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My Liege

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he land of Élias was traditionally ruled by fear. When King Lucas the Dragon-Hearted was in search of a wife with whom to share his throne and extend the royal family there was little dispute that the perfect match for him was La Belle Dame Sans Pitie, Miranda St. Le Prix the most ruthless swordsmith the country had ever seen.



he wedding was well attended for King Lucas demanded the attendance of the country to celebrate his union. Indeed, it seemed a match made in heaven. The two had twin daughters who happily carried on the family tradition of being absolute tyrants to all those who would dare oppose them.

One morning the king awoke with a terrible fever. For three days the townspeople lugged water to the castle to cool him and try and keep the fever down. On the fourth day he succombed to his illness.

Miranda remained at his side for hours and legend has it, her mood took a turn for the worse. If the townspeople thought she was foul tempered before the death of the king they were sorely mistaken.

After the king's passing she amped up the troops fighting in the decades long war that had been going on between Elias and it's neighboring country, Clarke.

Clarke was a small but spartan nation who held fast to their borders. Clarke was run by King Thomas III, a man quickly approaching his seventieth year and considered to be on his last legs. He had only one child, a daughter, Emily, who would inherit the kingdom.

The messenger ran up to Miranda. "My liege," he bowed submissively.

Miranda impatiently bid him stand, "fetch Nigel for me. Inform Jocelyn that she is to take care of the girls this evening and hitch up my caravan."

"My lady?"

Miranda smirked devillishly. "We are going to pay old Thomas a visit." Her fingertips played over the handle of the holstered sword at her side.

A few minutes later Nigel entered the great hall, he bowed at its entrance to his queen before approaching. As Miranda's right hand Nigel was invaluable and, though she would never say it, she found his companionship pleasant and almost enjoyable.

"Going to Clarke." She grinned. "Have you been? I've heard it's lovely this time of year."

"My lady, I would never be so bold as to question you, but-"

"Then I suggest you do not if you intend to keep your head rooted to your shoulders." Miranda snorted, "I'll need you to oversee the packing of the caravan."

"My liege," he nodded his affirmation and bowed before leaving the room.

After a day and a half of travel the entourage reached the castle. A hesitant minion slid the large wooden door aside to peek around at the white haired enemy.

"I request an audience with your king. Please take it under advisement that the request is merely a courtesy and if he does not grant me an audience I will take this castle by force."

"One moment." The minion narrowed his eyes and disappeared into the castle.

"My liege," Nigel stepped up, "it seems that you've ripped your skirt."

Miranda craned to look and sighed with annoyance, "bugger. I hate going into negotiations without looking my best." She stopped to think, "nevermind. The old bastard undoubtedly has cataracts."

"You are wicked, my lady." Nigel grinned.

The door slid open with a loud creak and the entourage filed in with Miranda in the lead. Galahad, who was bringing up the rear, shoved the minion into the wall as they passed.

When Miranda swung the door to the King's quarters open he was standing, with the aid of a walking stick.

"Thomas. I suggest you save yourself as much embarrassment as possible and surrender your kingdom to me at once."

Thomas sneered, "why in Heaven's name would I do that?"

"Barring the fact that my armies could easily overtake your pitiful excuse for a military in a matter of months, if by some miracle of God you manage to stave us off you're not going to last much longer and without an appropriate heir to the throne," Miranda cast a withering glance at Emily, "your tiny nation will be under constant attack from your numerous enemies to the south. If you surrender your kingdom and your daughter to Elias I shall use my resources to ensure that following your death savages will not pillage your towns."

Thomas looked off into the distance for so long that Miranda began considering he may have been dying of old age right before her eyes. He turned to her sharply. "And if I refuse?"

Miranda grabbed the gilded handle of her sword and pulled it from its sheath. She moved towards Thomas. Thomas's men moved to intercept her but members of her entourage kept them at bay.

The point of Miranda's sword grazed the skin under his chin. "I don't take rejection well."

Thomas licked his dry lips and swallowed hard, "you'll take care of my daughter?"

"Papa!" Emily objected, trying to rush to his aide. Nigel grabbed her around the waist and held her back. "Let go of me, lech!"

"Oh, in your dreams, sister." Nigel rolled his eyes.

"Aye." Miranda could scarcely contain her grin.

"And the nations of Conde and Nast will never take my land?"

"Not as long as I have breath in my body. I am a woman of my word."

"Then," he stuttered, "then kindly remove your sword from my jugular and I will surrender to you."

"Papa! No!" Emily struggled against Nigel.

Miranda sheathed her sword and let out a triumphant cackle. "Nigel, you and I and the princess shall return to Elias forthwith. Galahad, you will stay here and with the aide of your men see to it that King Thomas withdraws his troops."

Galahad snorted a laugh, "I daresay, my liege, that our schoolgirls are tougher than their troops but as my lady wishes."

"Excellent."



nce they'd made it back to Elias the twins wasted no time with regards to torturing Emily. Miranda went about her daily routing with a little spring in her step knowing that no guard could do a better job of keeping Emily in line that her demonic offspring.

Weeks went by and Emily seemed no more settled in and Miranda decided to personally pay the girl a visit.

Miranda hoved in the doorway and the girl, not seeing Miranda arrive, paced obsessively in front of the window. "Do try to calm yourself." Miranda scolded, Emily looked up with a start. "You're apt to wear a hole in the floor and I'm afraid I would have to personally punish you for that."

"No punishment could be worse than tearing me from my father." She whispered. "Do with me what you wish."

"Tsk, tsk. Don't make promises you don't intend to keep." Miranda scolded, sauntering further into the room, "a girl could get ideas."

"Why did you bring me here?" Emily's breath caught in her chest; any evidence of which was well hidden by her corset.

"Perhaps I saw something in you that I liked, that I deemed valuable. Perhaps I thought I could make you happy. Perhaps I'm just spiteful and cruel."

