"I shall really miss you when you return home, Your Highness" said the dragon as the pair sat outside his cave one morning in April, the day before Princess Sara was due to begin her walk back home - she was still not permitted to ride the horse, and so would need to start soon if she were not to be late.
"I'll miss you, Bill" replied the Princess, moving away from him as he exhaled cigar smoke - at least he was smoking a decent brand by this time!
"I see you have finally managed to capture a damsel - well done! I'm so incredibly happy for you, old chap!"
They both turned towards the cave entrance, where one of the village maidens was securely tied to an iron ring fixed in the rock. She was wriggling desperately in a hopeless and doomed attempt to get free. For reasons best known to herself she did not seem to share Princess Sara's happiness at the dragon's final success in damsel capturing after so many disappointments.
"Mind you, Bill, old fellow, she's not half as good looking as I am! It will only be a pretty third grade knight who comes to her rescue. She could be in for very long wait indeed, poor girl!"
The dragon sighed sadly at this. "I suppose so - but one has to start somewhere! A journey of a thousand miles begins with just a single step. And she doesn't look too bad, especially if the lighting is satisfactory and you view her from the right angle."
"With your eyes closed is the best way to look at her!" replied the unkind Princess in a voice loud enough for the captive to hear.
"Another disappointment is that she is not naked like you." complained the dragon. "I shall miss looking at your nice tits, tanned flat stomach, that rounded, gorgeous, firm young rump, and the whole golden skinned loveliness of you, after you leave tomorrow. I really will!"
Sara blushed prettily and smiled even more prettily at this compliment. She then stood up and went over to the captive damsel. She looked back at the dragon.
"If you want her to be naked, then why not undress her? It's getting warmer every day - she won't freeze!"
"I don't like to interfere with her to that extent" said the dragon. "I feel rather embarrassed about handling her that intimately."
"Well - here's one last favour. Think of it as a goodbye present!" said the Princess with a silvery laugh, which caused the dragon to regret even more that this lovely neighbour was so shortly to be gone. With these words she ripped off the poor girl's peasant clothes, after which she bent down and removed her boots. Sara's delicate, beautiful little nose wrinkled disgustedly as the odour from the girl's unwashed feet reached her sensitive royal nostrils. She walked back to her place next to the dragon and resumed her squatting position at his side.
"There you are, my scaly, cigar smoking neighbour! One naked damsel! If you value my advice you will give her a good hosing down. She's really high! Stinks to high Heaven. I can't decide if I did the right thing or not. I mean to say, just look at her! She's so horribly flabby! Not enough exercise and too much junk food - disgusting! No knight in his right senses would ever ride to the rescue of that! Best let her go in a couple of days. The knight would only kill you, anyway - they always do, you know! Hadn't been told that, had you?"
The green dragon thanked her for this warning. Half an hour later Sara rose to her feet, preparatory to leaving. The pair embraced as they said goodbye for the last time. He promised to untie the village wench later that day. It had been the catching of her that had given him the greatest satisfaction, and he was beginning to tire of her perpetual whining. Not only that, but he too had noticed the peasant girl's distasteful and offensive unwashed smell.
The few months that Princess Sara had spent on this hillside had been peaceful and happy. Her beloved white horse had been comfortably housed in the cave and provisioned daily as she went down to the farm and back to collect fresh hay, a load of which she carried on her back for him. During the day she would chat to her neighbour Bill, the incompetent and undersized cigar puffing dragon, after climbing the rocky slope up to his cave.
She had slept outdoors every night and had long since ceased to call on the magical white dogs to shield her from the rain, which she had learnt to sleep through as easily as if the weather were warm and dry. How she dreaded being confined to her bedchamber of a night when she went home! She determined that she would have the windows wide open, no matter what the weather! And fires would be banned in her apartments!
As she made the journey from the dragon's cave to her own for the last time, she asked herself once again what difference the last months had made to her. Very little in some ways, she decided. She still knew herself to be a Princess and had always been conscious of her superior rank even during the very worst times. It was a great joy, though, to have developed such a mystical rapport with all the birds and animals around her, whose unhoused and free condition she had shared these last amazing months, and would continue to share for a while yet.
Whenever she had been given hospitality along the way and this generosity had consisted in the provision of meals in which fowl and flesh had played a large part, she had never been able to suppress a feeling of guilt. Each lovely well-cooked dish might, after all, contain the body of a former friend! Generally, though, she managed to shrug off consideration of such moral dilemmas and enjoy her meal!
The beautiful Princess was not a particularly deep thinker, being first and foremost a woman of action, whose quick intelligence was directed at the immediate world around her, as befitted a future ruler, which she was irrevocably determined to be by this time. "They aren't putting me through all this shit for nothing" was her abiding thought.
Sadly, her use of foul language was increasing all the while - she had given vent to some extremely highly coloured utterences at the time of her flogging, albeit 'sotto voce' . Martha, with her peasant blood, would have applauded, but not her father. Still less the saintly Archbishop, whom she was, in any case, determined to sack as soon as she became Queen!
For the last time she laid herself down at the entrance
to the cave, guarding her beloved white horse, safe inside, with her by
now formidable presence. She slept. Tomorrow the journey
home would begin!