To Free a Dragon
The witch bent over her cauldron, stirring the silver liquid with her wooden spoon. The potion within began to bubble and boil. It was ready.
Tamsin Rita Redwood was the witch’s name—and what a wonderful name it was, for her parents had chosen it carefully. Tamsin’s name was all she had left of her lost mother and father. They had died in a fire that destroyed their home just months ago; Tamsin alone had escaped. Ever since then, she’d felt trapped. She felt guilty, responsible for her parents’ deaths—even though none of it was her fault whatsoever.
A yellow screech-owl perched on Tamsin’s hat stand, clicking his beak at his mistress. He wanted his dinner. Tamsin waved her hand at the impatient bird; her potion was more important.
Tamsin was on an important quest. Before her beloved mother died, Laronda Redwood had given her daughter one request. Tamsin must free the Ruby Dragon of Salsvadore.
This dragon had belonged to all the witches and warlocks of the kingdom. He was their friend, their advisor, and their family. But the dragon was also dangerous. He was vicious towards non-magical people. His loyalty was reserved for the witches and wizards only.
One day, a human boy had wandered into the dragon’s cave. The Ruby Dragon was furious at the trespasser, and slaughtered the young man. The king immediately ordered for the Ruby Dragon to be imprisoned forever, then banished the warlocks and witches from Salsvadore.
It was her mother’s dying wish for the Ruby Dragon to be free, and so Tamsin did everything in her power to fulfil it. In four months, she had prepared an invisibility potion to get past the royal guards, for the dragon was hidden in the castle dungeons. She had enchanted a sword to break the chains that held the Ruby Dragon hostage, and made herself practice every spell imaginable to prepare herself for this moment. The moment when she would free the dragon.
Tamsin poured her last potion into a vial, threw some sunflower seeds to her screech-owl, then donned a blood red cloak and slid the sword into her belt. It was time.
She locked the door to her small wooden hut, then walked with confident strides towards the Salsvadore castle. She lived right on the edge of the kingdom, just beyond the borders.
Such a beautiful picture it was, with Tamsin strolling in the moonlight. Tamsin’s face was art itself. She had nut-brown hair that flew across her back like a waterfall, and a pert nose that looked like a button. Shapely eyebrows framed her bright violet eyes. Tamsin’s eyes were so strong that they seemed to look straight through you, into your very soul. But they were also sad. The memories of her parents’ death shone in Tamsin’s eyes.
As she approached the castle, Tamsin lifted a blue bottle to her lips and drank. The invisibility potion began to take effect, camouflaging her against the white brick castle walls. Before she entered the castle, she bent down and slipped off her black shoes to stifle the noise of her walking. Tamsin strolled past the guards, nearly laughing at their ignorance of her presence.
Tamsin had never been inside the castle before, and so did not quite know how to get inside the dungeons. She’d known that this would happen. Sliding a glass wand out of her belt, she mumbled an incantation. The wand levitated out of her hand, then pointed to a set of stairs that spiraled down. Tracking spells were very useful.
Tamsin ran down the stairs, her bare feet not making much noise. She came to a halt in front of two soldiers guarding a locked gate. She took out her second potion, then cast it upon the ground. The little orange bottle shattered. Tamsin plugged her nose, trying not to breathe in the fumes. The two guards sniffed at the unfamiliar smell, then collapsed, fast asleep.
Tamsin’s invisibility potion was wearing off, as she could see her own hands out in front of her. Unfortunately, she could not drink another one too soon, for drinking too much potion could make her sick. Praying that she wouldn’t meet any more guards, she took off through the maze of underground tunnels. A few tracking spells later, she met three armed men. They narrowed their eyes at her.
“Reveal yourself,” the bearded one said. Tamsin’s hands shook as she lifted her hood.
“Please,” Tamsin tried to reason. “I bring you no harm. I only wish to visit the Ruby Dragon.”
“As if,” the fat one scoffed. “Anyone who dares try and look fer the dragon is a dirty witch. None of ’em get past us.”
“Is that so?” Tamsin drew her sword and held it out in front of her. “This sword is magic. I’m warning you. If you touch me, you touch the blade.” The skinny guard winced at Tamsin’s weapon. The fat and bearded men inched towards her. They could tell by the way Tamsin’s hand wobbled that she was no good at fighting. She wouldn’t stand a chance against the three of them.
Tamsin thrust her hand into her pocket, fumbling for another sleeping potion. Drat! She’d left her extra one at home. She scolded herself for being so forgetful. Instead, she drew out her wand. The guards drew back, fear on their faces. The witch may not be a swordsman, but she can do harmful magic.
“Let me inside the gate,” Tamsin said in her strongest-sounding voice. “Or I will use my magic against you.”
“No,” the bearded man refused, his arms crossed. “I will not betray my king.”
