The Dragon Spell

A fractured fairytale

Once upon a time, a very ordinary but very lonely girl fell in love with reading. She spent day and night in her family’s ivory tower, reading book after book about princes and princesses, beauty and magic, courage and true love. Yet, nowhere did she read a story about someone like her. She read thin books and thick books, picture books and chapter books, fact books and fairytales. She read books day and night until her head hurt and her heart ached. She read until she knew every line of every book in her tower by heart and still she longed for more. So she left the tower and her family in search of the story she’d never heard.

She searched every bookshop in every town and city in their land, yearning to find a story that spoke to her heart, that showed her a path, and could not find it. She knew she needed to keep looking, so she sold every book she owned to cross the ocean and learn the languages of the people there so she could read their books to find the story she’d never heard. Though their words were beautiful and their metaphors were novel, every tale was a version of another she’d heard before. She kept traveling.

Land after land, language after language, there was no powerful tale of love and freedom granted an ordinary girl who looked and thought like her.

Until one day, she reached the other end of the earth — the land of dragons — and collapsed in a crying heap by the lakeshore because there were no more new stories to find. An elder wyrm landed beside her and asked what was wrong. When she explained, he cocked his puzzled head to one side and stated matter-of-factly that she had not found her story because she was not an ordinary girl.

“But I am not a princess!” she protested.

“No,” the dragon replied, “you are one of us. Or at least, you could be.”

“How?” the girl asked.

“Simply speak the words of the dragon spell.” And the dragon whispered its fiery incantation in her ear.

“But what if I don’t like being a dragon?” the girl asked.

“Then simply speak the words of the spell backwards and you will return to your life of pretending to be an ordinary girl.”

The girl had never heard of the dragon spell or its language in any human book she’d read, but having a quick mind and natural ear for foreign tongues, fluently shouted the dragon’s incantation skyward, as if she’d known the spell her whole life.

As it left her lungs, it became a plume of fire, and her body surged with the thrill of the new strength and fearlessness that pulsed through her draconic veins. She couldn’t help but smile as she felt wings sprouting from her back, and her whip-like tail fling itself broadly behind her. In the next instant, a modest bow of her head to acknowledge the shame of such unfounded pride caused her to catch her reptilian reflection in the water.

“Ahh!!” she recoiled. “What have I done?!?”

“Become a dragon,” the elder wyrm replied, as it flapped its monstrous wings and launched once more into the blue sky.

“Wait!” the new dragon yelled.

The elder wyrm seemed not to hear and began disappearing over the nearby treetops.

The new dragon frantically flapped its wings to give chase.

“I SAID WAIT!!” the girl who was now a soaring dragon roared.

The elder wyrm looked over its shoulder only long enough to reply, “A dragon does not take commands from anyone…” before winking and swooping skyward into a bank of cumulus clouds, and out of sight.

Steam began venting from the new dragon’s nostrils. This was not how any dragon she’d ever read about had behaved! It was positively infuriating! And yet, the longer she flew searching for the elder dragon, the more she started to revel in the freedom of flying and forget her anger. After all, she thought, I can change back any time I want by saying the dragon spell backwards. She decided she’d be better off beginning the long journey home.

The new dragon spent her first week as a dragon hunting wildlife to fill her hungry stomach and setting random haystacks and woodpiles on fire by simply casting her breath on them. She took luxurious naps in the warmth of their dancing flames. She might have happily done so for another week, had not a company of heroic knights arrived on horseback to slay her.

It being the first time anyone remotely resembling a knight in shining armour (yet alone six!) had taken interest in her, she playfully allowed them to approach, and even allowed them to issue their brave threats and insults, before rolling her eyes and taking flight to expel her disappointed fury on less mortal targets, like their castle’s stone walls.

It was during this attack that she caught the eye of their kingdom’s prince.

“What a regal and wondrous dragon you are!” the prince declared, awestruck.

The new dragon was similarly starstruck. Her mouth was dry and raspy as she managed to reply, “I am no dragon. I am a girl!” but the words stumbled and tripped over each other as they were forced out of her throat.

“Do you think me blind, or a fool?” The prince replied.

“Pardon, your majesty,” The young dragon said, “I can prove it to you.”

“My foolishness, or your girlhood?” The prince said.

“Both. Just repeat these words after me,” the young dragon said before whispering the dragon spell in his ear.

“Is this some trick?”

“No,” the young dragon replied, “these words will change you into a dragon like me.”

“Why would I want to be a dragon like you?” the prince said. “My family would have me killed. Besides, I am already a prince, fair of face, quick of wit, and strong with sword and spear. I can win any princess or battle I choose.”

“Not this one.” the young dragon said.

“Change back and I’ll prove you a liar.” the prince dared her.

The dragon’s heart skipped a beat. For a moment she wanted to believe in every fairytale she’d ever read. But she could not deny her new reflection in the gleam of his eye.

“A dragon does not take commands from anyone.” She said, before making her best attempt at a wink. There was an uncomfortable silence.

“Neither does a prince,” the prince said quietly.

The stood facing each other for some time, waiting, before the prince finally relented, turned, and walked away.

The dragon wanted to speak the words to reverse the spell in that moment, but every fairytale ending she’d ever dreamed of finished with a kiss. So instead, the dragon took a slow and deep bellows breath, feeling it warm her belly and soothe the chill that had settled over her heart. She blinked slowly, once, to clear her sight and let her wings carry her back to the lakeshore in the land of dragons where she’d first met the elder wyrm. She was not surprised to see him waiting there for her.

“So, do you like being a dragon?” the wyrm asked.

“I’m not sure,” the dragon replied.

“Why?”

“Because I’ve finally found my story, but I don’t know how it ends.”

“And your problem?”

“I’ve read so many stories, and yet I’ve never learned how to write my own.”

“But you’re doing so now!”

“But I’m not doing a good enough job!” the dragon retorted.

“Why?”

“Because the prince didn’t kiss me!!”

“You’re a dragon!! He might have slayed you!!”

“But he might have been a dragon too!”

“Why? To snatch a princess and make her a prisoner in his castle? He’s more likely to win her love as a prince!”

“Am I more likely to win his love as an ordinary girl?”

“Honestly?,” the elder wyrm paused, “No. But if you prefer to pretend…”

The young dragon knew how tempting it was in that moment to speak the three words that would return her to who she had been. Still, she was frozen with indecision.

“Why must I be less of who I am so that I can be loved?”

“You mustn’t. It’s a choice.” the elder wyrm replied.

Both dragons sighed deeply.

And after a few more moments, the younger dragon spoke.

“Have you ever heard stories of a dragon prince?” she asked hopefully.

“I’m afraid the only dragon’s story I’ve ever heard is the one I shared with you.” the elder wyrm replied.

“And … are you a prince?” the younger dragon asked.

“No.”

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Doer and Dreamer, happy anywhere the snow flies.

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