The princess had been in the tower for years. Nearly a decade, if that term is accepted. Her father sent her up to the top of that mossy brick place she called home as a young girl when she was weak. But now, she was strong. Willful. Beautiful. Some may even dare to say that the princess was more beautiful than her mother.
Her mother was queen of the fairies, wearing gowns of autumn-colored leaves and headdresses of precious metals. A golden sword hung by her side, bowing low to her knees. The red hair that crowned the queen’s head flowed down her arms, waist, and thighs, stopping in soft waves at her calves. Her name was Nilsa.
The princess’s father was king of the humans. While Nilsa was warm coffee and cinnamon, King William was dark chocolate and peppers. Adorned with iron and guns, he needed no protection. He was a knight, fighting on the front lines of war and wearing a pistol at his side at all times.
People called the king and queen, who both resided in the castle, yin and yang, for they complimented each other perfectly. They balanced out the kingdom, ruling equally and fairly.
Together, they had three beautiful daughters. The eldest, Elentiya, was beautiful, but she was not yet mature enough to rule. She had attempted to escape the kingdom many times and did not understand the importance of ruling a kingdom. So, she was denied the throne and threw quite a fit afterwards.
The next daughter, Axelia, had eloped with a peasant boy and hadn’t returned. The only thing they had heard from Axelia was that she was pregnant and not planning on returning any time soon. So, the throne was taken from her, yet she did not notice.
The youngest daughter, Nastasya, was the most beautiful daughter of them all. She had her father’s blue eyes and wit and her mother’s beauty. She was very adventurous and loved walking in the forest, but she was near perfect. Starting from an early age, her parents saw her readiness to become queen and raised her to take over the small kingdom.
When this particular daughter was in her first decade on this planet we now call Earth, on her daily walk in the woods, she came across a small cabin. An appealing scent struck Nastasya’s nose, and she couldn’t stop herself from putting one foot in front of the other and walking into the home.
Almost as soon as she walked in, she felt like she belonged there. There was an elderly woman standing over a table, rolling out dough. A fire was crackling quietly in a fireplace on the other side of the small cabin, and a bassinet was resting in a corner, rocking lightly.
The woman, who was quite old, looked up and saw Nastasya leaning into the cabin, but not entering. She welcomed the princess, invited her to a cake and glass of wine on the couch, and they chatted until a cry came from the bassinet. The woman picked up her cane and walked over to the bassinet, returning as she cradled a baby boy in her arms. After asking many questions, Nastasya discovered that the boy’s name was Drayce, and that the woman had found him one late night, abandoned in the forest. She had taken him home and was raising him ever since. Occasionally, she would go to town to purchase food, but other than that, she rarely left the home.
After that day, Nastasya visited the woman every day for the next three years. She learned that the woman's name was Agathe and that she was never married although she had always wanted children of her own.
When Nastasya was in her early teenage years, she arrived to Agathe and Drayce's cabin when she heard crying inside. The princess rushed in, for what would she do if Drayce was harmed? But nay, it was not Drayce. It was Agathe. The woman had fallen, her head striking the ground. Nastasya knew that she had passed, and that Drayce would not survive the wilderness alone for long. So, Nastasya took him and brought him home. Shock smothered the kingdom. The youngest daughter, with a child! It was scandal at its finest.
Nilsa and William were furious. "Shame", they scolded, "You have brought shame upon our family, for you did not bring the boy in through the back, as you had left!" Which was not false. The kingdom had not seen the princess in a very long time, for Nastasya had a hole in the back walls that led straight to the log cabin. So, Nilsa and William chose to send Nastasya and Drayce away to a tall tower.
Now, Nastasya did not go quietly, for she had also inherited William's stubborn personality. If you asked anyone in the kingdom, they could tell you that many soldiers had to escort Nastasya and Drayce out of the castle and into a tall tower, many towns away. Nilsa was also forced by Nastasya's reaction to ask a dragon, who was an acquaintance of the Fair Folk, to make sure that Nastasya did not attempt to escape.
Nilsa and William announced this to the kingdom, although they already knew. Not only did the soldiers lead the princess out the front gates of the kingdom, but everybody who saw told everyone they knew about the scandal. It appeared as though Nastasya and Drayce suffered in this new, mystical home. But the princess, along with the boy that she now called her own, were far from suffering. In fact, they were thriving better than ever.
The dragon had become the children's sole protector, destroying everything that had attempted to get in, which became a problem for the king and queen. Nilsa and William had sent out an announcement that, whomever saved the princess from the dragon, may have her hand in marriage.
Now, this youngest daughter of Nilsa, who was more beautiful than ever seen before, was the most desired girl out of all the Thornton sisters. Thus, every eligible man, no matter the age, went out to save the princess. But they were never able to surpass the dragon, whom the princess had named Miphilym.
Although the casualties grew and grew as the years stretched on, the love that Nastasya had for Drayce, and her friendship with the dragon, grew also. She never wanted to return to the castle, she decided after three years living in the tower, when she started to feel as at home as when she first visited that little log cabin all those years ago.
On the 21st birthday of Miphilym, Nastasya went out for a short amount of time to gather mice, berries, and other favored foods of the family. Family is what they were, for what constitutes family? Must it be man and woman? Human and human? Blood born? One may never know the answer to this eternal question.
