Gwenda and the Purple Dragon.
Armando Perigee Festoon
The story of a hero called Gwenda and a purple dragon.
In a land far away accessible only through a cupboard, where it is invariably baking hot or else overwhelmed by snow (like Sweden) there lived all sorts of cool things like dragons and werewolves and pigs.
Our hero for this world is a heroine who is wilful and determined and sassy and soulful and a great source of stress to her family who are decent people, but unimaginative. There are other characters too, including, principally, a purple dragon who breathes desire.
The hero is called Gwenda although her name is Guendoline. She thinks Guendoline is more sonorous and evocative, but other people think it is too much of a mouthful and can't be bothered with it. Sometimes she pretends to be a princess and introduces herself as Princess Kazmia, other times a vagabond named Urta or a sorceress named Thenphanomelia the Ethereal.
For some reason we never find out the purple dragon's name. Or if it is a he or a she dragon (or indeed whether dragons come in 'he' and 'she' flavours). The purple dragon shall be referred to only as a, or the, purple dragon. I suspect the purple dragon would have minded this and would have wished to have had a name and perhaps even a gender. However, there is not much I can do about that now.
The purple dragon sat on a high hillside where the grass slanted westerly. It was baking hot and had been for ages. The purple dragon had stolen a small herd of sheep yesterday and was still full and occasionally burping up wool-balls. They came out purple and were much prized by the milliners of the region who often followed the dragon around collecting them.
The dragon was thinking about the internal combustion engine and what a good thing it would be for the local people to have a train service. Dragons are thoughtful beasts and very clever, and often people don't give them credit for the sorts of things they are actually interested in. Too often people assume they are planning some kind of destruction or the hoarding of gold; whereas, in fact, many dragons have led the way in complex research on scientific problems such as algorithmical predetermination. The misunderstanding often arises because dragons cannot hold a pen, chalk or paintbrush and can't type because their claws are too cumbersome. Combined with the ability to communicate only by planting thoughts in the mind of someone nearby, this explains why much dragon based research is criminally overlooked.
Unfortunately, the topic of internal combustion reminded the purple dragon that most dragons could breathe fire, whereas, due to some mixup or possible deafness in a celestial designer, the purple dragon had been born only with the ability to breath desire. Useful as this was in distracting boring or aggressive people by making them really, really want some marshmallows, or cure the interminable difficulties of dating between creatures with genders, the purple dragon missed the ability to breath fire. For a dragon, it was a bit embarrassing to be inferno-less, and not nearly as useful as the only other similar incident the purple dragon was aware of which involved a pink dragon able to breach sapphires. The pink dragon had bought its own island, complete with sheep farm and annual dragon-themed festival.
So the purple dragon sighed and was surprised to see when it looked up that a lady was standing before it, dressed in a tight-fitting armoured chest-piece, flowing silk culottes and fashionable riding boots. She had a winged helmet with a hole at the back for her pony-tail and a laughably short, but worryingly pointy, sword in her left hand.
The purple dragon was intrigued. It planted the word "hello" in this lady's mind.
"I am Urta, wanderer and sword for hire, and I have no fear of you, purple dragon!" replied Gwenda.
"When you next get paid you should hire a bigger sword," the purple dragon planted in Gwenda's mind, "anyway, your name is Gwenda, not Urta."
Dragons after all, can reach into people's minds. Gwenda knew Gwenda was called Gwenda and consequently it was easy for the purple dragon to find this information when Gwenda claimed not to be called Gwenda. It is difficult to lie to a dragon unless you don't know you are lying.
Gwenda had however not encountered a dragon before and this response was a disappointment. She had been looking forward to impressing the dragon by her fearlessness and felt somewhat undermined to discover her most basic bluff had been penetrated.
"And while we're at it," added the purple dragon within Gwenda's mind, "you are not a mercenary wanderer - all your clothes were bought in a boutique in that town down there. It's called something like 'Vagabond chic - strike both fear and admiration into the rugged hearts of all you meet' - I sometimes look in the window."
Gwenda was feeling very flat now. This was not going to plan.
"You're not supposed to say that!" she responded a bit petulantly.
"How am I supposed to impress you if you say thing like that?!" Gwenda was building up into a strop.
