Sweet Unicorn

Chapter One

It is the most beautiful night I had ever had the fortune to savour, this night that I now enjoy, flying high above the outstretched land beneath me. I spread my wings and stretch my legs, soaring higher and higher into the sky. The moonlight casts it's spell over me once again as it pushes free of the darkened clouds, her gentle hand lighting my way. I can feel the cool night air wrapping her arms around me, enveloping me in her tenderness. I open my mouth to take a breath, to let her invade me and give me the air I need in my lungs to continue this magical journey. As I glide, free of my earthly being, I happen to glance down and see a heavenly, glistening waterfall, the calm, still water gently flowing over its rocky edge and down through the river below it. And as I descend to gaze more closley upon it's beauty, I am drawn into it, tasting the crystal clear water on my tongue from the mere vision of it. I look about myself, swooping down for a closer inspection of its surroundings. Seeing no apparent danger in sight, I slowly descend, hesitantly bringing myself to rest at the small pool at the bottom of the waterfall. The water from above falls and sprays gently over me, sending welcome shivers through me as I look about me once again. I bring my wings to rest against my sides, moving closer to the water's edge. The darkness around me is comforting and I bend my head down to drink of the cool water. When I have had my fill, I look up once again, across the calm water and into the waterfall. It is then that I see his shadow. I jump back from the water's edge, shaken and startled by the sight of him. I feel my whole body begin to shake from the inside out at the thought of not having seen him there before as he gazed upon me. I step back into the forgiving shadows behind me and turn my head to the sky. My wings are still slightly damp from the spray of the waterfall and I ruffle them gently, desperate to flee into the comforting sky above. It is then that he shifts loudly inside his cave. I want to flee, to take my eyes from him but I find that I cannot. For I have never seen such a creature before. I stay a safe distance and peak over at him, his hard, strong body moving with unimaginable grace as he pokes his head out from under the waterfall, turning his scaly face upwards to let the water flow over his horned head and down into his mouth. I tentatively take a step forward, one front foot and then the other, wanting to see his whole form but he keeps it hidden. And as my eyes return to look at his face, I feel his stare. He is looking straight at me, capturing my eyes with his. They are an unusual colour probably best decribed as amber, the colour of honey. I feel myself drawn to him as I had been the waterfall and wonder if it was he that I had been drawn to from the beginning. I stare back at him, my eyes wondering over his form again and I feel his eyes moving over mine. I wonder if he has ever seen my kind before as I had never laid eyes on his. He moves his head out a little further, out of the stream of water. I feel a smile but I know that he cannot see it in my present form. I want to open my mouth, to converse with him but I am unable to. For in this form, I have no voice. It is then that I hear it and he hears it too. I turn my head, taking my eyes reluctantly from his to listen more carefully. Footsteps. Careful footsteps but none the less, the footsteps of man moving closer.

Chapter Two

There are many of them, too many to count. I turn my head back, my expression now panicked and it rises in me further when I do not see him there. Where did he go and how was he so quiet in his quick exit? I turn and run, my four legs carrying me quickly into a gallop before I find my wings again and open them wide to let the wind carry me away to safety. I feel the wind under me and I try to lift myself higher but I feel something around my neck and as I turn to face it, I see two men, holding tight to a rope that now hangs loosley around my neck. They take up the slack and I feel myself being pulled back. I fight them, my head thrown back, my legs flayling helplessly but it is no use. I wasn't careful enough and now I will be punished. I gaze down upon them, sorrow in my eyes and they stare back at me. What a sight I must be to them. My slender yet strong body glowing blue in the moonlight as it radiates from my white coat. My hooves, the colour of forgotten treasures, almost sparkeling in their eyes and my saddened crystal blue eyes staring back, reflecting the same colour as the stars. I know what they want from me. My beautiful golden horn. It begins between my ears and points upward towards the sky, a reminder to all that I am unique. And my wings, flapping back and forth in vain as they pull me closer and closer. I feel the earth under my hooves again and that is when I notice the sudden fear in their eyes. They turn their faces to the sky, a horrified look as they loosen their grip on my restraint. I can feel the slack and begin to pull harder against them but they still have me. And then I see him too. I feel the wind part as he descends from the sky, his dark shadow moving gracefully above me. I look up as he swoops from the sky, a sudden burst of fire forcing me to close my eyes and then I am free. The rope is severed and I climb, gathering all my strength and fleeing to the stars. I dare not look back but my curiosity gets the better of me and I stop and turn my head. He stands on his hind legs, his scaley, much larger wings outstretched as he roars, sending the men fleeing for their lives. I tentatively bat the air against my wings, keeping myself from the ground but no longer in flight. I watch him as he falls back onto his front feet and bows his head gently. I feel the earth move slightly as he begins to make his way forth, back to the waterfall and the safety of the cave within. I look upwards to the stars, my mind telling me to flee. But how can I leave this place tonight without a word of thanks? For he has saved my life this night and I will not flee without expressing my gratitude. I stretch my wings again and float on the calm air, watching my shadow cast on the ground by the moonlight as it catches up to him. He stops as I fly over him and he looks up at me, his beautiful amber eyes shimmering. I notice his tears and my heart sinks. Why does he cry?

Chapter Three

I fly over the water and come to rest on the other side of the stream. My wings again rest at my sides as I turn to see him standing on the other side. He is looking at me. Staring silently. I open my mouth before remembering and then I wonder if I should show him. If I should show him the real me. In order to thank him properly, I know I must but at what risk? But he has saved my life and therefore, I will risk it again to show him how grateful I am. I outstretch my wings and lift my front hooves off the ground as I lift my face to the sky. I summon my earthly cloak back to me and within the radient light that pours over me from above, I transform into my most vulnerable form. I feel my golden hair fall over my slender back as I lift my hands and open my eyes to see them again in human form. I smile and feel it at the corners of my mouth. I open my lips gently and feel the air rush forth from my lungs as my warm breath penetrates the now cooler air that surrounds me. I lift my head and look back across the water to find him still staring at me, not even a glimmer of surprise in his eyes. And if I'm not mistaken, I could swear I can see an approving smile just edging it's way up from the corners of his dragon lips.
'How wrong was I.' He says simply, his voice deep and yet soothing. Although I do not speak of my confusion, he answers my unasked question. 'For I never thought I would gaze upon such beauty again as I had earlier tonight. And there you are, standing before me, proving me wrong in all your wonderous glory.' I feel my cheeks become flushed and I smile shyly.
'Thankyou'. I hear the word and remember my voice. I smile to hear it again. 'Thankyou, for your sweet words of now and moreso for your courageous act of before. For without you to have saved me, I might not stand before you now in any form'. I smile across the water at him and as he shifts his large body onto it's side to rest, I again notice the tears still present on his hard scaly face. 'Forgive me gentle dragon, but I must ask of you. Why do you cry?'
I watch him as he moves his tail around and rests it against him, his eyes now down-turned as if attempting to hide the tears that I speak of. I open my mouth to speak, my heart aching to say comforting words and reassure him, but he finds his own.
'I watched you as you flew high above, your shadow dancing on the water and I was mezmerised by you. Never had I gazed upon such beauty. I dared to watch you rest your tired wings and drink from the stream that flows from beneath my waterfall hideaway and I must apologise for starteling you when you noticed me.' He pauses as I shake my head slightly. There was nothing to forgive. He lifts his head again and I find myself lost in hs beautiful eyes. 'I was afraid that I would scare you away if I came out of the darqened shadows but I had to see you without the wall of water disfiguring your perfectness. And I was thankful when you didn't run away from me.' I smile back at him as he continues, taking a step forward and kneeling down beside the stream to run my hands through it gently. 'And when the men came, I withdrew. I hid my face from them, but I couldn't leave you. I knew they would capture you and do unspeakable things and I knew that I wasn't about to let that happen'.
'But where did you go?' I say quickly. 'I looked away for but a moment and you were gone'. And there it is. The smile I knew I had seen earlier lighting up his face brilliantly.
'I too have my secrets fair madien. Secrets that I would only share with the likes of yourself...but maybe at another time'. I smile back at him, wishing that I had allowed myself to come to rest on the same side of the stream as him. For now there is too much space between us.
'But why do you cry? And why do you hide your tears from me?' To this he answers in a softer tone of voice, his head bowed once again.
'I cry because I fear the wraith that my actions will incure. I have remained a mystery for many centuries and now they know that I am here. Please understand that I do not regret having acted as I did for I have gained a friend through that act, but now I know I must flee and find myself a new hideaway, before they come again ten fold to find and destroy me'. As the words left his lips, my heart sunk back into my chest, having been in my throat for so long. He had saved my life and in doing so, I had endanged his. I feel tears begin to well in my own eyes as I turn away from him, too ashamed at my own stupidity. I should have been more aware. More careful. And now I had let them find him as I had. But they would be back to kill him. To seek out my new found friend and butcher him in their quest for fortune and glory. I turn back to face him, letting him see the desperate sorrow in my eyes, an attempt at an apology where mere words seem inadquate. But I speak them anyway.
'Oh dear friend, I cannot express how sorry I am for allowing this to happen. I should have never rested here, instead, I should have kept myself safe and travelled on, resting only when I returned home'.
'But if you had not rested here fair maiden, we may never have met. And for this, I am grateful. I cannot dare blame you for this. It was inevitable that I would one day be found out and need to move on. For this night, I have found a friend'. My heart jumps back into my throat and I smile across the water at him again. My mind begins to race, trying to conjure up ways to help him. To try and find a new hiding place for him where he will be safe and out of harm's way. I remember a forest from years long past. I remember the large rocky outcrop on the far side, well away from anyone or anything. The memory of it begins to flow more freely and I can see the cave, the cave where I used to flee to as a child, far away from my heavy-handed father and his forever-nagging mistress. It is as I remember now only accessable from the ocean, having to dive down and under the large rock that juts out into the water, carefully disguising it where the forest ends and the vast expanse that is the ocean begins. And further in, a darkened cave, just big enough as it happens for my new dragon friend. My enthusiasm comes out in such a rush of words that he barely understands them and begins to laugh. I attempt to run to him but end up waist high in water and he laughs even louder.
'All you need do is ask'. He says simply and extends his tail across the water to rest just short of me. I wade further out and grab on tentively, moving myself up to sit resting my back on the arrowhead figure that finishes off his tail. He picks me up gently and carries me to the other side, setting me down in front of him. 'Now what was that you were attempting to say?' he says sweetly. I begin to tell him again but this time, I am sure to say it more slowly.
'I know of a place that you can flee to. A place where no one will find you'. His reaction is not one that I was expecting. The smile that was evident disappears and he bows his head. 'What is wrong?' I ask of him. 'Do you not trust me to keep you safe?' He rears his head and I look into his eyes again.
'It is not you that I do not trust. I cannot ask of you to keep such a secret. The secret of me. For if anyone were to find out that you know where I am, they will surley punish you for not disclosing my whereabouts'.
'I do not care for the consequences of such actions. I only know that I care for you dear friend and, seeing as it was I that has incured this need to flee, I would desperately like to show you the place of which I speak. If you find that it is not suitable, then we should say our goodbyes and forget each other for saftey's sake. But if you find that you can happily reside in such place, then I would be more than willing to keep our secret. The secret of you'. I reach out a hand and touch his leatherly skin, letting it rest there gently in an attempt to let him know that I will never devuldge such a secret to anyone. He lifts his claw and covers my hand gently. I look up at him and smile.
'Take me there'.

