The Tale of the Very Chaste Prince & Princess
Writ by yon Camryn Morlegg
In Which the Princess Sees Two Women and the Dragon is Made Happy
The princess was indeed very happy on account of her fortunate escape from the terrifying dragon. She cherished her freedom even more than ever and felt the tickle of the spring breeze on the back of her neck; and she loved the birds, and the animals, and the flowers just for growing. They were the happiest hours, those first few hours when she was happy, unafraid, and not tired at all.
Then her feet got sore.
It was terrible. And then she started missing her prince. Or at least she felt like missing her prince but when she searched deep inside herself for something to miss, she found nothing but an empty void that had only seemed to be recently unoccupied. She wanted to miss her prince. But she couldn't. She asked herself, what am I missing again? And she couldn't answer it.
She had planned this excursion to be a search mission to relocate her prince. Back in the cave, it was the only thing she could focus on to prevent herself from losing her mind. But now that she was out, it was pointless. The prince was probably miles from her and she'd probably never seem him again. She only hoped the prince was making his way in her direction right now, looking to rescue her from the foul clutches of the damnable dragon. But then it made her wonder. If he really had been searching for her, following the dragon's trail, she would already have encountered him by now. There was certainly a very unlikely chance of passing him accidentally, but nothing is an accident in fairy tales. The princess began to wonder…but as she wondered, she found herself astonishingly indifferent to the fate of that unfortunate prince. What in heavens was going on?
So she decided to wander aimlessly about the countryside, or at least she tried to. Princesses have a very difficult time of wandering aimlessly because they always have a direction, whether they like it or not. This time, the princess was following the direction of her heart.
And it led her to a port town.
The air smelled strongly of salt and fish, especially fish oil. And the sky around the harbor was crowded with white gulls and pokey masts and the waves dashed constantly upon the rocky shore where round black rocks slid from the greasy sand. And what struck the princess the most was how black the rocks were, black as a void or black as a starless night, certainly as black as –
She stopped herself. Hah. She almost thought about that horrid dragon. Oh what a nit she was. And here she was, thinking about the thing she had so nearly escaped from in the same thoughtline as a beautiful depiction of a relaxing harbor. What wit, princess, what wit.
And then she noticed a woman sitting alone on the pier, her head bent forward and her feet dragging solemnly in the water. Curious, the princess approached and as she stepped onto the dock, the boards creaked. The woman on the pier looked up suddenly, and the princess knew that she had been crying for there were tears streaked on her cheeks. The woman then burst into hearty sobs.
"Oh," exclaimed the princess, "please do not cry, for I am only a stranger passing by – but I am curious as to what sort of bad fortune has befallen you so as to generate such healthy wailing."
The sad woman sighed, hiccupped, then finished her sigh. "My tale is a very, very sad tale," said she, "and it begins, I guess, when I was born."
"Ho," said the princess, "forgive me for being rude, but I do not wish to sit for your life's tale. I understand that your life must be very," she glanced at the woman, "very sad, but you see, my curiosity is only a passing one and I'm afraid I will only allow you to tell the tale of your recent misfortune."
A tear trickled down the woman's cheek. "Very well, though I should hate to limit myself so, I shall skip to the very end of my tale…the tale which involves my unfortunate lover, Toulouse. Toulouse was a very kind, a very kind and passionate man. He was a painter. But I scorned him. I scorned him and the love he offered me. And now he is dead." The woman sniffed and breathed vigorously. "Alas!"
The princess was concerned. And a bit worried, too.
"So he loved you and you pushed him away…may I ask of what he died from? If I wouldn't be so bold in asking," the princess added hastily.
The woman rolled her teary face towards the princess, then dropped her head back between her haunched shoulders. "He died," she said. "He died…"
The princess waited, wide-eyed and half-afraid.
"He died…of ruptured bowels."
The princess gasped.
"Yes! He died horribly. And his abdomen twisted and rolled about like a snake, like a worm! He was in agony! And then he died. He died…"
The princess clutched at her heart, the other hand blocking her nose.
"…And that is what will happen to a man who is rejected by his lover…by his true love! The man can no longer continue living because his purpose, his meaning in life was…was denied to him! And I didn't know, I couldn't realize, until I had finally killed him. Oh, alas! Alack! I should be put to death because I have killed a man!"
The princess was horrified. Is this what could happen to a heartbroken man? Is this what they call dying of a broken heart? Or rather of a broken stomach?
Slowly, the princess backed away from the scene. Oh what a terrible, terrible story! Those poor, unfortunate people! And…oh no…what about herself? What would happen when the dragon found out that…that she had lied to him? Rejected him in the most foul and uncouth manner? Oh poor beast… No! What was she thinking? The dragon was a strong creature, not a feeble man. But still…the sight of the dragon in agony because of twisted bowels haunted her mind. She knew it was horrible if it was a human, but a dragon? Would flame erupt from his body and consume him like –
No. Do not think…
Suddenly a jolly-looking woman in a wide-brimmed bonnet passed her on the street. What made the princess stare was that the woman was leading a handsome ox with her. The amazing thing was was that there was no tether. That was exceedingly strange. So the princess, eager to take her mind off of depressing subjects, inquired to the woman as to why she was holding an ox.
