Deirdre’s Dragon was the first story I ever sold. More than that, it’s the foundation tale for my YA novel, Faery Unexpected, so if you like Deirdre, be sure to check Faery out😀
Since this is a very short story, I’m not going to give you the opening … I’m going to give you the whole story! Enjoy!!
Fun Factoid: The artwork for Deirdre’s Dragon was done by my brother, John Logan.
Deirdre rubbed her eyes, and then stared open-mouthed at the dragon squished onto the window seat. He was shiny, golden, and too big to be believed.
The dragon oozed off the cushion onto the hardwood floor. He yawned and stretched, reminding Deirdre of a really big (make that gigantic!) cat.
She stood perfectly still, heart pounding so hard her fingers and toes felt like they might explode. She wondered if the dragon was hungry, but mostly she wondered what dragons ate.
“Caviar,” the dragon rumbled, licking his lips. “You know, little black fish eggs, but I’ll settle for peanut butter and jelly on rye.”
“You, uhh, you talked! Where did you come from? Wait a minute. I didn’t say that out loud.” Words gushed from Deirdre’s mouth. She was standing in the library of Gran’s Scottish mansion talking to a dragon, and all she could do was ask stupid questions.
“Of course I talk,” said the dragon, “and I hear your thoughts, too.” He lifted his lip in what Deirdre hoped was a dragon smile. “As to where I came from, why, you called me.”
“I did? I didn’t mean to. I mean, I’m sure you’re a very nice dragon and all …” her words trailed off. She took a deep breath and tried again. “How did I call you?”
“You touched that silver medal, and on your twelfth birthday, too.” A wisp of smoke escaped his nostrils.
Deirdre hoped he didn’t belch up a flame. With all these books, she’d be toast in a heartbeat! Oh, yeah, the medal. She glanced at the ornament clutched in her sweaty palm. The bright disk boasted a tiny picture of a dragon in mid-flight.
“I am bound to the females of your bloodline,” the dragon continued, “but you must be twelve before I’m allowed to show myself.” He lowered his head and looked straight into her eyes. “Happy birthday, Deirdre.”
“Thank you.” Mom would be pleased. Even with her mind in a whirl, Deirdre remembered her manners. Mom. Aha! “Does my mother know about you?”
“Of course.” He turned his jewel-bright eyes away from Deirdre and glanced around the room. “She’s heard all your Gran’s stories, just as you have.”
“No!” Deirdre cried, stamping her foot. “That’s not what I mean, and you know it.” She decided to be more specific. “Does my mother think you’re real? Has she ever talked to you?”
The dragon ambled to the hearth and curled up in front of the extinct fire. “No.” He yawned and nestled his triangular head onto his front feet. Claws flashed, and then retracted, rescuing the hearthrug from certain destruction.
“The enchantment skips a generation. You won’t be ready to give me up when your daughter turns twelve.” His eyes sparkled, laughter dancing in their depths. “But when your granddaughter comes of age, well, that will be another bowl of caviar.”
“Well … what if I don’t have a daughter? Or a granddaughter?”
His head jerked up, his eyes round as saucers. “No granddaughter? But you have to have a granddaughter!”
“No, I don’t,” Deirdre said, her heart skipped a beat. Arguing with a dragon might be dangerous, but this was important. “Mom says I can be anything I want.” She planted her fists squarely on her hips and stared up into the dragon’s glittering eyes. “Dad says so, too. I’m going to be an astronaut and discover new planets.”
The dragon stared at her. His huge eyes whirled, and the spiky tip of his golden tail beat a rapid rhythm on the hearthrug. “Maybe you could have a daughter before you go exploring?”
She relaxed a little and considered his suggestion. “Maybe, but I might be too busy training. You might have to wait until I get back from my new planet.”
He looked so disappointed. She wanted to ease the sting. “Maybe I’ll name my first planet after you. Say, what is your name?”
He stood proudly on all four feet, wings furled tightly against his back and made a noise that sounded like chewing up rocks and gargling the slurry.
“Oh.” She cleared her throat — it hurt just listening to that name – and said, “well, maybe I’d better just take you along when I go exploring.” She paused, thought about that terrible noise, and asked, “I don’t suppose you have a nickname?”
