Once upon a time there lived a king who ruled over the beautiful kingdom of Brictoria. King Siger was respected and admired by his people as he was always kind and fair to everybody. His lovely wife Violet was always by his side, and they loved each other dearly.
They had a son with serious eyes and raven black hair. Prince Mycroft was a calm and shy boy who had his chamber covered in books, and he was a sweet child who was never rude to the maids and whenever he found an injured animal, he would take it home to nurse it until it could return to its natural environment, and he let them go with tears in his eyes because he had grown to love them but on the other hand he was happy to have been able to heal them.
These were happy times for the people in the huge castle and all the people in the kingdom. Long gone were the dark days of war and hunger, and everybody had enough to eat and people treated each other kindly. Humans lived together with elves and dwarves and even witches, and if there were confrontations, they were worked upon until the opponents could look each other in the eyes and shake hands, and it was an era of peace.
And then Queen Violet invited all the important people of the kingdom into the castle to have a celebration for the king's fortieth birthday.
But one richly decorated invitation card got lost, and for all the bad luck, it had been meant for one of the queen's sisters, and she had always envied Violet for marrying the king, and she got very upset and nasty when she heard about the feast she had allegedly not been invited to.
An upset highborn woman would have been bad enough but this particular woman, her name was Malicia, had dark powers. Violet had come from a family famous for its women of magic, and while Violet hardly had any of it, Malicia's powers were legendary.
Over the weeks she had got angrier and angrier about not having been invited, and when the day of the feast had finally arrived, she hurried to the castle with wrath in her heart and fury in her eyes.
Violet, who had no idea that her sister's invitation had not reached her, welcomed her with open arms but Malicia did not listen to the warm greeting.
“You didn’t want me here,” she accused, and Violet shook her head in wonder.
“But that's not true! I wrote the card for you myself.”
“I don't believe you.” Malicia, dressed in black from head to toe, looked around in the glorious castle with all the gold and the diamonds, and her jealousy and anger grew even stronger. “I curse you!” she thundered. “A son will be born to you, and he will be beautiful and lovely and everybody will adore him. But on his sixteenth birthday, at noon, he will turn into a dragon with a black heart and hunger for human flesh!”
“But Malicia! What have we done to you!” But Violet knew it, knew about her older sister's endless envy, and she could see in her sister's triumphant eyes that she wouldn’t take the curse back. “Every curse must come with a possibility of being undone!” she argued, trying to get at least that much in her shock and horror. She didn’t know a lot about curses but everybody knew this rule. There always had to be a way out, as difficult as it may be.
“Oh, sure. True love's kiss can reverse him into a man!” Malicia giggled gleefully. “But the love must come deep from the heart and the kiss must be given to the dragon when he's awake and aware, and of course it must be a kiss like lovers share it. Good luck with that!”
Yes, good luck indeed. Because who would dare kiss a dragon?
And nine months later, a son was born to King Siger and Queen Violet, and he was the most beautiful baby anyone had ever seen, with black curls and large blue-green eyes and a finely shaped mouth and a smile to brighten the darkest day, and everybody who saw him fell for him at once, and this didn’t cease when he got older; he was the smart, cheeky, curious boy with the heart of gold, and nobody could resist his charms.
He was best friends with John, the groom's son, and Greg, son of the head of the royal guard. And Molly, the gardener's daughter, took a deep liking to him, and he was the pride of old Mrs Hudson, the cook.
But nobody loved him more than his big brother Mycroft. He had an ocean of love for his little brother, and he needed and possessed a realm of patience for his never-ending questions.
“What is this bug called, Mycie?”
“How old is this tree?”
“Why can't we look into the sun?”
And Mycroft always answered him as well as he could and happily shared all his considerable knowledge with his brother, and their seven-year age-gap seemed to vanish more and more.
And Mycroft's fear grew stronger and stronger the older Sherlock got. During the afternoon, when he and Sherlock were outside after his studies, he could pretend nothing was wrong and his brother had a bright future ahead. But at night, when Sherlock's head rested on his chest as he was sleeping full of trust in his big brother, he was drawn into the darkness of the bitter prospect. Because of course the older brother knew about the curse; everybody in the castle had been talking about it since it had been uttered.
The servants often answered Sherlock's questions about gardening and horses and cooking, and when he turned, they would say, “The poor, lovely boy – he doesn’t deserve his fate.”
