"Put me down! Put me DOWN, you big brute."
The dragon landed lightly on a granite outcropping and gently placed the screaming woman on the rock. Finding herself free from the grasp of the dragon's talons, the woman scrambled to get as far away as possible. She got only a few steps before she realized that escape would be impossible, as the dragon had perched on the edge of a precipice easily five hundred feet from the ground. A quick glance up confirmed the walls of the gorge were too steep to climb. She was trapped.
"You will not get away with this, you foul beast," she roared. "You cannot capture me, spirit me away, and keep me here against my will and expect no reprisal. My Wesley will rescue me from the likes of you."
The dragon shook his head and made a sound not unlike a "tsk."
"My dear princess, you have it all wrong. I did not capture you at all. In fact, it is I who rescued you."
The princess shut her mouth so abruptly the dragon thought she might have broken a few teeth. "What is that you say? You rescued me? Preposterous! Everyone knows it is the dragons who go about pillaging and kidnapping and the kings and knights who do the rescuing."
"I admit," the dragon replied, "that what you say is usually the right of it. In this case, however, what I have said is very much the truth. I have rescued you from the hands of Prince Wesley and should very much like your thanks for it."
The princess snapped her head up and tried very hard to look down her nose at the dragon, which was made quite difficult due to the difference in their sizes. Instead of the regal mien she tried to espouse, she was left instead with a crick in her neck and a slightly squinty look. This did not, however, affect the haughty tone of her voice.
"I am Princess Buttercup of Guilder. I do not thank anyone!"
The dragon snorted and smoke escaped one of his nostrils. The princess, suddenly reminded that dragons breathe fire, took a slight step back and smoothed her skirts with a nervous gesture. She did not, however, lower her head, which resulted in the crick turning quickly into a cramp. The dragon, noting her distress, lowered its head so that their eyes were level.
"I should think not," he said, "at least not without an explanation. Would you be so kind as to sit, your highness? I should very much like to make my case to you."
The princess thought to refuse, but in truth, the crick was now becoming painful. Seeing no other recourse, she took a seat on a convenient rock.
"All right, then, proceed with your yarn," the princess said, trying surreptitiously to massage her neck. The dragon noticed this, of course, but politely made no mention of it. "It will give me something to pass the time while we wait for my Wesley to arrive."
"You place much faith in the prince, your highness. Too much faith, in truth, for I will show you how your mind has been clouded by love."
The dragon proceeded to tell his tale. He told her of the prince's cruelty, how he killed helpless animals for sport and tortured men - and women - for pleasure in the catacombs beneath the castle. He told her of the prince's excesses, of his countless drunken brawls and drug-induced stupors. He told her of the prince's many lovers, some purchased with squandered gold and some within her own serving staff. The princess objected to each point in the story, attempting to explain away this event or that, but in the end the dragon presented so much evidence in such startling detail that she had no choice but to believe it.
"And so you see, your highness, when I heard that you were going to marry this debaucherous lecher, I could not in good conscience let the ceremony go forward. For your own protection I had to act."
The princess, calm now and relaxed, knew when to admit defeat. "I fear I have wronged you, good dragon. I have ascribed to you a base nature for which you are unjustly accused, while upholding the virtue of a man I thought I loved, who is, in truth, more beastly than you have been. I thank you. You have, indeed, rescued me from a fate worse than death."
"I am very glad you said that, princess," the dragon said, and he promptly ate her.
As he picked stray golden tresses from his teeth, the dragon's mate landed next to him on the ledge.
"Why do you play with your food so?" she asked. "Is it not much simpler to eat and be done with it?"
"Humans taste so much better when they aren't shaking in fear," he replied. "I call it 'seasoning' rather than playing."
The female snorted. "How did you know so much about the prince? You are well informed."
"That was easy," he said. "I rescued her maid yesterday."