"You could help me build a train?"
"I don't want a train, they get all tangled around your feet and you have to travel with at least two page-boys to keep it off the floor. I want adventure and daring and dragons who fear me."
The purple dragon considered making Gwenda desire something so much that she would go away. There were some gloves in the Vagabond Chic store which might have been suitable. But the purple dragon was bored of this hillside and had been thinking of a change. The purple dragon took a radical decision.
"Right then, climb on my back and we'll fly somewhere dangerous and see what we can find to entertain you with."
This surprised Gwenda, she hadn't really had a plan but flying far away to seek out danger definitely wasn't it. In fact she had promised to meet Lothar and Casimadia at the Mead-bar that evening and in her rush when she had heard about the dragon on the hill above town, she hadn't even packed a hairbrush - there were no pockets in these annoying culottes. However, this was a chance she would not get again. No-one in recorded history had ridden a dragon and lived to record the history of doing so.
So she sheathed her sword in a diaphanous sock-thing which hung from her belt (she had not had enough cash to buy a proper scabbard) and tentatively climbed up onto the dragons neck.
They flew for several hours while Gwenda told the purple dragon (through her mind) to fly carefully and not to bank too far to either side and that she was feeling a bit sick and a number of other things. It was very exciting and exhilarating and fun.
They landed in a wood high up on a hillside where the snow lay thick on the ground and fell in heavy white curtains (because snow is white and the snowfall so heavy it seemed like curtains). Amongst black spectral fir trees which had not seen a warm day for many months, could be made out a small clearing in front of a gloomy black cave. From within the cave a tiny fire glimmered.
"Why are we here and who lives in this cave?" asked Gwenda who was not very patient.
"We're here because you said you were freezing and begged to be put down in the nearest place where there was a fire you could warm yourself beside," responded the purple dragon in Gwenda's mind with an air of irritation. "If you want to know who lives here, go in and find out. The entrance is too small for me."
Gwenda really was freezing now because she was sinking into the snow and snow is very cold. Her culottes were also designed more for summer than winter vagabonding and her fashionable boots had turned out not to be waterproof. To give her some support she grabbed a short stick from one of the nearby trees and used it to dig herself out.
Thus freed, she sallied forth into the cave, fearlessly, not forgetting to draw her sword, which happened to have torn a bit of the diaphanous sleeving when last she had sheathed it. Inside was an old man bent over the fire chanting to himself and casting handfuls of powder into the flames where they burnt in satisfying little fireballs and released a pleasing smell.
"Stand, old man and name yourself, I am Thenphanomelia the Ethereal sorceress of the sisterhood of Mella and I bring you greetings and good will," said Gwenda in a husky voice.
The old man looked at her with a wild surprise. Then he looked out into the woods and saw the purple dragon who was chewing on some holly it had found. It is a little known fact that dragons love chewing holly and it has much the same effect upon them as anise does on dogs.
"Any woman who arrives with a purple dragon is clearly powerful," said the man, very impressed, "but tell me how can I know that you are a sorceress?"
Gwenda sheathed her sword which she thought was probably giving the wrong impression and looked around the cave. As she did so the diaphanous sleeving suffered another little tear. The walls of the cave were stuffed with jars and pots of different colours and covered in scraps of cloth of different colours.
"I sense here magic," replied Gwenda mysteriously, "my powers tell me that in this cave you have conducted many spells and mixed many potent potions of supernatural effect."
The man seemed pleased, so Gwenda continued,
"A man of spells such as you should not doubt for a moment that I am endowed with the sorcery of the ancients and should be able to sense without trouble my aura as I can sense yours. Nonetheless, if proof you must have then be it this: draw down from your shelves three potions, one with magic effect and the others common herbal ointments or infusions. And with nothing more than this wand," Gwenda waved her stick, "I shall divine the magic one."
The man nodded eagerly and rushed around his walls collecting the pots of his choice. Over one he lingered and took especial care, it was much smaller and more delicate than the others and even from a distance smelt of lavender.
"Here, great sorceress - are the three" he said proudly when they were on the hearth beside the fire.
"One you say is a magic potion? Is it a poison, that perhaps you wish to trap me into trying...?"