Chapter Four

As beautiful as the night had seemed when I set out on my journey an age ago, I find that it is even more magical than I had first invisioned. I hold on tight to the back of my new friend and, as I slip my arms around his neck, feeling the air rush forth with each thrust of his powerful wings, I realised that I knew not of my new friend's name. As I lean my head down and rest it on his long neck, I am amazed at his grace for such a large creature. It is as though we are but floating through the air and the only thing that reminds me that he is in fact the carriage by which we travel is when his large, fully expanded wings come almost together above me and then swoop down over his sides. The sound of the air being pushed aside fills my ears and I find myself with my eyes closed, my heart beating in unison with each thrust downward. The cool air dances on my naked skin, sending soft shivers through me. I dare to open them again at the risk of finding myself alone in my bed, only dreaming of such a wonderful moment. But as I do, I look out ahead of me and he turns his head slightly, glancing at me for a moment, making sure that I am okay before turning his attentions back ahead of us. I have told him the way to the place of which I dream will be his new home and he takes us there. Although he has never been there, I only need tell him once of the forest at the edge of the world and he knows of where I speak. And now as we approach it, I dare to lean over and gaze down upon it from above. For I have only seen it from the inside and the vastness of it scares me for a moment but then my heart feels happy again. For in being so vast, my new friend will be well hidden and safe from those that seek his hide. I breathe in deeply and can smell the ocean. I feel him begin to slow as we reach the outer edge of the forest where the cliffs begin. He swoops down over the ocean, playfully dipping the furthest tip of his wing into the water before ascending again. The moon is low in the sky and I fear that dawn shall soon uncloak us, unveiling us to the daylight and possible detection. I navigate him to the cliff top under which my secret hideaway lies. I let him rest and show him where it will be safe to rest again before we venture under water.
'Underwater?' he says suddenly. 'We have to go underwater?' I smile and giggle a little, realising that I have neglected to tell him of that one small, yet crucial detail.
'You can swim can you not?' I say rather playfully. He looks at me and smiles that dragon smile of his.
'Of course I can swim...but I am afraid I cannot hold my breath for very long'.
'It's only a little ways' I tell him and giggle reassuringly as he looks at me once and then again before shaking his head and letting himself drop, spreading his wings out to catch us until we are at the water's edge. He comes to rest rather uncomfortably on the small rocky edge of the outcrop that seems to just drop away and disappear, fathoms down into the ocean. But I know better of it.
'I'll go first and see how high the water now sits in the cavern. I must admit, it has been a while since I visited here.' He nods his approval, extending his long neck out over the water to try and take a closer look as I hold my nose and drop into the water. The sharp coldness of the ocean bites at me, threatening to consume me whole but I hold my breath and swim down, reaching a hand down to follow the path of the rock above. As I move further down, I can feel where it falls away and I grab hold of the edge and drag myself underneath, swimming until I think I have no air left in my lungs before I see the lighter colour of the water open up above me. I kick my legs hard and finally reach the surface, taking in a deep breath and moving a hand to my face to clear my blury eyes. As I begin to focus, I can see that it is just the same as it was when I was a child. The water level hasn't risen very far at all. In fact, I begin to wonder if it has actually dropped a little. I smile to myself, knowing that this will be perfect. I take a few deep breaths and dive back under the water, following the path I had taken on the way down and come up on the other side to meet him. A smile replaces what I percieve to be a nervous expression as I climb out of the water, his tail offered freely again to help me out.
'How does it look?' he asks as I ring some of the water out of my soaked hair before remembering I will be going back in and abandon the idea. My smile says it all.
'You will love it. Trust me. It's absolutely perfect'. I see the happiness eveident in his eyes as he leans down and brushes the side of his face against mine. I reach up and hold it there for a moment before pulling back and taking one of his long claws into my hand.
'Ready?' He looks sidewards at me and takes a deep breath as we both drop into the water.

Chapter Five

The cold isn't as intense this time and I keep a firm hand on his claw as I show him the way. I take him down deeper, taking into account his large body and then bring him up on the other side semmingly more easily than when I had been alone as he pushes me gently ahead of him. I take a quick breath of air when I reach the surface and turn to see his horns break through the water first as the rest of his head follows. He shakes his head slightly before opening his eyes to look about him. I tread water, staying by his side as I wait for him to speak. A snuff of air escapes his nostrils, and he extends his long neck up and out of the water. I begin to swim to the edge of the cavern, making sure to keep a hold of him even now in the seclusion of the cave. He follows behind me, turning his head from side to side to survey his new home. When I reach the water's edge, I pull myself out and sit facing him still in the water, his head resting beside me. He hasn't spoken of his first impressions and I feel that I dare not ask for fear that he will not like what he sees. But I swallow my nervousness and ask him anyway.
'So? What do you think? Could you call this home?' Another snuff of air escapes his nostrils before he reaches his claws up and begins to pull himself out. His wings, flat against his body as he swam now extend out fully as he finally manages to pull himself completely out of the water and stand on solid ground again. He turns his long neck around to face me as his tail moves to rest in my lap.
'I'm not too comfortable with the swimming part of it.' He says softly. 'But I do believe this is just right for me'. I smile excitedly and hug his tail, happy that I have found him a new hideaway after putting his last one in jeapordy.
'But at some point, I will need to return to my abandoned waterfall, to gather the things left behind in wake of our hurried escape'.
'Of course,' I smile. 'We will return there tomorrow eve when the moonlight will disguise and guide us back to your waterfall'. He smiles down at me thankfully and I let go of his tail as he begins to move about his new home and remember my own. I stand up and walk over to him, standing beside him until he cranes his neck down to me.
'Thankyou for finding me a new home'. He says sweetly. I lift both hands to his nose and leave a small kiss there.
'There's no need to thank me. It was I that allowed you to be discovered and now I am making up for that. But for now I must leave you for the dawn approaches quickly and I must return home'. He leans his head against my hand and closes his eyes briefly. I know that there is a silent offer to take me home but I do not address it. Instead, I kiss him gently again and turn back to the water's edge. I can feel his eyes following me as I wade in a ways and carefully find the fallaway with my toes. I turn back to him, the sorrow of leaving evident in my eyes. We exchange a knowing glance and then I am gone, the water enveloping me again as I swim out of the cavern and into the deep ocean.

Chapter Six

On arriving home, I find the castle quiet, the sun having already arisen bringing with it the extra risk of being detected. I hurridly find my way to the trellis beneath my bedroom window and begin my ascent quickly, knowing that my father and his mistress will not be far off waking. And if they should find me returning at such an hour, I do not care to think of what the consequences of such actions may hold. I reach the ledge and use my limited strength to pull myself up and over, parting the laced curtains and letting the warmth of the my bedroom envelope my still naked body. I smile to think that I have been so comfortable in my nakedness. For only now do I feel the need to dress, to cover myself in clothes and lay down to rest my tired body in the hope of sleep. I look about me and find the sleeping atire that I had been dressed in laying in a crumpled heap below the window where it lay after I had made my hasty exit. I smile again and turn back to my window as I throw it over my head and let it fall loosley over my slender form. I take a few steps back towards the window and stare out into the new morning. What a night it had been. Only hours ago, I had felt the need to escape. To flee from all that I felt held me captive. To disappear and never allow myself to be found. But in attempting to lose myself, I have found a part of me that I had thought had been lost an age ago. In the company of my new friend, I remembered what it was to give and receive kindness. My heart had become stone, imprisoned within these walls for far too long. I almost cringe at the thought of not having left, of having given in to my fear and not venturing out what seems like only moments ago. I look out across the vast extent of my father's land but I cannot see far enough out to where my friend lay in wait, for when next we meet. I close my eyes and bury an image of him in my subconscious. I take in a deep breath of new day's air and then close the window before moving to my bed. I climb under the covers and bring them up around my neck. I think of my dragon friend and smile again. For I have him well hidden and that is how he will stay. My secret friend, warm and safe in his new home and warm and safe forever in my heart.

