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The Legend of the Dragon Girl
By:Katy Lovejoy

There are thousands upon thousands of legends in the world. Each place boasts its own supernatural thing that either lives there or used to live there.

 

Dinar was one of those places. There was one part of the forest that no one ever went in. All because of the decrepit tower in the middle of it.

 

Rumor had it that back when Dinar was a monarchy, the tower was once a part of an elaborate palace. It was a place of laughing, dancing, and general merry making…until…

 

The princess was born. The final princess. No one saw her, but they all saw what happened after she was born. Chaos.

 

Her mother was rumored to die the moment that she laid eyes upon her newborn.  While at the same time her father was rumored to have slowly begun to lose his mind.

 

Servants were fired, the few that remained kept in the castle away from the world.

 

Eventually word got out that the princess wasn’t human, not entirely. No one knew for sure, but it was rumored that the princess was slightly…draconic in her features.

 

Some people said she had horns that started out as tiny nubbins, others added scaly ears.  Some said her entire body was coated in  scales rather than the smooth skin associated with babies. Some even claimed she had wings while others said she was a full on dragon.

 

No one knew how those rumors got started. No one had ever seen the infant.  Meaning, she probably died along with her mother.

 

But you know how people like to talk when something weird and out of the ordinary happens.

 

That was the case now. However many centuries later, my brother Carl and I were going to find that tower and make sure that we knew exactly what was up with that baby all those years ago.

 

 Carl just didn’t exactly know that’s what we were doing. Yet.

 

“Have you lost your mind!” Okay, he did now.

 

“Don’t tell me you're not curious.”

 

“It’s dangerous!”

 

“You actually believe in that legend?” I didn’t, which is why I wanted to go see what was there. The princess probably had some sort of weird rare skin condition that was unheard of back then.

 

“No, I don’t but I believe in the crumbling infrastructure of an abandoned tower!”

 

“Come on.”

 

“I believe in the dangerous terrain that it takes to get there…” I let him continue to talk as I dragged him.  Since he didn’t really protest I didn’t stop.

 

“Mon!”

 

“What?” Now I stopped, completely annoyed. We were almost to the forest.  He hadn’t stopped being annoying or at least started walking more by himself.

 

“I’m gonna tell Mom!”

 

I raised an eyebrow.

 

“Ugh! Fine! Just so you don’t get yourself killed. If you do get yourself killed I get to say I told you so.”

 

“Okay, okay, whatever you say.” I shrugged, turned away from him and went back to the forest.

 

Of course I had entered it before. People picnicked there all the time. But they never went very far into the thick of it - because of that stupid rumor. But Carl and I, Monica Henderson, would be the first two to do so.

 

“What are you gonna do if the tower isn’t even there?” He asked as he ducked under an overhanging branch. “Cry?”

 

“No, we’re looking for proof of what the princess really was.  Perhaps even proof that she is still around” I said with finality.

 

“Uh huh, sure…if the tower’s not still standing and we don’t find so-called proof, I’ll buy you a donut.”

 

I ignored that empty promise. We were actually doing this.

 

I couldn’t help my little scream of excitement.   But Carl had been expecting this and just plugged his ears.

 

The beginning of the forest looked like how you’d imagine every other forest to look. Not too bright because of the trees, but still light and beautiful because the sun would peak through the leaves. Squirrels scampered on the tree branches and birds flew.

 

This was the part that everyone had probably seen thousands of times. But as we kept walking, it changed.

 

I was keeping my eyes peeled at my surroundings but even then I couldn’t pinpoint when the shift occurred, just that it did.

 

There were no birds. The only things that flew overhead were mosquitos, which were annoying, and the bats, which were at the very least taking care of the mosquitos.

 

The trees grew thicker, denser, closer together.  Light no longer got through. I was fairly certain it wasn’t nighttime, we couldn’t have been walking that long.  But at the same time, it seemed like night. The bats were out and about. Bats were only supposed to be out and about at night.

 

“Hey!” Carl screamed, running to catch up with me. “A mouse just ran across my foot.”

 

“Poor baby.” I mocked.

 

“It was a big one. Probably a rat.” I didn’t care. He was my younger brother but right now he was acting as if there was thirteen years difference between our ages instead of thirteen months. I wouldn’t play along.

