The first chapter of a medieval novel with a royal romance.
As I stood in Duchess Geraldine’s burning ballroom, I was sure of one thing and one thing only. The knights surrounding me were idiots. This dragon they were attempting to fight wasn’t an ordinary dragon that you would come across while hiking through the woods. It was no horse sized, barely harmful reptile. This was a fire breathing monstrosity. And they were trying to kill it with their measly broadswords.
I pushed through the crowd of knights, clad in silver armor and wildly brandishing swords. To most they would have looked noble, fighting for their lives like that. Any of them could’ve died right then and there, all for the sake of Duchess Geraldine’s safety. But in my opinion, it was just another big inconvenience.
“It’s about to blow!” one of the men shouted suddenly. Smoke curled threateningly from the dragon’s nostrils as it prepared to send another ball of fire into the crowd. Its growls rumbled through the room, making the floor shake.
All at once the knights held up their shields as flames flew through the air. I dropped to the floor, my cheek pressed against the cool marble. I gasped as my hair barely avoided a severe singeing.
I waited another moment as the chaos continued above me. If the knights kept agitating the dragon with their poking and prodding, no one would make it out of this room alive, I was sure of it.
I got up from the ground, a plan already forming in my mind. Someone was going to have to take charge and there was only one person in this room who knew how to correctly deal with a dragon.
I strided to the nearest knight, kicked his feet out from under him, then took the sword from his hand. He barely protested, slowly processing that he was just attacked by a young woman in a lilac dress.
“Sorry about that but there are some people that need saving here.” I said smoothly, adjusting my grip on the sword and shooting the man an apologetic grin. I didn’t wait for an answer before stalking back into the sea of people and towards the dragon.
No one noticed me getting closer and closer to the commotion which made it easier to assess the situation. I didn’t see any people that were fatally injured which was a good sign but I couldn’t be totally sure. Before the dragon crashed through the wall of the ballroom nearly half an hour ago, Duchess Geraldine was hosting a celebration of sorts. The Duchess was known for her extravagance and she tended to hold parties just for the fun of it. So when the beast exploded into the room, there were plenty of civilians around to witness and get injured.
But when I arrived at the front of the crowd, I couldn’t see a single partygoer. It was all knights, fending off fireballs and sharp claws. I scanned the red faces that bulged out of the sea of metal heads and found just the man I was looking for. Probably the only one that I could trust to follow my instructions without question or hesitation.
“Captain Wayland!” I yelled over the grunts and moans of the battling knights. They barely gave me a glance which was both convenient and worrying considering I was just a lady only feet away from a fire breathing beast. Chivalry was dead, wasn’t it? I rolled my eyes as usual and shoved my way to Captain Wayland who was shouting orders and waving his blade threateningly, pushing the dragon back by mere centimeters.
“Captain Wayland,” I started, getting the man’s attention with a sharp jab to the shoulder. “What exactly do you think you’re doing?”
Wayland turned with an irritated look on his face that softened only slightly when he recognized me. I could only imagine what I looked like but I could tell it was far from “proper” or “ladylike”.
“I’m fighting this dragon, miss.” He replied with a slight pompousness in his voice. “We’ve almost got him now, I think.”
“Oh please, the only thing you’ve got is tired men and an angry reptile. You’re doing nothing but giving the beast an advantage.” I answered gesturing to the knights who were still fighting but with the energy of farm animals. Wayland surveyed his men carefully before returning his gaze to me. He had pale blue eyes, calculating and bright like a captain’s should be. I knew the moment we turned back that he knew I was right.
“What do you suppose we do, Lady Cecily?” Wayland asked, ducking as a ball of fire sailed over our heads. “How else do you defeat a dragon without sheer force?”
“It’s not about defeating the dragon, sir.” I said, gathering my skirts in one hand and gripping my sword in the other. “It’s about taming it.”
Before Wayland could stop me, I stalked away from him past the front lines of knights and into the dragon’s territory. If I had thought the creature was enormous from far away it was bigger than the room itself from where I stood now. I was an ant to the animal, nothing more than a pest to step on. I couldn’t say that I wasn’t afraid, I’m always afraid no matter what I’m fighting but like I had always been taught, fear does not block knowledge and knowledge can get you out of any situation.