Emily turned back to the window, looking out across the landscape. She sighed.

"Regardless of my reasons," Miranda stepped further still until she was standing behind the princess, close enough to feel her body heat. "If you should feel the need to join me in my chambers one lonely evening..." Miranda's fingers gently played along Emily's right shoulder. Miranda let out a shaky breath, "you know where to find me."

Emily stood frozen to the spot and by the time she'd mustered up the courage to turn and face the Queen she found that she'd vanished. "How queer," she said aloud to no one, she reached up to touch her shoulder, "she is gone but still I feel her touch, her heat... she does torture me so..."

Emily collapsed on the bed and pulled the pillow over her head.

That evening as Emily lay in bed listening to the outside noises slow and stop as everyone settled in for the night. She was conspicuously awake considering Miranda's proposal.

She rose from bed and pulled on her corset, securing it as best she could by herself and slipping on her dress.

Emily quietly padded down the hallway toward Miranda's quarters. She stopped outside the doors; she waited for several long minutes before losing her nerve and running back to her room.

This ritual carried on for over a week before, on the twelfth night, the door to Miranda's chambers opened and she caught Emily in her tracks with a piercing gaze. "Are you coming?" She demanded with impatience."

Emily silently swallowed and stepped, hesitantly, inside. Miranda closed the heavy door behind them and circled Emily menacingly.

Emily watched Miranda out of the corners of her eyes. Miranda was fully clothed; she was dressed in a beautiful corset with a billowy silk blouse and a pair of tailored black trousers. Miranda was the first woman whom Emily had ever seen in trousers and it had been off-putting, at first, that she could both be masculine and breathtakingly feminine.

Suddenly Miranda's hands were on her. The dress was pulled away from her form and the corset was tugged loose until it fell to the stone floor. Emily stood in front of Miranda in her underclothes. She was the closest to naked she'd ever been in front of another person since she'd developed.

Her breath caught in her throat. Miranda bent down and picked up the corset and took Emily's clothing to her armoire and stashed them inside.

Emily was effectually tethered to the room, considering she'd never chance the hallway in such a state of undress.

But Miranda wasn't done with her yet, she slipped the sleeves of the garment down her arms and pushed the fabric around her waist, baring the young woman's breasts.

Emily's heart was pounding in her chest. Miranda let Emily stand before her, exposed, for a few long minutes. Miranda nodded approvingly. "Why do you think I brought you here? Do you think me cruel?"

Emily shook her head. "No, my lady." She sucked in a shaking breath, "ruthless, perhaps. Not cruel."

Miranda's lips curled in a bemused smile. "Interesting." Miranda circled Emily again. "Do you find me attractive?"

"I'd be hard pressed to say I didn't." Emily admitted. "You're a beautiful woman."

"Do you think of me as a woman or as your captor."

"Depends." Emily said in a shaky voice.

"On?"

Emily shrugged weakly, "the day, the particular moment. You're beginning to feel more like a captor as the conversation goes on."

Miranda let out a peal of laughter.

Emily's attention snapped to Miranda, making eye contact with her for the first time since she'd entered the room. Miranda wrapped an arm around Emily's waist, pulling her tight against her and capturing her lips.

Emily whimpered into the kiss, grasping at handfuls of silk as she held Miranda. She hadn't known exactly what to expect and up until this point nothing had surprised her.

Miranda pulled her to the bed and laid her down upon it, covering her body with her own. Emily hiked a leg up over Miranda's thigh. Emily was shocked to find Miranda's kisses and touches, though insistent, to be surprisingly gentle.

Emily was happy to let Miranda do most of the work, afraid to give away her inexperience -- though she figured it would be obvious enough to Miranda sooner or later. Miranda slipped a hand into Emily's bloomers and found her wet.

This discovery caused a fire behind Miranda's eyes. Before she knew it Emily was naked and trembling underneath the determined and fully-clothed Evil Queen. Emily didn't even have time to prepare before Miranda's fingers plunged into her.

Emily moaned and gripped the sheets in clenched fists. Miranda's fingers thrust deeply into Emily, carressing tense muscles. Emily felt a quick tinge of pain, followed by the warm and sticky feeling of blood dripping down her thigh. All this transpired in a millisecond as the tightening in her stomach overtook the rest of her senses and she cried out as her orgasm burned through her body.

Emily blinked; her muscles were sore and her head still felt groggy despite the fact that the sun streamed in through the window. She pushed herself up and realized that she was still in Miranda's large, lavish bedroom.

In the dark she hadn't quite realized how cavernous and extravagant the room was. Based on the light coming through the window she figured it had to be late morning. Miranda had, no doubt, been up for hours.

Emily stood up and crossed to the armoire in front of which Miranda had lumped her clothing. Hastily, she pulled on her undergarments and then her corset and then the gown.

Emily gasped as the door slammed open.

Miranda tossed her forelock with annoyance. "You're up." She said coldly.

"I... yes..." Emily nodded resignedly.

Miranda's shoes were a beautiful melding of leather and metals: the soles and toes were gleaming silver, her heels were elevated by a sparkling bronze spike and supple leather straps wrapped around her ankles and calves holding the shoes together. The shoes made satisfying clangs against the marble floor as she strode confidently across the room.

Emily watched her.

Miranda brushed past the woman like they'd never met. She pulled a cast iron breast plate from behind a curtain at the corner of the room. The breast plate was as ornate and spectacular as the rest of her belongings; tailored perfectly to the swell of her breasts.

"War?" Emily managed to squeak.

"Nothing to concern yourself with, beautiful." Miranda sneered, pulling her sword and sheath from the darkness as she had pulled the armor.

"I'm not just a pretty face, you know." Emily snapped.

"You've yet to prove that." Miranda scoffed before retreating.