“Suit yourself,” Tamsin said. She held her wand at the ready. She breathed out the spell, words weaving themselves into magic. A ray of light emitted from her wand; it landed on the bearded man. He began to shrink, his nose and mouth forming into one. Feathers sprouted onto his arms and legs. Moments later, where a brave guard once stood, was a sparrow.
Tamsin picked the little thing up and slipped him into her pocket. She would let him go outside, when her task was done.
“Would anybody else like to become a bird?” Tamsin asked the two remaining guards. “Or perhaps a worm?” That did it. The fat man slipped a key out of his belt and tossed it to Tamsin. She nodded at him. “Tell anybody about this, and I will curse your kingdom,” Tamsin warned. She didn’t have the power to curse Salsvadore, nor did she want to. But what the guards didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them.
She unlocked the gate, which opened to a narrow hallway. Tamsin strolled down the hall, pulling her hood back up. The sparrow in her pocket twirped in annoyance. Tamsin somewhat guilty for turning the guard into a bird, but she could not turn him back. What’s done is done.
The hallway led into a very large room, with curved stone walls and a massive hole filled with water. The place was very dirty, with cobwebs hanging down from the walls, and there was even a rat scurrying across the hard floor. The grey water was bubbling. Tamsin looked around. There was no dragon in sight.
She walked over to the water-hole, then quickly dipped her toe inside. Almost immediately, the water began to rise. Something was inside. It was the Ruby Dragon.
The dragon rose out of the water and slid onto the floor. It was beautiful. Tamsin had never seen the Ruby Dragon before, and it was a sight to behold. It was about the size of three elephants, with red shiny scales that looked exactly like rubies. It had gigantic wings that sparkled, and they had horns at the tips. The dragon’s eyes were large and bright, with narrowed pupils. Its tail was long and strong-looking, for it swayed gently, visible muscles bulging. It took Tamsin’s breath away to look at it, but she also felt quite sad. Such a beautiful creature as this had no right to be imprisoned in such revolting conditions.
The Ruby Dragon growled softly, the noise vibrating in its throat. Tamsin was mesmerized. Her hood slid off of her head as she stretched out her hand. The Ruby Dragon knew who Tamsin was. He knew that she would come to rescue him. He had sensed her presence, had heard her thoughts. They were connected. The Ruby Dragon knew that in a few short moments, he would be free.
Tamsin reached out gently and touched the dragon’s nose. The Ruby Dragon pressed his face against her palm, his smooth scales feeling cool against Tamsin’s skin.
“Are you ready to be free?” Tamsin asked the dragon in her softest voice. The Ruby Dragon understood. He held out his front leg, which was bound in the long chain that held him captive. Tamsin swallowed. She was scared. What would happen when she broke the chains? How would the dragon get out of the room?
Walking slowly to the dragon’s leg, she pulled her magic sword out of her belt and held it at the ready. Now was the time. Tamsin grasped the handle with both hands, tightening her arm muscles. Using every inch of strength inside her, she swung the sword down onto the chains.
There was a bright flash of light, and then the chains disappeared. Tamsin gasped from the impact, nearly collapsing. It had taken every ounce of energy left inside of her to break the chain.
The Ruby Dragon was elated. He lifted his head and let out an earsplitting roar. So loud it was that it shook the stone walls of his prison room. He hadn’t roared like this for ages. He felt the freedom, the absence of the heavy chains on his leg. Tamsin, too, felt different. She felt her guiltiness leave her heart. This dragon was hers, and she was his. He was her family.
The dragon looked at Tamsin, the poor thing sitting on the floor and panting. He lifted out his wing to her. Knowing in her heart what to do, Tamsin crawled over his wing, fitting herself on his back. She grasped his scales, readying herself. She felt as if she had done this hundreds of times, as if sitting on the Ruby Dragon’s back was something she did every day.
The Ruby Dragon flapped his wings, harder and harder. He roared with joy at the feeling of being able to fly. Slowly but surely, he rose from the ground, chains no longer keeping him down. He rose faster and faster, circling around the room. Then, tilting his head upwards, he tried to crack the ceiling.
“Here, let me help you,” Tamsin offered. She brought out her wand and spoke the magic words, the ceiling dissolving little by little. The Ruby Dragon gratefully soared out into the starry sky, roaring at the top of his lungs. He flapped his wings harder, the air propelling him forward. Tamsin laughed with exultation, holding her hands in the air. The Ruby Dragon breathed in the fresh outside scent. No more was the dingy prison room. No more would he have to eat rotten meat from the kitchens. Never again would the Ruby Dragon have to drink dusty water. He was free, and freedom was luxury.
And he would take Tamsin with him.
Tamsin bent down and wrapped her arms around the Ruby Dragon’s neck. She smiled. Her future was so clear she could nearly see it. Her and the Ruby Dragon. They would fly from place to place, eating wild berries and huddling close in the night. They would be together, side by side, until the end. Tamsin felt that she had freed herself as she did the Ruby Dragon. She could almost feel her mother smiling down at her from the starry sky.
They were free. And that was enough.
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