"Why," the woman said, as she looked from under her hat at the princess as if she was silly, "this is my husband."
"Really?" said the princess, already quite interested. "And how did your husband get to be in such a way, madam? Was he enchanted?"
"No! No, no, of course not. He has always been like this, my dear, sweet, sweet ox." The woman stroked the ox's forehead. "But don't think me strange, for every night, my ox-husband transforms into a human man! He's actually a fairy ox! Isn't that nice?" And the woman carressed one of the ox's horns.
"Oh, really?" said the princess in a faint voice. "So, uh, you don't have a problem that he is, uh, a beast?"
"No, actually I do not."
"But he is a creature –"
"But I love him."
The princess stared, her heart beating quickly.
"So, how did you fall in love?"
"Well, my daddy, being a plowman, he had to work with many oxen. And suddenly, one day, an ox came up and spoke to him, and he said, 'I will make you a rich man if only you would give me your only daughter for marriage.' And that was that."
"And that's all?"
"Oh yes, aside from his being a fairy ox. Did I tell you about the fairy ox?"
"Yes, but…but…you fell in love? Even after he married you?"
"Well…I kind of fell for his charm the first time we were introduced."
The princess couldn't believe it. How could this woman be so dense? How could this woman be so shallow as to let herself fall for an animal? How could this woman be so…so…so much like her?
"Beastly suitors are like that. You see them and they just have a spell, a charm on them, and you fall for them instantly. I don't see how my lovely dear could have fallen for me, how he could have chosen me among so many. But see, just like that and they'll fall in love with you." The woman clapped her hands. "Like that."
The princess was getting jelly legs. The princess could not notice how un-princesslike she was becoming. Her instructors would be rolling around and screaming.
"And, uh, are you happy? You know, with your, um…fairy?"
The woman banged into the ox on accident. "Happy? Of course I'm happy. I love him so much and he loves me so much and we both each love each other so much that we even kiss each other in the daytime even when he has a slobbery mouth…"
"Mm," said the princess, who was beginning to frown upon detection of un-chaste behavior. "Well, I think I must leave now. I think I really must leave. I should like to get out of town perhaps. Good day!"
But the woman did not answer. She was busy with her husband who had started licking her sleeve.
So the princess was really remorseful and regretful as she left the port town. She actually began to feel guilty about leaving the dragon. She began feeling stupid like she had cheated on herself too. She had cheated herself out and had run away from a perfectly good suitor. She guessed. Well, the things she learned from those two women today. It would cement her belief in true love…true love that went all wrong. The princess sighed. And she sighed. And she threw herself on a grassy meadow and sighed some more.
This was how the dragon found the princess: stretched out in a very un-princesslike manner and sighing like a broken wind instrument, her hair all tangled up in the wildflowers and her face blotched up and muddled in a storm of confused emotions.
The dragon had actually been very angry at the princess because – although you may not have realized it – the dragon was considered very smart and smart he was, for a few minutes after he had finished writing love sonnets for the princess (eight hundred in total), he had realized he was indeed a fool who deserved in all rights what had happened to him. And then he set off in a furious frenzy to find his princess.
His rage softened upon seeing her again. His eyes of burning ember turned buttery soft upon beholding her graceful form sprawled out so organically. And then he couldn't help himself. He pranced all the rest of the way down the field, with each stride growing smaller until he had switched forms completely. And then he nestled so sweetly into her brown hair, so innocently it could be overlooked as child's play, puppy love. But the dragon did not look so young and neither did the princess anymore, so it actually appeared to be a disturbing psychotic relapse into childhood.
The princess stirred and noticed that her hair was pinned down by a warm, smoldering form. Her eyes wandered to her forehead and then she jolted, for she had seen the dragon in his glorious nudity.
"Think of it as Michelangelo," the dragon said.
"Oh, get off please. I promise I won't run away. I just don't want you…uh, I don't…" The princess was uncertain how to respond to the dragon anymore. She considered the two women while her heart beat rapidly in her chest, seemingly sinking up and down, bouncing like she had a trampoline for a stomach.
"I know how much you value your chastity, so I shall honor it too. At the very least I can do this before marriage." And he kissed her hair, pressing it into the grass with his nose. "Oh, that has just set my heart on fire. I said I would value your chastity, princess. But after marriage your chastity would no longer be noble but selfish and unreasonable. Nobody remains chaste for long," said the wicked dragon, "unless they are really, really hopeless. But you aren't hopeless. You have me and as I said, it would be very selfish to –"
"Oh, please shut up." The princess did not like the conversation at all. It was making her blush madly and it was so embarassing to be exposed like this…her redness and all…
"I think you should in fact marry me today. 'Tis your punishment for running off like that, you had me so worried. I hope for your life that you will never try that again." And here the dragon looked so scary that it was as if he was back in his true form, but he still retained a human face, which was even scarier.
