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One Birdcage to Another

By Megan Fair All Rights Reserved ©

Horror / Fantasy

A Short Story

Marisette rushed down the deserted hallway, tears streaming across her cheeks. She didn’t care that the salty stuff would ruin the perfection that was her cosmetics. The indignity of having a messy face was secondary to the utter humiliation that had greeted her in the ballroom. She simply couldn’t believe that her fiancé would be so vulgar as to invite his mistress to his betrothal ball.

Marisette of Kildon was a gently bred woman of the nobility. She knew that her husband would probably have a mistress or two besides her, but that was to be expected. She was a wife. Her duty was to give him sons and daughters, to run his household efficiently, and to be in all things subservient to him. This role had never bothered her before. From a young age like all girls of her station she had been trained just for this life. She knew all the little things that would make her a perfect wife for a man of the nobility.

She had also been content with the fact that she was property. Marisette was going from being her father’s beauteous prize daughter to becoming a man’s wife. From one birdcage to another, as her mother used to say. Her mother had been a bitter woman, always bringing down her husband’s rage by speaking her mind. Marisette had determined at a young age that she wouldn’t end up like her mother.

One birdcage to another.

She froze, realizing that she had ventured too far. When her family had arrived for the ball, the magician of the house had informed them that there were certain places that were forbidden. Marisette realized that she had stumbled into one of those places, but that knowledge was secondary to the fact that she stood in a room that was dominated by a gigantic birdcage, almost as if it had been conjured from the depths of her mind. Delicate gilt filigree curled into fantastical shapes the interlocked to form the bars of the cage.

The butterflies and birds of gilt were not what captured all of Marisette’s attention, however. Behind the bars of unicorns and gryphons coiled a monstrous creature. Death black eyes stared at her hungrily from a reptilian face that spoke of nightmares and pure fear. The thing was huge, taking up all the space in the cage, its tail twitching every few heartbeats.

She knew that she should be terrified, but strangely, she found it beautiful. The scales were the red of rubies, and the eyes like obsidian blades. Marisette had always excelled in watercolors, and her artist’s eye could see the musculature of the creature even in the bright moonlight from the window above the cage. She had always loved all animals, each creature so special and delightful in its own way. It had always amazed her how powerful animals were even when it was so easy to hurt them.

Marisette sniffed, and pushed a lock of her blonde hair behind her ear. “So you’re the reason we weren’t supposed to come here. I can’t say I’m surprised. Aidonique is supposed to be power hungry.” She teared up again. “And cruel.”

She sat on the marble floor, uncaring that the creature’s eyes tracked her movement with the air of a predator. “I had thought that those were just rumors that the maids told me to frighten me. It’s well known around my home that I am terribly gullible. And dumb. I fall for anything.” She laughed.

The creature chuffed, almost as if agreeing. She glared at it. “No need to tell me again! I know that I’m mostly pretty and nothing smart. I’m okay with that. Being pretty and good at running a household and being a girl is all that I need to make a comfortable life for myself. I can be sweet and kind and I will avoid the beatings. All I’ve ever wanted was a man who would spoil me silly and let me buy whatever I like.”

The monster blinked slowly. She continued. “I was alright with this role until tonight. Can you believe it? Aidonique invited his mistress to attend his betrothal ball! I don’t really care that he has a mistress, but I was expecting at least the respect of not having to face her at a social function!”

Marisette looked up at the caged beast. “But you don’t care about all that do you? You just care about the fact that you’re in a cage that you can’t escape. I know the feeling. This life, I finally understand why my mother hates it so. I may not have bars around me, but I might as well.” She gestured to the marble floor, the ornate furnishings, and laughed bitterly. “As Mama said one birdcage to another.”

At that, the beast stood, massive head swaying. It looked at her through the bars, and Marisette smiled as a thought formed in her mind. She could take the same way out as her mother. “If I free you, will you free me?”

