear after so long! Terrible.
Long had our fair land been plagued by the legend of the fierce green dragon that lived in the mountain caves just beyond the forest. I had grown up hearing stories of the brave knights that had defeated similar creatures. And now the beast had returned and stolen my fair beloved.
I raised my sword to the heavens in a noble gesture. It was a lovely sword with a gilt pommel and beautiful etchings -- you really should have seen it, quite marvelous. I resolved then and there to save my fair bride from the dragon’s claws.
If only I had not left her a virgin, this would never have happened.
I had set out the very next day, alone on my white charger, feeling very much like a hero of legend. The people cheered as I left, waving colorful banners and hosting a parade in my honor. I was off to save my princess!
Of course, saving her proved to be a little trickier than I had anticipated.
I watched from up high as the treacherous duo prepared. Selena had dressed herself in her finest silk gown, made of a dusky rose that brought the bloom out in her cheeks and clung to her figure. Really quite a stunning little thing, she was. She fluffed her hair with her hands, and sat on the couch amid the dragon’s treasure horde. The silks had been neatly folded, and the finest of the dragon’s treasures had been scattered at her feet.
She tied a few ribbons around her wrists, a decorative sort of binding that was supposed to imply captivity. Selena giggled with delight again, like a naughty child. “He’s almost here by now, Scorch. You had best be ready.”
Scorch was a pet name. She had given it to the dragon because she found his regular name too hard and too long to pronounce. And she thought ‘Scorch’ was a cute name for the scaly monster.
It made me want to puke.
What kind of lapdog was this dragon, to be fooled by a pretty face and long blonde hair?
Scorch grumbled something deep in his massive throat, and folded his wings close to his body. “Fine.”
“A red-head this time, I think. That would be most clever of you.” Selena beamed at the dragon.
No sooner were her words spoke then the dragon’s form shrank abruptly, morphing like liquid metal. The air around him shimmered and swirled, and when it returned to normal, the figure of a slight maiden stood there. She had long, curly red hair and a smattering of freckles across her dainty nose, and wore a soft velvet dress made of a dove-colored cloth. She looked helpless and charming.
Scorch-the-maiden belched brimstone. I could smell it all the way up in my perch. Revolting.
But Selena just giggled and slapped Scorch-the-maiden on the behind, as she had seen me do many, many times to the castle wenches. “Let me do the talking, this time. The last one almost got away. Now just stand there and look pretty.” She pointed to the corner and Scorch sat, a disgruntled look on ‘her’ face.
“Ho! Who goes there?”
The jingle of metal armor caused both maidens to break out in girlish trills of laughter, loud enough to carry through the labyrinth of caverns and waft onto the winds outside.
I could almost taste the confusion of the man outside, as laughter flowed from the dragon’s lair. Not what one would expect from a fierce, princess-abducting scourge of a dragon. “Hello?”
Selena cupped one of her ‘bound’ hands to her mouth and called. “In here, good sir! Please, follow the sound of my voice! My sister and I are in need of aid.”
It took several minutes of calling before their rescuer emerged from the network of caves into the dragon’s grotto. In the meantime, the ladies were busy fussing with their hair, pinching their cheeks to add color, and general primping before sliding their fake ‘bonds’ back onto their wrists.
I stayed in my hiding spot to watch the inevitable.
He appeared, a dark god in shining armor, a paragon of knighthood. Dark, tangled curls haloed his head, and his firm jaw spoke of power. Meaty arms easily carried a sword the size of Scorch-the-maiden. The knight was alert, glittering blade held high and ready. He expected a trap, and the caution in his eyes told so.
He had no idea.
The two beauties lounged in a bed of silken pillows before him. Underneath them glittered a mountain of coins, enchanting in the flickering torchlight. Dragons had no need for torch-light, of course, but I think the dragon – Scorch – kept the cavern well lit for poor Selena.
She was frightened of the dark, after all.
The torchlight played well off their delicate features, and at the sight of the handsome rescuer, Selena leapt up from her seat, making her assets bounce in a most feminine fashion.
He noticed, too. I watched his eyes immediately draw to her chest.
“Sir! Oh thank you, noble sir! You are our hero! Have you come to rescue us?” She immediately moved forward in a cloud of silk and blonde curls, pressing her body up against the knight intimately. I could almost see the blush staining his cheeks.
The knight collected himself, his sword wavering slightly in his stance as Selena crawled all over the front of his hauberk. “Where….where is the dragon?” He had a deep, husky voice, and didn’t seem overly bright. I could tell the confusion of the scenario was almost too much for him.
I pitied him. Selena would eat him alive.
“He has gone out.” Selena drew back and clasped her hands over her front in a pious gesture, the little pretender. “He has not eaten in several days, and left early this morning, leaving my sister…Scorchetta and I here alone. And lonely.”
‘Scorchetta’ took that as a key to smile a toothy grin at the knight, one that made my flesh crawl with the inhumanity of it. Couldn’t he see? Didn’t he know?
But no, it seemed the rescuer was too busy staring at Scorchetta’s ample cleavage (which seemed to have grown in the last few minutes – perhaps Scorch felt the scene needed a bit more flesh). Her bosoms were quite clearly outlined in her gown – silk is not the best fabric for modesty, after all.
