Better late than never, right? Sorry I didn’t get this up on Friday, we had a lot going on!
Part Seventeenth: If
Abadalyx released his crushing grip on the Princess’s arm and brought his forepaw mercilessly down on her shoulder, hard enough to force her—as he intended—onto her knees beside the small stream that flowed over the edge of his rocky porch. “Drink!”
Penelope gulped water from her cupped hands, relishing its cool freshness on her dry throat. It more than made up for a sore shoulder and knees—as well as her ruined garments. She wondered how such mushy ground could have hurt her knees so badly, as she glanced down at her muddied skirt. What had induced her to wear white? Oh well, it wasn’t like it mattered much how she looked.
The dragon sloshed through the brook and leaned over the edge of the precipice to look at the City in the Valley below. The City! Penelope’s heart began to pound. Nothing stood between her and the path down the mountain. On impulse, she jumped up and flew down it. Dislodged stones and dirt-clods rattled beneath her feet. She grasped at a boulder beside the small trail to slow her descent and proceeded more carefully.
The realization of what she was doing hit her suddenly. The dragon had promised—if you surrender a princess to me. If, and only if. If she ran, he would destroy the City.
That moment was the nastiest moment in her whole life. But as she cast her longing eyes on the City below, an angry roar from the dragon broke upon her ears, and she imagined the peaceful place crawling with flames and the vibrant grass burnt black around it. Without another thought, she whirled and ran back up the steep slope; practically on her hands and knees on the steep ascent, the grime of the dusty path clinging to her wet hands.
She was not halfway back the way she had come when she met Abadalyx coming down—and she had never seen a more terrifying sight. An orange light gleamed from his open mouth and flared nostrils. Smoke slithered from between his finger-sized teeth, washing his face in darkness, but not quite hiding his eyes; narrowed in anger, and shining ruby red.
Luckily, he appeared to notice that she was on her way back, and it seemed to appease him slightly, though he still seemed quite close to boiling over. He clumsily gripped one of her long, tousled braids in his great clawed hand and started back towards his lair. The two of them scrambled up the steep path, Penelope running to keep him from pulling her hair. At the dark entrance to the cave, the dragon paused. “Where were you?” he snapped.
“I. . . started to go back to the City.” The Princess hung her head under the monster’s fierce glare.
He snarled. “You came here of your own free will, did you not—to save your precious City?”
“I did. That’s why I came back.”
Grumbling and growling, Abadalyx shoved her into the cavern, and into her tiny chamber and banged the gates.
Her first drink since she came; her first time out of the dark, oppressive cave; her first chance to prove that she knew what she was doing when she came, and the dragon could trust her—gone. Wasted. Squandered. He would never let her out again.
Fool! Penelope stamped in frustration. She wanted to pound her fists on the stony walls and scream. Self-control, she reminded herself. Broken fingers were the last thing she needed. Her agitation found a safer vent in crumpling on the rocky floor and sobbing.