A low rumble rolled across the room, and the girl dressed in the opulent gown rose with all the grace that had been beaten into her over her seventeen years. The green silks rustled over her hips as she approached the door that was foolishly left without a lock. Her generous breasts heaved behind her corset as she took one last breath before she thumbed the latch and flung open the massive door made of shimmering deer and doves.

The dragon nudged the door open with a mighty heave, sending Marisette flying away. She landed on her back with a painful thud; her skirts flipping up to covered her face. Her legs were indecently exposed, the only thing covering her lady parts being a small pair of bloomers. She would have had nothing, but her woman’s time was upon her. She fought off her skirts, managing to get them back down so that her face and torso were free. The copious amount of fabric was now bunched around her waist. But she could do nothing for the bodice which had slipped down enough for her left breast – the one that was always the bigger of the two – to spill out.

Dull thuds announced the arrival of the dragon. Marisette squeezed her eyes shut, anticipating her imminent demise. She felt hot breaths puff against her skin, first her face, and then the skin of her breast. She felt it nudge her thigh, and then something warm and wet slip across her leg. She shrieked and her eyes popped open to see the beast’s sinuous tongue weaving arcane designs across her lily white skin. The tongue was forked like a snake’s, but thick at the same time. It was licking the small cuts she had inflicted on herself, her way of having some control. She couldn’t mar the perfection of her face, but no one but her personal maid Ide ever saw her leg. She had drawn lines and stars in her skin, watching the blood well, liking the sight, but she kept even that hidden from Ide.

That tongue changed direction, heading for the juncture of her legs. “No, no!” she whispered. The creature ignored her, choosing instead to bring up a claw to gently move aside her bloomers. She felt him remove the padding she used to stop her bleeding and then that serpentine tongue was on her most intimate flesh. “Ah!”

The dragon licked her languidly, the forks of his tongue lapping at her slit and the little button of flesh that tingled pleasantly when she touched it during her baths. The stimulation caused her hips to start involuntarily rocking, her body responding to the pleasure of the touch. She didn’t even put up a token protest, deciding that if the dragon wanted to kill her like this than she would die gladly. Her body was taut, some strange tension building within her.

Her hands clutched at the marble as little gasping moans left her throat. When her gaze met the dragon’s his eyes seemed to say that he knew what she felt. That he enjoyed doing this. He stopped licking and Marisette whimpered in protest. The disappointment was short lived as he immediately inserted his tongue into her slit, causing her to gasp and moan loudly. The agile appendage moved within her, causing her hips to go wild. The tension that had been building inside suddenly broke like the string of a bow and unused to such extreme pleasure, Marisette’s world went black.

She didn’t see the dragon assume a new guise. She didn’t feel him caress her exposed breast, or kiss her forehead. She didn’t know that he was the one who set her clothes to rights, pulling up her bodice and pulling down her skirts. She didn’t feel him cup her face. or kiss her forehead. She didn’t see a man who looked just like her betrothed walk out of the room.

As a dragon, he had no name. He decided that Aidonique, King of Mylai would do just as well. All he cared for now was making sure that he would get to keep the pretty little thing that had cried, asked him to kill her, and then let him caress her without protest. She was to be his jailer’s wife, so he would assume the name of his jailer.  He smiled. He would enjoy how he would assume said name.

He found the true Aidonique in his rooms tupping the gaudy cow he called a mistress. As he strode through the rooms of the palace, the dragon had heard the party still going on, and the king was here? No wonder his pretty little one was so distraught. He’d fix that soon enough.

The spoiled, cruel king who had been determined to keep a dragon in a birdcage didn’t even hear death coming. One moment he was pumping out of the brassy blonde woman beneath him, and the next moment his head was all the way across the room. Without his body, of course. Blood sprayed all over the woman who moaned with fake enthusiasm, apparently thinking that her paramour had found his release. When she opened her eyes, it was to find the dragon licking the blood from her stomach.