Chapter Seven

It is only maybe an hour later that I hear the disgruntled footsteps of my approaching father for I have not rested enough to find deep sleep. I pull the covers further up and over my head to hide myself as my maid of the house knocks quickly. I bite at my bottom lip, desperate to stay warm and snug in my bed instead of having to face the day, the sun being but a prisoner too when locked within these walls. I hear the latch click over and enter the room, a sigh escaping her lips at finding me still in bed.
'Miss Kiera' she says almost inaudibly. She steps closer and I feel her gentle caring hand on my shoulder. 'Miss Kiera, your father requests that he speak to you urgently. You must awaken and change for he is but a moment away'. I pull the covers down quickly to let her know that I am in fact awake and plead to her, without the need of words to leave me be. To tell my father that I am not well or alseep or what ever it is she feels will persuade him to leave me alone. But she looks at me with panicked eyes. Something has happened or is about to happen and she fears his wraith if I do not rise and dress appropriately. Knowing all too well of my father's misdirected temper, I grunt disapprovingly but oblige her, throwing off my comforting blankets and stepping out of bed. She brings me a dress to change into as I hear him closer. I change quickly and have just pulled the garment down around my legs when he enters, bursting in without even a hint of desency.
'Kiera' he says rather angrily. He glances at the bed and then sees me standing by the window. His eyes fix with mine as I bow my head slightly. 'Kiera, I will be away for the day and possibly into the night on urgent business. Under no circumstances are you to leave the castle. Do you understand?' I stare back at him, dumfounded.
'What do you mean I cannot leave? And where is it that you leave to?' He stares back at me, his stern face never wavering.
'It does not concern you child. I repeat, you are not to leave this castle until I return.' A look of disgust moves onto my face and I see his disapprovement.
'Yes father'. I force through gritted teeth rather unconvincingly. He nods in my maid's direction and turns to leave, closing the door hard behind him. Both my maid and myself exhale for the first time since he entered the room. She looks at me with saddened eyes, much the way they have been since the day my mother passed away.
'You shouldn't answer him back, Kiera. You know he has a bad temper'. I take a deep breath and move back to my bed, sitting on the edge as my maid gathers my essentials for my impending shower.
'What is it I wonder that takes him away so urgently?' I say outloud, more to myself than anyone else. I turn to look at my maid and she looks away quickly.
'You know something...I can see in your eyes that you do' I stand and move towards her. 'You must tell me maid, tell me of what it is that has my father so stern this morn'. She stops fusing with my towels and turns to face me
'Many men returned at midnight, their faces pale with shock, telling of a dragon that they had encounted on the outskirts of your father's land'. My heart skips a beat and then completely stops for a matter of seconds. They are mounting an attack. I take a quick breath and feel my heart begin again as a smile edges it's way onto my face. I feel a giggle leave my lips as I turn back and resume my poistion on my bed again. My maid notices as she does everything and asks what it is that I am smiling about. I sigh and gaze knowingly out the window.
'Today will be a wonderful day my maid,' I say to her, keeping the turth well hidden. 'For with my father away, the day can only begin to get better'.
'You should not say such things Kiera. Although he may not be able to show it as he once could, he does love you very deeply'. I throw her a look, the look of mixed understanding and disbelief.
'I know of the love you speak of my maid, but it has been so long in its free exchange that I am beginning to think it has faded beyond the point of return'. She moves to stand before me, placing the towels amongst other things beside me. She takes both my hands in hers at feeling the saddness in my voice.
'Then, my dear, you must hold fast to the memory of such a love that was given so freely at one time until the day that it does return as I hope and pray that it will'. I find a small smile to thank her for her concern and as it forms, the kindness in her eyes reminds me once again of my new friend.
'Can I ask of you a favor my maid?' The tone in my voice making it plainly obvious that it is something she may regret approving of. 'I need to leave this castle today...now for I have my own business I need to attend to'.
'But Kiera, your father...' she begins as I knew she would.
'But my maid I need to attend to something of urgency and my father would not hear of it when he was here before. I would not ask of you to keep such a dreaded secret if it were not of the utmost importance'. She looks into my eyes, seeing the desperation there and holds my hands more firmly in hers.
'Then you leave here now and return before the sunset. And if your father returneth before I see you again, I will deny any knowledge of your disappearence. For although I love you as my own child, Kiera, I will not take lightly to having your father's anger directed at me'. I smile at her and stand quickly, leaning forward to kiss her cheek thankfully.
'I will return post-haste my maid ensuring that my father will not know that I have left at all this day'. She smiles at me her caring smile and watches me as I move to my window and climb up onto the sill. I turn back to her, a thankful look and climb down carefully. For I must visit my dragon friend and tell him of the pending attack, to tell him to keep himself well hidden until the evening comes to cloak us in her darkness. And it is then that we will return to collect his belongings from his abandoned home.

Chapter Eight

When I surface within the cavern, the swim being even easier than last I remember, I look about and am unable to see my dragon. I swim carefully, looking about me, panic beginning to grow inside me. Has he ventured out on such a pereliss day? For if he knew of the danger he would surley not have left here. I find the water's edge and climb out carefully, being sure to be more aware than I had been the night before. I walk around the cavern, not daring to call to him in case danger is in fact present but I do not see him. I climb up onto a rocky ledge and move further inside, my eyes adjusting quickly to the darqness that now envelops me. It is then that I realise how far back into the forest that the cave extends. As a child, it had seemed so much smaller. Mainly because I had always stayed close to the water, fearful that someone might be within the darqness waiting for me. I smile to myself to think of my fears and then wider as I remember the times I had spent here as a child. My father had often asked where it was I could disappear to, where none of his men that he sent to search for me could ever find me. This had been my secret mine alone. And now I share it with only one other. Now it is our secret. I venture further in and it is then that I hear him moving about. I see his gentle figure moving towards me as his voice echoes from within.
'You have returned young Kiera'. I smile and then realise that he has spoken my name. I look at him inquizitively.
'You know my name?' I say rather cautiously and he picks up on it.
'There is no need to worry young princess. I knew of who you were long before you showed me your true self only hours ago. You know by now that I mean you no harm'. I smile sheepishly.
'I know that dear dragon. I was just taken a little aback that you knew of who I was. But then again, I suppose being the daughter and future heir of this land makes me very well known if not openly'. He smiles broadly.
'One of such beauty will always be spoken highly of'. I smile back at him and turn to move back to the light.
'I have some news for you, something that I must tell...' I feel his claw as he places it gently on my shoulder. I stop mid sentence and turn back to face him. 'We have plenty of time to converse and I will hear of your news all in good time but for now, I have something to show you'. He stares down at me and when he is sure that I will follow, he turns and begins to venture back from where he had come. I follow close behind, making sure not to slip on the mossy rocks that seem to become steeper and steeper as we go, the cave winding a tunnel further and further into the forest. 'How wrong was I?' I think to myself and smile for I cannot see anything now, only his clawed paw directly in front of me, holding my hand as he guides me until I see a ray of sunlight cast through the rocks from up ahead. Now he has me curious. What is this that he has found? Another waterfall? I follow him as the light from ahead begins to light my way and soon he turns back and allows me to walk under his tail and ahead of him, the sunlight now so bright that it warms my skin. He guides me and I turn to my left as the cave opens up in front of me. It is not quite a waterfall but a still pond, surrounded by tall trees and small shrubs alike. I can hear the birds high up in the tree, singing their beautiful songs, the frogs who make this pond their home, croaking in unison and I turn back to look at him as he sits watching for my reaction.
'When did you find this place?' He smiles at me gently and moves further out of the cave to rest himself in the warmth of the sunlight.
'When I awoke this morning, I decided to see just how much room I had to move about in and the further I walked, the further it went until I finally came across this pond'. I move back towards him and take a seat next to him on the mossy rocks that surround us. The trees are tall and dense, the underbrush untouched. I truly have found him a secret hideaway and he has found himself a more convienient way to enter into his new home.
'No more swimming'. I smile and he laughs loudly.
'That my dear was my first thought upon gazing on this beautiful oasis'. He swishes his tail playfully in front of me. 'I thought that maybe we could travel overhead at dusk and survey the area while on my way to collect my belongings, see where this dense forest does in fact finish and the open land begins'. A grave look comes over my face as I remember my news.
'We may or may not be able to travel back tonight, dear Dragon. For my father has called upon all of his very best men to try and hunt you down. The first place they will look is where they found you last night'. He looks at me sorrowfully and then his expression changes to that of desperation.
'We must return now then...for all my spell books and potions and writings...they will be found and lost to me forever. The men cannot find them...we must go and now!'
'But we cannot!' I plead with him. 'For they will find you...they will find us...we will attempt to return later tonight when night falls...but it would be pointless to go now for if they find you, they will surley kill you...'
'But those spells can cause harm if not performed in the correct way. My heart could not bare to know that I may be, even though indirectly, responsible for any loss of life due to my knowledge...'
'Then they will have to find out for themselves. For now, we must stay hidden below the tree line and wait until the evening comes. Then, dear Dragon, I promise to take you back and gather your treasured belongings'. He looks down at me, his expression of desperation changing to that of understanding.
'You are right, Kiera, I know you are. But you must understand that everything I own has been left behind and could be lost to me forever.' I smile at him a caring smile and move to be seated within his shadow.
'You will not lose everything my friend, for everything you know and hold dear is in your heart and that is what we must endeavor to protect for the next few hours.' A snuff of air escapes his nose, a sign to me that he will comply with my wishes but also that he harbours doubts as to my certainty of the situation. A comfortable silence fills the cool calm air around us as he rests his head on the ground beside me, letting me in turn lean up against him as we both close our eyes and rest for a while.

