The Dragon, the Princess, and the Knight

The Dragon, the Princess, and the Knight

Pencil drawing of a sword with a rainbow overlaid on it diagonally.

August 2020 flash fiction (fantasy, nonbinary character). For the Patreon post, click here.

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Once upon a time, there lived a mage. To access the grand tome of knowledge, they had to complete three tasks set forth by the ancestors’ ancestors, which, if you asked the mage, were quite silly—join a knight’s quest, befriend a dragon, and seduce a princess. What if one wanted to seduce a knight, the mage had asked, long ago, as they studied the arts. But no answer had come, other than, “That’s how it’s done.”

The mage would have skipped the whole mess if it weren’t for the tome. The spells in there would help them with their shyness—nay, terror—when interacting with others. But then, to get there, it was required of them to talk to not one, but three creatures.

So it was probably their lucky day when, in the tavern on the road out of the city, the mage saw a knight. Swordless, inquiring of mountain passes and blacksmiths. Carefully, the mage slipped closer, listening in, and discovered the knight was on a quest to find a curse-lifting freshwater spring. With a self-satisfied stroke of brilliance, the mage rushed ahead and turned themself into a sword, right on the knight’s path.

With the knight having picked the swordmage up, one third of the gruesome challenges had been completed.

***

The knight made camp soon after dark, had a meal under the thick forest canopy, and then didn’t go to sleep. He sighed as he watched the fire crackle in the dark. Again, and again, and—

The mage had seen many peculiarities in their time, so it shouldn’t have surprised them when the knight turned into a dragon.

“What do we have here,” the dragon said, poking at the swordmage. Zir magic sung and entwined with the mage’s own. The curse was evident. “Shiny in so many ways.” Instead of picking them up, or insisting the mage show themself, ze curled up around the sword. Closed zir eyes and slept, letting a speechless—pun intended—mage to ponder.

Perhaps the second task would not be so difficult, after all, they reckoned, and increased the gleam of their blade.

***

Morning came and the swordmage woke buried under soft silks and hair. Lots and lots of hair. A hand picked them up, then, and they came face to face with what might be a princess. The whole attire looked like it, though one could judge a princess by the robes no more than one could determine a cat’s intentions by the fur.

“Oh, how pretty and sharp!”

By midday, the princess—because she was one—had mock-fought eight trees, told seven stories, and baked two loaves of bread. She was the most talkative person the mage had ever encountered, but she didn’t seem to want answers back, although she did ask the swordmage questions at times.

The mystery revealed itself when, early afternoon, the princess twirled and in her place stood the knight.

A curse onto one, the mage questioned silently, or three sharing the burden? Sadly, the knight had no magic and thus no reply came.

***

Life on the road was excellent with the new companions. In no time at all, the mage figured the knight liked having a sword because it scared others off—a sentiment direly shared. He kept the sword shiny and clean, tucked safely in the warmth of his leather sheath.

The dragon adored shiny things, and the mage never felt more cherished, especially since the dragon never expected conversation. Cuddles were more to zir liking. Besides, the mage was sure the dragon knew the true nature of the sword, but hadn’t said anything. It made them feel welcome. And when, one day, the dragon called them friend, the second task had been accomplished.

With the princess, it was action all day. Training and slicing and listening to stories. She was a storm wrapping around from all sides, filling the swordmage’s world with her jubilant spirit. Still, she never waited for answers. Never demanded anything.

It was the worst thing that the third task required seduction. Wouldn’t friendship be enough?

***

Their party of cursed creatures and shiny sword reached the spring on top of the mountain after a long journey. They got lost along the way, had to start over twice, evaded many perils, but they’d made it. The mage was rather sad.

At least until a water column grew out of the spring while the princess had her back turned, like a transparent serpent bent on maiming unsuspecting travelers.

The swordmage jumped out of the princess’ hand, standing between her and the water.

“Hmm,” it said, tilting left and right, buzzing magic speaking with the mage’s own. “I guess I could give you the water, if you fix my chess table.” The water tendril pointed itself to the side, where a cracked chess set was laid onto a tree stump. An easy request.

***

“Sword!” the princess said as the spring returned to its course, a jug left on the banks. “You’re magic! And you got us the water!”

She picked them up, held them high in the air.

“Love you so much! Thank you!”

And—

Oh.

Perhaps the task simply meant love. Affection. Perhaps someone had mistranslated the ancient words. Perhaps the tasks were malleable for each mage, suiting them differently in their quest for fulfillment. In any case, the mage felt their power grow, spreading wider than before.

They waited until the princess drank the water, watched as the knight and the dragon popped into the world, before turning away.

It was over.

“Wait,” the knight said. “Don’t go,” the dragon added. “Join us on our next adventure,” the princess urged.

“But,” the mage finally said, “I’ve deceived you.”

“Is it deceit, though,” the dragon said, “if you’ve been yourself all this time?”

The swordmage realized that, indeed, they’d been quiet and wary, but not once something they couldn’t give had been demanded of them.

“We are friends, aren’t we?” the princess asked.

The knight held out the sheath.

We are. The swordmage nodded, jumping toward comfort, the tome forgotten.

They didn’t need it anymore.

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A story for my exceptional friend Ether, the mightiest sword wielder in the queer realms.

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