She didn’t have time to scream. Powerful hands wrapped around her neck, cutting off her air. “You made my pretty girl cry,” he murmured, squeezing harder. “For that, you’ll make a wonderful aperitif.” He bit down on her cheek, letting his natural teeth break through. The woman fought harder, writhing in absolute terror. He lapped at the blood gushing from the wound with a smile.

Ultimately, it was all for naught. Her death was long and agonizing as she fought desperately for air while he drank her blood with gusto. It was flavored lightly with the alcohol that she’d consumed while laughing at his little darling, but it was still not as delicious as his little princess’s virgin gore. He rose, and with a sneer, spit on the body. “I knew Aidonique was an idiot, but to choose such a woman . . .”

The dragon walked over to the pile of clothes that had been left on the floor by the door and dressed with care. Stockings, then breeches, then lawn shirt, then vest and jacket went onto his human form easily. With a judicious application of his natural magic he ironed out the wrinkles from being carelessly thrown on the floor, and using the blood splattered mirror he set his appearance to rights. With a jaunty smile he left for the ballroom.

When she awoke, Marisette realized that she was alone. Her dress was back in place, everything where it was supposed to be, and she felt like crying again. She couldn’t decide if it was because she’d allowed a dragon to have his way with her, or because said dragon hadn’t kept his part of the bargain and killed her. Gingerly she got to her feet brushing at imaginary dust from her skirts. With one last glance around the room, she left for the ladies retiring room to repair her smudged face powder.

The trek back was uneventful, and when she swept back into the room with her head held high no one commented. Instead, she heard whispers about how the king had finally arrived. Marisette looked around the luxurious room, searching for the dark head that belonged to the King of Mylai. She would have to greet him now that he was here. She hoped that he had not been here long. Otherwise she would be in a great deal of trouble.

 “Marisette!” a male voice snapped. Well, speak of the devil.

Her father’s skeletal hand wrapped around her upper arm, and his face screamed his rage. “Where have you been?”

“The lady’s retiring room,” she whispered in fear, waiting for the slap that was inevitable. Out of the corner of her eye she even saw the hand begin to rise.

But the blow never fell. “There she is,” a wintry male voice said. “I was looking for you, little princess.”

Marisette heard the gasps, and realized that one was her own. She looked up into the green eyes of Aidonique, King of Mylai. He was a tall man, broad and muscular in the manner of a man who spent a great deal of time outdoors. Hair of ink black and eyes of forest green complemented a face hewn from the image of angels. This was her fiancé, the man who would become her husband on the morrow. “Your Majesty,” she said weakly, curtseying properly once her father relinquished her arm.

The king smiled at her, showing off straight, white teeth. He offered his arm. “Come my dove, I wish a promenade so that I can speak privately.” The unsaid command being that all of the courtiers would keep their distance. Marisette had no choice but to take the offered appendage, and hope that she didn’t die of embarrassment. She could swear from the smug expression on his face that the king knew what she had been doing in the past half an hour.

As soon as they were alone she launched into an apology, “Your Majesty, I’m –"

“No need,” he murmured. “Look into my eyes, little princess.”

Marisette followed his commands, and took a good look into his green eyes. It took but a moment to notice that something familiar twisted behind his green irises. Something that had brought her a great deal of pleasure not twenty minutes before. “Dragon from the cage?”

Aidonique leaned over and nuzzled her cheek. “Yes, little princess. You need never worry about that cruel king or his horrible mistress ever again.”

“You broke your promise,” she murmured. “You were supposed to kill me. Set me free.”

“Ah, but I never agreed, now did I?” he shot back, “And I find that I would rather trade one birdcage for another, as your mother so eloquently says.”

“Said,” she all but snapped. “My mother took her own life to escape my father. I wish I was brave enough to follow her. I can’t stand the thought of being like this anymore. When I was a child, this was but my lot in life and my father was right. I was one of the lucky ones. But then tonight, to realize that I had no say in anything, that I would have to suffer the whims of a man who could beat me and lay with me in the same hour because I was but his toy . . . I can’t take it anymore.”