It was only a matter of time until Sherlock himself understood what he was destined for. And he would come to Mycroft of course. “Is it true? Will I become a dragon?”
Mycroft felt his heart grow cold. “I… I think so.”
“But I don't want to!”
“No, Lockie. Nobody wants that.” If he just could have, he would have strangled that old witch to death for doing this to his little brother! He had not done anything wrong! Nobody had, in fact!
And Sherlock shook his head vehemently. “I will just not. I'm no nasty old dragon who eats people!” In fact Sherlock refused to eat any living creature, just like his brother. He helped him now nursing the orphaned or injured animals back to health.
And Mycroft thought if love and determination alone could prevent Sherlock from his fate, it would never come true. But he knew it wouldn’t be so easy… And he knew Sherlock's loss would break his heart.
“What if I'd go away with him?”
Queen Violet looked her eldest into the eyes and her own were full of tears. It was two months before Sherlock's sixteenth birthday. “Oh, my dear, dear boy. It wouldn’t help. He would change anyway and he wouldn't know you anymore and just… We need you here, Mycroft. You're the future king.”
Mycroft was well aware of this honour and burden but he would have gladly given it away to save Sherlock from his fate. “It's not fair,” he mumbled, feeling beaten and stupid. Of course it wasn't fair. But that wouldn’t change a thing…
Violet had begged and begged her sister to take back the curse. But Malicia had not even listened, too glad she had been able to destroy her little sister's perfect life. The king had threatened her but she had just laughed and said he should be careful – she might still curse Mycroft to be a frog and put him into her soup.
So nothing could be done about Sherlock turning into a dragon, and in the end preparations had to be made. He couldn’t stay in the castle on this day – he had to be brought away to the mountain, where a huge natural cave would be his new home. They could have brought him further away but Violet knew her sister would call him back to the kingdom then. Malicia was determined to make her life absolutely miserable and she would do all she could to achieve this goal.
But there was a way out after all. So Sherlock wouldn’t go up there alone. Someone had volunteered to be there when he changed and hopefully be able to turn him back instantly.
Mycroft was the closest person to Sherlock but as mentioned before, he also had three very good friends. John Watson, the son and helper of the groom, was by his side whenever Sherlock was running through the stables, making friends with all the horses. They had had many adventures together while Mycroft was being educated to become the future king. Often they were accompanied by Greg Lestrade, the soon-to-be head of the guard as he would follow into his father's footsteps; he was already serving among the men who protected king and castle. Both brave young men, both of them a few years older than Sherlock, adored him and were very worried about his future.
And there was Molly Hooper, the kind, soft daughter of the old gardener, who knew every flower by its name. With her big dark eyes and her flowing dark hair she was a pretty maiden, and Sherlock was very fond of her.
He didn’t really know what to do though when she took his hand and looked up to him in this particular way. It made him feel rather uncomfortable. He didn’t feel like this. She was like a sister to him; they were almost the same age. He did love her but not in any romantic way.
But Violet knew Molly was head over heels in love with Sherlock. Mycroft knew it, too, and whenever he saw them together, he felt a strange sting. But of course it was good, wasn’t it? Molly loved Sherlock in the right way and she wasn't a silly thing – she knew what was at stake and she could be the one to save Sherlock, and save everybody from the dark dragon he was about to become.
And she had offered it herself – staying with Sherlock when he changed, and kiss him at once so the curse would stop before it really had begun.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” her mother said to her on the day before. “You may not hesitate. You must kiss him and he will not look like this anymore!”
Fifteen-year-old Sherlock was a sight to behold with his dark curls, his high cheekbones and a mouth that made so many girls (and more than a few boys) dream of kissing it.
Molly nodded vehemently. “I know, and I will. And then he will marry me!”
Her mother smiled sadly. “I hope you're right, my love. I hope you're right.”
Neither Mycroft nor Sherlock slept for a single moment in this night. Entwined, they had been lying on Mycroft's bed, Sherlock's head nuzzled against Mycroft's throat, both silent in at the prospect of an imminent, inevitable threat.
At midnight Mycroft pressed his brother closer, but he didn’t bring any congratulation over his lips. What sense would that have made? 'Happy birthday and good luck with being a dragon'?
