art by Shane M. Gavin
The Princess and the Monster
by Ryan Creel
She opened her eyes, revealing golden orbs that glittered like stars in the night.
And as the morning sun rose slowly over the northern mountains, black pupils narrowed to slits, and stood like knives, to accommodate the light.
It was time.
She uncurled her great, green reptilian body from the base of the Mother Tree at the center of the forest, and displayed her massive wings--proud banners of her heritage. I am born of Tiamat and Leviathan, said the wings… fear me. And all the creatures of the forest went silent or retreated and heeded the warning, for they knew she was greatest of all the hunters in all the world.
She coiled like a snake and sprang through the tree canopy, unfurling her wings and riding the winds on sails through the heavens. Her scales shone like jewels in the light of the sun. With a prodigious wave, she was off in pursuit of her quarry.
The beat of her wings reverberated through the treetops beneath her.
And all living things quailed as she sped through the sky, a verdant blur.
Then she caught the scent and took to the trail, knowing the elfling would not stay hidden in one place for long.
She crashed into the village--an emerald meteor--and the ground shook as she touched down. She roared her challenge to any who would oppose her. And she reared up, turned her cavernous maw skyward, and let loose a torrent of orange flame into the morning air.
No villager rose to the challenge, save one, a small boy who'd woken at the sound. The child calmly turned to face her and roared with boyish enthusiasm at the great green beast. And the child's mother crawled from her cottage in terror to collect her foolish offspring.
The daughter of Tiamat and Leviathan bared her fangs and narrowed her ancient eyes.
And the villagers filled the air with their cacophonous cries.
But the scent was lost, the elfling was not there, and so she burst from the earth and took to the sky once more.
She drove her powerful wings downward and flew up and up until she caught the scent once again. She flew hard and fast to the great stone city, alighting atop the royal castle. Her bellow exploded like thunder through the sprawling kingdom of man.
The men and women and children below scattered like rabbits before a lion. They had never seen her like, and though the fear washed over them like rain, a few paused in veneration of the wonder they beheld. And the horn rang high above the peal of screams.
The soldiers came forth clad in shining mail, each carrying a sword.
And the head of the guards yelled above the fray, "We must protect our Lord!"
But she was not there for them, and the elfling was gone, and so she pushed from the rooftop and flew to the hunt once again.
Then it was there, the soft scent of lilies and berries that could only belong to one being in all the realm. She flew faster than the wind in the direction of the rising sun, toward the mountains, toward her quarry. And when she landed at the mouth of the cave, she knew her search was over.