By Lida Broadhust

Dear Princess, you should have whispered that your powers have faded and I would have flown where the winds awaken to carry you as I did before. How dare you say I would not have come? My scales may have turned from verdant to ebon and the Healers have fastened diamonds on my eyes to help me see the furthest reaches of the roost. Yet, if it had been a thousand thousand years, I would remember you.

I’ve told you before dragons are not kind, but honest. I can see your glorious dark hair hangs like grass crisped by my breath. And it’s true that your eyes, once shiny as a new-born’s scales, reflect emptiness in their depths. But it was never your beauty that bid me aid you. But for one quality, I would not have lifted a single claw to help you flee that ruined palace.

You cannot guess? Your witch powers have indeed diminished with your beauty. Ah no. Your eyes still flash those golden daggers. Very well I will tell you. Your splendid passions and rages, of course. Oh stop your recital of other beings who had both. The youngest Scroll Keeper could tell me of them. Ah, Princess, in you they were so beautifully entwined, they seemed but one.

So you say you are too weary now for such foolishness. Poor princess, the climb to my cave…Now the thin flesh of your hands and feet releases your blood. Come, rest against my neck.

No, you do not cause me pain. Dragons can barely feel a mortal’s weight, great as you think yourselves. Although, at the last, you forgot that and sealed your children’s fate.

Oho, so you didn’t forget. Well, you shall tell me all about it later. Time passes slowly at the Roost. And, as I promised all those years ago, I did speak to …your tongue would twist in vain and never say that Name. But, you may live beside us. Of course it is an honor; mortals usually meet a different fate at our talons. Well, I can face the facts, as you never did. And your kind’s fingers, crunch sweetly in the fangs.

Ah do not weep, at my ill-timed jest. I agree it was in the worst possible taste. I apologize. I did not mean to cause you to feel the same grief as did that round boned idiot your gods forced you to love. What was his name? Oh, yes. Jason, the weak one needing your aid before he could lift a sword, the breaker of oaths, the wrecker of families. You should have taken a dragon for a lover. Then you would have then lived one of the great love stories, to inspire tapestry and song in your world. Instead human gossip solidified you to legend--as a witch, an outcast, an eater of souls, a child killer.

Coming here shows you are at last acquiring wisdom. In the Roost you will be appreciated. How dearly do we dragons love that moment when rage rules the soul. How exhilarating to watch a hen dragon seething while her mate hides necklaces or refuses to share the bones of tribute meals. Great Worm, the scream escaping from a throat like the pit of fire, the spark of fangs sinking into scales, the slash of … really without a tail to grasp or smash your hatreds, it’s a wonder how you humans have survived.

Don’t scowl at me. Look at you. Tiny things with little hair and no scales. Stunted teeth and useless nails. Yes, I know you never thought of yourself like that. Neither did Jason. He thought he was powerful. But you made him so. Foolish Princess, you let him treat you like any other tool. A hammer or a sword. But tools gain nothing for themselves.

Oh so you think the bargain seemed fair? You help him steal the Golden Fleece through all those mythic complications in exchange for what? Betrayal of your father, murder of your brother, a chance to eat the wormy bread of exile. The silliest nestling wouldn’t give you the tiniest nugget for that. Ah dear Princess, my clumsy tongue. But I rejoice your tears now are not for Jason.

Well here you can forget your past stupidity. For you redeemed yourself when he strutted to your room, reeking of Corinth’s daughter, and announced his plans to marry her. As he might have announced what he wished to eat. Oh it had nothing to do with his feeding? You felt he was chaining you and the children to a rock, to be devoured by the years. Well , whatever you felt, you knew to admiration how to twist dreams into revenge. For years I heard your screams echo through my skull, as you ripped out your heart and fed the bits to me. The taste rasped bitter on my tongue. Somehow our minds were harnessed, each to each.

I understood your weaving a robe and insisting I breathe fire into every thread. And your false smile, as you shepherded your children, innocent nestlings, down to her room to present it as a wedding gift. The screams of her maids as the woman flamed into a monument to Jason’s desires burned joy into my veins.

But…do not shake your head because I come to the part of your story you cannot bear. no self respecting hen dragon, even if her mate hid a priceless necklace, or her share of a tribute meal, would murder her chicks. Perhaps a couple of fang bites or a whack on the spine with her tail. Yes, I have taken such hurts.

What might she do if the mate had nibbled the wing tips of her rival? Oh drag the nestlings to another cave and seal the gate with a fire spell. But severing those young necks or poisoning their food…Ah, Princess, even a dragon cannot follow you on that murderous path.

Perhaps you thought I would not be able to carry the additional burden as we fled the ruined palace? Or, sweet Princess, were they a burden you could not bear? Sweet chunks of memory to rot in your heart. I remember your tears burning my scales. I watched with regret as they spilled to earth. And not one did you turn to a diamond, since you refused to take any thing of value from that place.

No need to scream I never understood humans. Certainly I will listen to what you tell me. I will even believe you. I know mortals have odd ideas about children. They treat them like money with little kindness unless they can bargain with their lives for something.

Not like my tribe. We care for every nestling—well, every one with its wings and scales in the right place. No sense fussing with something half-lion or horse or goat, the stuff you see stalking these days and nights. But as I remember your sons were small replicas of Jason, dark and curly-haired, with pleasing smiles that flitted to their eyes.

Sit down, dear Princess, do not pace so near the cliff’s edge. Don’t rage and scream that you have chewed the bread of sorrow and the water of rue. Lovely poetry, but what has that brought you? What have the years brought you since I set you down gently in that unknown land and you clasped my neck in farewell to release me from your service? Many times I have wondered about your fate, but no matter how far we ranged, dragons heard little of you, except some tidbit concerning another hero and his father and poison. Sometimes with your venomous gossip, I think you humans are children of scorpions.

And now that you see how foolishly you have behaved, you will forget the past and learn wisdom from the dragons. Come seat yourself. I will fill a silver plate from my treasures with such morsels as you can eat. A golden cup will bear spring water to your lips.

Stop gazing down from the great height of these Mountains. For no matter how you fling your arms about you cannot fly. But I will bear you anywhere you wish to go.

To Hades!

Great Hen’s Fire, she’s flung herself from the rock. And even I cannot fly fast enough to clutch her back. Already she seems a speck of ash to be blown as the wind wills. Worms and Witches, let the evils of the past stay silent. Even to speak of them fanned the embers within her to flames of regret. Oh, Princess, I should have stripped the skin from my morning kill to bind your feet and blood from my heart to revive you. I should have let you sit silent or tell me of new evil you were planning. Not boast of how we dragons care for our young. What were the two children to my race? Or even yours? Born of a degenerate father, probably fated to kill dragons.

Now I will fling coins from my rock. May you gather them as an offering to Charon, that greedy boatman, if your history prove true. And I shall cover my head with stinking bones, only open my snout again to beg the Great Worm to grant us a meeting in the Eternal Nest. M e d e a a a!!

Copyright 1998 by Lida Broadhust

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