 

A wolf’s howl echoed and my hair stood up on end. “Oh, so you're allowed to be afraid?”

 

“A wolf is a lot scarier than a rat! What would a rat even do to you?” I asked.

 

“It could carry the black plague.”

 

“The black plague, which hasn’t been seen in Dinar in centuries?  That black pla…ah!” Because I was talking too much to my brother, just to give him a hard time (of which as his older sister I was entitled to do), I didn’t notice that I was walking towards a marsh and had stepped straight into the water.

 

“Ew!”

 

“Don’t be such a…” I punched him. “I was going to say baby.”

 

“No you weren’t.” I hesitantly stepped onto the part of semi dry land. I didn’t realize there would be a marsh in the middle of this, but then again, no one went this far into the forest.

 

There could be a whole mountain in the middle of it, albeit a small one, and no one would have noticed.

 

But there was no mountain in sight.  Of course there wasn’t, that would have made no sense.

 

We were walking. Branches scratching at our upper bodies, and weeds and thorns scratching at our lower bodies. I had to rescue Carl when his shirt got caught in a bush.

 

“I take it back, let’s go back…I’ll buy you two donuts!”

 

“Absolutely not! At this point, we are safer heading into the forest than we are heading out of it.”

 

He didn’t argue which meant he knew that I was right.  I tried not to show how jumpy I myself was feeling but it was hard.

 

The wolf howls seemed to echo more, and the bats were swooping. We really might have walked through the night. Carl had checked his phone early on and realized we had no service so if our parents were frantically trying to get a hold of us, then we wouldn’t know.

 

I shuddered.

 

“What’s up?” Carl asked, trying not to sound squeamish even though I knew he was.  I knew this because mud had gotten into his shoes and he was weird about things like that.

 

“I think the wolves are getting closer.”

 

“Great!  Just great! We really are gonna die out here!”

 

“Look, either we die here, or we get home and we die because our parents are furious. Which way do you think is preferable?!”

 

“Yeah, you're right, let's keep goin…Ah!” I jerked my head around just in time to see Carl fall into a lake.

 

My brother had never learned how to swim. He always claimed it was unnatural. It never had been a bad thing before, but apparently, there was a…not a lake!  A moat!

 

“Carl, look there’s the tower!” Nothing. It registered that my brother was quite possibly literally drowning and I was ogling over the fact that we had just seen the tower that we were hunting for. I was a horrible sister.

 

I could swim, but I didn’t think I would be able to swim and hold on to him.  He was struggling to keep his head up, but he kept slipping under

 

I hunted for something for him to grab on to. At first I thought I had a stick. But then  it moved and turned out to be a snake! That was something that I did not want to ever experience again.

 

I screamed!  Then I finally found a stick that I thought would work.  I held it out to him, but he missed it when reaching for it.

 

“Oh for Pete’s sake! I’m trying to save your life here because you decided to be an idiot and fall into an obvious moat when you can’t even swim!” I was being mad at him so I wouldn’t have to think about what might happen if I couldn’t get him out. It would be my fault if he died in here.

 

As I ran to try and find a better place to put the stick out where he could grab it, the ground beneath me partially gave way and I almost joined my brother in the moat. Now at least I understood why he had fallen in but…

 

Something dark, very big and very fast soared over my head! I froze. I didn’t think there were any animals in Dinar big enough to carry me away but this forest was unnatural.

 

Dragons could actually exist. That was the rumor that led to the downfall of Dinar’s royalty after all. So there really could be a dragon flying overhead waiting to take me away and eat me.

 

When my brother let out a gasp I realized I had to act fast. Even if there was a possibility that I might die. I kind of deserved that.

 

Finally, after what seemed like forever, Carl grabbed a hold of the stick and I managed to pull him out of the moat.

 

I knew I should probably do something like CPR.  That’s what they did on movies and TV shows when someone fell in the water that couldn’t swim. But I didn’t know how to do CPR other than the lip locking thing. I was not looking forward to doing that to my brother!

 

As it turned out, I didn’t have to. He coughed up the water on his own, and then glared at me.

 

“I know, I know…”

 

“You almost killed me!”

 

“Nobody forced you to come along with me on this.”

 

“If I wasn’t here you would have died.! Also, you are very hard to say no to.”