He grinned his toothy grin and said, “You may call me Roddy.”
Voices in the hall interrupted them. Deirdre turned from the dragon to stare at the closed door. A moment later, it burst open and Dad stepped into the room.
“Hi, Dad,” she said, stuffing the medal into the back pocket of her jeans. She glanced over her shoulder at Roddy.
The majestic beast was gone. In his place lay Gran’s favorite toy — the dragon she’d told all her stories about.
Late that night, Deirdre snuggled under the covers of the huge bed in Gran’s guest room. The old mansion whispered and creaked around her. Another night she might have been frightened, but not tonight.
Tonight Roddy lay stretched across the length of the bedroom floor. His huge bulk protected her from the unaccustomed night sounds.
“What if Mom comes in?” she whispered.
“She’ll see a toy on the floor,” he replied. “Go to sleep, Deirdre, you’re safe with me.”
She closed her eyes and thought about home. What was she going to do with a dragon in Denver?
“Have the time of your life,” came the nearly silent answer. “We’ll have wonderful adventures. Just wait and see.”
I grew up in Oklahoma surrounded by tales of the Five Civilized Tribes (Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, Seminole, and Cherokee). As a school girl, I visited the Cherokee Heritage Center in Tahlequah with my classmates. The story of the Trail of Tears was very real to me.
This week I leave fantasy behind and give you the opening to a historical fiction tale, “The Trail Where We Cried.”
I ran down the lane toward Marjorie’s homestead, my sturdy leather boots pounding the packed earth of the path. The winter snows had receded, but the ground was still cold and hard. The early spring breeze was still cool enough to redden my cheeks and I was glad of my warm jacket and woolen mittens. For once I didn’t even mind that my blonde curls were tucked up inside a red knit cap.
I’d raced through my chores that morning and begged Ma’s leave to visit Jorie to witness the spectacle. Ma shook her head, amazed that I would want to see all those God-forsaken heathens parading past the Miller homestead, but she’d given in at last. With her final reminder to keep a safe distance from the savages ringing in my ears, I’d pocketed a withered apple from last fall’s harvest and bolted out the door.
The breeze, though still chilly, held the promise of spring. A soft, sweet smell of burgeoning green life and dark, rich soil. Jorie’s father was already in the fields, breaking sod for the year’s planting, but he’d set his sons to watch the road. The Miller’s wanted no trouble from the filthy injuns traipsing past their land.
Jorie and I giggled as we took our places safely behind her brothers. She’d watched the procession every day, but I’d only heard tell of it before. My eyes widened in amazement at the hundreds of red skins plodding down the road. I’d never seen so many folk in one place. They were like a river flowing past Jorie’s place. A dirty, smelly river to be sure, but what could you expect from heathens who didn’t know no better?
“Sure glad they’re not stoppin’ here,” said Jed, Jorie’s eldest brother. Though we all knew that the end of their trail, the Indian Territory, wasn’t far enough from our home in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
“Might be a good thing to let them know they’re not welcome here abouts,” Ben suggested.
“What’ve you got in mind?” asked Jed.
“Ma tossed a passel of rotten fruit from the root cellar this morning,” Ben answered with a sly grin. “Fancy a little pitchin’ practice?”
Shock zinged through my belly. I’d never done nothin’ as wicked as throwing squishy, nasty fruit at another person, but that didn’t stop me from loading up my apron with ammunition. After all, filthy injuns didn’t really qualify as people.
* * *
The soldiers told us we would reach our destination within the week. I didn’t believe them. My life had been reduced to an endless trail of misery. I would walk until I died, just as my mother and sister had. My father hadn’t even begun the journey, dying of fever while still penned within that horrible stockade.
The sun shone in a cloudless blue sky, but it shed no warmth. The snow had finally gone and this piece of road was packed and dry, but my blistered feet found no relief. The leather boots I’d worn on the day of removal had long since fallen to pieces. Now my only shoes were blood-stained rags.
I closed my eyes and plodded on, following my uncles and the mothers of my clan. I couldn’t smell the sweetness of the day, only my own foul stink and that of my people. I’d forgotten what it was to be clean and well-fed and content.
