Apr. 17th, 2011

applespice: it is a sparkly fairy ([girls] warrior girl)
When the silk merchant's daughter was chosen as the annual dragon sacrifice, everyone in town breathed a secret sigh of relief. Sure, she was nice to look at - more than nice, to hear it told (furtively, and only when the tellers were positive that she wasn't around) - but absolutely, painfully problematic in every other conceivable way. Polite citizens might purse their lips and call her things like "feisty" and "challenging," but just about everyone else had a wide array of far more colorful language for her.

In the end, polite or not, everyone was pretty grateful that she had been the one chosen to die, rather than any of the other possible candidates - all of whom were lovely (if not quite as lovely as she) and infinitely easier to deal with.

The merchant's daughter, to her credit, bore up remarkably well when her name was selected. She simply nodded, her regal, fine-featured face a mask of cool aplomb. This was disappointing to more than one of the townspeople at the Lottery; many had hoped to see her tough facade finally fall, revealing the vulnerable creature underneath. The other candidates, though - the nine most beautiful maidens in the town of Verdelon, apart from the silk merchant's daughter - couldn't hide their exhilaration. Each of them, in her heart of hearts, would have been terribly offended if the merchant's daughter was allowed to live while she was forced to die.

The merchant's daughter just didn't have it in her to be a lady, that was the problem. The Head Councilwoman was very particular about ladylike qualities, and her say was final in Verdelon - for everyone but the silk merchant's daughter, it seemed. While the other women of Verdelon took femininity to soaring heights, the merchant's daughter insisted on swearing, fighting, and insulting any man who so much as let his eyes linger on her shapely form. It was humiliating, and not at all the way that proper girls were raised.

When she turned sixteen, everyone was hoping that she would be the one chosen as the dragon sacrifice - not only to save the other beautiful young women, all of whom were appropriately humble, submissive, and sweet, but also because most people were all too ready to be shot of her. Even her own father, it was suspected, would be glad to see her go. She embarrassed every man she came across with her defiant ways, but it was certain that her father suffered this more than anyone else. Nobody would ever have the guts to actually marry her, and so her father would have bear the shame of her until he died - unless fate intervened.

Dragon sacrifice had been the way of life in Verdelon for years and years, ever since the first settlers had come to the green hills above the Old City. They were enchanted by the place, which was lush with plant life and teeming with game, and immediately began to build there. Unfortunately, it transpired that the ruins of the City were inhabited by a dragon, a cruel and ancient beast whose fury could only be sated by firm young flesh (preferably that of a beautiful young maiden). In the early days, the dragon raided the settlement continually, and the people feared that they would have to leave their new home.

It was the Head Councilwoman at the time that came up with the idea. She approached the dragon, docile as a lamb and appropriately humble, and made him a deal. If he promised to stop raiding the settlement, every year the people would choose from the ten most beautiful maidens of marrying age and send him a sacrifice. This way he needn't worry about wiping out his favorite food, and the people of the settlement could live in relative peace. The dragon, who could hunt well enough to live comfortably off the animals that now roamed the ruins in droves (but loved the taste of pretty young maidens more than anything else), agreed. He was not a particularly bright dragon, but he was very terrifying, so the Head Councilwoman didn't push her luck by asking for more. The people called the place Verdelon, and began to make it home.

So it happened that every year on the first of spring, the ten most beautiful maidens between the ages of sixteen and twenty were placed in a Lottery. Their names were written on scraps of paper and swirled around in a magnificent blown-glass bowl. The Head Councilwoman would dip her fingers into the bowl and pull out the name of the woman who was fated to die. This was usually a very tragic affair, because nobody really wanted to see a beautiful woman gobbled up by a vicious dragon, but that was how things had to be. The sacrifices never fought their fate - they hadn't been raised to question such things. They were ladies to the very end, gracious and modest and absolutely delicious.

After the sacrifice was chosen, she was outfitted in a gorgeous gown and sent down into the ruins. The people of Verdelon stood at the edge of the hills and watched her, glittering in the sunlight, as she made her way to her doom. They waved for hours and sang songs for her, so that her last memories of home would be good ones. For awhile after, they would tell complimentary stories about her and comfort her family, but soon enough she would be forgotten. All of the sacrifices seemed to blur together, really - sweet, modest girls as they were. Achingly beautiful, of course, but not particularly memorable apart from that.

Until the silk merchant's daughter, of course. She seemed determined to break the rules up to the very moment of her death. For one thing, she refused to wear a gown. Instead she demanded a tunic and a pair of trousers - trousers, on a woman! It would have been laughable, if the merchant's daughter had not been so terrifying. As it was, she dealt the tailor a clout so powerful that eventually he agreed to make her the trousers, if only to keep her from beating him to death.

"What does it matter, anyway?" he complained bitterly to the Head Councilwoman, when she called him out on this break of protocol. "She'll be dead in a few days. Let her wear the damned pants. She'll stick me with my own pins if I try to put her in a dress, she said so herself!" And everyone knew it was true.

She also demanded to be given a weapon. This really took the people aback. No sacrifice had ever asked for a weapon, They were meant to go peacefully and nobly to their deaths - not to fight back! But again, it was allowed. "Oh, let her take a weapon," the Head Councilwoman said dismissively, twisting the heavy gold rings on her fingers. "The dragon will snap her up in one bite. She'll never get a chance to use it." And so it was that the merchant's daughter was given a small silver blade.

When it came time to send the merchant's daughter into the city, the people gathered as usual to watch her walk to her death. Unlike past sacrifices, however, she didn't weep or hug her family and friends goodbye. Instead she stared at everyone in turn, her blue eyes flashing and imperious. "I'll be back," she said, and started off down the hill without a backward glance.