But when Nastasya arrived back at the tower, baskets full of treats, she discovered the dragon, dead, at the base of the tower. And standing over the olive green dragon, there was a man, covered in the blue blood of dragons that was slowly seeping out of Miphilym's head.
If you asked anyone in the surrounding areas about what they heard that dreadful day, they would all give you the same answer: cries rang through the forest, day and night, for days unending.
And the prince that had slaughtered this beautiful creature demanded that Nastasya marry him! "How can you expect me to marry you," the princess asked, "when you have killed my best friend? My guardian? The protector of my child, along with myself? No, I cannot fulfill your wishes."
"Did you not hear?" asked the prince, "Your father has announced that he who kills the dragon may have the privilege of marrying his most beautiful daughter." The prince also added that, if she did not comply, her son would be slaughtered by the king himself.
In fear of her father, who Nastasya knew would keep his word, and in fear for her son's life, Nastasya agreed to marry the prince. They wed the next day in the castle, where a grand reception took place, and everybody drank, and laughed, and were happy, even if just for one night. All except Nastasya and Drayce.
"Dance! Dance with your husband, and smile; this is the happiest day of your life!" But nay, the happiest day of Nastasya’s life was, although she did not know it at the time, the day she was sent up to the tower, and the day she met the dragon. The dragon that was as old as her when it breathed its last breath; the dragon that she was best friends with; the dragon that had kept her and Drayce safe for the past eight years of her life. The happiest years of her life.
It was that night, her wedding night, the night she had expected to be the happiest night of her life when she was younger, that she saw her. Agathe.
How? How is seeing the ghosts of the past, of the dead, possible? Nastasya did not know, but Agathe was there, her hand reaching out to Nastasya. She took Agathe's hand, which was still warm, as though she had never died.
"Come, my child, for I will tell you how to get your companion back. There is a necromancer that lives many miles away, and he will awaken your dragon. Just follow me, and have a cake!" Agathe held out a cake, just like the ones she had eaten for those years she had visited the small cabin. So Nastasya followed Agathe.
The journey took many days, with very little food, water, and sleep. The pair walked across forests, valleys, and lakes, until she came across a house on a floating island. There was no possible way to see the necromancer, so Nastasya shouted her request while Agathe stood behind her.
"My friend has passed into the afterlife, yet I need them to return to this world" Nastasya shouted.
"Just give them your deepest fears, and they shall live. Give them your heart, your soul. Pour it out along the ground for the world to see. Roll the words off your tongue, for others must know this to truly understand the soul," the necromancer said, and it rang through the water, and through the forests, and through the mountains, and everywhere until all creatures understood. Yet it was only known for a moment. The meaning of everything in life, why we are here, our purpose, was gone in a second. Even humanity understood, even if just for a fleeting moment. They understood.
So Nastasya and Agathe left. They walked for many more days, to pour out her heart and soul to the dragon. When she arrived back at the tower she had spent so long in, she kneeled next to Miphilym, and she followed the instructions of the necromancer. As she spoke, Agathe kneeled next to her, and red flowers bloomed where her words landed, and seeped into the olive green skin of Miphilym, and he awakened.
Nastasya embraced Miphilym, and looked back at Agathe. The old woman smiled, and Nastasya thanked her. Her purpose done, Agathe disappeared into white dust, flying away on the wind. Nastasya climbed onto the back of Miphilym, collecting her dirty skirt in one hand and grasping Miphilym's scales in the other. And the dragon flew, and flew, and flew, until they arrived back at the castle.
Miphilym asked where the prince was sleeping. Nastasya led the dragon through the castle, for they had landed on the opposite side of the castle from the prince's quarters. She watched from the doorway as Drayce ran out from the room next to the prince's and, noticing Nastasya standing there, buried his face in her skirt in greeting. Nastasya quickly called for a servant to take Drayce before Miphilym killed the prince. They obliged.
The assassination was quick. Just one bite, and the upper half of his body was gone. Two, and the prince never existed, vanished into thin air. Nastasya felt no remorse, and went to retrieve Drayce as Miphilym followed behind her. Nastasya thanked Miphilym, and they went to live at that little log cabin.
The cabin that had started it all. The home that Drayce grew up in for the first three years of his life, and the home where Agathe lived her last. Of course, they had to expand the building, and Drayce would have to walk about a mile to school each day, but it was home.
The other children at school often made fun of Drayce for having a dragon for a parent. He was constantly bullied, left out of games and projects, and ignored in class. But it was worth it, because he had the most caring and loving family out of the children.
Women in the village gossiped and spread rumors about Nastasya and Miphilym, shaming them for living together. Nastasya attempted to persuade them that it was just friendship, but none of them listened, and continued spreading rumors. But Miphilym reassured her that they were using the only weapon they had: words. Their envy of the princess, who would someday inherit the kingdom, with the perfect family, caused them to act in strange ways.
They had all found family. But must family be two humans? Must it constitute two people locked in a romantic relationship? Or can two best friends and a child create the most loving and kind family there is? One may never know the answer to this eternal question. But, we do know one thing: They were all a family, and family is the most important thing.