Emily stood there seething for a few moments, suddenly awash with embarrassment. If Miranda were to ask her again she would change her answer: yes, Emily did think she was cruel.

In the great hall Miranda stood with Nigel and Galahad. Miranda's stance was tense and agitated as Galahad gave her the details of the late night attack. This time it wasn't an attacking army, the borders of Conde and Nast were quiet and peaceful, this time it was an entirely different animal that she'd never dealt with before.

This time it was a dragon.

triding purposefully toward the livery after the terse briefing the Queen and her right and left hands rode off toward the attack site.

Miranda would not admit out loud that she was nervous, unsure of her ability to protect her nation from the beast. It was the first time she had truly cursed Lucas for perishing and leaving her to govern what wasn't hers by blood.

The attack had taken place in the town square of a village about ten kilometres from the palace and it did not take them long to arrive.

The townspeople huddled together, stunned that the fiercesome Queen had made a personal appearance. Though they trusted her completely to keep the kingdom safe the woman herself struck fear into them.

Miranda surveyed the damage: three buildings still smoldered, the ground scorched and several carts chomped to pieces by strong teeth.

Galahad went into the crowd to get statements from shaking peasants while Miranda and Nigel hung back near the horses.

"There hasn't been a dragon attack in so long I'd thought they'd gone extinct." Nigel admitted.

Miranda knew the history. The last reported dragon slaying was in 1022 by Sir Robin Goodson and since there had been no reportings of sightings. Now was the year 1319 and the one thing that all rulers thought they could be sure would not threaten their kingdoms had reared its head yet again.

Miranda pursed her lips.

Galahad returned, "everyone says the same thing. They were awoken by a roar and when they rushed to see what was happening they saw it. No fatalities, everyone managed to get out because it went after the carts first. Then it burned down the buildings and all the while never once looked at the cowering peasants." Galahad shrugged.

"We'll return to the castle." Miranda snorted curtly. She shoved her foot into the stirrup and pulled herself onto her horse.

The two men followed her lead and tailed her back to the castle. Once at home she went straight to her daughters' room. The girls looked up at her with concern, seeing her enrobed in her battle gear. "You two are not to leave the castle for any reason."

Caroline was the first to get up, Cassidy followed suit and they approached Miranda. Miranda turned and closed the door before sinking to the cold stone to embrace her daughters, hugging them tightly.

She stroked their soft heads of hair and kissed their temples, cooing softly in their ears.

"We're afraid." Cassidy whispered.

"No need to fear, my loves, I won't let anything happen to you. As long as I have breath in my body the two of you shall be safe." Miranda squeezed them.

"When will you teach us how to fight?"

"Darlings, methinks that part of keeping you safe will be keeping you out of battle." Miranda ran fingers through fiery hair.

"That's not fair." Caroline pouted, "you've had a sword since you were ten, you always say that."

"And my father was wrong to entrust such a weapon to me at such a young age." Miranda stood up, "we will discuss it again when you turn 15."

"Promise?"

"Promise." Miranda kissed their heads again, told them she loved them and slipped out of the room. Galahad passed her in the hall and turned when he saw her.

"Mistress," he stood at attention, his chainmail shirt still clanging as it slowed to a stop. "What are your orders?"

"Have your men patrol tonight and put the word out that I'm looking for a dragon expert."

Galahad bowed and left to carry out her wishes. To his credit he did not comment on the futility of seeking a dragon expert.

ack in the Clarke castle, King Thomas was languishing in bed, his chest felt ablaze with fire and sweat poured off of him like rain fell from the skies. The land's foremost sorcerer stood by his bedside.

"Irving." The king croaked, reaching for his friend. "Is it done? Can I die in peace?"

"My lord," Irving held his king's hand tightly in his own, "it has been done. I estimate that the Queen will not make it through the month. You shall be avenged."

Thomas gave a faint smile, "if... if," he paused to cough, "if you see my Emily... tell her I'm sorry I was too weak to fight for her... tell her that I love her..."

mily sat in her room in the Elias palace. She had said goodbye to her father, knowing that it would be the last, considering his poor health but she couldn't help but feel pained thinking of his imminent death. Had he died already? Did he ask for her? Why did he surrender to Miranda?

"I could have taken control of the armies and beaten Miranda." Emily announced angrily to the still of the room. "I could have protected my people from Conde and Nast but instead I am here wasting away in the Elias palace."

Emily puffed up her chest in defiance but quickly deflated. "Oh, who am I kidding?" She sighed, "I am powerless against Miranda... my blood on her sheets is proof of that."

Miranda stalked around the ground floor of the palace in agitation. For a fortnight one could find the queen pacing the floor by day, finally giving in to exhaustion and awakening to news of another attack. Each night she tells Galahad where to place his men and each night the dragon strikes as far from the armies as possible.

The day of the fifteenth night there was a knock on the palace door. Emily pulled open the door to see a thin young woman carrying an armload of scrolls, she had a sword the length of her legs tethered to her hip.

Emily heaved a heavy sigh. "And who might you be?"

"I'm," the woman shifted, a few scrolls clattering to the ground, she bent to pick them up and held out a hand. "Andrea Saxon."

Emily snorted her disapproval and ignored the outstretched hand. "What is your business here?"

"I came to see Queen Miranda." She explained, "I wish to interview to be the dragon expert."

Emily stared for a moment and then started to laugh. "You must be joking!" Emily had to grip her sides as she laughed harder. "The Queen doesn't appreciate humor." Emily moved to slam the door in Andrea's face.

Andrea dropped the scrolls to reach out and stop the door from swinging shut. "I assure you I'm serious and it has taken me three days to travel here. I wish an audience with La Belle Dame sans Pitie."

There was a crash behind Emily and both women snapped to attention. Nigel yanked Emily out of the way. "What did you call the Queen?"

