Chapter 2
The Princess and Her Dragon

Caer Pendragon, Pendragon

The Sealed Tower was supposed to have been abandoned since the death of King Lother. It had been Cassandra's prison and in his wrath, then-Prince Seth wanted to tear it down stone by stone, but it was allowed to remain as a reminder of the old king's cruelty.
Even though it was supposed to be sealed, the tower was not completely inaccessible. There were hidden ways in and out. The castle was full of them and the tower was no exception. Most of the people who lived and worked in the castle knew some of these hidden paths, but no one knew all of them. This all played to her advantage.
Princess Aurelia stood at the top of the Sealed Tower. It was a place for her and her alone. No servants, no tutors, no courtiers. No guardsmen, no knights. All the trappings of royalty stripped away, leaving a lone girl unburdened and unfettered, even if it was for but a brief time.
She would go to the tower for solitude, but that did not mean she eschewed all company. Indeed, she eagerly awaited the familiar sound of heavy wings beating in the distance. The young Dragon soon appeared and alighted upon the tower. Even half-grown, the top of the tower was rather small for him. They would not stay there long, though.
He lowered one of his wings so that she could climb up onto his back and once she had a firm grip on his mane, he took to the skies again. There was a small island just off the coast, a private little getaway for just the two of them. It was not often they could enjoy this time together, but they made the most of it when the opportunity presented itself.
When the Dragon landed, Aurelia dismounted. She loved the feeling of the grass between her toes. The new spring grass was just starting to come up, so the timing was perfect. There was something special about this island. The green would come sooner and leave later than the mainland even though it was farther north. There had to be some magic to it. Perhaps it was what drew them there.
The Dragon's body was wrapped in light, shrinking down and reshaping itself so that a young man around Aurelia's age emerged. Though he was already over a hundred years old, he was still another couple hundred away from being a grown adult by Dragons' reckoning and his borrowed form reflected that. When they first met, he was like a big brother to her but now she was starting to appear older than him. It was but one of the things that was making their relationship more awkward than it once was. Awkward or not, though, they craved each other's company and lived for moments like this.
"I've missed you, Drago," Aurelia said.
'Drago' came from Aurelia's childish mispronunciation of 'Dragon' when she first encountered him as a child. Though she had since learned his true name, the nickname stuck. Ever indulgent, he did not complain.
Drago knelt and kissed her hand, replying, "As have I you, my princess."
Aurelia found herself blushing a little. She had read stories to him of knights and their ladies and he would try to play the role of the knight, half-jesting, half-sincere. Though she had recently come of age to be called on by men trying to court her, none could endear themselves to her as Drago's clumsy attempts to play out the parts in the stories.
"Would the bards sing songs of the Dragon who saved the princess from all the knights, I wonder," she teased.
"I would rather like to hear a tale where the Dragon is not run through by a lance or his head lopped off by some magic sword," he said.
"We will have to make it ourselves," Aurelia said. "Can Dragons do poetry?"
"In our own tongue, after a fashion," Drago replied. "I don't think I could make poetry like the stories, though."
True to her often flighty nature, Aurelia left the subject unresolved, looking wistfully out to the horizon.
"Do you ever think about just taking me and flying away?" she asked. "Leave it all behind and spend our lives like this?"
She did not turn back to see the uncomfortable look on Drago's face. He struggled to come up with a response.
"You... you don't want to do that," he said. "What about your parents, your responsibilities? You're the King's daughter."
This made her turn to him. Her eyes almost seemed to glow in the moonlight.
"That's what I want to get away from," she said. "I don't want to be traded like some goat. That's all they say I'm good for."
"That doesn't sound like your father," Drago said.
"Oh, he never talks about it like that," Aurelia admitted, "but Matron does and whenever I complain about her to Father, all he says is I have responsibilities. Just like what you're saying."
She gave him a pointed look and he shifted uncomfortably.
"I, I'm just saying that you're the daughter of the King. Your life isn't just your own."
"Why not?" she demanded. "It's not fair!"
Drago sighed.
"Life's not fair, Aurelia. Believe me, I know."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Aurelia asked.
Drago looked away for a moment, but then looked back to her and said, "We don't have any control over our lives. We just have to make the most of the time we have while we have it."
Aurelia did not doubt Drago's sincerity and perhaps if she would listen to the voice of reason, she would agree with him, but the voice of reason was the last thing she wanted to hear. The storm of conflicting emotions brewing inside her was more than she could bear. Her eyes welling up with tears, she threw all restraint aside and rushed at Drago, hugging him tightly.
"I never asked for any of this! I don't want it! I just want to be with you, just the two of us."
At first, Drago was frozen in place, but slowly, clumsily, he returned her embrace. They stayed there holding each other in relative silence for some time. Though she was not openly weeping, Aurelia could be heard quietly sniffling into Drago's tunic.
Drago rubbed her head, much as he did when she was little, and told her, "I'll be with you to the end, my princess."