The Dragon and the Curse of the Glittering Tower

The Dragon and the Curse of the Glittering Tower

Digital color drawing of a tower in a forest with mountains and sun in the distance.

June 2020 flash fiction (fantasy, aromantic, asexual). For the Patreon post, click here.

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Once upon a time, a princess lived in a tower. Far and wide, all the land knew that a terrible, horrible curse had been cast over the tower and its lone princess, trapping her there for eternity. The construction stood tall, above the tops of trees, its purple roof glittering in sunshine and moonlight just the same.

As it was, it had caught the attention of the dragon living in the distant mountains. They spent many mornings staring out the mouth of their lair, a cup of hot tea clasped tightly in their scaled claw, watching the tower. Admiration and loathing warred within the dragon, the mere thought of being caged terrifying. The sparkling, however, like a jewel in a sea of leaves, called to them. That must’ve been how the princess got trapped, the dragon surmised, and they decided they’d lift the curse. Defeat whatever had imprisoned the princess.

Feeling valiant, the dragon packed their favorite mug and box of teas before leaving the cave that had been their dwelling recently. A meager hoard, but easy to carry as the dragon traveled high and low.

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The tower had no door, nor windows close to the ground, but that wasn’t an obstacle for a dragon. Flying in through the topmost balcony, the dragon found themself face to face with the princess.

“Don’t tell me,” she said, arms crossed and foot tapping against the floor. “You’re here to kidnap me, or you’re here to rescue me. Since I need neither, please go away.”

The dragon didn’t agree, not at first. It could’ve been a spell, after all, influencing the princess. Their lengthy argument ran well into the night, but with the light of dawn, the dragon felt finally satisfied that the princess was not living in the tower against her will. They asked her, “Why?”

“Because,” she said, “some curses are choices. It’s a matter of perspective.”

The dragon turned to fly off, only to run into an invisible wall.

***

They were stuck inside the tower. Every morning, they’d try to leave, before giving up with a sigh. They’d have their tea up on the balcony, watching the distant mountains pink with the sunrise.

The princess wasn’t keen on conversation, and neither was the dragon. The days were spent in silence, as the princess read and the dragon yearned for flight. But then, when boredom emerged victorious, the dragon turned their attention to the many books lining the walls of the suspended floors of the tower. Arranged by adventure, no less. As far as the dragon could tell, the tower was large enough on the inside to allow for their roaming, but not enough that the habitable parts reached the ground. The lowest level was surrounded by the thick canopy, providing cool shade and soothing chirping, and that was where the dragon ended up passing most of their time. With a book and a cup of tea. The stories were more interesting than talking to the princess, anyway.

Slowly but steadily, the dragon found themself more and more relaxed. There, in the glittering tower, no scorn was thrown their way for not having a proper hoard. No knights came rushing in to earn fame by liberating riches. The walls didn’t become suffocating after a while, unlike the many caves the dragon had lived in before. Most importantly, no one pressured them to find a mate, spawn hatchlings, build a nest. It would’ve been, if not for the curse, perfect.

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“Books! Books for sale!”

At the sounds of the voice from below, the princess ran to the balcony. “The merchant is back,” she said, glee in her voice. “Come on, let’s see what’s new.” And then—

She jumped over the railing.

The dragon felt their heart stutter at the sight and, without a second thought, dove after her. The princess, however, landed smoothly on the grass, waving at the visitor.

Bewildered at being outside, the dragon barely managed to pick up one book before the cart squeaked off into the forest.

Back in the tower, the princess patted their claw. “Don’t worry, you can buy more next time.”

The dragon froze. Next time meant they’d still be there. It meant they’d choose to remain, now that they were no longer trapped. It was a wholly appealing thought.

“Did we break the curse?” they asked.

“No,” said the princess. “The curse was yours alone. Now that you’ve accepted yourself, you’re free.”

“I see.”

They’d accepted, the dragon realized, that they didn’t have to feel guilty for living their life to their liking. That they wanted different things. That a box of teas, a silent companion, and stories were better a hoard than other riches. That nests and hatchlings were other dragons’ purpose, simply not theirs.

“Um, I can stay, right?”

The princess smiled, and turned on the kettle. “Of course.”

With a smile of their own, the dragon made their way to their pillow pile and leaned back with the new book. Perhaps they’d go for a flight later, round the forest and then back to their glittering home.

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An aro-ace story for my excellent friend Minerva, the purplest dragon to ever dragon. 

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