"La Belle Dame sans Pitie." Andrea repeated, slightly less sure of herself as she stared at the man, stunned by her words.

"How old are you?"

"Eighteen."

"So you'd've been seven when she married King Lucas, when she dropped that moniker and became the White Queen."

"I'm from the village of Bridgeport. We all know who she was." Andrea announced. "She's the reason I started studying strategy." She stooped down to gather the scrolls in her arms again. "Just let me interview."

"It's your funeral, kid." Nigel held the door open for her.

Andrea stepped into the grand palace. She lost her breath as she stared up at the vaulted cathedral ceiling with intricate paintings of angels. Andrea had learned about the history of the palace, there was no record of its construction. By many it was considered the palace without time. Over many centuries the royalty herein had expanded, decorated and painted. Now, as Andrea walked through the legendary castle she found herself awe-struck.

Nigel pushed open a set of double doors and Miranda, the white-haired twenty-nine year old woman turned scornfully in their direction.

"Good luck." Nigel whispered as he pulled the doors shut, leaving Andrea alone with Miranda.

Miranda drummed her fingers impatiently on the long table that separated them. "What good could you possibly be to me?"

Andrea set her scrolls down on the table. She checked a few of them before she rolled one open; from a pocket at her hip she extracted a magnifying glass. “I’ve been studying history.” Andrea announced. “I’ve been particularly interested in dragons. Originally, my hypothesis was that dragons hadn’t ever existed in the first place but now that I’ve been proven wrong… well, my research has probably made me the only dragon expert in the land.”

“Have you ever fought a dragon?” Miranda hissed.

“Have you?” Andrea snapped.

Miranda reached for her sword and barreled down on Andrea in the blink of an eye. The side of the sword banged into Andrea’s side. Andrea gasped as the non-lethal part of the sword made contact with her clothing.

“Your reflexes are pitiful.” Miranda scoffed. “Get out of my sight. Your words on pages will not save you from swords or claws or fire.”

“Have you had anyone else answer your advertisement?” Andrea asked pointedly. “Does anyone else want to take on the dragon?”

Miranda pursed her lips. The girl had a point. There hadn’t been anyone foolhardy enough to volunteer… until this naively bright eyed wisp of a girl showed up at her palace.

“Collect your things, Emily will show you to the room you'll be using."

Andrea spent a few hours in the room. She spent it sitting on the bed staring at the walls. She was given a room in a grand, legendary palace that had been inhabited by infamous royalty.

Finally, Andrea stood and moved to the large desk in the corner. Andrea laid out her scrolls. She gasped when the door swung open.

"Do you want these?" Nigel held a bundle of parchment in his hands.

"...what are they?" Andrea asked, peering toward Nigel's offerings.

Nigel sighed. "They're the notes about where the dragon has ravaged." Nigel stepped forward and set them on her desk. "Geez. Galahad told me you were young but I had to see it for myself."

Andrea stood defensively. Her chin jutted out and she secured her hands on her hips.

"Geez." Nigel rolled his eyes. "Look at you. What are you wearing?"

Andrea faltered and looked down at her hand-me-down gear. "What do you mean?"

"That sword is almost as big as you are." Nigel scoffed, snatching it from her hip.

"Hey, that was my father's!" Andrea cried.

"Then we'll hang it on the wall but you need something that you can wield and you'll certainly need tighter clothing otherwise you could go up in flames before you could blink an eye." Nigel grabbed Andrea by a floppy sleeve and yanked her forward.

Nigel pulled her down a flight of stairs and dragged her into a room that could have been a torture chamber if the weapons on the wall were any indication. Nigel let Andrea go and stepped forward, considering each object on the wall carefully. "You a battle axe kind of girl?" Nigel asked and looked back at her. "Nah." He chuckled, "but I remember this one time Miranda led us into battle with a battle axe and she- nevermind, another time."

Andrea's mouth fell open. "Did she kill with it?"

"They don't call her the dame without pity for no reason, kiddo." Nigel said suggestively. "Nunchucks? No... Spear? What's this doing here?" He plucked a spear from the wall and tossed it toward the door.

Andrea frowned and stepped closer to Nigel, afraid that he'd throw more deadly weapons.

"The whip would be flammable... I guess a new sword would be best." Nigel dragged Andrea toward another wall and Andrea's eyes fell on a wall of swords. Some were long and thin, some were serrated and they varied in size from daggers to large broadswords.

"Whoa."

Nigel turned and analyzed Andrea for a moment and grabbed a small-medium sized sword and handed it to Andrea. "How does that feel?"

Andrea pulled it from the sheath and watched it sparkle in the low light. "It's... perfect."

"Good." Nigel snatched it back and holstered it. "Now armor."

"What's wrong with-?"

"Oh please, do not get me started." Nigel rolled his eyes.

Hours later Andrea was done being measured for her under armor and Nigel set off to find her more well fitting body armor.

Andrea was leant one of Miranda's old dresses and she sat in her assigned bedroom. She felt very strange in the dress. It fit her very well which scared her; Nigel had taken one look at her and had sized her perfectly. Not to mention she was not used to wearing dresses considering her hobbies tended to demand more flexible clothing.

he sun was starting to set when the door opened with force and cracked against the stone wall. Andrea whipped around and stared into the eyes of the most feared woman in all the land.

"I see Nigel saw fit to give you one of my dresses." Miranda pursed her lips.

"I... I'm sorry... I can give it back..." Andrea stuttered.

"Alright, then." Miranda leaned against the doorframe. "Take it off."

"Take it... off?" Andrea's eyes widened. "Right now?"

"Do you have a problem with now?" Miranda asked impatiently.

"I..." Andrea stood slowly from the chair and started to remove the dress.

Miranda strode forward, the heels of her boots clicked on the floor but Andrea scarcely heard it over the pounding of her own heart. Miranda stopped in front of Andrea. They stood toe to toe for a few long moments before Miranda's arms encircled Andrea and tugged the ties loose.

