Lessandra, the queen’s favorite daughter as a toddler, had quickly turned into the little royalty with the greatest skill set. She knew how to take charge of situations, how to defuse a tense argument, how to take care of herself and make sure her older siblings never got into a fight, and make time to sneak off into the Dragon hold besides. The Castle occupants were supposed to be superior to the commoners who used their Dragon mounts in order to travel to and from the surrounding cities. As she looked at the magical globelights surrounding her Castle, her Home, in a brilliant display of vibrant pinks and oranges, she felt a twang of despair. If they caught her now, she would never be able to explore the world, and Lessandra didn’t want to squabble away her entire life pretending she was a noble. She wanted the open skies and the rush she felt when her dragon lifted them both into the air.
Lessandra had been adopted, and as it seems, she came from already incredible stock. The castle was unapproachable save for those special guests invited by the King and Queen themselves and yet somehow, somebody had managed to sneak Lessandra up, past dozens of checkpoints, hundreds of sentries, tons of watchtowers and levels of bureaucracy and place her in the King and Queen’s private chambers one evening. They had left her there and the king and Queen had adopted her as their own, hoping that someday, her true parents and identity would be revealed.
Lessandra had been raised with all the proper protocol. She knew how to knit, sew, and weave. She could cook delicious meals if needed, but knew the recipes of fifty different lands, and the grace, language and poise needed to order them no matter where she went. She could speak to any commoner from any land, as was expected of all the members of the Royal family, and she was trained in all of their quirky customs. She knew to curtsy low in front of the men of Ashara, and display the briefest hint of a bow in front of the men of Ramoth. She could manage her maids, servants, and ladies-in-waiting, she could rattle off the specifications for any dress she envisioned in her head – down to the exact shade of lace, the accessories desired, the type of pearls, the exact pattern and placement of gemstones and the amount of material required. As her mother, the Queen Shonara, put it, Lessandra was bred to be a Queen. She had been gifted into the position, and trained to perfection.
But above all else, Lessandra prided herself not in her royal knowledge, but in her secret stash of skills that she had let nobody, not even her younger brothers and sisters, discover. Above all her talents, Lessandra prided herself on her ability to care for, ride, and understand dragons. The understand part hadn’t come easy though, and Lessandra could think of countless examples of sore and bruised arms, legs, thighs, shoulders, and even torso when she had misinterpreted what her dragon was about to do and taken a hurtle.
When Lessandra was five, she had taken a different route back to her wing in the castle after arriving from a playdate with her best friend, Niamh. Niamh, a daughter of one of the numerous Lords and Ladies who co-inhabited the immense castle, loved spending time by the nearby moat, and so, Lessandra and Niamh found themselves there, at the edge of the castle boundaries, frequently. The moat’s crystal clear water, kept immaculately clean by the host of pacifist earthen caretakers who lived within the castle walls, was a thing of precious beauty. The water was always a deep sapphire blue, and one could peer deep down and look at the strange underwater foliage that grew around the edges. The very center of the moat reflected the colorful skies overhead.
She had been looking up and admiring the lovely light orbs that gave the castle its distinct foreboding glow when she realized that she was walking along a different path. She looked ahead and it seemed to lead towards the castel as well, so she shrugged and continued along. As she neared the stone façade, she sniffed and frowned – her delicate nose had detected the slight stench of the castle dragonhold.
She had continued walking, curious and eager to see the dragons. She thought they were beautiful and knew that there was a dragonhold on the castle grounds – what castle didn’t have one? – but she had never had reason to visit it. Her regalia demanded certain respect, and she saw the dragonmasters and dragonmounters alike regarding her with caution. They kept their distance and she continued walking, peering occasionally into one of the dragon’s covens, until a man asked her “How can we be of service to you Princess Lessandra?” in a kind but stern, voice. “I am responsible for running the dragonhold. Has there been a problem? Is anybody in need of a mount?”
Just as Lessandra was about to speak, he said in a rush “My humble apologies Princess. I am at fault for having thought you would visit our hold to request a mount. I am deeply sorry if I have off-“
She interrupted him smoothly. “Not at all, Sir –“
“Sir Leon, my princess.” He bowed.