Chapter Nine

I awake hours later to feel him nudging me, waking me gently with his broad nose. He sees my eyes open and shifts to stand proudly on all fours.
'I have waited patiently for you to awaken as I myself couldn't find restful sleep. But now I am anxious. The sun is low on the horizon and the moon is gently rising...will you now accompany me back to my lair to gather my posessions?' I slowly help myself up onto my elbows and rub my eyes gently to relieve them of sleep. I stand and yawn, stretching as I turn to him.
'Now is the perfect time to survey our own surroundings and as soon as night falls we will travel back to the waterfall. For later tonight, I would like to fly with you instead of on you...tonight I wish to join you in the beautiful night sky, the air gliding gently through my own wings.' He smiles at me and nods his approval as I climb carefully onto his back and hold on tight as we begin to move away from the safety of our cavern and into the sky above the woods that surround us.

Chapter Ten

After surveying our position and finding where it is that our new hideaway actually lies in relation to the vast extent of my father's land, my friend becomes more and more anxious to return to his abandoned home. As the half moon smiles down on us, I finally take his claw and lead him outside, having rested in the cave on our return, to the place he had found earlier where the moonlight now dances on the still water. I smile up at him gently and close my eyes, calling for the powers that be to grant me my wish once again and become the beautiful unicorn that I am inside but so seldom dare to become. The heavens open up above me and I sheild my eyes from the brilliant light that now flows over and through my veins. When I open them again, I am what I want to be. I lift my head to the sky and then turn to see my friend staring at me, his eyes unable to hide his approval and yet, there is something else...something that I feel he is hiding from me.
'You truly are beautiful,' he says genuinly. I smile thankfully, unable to voice my questioning thoughts in my present form. Instead, I put them to the back of my mind and extend my wings, letting the cool night air ruffle through them gently before turning my face skyward and leading the way, flying high above the earth with my dragon friend following close behind me.

Chapter Eleven

It isn't long before we are flying, side by side, once again over the place where we had found each other. The air seems much cooler tonight and I can feel the water from the falls long before we dare to rest our wings and venture back into his abandoned home. We are careful tonight though, thourougly surveying the area for any signs of man. But, as we come to rest just outside the cave's entrance, we know that they are long gone and my heart sinks with his as we look about us and notice the tell-tale signs that they have in fact already been here to try and find him. I look up from the footmarks left a while ago in the muddy bank and meet his eyes which are already brimming with tears as he turns from me and enters the cave slowly. I look about myself, my own eyes unknowingly filling with tears at the thought of them finding him. My father was not taking this lightly. The footmarks reveal many men, perhaps his whole army that have trodden this earth too soon ago for me to want to remember. A sudden panick rushes through me and I almost trip up over my own hooves as I hurry to be by my friend's side both for my own saftey's sake and to comfort him in his time of need. And even before I enter the cave, I feel the emptiness that has engulfed his heart. The cave is dark, the moonlight just penetrating through the entrance and allowing us to see a little ways inside. I see a sudden spark of light and realise that he has lit a candle, having picked it up off the cave floor where a few of his tattered belongings still lay, a snuff of fire from his nostrils to re-light it. He reaches down and slowly turns over the smal wooden desk that had housed his potions and spell books not so long ago. The candle flickers in the breeze, it's gentle light revealing the damage they have done in their haste to find a clue as to where he may have fled to. His books are strewn all over the cavern floor, some still with pages, others just the outer bindings after having their pages ripped thoughtlessly from them. I bow my head as he begins to pick up some of his scattered remains and am almost thankful that I cannot speak in this form. For I would not be able to find the words to express how sorry I am for having caused him such greif. It was my stupidity that has led to this and now I cannot find what I need to say. No comforting words to help him in his sorrow. A tear falls from my eye and down over my nose before gently falling from my face. As I watch it fall, I turn my head slightly, realising that I have never cried before as a unicorn. I lift my head and he is watching me, his form almost threatening as it's shadow hangs above me, cast on the walls of the cavern my the gently light of the candle. Through all his pain, he smiles at me.
'Now open your mouth and speak'. I look at him, still unsure of what he means even though the words were spoken so clearly. I take my eyes from his and look back down to the floor. I open my mouth and dare to push the air up out of my lungs, not knowing what I might hear. I had always believed that in my unicorn form, i couldn't speak, but as the warm air pushed up onto the roof of my mouth and out into the cool air of the cavern, I hear something that resembles a voice. Upon hearing it, I look up at my dragon friend quickly and smile as he already is.
'I told you you could do it'. I feel as if a weight has lifted from me and I open my mouth again with more confidence than before.
'Now that I have found this voice,' I begin, still getting used to hearing this voice coming from my present form. 'I am still unsure of what I can say...I cannot find the words to express how sorry I am for all the trouble I have caused you'. His eyes return to the tattered books on the floor and he places the one that is in his hand on the desk beside him, turning to walk towards me.
'There be nothing you can say to help the hurt that I feel within'. And although they weren't meant harshly, they cut deep into my heart. 'I knew that this is what I would be coming back to. I felt it when they were here, as they ravaged my belongings and tore up my books not so long ago. As you slept in fact. But by then, I knew it was too late. What little they have left here is useless without it's accompanyments'. I feel fresh tears begin to run down my nose as they splash together onto the cave floor. I open my mouth but again, as before, there is nothing there but for a very different reason. 'I know that they do not comprehend what they now have in their posession. Their niave way of looking at life will only blind them to the true potentials that lay within the books and such that they have stolen from me'. I feel as though I have no place here anymore as he speaks, as though I should leave him to his grief and be sure not to cause him anymore but the damage has already been done. 'Damn my father' I think to myself and then it dawns on me. Whatever was taken from my dragon friend's lair will surley be returned to the King and to the castle at which I reside. I lift my head with a new found strength of character and turn slighly from him.
'Do not fret dear dragon, for I will return soon to to meet with you again at your new home. But I think I may be able to get back at least a little of what you have lost'. I turn from him and begin out of the cave hurridly. I hear his gentle voice calling me back but when he realises that I am set in my ways at this time, he whispers so gently that I feel it in my heart. 'Just be careful my precious one'. His precious one. The words seem to leave his being so freely, even through the pain caused by my stupidity. I find myself wondering how it came to pass that I am honoured enough to have such a friend. Such a wonderful friend that, even in his grief, he can find a kind word to say to the one that has bought him such sorrow. With a renewed sense of faith, I gallop until the air is thick beneath my wings before returning to the sky once more. I feel his words still lingering in my heart as I pray for the lord's speed to take me home quickly and safely, in the hope of returning with good news for my dragon friend.

Chapter Twelve

The castle is a hive of activity when I return after having stopped off quickly at my dragon friend's home to gather my clothes, sheding my unicorn form behind the castle walls under cloak of darqness before climbing back up to my window and into my room. As I ascend the trelis for the second time in as many days, I see the soft light radiating from my window. I climb carefully and quietly and am surprised when my maid comes rushing forth, her head poking out over the window sill in obvious want of my return. I giggle deep in my throat and push myself up in front of her, careful not to frighten her to the point of screaming. She jumps back, her startlement clearly obvious. She tries not to smile but I see it as she drags me quickly in the window, a smile present on my lips that I had thought to stop off to pick up my clothes before returning home.
'Your father has returned and has been asking for you'.
'Asking of me?' I ask surprised. 'Why me?' My maid shakes her head, pulling carelessly at the garment in her haste to get it off before throwing another one of my many bland and boring pieces of attire over my head.
'I know not of what you do at night young lady, but you clothes are becoming threadbare rather quickly these days and I have not the young fingers or the patience anymore to stitch you new ones!' I smile at her as he fiddles with the ties, pulling them tight at my waist. 'And if your father knew that you had not bathed today, he will have my hide young lady'. She sniffs at me curiously. 'And you do need a bath my dear'. I smile down at her as she spins me around and then pushes me towards the door. 'Now away with you to see your father for twice he has called for you and the third will be murder to these ears'. I giggle at her humour and smile warmly back at her as I open the door and step out onto the landing above the stone spiral staircase. But I quickly hide the smile and stifle the laughter as I close the door behind me. For this castle is not good at keeping secrets. And I have so many now, held deep within my heart where they will stay at all costs. I know that I must take some time to search the castle, to try and find my friend's belongings but they will be closley guarded. Of this I am sure. I must be careful and descret, a lesson learned through failure in the past few days. I quickly descend the stairs and almost glide into my father's sitting room, my haste to have this, whatever this may be over and done with quickly adding to my rather hurried entrance. But as I look about and then turn to see him rise from his chair, I realise all too quickly that this is going to be one very long night. For my father now stands having been seated in his chair as I walked in, a brandy in one hand and a smile so grand that it scares me to think of what might be lurking behind it. I swallow hard and find my best voice to address him.
'Father. I believe you were in want of me?' The smile only broadens and my heart sinks further into my chest. The sorrow I feel inside I keep well hidden for it is there in the anticipation of what I believe is about to be revealed. The reason for my father's unusual bout of happiness is no doubt due to the requition of my dear friend's treasures and the vial smell of victory that my father already has floating through his nostrils at the thought of finding this allusive dragon. He steps forward suddenly, breaking me out of my hateful stare that it kept hidden on the surface and places his arm around my shoulder, turning me gently back in the direction for which I had come. As I turn, I see the glistening jewels that I had neglected to notice in my hurried attempt to get this over with quickly. His study desk is lined with them. Ruby's, Sapphires, Emeralds and gold and among them, bottles of varying sizes with cork caps, no doubt being the essences of my friend's spells, the potions he has perfected over many centuries that now lay to waist under the imprisoning roof of this reched castle. But why does my father have them here in his study and not under lock and key where I would have expected them to be? Is it merely him gloating in front of his men or does he have no fear of them being stolen? 'But why would he?' I think again. For he is the King. The best place for them would in his study, which is locked up before he retires to his sleeping quarters. I feel the joy I have felt all day suddenly drain from me and a growing uneasiness replace it. Something isn't right. He has shown me then far too freely and is parading them seemingly without a care for the possible consequences. This is not like my father at all. Swallowing hard again, I hide my worried tendencies and smile widley, an attempt to hide the true feelings of fear welling deep inside me. For my father must never know of my secret. Our secret. I walk towards the jewel-lined table, running my fingers through the chains of fine gold and over the jewels that compliment rings and braclets and such. I hear my father laugh and turn to the men that now drink a toast to their continued success.
'If my daughter is impressed at just the mere sight of these jewels, imagine how impressed she will be when I bring home the head of the dragon that used to own them?' They laugh in unison and clink their glasses together as I begin to feel deathly ill. Just trying to force the image of my dear friend's severed head out of my mind makes me sick to my stomach and I can taste it in my mouth. I turn to my father and force a smile before holding a hand to my head faining a headache.
'I'm sorry father.' I begin and continue with respect, if only for the fact that he has company. 'I am very excited at the prospect of seeing you in battle against such an imformiddable beast, but I must retire to my room for now. My head is light and I am beginning to feel dizzy'. The words taste like sour milk on my tongue, like acid to the touch as lies so often do but I speak them and then turn to leave.
'Keira'. He says suddenly and rather loudly. I reluctantly turn to face him, feeling the colour draining from my face as I do. When our eyes meet, he bows his head slightly at me. He is expecting the same but at this point, I cannot stand to be in his presence any longer. I hold my hand up to my lips and run from the room. I can hear my father walking to the door, calling to see if I am okay and the irony of it only makes me feel even sicker to my stomach.

