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Fiction Friday! I know it’s Saturday by now, but I was so tired yesterday, I totally forgot to post my story.
The original challenge was to write a story with a dragon. A literal dragon, or just figuratively.
Want to know what I used? Read the story!

Happy reading!

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“But Dad-“

“Don’t interrupt me, son. You are going to fight that dragon, defeat it and come back to marry the princess of our allies. You’re eighteen, it’s about time you got married. Now, no buts, get dressed and say goodbye to your mother.” Father turned on his heels and stormed off. Only when the door was fully closed behind him, James spoke the words he had meant to. “I don’t want to get married, I don’t like girls.”

James got dressed, hesitating with every piece of clothing he put on. As he hopped around, trying to get his trousers to fit, a plan formed in his head. He unpacked his bags, and repacked them with all of his beloved stuff, some sturdy clothes and a warm blanket. If father wouldn’t listen to him, he wasn’t coming back. James rather spent his days alone in the woods, than being married to some poor girl he would never have feelings for.

Grabbing his bags, he took one last look at his room, then turned his back on it forever. James’  mother started crying the second she saw him entering the room. Everyone knew there would be a big chance he would not survive the encounter with the dragon. Being the oldest son of the King, he had the honor of slaying the dragon and marrying the princess of the neighboring country. His younger brother Brody was only a year behind him, but superior to James in every way. If someone should marry the princess and become King, it would be Brody. So James had made up his mind and said goodbye to everybody.

Riding out into the sunrise, James looked back at the castle. It was home, even though it didn’t really felt like it. He had always preferred the cottage on the edge of the forest where they had spent so many weekends with the family. James’  thoughts drifted away until one of the guards around him tapped him on his shoulder, he had strain from the path and was steering his horse into the woods.

They never stopped during the trip, and after a few hours, James was fed up with riding. Having no idea where you were going didn’t help his feelings either. Just as he was about to call it quits, his father stopped and dismounted. It was a small meadow in between two forests. The guards remained seated, to give father and son some privacy.

“Son, this is the end of the road for us, from here on you are on your own.” He gestured towards a thick pinewood up ahead. “Make me proud, son. Come back with that dragon’s tooth and the kingdom is yours.” He gave his son a hug, while hitting his shoulder blade. “Good luck, James.” James got back on his horse and went into the woods. He was suppressing the urge to look back at his father one last time, as he knew it would only be answered by an angry stare.

Only when James thought he was far enough into the pine forest did he look back. There was no meadow to be seen, so he dismounted and tried to enjoy a small lunch, happy he was off the horse for a while. James looked around and to his surprise, he found the pine forest far less grim than he had thought. As soon as he finished his lunch, he climbed a tree to see what was ahead of him. Sadly, it was trees all the way up to the mountain range where the dragon had his lair.

Reluctantly he got back up on his horse and rode on. James wanted more forest between him and the castle, so no one would come looking for him. He had been trained to survive on his own in the woods, and started to look for a suitable place for the night. After a couple of hours, James spotted a small cave that was perfect for him and his horse. He bound the horse to a tree and made a torch out of some dead wood. Always inspect the cave with enough daylight, you never knew what was hiding in the shadows.

After walking into the cave for a few yards, James discovered it wasn’t a cave, it was a cavern. His adventurous spirit took over and he went back outside. He freed the horse and took it with him into the cavern. Where there was still a ray of daylight, he again bound the horse, grabbed his bags and set off to explore the cavern. Contrary to what James was expecting, the path leading downward was very gentle, it almost felt like a casual stroll around the castle. He kept walking but saw light ahead all of a sudden. He was too curious to see the warning signs. The cavern opened up into a large chamber, decorated with rock formations and stalactites. A shadow turned and James stood eye to eye with the infamous dragon.

It was much smaller than James had suspected. He wasn’t so much scared, he was mad at himself for walking into the dragon’s lair without realizing it. The dragon was a mere four yards or so, not the twelve he had heard in the folklore. The beast looked him up and down, without a real facial expression.

“Is it that time already again? Human time goes so quickly, I really don’t know how you do it,” the dragon spoke, in a much higher tone than seemed to suit an animal of his stature. “what’s your name, son?” he asked James.
James, in return, was flabbergasted. The only sounds leaving him were squeaks and squeals. He took a deep breath before trying again. “I am James Geoffry Edward Bexley firstborn son of King Robert the third of Asturia.” That came out with more confidence than he himself had expected.

“Well then, James Geoffry Edward Bexley heir to the throne of Asturia, I know why you are here. As your laws tell you, you have to slay the dragon to get married and take over the throne. You have to bring back proof of your ordeal and then you can live the rest of your privileged life. If you wait right there, I will fetch you your proof and you can be on your way again.” The dragon wanted to turn around, but James stopped him.

“What do you mean, fetch me the proof? And if I’m not mistaken, you haven’t told me your name.” James dropped his bags and crossed his arms.

“My name? That’s a first. No one has ever asked for my name.” The dragon looked sad, somehow. James felt for him. “My name is Jaivur the Careful One, or Jai for short. And about that proof, did you really think all those men before you had slain an actual dragon? How many of us do you think there are around here? Or did you think we magically appear every time a human knight or king needs a proof of his manhood?” Jaivur let out a snorting laugh.