The fabric of the torso fell slack and Miranda slipped it down Andrea's arms and dropped it so it pooled around her feet. Andrea shivered from anxiety, standing in front of the queen in her under garments.

Miranda's icy blue eyes pierced Andrea's warm browns.

Andrea exhaled sharply when she realized she'd been holding her breath. Miranda snorted and smirked an irritatingly smug smile.

Miranda leaned in, her lips brushing Andrea's ear. Andrea whimpered softly and Miranda whispered, "you can wear the dress, if you'd like."

With no explanation or elaboration Miranda turned around and left the room.

Andrea stood stunned.

The next five days brought five new dragon attacks, no casualties, just extensive damage. During those five days Andrea had no contact with the fickle queen and she found herself longing for any attention she would deign to give.

Every day Andrea would sleep for most of the afternoon into the evening so she could ride at night looking for the dragon.

Another five days passed and Galahad and his men were always one step behind the dragon and Andrea was constantly adding variables and making predictions but they so far yielded no results. It was hellishly frustrating.

"Andrea. I do believe you're failing at your appointed duties." Miranda announced from the door way as Andrea was getting ready to take her afternoon nap.

"I... I wouldn't say that I'm... failing, I..."

"You've been here nearly a fortnight and still every night as we sleep the dragon destroys another village." Miranda pursed her lips. "To me that's failure on your part."

"No, the strange thing is that this dragon isn't acting like any dragon ever has." Andrea insisted. She moved to her desk, "would you like to see my statistics?"

"Talk is cheap, get to the point." Miranda said scornfully.

"Well, dragons are diurnal, they're not nocturnal. That's the first oddity. Then there's the fact that dragons are carniverous but no townspeople or livestock have been eaten. And the migratory pattern is all wrong, it's completely random, it's like the dragon is one place one night and then magically appears in another place. It doesn't make sense."

"You're employed to make it make sense." Miranda snarled her nostrils flaring as though she'd start breathing flames herself.

In a fit of anger Andrea slammed her fist down onto the desk, "damnit, it isn't just going to happen overnight!"

Miranda slammed the door and moved to Andrea in a flurry of silk and velvet. Miranda's teeth were clenched and her lip curled in a snarl. "Go ahead. Talk back again."

Andrea didn't know what made her feel so bold but she stuck out her chin and held her ground. "I haven't heard of anyone else volunteering for the position."

Miranda grabbed Andrea by the hips and pulled them roughly against her own, their hipbones colliding painfully. Andrea whimpered. She searched Miranda's eyes for any signs that following her instincts wouldn't get her beheaded.

Andrea didn't have to wonder for long as Miranda captured her lips. Miranda ripped the dress from Andrea's form, any semblance of formalities abandoned. Andrea reached behind Miranda and loosed the corset; she pulled it off Miranda's arms and her breasts fell into view.

Miranda looked at Andrea with shock, the first time she'd shown anything other than arrogance and contempt. Andrea ran her hand up Miranda's abs. Miranda was muscular but thin, Andrea's fingers played over slightly visible ribs.

Andrea's fingers stopped on a long raised scar; they both froze. Andrea sat up, "so it's true... the story..."

Miranda pulled her corset back on and pursed her lips.

"I always thought it was just legend." Andrea's eyes were wide with awe. "You were stabbed through the stomach and lived!"

"Didn't go all the way through." Miranda grumbled.

"You're the reason I wanted to learn how to use a sword. You're the reason I became a scholar."

"I'm not interested in hero worship." Miranda spat. "I'm interested in results."

"I will get you results if it's the last thing I do."

Miranda got off the bed, ran a hand through her hair and turned a cold glare at Andrea. "God help you if you don't." The slamming of the door caused everything on the walls to rattle.

hat night Andrea arose after the sun went down. She went to the livery and saddled the horse she'd been riding and set off. Thanks to the irregularity of the movements she knew that she was wandering aimlessly.

Tonight it felt more useless than ever. She was obsessing over the events of the afternoon. The only thing she wanted to do was crawl into bed with Miranda and feel her body pressed against Miranda's hot skin. She wanted to cup full breasts and encircle supple thighs.

Andrea was getting ready to call it a night when in the distance she saw flames lick the night sky. She dug her heels into her horse's middle and urged him forward. As she neared the source she heard frantic townspeople calling to one another over the crackling of the fire.

Andrea's horse slowed and stopped yards away from the dragon. Andrea prodded it forward, her heart pounding in her chest. She drew her sword, "stand and fight!" She called.

The dragon didn't budge.

Andrea forced the horse closer until they were so close they could see the scales perfectly. Andrea narrowed her eyes; the dragon was white, that was unheard of. It sat forward on its honches and distractedly let out a puff of fire every few minutes.

Andrea turned her sword on its side and tapped the dragon's side with the blunt side. It snorted and squirmed but didn't lunge. Andrea directed the horse to move around the dragon to get a better look at its front.

Andrea's jaw dropped open when she saw that the dragon had a raised scar on its abdomen from where she had been stabbed when she was 15.

She wasn't a dragon at all. She was the dragon lady.



ndrea followed the dragon for a while before it burst into a run. Andrea prodded the horse and it took off running after the dragon despite all of his better instincts. The dragon had a far longer stride and quickly out ran the horse.

Andrea arrived back at the castle by the time the sun was coming up. She delivered the horse back to his stall, gave him the oats and apple she'd promised him and ran into the castle. She climbed the winding staircase to the third level and threw open the door to Miranda's chambers.

Miranda was sprawled out on her bed, her white hair was tousled, the hem of her nightdress was singed.

Andrea's heart thudded against her ribcage in panic. She backed slowly out of the room and quietly closed the door.