I could see the puzzlement in the knight’s eyes as he cut the flimsy bonds restraining the girls. Selena took the knight by his sword arm and began to pull him forward. “We can’t thank you enough for rescuing us from that horrible dragon!” She fluttered her eyelashes at him and bit her lip. “My father will be so pleased at my return and shower you with gold and jewels and titles, sir…” A slight blush colored her cheeks and she cast her eyes down. “Good sir, I do not know your name.” She leaned over his arm, her breasts brushing against his hand.
Oooh, she was a good one.
The knight answered. “Boris the Brave, milady.” His voice was a deep bass. A confused but manly deep bass. “ From the Midlands. About the dragon…”
Selena tugged on his arm again. “The dragon will not be back for several hours yet, my sweet Boris, and we should be long gone by then.” She pressed up against him again. I could tell that she was enjoying herself, perhaps a bit too much. Boris was really an attractive hunk of meat, especially to maidenly eyes.
Scorch/Scorchetta seemed to notice this too, her dark eyes narrowing into slits. She moved forward and grabbed the knight’s other arm, giving Selena a meaningful look. But Selena only smiled sweetly at the dragon’s jealousy, and steered them further into the treasure-laden cavern. “Surely you must be thirsty after such a long, arduous journey…”
He was thirsty all right.
Thirsty for something that had nothing to do with wine, if the amount of times he stared at Selena’s cleavage was any suggestion. And so Boris the Brave allowed himself to be led to her reclining couch, underneath which I could still see a few dirty dishes, covered up by an errant swab of silk.
I longed to scream out to him, to cry out a warning…but I no longer had a voice. Selena and Scorch had seen to that.
Petted and adored, Boris reclined on Selena’s couch, staring adoringly up at her as ‘Scorchetta’ fetched a nearby goblet. It was a special goblet, encrusted with opals, and the liquid inside it was a pale, shimmering green. I recognized it well, and shifted nervously on the wall above them. I knew what was coming next.
“About the dragon,” Boris began, but was hushed by Scorchetta’s finger over his mouth. Wordlessly, she offered him the cup, watching him with hot, suggestive eyes.
Selena’s hand fluttered over to his head and began to stroke his temples. “Do not worry, my sweet prince. We will be gone before he gets back. Drink your fill and then we shall go, unless you can think of any other…diversions….” She blushed in a most becoming fashion, one hand sliding to caress the skin of her own neck in a seductive manner that shocked me. “It is very lonely here.”
That was all the encouragement that Boris needed. Stupid knights, always ruled by their codpieces. I supposed they would never learn.
His eyes riveted on Selena’s creamy flesh, he took the goblet from Juliette and drank. Both females watched him with avid eyes, as the liquid splashed and dribbled down his manly chin. The room became silent as a tomb.
The potion worked quickly. Even from my lofty perch, I could see the changes overcome him.
“About the dragon,” Boris began again, but his voice sounded odd – tinny and high pitched. One thick hand went to his throat in surprise, only to find that it was shrinking as well. His eyes glazed over, shimmering and morphing into hundreds of facets as his mouth elongated. Wings burst from his rapidly shrinking back – not leathery but paper thin, like a butterfly. Another pair of legs sprouted from his torso, and I watched in all too familiar horror as his body segmented and writhed.
Selena gave the shifting body a kick off of her couch. “Ewww!” She squealed with delight, like a child. “He’s going to drip on my bed!”
Scorchetta began to laugh, a familiar, booming laugh that seemed so out of place with her angelic face. The pretty, maidenly features elongated and stretched, and before long her mouth transformed back into the dragon’s snout. Wings unfurled from his back.
“Really, Selena,” the dragon’s voice was churlish. “Did you have to fling yourself all over him?”
She gave a shrug, dimples showing in her perfect apple cheeks. “He bought the story much faster than I would have normally thought. That was the fastest one yet, I do believe.” Selena sat on the couch and leaned over the edge. She carefully swatted the shivering, morphing body of Boris out of the way. He was now no larger than one of the coins that littered the floor.
From under the bed she pulled a gold plate, and handed it to Scorch, who had now resumed his full form as well. “Do the honors, will you, darling?”
With one long talon, the dragon scratched a tally-mark onto the plate and handed it back to Selena. The princess clapped her hands happily. “I think we are up to thirteen now. Soon we shall have to start on another plate.” Her musical laughter echoed in the chamber, wafting up to me where I lurked high above, frightened, trapped.
I was not moving until they left.
And they did soon enough. They always did. Ignoring the feeble, miniscule body of the now-transformed Boris, they swept out of the cavern in a rush of silken skirts and leathery wings, eager to see what kind of treasures the knight had left on his horse outside.
I watched Boris test out his new wings, fluttering and buzzing with a weak, stuttering sound. He’d pick it up after a few days. We all did. The crowd of flies—eleven in number, twelve if you counted Boris—returned to Selena’s plate, swooping and diving now that both residents had left the cavern and it was safe to feast once more.
I cleaned my feelers patiently, digesting all that had happened in the cave. After a long moment, I gave a mental shrug and set myself aloft in the air, deciding to join the other flies in the feast.
Boris’s arrival would just mean less food for myself, after all.