 

“I am going to make your life miserable with that knowledge.”

 

“No!” Carl moaned, weakly batting at me. “If I die on this trip, I am not buying you a donut, and you better buy me an ice cream cake.”

 

“It’s not like you can eat it if you're dead…” I laughed.

 

“Just say yes…” Carl’s eyes widened at something he was seeing over my shoulder.

 

“What’s wrong?”

 

“Wait, Mon, don’t turn…”

 

Too late, I did. My brother was not very good with his poker face so I knew something was behind me that was scaring him.

 

I just hoped it would be something like a rat, or a mouse, or a bat. Things that were small and mostly harmless, but still things that he was actually afraid of for some reason.

 

Nope, wolves. A lot of them. Growling, creeping towards us on all fours. I was actually afraid.

 

“Maybe we shouldn’t have come here…” I said quietly, barely moving my lips.

 

“Oh you think?!” I could tell he wanted to smack me but he also was too afraid to move very much.

 

“What are you supposed to do if you're cornered by a pack of wolves?” I asked.

 

“Let me just google it, oh wait!” His annoyance with me seemed to set something off with the wolves as they started running.

 

“Run!” I screamed.

 

“Do you really think we can outrun wolves?!” He screamed, his voice shaking with the force of his pounding feet.

 

“Do you have a better plan?!”

 

 He didn’t have an answer, which was more than enough of an answer.

 

 Then overhead, it came again. The big fast…thing.

 

 At this point I was thinking it was a dragon, and was going to eat us and the wolves all in one gulp, but I kept running.

 

Until there was a thump.  Whatever it was, landed on the ground behind us. I wanted to turn around but Carl kept a hand on my arm, probably guessing that.

 

I wanted to snap at him.  Tell him that I wanted to see this, but before I could, the dark forest became immensely brighter.

 

My first thought foolishly was that the sun had finally poked through the trees and we hadn’t actually been walking till dark. But then the heat registered. It wasn’t the light of the sun, it was the light of fire.

 

Carl ducked behind me as if I was any more fireproof than he was. I didn’t bother to say anything on that.

 

Due to the smoke I could barely breathe, and I definitely couldn’t see what was going on as I finally did turn around.

 

But I could hear the painful yelps of the wolves. They were most likely getting singed and they ran to avoid getting burned up even more.

 

 And…a laugh. A low and melodious laugh as the fire was extinguished.

 

When the smoke died away, and my brother stopped trying to hide behind me, I got a better look at who had saved us and my mouth dropped open.

 

Carl opened his mouth to say something, probably to make fun of me. But the realization of what was in front of us, what had just saved our lives, took his voice away as well.

 

My gaze was on her feet at first. They were clad in a pair of boots that seemed to be some weird sort of leather, and went up to about mid calf. I could make out bumps on the little bit of bare skin that was exposed between the shoes and the dress.

 

The dress, which was a dirty raggedy thing,  had probably been pink or blue at first but was now not a real color.  Nails that represented claws more than actual fingernails and the same bumps that were on her legs were on her hands, creeping up to about her elbows.

 

 Huge dark green wings exploded from her back and almost looked like bat wings, if bats were reptiles. Heavy dark wavy hair spilled over her broad shoulders, dirty and very obviously hadn’t been brushed out in a while.

 

 A sharp angular face, a smile with fangs poking out from behind thin lips, bumps which I was now realizing were scales along her jawline and forehead, and golden eyes. Scary golden eyes.

 

My eyes quickly moved to the top of her head instead and sure enough, two curly ivory horns escaped from it.

 

This was it. This was the last princess. This was…

 

“The Dragon Girl.” Carl spoke up.

 

“Are they still calling me that? You’d think they’d at the very least upgrade it to Dragon Woman.” She said in an almost joking manner. “Now, what are you two doing here?”

 

“Um…Monica, you’re up.” Carl had every right to defer to me, this was my idea, but…

 

I was face to face with a creature of legend. Someone I didn’t believe would still be alive, or even really existed in the first place! I had come here to find evidence of what she was, not to actually find her!

 

And it turned out the rumors were all true? She literally was part dragon, part human and somehow had lived this long.

 

Not only that, she had chosen to save me and my brother when we had basically trespassed!

 

I think my response to being bombarded with this information was a fair one.

 

I fainted.