Still Mycroft had the tiny hope that this all had been nothing but a cruel prank. That at noon nothing would happen.
And the worst thing was that he couldn’t even go with Sherlock. His father had forbidden it and Mycroft knew very well why. He was supposed to be the king and he would have to be rather sooner than later. The worries about his younger son had weakened the king's health. He wasn’t a strong man anymore, walking with his back bent whenever nobody outside the family was around. He had been coughing a lot lately and his face looked sickly pale. And the kingdom needed a ruler so they couldn’t risk Mycroft going with Sherlock.
“It's so stupid,” Sherlock mumbled now while the sun was rising. “As if I'd ever do anything to you! You are the very last person I'd harm!”
“I know, little brother,” Mycroft whispered soothingly but in fact he could know no such thing, and neither could his little brother as Sherlock wouldn’t be Sherlock anymore in just a few hours.
His mind produced images of the past sixteen years he had been allowed to spend with the brother he loved so much it hurt. He had taught him to speak, to walk, to read, to calculate. He had been there when Sherlock had hurt his knees or cried over an animal they couldn’t save. When Sherlock had got older, he had taught him how to dance and to be polite even when he was surrounded by annoying people (and frankly, most of the highborn people were very annoying). Sherlock was his one and only. And lately… he had noticed how handsome he really was. How wonderful. And there had been a strange stirring in him when Sherlock was pressed against him at night, and a part of his body had shown unwelcome movements, but he had forced it down with his strong will. It was just a biological reaction after all… Nothing unusual about it but shameful nonetheless.
And today he would lose his brother if there was no miracle.
Mycroft didn’t believe in miracles. He believed in hard work and duty and giving your best and then God may help you if you were lucky. But there were no miracles. And so he would wait with his mother and father and John and Greg and Mrs Hudson if Sherlock would return after receiving the saving kiss from Molly, and then he would have to take her as his wife. And as much as this thought was awful to Mycroft, he could only hope for it as it would mean his brother would regain his human shape, and Sherlock's luck had always been the most important matter to him – besides his destined position.
But something told Mycroft neither Sherlock as he knew him nor Molly would make it back from the mountain…
There was so much to say and there were no words in his head. Mycroft watched his brother slip into his coat, as the day was cold. Molly Hooper was standing next to him, in her best dress, shivering from the cold, with pink cheeks, looking terrified and excited.
The queen and the king were placed on either sides of Mycroft, and his mother was crying silent tears, while her husband's face was stoic and frozen.
“Good luck, son,” he said in his deep voice. “Show us how strong you are. Try to fight the change and if it still happens, fight back into your human form. You must try as hard as you can!”
Sherlock nodded, his face pale and full of horror, and it broke Mycroft's heart. “I will,” he whispered, and he didn’t sound strong at all; in fact he sounded like a little boy on his way to his execution for a crime he had not committed.
And he was, wasn't he? If everything worked like predicted, he would never see his home again. He would only return to hunt and to kill, and they would fight him and Mycroft would die if they killed him, and he would kill anybody who tried to harm the brother he cared for so deeply, no matter if human or dragon.
Greg and John were standing a few metres away, and then Sherlock ran to them and embraced them, and they both cried – the tall, dark-eyed, fearless Greg in his guard-uniform and John, the short, stocky young man with the messy blond hair and the serious blue eyes, all muscles and bravery. They both wept for their best friend they feared to never see again. Mrs Hudson had bidden him goodbye in the kitchen, crying her eyes out now that he couldn’t see her anymore.
And then Sherlock and Mycroft locked eyes, and it was only his strict education that kept Mycroft from bursting into tears. This was the worst moment of his life and his heart crumbled to pieces when he saw the fear and the pain in Sherlock's eyes. A harder man than him would have thought that caring so much for him wasn't an advantage but he did and he would never stop.
Not caring what his father was thinking, Mycroft bent forward to take Sherlock into his arms one last time, and they stood there and clung to each other until King Siger told them, surprisingly softly, to part so Sherlock and Molly could leave.
And Sherlock, having Molly by the hand, turned around again and again until they were out of sight.
Mycroft stood there, frozen at the spot, staring at the point where Sherlock had disappeared and he winced when his mother laid her hand on his arm and told him to go inside.
“All we can do now is wait. And pray for their safe return,” she quietly said, and Mycroft could hear she had no hope to ever see her boy again.