Chapter Thirteen

I climb the stairs quickly and burst into my room as my maid comes forth from the bathroom to see what is the matter. I can't stop the tears that begin to well in my eyes or the sickness I feel causing me to gag as it stings my throat. I turn to her and meet her eyes, a gentle look to reassure her and to beg that she not ask any questions of me. She retires quickly to the bathroom once more and brings me out a damp washcloth. She holds it to my forehead and helps me to my bed. Everything has happened so quickly. I had not expected to return and within mere minutes have found what it was that I had returned home in such haste to look for. My father is not acting like his usual self. It's almost as if he knows something. But how could he? For I am the only one who knows the true wereabouts of my dragon friend and I have told not a soul. But none the less, something feels wrong. I worry deeply for the safety of my friend, strange in that I was so sure of it only minutes ago. My maid stands and wheels over the meal that she had prepared earlier for me and, as reluctant as I am to eat, I force myself to take a few bites and am surprised that I feel a little better. My maid watches me worridly but respects my wish not to converse and when I am done she helps me into my bed, pulling the covers up over me. She leans down and kisses me lovingly on the forehead before turning away and wheeling the trolley towards the door, stopping only briefly to snuff out the candles before leaving me alone in the darqness. But the darqness brings me no comfort tonight and the tears begin to flow freely. I so badly wanted to return to him, to take the things they had stolen and return them to him post haste but the night has become so strange to me now and I dare not venture out again. I try to remember the last time I had found deep sleep and understand why my eyelids feel so heavy. I will return at dawn to my dear dragon friend, hopefully with his belongings which I will endeavor to collect before the dawm breaks and my father awakes. But for now, I convince myself that I must rest. I close my eyes and say a silent prayer, to keep my friend safe and out of harm's way and moreso out of my father's vengeful path before sleep finally takes my hand gently in hers and takes me to her safe haven...for the moment at least.

Chapter Forteen

I awake with a start what seems only moments later, my mind still filled with the horrible images that had embedded themselves in my resting soul. My father's sword, penetrating the heart of a dragon. My dragon. His men rallied around him, their fists held firmly in the air in victory and me, crouched beside my friend's dying face to hear his last breath creep from his bloodied mouth. I hold my hand to my heart in an effort to slow it's rapid beat as my mind returns to the reality that is the present. My breathing becomes more steady and I slowly slip my legs out from under my covers and rest my feet on the stone cold floor. I vow to myself that my nightmare will not become truth as I throw a shawl around my shoulders and move quickly but quietly towards my door. It creeks open, the noise sounding much louder than I believe it to be but non the less, the castle is deathly quiet and therefore I must be too. I lean out hesitantly and look about myself but there is no one awake as yet. The dawn is only an hour or so away though and I quickly make my way down the stairs and to the door of my father's study. I turn the handle carefully to find it locked as I had expected but the key is easily found for it hangs around my father's sleeping neck, the safest place for it. But this morn, it will not remain safe from me for at the chance that I may be caught and held accountable for my rebellious actions, I must try, for both my dragon's sake as for my soul's.
With mindful steps, I make my way around to my father's quarters. The castle remains silent, almost too silent as I move about on bare feet, hoping to have what I need to flee the castle before anyone awakes to find me. I turn the corner and look towards my father's room to find the door is slightly ajar, too mindless in his drunken stupor to have thought to lock it behind him as he had done his study. I count my blessings and move quickly to the doorway and push the door open gently. I can hear my father's snores as I move further into the room, the alcohol having lured him in to the deepest of sleep. Silently, I move to his side and look desperately for the key that holds my friend's belongings prisoner. I can see the leather from which it hangs decending into the cloth of his shirt. With nimble fingers, I take it in my hands and slowly pull the key up and out from under his night-shirt, praying silently that he does not wake, until is rests against his neck. I reach down with my other hand and slip my fingers beneath it, lifting it from his body before attempting to untie the knot that holds it in place on the leather strap. But it is to no avail. The leather is old and has been firmly cemented over time. Quickly, I look around and find a dagger on my father's bedside table. Taking it, I bring it to my father's neck. As I begin to glide the blade back and forth carefully across the leather, I look up at my father's eyes, still held firmly shut by sleep. If he only knew of what I had seen. If only he could see the magic and hope that glimmers so brightly in my dragon friend's eyes. I almost feel pity for him as I continue to cut through the leather around his neck. Many a night had I retired to bed, this very scenerio in my mind only I wasn't hacking away at the band around his neck. I was hacking away at him, at his soul. For I could not bare to have a father that was so cruel and barbaric in his quest to be a better king for his country. I could not and still cannot see why he must rule with such an ironfist and allow no compassion to bleed from his heart. So deep in thought, it almost shocks me when the blade finally cuts through the thick leather and lies in two pieces against my father's chest. Snapped back into immediate reality, I carefully move the key down the frayed leather to the end and slip it off into my hand. Clutching it to my chest, I silently make my way back around to the foot of my father's bed and to the door before I hear something from behind me. It is then that I realise that my father's mistress is not asleep at his side. I look back in alarm as I hear her coming forth from the halls, making her way to the second entrance on the other side of the room. Quickly I move out into the temporary comfort of the dark hallway and pull the door shut gently as the other creeks open. I stand flush against the wall just to one side of the doorway as I hear her moving about the room. I feel her moving towards the door and my breathing stops as she opens it and pokes her head out. I can't help but think of how much I despise her. She thinks she has the right to take my mother's place and raise me as her own. I smile as she moves back into the room and closes the door firmly behind her. For if she only knew what I was up to. She would have my father so angry at me and so thankful to her for having found out my intentions that I would not be able to bare the sniggering and the contemptuous acts that would become my even more miserable life. But I smile even wider now for she will never know. And as I quickly make my way back to my father's study, the key in hand, I pray that one day my father will awaken from his blindness and see the evil witch that lies beneath her beauty, although unseen to these eyes, that he admires.
I place the key within the keyhole and turn it carefully. It clicks over rather loudly in my fingers but unphased, I push it open, step inside quickly and close it behind me. I lean my back against the door breifly as a sigh escapes my lips, thankful that I have gotten this far without being found out. I quickly make my way over to the table but I find none of the treasures or potions that had been here last evening. My breath catches in my throat as I run my hands throught he pile of dust that lies thickly over my father's desk. I pick it up and it runs over my hands and through my fingers as I shake my head involuntarily in disbelief. Where could they be? All the rings and gold and bottles that had been here only hours ago? Was my father wise to me? Did he know of my intentions and hidden them from me? I look about the room but find nothing that catches my eye. It is all gone. More paniced than ever, I move to the door, the dust still falling at my sides, opening it quickly and closing it behind me before making my way back up the stairs and into my room as the sun creeps it's head over the horizon. I slip into my room and then move quickly to my window sill, climbing down the trelis and onto the damp ground before making my way to the edge of the forest. The light from the new sun just barely shows me the way as I hurry back to see my dragon friend, my heart heavy in my chest to tell him of my unfortunate failure.