She broke into a run and was almost to the end of the hall when she collided with Emily and they both fell to the floor.

"Watch yourself, oaf!" Emily snapped.

"I... I... God, I have to tell someone..." Andrea gripped Emily's shoulders tightly.

"What?" Emily demanded, her curiosity getting the better of her.

"I... I saw the dragon! I was inches away from it!"

"You killed it?"

"No. No. I didn't." Andrea shook her head. "That's the thing. It's not a dragon, it's a person."

"And you didn't just kill him?"

"It's the queen!"

Emily stared at Andrea, mouth agape, finally she pulled herself loose of Andrea's grasp. "Not a chance in hell. You're a terrible liar."

"No, I'm telling the truth!" Andrea insisted.

"I am! I know because the dragon was white and dragons are never white, they're green or brown. But the clincher was the scar she has on her stomach. She has a raised scar-"

"Right above her belly button. Yeah." Emily said flatly. She turned away, "you've seen her naked... I suppose I shouldn't have expected her to be faithful..."

Andrea bit her lip, not sure what to say.

"You know what? It's fine. It was only my virginity." Emily scoffed.

"Um... I'd love to stay and help with this but I have to figure out what to do about the queen... you know... being a dragon..."

"What you can do? You can take your sword and drive it into her heart and watch her bleed to death."

Andrea nodded slowly, "let's call that plan B."

hat evening Galahad told Andrea and the Queen that his troops would be roving through the western woods in search of the dragon's lair. Andrea knew to look for the dragon anywhere but in the woods tonight.

For good measure, Andrea added, "I will patrol the south and east." This ensured that Miranda wouldn't go to any of those places and Andrea would have only to stake out the north.

It was important for Andrea to keep Galahad and his men from Miranda because she knew they would strike first and ask questions later and a dead queen would make everyone look bad. Andrea spent the rest of the evening gathering supplies.

Her poor horse strained under the weight of her extra supplies.

It didn't take long to locate the dragon. She'd set a tree on fire which served as a beacon. Andrea rode up, this time the horse was less apprehensive and allowed Andrea to get him right up to the dragon.

The dragon huffed sleepily.

Andrea pulled the chains she'd borrowed from the torture room out of the sack and leaned close to attach the wrist cuff to one of her wrists. She carefully rode around the front of the dragon and attached the cuff's match to the other wrist. Andrea tested to make sure they would stay on and they clanked together.

Andrea pulled out the rope and tied it to the chains and wrapped it around the dragon until it was wound tightly around the dragon and it was completely imprisoned.

The dragon pulled against its bonds for a moment or two before accepting its position and settled back on its honches and settled against a tree where it continued sleeping.

Andrea got down off the horse and set up to spend the night waiting for Miranda to turn back and her suspicions to be confirmed.

**

"Andrea!" Miranda shouted fiercely.

It was the clanking chains that finally woke her. She had intended to stay awake to watch the transformation but had apparently nodded off.

Miranda's teeth were set into an enraged growl. "Andrea! Untie me this instant lest I am forced to disembowel you with the bluntest object I can find!"

Andrea hadn't exactly thought out what Miranda would be like when she awoke disoriented in the middle of the forest.

“My liege,” Andrea crept closer, “please accept my humblest apologies… I do have a bit of bad news.”

“As do I, Andrea.” The Queen said in a menacingly low timbre , “as do I.”

“Is it my imminent disembowelment?”

“If only your skills as a dragon hunter were as finely tuned as your clairvoyance.”

“And if your skills of clairvoyance were as good as your disemboweling skills then you would know that you’re the dragon!” Andrea snapped with annoyance.

The Queen roared angrily, tugging at her chains. She managed to lift them from the ground but not enough to lunge and Andrea stopped just out of her reach.

“You’re going to hurt yourself. Just stop.” Andrea frowned. “I have every intention of letting you out but you need to hear me!”

Miranda narrowed her eyes but remained silent.

“All of the discrepancies that were impossible to explain make perfect sense if you’re the dragon – ”

“I’m obviously not the dragon, Andrea, look at me!”

Andrea sighed, “you become the dragon, my lady, at night.”

Miranda stopped to consider this.

“That’s why the dragon is white; you’re the white queen. That’s why the dragon doesn’t eat people, why the dragon doesn’t strike for maximum destruction. It’s you and you’re asleep when it happens!”

Miranda looked deep in thought and angry but she was beginning to come around to the idea.

“I’ve been sleepwalking.” She said slowly, her jaw clenching.

“I believe so.” Andrea gave an apologetic smile. “do you promise not to disembowel me if I remove the chains?”

Miranda nodded wordlessly.

Andrea took the key from her pocket and set about unlocking the seething older woman. “You were the dragon when I wrapped you in the chains.” She explained.

The heavy metal links fell away from Miranda and Andrea took note of the faint bruising. “I didn’t realize they’d be so heavy on you when you changed back.”

Miranda rubbed her wrists with a sigh.

“So, shall we return to the castle now?”

“Shut up.” Miranda waved a hand dismissively, “I’m thinking.”

Andrea opened her mouth to reply but closed it almost immediately, not wanting to incur any wrath now that she had calmed the belle dame.

“I need clothes.” Miranda announced. “I can’t ride through the countryside in my night attire.”

“Of course. I could – ” Andrea started and looked over at Miranda’s icy glare. “Shut up. I could shut up.”

After a few long silent moments, Miranda announced, “give me your chainmail.”

“Your wish is my command, my queen.” Andrea hurriedly removed the metal garment and Miranda slipped it on over her billowy night shirt. Though she daren’t mention it, Andrea thought the older woman looked quite comical in a chainmail shirt and the cotton pantaloons.

“It’ll have to do.” Miranda conceded, slipping her foot into the stirrup and grabbing the frame of the saddle to pull herself up onto Andrea’s horse.