The man became aghast. "No, no great mage-ess, a love potion - a potion to make any person desire the object of their first viewing upon drinking it! Please believe me, I would not try to trick you!"
"Then," said Gwenda tapping the delicate vial, the man had taken such care with, "it is this. The others," nonchalantly she knocked them over with her 'wand,' "are little more than wine or stew."
The man began to speak but with a wave she quelled him, "I will do you a good turn, hermit. Bring me a hearty stew which I will eat by your fireside and clean one of these pots. I will do you an exchange - in return for the love potion I have just identified and of which you have no need, I will brew you a potion so potent that it will make any seedling grow overnight to full size and ripeness, provided it is sprinkled on that seedling at midnight on the spring's equinox." It seemed safe for Gwenda to assume she would be long gone by that date. "You will eat well this summer, hermit."
By the time Gwenda returned to the purple dragon she was in a very good mood. She was warm and had eaten quite a good stew (mostly rabbit) but mostly she felt good because she had outwitted a poor man who lived in a cave. The reverence with which he had placed her jug of plant fertiliser on the shelf had made her smug and she had really enjoyed seeing the excitement with which he had watched her perform her bogus ritual.
The purple dragon was also in a good mood. It had chewed an entire holly tree and was feeling very relaxed rather like puff the magic dragon who had lived by the sea. When they took off, the purple dragon was a little uncertain on its wings and Gwenda had to hold on tight.
Another hour's flight took them into the valleys and along to the coast where great cliffs stood above the crashing waves and supported a strange castle with turrets and pennants and bored looking guards.
The bored looking guards stopped looking bored the moment they spotted the purple dragon. Instead they started firing things at it. Nasty things like crossbows and trebuchets and really rather optimistic rope nets. The purple dragon didn't like this much. It would have liked to have strafed the walls with excoriating fireballs but drowning the defenders in desire didn't quite seem to have the same ring about it. So instead, the purple dragon banked hard to the left and dropped down to land in a paddock beside an ancient shire horse who was too lazy to run away. With a deft little flick the purple dragon dismounted Gwenda and quickly took off again, promising vaguely to pick her up later.
This left Gwenda with a bit of a walk to the castle and after only a mile it became clear that her riding boots, although fashionable, pinched horribly. Nonetheless, bravely she ploughed on, undistracted by adversity and with only the smallest of pained grimaces. She arrived at the castle just as dusk was surmounting the hills amongst which a hermit was hugging his new bottle of super-harvest and laughing about how he had used some fake love-potion to fool the dragon-sorceress of Melba.
At the castle gates Gwenda was caught up in the arrival of many fine carriages which each were disgorging little knots of aristocrats togged up in laughable fancy dress. Together they were pressing forward toward the doors of the banqueting hall which although vast and flung wide open were inadequate to accommodate the sizes of the egos which were all trying to pass through at once. This was causing some distress and many a high word but mostly great confusion and no real prospect of checking tickets or an invitation list.
Sensing an opportunity, Gwenda placed herself within the throng and was carried forward until after being asked for a name by a harassed chamberlain she was loudly announced to a crowded ballroom as "Princess Kazmia, dressed as Vagabond."
The ball was a parody of ugliness. You know the sort of thing - too many wigs, powdered faces, rouged cheeks and sweaty suitors. The music was good but largely drowned out by the stomping feet of weighty dancers and only one person present (other than Princess Gwenda-Kazmia of course) was in any way attractive.
He (the other attractive one), of course, was a prince and the heir apparent to the kingdom of which this castle formed the capital. He was also immeasurably pleased to find a princess amongst his guests and struck by her beauty, independence, wilful daring, sassiness, determined soulfulness and so forth.
It took little to divert him onto a romantic balcony daubed in romantic moonshine and festooned in romantic flowers of some climbing type. There Gwenda showed him her pointy little sword, used a little sassy small talk and dropped half a vial of love potion into his goblet. A little more determined sassiness and she contrived to brush against him in a provocative way such that he was distracted and neither of them noticed the large purple dragon flapping its wings silently and rising up the cliffs to the balcony. As they embraced the purple dragon breathed a little desire over the couple. It is up to you to decide whether it needed to.
They all lived happily ever after.