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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2314867-The-Sword-and-the-Song
Rated: 13+ · Fiction · Music · #2314867
A dragon invades and two princesses rise to defend the land.
Word count: 1881.

Young Princess Nora and her older sister Robyn stood at the castle window overlooking their verdant land. Farmers tended crops down below, and away in the distance a line of tall mountains protected the kingdom of Arvelia from invaders.

Nora smiled, clapping her hands softly and skipping from one foot to the other.

"What a beautiful day for visiting St Gregory's Woods to play my harp for the deer," she said, her blue eyes shining as she pictured her pleasant afternoon under the trees.

"I can practice my swordsmanship while we're there," Robyn added. "My skills need sharpening for the tournament."

"Father was so proud when you won last year."

A shadow crossed Robyn's face as she remembered how aged and feeble their father the king was. She bowed her head.

"I pray that when my time comes to be queen, I have the strength and integrity to rule well."

"You'll be the best queen Arvelia has ever had," Nora said, squeezing her sister's hand.

Robyn flipped back her long auburn braid and began rolling it up into a neat bun, hands trembling slightly.

"I wish I had your musical gift. The way you sing hymns and play the harp can melt a heart of stone."

"Your sword is formidable," Nora reminded her. "You will be a splendid warrior and guardian of the kingdom. I could never do that."

Suddenly a flash of light appeared in the distance. A gigantic red dragon, scales glimmering in the sunlight, descended over the countryside.

Nora shrieked and grabbed onto Robyn, who held her in a tight protective hug.

The dragon breathed a blast of fiery wind, leaving a scorched trail of destruction behind as farmhouses and forests lit up in flames. It circled the castle, swooping in close enough to sink its talons into an ancient oak tree that was growing in the courtyard. The dragon flew off towards the mountain range carrying the tree away, roots and all, like a giant hawk taking branches for a nest, its wings fanning wildfires with each flap.

The sisters watched as the dragon disappeared over the horizon. Nora's face was pale, her legs shaking with terror. She had never seen anything like it before.

"What are we to do?" Her hands were sweaty as she clung to Robyn.

"I will keep you safe," Robyn whispered.

*****

Nora watched her father, King Leon, sitting at his conference table, surrounded by Arvelia's strongest and bravest young men. She and Robyn sat at his right side. He rested his weary head in his thin, tremulous hands, his grey beard dusting the table.

"Can no one step up to fight this dragon?" He asked.

The men glanced at each other. Silence hung heavy as they shuffled in their seats.

"Impossible, Your Majesty," one said. "You see the destruction it wrought in one pass. Even if all of us went up against it, our efforts would be nothing."

"I would go myself, but I am now an old man. We must either flee the land or pray for a miracle."

Nora felt her heart pounding in her throat as she glanced out the window, scanning the landscape for signs of the dragon's return. She reached for her gilded harp and felt the carvings, trying not to remember the horror she had seen, whispering a faint prayer for strength.

Robyn leaned forward, drumming her fingers on the table, green eyes flashing as she glared at the warriors.

"This is ridiculous!" She declared. "We will not allow our homeland to be plundered by this reptilian. God won't grant us a miracle if we're too weak-kneed to defend ourselves. What sort of men are you? Do you not want to protect your families?"

They hung their heads and stared at the floor. King Leon spoke up,

"Dear Robyn, it is not for lack of—"

"Oh yes it is!" Robyn shoved back her chair and leaped to her feet. "I won't allow this to happen! I shall take my sword and battle the monster myself! Then we'll see what God does."

A collective gasp ran through the room. Nora jumped up, reaching for Robyn's hand. One thought filled her mind, pushing out all other concerns.

"I'm not letting you fight a dragon alone. I don't have a sword, but I have my harp, and the Lord is on our side. I will try to soothe the dragon's spirit with sweet music, like David." Her voice quivered, but she stood tall, though a wave of dizziness swept through her head.

Shamed finally into stepping forward, a tall young man stood up. He bowed to the King and his daughters.

"Your Majesty, my name is Xavier. I would be honored to be the one who takes on and defeats the monster. I am an expert swordsman. My services are at your disposal."

"Finally, a warrior with guts." Robyn eyed Xavier narrowly, hands on her hips. "We can defeat the dragon together. If we use our brains we may not have to fight it at all."

"My lady, your life would be in danger."

"We're all in danger now. I'm not afraid to defend my country."

"What about me?" Nora said. "I want to go too."

Robyn and Xavier looked at pale, slender Nora, with her delicate hands and platinum braids.

"You can't," Robyn said firmly. "You'll be gone with one puff of dragon breath. You have no fighting skills. And do you really want to watch us killing a dragon?"