Chapter Fifteen

I am almost on my knees with exhaustion by the time the forest opens up and becomes the clearing that sits outside my friend's hideaway. I smile to myself, thankful again that he has found this new way in to his home, the swimming part being all but too much even for me this warm but cloudy morning. I lean down and take a handful of water from the pond and bring it to my lips, tasting of it only breifly before steppng around and into the be-it back entrance to my friend's home. I find him still asleep, curled up as much as a dragon can be beside the water's edge. I make my way around and step between his front foot and his large neck and sit down to rest my tired soul. I feel him stir behind me and watch as he opens his eyes. Upon seeing me, he smiles and draws his wing in closer to his body around me.
'You look like you've had a rough night'. The sigh that escapes my lips tells him that he is correct in his assumption.
'Oh dear dragon. I found your belongings within the castle and endevoured to return them to you but when I woke this morning and went down to retrieve them, I found nothing but a pile of dust'. I bow my head in shame but look up again when I feel the chuckle begin in his throat and eventually leave his lips. 'What are you laughing for?' I ask him, an almost hurtful tone to my voice.
'Oh my dear, if only you had waited back at the waterfall, had told me of your plans and listened to what I had to tell you'. I look up at him questioningly as he stretches, craning his neck towards the water for a quick drink. 'But you were in such a hurry,' he continues 'And you didn't give me the chance to explain'.
'To explain what?' I ask, still unsure of what he means.
'You see, anything taken from a dragon, or a wizard for that matter, will turn to dust if not 'taken' in the proper way'.
'The proper way?' He smiles at me gently.
'You see, once a dragon posesses something, whatever it may be and as long as they aquired it genuinly, they cannot just be taken from them. Those things belonging to me became of no value when they were stolen from me and not given freely'. A sense of understanding washes over me and is enident in my face. I can't help but smile. I had been so quick to think of a solution and so ready to act on it that I hadn't thought to tell him of what I had in mind and see what it was he might have to say about them. I begin to laugh too, thinking of the effort I went to to get the key to my father's study and that the whole attempt was in vain from the very beginning.
'I guess that'll teach me to listen to you more closley, oh wise one'. I mock playfully. He smiles down at me and moves his nose down to rub gently against mine.
'Please, don't get me wrong though. I was very appreciative of the attempt....however unprofitably'. He chuckles again and I can't help but do the same before a comfortable silence descends on us. I snuggle into him and he moves his wing in against himself to keep me warm as we enjoy this quiet time together.

Chapter Sixteen

What seems an age later, he begins to shuffle to his feet and stretch his wings. As he moves about the cavern and prepares to mix up a brew of his dragon's tea, I sit by and watch him appreciatively for a while before moving to the water's edge to fill the hollowed out log that he uses to collect the water in. Once full, I stand and walk it back carefully to the fire that he has started to boil it upon. A question pops into my mind and I ask it of him as I pour the water into the pot above the embers.
'Have you ever taught anyone the ways of the dragons?' For a moment, he stops poking at the fire with a stick in an effort to help it sustain itself and looks down at me. His eyes seem sad, almost hurt by the question, but before I get a chance to withdraw it, he answers me.
'I once taught a young lady...a very long time ago now it seems. Her heart was like no other I had ever known. She was very loving and caring and thought of only the good of others over herself. And she was willing to open her heart to me and the ways of our kind'.
'Was she beautiful?' To this, he only smiles.
'Almost as beautiful as you young Kiera'. My warm smile thanks him as he takes the stick from the fire and leaves it to warm the water.
'Was she a good student?'
'Oh, she was a wonderful student. She was very intelligent and it didn't take her long to learn and understand the hows and whys of the way we did things. I often think of her...fondly of course...moreso now that I have befriended you. You are very much like her...' The smile that had crept onto his face as he spoke slowly disappeared as he bowed his head and closed his eyes.
Without knowing quite what is wrong, I instinctively reach a hand up and rest it reassuringly on his shoulder.
'You must have loved her'. I say, almost not realising that the words have left my lips. He opens his eyes and looks down at me, a tear evident in his beautiful eyes. 'That I did, Kiera'. A thoughtful pause. 'Very deeply'. He turns his face away from me and closes his eyes again. I smile comfortingly and take his hand in mine.
'Am I worthy enough to be taught your ways?' He takes in a deep breath and exhales deeply before lifting his chin and turning to meet my eyes once more.
'I would be more than honoured to teach them to you'. He squeezes my hand gently and then returns his attention to the water that now begins to bubble softly. 'But for now my dear friend, we shall sit a while and enjoy a helping of tea together'. He hands me a goblet from his make-shift shelf, a rocky ledge that is just out of my reach. It is encrusted with rubys and engraved with soft swirls and symbols. He then takes the pot and pours in the water, not quite boiled, but just right for drinking. When he pours his own, sits back and takes a sip, I can't help but wonder why it is that we are drinking what appears to be only warm water.
'Are we going to add something to this?' I say sheepishly, wondering if it is only I that sees tea as something more than just water. He smiles at me a brilliant smile and leans forward to take my hand in his.
'Close your eyes'. I do as he says although still unsure as to why. 'Now, imagine what you would expect dragon's tea to taste like...'
'But I have no idea...'
'Just...try'. I keep my eyes firmly closed and try to imagine what it would in fact taste like. I can taste strawberry and mango already on my tongue with maybe a hint passionfruit.
'Okay, I have some idea...I think'. I can feel the warmth of his smile radiating over me as he gently tells me to open my eyes and take a sip. As the tea hits my tongue, I taste what I had imagined. I take a look inside the goblet and can still see the bottom through the crystal clear water. I take another sip, turning my eyes up to meet his as I do. But there it is. The sweet taste of strawberrys and mangos...and just that little bit of passionfruit.
'Is this what it always tastes like?' He laughs gently.
'If that's what you imagine it to taste like, then that is how it will taste'. I smile and turn the goblet around between both hands as he leans over and throws some more wood on the fire, now using it for warmth rather than to boil the water. 'Consider that your first lesson in the ways of the dragons'.
'With many more to come'. I say and raise the goblet to my lips again. Silence fills the cavern again and I watch as my dragon friend sips thoughtfully at his tea. Something is definitely on his mind but I do not ask as I am sure that if he wanted to tell me about it, he would offer it freely. Besides, I think to myself as I take another sip of my tea, it will be of no value if it is taken from him and not offered freely.

Chapter Seventeen

Around this same time, Kiera's father awoke groggily and reluctantly dragged himself out of bed. With one hand on his head to try and stop the pain that thumped against his brow and the other firmly clutching his grumbling stomach, he made his way over and pulled his robe down from it's hanger and around his shoulders. He stood still for a moment, the movement and the sudden need to stand throwing him off balance. But he regained his composure before moving to his door and out into the still cool hallway towards the dining room. He could smell the aroma of breakfast already drifting throughout the castle but he knew that his stomach would not be able to handle the bacon, eggs and sausages that the maid had cooked up for him this morning. Instead, he felt as if he should take something for the pain and then return to bed to sleep it off. His head still in one hand, he moved around and past the study before stopping just past the doorway, his eyes noticing something that didn't seem quite right. On closer inspection, he noticed that the door lay slightly ajar. He thought quickly, trying to recall the events of the night before, trying to remember if he had locked it before retiring and, although much of the night was now a blur to his memory, he remembered that he had in fact locked it up tight. And then the next thought. The treasures. His pains forgotten, he pushed the door open hard and looked instinctively to his desk. But all that lay there was a pile of dust. He moved to the desk, his hands on either side, his eyes wide with anger and saw that someone had been there earlier, the pile of dust already disturbed. The anger escalated in him quickly and eventually escaped his lips in a growl of fury. He swiped the dust from the desk with his arm and then turned back to the door. As he did, he reached up and felt around his neck. His key was gone. Upon reaching the open doorway, he shouted out in anger for his men to be assembled at once. Those treasures were his and he wasn't about to let anyone take them from him.

Having searched all his men and around the castle grounds, the King became even more enraged when he could find no trace of his lost belongings. He had called for his daughter on several occasions and still she had not shown her face to him. Storming upstairs, he pushed his way past the maid and into Kiera's room but to his dismay, she is still nowhere to be found. His anger now peaked, he calls for a search of the forest in all directions and demands that not one man return until they have his daughter.

Chapter Eighteen

It continues to be the perfect day as I wander outside into the warm yet overcast day, having finished up my tea and talking my dragon friend into teaching me some more about himself and the way of the dragons. I find myself a warm position just outside the cave entrance and make myself comfortable as he gathers some things from inside that he managed to save and bring with him from the waterfall. He emerges in a few moments with a few books under one arm and what appears to be a mirror in his hand. I look up at him inquizitively and he smiles down at me.
'Never fear young Kiera. When it is explained, you will understand'. I take the books as he hands them down and place them gently on my lap and wait for him to take a seat beside me. The excitement within me is almost overflowing and I open one of the books hastily, half expecting him to place a hand on the cover and close it quickly onto my fingers to teach me to wait until he is ready. But as I do, I can feel something rush through me. A wash of fear that only buries itself deeper inside me when I look up to see the frightened look on my dragon friend's face.
'What is it?' I say in a whisper. I watch his face intently, his nose sniffing curiously at the air around us.
'Inside.' He says simply. 'Now'. The urgency now present in his voice sends me scurrying into the cavern, the books held tightly against my chest. I hear him turn and follow me as I find myself sanctuary behind a large boulder and crouch down as he retreats into a large hollow near the water's edge. He looks back at me and then we both look to the carvern roof where we can hear footsteps loud and clear, echoing throughout the cavern. And then he silently moves further into the hollow and out of sight. As I turn my attentions back to the cavern entrance, I see the shadow fall across the wall and then down onto the floor. I crouch further down and move back against the wall in the hope that the darkness will keep me well hidden. The shadow moves further into the carvern and now lies just a few steps in front of me. I hold my breath and clutch at the books, closing my eyes in a silent prayer that I will now be found and when I open my eyes, I see him standing before me. It is Pilias, my father's most trusted knight and he has seen me. He leans forward and pulls me out, forcing me to drop the books at his feet. As he pulls me out into the now bright sunlight, I see many more men lining the entrance and disappearing into the forest ahead. I feel his arms wrapped tightly around me and then the rope tied even more tightly around my hands. I bite my tongue and give into them in the hope that they will not continue to search the cavern.
'So little Miss Kiera. Your father is very anxious to talk to you'. I hold his gaze but say nothing and then he looks down to his feet where the books lay. He reaches down and picks them up before handing them back to another one of my father's men who places them in a red cloth and ties them up. 'And by the look of those books,' Pilias continues 'I think you have a very good idea about what it is your father wishes to talk to you about'. I close my eyes as he leans forward, his breath so foul that I am almost sick at the smell of it. 'Having found you to be a theif, why, your father might just have me next in line to the crown'. To this, I cannot help but open my eyes and spit at him, catching him in the eye.
'You will never be King Pilias. Just because you are my father's best knight doesn't mean that you have thr right to talk to me with anything but respect so take me home...right now'. He reaches up and wipes the spittle from his eye and then waves his hand in the air as two men come forward and take both my arms. As we leave the clearing and head into the dense forest, I can feel my dragon watching over me. I smile to myself and speak to him without words. I tell him that there is no need to worry and that I will be safe, to stay well hidden and not to leave the cavern until my return. I close my eyes as I feel his gentle words floating on the wind and into my heart:
'Be careful my percious one'