“Take my helmet as well.” Andrea held it out to Miranda. “It will provide you more discretion.”

Miranda situated the accessory on her head, hiding all but a few strands of her signature white hair. The horse seemed to know that it was in the presence of royalty and stood up straight, holding his head high.

Miranda gripped the reigns but didn’t move. Finally she turned to the girl. “Well, come on.”

The sun was directly overhead by the time they arrived back at the barn. Andrea dismounted clumsily and Miranda slid off gracefully. Andrea looked up, startled, when the barn door was thrown open.

“Dragon girl!” Nigel called, “hast thou seen the queen?”

“I…” Andrea turned to find that she and her horse were now alone. “Uh, no.”

Nigel rolled his eyes and let the barn door slam closed behind him. Andrea looked around the barn for a few minutes before finding her chainmail and helmet in a pile by an open window. The woman was an enigma…

hat evening the Queen held her nightly strategy meeting – as if she hadn’t found out that morning that she was the dragon. Andrea was beginning to wonder if Miranda hadn’t believed her after all.

After the meeting was over Miranda pulled Andrea aside and pushed something into her palm. Andrea looked down at the heavy metal key and looked back up at Miranda questioningly.

“I cleared out the dungeons and I need you to lock me in.”

Andrea nodded dutifully.

**

The door clanged shut and Andrea wrapped the heavy chains around the bars and set the lock in place. She gave it a tug to test its strength. Miranda put her hand over Andrea’s through the bars.

“Do you think it’s going to hurt?”

Andrea shrugged, “I think if it hurt it would have woken you.”

“You need to make sure to keep everyone out.”

Andrea nodded, “I’ll stay with you the whole time.”

Miranda looked out the tiny window in the dank cell at the skyline. “When do you think it’ll happen?”

“Try not to think about it.” Andy sat down on the floor beside the bars.

“Anyone else would have killed the dragon on sight. How did you know not to?”

Andrea shrugged a little. She didn’t know what to do with this surprisingly gentle, vulnerable version of the queen. “I’m an expert, remember?”

“Hm.” Was her only response. Miranda leaned her head back against the cell wall.

Miranda could count on one hand the number of times she’d been scared. She’d been scared when she was stabbed; she’d been scared when her husband laid dying. She was scared now; she was scared that her daughters would lose both their parents.

The silence stretched on for Andrea didn’t know how long. Andrea was roused from her bored stupor by a long groan. She moved closer to the bars.

Miranda was on her hands and knees and her head turned away from Andrea. Andrea’s heart pounded as she watched the muscles of Miranda’s back and shoulders tensing and writhing before she started to transform. Andrea watched in awe as Miranda grew and reshaped until she was fully changed.

Miranda let out an annoyed roar, raising up on her haunches and banged her head on the ceiling of the cell. She reached up with a clawed hand and rubbed the spot. Miranda slumped back down, ducking her head to keep from bumping it again.

“Can you still understand me?”

Miranda nodded.

“You should get some sleep.”

Miranda hmphed and settled down on the floor.

The next week was spent much the same way. Miranda curling her dragon’s body up in the cramped cell and waking up as herself a stiff neck that made her very cranky. Andrea pouring over her scrolls and making notes, trying to find a solution and eventually falling asleep and getting woken by Miranda’s verbal insults.

The passage of time had quelled her urge to be gentle and repentant.

One morning Miranda walked out of the cell, stretching her neck, barking orders and Andrea held out the key to her.

Miranda stopped short. “What is this?”

“I have to go get different scrolls. These are about dragons and… you’re not really a dragon, you’re under a spell so these have reached the ends of their usefulness. I have to get scrolls on spells and curses.” Andrea held the key higher, “it’s longer than a day’s journey.”

Miranda refused to take the key. “So send someone to get them.”

“You don’t want anyone else to know about your situation.”

“And do you suggest that I lock myself in this cell?”

“Well… the first night I found you and I suspected… I came back and I told Emily.” Andrea admitted. “She didn’t believe me but…”

You told Emily?” The queen demanded.

“It seemed harmless…” Andrea said sheepishly.

“I could gut you where you stand.” Miranda ground out.

“I know.” Andrea said softly.

Miranda reached out and grabbed Andrea by the throat – not enough to restrict her breathing but enough to make Andrea hold her own breath.

“Do I scare you?”

“Yes.” Andrea answered, “but significantly less so than you used to.”

At first anger flared up in the queen at Andrea’s willful answer. Her fingers tightened a little causing Andrea’s breath to come out in soft wheezes but she didn’t reach up to claw at her hand. The girl had the audacity to not believe that she would kill her.

Andrea knew that Miranda had allowed herself to depend on the girl. Andrea knew that Miranda’s ultimate safety and future was in her hands.

Miranda’s nostrils flared. “You will be gone for exactly one night and one night only. If you are not back tomorrow night I will send my entire army to hunt you down and skewer you like the boar at annual royal feast.”

“One night.” Andrea agreed.

Miranda loosened her grip on Andrea’s throat but didn’t let go. Instead she leaned in and captured Andrea’s lips; Andrea sighed into the kiss. The kiss deepened and Miranda released Andrea’s neck.

After they broke apart Miranda had left the dungeon by the time Andrea recovered enough to open her eyes and look up. She opened her hand only to find that Miranda had taken the key.

**

Emily wasn’t prepared to turn down the opportunity to lock the Queen into a cell – even if it was only for one night. Miranda hadn’t explained why she was locking herself in – she figured the only way to ensure Emily wouldn’t blab was to show rather than to tell.

Miranda was quiet, she was old hat at this by now.

When Miranda felt the transition start she moved to her hands and knees. Emily stared through the bars as Miranda’s form expanded and transformed until she towered over the stunned princess.

“Ye gods!” Emily breathed out. “It’s true…”

Miranda huffed, smoke coming from her nostrils.