“Everyone back away!” I shouted to the crowd behind me, flailing my arms at the clueless knights. There was a brief pause throughout the crowd where everyone stared at me as if I was the one breathing fire before they waved me off as if I wasn’t there at all and continued to fight the dragon. I gave a pleading look to Captain Wayland who nodded firmly before shouting orders to his men to back away.
It was time for me to work my magic. I turned toward the dragon slowly and carefully, putting my hands out to show it I didn’t have a weapon. After being at Duchess Geraldine’s estate for nearly two weeks, a dragon was not what I was expecting but it was almost a relief. Dragon were easy to take care of, it was just the chaos they caused in between.
“Hello there, dragon.” I said calmly, looking up at the beast. It had seemed to calm down a bit, keeping its fiery breath to itself and only giving me a slightly irate glare. I kept my hands in front of me and offered the beast a smile.
“These men have been unbelievably impolite to you, haven’t they?”
I heard the room behind me go silent as I spoke to the dragon as if I was asking my neighbor about the weather. The dragon cocked its head at me and its eyes said something along the lines of, “Yes, now let me eat them”.
“Now sir-or miss,” I continued, keeping my voice as level as possible. “I know you must want to eat these people up and I don’t blame you for that. If I was you I would say to hell with it! Eat the humans!” The dragon nodded enthusiastically and I heard murmurs run through the crowd.
“Lady Cecily, I don’t think…” Captain Wayland began
“But,” I continued, widening my smile as far as I could, “eating humans is against the rules of edicate for sir and lady dragons.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Wayland muttered and the crowd fidgeted once again. They were getting impatient but I knew I had plenty of time. All dragons want is a little attention and this one had the entire room wrapped around its claw.
“Yes, you heard me. I don’t suppose you’ve ever heard of the rules of edicate, they’re quite obscure. They do exist though, trust me.” I said nonchalantly. The dragon tilted its head curiously.
“The rules of edicate are for any dragon who’s anybody. I mean, I’ve never met a fine dragon like you who didn’t know of such rules. But never fear, my fair dragon because you can still save yourself from this social suicide.”
The creature grunted softly and I knew I was home free.
“All you’ve got to do is never enter this threshold again without a proper invitation. And also, you owe the Duchess Geraldine a favor for whenever she needs one.” I held my breath. “Do you think you can abide by those rules, my gentlelady?”
The dragon paused for a moment, observing the sea of humans before it. I resisted the urge to turn around and kept my eyes on the dragon as if we were the only two in the room. All of a sudden, the dragon nodded and with one swift motion launched into the air flew out the way it came. That hole in the ceiling was going to be a tough fix.
I finally faced the knights and guests that filled Duchess Geraldine’s ball room with a modestly blank face. They stared at me for a moment with look of complete awe on their faces before a round of applause shook the entire room.
“I have no idea how that worked.” Captain Wayland said, pulling his helmet off his head. “That was completely mad.”
“Cecily, darling!” Geraldine shrieked before I could answer Wayland, wrapping me into a hug that smelled like perfume and smoke. “You saved us! You saved us all!”
“Not quite yet, my lady.” I laughed, letting the old woman squeeze me. “We’ve still got to put out the fires and clean your ballroom. And also set up some wards in case any other dragons decide to break the edicate.”
“Oh of course, darling, do your thing.” Geraldine beamed. “I’ll send everyone to the parlor and I’ll be sure to have a bath run and a warm meal ready for you before you leave.”
I smiled and watched Geraldine bustle away, chatting to her guests as she passed. They all had familiar looks of great relief on their faces. Looks I had seen every time I had diverted danger or saved lives. The only problem was, I wasn’t allowed to be relieved until I never heard from my clients again.
I surveyed the damage around me. Burning drapes and loose ceiling on the floor, smoke and soot floating through the air. I probably wouldn’t be able to make the journey home for a several hours or at least until all of Geraldine’s guests went home. I sighed and allowed myself a minute of reprieve.
I loved saving lives and fighting monsters. I was good at it. I had grown up with a sense of leadership and supernatural . This is what I was supposed to be. But it was in those moments, in between saved and recovered that I wanted to walk away. Become Lady Cecily the Divine Maiden instead of Lady Cecily the Spirit Hunter. It was a useless thought, a faraway dream that wasn’t what I really wanted but what I thought I did. So, I became Lady Cecily the Dragon Slayer and began shouting orders because that’s what I did best.