Chapter Nineteen

My father is waiting in his study as Pilias walks in ahead of me and announces that he has found me. As he steps aside, the two men who had dragged me through the forest and now to the door let go of my arms and push me in through the doorway where I fall in front of my father's feet. I look up to see him staring down at me, nothing but pure anger in his eyes. I slowly get to my feet again and stand before him, my eyes still fixed with his. He reaches a hand out and takes the red cloth, tied with a golden ribbon offered to him by Pilias.
'We found her with these My Lord'. My father takes his eyes from mine and looks down at the cloth. He looks back up at me again before untying the ribbon around the cloth and letting it fall open. Inside, he sees the books, the covers tattered and worn. He turns his attention back to me.
'Where did you get these?' Before I have the chance to answer, I feel the sting of his hand slapping against my cheek. The force of it sends me back down onto my knees. 'You stole these from me!' He shouts. 'My own daughter stealing from under my very nose'.
'But father, I...' Any attempt at an explaination is forgotten when I look up to once again meet his eyes. His anger is far from being justified with any explaination and upon realising this, I say nothing, instead bowing my head before him as tears begin to run down my face, stinging my reddened cheek as they do so.
'Of all the people that I had suspected of doing this, you had never entered my mind...until this morning when I find you nowhere in the castle. I have told you before not to leave here unless I have given you permission and yet, you blatently disobey me...and then steal from me! And what of the jewels? What of the gold? Where have you hidden it?' I have no answer for him and when I keep my head down turned, he grabs a handful of my hair and makes me look at him. 'Where are they?' He shouts into my face. I try desperately to find some way to explain it to him but everything that comes to mind in those few moments seems futile. His eyes are wide and red in anger, an anger that I have never seen consume my father so completely until now. Fresh tears begin to brim and finally fall down my cheek again as he lets go of my hair, my face falling forward as I begin to weep uncontrollably. Where was the father I once knew? The father that I could tell anything and everything to? The father that I was proud to say was my father? The look in his eyes a moment ago is one I shall never forget for I know now that he will never be the father that he once was. I tune out, my mind unaware of what is happening to me now except that I am being dragged throught the castle once again as I hear my father shouting on my now deaf ears.

Chapter Twenty

When I wake not having realised I had slept, I wrap my arms around myself to try and keep out the cold. I look about myself but can see nothing but darkness. I blink a few times and try and clear the tears, still flowing freshly as I slept, from my eyes and as I do, I begin to make out some features around me. It is a small room. Just four walls and a small window that lets in the faintest of light through the iron bars and now becomes clearer as my vision becomes clearer. I know where I am now and cringe to think that my father's anger has gotten the better of him to the point where he would throw his own daughter into the dungeon. Rubbing my arms briskly to keep myself warm, I get to my feet and walk towards the small window to find that night has fallen, the moonlight streaming in, comforting me as the darqness always had. The window is at ground level and the dust from outside is thick on the bars, evident even at night. A sorrowful sigh escapes my lips but is replaced by a somewhat timid smile when I think of my dragon friend. I had led my father's men away from him and he had not been discovered. But, as I gaze out onto the musty ground, a strange feeling overcomes me. The smile disappears as quickly as it had appeared as I notice small fires flickering on the horizon. I squnit into the moonlight, trying to see what it is but it is nothing but a dark blur moving towards the castle. Keeping my eyes fixed, I can finally make out figures, the figures of my father's men. Had one set of troops not heard that I was found hours ago and only return now? There are many of them too. Many enough to be all of my father's men. But as they come closer and closer, I can make out something else intermingled within their formation. My heart begins to ache as they continue to approach, the darkened figures becoming clearer and clearer. And then the figure rears up on it's hind legs. It is my dragon.
'No'. I hear myself utter almost inaudibly. He struggles in a vain attempt to break free of the ropes that hold his wings firm against his sides and his mouth tightly shut, a rope wound completely around his nose from the tip and back, finishing just below where his face broardens. But the confines hold him solidly as they bring him to the castle, obviously under orders from my father. I run to the steal door, fresh tears already staining my cheeks and strike at it with closed fists frantically in an attempt to find someone to hear me and let me out. I find myself shouting in desperation, now kicking and punching at the door in vain. I hear them close outside and return to the window, my hands gripping the bars as they halt outside the drawbridge. Pilias summons my father and as he does, the drawbridge begins to open. The grinding of the heavy door is deafening from within my cell and I cover my ears to block out the noise. When it finally opens fully, it falls with a thud to the ground, sending a cloud of dust over the men and my dragon. They cough loudly and sheild their eyes but my dragon has his eyes firmly fixed on the castle entrance which now lays open. When the dust settles, my father has emerged and stands on the drawbridge, only a few steps outside the castle walls. I strain my neck to see him as he holds one hand in the air to silence the men. As his hand drops back to his side, the men move away from my dragon and leave him to my father's mercy. And then, my father speaks.
'So, Tzyrren...we meet again.' The shock hits me like a thousand knives. Meet again?
'Under similar circumstances I believe'. Tzyrren says, making note of the ropes that bind him. What is this? So many questions run through my mind at once that it almost makes me dizzy.
'I banished you once from my kingdom and you dare to return. Why? Isn't it enough that I spared your life...'
'But at what cost?' Tzyrren says loudly. 'I may have learned to live with what you made me but I will never forget that it was you'. I look at my father quickly, and notice the smile that is evident on his face even from a distance.
'And look at you. You would think that you would want to stay lost, remain a recluse and never allow yourself be seen by mankind ever again. You are nothing but an ugly old dragon Tzyrren...but as of today, I will grant you release'. Tears stream down my face as confusion becomes firmly embedded within my soul. I know of my father's plans to kill my dragon
friend...'Tzyrren' I say out loud for the first time...but what has happened between them in the past? Tzyrren had never mentioned knowing any of my family before.
'You can kill me here and now, Richard, but you will never erase the values that I stand for'. My father's grin disappears and is replaced by a look of rage. 'And you will never erase the feelings that I had and always will have for Madeline'.
'My mother?' I say to myself silently. 'What does she have to do with...'
'Madeline...' My father looks to the sky. 'God bless her soul...was my wife...'
'Forced into a marriage that she was never happy to be a part of. Your jealousy drained her of her spirit long before her body gave up the will to live, Richard. You knew she loved me...' The confession almost floors me but I keep my attentions focused as the truth finally comes forth. 'And you knew that if she was to marry me, that I would have overthrown you as King and take my place upon the throne'. My father's face is red with anger, the veins jutting out from his large neck.
'Never'. He says though gritted teeth. 'You corrupted her mind. All that talk of wizardry and magic...she was deluded...unable to separate fantasy and reality...'
'It was and is reality, Richard. You were just never able to get over your jealousy and embrace it as we did'. To this, he only laughs.
'Embrace it? All that talk of casting spells and magic potions...I had a kingdom to rule. I had no time to spend learning about something that was of no use to me.'
'And look at your kingdom now. Look at your men. They do not serve you out of loyality, they serve you out of fear. Fear of what may happen to them if they dare to oppose your values and ideas. Look what happened to me.' A whisper begins within the group of men and gradually grows louder. 'I had a vision for a kingdom that was ruled with strength and compassion, not an ironfist that punishes the innocent in favour of gold and riches. Madeline had the same ideas as me...'
'But you are not the King!' This sudden outburst silences the men who had begun to speak of their own greviences. 'I am the King! And you will all obey me'.
'And what of the princess?' Tzyrren says suddenly, cutting through the silence, his words wounding my father like a dagger. 'The one who will rightfully take the throne upon your demise. Have you told her Richard?' I can't keep hold my tongue any longer.
'Told me what?' I shout and see all heads turn towards me. I meet Tzyrren's eyes and he frowns at me earnestly.
'That you were the one that murdered her mother'. At that moment, time stood still. Gasps of shock escape the lips of everyone as I struggle to come to terms with the truth. The silence that had fallen on all present becomes engulfed and overtaken by the sudden shock that has now been revealed. I myself stand completely taken aback, not sure what to do or say. My whole life up until this point had always been difficult and complicated. My father had become so distant to me and had offered me no comfort and no answers from the moment of my mother's death. The cloud of confusion makes way for the anger towards the man that has lied to me all these years. I run to the door and call to my maid, praying that she will come to my aid and let me out to confront my father face to face. Outside, I can hear the men becoming louder and louder, their shock and hateful feelings toward their King finally overflowing after so many years of supression, they are finding the courage to stand up and fight for what they believe in. I run back to the window to see them divided, an ever-growing group stands opposing my father with only a handful still by his side. I am at the door again, punching and kicking, screaming to be let out.