“Those teeth of proof are all from me, I shed them every few years. I keep them around for the humans, and hand them over as soon as they enter my home. I don’t show my face, and they all keep the secret from others. It’s a carefully constructed cover-up, hence my name, the Careful One. Sorry to burst your bubble. I’ll fetch you your tooth so you can leave.”

By the time Jai came back with the tooth, he found James in a crying heap on the floor.
“Excuse me, but why are you crying?” Jai asked the prince. “Are these tears of joy because you don’t have to fight the evil dragon?”

James shook his head. “I…don’t…want…to go…home!” He had to time his words in between sobs. Jai crouched next to the young prince and folded his wing around him. Humans had done some remarkable things upon hearing about the secret, but crying hasn’t been one of them. Both just sat there, riding out the storm of emotions James had displayed.

“It’s true I have been sent for the tooth of the dragon, but I never intended to even try.” James said finally.

That confused Jai. “Isn’t there a princess waiting for your return so you can marry and take reign over the kingdom?”
James nodded, but with more tears welling up. “Yes, but I don’t want to marry her!”

“Ah, You are in love with someone else, but she’s not good enough for you?” Jai almost tasted the tragedy of star-crossed lovers.

“No, there is no other girl. It’s…” James was lost for words. He had never said this out loud to anyone. “I don’t like girls, I like… I am… gay.” He had finally said it.

Now Jai gasped. That he hadn’t seen coming. “Oh… well… That changes things. I’m guessing it isn’t accepted for a crown prince to be gay and not having a wife by his side?”

“I don’t think so. I have tried to talk to father about it, but he kept steering the conversation in another direction. Like he knew what I wanted to say, but refused to hear it.” James kicked a pebble away. “So I decided to find myself a nice place in the woods and never go back to the castle. I don’t want to marry a girl I can’t love. Not for me, but certainly not for her. It’s best for all if they think I got slayed by the dragon.”  The chamber fell silent.

“But if there isn’t a dragon to slay, father will come looking for me!” James said all of a sudden, fear laced in his voice.

“I don’t think you have to worry about that.” Jai replied. “Your father has to have a reason to send out a search party. But he can’t just say there is no real dragon to slay, he would blow the cover of years of lies. He will tell everyone that you got killed, and after a few years, he will believe it even though he knows it isn’t true.” James took a deep sigh. “You’re probably right. Maybe it’s harsh, but it’s his own fault for not listening to me.” He balled his fists and thought about what to do next.

Jai looked at the prince. Still young, but he saw the fire of determination in his eyes. He felt for the kid, completely understanding how James felt.
“If you want, you can stay here for a while. I’ve been alone for so many years, I could do with some company. And you’ll be safe here until you figure out what you are going to do next. But it’s up to you, of course.” Jai was hoping the prince would stick around. He really was lonely, and he rather liked James. He made Jai feel a bit human again.

“If you really don’t mind me staying, I would like that very much. It’s a beautiful place and I would love to explore it some more. And it’s nice to have some company, I’ve felt lonely for a while now, too.” A small smile broke on his face.
“That’s settled then, James. Let’s find you a nice nook to sleep in.” Jai got up and led the way.

A few months later the duo had grown accustomed to each other. Jai did the hunting while James gathered herbs and plants. And whereas James was good in cooking, Jai had mastered the skill of skinning animals. They made a good couple, and with every day they grew more and more towards each other. And as they slowly fell in love with each other, Jai became more human day by day. Inevitably they reached the day Jai had to tell how he came to live in that cavern.

“What I’m about to tell you isn’t easy for me, and I really hope you don’t set off running back home.” Jai started, “And I’ll start with the bombshell first.” A deep breath. “I’m not really a dragon.” That was followed by a huge gasp from James. He wanted to say something but Jai raised his hand in protest.

“I’ll tell you. We really aren’t that different, you and I. I was a crown prince once, and just like you, I was gay as well.” James’  eyes grew wider with every word from Jai.

“But I made the mistake of telling my father before I got married. Mind you, it was a very different time back then. My father called in the help of a sorcerer and she cursed me.” James saw it was a real struggle for Jai to tell him this.

“She made me into a dragon, only able to break the spell by finding my true love.” Jai grinned, knowing very well it was a bit fairytale like. “From the moment you stumbled into my home, I’ve been feeling more and more human, and I think the curse is about to break.” He left the words hanging between them for a moment. “I am starting to believe you are my true love, James.” Jai looked at his friend, hoping for a reaction. It took James some time to find the right words.

“Thank the gods, I thoughth I was losing my mind. You have shrunken quite a bit, growing hair here and there, I thought you were sick or something. And since I’m heavily in love with you, I was scared you were dying or something.” James took a deep breath before looking at his love. Now both men were smiling.

“James Geoffry Edward Bexley, will you be my love, now and forever?” Jai asked, deadly serious. James kissed him first before answering. “Yes I will.” The second he said those words, the curse broke and Jai was human again. The lovers fell into each other’s arms and kissed deeply.

They lived happily ever after.