"It may not have to be killed," Nora protested. "Maybe we can send it away over the mountains. Or tame it and make it a friendly dragon."

"There are no friendly dragons," Xavier said.

"You don't know that, if they've all been killed off before anyone had a chance to see," Nora pointed out.

Xavier shrugged.

"The little princess may come along with us, if the King allows. I will ensure her safety."

King Leon shook his head.

"Impossible."

"I promise I won't get in anyone's way. I must go with my sister. We do everything together, father. You know that."

"Very well. May God protect you."

*****

Nora hung on behind Robyn on one horse along a narrow, winding trail through the woods. Xavier rode another horse ahead of them, forging the way.

"I wish you hadn't come," Robyn said. "You were terrified when it attacked. Why are you so eager now?"

Nora clutched her harp and ran her fingers across the strings, sending out lightly haunting notes that danced quickly in the air and floated away like a fine mist.

"I'm not letting you do this alone."

She couldn't think of much else to say; her determination to see it through was a little surprising even to herself. Her shoulders felt tight. It was too late to turn back. All she could do was pray and stare blankly at the path ahead.

When they reached the base of the mountain range, Xavier tied the horses to a tree.

"You watch them while we're gone," he instructed Nora. "Don't go anywhere until we're back."

"What if you lose?"

"Run!"

Nora gave her sister one last hug and then watched as Robyn and Xavier made their way slowly up the rocky ledges on foot. She leaned stiffly against a tree with a heavy sigh and stared at the makeshift campsite they had left for her.

"How can I help them down here?" She complained to the horses. "I wish I hadn't come after all. What good is it…"

She trailed off as one horse whinnied and pawed at the dirt. The other one tossed up his head, eyes rolling back to the whites. Nora came closer and patted their manes.

"Aww, are you frightened? You can tell there's a dragon nearby. I know, I'll play my harp for us. It works wonders."

Her charming music gradually soothed the skittish horses. A doe and fawn came trotting cautiously out of the woods, drawn by the delicate harpistry.

Suddenly Nora heard a tremendous rumbling, crashing and flapping, then a frantic cry for help.

She looked up and saw Xavier tumbling down the mountainside in a shower of pebbles and dirt. And flying straight towards her was the huge red dragon, puffing out clouds of smoke.

"Good heavens!"

The dragon landed yards away with a thump that shook the ground. It paused, fiery red eyes glancing from figure to figure as if deciding whether to consume the horses first, or the maiden.

Nora adjusted her harp, took a deep breath, and began to do the only thing she knew: sing and play music.

"Deus meus adiuva me…" (a Latin hymn meaning "My God, help me.")

At first she could barely get the words out, her throat was so tight with panic. She quickly lost herself in the deep concentration her instrument required.

Her pure, crystal clear voice rose in trembling notes of prayer, and her hands working the strings brought forth a pleading golden melody that echoed against the rocks. She poured her desperate heart into her song, expecting every moment to be her last yet not thinking about it in any coherent way.

Nora's singing had a profound effect on the dragon. He sat quietly, front paws resting on his belly and wings folded over his back. The smoke rising from his nostrils dwindled to a faint string. Gradually, his gleaming red scales faded into a purplish color and then paled to a shimmery ice blue.

Then, he started to shrink. He had been about the size of a winged elephant; as Nora continued to pray fervently and play her harp, the dragon grew steadily smaller until it was the size of a German Shepherd.

Nora noticed the dragon's transformation, and paused her song to take a breath. Her hands still danced upon the harp strings. The little dragon approached slowly, making a sound like a puppy. She smiled at him, and he sat beside her. His tail began to wag. Nora stopped playing her harp. She leaned over to pat his head.

When she looked up again, she saw Robyn standing close, with her sword drawn. A few feet further back, Xavier was dusting himself off and preparing his bow and arrow.

"No, don't hurt it!" Nora gasped. "Can't you see—it's no longer dangerous!"

Robyn and Xavier stared at the changed dragon, tense and on guard, until it became clear that it presented no harm. They looked at each other and then at Nora.

"Your innocent heart and profound faith accomplished what two dozen swordsmen and archers could not," Robyn said, coming closer to her sister and putting an arm across her shoulders.

"I am humbled in the presence of such a saint," Xavier added, his voice heavy with emotion. He pulled off his hat and got down on one knee.

Nora shook her head.

"Don't thank me, thank the Lord Who provided this miracle for the land."

Nora began strumming a slow hymn of praise. She realized she was too exhausted to sing anymore. But her eyes shone with a soft glow as she gazed up at the heavens, from whence came her help.

***

Nora's sacred harp adorned the castle halls for many centuries. And the blue dragon adorns the Arvelian national flag to this day.


Quill 2024 Nominee
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