The people laughed nervously. A few tried to joke about what the merchant's daughter had said, but they were half-hearted attempts and not very funny. Nobody waved at her. Nobody even watched her enter the City. They hurried back to their houses, locked the doors, and shuttered the windows, sure that the merchant's daughter's disrespectful attitude would bring the dragon's fury down upon them all.

The silk merchant's daughter never did turn back to look at the hills. She knew nobody would be there - she wasn't stupid. She knew all too well what the people of Verdelon thought of her. She didn't give a damn. They were useless people, locked into a moronic deal with a dusty old monster and insistent on never changing - never progressing - at all. Just because she didn't consider it a wonderful compliment when a boy pinched her on the ass, just because she didn't like to flounce around like a princess in a fairytale, just because she didn't follow the rules set down by that awful, condescending old High Councilwoman, everyone hated her. Well, all right then, she could deal with that.

As she drew close to the City, she couldn't help but stare in awe. Nobody ever came down here apart from the yearly sacrifice, so she had never gotten a close look at the Old City. It was centuries old and falling apart, of course, but still there were enormous towers of metal and glass that spiraled up into the afternoon sky, so high she imagined that they skimmed the clouds. Strange and fabulous objects littered the streets. She would have liked to keep looking, to explore the place for hours, but the sun was beginning to set and the dragon would come for her soon. She pulled her small silver knife and waited for him on a wide boulevard, a cool breeze trailing her red hair behind her like a banner.

She didn't have to wait long. The dragon emerged from between two of the broken buildings, his scales glimmering like jewels in the warm glow of the sun.

"Hello, pretty one," he said in a deep and terrible voice.

"Hello, dragon," she replied.

"You are the most beautiful sacrifice I have had in a very long time," he said, his curved golden claws scraping on the ground as he came closer toward her. He licked his lips with a long, pointed red tongue. "I used to be a man, you know. A long time ago, people changed me into something else. If I was still a man, I would take you right now."

Rude, the merchant's daughter thought irritably. "What an inappropriate thing to say to me," she said.

The dragon laughed. "I'm going to eat you up, pretty one. Why does it matter?"

"Men are all the same," she said despairingly, "even when they're not men anymore."

"True enough," the dragon agreed. "What's that in your hand there?"

"This?" The merchant's daughter waved the little silver knife so that it caught the orange-pink rays of the setting sun. "This is a present for you."

"A present?" The dragon had to think about this for awhile. "Nobody's ever brought me a present before."

"You'll soon see I'm different from the others," the merchant's daughter promised. "Now come here so I can give you your present."

"I like you, pretty one," the dragon said, silently deciding to tell the High Councilwoman that all the sacrifices should bring him presents from here on out. He couldn't really see what the girl had - it was very small - but it glinted and sparkled most fetchingly. The dragon liked things that sparkled. "All right. I am going to get my present, and then I am going to eat you."

The dragon slithered closer and closer, and the merchant's daughter tightened her grip on the silver knife. The dragon came so close that his great green eye was only inches from her. "So what did you bring me?" He asked eagerly.

The merchant's daughter threw the knife. It pierced the dragon right through the middle of his eye, shattering the green mirror of his gaze. The dragon shrieked and raged and writhed, banging his scaly body against the ground.

"You bitch!" he screamed, pawing at the blade in his eye. "You've blinded it!"

But the merchant's daughter was already running, running to retrieve the knife from where it had fallen. The dragon's giant feet battered the ground around her, but she dodged them easily in her comfortable trousers. She scooped up the knife and dashed back out in front of the dragon's awful mouth.

"I'm going to tear you apart!" the dragon shrieked at her. He opened his mouth - wide enough that she could walk right into it. His curved white teeth shone with gobbets of saliva. The merchant's daughter flung her knife into the wet crimson maw with all her strength.

The dragon gagged. The knife had buried itself in the back of his throat. He tried to shake it free, but only succeeded in tearing a large gash in his soft esophagus. He retched and coughed, but it was no good. The knife just kept slipping down his throat, slicing and nicking him every moment. It was tearing him up from the inside out.

"You've done it now," the dragon said weakly, showering the merchant's daughter in a spray of dark blood. "I'm going to eat up your whole town for this."

"We'll see," the merchant's daughter said with a smirk, and she left him there to die.

---

When the High Councilwoman's servant came to fetch the blown-glass bowl from the town square, he had a definite spring in his step. It had been hours since the merchant's daughter had headed off down the hill and night was beginning to fall. She must have been eaten up by now, and so much the better for him. He still remembered with horror how she had reacted to his suggestion, just a few weeks ago, that the two of them go off somewhere so he could teach her what it meant to be a real woman. In fact, he could still feel the echo of her kick in his nether regions.

Well, now she was dead and gone and nobody would ever know how she'd embarrassed him. In a fit of lightheartedness, he tossed the bowl from hand to hand, the slips of paper fluttering like butterflies inside it. Unfortunately, the servant had never been great shakes at sports, and on his second toss the bowl slipped from his fingers and shattered on the ground. He groaned with horror, thinking of the impending lecture he would get from the High Councilwoman.

Reaching down to collect the shards, he noticed something strange. The writing on two of the slips of paper looked oddly similar. With growing unease, he collected all the Lottery slips and turned them over in his hands. Each, in the clear, bold handwriting of the silk merchant's daughter, bore exactly the same name.





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This week was yet another intersection challenge, and this time my partner is [livejournal.com profile] pixie117, which I'm super excited about. She's a brilliant writer and a great competitor, so it's nice to have her on my team this week :) Her entry (which is awesome and goes along with this piece) is HERE. Read and vote for us this week, if you have it in your hearts - our vote totals will be combined, so we'll either be IN or OUT together. And I'll be honest, I'm not ready to say Auf Wiedersehen just yet!

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