Chapter Twenty-One

'Kiera, Kiera, calm down!' It is my maid. There has never been the need of words with her and at this moment, her understanding is complete. She looks at me, her own eyes filled with tears as she turns the key over in the lock. As it clicks, I push it open and hug her thankfully before hurridly making my way up the stairs and out onto the drawbridge. Fights have broken out amongst the men. A few lay by the way side, bloodied and badly wounded. I reach him and grab at his clothing as hands come from both sides, those still hanging on to their thin thread of loyality holding me back as I kick and scream at him.
'You are not my father and you never were. You killed my mother!?'
'I made you a princess! You will have control over this whole kingdom when I am gone'.
'I don't want your damn kingdom! I want my life back! I want my mother back!' As the words leave my lips, my father turns from me and reaches for his dagger. He raises it above his head and men scatter in all directions leaving Tzyrren open and vulnerable.
'No!' I scream, breaking free of the men holding me. The dagger strikes him in his large chest and embeds itself deeply into his scaly skin. I rush to his side as his head falls forward onto the ground. I lift his head from the dusty ground and rest it on my lap. His breathing is laboured and tears are evident in his eyes. I rock back and forth, unable to speak for no words can express the confusion that rages inside me. There are so many questions I need him to answer and now, he never will. His eyes, closed until now, flutter open and look up into mine, the moonlight catching the amber and making them glow like fire.
'I'm sorry' I sob uncontollably and hold him to me.
'Don't cry for me Kiera', he says softly. 'Death is but a new beginning for me'.
'But I don't want you to go...you are my best friend...'
'And I will always be with you...just as I was for your mother.' The memory of our talk earlier this morning comes flooding back to me like a wash of warm water as I begin to understand. The student he had spoken of was my mother. In desperation, I look to the sky as I feel his breathing slow, the fire glowing in his eyes begins to extinguish as they fall closed. I look back down at him, his face relaxed as he speaks his last words ro me.
'Take care...my prescious one'. And then he is gone. I hug him closer to me as I look up at the confusion going on around me. My eyes, so filled with tears reveal only a flickering of shadows as figures move in front of the well-lit castle as I rest my head upon that of my departed friend. And then someone grabs me, dragging me away from Tzyrren and back into the castle. It is Pilias. I struggle against him but my saddness saps my strength and I can't help but fall limp in his arms as he drags me inside. The light fades to darkness and then suddenly, from behind, something forces Pilias forward, forcing him to drop me as he himself falls semi-conscious to the floor. I look up, wiping my eyes to see my maid standing over him, one of my father's prized sheild held in her tender hands. She looks down at Pilias with nothing but contempt, dropping the sheild down beside him before flashing me a quick smile and heading hurridly back to her quarters. I lay there for a moment, unsure of what to do, Pilias already getting back to his feet, but I find myself wanting to be back at Tzyrren's side. I get to my feet and reach the entrance to find that a silence has befallen the men. I push past a few and look down to where Tzyrren had lay only to find that he was no longer there. The sky is black and thick with clouds as rain begins to fall heavily and I notice that all eyes are turned skywards. Even my father stands, looking to the sky in awe. As I too look up, I see Tzyrren looking down at me, his warm smile just disappearing into the night sky. His eyes, glowing like fire remain, forming two small stars. But the shock of what they had just witnessed is not enough to stop the feelings that run through their veins and within moments, the bloodshed begins again. Running for cover, I head for the small bushes to the side of the castle and crouch down behind them until the fighting comes to an end. Then, all of a sudden, I feel a hand clasped over my mouth. I feel myself being dragged backwards and further into the dark. My hands reach up and try to free myself but I am overcome, unable to take a breath into my tired lungs. Pulled to the ground, I continue to struggle to no avail and then I hear Pilias' voice in my ear.
'You think you can get away from me that easily do you?' My arm becomes numb as he digs his fingers further into my flesh, keeping me firmly in his grasp. 'You know, your mother was a beautiful woman. You definitely inherited that from her. But, along with her beauty, you also inherited her fighting spirit and, my dear Kiera, that is not a trait that your father had hoped would carry on into his only daughter.' I fight him for as long as I can but I am fading quickly. My lungs ache for air and I cannot feel my arm anymore. Finally, I close my eyes and stop struggling, conserving my energy in the hope that he will slip up and I can get the upper hand. 'You're not giving up on me are you? I thought you had more heart than that Keira'. I feel his hold on me loosen, just enough for me to steal a few precious breaths. 'But I must tell you something. You're anger towards your father is completely misdirected. Your mother was a traitor. She could not bring herself to conform to the wishes of your father and the way he chose to rule his kingdom. And she paid dearly for her lack of vision'. The rage begins to build inside me again, my energy coming back to me fast with every mention of my mother and every stolen breath that enters my soul.. 'And maybe it was your father who ordered that your mother be punished for her meddling ways...but do you really think he could bring himself to do what had to be done? No Kiera, it was I that drove the dagger into your mother's stone cold heart!' Infuriated, I throw myself around, desperate to free myself and take his eyes out, to grab his neck with both hands and squeeze until the life drains from his eyes. His hold is strong though and I cannot find the strength to turn around. I scream into his hand, tears of anger and betrayal already brimming over my eyelids as I struggle to get free. And then, his grip is released. Wirling around, I watch as the terror in his eyes builds. He clutches at his stomach and as I look down, I see the end of a blade penetrating his lower abdomem, his hands grasping at it in vain. I cannot help but smile and I look into his eyes as he finally slumps forward and takes his last breath. Breathing heavily, I look up slowly to see a man standing before me, his face down-turned, still glaring at Pilias' dead body. I continue to fight to find my breath, getting to my feet as I look him up and down. He is not dressed in armour or clothing that would suggest that he is a knight or even serves my father in any way.
'Who are you?' I ask in a thankful whisper. And then he lifts his head and smiles at me. My eyes cannot fathom what they are seeing. I shake my head in total disbelief, closing my eyes briefly and opening them again. 'No, it can't be...' I whisper again. He reaches forward and takes my hand in his. His touch, as his eyes, are familiar and unmistakeable.
'It is me, Kiera.' My mouth falls open in complete shock.
'But how...you just...just now...?' He smiles gently at my confusion as my mind tries to understand. Abandoning the words, I step forward and into his embrace, hugging him so tightly that I feel him tense and gasp. I hold him to me as the relief of seeing him alive again washing over me.
'Only in dreams have I held you like this' he says dropping his chin down to place a small kiss on my head. I lean back and look into his eyes that seem to brighten as they meet mine. 'Your mother has sent me back to you as a reward for watching over the both of you for all these years. She expressly stated that I am to remain with you for all time and never let anything bad happen to you'. My smile only widens to think that my bestest friend had also watched over the one person I love most in my life.
'It was my mother, the one you taught your ways so long ago'. He smiles at me again, this time even brighter than before.
'And there is something else that I must tell you.' His hold on my hands becomes tighter and I feel drawn closer to him. 'Your unique ability to transform into a unicorn was given to you as a gift, a gift that, in it's initial giving, was bestowed upon you in saddness. The saddness of not being able to be a part of your life as you matured into a young princess. But as time went by and you grew, you changed the perspective of the gift and made it one of hope. When you became the beautiful unicorn that lies below your human form, you found a greater sense of euphoria than could ever be explained in mere words. Of all the gifts that can be given, the gift of happiness and security is one that any father would love to bestow on his only child...'. My smile begins to fade slightly as possible realisation steps in. 'Your wonderful gift that you have displayed so perfectly...was given to you by me...' A long pause. 'Your father'. Even as the words leave his lips, the realisation answers so many unasked questions that I have held close to my heart. My smile returns full force as I fall into his embrace again, tears beginning to brim and fall down my cheeks. But my happiness upon seeing him again is short-lived. Suddenly, I hear a horrifying shreak. I turn quickly and run into the light of the open gateway to see a circle of men surrounding my step-father who lays on the ground, gasping for air as his cut throat bleeds profusely. Time stands still. I find myself frozen, unable to move as my feelings conflict with each other but, without even realising it, I find myself at his side, my hand held on his chest as he looks up at me. In my heart, I have no love for him anymore and it is obvious enough in my eyes that he notices it. He smiles at me a wicked smile as his body begins to convulse and his breathing finally stops. Silence. Complete silence.

Chapter Twenty-Two

I feel a hand at my shoulder and look back to see Tzyrren standing behind me. He squeezes my shoudler gently as I stand and look around at all the bewildered faces that surround me, confused and dazed by what the night has brought with it this evening. With my head bowed, I move through them and up onto the drawbridge. Biting at my bottom lip, I turn and face them, their faces revealing their need for some kind of explaination. I take a deep breath and speak from my heart.
'So tonight it is that I take my father's place and become the Queen of this land, however reluctantly. But I want you all to know that you have a place here. You are still knights of this castle and I hope that you will find it in your hearts to continue to defend it as you have for so long. But there will be some changes.' I look down at Tzyrren and his smile only warms my heart further. 'You will not be barbarians anymore. Only in the extreme will it become necessary for you to harm or even kill another. And that extreme will be when you are defending yourself. Your own heart and soul and not that of the masses. I am willing to lead you if you are willing to be led. But hear this and remember it. You will have leway to use your own judgement in certain situations. You are all individuals when it comes down to it and I believe that you are all entitled to an opinion when it concerns your welfare.
So decide now. Stay and know that you will be well looked after or leave and begin life anew, knowing that you will not be ridiculed for doing so.' My heart now in my throat, I turn and take a step forward. When I look up. My maid stands before me, her face stained with tears and her arms open wide. I run to her, the safety in her embrace engulfs me as the men begin to talk amongst themselves. A hush falls over them as Tzyrren steps forward and addresses me.
'Princess.' I turn out of my maid's embrace and look deeply into his eyes. 'We're all with you'. Smiling uncontrollably, I run to him and throw my arms around him to the delight and cheers of my newly appointed friends....

The end *smiles* and a new beginning

By Melanie Elizabeth
Copyright 1999