She politely curtsied in response and continued speaking. “I was just on my way back from the castle moat and happened to follow this pathway. I’ve never been to our Dragonhold before, and wished to take a look before proceeding to my chambers.”
She thought for a moment before adding “It does tend to get a bit boring in there” in a conspirational voice.
He allowed himself a quiet chuckle and offered to show her the Dragonhold, and this is when she discovered her love for the animals. If caught early and tempered by consistent and gentle human contact, the dragons would allow a human to ride upon them, thus aiding in travel to and fro the various lands of the Kingdom. However, when royalty traveled, they traveled not in the air on potentially volatile or ill-mannered dragons, but on the ground, where they traveled with proper guards, servants, and equipment. This also gave them ample time to meet the people. In fact, once every five or six years, the King and his Queen, along with their older children, would make a Grand Processional all over the Kingdom. Sometimes, one such processional would last up to a year to complete. The King and Queen hoped that by taking their older children with them, they would come across a noble who struck their fancy. Many of the royal marriages had been arranged this way.
Lessandra gazed at the beautiful dragons around her, telling herself that they were unsafe, dangerous, and harmful creatures. But still, despite everything her upbringing was telling her, she was still curious and eager to see the creatures up-close. Sir Leon watched as she inched closer and closer each time they stopped briefly at a dragon’s cove.
Lessandra wanted to learn all she could about dragons after that day in the Castle Dragonhold. She went straight to the bookkeeper and began heckling the wizened old man about everything that he knew. He gave her large tomes that recorded the history of the dragons, dating back to the first time they had ever been encountered by literate humans. She ordered one of her guards to carry the tomes for her back to her room.
She spent weeks reading about the dragons, and visited the Dragonhold almost every day, even if just for a few minutes at a time. Of course, the King and Queen didn’t approve, but as talented and schooled Lessandra was, she was equally as independent. They wouldn’t have been able to stop her and telling her outright that she was forbidden would only spur her desire even more strongly. So the King and Queen watched passively, not too worried; they hoped Lessandra would grow out of this phase. And for the sake of their country, they hoped it would be soon, because Lessandra had too many qualities of a leader to put them all away and set off atop a dragon.
But mounting a dragon continued to be Lessandra’s dream once she had read about the intrigue, mystery, and beauty behind how a dragon chose who would be allowed to mount it. She was enthralled by the dragons and wanted to see if she herself could prove worthy of mounting one of the misunderstood beasts.
But she was never given the opportunity to even try – all the workers at the Dragonhold knew that the King and Queen would not be so lenient with them, and they tried their best to avoid giving Lessandra any chance to mount a dragon. They did not want to be the ones directly responsible for her transgressions.
But Lessandra was set on finding herself a lucky break. Several weeks into her interest with dragons, the shy one in particular, she was finally gifted the opportunity that she had been waiting for. The shy little dragon who. Lessandra had secretly been calling Windglide, named for her effortless solo flights, had broken free of her restraints during her feeding.
Lessandra had been the first to notice; she took off in a sprint away from the Dragonhold, familiar enough with the Castle’s windy paths to pick out what her quickest routes could be – she had to save the excited dragon who didn’t know any better. Bred and raised by humans her entire life, she was simply not allowed to escape –she would not survive. Lessandra paused for a moment and then sudden inspiration struck her. She began tearing out the gems in all of her clothing, compiling the decently sized pile on the ground next to her. She picked up a piece of Onyx that glinted in the various color orbs and held it out toward Windglide, who had now perched cautiously far away. The more Lessandra tempted Windglide with the shiny gems, the closer the dragon allowed Lessandra to get.
She began inching toward windglide, nothing but innocent curiosity and concern in her heart. Windglide sensed the purity of Lessandra’s emotions and made no fuss as the girl got closer and closer to her muzzle.
At the very end, Lessandra stood right by Windglide, closed and averted her eyes, and tentatively reached her fingers out to the dragon. Windglide did not make any commotion. Still holding her breath, Lessandra attempted what she had thought would never be possible.
She mounted Windglide.