“He did it…” Emily furrowed her brow. “He actually did it; I can’t believe it.”

Miranda growled, cursing her lack of verbal skills in this state. Emily didn’t seem to need prompting; she likely didn’t even realize she was still talking instead of just spewing her inner monologue.

“Father’s wizard always said he could do it… what was his name…Irving… Irving the Wizard.” Emily put her hands on the bars looking at the large reptile where once stood the Queen. “You’re a fucking dragon.”

Miranda roared and Emily took a step back from the bars. Miranda slammed her body against the bars and the old rusty metal creaked and groaned and she slammed into again. Emily continued backing away and the cell door came off its hinges. A couple more slams into the bars and the whole barred wall came down.

Miranda roared again and slammed through the door.

“Miranda! Come back!” Emily hiked up her skirt and ran after her. Miranda had already started to disappear into the distance. “Oh godsdamnit.”

Emily rushed off to the stable. Despite being angry at Miranda for having passed her up she did not desire to see overzealous soldiers slice her into ribbons.

he sun had already set and Andrea was sleepily maneuvering her horse down the darkened path back toward the castle. She narrowed her eyes, there was a light approaching, then she heard the approaching footsteps.

And they were approaching quickly.

She met up with the rushing villagers in another half mile. “Turn around!” One of the villagers yelled, “it’s the dragon!”

“Oh no!” Andrea dug her heels into her horse’s flank and he took off at a run towards the sound of the devastation.

As she followed the sounds of panic and horse hooves she caught up with Emily. “What happened?!” Andrea demanded.

“She’s headed to my castle. I told her who did this to her.”

“Lead the way!”



rving lay in bed, wrapped in the luxurious sheets that once belonged to his King. Somewhere in the castle’s courtyard a bell was being rung and Irving stirred. The light was unusually bright for this time of the evening and he rose from bed to see the source of the light.

Flames engulfed the trees in the courtyard and soldiers and civilians were running around frantically. Irving grabbed his cloak and wrapped it around himself before rushing outside.

Just as he opened the front door he stared straight into the throat of the roaring dragon of his own creation. He slammed the door shut and turned to run back into the castle and Miranda broke through the wood and squeezed through the narrow corridor after him.

Emily and Andrea dismounted their horses at the castle. “You stay here.” Andrea drew her sword and ran through the fractured entryway. She followed the trail of debris and Irving’s screams.

Irving had holed himself in a deadend corridor that Miranda couldn’t fit into. She roared and swiped at him with giant talons.

Andrea skidded to a halt. “Miranda, stop!” Andrea yelled and Miranda roared defiantly. “If you kill him he can’t change you back!”

“There’s no way to change her back!” Irving sobbed. “It’s a one-way curse.”

**

“Princess!” One of the soldiers from her country greeted. “Did you escape?”

“Not exactly.” Emily admitted.

Nigel and Galahad and several members of their company joined the cavalcade, drawing their swords and the Clarkian soldiers drew theirs.

“Stand down.” Emily called out.

“The dragon is in there!” Nigel started forward and Emily stood fast.

“It’s not the dragon it’s the queen!”

**

“Do something!” Irving cried, “do something please!”

“What do you think I can do?” Andrea sheathed her sword. “If you can’t fix her there’s not much use for you, is there?”

Irving whimpered.

Andrea patted Miranda’s side. “I’ll wait for you outside.”

When Andrea reached the front she saw the two armies facing off. Andrea drew her sword and approached Nigel. “I have some news for you.”

“Yeah. Miranda’s the dragon.”

“I covered that already.” Emily crossed her arms across her chest.

“The wizard said he couldn’t undo the curse.”

“So… is she killing him?”

Andrea shrugged, “what do you think?”

iranda emerged from the castle and skidded to a halt behind Andrea. She roared and the leader of the Clark brigade nodded, “we know.”

“We covered it already, Miranda.” Nigel sighed. “What do we do with this, Andrea?” He demanded, “you’re supposed to be the expert!”

“She turns back in the morning. I don’t know.”

“Well, isn’t this a fine kettle of fish.” Galahad sighed.

A page rode up, “the Condé army breached the border. We have a brigade fighting them off but they need back up – is that a…?”

Move out, men!” Nigel called, pulling out his sword and turning his horse, followed by the Elisians and the Clarkians.

It didn’t take long for Miranda to breeze past the horsemen as her long muscular legs propelled her forward. Once she reached the battle she leapt. The fighting stopped for a moment as the soldiers stared in fear and awe.

Miranda landed behind the Condé army, sliding in the grass, digging her claws in before launching herself at the opposing soldiers. She swiped at the men, knocking them from their horses and sinking her claws into their armor like a hot knife through butter before going after another set of Condanes.

The Clarkians caught on pretty quickly that she was on their side and resumed the fight. The sounds of swords and roars filled the air as the backup troops arrived.

By the time morning came the few remaining Condane soldiers surrendered. Andrea was relieved to have survived her first battle; she looked at her shaking hands and hoped no one else could see how nervous she was.

Not that their troops had had to do much. They mostly kept the Condé army busy so that Miranda could pick them off three by three.

Andrea’s eyes darted around the bloody field. “Has anyone seen Miranda?” She called frantically.

“Do stop yelling, Andrea,” Miranda chastised. “It’s unbecoming.”

Andrea heaved a sigh of relief, a huge grin plastered across her face. Andrea maneuvered around and over the obstacles to get to Miranda. She threw her arms around the Queen’s neck. Miranda was surprised for a moment before wrapping her arms around the girl’s waist.

“So what now?”

“Now? Now we go home.” Miranda gave her a squeeze, leaning in and stealing a long languid kiss. They separated and Miranda leaned her head against Andrea’s. “And tomorrow we begin plans to take over the Condane kingdom.”