All of life’s goodness had been stripped from us along with our homes and land. No joy remained in the world. Only tears and despair and this endless trail.
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What would happen if you mashed an arranged marriage of the royal variety into a fairy tale? Why, you’d get a tough choice: “Beauty of Butterface?”
Fathers! What can you do with them? Nothing. That’s what. You just go along with their mad whims and hope to all the gods the universe holds that they don’t screw up your entire life. At least, that’s what happens when your father is king and you’re his only son and heir.
It’s not like the old days, when magic ruled and every royal family had a fairy godmother to help them out. I know the legends; I’ve heard Dad’s stories. To hear him tell it, my mother’s fairy godmother was instrumental in their lives, but that’s probably just another of Dad’s tall tales. I’ve certainly never seen a fairy, but if I had, you can bet I’d’ve wrangled a wish for some way to make Dad ease off on the life-altering expectations.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m no pushover. I pull off the occasional small rebellion. Sometimes even manage to logic my way around a few of his crazier ideas. But when it comes right down to it, I obey or the castle guard will see to it that I’m grounded for life. And in my case, grounded means a private cell in a dank, dark dungeon that smells of mold and rat droppings. Possibly with chains—just to make sure I get the point.
Yeah. I know who’s boss…and someday, if I don’t screw things up, it’ll be me!
Dad’s latest obsession is securing a line of succession, and since I’m his only son, that means I have to marry a princess and produce an heir. Pronto!
Great. The most important decision of my life and Dad wants me to make it in the next five seconds.
No pressure, son. Just make a choice. You’ll only have to spend the rest of your life with her. Not to mention have sex with her on a regular basis so I can have a grandchild. Nope. No pressure at all. Just get on with it!
Thanks, Dad. Can’t wait.
* * *
“Philip, my boy! How are you this morning?” Dad beamed at me from his seat at the breakfast table. Sunlight streamed through spotless windows and sparkled off gleaming cutlery and polished serving dishes. A sideboard groaned under the weight of every possible delicacy a king could desire first thing in the morning. Platters of eggs (scrambled, fried, deviled, and poached), rashers of crisp bacon, salvers of thinly sliced beef and savory fish, stacks of buttered toast, waffles, pancakes, bowls of colorful berries, and, of course, my least favorite food, steaming, gluey porridge.
You’d think we were expecting an army to join us for our morning meal.
Dad looked unusually chipper this morning, which put me on edge. “What’s up, Dad?” I asked, eyeing his perfectly tailored suit complete with purple sash of state slashed across his rotund torso. Dad can manage a dignified appearance if he has to, but most of the time he looks like a short, round, balding Santa relaxing in the off-season. Thank all that’s holy, I take after my maternal grandfather, tall, slim, with a full head of wavy chestnut hair. “You’re awfully well-dressed for so early in the morning.”
I waved the butler, Jennings, away and stepped to the sideboard. Dad was old-school. He preferred to sit in state while Jennings offered him dishes and then served the items Dad chose. Always seemed like a waste of time to me. Why sit there and wait when I was perfectly capable of scooping up my own scrambled eggs?
When my plate was enticingly loaded with fried eggs, bacon, toast and marmalade, and several slices of honeydew melon, I joined Dad at the table.
“Great news, Philip,” Dad said, wiping a bit of yolk from his chin. “I’m finalizing a treaty with Lindesland this morning. A very advantageous one. I’m sending you to Stefan’s kingdom. You’re to marry his daughter, and when the two of us are gone, our kingdoms will be merged. You and, eh, uhm, what’s her name will rule a new and vastly larger realm. Isn’t that exciting?”
The blood drained from my face. My appetite fled, and a knot of molten lead formed in my belly. “You’ve chosen my wife? Without even asking me?”
Confused disappointment dimmed Dad’s smile. He looked like I’d just refused the best gift in the world. Bewilderment glazed his eyes. He frowned momentarily before his gaze cleared and his smiled brightened.
“Not at all,” he cried, slapping his palm on the table. “I’ve forgotten the best part. Stefan has two daughters. Identical twins! You’ll have your choice of brides.”
I groaned and buried my face in my hands. Why did I have to be born a prince?
Want to read the whole story? It’s available in Refractions, Vol 4!