Princess Elizabeth never wanted to be a princess, at least not after she found out what it took to be a princess, and what more it took to be the princess of Camelot. She looked out of her window at the people below moving carefree, women without escorts, kids playing with reckless abandon and she wondered yet again how happily she would trade her life with theirs. Her vision traversed the walls of the castle and settled on the green wilderness. Something always stirred within her when she looked at the undulating meadows flanked by pines and the deciduous trees. But then the houses in the small clearings among the trees caught her eyes filling her with a sadness, if only these people were friendly she would have had a much different life.
The castle city was surrounded by barbaric chiefdoms all vying to get a piece of Camelot, its eggs in particular. Prosperity of the city was solely based on the unique breed of fowls it boasted of and which didn’t survive outside of the walls. The meat exports were soaring but it was the eggs that were sought for from faraway cities. Besides their exotic taste, they were of great nutritious value and didn’t rot over days, even in the hot weather making them conducive for long distance trade. Out of diplomatic and military pressure from the consumer cities, the clans provided safe passage to the traded goods to and from Camelot. They too gained in the process from taxes but each of the clans desired to rule Camelot one day.
The castle was made of rocks, a shade of greenish black like the volcanic rocks found in that region. With a spire rising high as if piercing the sky the palace looked formidable yet beautiful. The walls of the castle were however ill designed with many wings vulnerable due to the terrain of the surroundings. There were mounts looking down upon the castle at these places, providing enemies with vantage points and high ground to launch devastating aerial assaults. The reason Camelot still stands was not because of its valiant kings or a great army, both have always capitulated in the face of the most trivial of attacks. It is the fear and the legend of the dragon warrior that never failed to appear whenever Camelot had been at brink of annihilation. No one knows where it came from, or how and where it vanished after decimating the aggressors.
Elizabeth’s father Arthur was the last king, and for that matter the only king who ventured beyond the castle to put an end to the threat of the barbarians once and for all. There are many stories of his valor and victories but he never returned and became a legend himself. Some say he died fighting David, the hornbeam, the great barbaric regent. Some say he stayed too long among the heathen to become one of them and died from an unknown disease, but the most popular version is that he was the dragon warrior and having accomplished his work he went back to mother fire. Elizabeth grew up believing her father was a great man and that he was still alive, if she harbored the idea of him being the dragon warrior, it was deep within her heart rather than in her head.
Her favorite pastime in the confines of the palace was engaging in sword-fights and honing her skills at archery. She was raised by her mother who was a strict disciplinarian, ruling the city and her with as stern a face as any queen ever had. The queen was beautiful with chocolate hair, black eyes and a porcelain skin, everything about her was perfect and in correct proportion. Elizabeth, with her golden hair, green eyes and a nose that went red at every emotion came out too colorful to end any exercise on finding resemblances between the mother and daughter. This fueled the rumors surrounding her birth, of the king being away and the queen doing penance day and night in the temple, and then the unexpected birth of the princess one moonless night.
The only thing mother and daughter had in common was their love for the temple of the dragon warrior. Elizabeth was allowed to visit the temple once every month, the queen being queasy about her going out of the palace due to recurring reports of her planned assassination. No one wanted another queen, it suited neither the statesman within the castle not the clan chiefs outside who already feared the dragon and didn’t want, of all people, a woman leading the dragon. The temple was a huge structure at the centre of the city with the face of a dragon looking fierce with enormously large emeralds for eyes. The townsfolk claimed that the eyes glowed and came alive in the moonless nights but too bright to make eye-contact.
It was not the structure or the eyes which impressed the princess but the feeling of being at peace when inside the inner chamber. It had a small mound with a flat top that was popularly called as the egg basket in which you put flowers for good luck. The prevalent notion was that if dragon warrior accepted your offering and prayer it would bestow blessings upon you in the form of a golden egg. The queen was always uncomfortable when asked about the veracity of these facts. For answer, she always looked at her daughter dreamily till her eyes got all watery. As for the daughter, she didn’t care much for these stories because what mattered more was how safe she felt in the calming embrace of the cool air trapped inside the temple.
When she turned 25, there was a ceremony to initiate the process of matrimony after which suitors could come up and show why they were worthy of the princess. Maybe the inert dragon warrior will come as a suitor, maybe with his dragon, the princess dreamt. However, nothing of the sort happened and the clans which had been getting powerful over time blockaded anyone who desired to go to Camelot. She soon gave up on thoughts of elusive love and spent more time practicing various aspects of warfare, from the generals and the statesmen. To everyone’s surprise the clans united that year in order to attack Camelot yet again. People panicked and flocked to the temple, everyone looked up to the sky, not a speck was left unattended to. As expected, the dragon warrior didn’t appear. The army and the ammunition was prepared to be led by a queen for the first time in the history of Camelot.
Elizabeth’s protection and security was strangely tightened up by the queen in the wake of this development. It infuriated the princess who itched to go fight alongside the army. Instead as a compensation, she was allowed access to the small platform on the spire from which she could have a clear and panoramic view of the proceedings. The war started a bit too soon and she felt restless and helpless watching the walls starting to crumble as slowly and steadily the clans marched forward with their artillery, their beasts and contraptions overpowering the enervated defenders of the castle. She joined the citizens looking at the sky, not just hopefully like them, but with a determination that felt strange even to herself.
She was now certain her father, the dragon warrior will swoop down upon the enemies wrecking havoc and drawing cheers on the other side, she could almost feel the presence. Nothing of the sort happened even though she became more and more certain of the imminent event, the itch to be in the arena had now started to burn. She could hear the sounds of the horns used by the barbarians as a symbol of victory, and couldn’t stand the surge of energy that shook her body. She lost her poise and along with it her grip on the glinting metal of the spire, it felt like liquid in her hands and she plunged down with an alien force.
All she could see now was the eyes of the dragon warrior on top of the temple looking at her with it’s green fierceness. It instilled an unchecked wrath in her heart that flowed to every part of the body as she flapped her wings, nothing surprised her now as she rose looking at the enemy troops celebrating already having breached a few of the walls. The hatred brimming up inside her felt justified and she let it pour upon them, the green fire lighting up the sky and the land alike. A fire that consumed not just the armies and their bearings but every thought, every particle of her being, she was pure energy and then as abruptly as it had started she ceased to exist in an instant. The queen looking at the wondrous spectacle had tears in her eyes but a pride too. A pride befitting the mother of the dragon warrior, except she was not.
This post was written in response to the prompt
Mythical, from calmkate.