He stopped, dragging her into the shelter of his body. “Dragons never harm their mates, young one. You will bear my children, be my companion in all things,” he said, then caressed her thighs covertly. “And feed me the blood that wells from your skin when you cut into yourself. Human food is well and good, but my body needs blood. Your blood is so innocent and pure as to be like manna to me. Succor me, and I will make this birdcage the most luxurious one in the whole of the world.”

A part of Marisette told her to run, to tell someone, anyone, that the king was dead and that this imposter was a dragon. She knew that for once she should listen to it, but the promise of being coddled and cared for was appealing. In truth, she didn’t really wish to die, but death seemed preferable to the life of misery that she thought awaited her. She touched his cheek, and he smiled. “Alright,” she agreed. “I can live in this birdcage.”

“And will you sing for me, little princess?” he asked, cutting his eyes to the courtiers that stared in anticipation. They all followed yet another unspoken command, turning to give them privacy, though he knew they were all staring out of the corners of their eyes. He tamped down the irritation, knowing that this would be a part of living this life.

“Yes,” she breathed.

He leaned further down, his lips touching hers. He kept the kiss light and sweet. There would be time later for kisses that tasted of blood and passion. Now was the time to woo his delicate, little bird. “I will destroy any who displease you, little princess.”

Her blue eyes sparkled with hope. “Anyone?”

“You need only name them,” he whispered back. “I will do anything for you; you have but to name it. Destroy a foe, conquer a kingdom . . . You only have to say.”

Marisette’s smile became brilliant. “You are truly the dragon of my dreams.”

The magician watched the dance of the false king and his bride with a degree of satisfaction. His plan had worked wonders between telling the king how to cage a dragon, the selection of a truly innocent maid to be the king’s wife, the invitation to the king’s mistress, and subtly steering the maid to the dragon. The magician had planned it out perfectly right down to the gilt cage that would hold the might of the dragon.

He left the ballroom, going to the king’s rooms. The mess he found there was not far from what he expected. In fact, he had thought to find more blood and gore strewn about the place. The bitch who had been the king’s mistress was lying on the bed pale from blood loss, and her neck marked by a man’s hands. A large bite wound marred her cheek. The king’s torso was thrown across the foot of the large bed, and his head lay at the base of the full length mirror. With a simple spell he erased all proof of the horrendous murders, and returned to the ballroom.

When the magician arrived, he stood in the shadows with a small smile on his face. The dragon king sat on his throne, an idle hand rubbing the side of his soon to be queen. Said queen was perched on a stool that had been dragged to sit by his knee. For the first time all night the young woman wore a genuine smile, her pleasure plain for all to see. The magician found that he wasn’t surprised. Dragons were known to be fiercely loyal to mates, and they refused to harm the women they took as their own.

His eyes strayed to the ballroom. The high ceilinged affair was held up by fluted columns that were decorated with delicate gold and gems. Vines of gilt entwined with small animals of gems from emerald butterflies and diamond doves creating fantastic woodland scenes. The chandelier that threw light on the room looked like a golden tree of light, and the white marble of the walls and floor reflected that light. It reminded him of the delicate construction that used to hold the dragon.

The magician reflected that everything and everyone in the room was trapped in some way, shape, or form. All of them were imprisoned by rules and social mores that caged more delicately than any bars of gold or iron. All these courtiers were trying to change their circumstances, or keep them, vying for power and wealth all in hopes of freeing themselves of the shackles placed upon them.

Including himself.

He had known that allowing the real Aidonique to rule over Mylai would be a disaster, so he’d come up with the scheme to place a surrogate on the throne. It had been a gamble, but the dragon would be easily led through his wife, who would be easily taught how to rule. A kingdom wasn’t so far from a household in the magician’s opinion. It would be thorny, and possibly more dangerous than having a flibbertigibbet more concerned with his hounds and mistress than the good of the kingdom, but it was a risk worth taking.

From one birdcage for another, as his dearly departed sister said right before she slit her own throat.

From one birdcage for another.

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