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A Bedtime Story for Rebeca by Romani de Carpathia

Once upon a time there was a handsome prince and a princess that lived in neighboring kingdoms. While she was out riding one day, she fell off of her horse while crossing a stream and landed in the icy water.

He happened along and found the mount, then began to search for its owner. After searching he found her sitting beside the water shivering in a daze. He wrapped his cloak about her and took her back to his kingdom to find it under seige by a fierce dragon.

The king had stolen a gem of great quality and would not return it. He slipped into the castle with the princess and his attendants nursed her back to health while he went to speak with his father. His father refused to surrender the gem, stating that it was now his and no dragon would ever possess it. The dragon began to bellow forth plumes of fire, wreaking havoc on the castle, finally breaking down the outer wall.

The king and his knights went forth to attack while the prince sought to protect the princess. The dragon breathed forth a huge firey ball of flame, scorching the king and all his knights, turning them to statues of coal. Not finding the gem, the dragon lumbered through the passages, seeking out his precious gem. He turned down the corridor and saw the prince, and reached forth. Clutching the prince in his claws he took flight, taking him to his cave in the high mountains. The princess awoke and the attendants told her of the kingdom's plight. She quickly climbed to her mount and rode towards the mountains, not caring for her own safety. Upon reaching the dragons caves, she saw within two beady red eyes daring, glaring back at her. She trembled as she spoke, begging that the prince be released.

The two eyes grew closer as the massive dragon stepped forth, a plume of smoke rising from his nostrils angrily as he gazed down upon her slight form.

"My gem in return for your prince" He glared at her, daring her to go against his word. "That is my price. Return my gem to me and he and his kingdom are yours."

She was astonished at this as she had no idea where to find this gem. She timidly nodded, gazing at the dragon, all but frozen in her fear. She turned and headed towards her mount, her heart sinking, the plight of so many resting on her shoulders.

The dragon called after, "You have until sundown, or I shall turn your kingdom to coal as well, and a kingdom a day until my gem is returned."

A single tear fell as she mounted and turned her stead towards the princes kingdom, she had no time for tears.

As she approached the kingdom, the servants ran to meet her. They begged for news of their prince. She rode as though she were in a daze through the statues of coal that were once king and knights. She explained that they must search the castle to find a gem, the gem that the king had stolen from the dragon. The servants, attendants, pages, even the lowliest of peasants began to search. As the day grew long she climbed the towers, finally finding the wizard, sitting, rocking and mumbling to himself.

She asked in anger, "Why are you not helping us?"'

He pointed to a chest that rested against the far wall, something was stirring inside.

She approached it, began to open it, the wizard screached out in anger and fear . "NO! Do not open it! you do not know what will happen!"

She turned and her eyes shot through him a beam of anger, warning him to hold his place. As she opened the chest she saw within a gem about the size of a large melon, it was a ruby color unlike any other. Inside it something moved. She carefully lifted the gem, holding it up to the light with her delicate hands. Within she saw the baby dragon, waiting yet to be born. She carefully wrapped the gem in her cloak, gave a glance to the wizard and flew down the stairs towards her horse. She mounted and rode as the sky grew dark. As the dragon took flight into the heavens above her she reached the cave. Turning as he saw the maiden ride in, he landed, his eyes flashing in anger at her. She dismounted, opened her cloak and placed the gem carefully upon the ground.

"Back away," he said as his eyes grew soft. He reached forth with his massive muzzle, rolling the gem every so carefully with his nose. "Tis my lady you see. Not a baby at all. The wizard placed a curse on her. The king sought to capture her."

She blinked, not knowing what to do.

"If you release the king, what will happen? Such a quandary here." The dragon sighed as he gazed into the gem. "I gave my word, the prince is released." The dragon turned, knocking his tail against the side of the cave where a stone rolled away from the cavern.

The prince sat there for a moment, puzzled at his release. He greeted the princess and thanked her as he edged around the dragon. She looked at him, knowing that it was his father that brought all of them to this. She sighed to herself, then looked at the dragon as he gingerly cradled the gem and carried it into his cave.

"Wait!" She called after the dragon. The dragon slowly turned, gazing down at the two small humans before him.

"Your kind have done enough to me and mine. Leave us be."

The princess approached him, pressing her tiny hand to his side.

"Please", she said softly. "I want but to help."

He said, "There is no help. The wizard cast beyond his means. He is aged, and could not live through another spell such as what brought this."

With that the princess mounted and the prince behind her, they sadly rode back to the kingdom to find that the aged wizard was failing fast. The kingdom was in an uproar over what the king had done, what was done to their home. The wizard, in his dying breath regretted his sin and gave all that he had of knowledge to the princess. In time, she will grow to be a great wizard herself, she hopes. And in time, she hopes that she will be able to save the dragon's love from the prison gem.

-The End-