The princess was desperate. She couldn't give in this fast! Sure, she might like the dragon, but that was no cause to marry him! Right? Did she in fact love the dragon after all? Was she really so confused?
"I must say that for a princess to be married, she must be married to someone of absolute importance. This means they must have rank and a proper surname. I must ask for yours."
The dragon started. He glared at the princess, then glared at the grass, glared at the trees, and finally at the sky.
"Oh, well, I am actually a…prince," the dragon lied.
"What?" the princess asked in shock. She was genuinely surprised. She sat up so quickly that she didn't realize that the dragon had let go of her hair and studied the dragon so hard that she forgot completely that he was rude naked.
"I am a prince," the dragon said faster, "and my country has been cursed by an evil wizard. So all of my subjects are now lazy lizards and I, the prince, the grandest of the grand, am the grandest lizard of all, a dragon."
The princess was surprised. Then she was shocked. And finally, she laughed out loud.
"Then why didn't you say so? Maybe if you had, I would have been more relaxed about our marriage! Oh! Ha ha! What a splendid day indeed!"
The dragon smiled coyly. "So then I can marry you now." He looked intently into the princess's eyes, fiery brown eyes against watery blue. He stared as if off in a trance, then he snapped back. "Ah," he said faintly. "We are now married."
And he kissed her crookedly on the mouth.
The princess sat frozen. Then she began heating up. She was close to boiling. "How…" she sniffed, inhaling her malicious breath. "How COULD YOU?!"
And just like that, her sixteen years of chastity went out. Like that. In a blink.
But she wasn't so nearly as devastated as she thought she was, as she hoped she would be when she used to fantasize about her future. The princess had imagined that she would lose her chastity in a big bang – first comes marriage, then comes hemorrhage. But nothing like that happened. She actually felt – she felt – some bubbly joy surface like a fickle little spring. And it was weird.
The dragon was smiling. Grinning. His sharp teeth were getting sharper and sharper. That was when the princess realized he was growing. She yelled and quickly scampered out of the way before the dragon could actually trample her. And he was growing bigger and bigger until he was the biggest dragon the princess had ever seen, which were not many, but he was certainly bigger than he was ever before.
The dragon turned his head toward the princess in that sort of frozen, dragon-grin. And suddenly that dragon head seemed less terrible than before.
He flew, gloriously flew with her in his tender grip. The princess actually took the time now to pay attention to the dragon himself. While one claw gripped her, another claw occasionally twitched and sometimes stroked her head quickly, as if abashed at what it was doing. The dragon's ribcage heaved as his lungs expanded, taking in a large gulp of air. Smoke laced his nostrils when he exhaled. The thin, yet steely strong wings pumped the air, and with each pump an explosion greater than thunder filled her ears. But his tail was the funniest and the most curious. With each updraft it wagged sideways, looped around itself. Funny, it was like a happy dog.
And then the dragon landed in a grove, a grove full of palm trees. After placing the princess carefully down, he reached up with his long neck and grabbed something from the top of a tree. He lowered his head until it was level with the ground and the princess caught a round, hard, and hairy object in her arms.
The dragon smiled…or grinned rather, with those dangerous teeth and all. He took it back from the princess and cracked it in his jaws, the milk spilling out of his mouth.
"You wanted coconut cakes, right? Here they are…or rather, here's the finest ingredients you'll ever see."
And it was touchingly romantic, and the princess was greatly moved by her dragon mate, when she turned around and grabbed the crushed coconut from the dragon's mouth.
"I don't care about cakes; we'll just have the coconuts…It's all we'll ever really need." And she found a seed a shot it into the air.
The dragon shrank into his more agreeable human shape and shared the coconuts with the princess, all the while sending seeds rocketing into the air, where they aimed to touch the top of the trees, the distant brook. And they were happy and the princess was content to let the dragon give her a kiss and a hug and maybe even something a little more. But they would move slowly. Maybe a bit too slow for the dragon, but the princess tried very hard. She really tried to keep up and the dragon encouraged her all the way.
They bought the coconut grove eventually – a standard sum of five million ducats, nothing the dragon couldn't cough up from his little horde. And then the king was rich again but the prince still had to work for him, since seven years were definitely not up, and the king was a clever business man.
And so the dragon who was secretly a prince and the princess who was secretly not chaste lived very happily ever after. For they had many dragon children and their family grew quite large, so even when the princess grew old and the dragon's fire burned lower, there were many children to look after them and take care of them, and that is how this story ends.
The End (at last)